We’ve previously looked at several front twin-axle/twin-steer buses – from the 1960’s Bedford VAL to the current Marcopolo Paradiso 1800 DD7. The reasons manufacturers have chosen this type of layout has varied – from government-mandated axle loading limits, to smaller diameter wheels lowering step-in height, to increased steering traction on unpaved, poor condition roads. Japanese bus builders faced many of these same challenges.
The Mitsubishi-Fuso MR430, built from 1963-65, was a bus primarily designed for use on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. Besides excellent seafood, Hokkaido is known for its wide open spaces and somewhat brutal winters. Its open space permits roads wider and larger than those typically found in Japan, which in turn, allows for larger vehicles. And the MR430 was a large bus, measuring out at the Government of Japan mandated maximum length of 12 meters/39.6 feet – while most other buses during this period were 11 meters/36-footers or less.
The bus was built for and operated primarily by Japan National Railways, which was a leading urban and intercity bus company at the time, and is still a major player today (as JR). Japan’s bus manufacturers were still building heavy body-on-frame models in the early to mid-60’s, so this bus needed tandem front wheels to meet axle loading requirements. But in this case, the twin-steer setup was a major benefit during the long winter season, providing improved steering traction on the snow and ice covered roads.
The MR430 was what Japan calls a “route bus” – somewhat similar to a suburban model in the US. It had a front and center door for in-city “stop and go” use, but could then ferry those passengers to nearby regional areas, out beyond the suburbs. It seated forty-six, all forward-facing, and was powered by a Mitsubishi DB34 8.5 liter four cycle inline diesel six cylinder located in the rear (longitudinally), putting out 215 hp and 510 ft lbs of torque, through a 5-speed manual transmission. The bus in the picture above was one of the few that operated in mainland Japan, from Komaki to Nagoya.
As the 1960’s went on, Japan’s bus manufacturers became more adept at building lighter, stronger coaches and as a result, almost all needed only a single front axle. When you purchase thousands of tires a year, and can save buying two additional per vehicle, that savings can add up. As a result, even though these MR430s were liked and highly regarded, they were replaced by more modern two-axle units, though one continued in service until 1977.
Unfortunately few were saved, though a couple have avoided the crusher and can hopefully be restored…
Edmonton Transit actually had a 1964 Mitsubishi Fuso MAR750L in their fleet:
From the above link:
Thanks; I learned something new today!
That early version (blue/silver) looks a bit like a Crown, the ones that had those “leaning” windows.
Yep, definitely a resemblance…
Lacking the glassy style of the Bedford VAL, something about the front wheels on this workman-like bus puts me in mind of a person with four arms. (The Marcopolo has four legs to balance this, but I’m digressing).
What do you mean in the reference to heavy body-on-frame buses: aren’t all buses still made that way?
HI Justy….today only the smaller “cutaway” and truck-chassis based school buses use a separate BOF, along with some coachbuilders whose products go over an existing chassis. But almost all the larger urban and intercity coaches use a semi or fully monocoque body, which is also called “integral” or “web” construction, as it saves weight and results in a stronger, more robust bus. GM in the US and Setra in Germany pioneered this manufacturing method back in the ’50s. Here’s a post from Paul with some more info and a good article from Busmag…..
Thanks, Jim, that busmag article is just terrific.
What I’ve not understood till right now is that what we’d call a chassis in cars – structural, the “floppy” body body bolted on – is not the same with buses. It LOOKS the same to non-expert eyes, but it’s no more than some rails, a set of axles and a drivetrain upon which the stressed monocoque bus itself sits.
That’s how Volvo or Mercedes or whoever can sell a bus “chassis” bodied often by someone else. Presumably, if it was like the separate chassis car, that frame would need to be a wholesale lot beefier, and probably the body too. Got it!
I know it isn`t, but it kinda looks like the bus from ‘The Italian Job’, the 1969 classic, not the awful remake.
Nice article about double steering axles busses. I lived in Spain in the 1970’s and double steering axle trucks were common, and odd to my New England eyes. I would point out that there are four large islands and many small islands that constitute Japan. There is no “mainland Japan”. You were referring to Honshu.