Bus Stop Classics: GM 3501-3502 “Old Look” Transit Bus Update (1959-1969) – Hedging Their Bets


(first posted 4/30/2016)    The GM Old Look Coach – a true classic in every sense.  Most CC readers know that the Old Look was produced largely from 1940 until the introduction of GM’s New Look or “Fishbowl” model in 1959.  But what is less known is that a smaller model of the Old Look would remain in production in tandem with the New Look for another 10 years.


The New Look was a significant improvement over the Old Look bus – and as the decade of the ’60’s began, quickly established itself as the dominant coach in the US transit bus market.  Still, as with all new products, some prefer to “stay with what works” – and in the late ’50’s, a number of smaller transit operators wanted an updated “second generation” Old Look – in 30 ft or less length and with a price substantially lower than the New Look.  Price was a significant factor as this was before passage of the Urban Mass Transit Act which would bring large-scale government grants for new capital purchases  – many smaller operators were borderline profitable and had little money for new equipment.


Given the success of the Old Look, the tooling had been amortized many years earlier, and as the basic platform was well proven, GM saw little downside risk in continuing production, even at a much lower rate.


The first “second generation” Old Look was the TDH 3501 – for new readers to CC, this designation meant T (Transit) D (Diesel or G for Gas) H (Hydraulic auto transmission or M for manual) 35 (typical max passenger load) series 01.


There were a few updates from the previous Old Looks – most noticeable being the incorporation of quad headlights.  Orders came in from small operators in both the US and Canada – approximately 1,200 of these 01 series coaches were produced over seven years.

In 1968 GM introduced the 3502 – 200 of these were built until production ended in Nov 1969, with introduction of the smaller wheelbase New Look model.


Diesel                                                                                         Gas 

Almost all 01 and 02 series coaches used the GM Toroflow V6 diesel engine – only 180 of the over 1400 produced used gasoline power – the gas version of the Toroflow or in earlier models a GMC inline six.  Transmissions were mostly Allison truck-based 6 speed automatics.  Engine installation was in the “T” manner – straight in, versus the transverse/angle drive of the Old Look.  These updated models also used a light duty chassis, which did not have the air-suspension of the previous models.


Though not built to the “heavy-duty” standard of the original Old Look, these buses served admirably in smaller markets – with many continuing to operate into the 1980s.

Interestingly, this same situation would repeat itself twenty years later in the late ‘70s as GM introduced the RTS II to replace the New Look – many operators preferred to stay with the updated  New Look “Classic”.