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…