As Paul outlines in his excellent GM PD-4501 Scenicruiser article, early attempts at making a forty-foot intercity coach didn’t always go smoothly. That put off operators and manufacturers from building and operating these longer coaches. But by the late ’60s, the Scenicruisers needed replacement and other operators were looking for larger coaches with more seats. As a result, we see GM offering a forty-foot version of its “Buffalo” the 4903, Eagle marketing its 05 coach, and MCI countering with their MC-7. But there was still a market for a smaller thirty-five foot bus, and MCI successfully filled that niche for over fifteen years with its MC-5.
The MC-5 was introduced in 1964 with the A model. It was 96 in wide and 35 ft long, seating 41. It came with GM’s 6 or 8V71 engines, and a Fuller or Spicer 4-speed manual transmission. Over 1500 were built from ’64 to ’70. Along with the GM PD 4106, Greyhound used them on its short-haul and low-density routes. They were also popular in Canada.
The B had only minimal changes – mostly clearance and marker lights, and was made until 1977. The new more powerful GM Series 6V92 engine launched in 1974 became an option also.
A more significant upgrade was made with the C model, sharing its front end with the concurrent 40 ft MC-8 and for the first time offering an Allison HT-740 automatic transmission.
Greyhound, having owned MCI since the late ‘50’s, was the primary customer for the 5. But by the end of the ‘70s they were discarding their shorter, lower-revenue routes and looking to standardize their fleet with the new MC-9 “Americruiser”, so the MC-5 ceased production in 1980.
I had an opportunity to ride in an MC-5C in the early ‘80s. The Air Force had one to ferry troops from Seoul, where they arrived in-country, to bases in southern Korea. It was a very nice coach, but what surprised me the most was its active airbag suspension. I had rode in other air suspended buses but those only modulated the suspension based on passenger load. This bus also modulated the suspension laterally. We were exiting the expressway onto a cloverleaf and the driver didn’t slow down much – I thought there was no way that bus was going to make the curve at that speed but then there were a few hisses from underneath, the left side stiffened up, and around the bend we went like it was on rails – no lean. Impressive…
Well built, many are still on the road as motor homes.
I rode in a few of these in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. They were run by Chatham Coach Lines in Ontario, and they were a regular sight. The interior shot is identical to the buses I rode in.
These were quite common back in the day at Greyhound. They’re sort of the forgotten smaller brother to the 7 and 9. I haven’t seen one in quite a long time.
I worked for the Dog back in the mid-70’s. We had a lot of these in the fleet. Pretty peppy bus if you tuned them up correctly. Only real problem was the driveshaft and the drop box on the differential. The pinion in the diff faced the front of the bus and the engine/trans is behind the diff. To make this work the driveshaft runs over the top of the axle housing to the left of the diff. A drop box is about 200-250 lbs of cast iron and gears attached directly to the front of the diff to get that driveshaft power down to the pinion gear. I assume this layout was used to keep the drivetrain as short as possible. The other odd thing is the driveshaft u-joints are out of phase and the slip yolk is blind splined so that tells me there is a design purpose at work here. I guessing that because the driveshaft is laying at some odd angles the out of phase u-joints are needed. Always wanted to talk to an engineer about this but it never happened. The other piece of this is the MC5 always seemed to have a bit of vibration going on back there and it was not unusual to find loose bolts on the drop box and u-joint cap bolts.
I don’t know if they ever built one but a MC5 with a 350hp 6V-92 driving a 6 speed Allison World transmission would be a real hot rod.
When Rube Goldberg led the bus powertrain design team.
And how about that MCI accessory drive-belt arrangement?
Makes the Corvair belt arrangement look as simple as a bench grinder’s.
GM Coach nailed that right, eliminating ALL belt drives.
The belt drive was kind of crazy but was very easy to maintain. Belt swaps could be done quickly. The only problem they had was the alternator drive belt system. This was an interesting mess. It was originally an air cylinder that controlled tension. They switched it to a turnbuckle adjuster. Ultimately the solution was a gear driven alternator. That was one of the great things about the Detroit engines, lots of spots for direct driving accessories. The other piece that was going on with the alternator’s at the same time was bearing failures. The power at headquarters thought the failures were caused by excessive grease. Their fix was to use sealed bearings. What they didn’t realize the reason there was so much grease in the failed alternators. A lot of times a noisy alternator would be greased to get another trip out of it. This would happen day after day until it got to bad or it outright failed. Anything to keep a bus in service Changing the belt driven alternator was not easy, you needed a cherry picker to get it out of the MCI/TMC coaches.
Kick out the jams!
24 years with the dog. I cut me teeth on MC_5s and 7’s.
I was a mechanic in Houston.
I have a 1966 Challenge MC-5A I have been having trouble with the air pressure and some electrical issues. I was wondering if the air problems were because of the electrical issues?