We’ve looked at a number of buses our parents and grandparents could have toured Western Europe in during their vacations in the 1950’s and 60’s; the Krupp SWO 480, Mercedes-Benz O 6600 H and O 321 H, Pegaso Z 403, and Krauss-Maffei KML 110. Let’s review a bus from this same time period from the prolific German coach manufacturer Neoplan – the NH series, or “Hamburg”.
Neoplan SH 6
Neoplan was established in 1935 by owner and founder Gottlob Auwärter – the company built mostly coach bodies that went over an existing OEM truck chassis. In 1953 Auwärter moved from just being a coach builder to a full manufacturer when he designed his own rear-engined semi-monocoque bus – the SH series. The SH series was fairly popular with operators but Auwärter wanted something much more innovative and modern – a product that would leapfrog his competitors in style and efficiency.
Fortunately, Auwärter had sent his son, Albrecht, to Hamburg University to study engineering. There, Albrecht met a Swiss student named Bob Lee. Both had an interest in buses and together, they submitted a design for a new type of coach as their graduation dissertation. Albrecht then soon presented these plans to his father, who approved it for production in 1961. And that’s how the NH series received it’s nickname – the Hamburg…
Auwärter’s desire to leapfrog his competitors was expressed in three areas; first, the Hamburg differed from the then current “rounded” styling in vogue – it was more upright and square, which maximized interior space. Second, it was the first European bus to incorporate an aircraft-style ventilation system, with individual, controllable vents above each seat row. Lastly, it had an elevated seating area (higher than the driver), which allowed for larger luggage/storage bays.
Sales immediately took off – and the Hamburg was made in a wide variety of sizes; six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen and sixteen row variants were produced. The series number after “NH” designates the number of seat rows.
As we’ve seen with other successful intercity coaches, an urban transit model was spun off the platform – the Hamburg transit bus/airporter was built from 1969 – 72.
Engines could be provided by any of the major manufacturers, though Mercedes and Henschel inline six cylinder diesels seemed to be the most popular. Engine orientation was longitudinal.
Other manufacturers soon copied the Hamburg and by the early 1970’s, Neoplan was looking at a successor. In 1974, the last Hamburg came down the line – replaced by the Jetliner – the subject of an upcoming post…
Both Albrecht and Lee joined Neoplan after graduating from Hamburg University. Albrecht took over management of the company from his father in 1965, and Bob Lee later became head of Engineering and Design, Vice President, and ultimately Chairman of the Board. Neoplan was integrated into the MAN Group in 2001.