Bus Stop Classics Obscurity:  1948 – 1953 Ford/Wayne/Marmon-Herrington 8MB; Ford Folds On Its Transit Bus Business

In our previous post on Checker Motors, we talked a little about the Ford Transit Bus.  Let’s take a closer look at the final evolution of that model, the 8MB.

It’s not fairly well known but prior to WW II, Ford was a major player in the small transit bus market; first in 1936 with a 27 passenger front-engined model, then a more modern rear-engined one introduced in 1939.  Both these versions were named the Ford Transit Bus.  

Ford provided the chassis and the coachwork was constructed by Union City Body Company, as a subcontractor to Ford, and the bus was manufactured at the company’s plant in Union City Indiana.  It was twenty-five feet long, ninety-six inches wide, and was powered by a ninety-five horsepower version of the 239 cu. in. flathead V8 – in the rear-engined model fitted transversely.  Ford and Union City established a separate national distributor to market and sell the coaches; Transit Buses Inc.    

The Ford-Union City partnership flourished until 1947, when differences in marketing led to a break-up.  While production records for the front-engined model are no longer available, Ford and Union City made over 12,500 rear-engined Transit Buses between 1939-47 – a successful run by any measure.  Union City and Transit Buses Inc. then joined with Checker.  

Ford decided to team with Wayne Corporation, then a leading producer of school bus bodies, to build an updated version of the Transit Bus, now called the 8MB.  Wayne and Ford both jointly designed the new body to go over the existing chassis, with Wayne handling the actual manufacturing.  It came in both twenty-seven and thirty-one passenger models.

In 1948 Detroit, which had purchased over 2,000 of the older Transit Buses, ordered ten 8MB’s to test alongside the new Checker equivalent.  They would have likely chosen the Ford but a long-term strike by Wayne employees meant production of the bus was halted.  Detroit then placed a 300 unit order with Checker.  Other operators also likely passed on the Ford due to its unavailability.

In 1950, disappointed with its Wayne joint venture, Ford sold the rights and tooling for the 8MB to Marmon-Herrington, and after fourteen years, called it quits in the transit bus business.  M-H kept the Ford-Wayne design, and only changed the script and insignia on the front below the windshield.

GM TGH 2708


Besides the Wayne strike, the 8MB faced two other hurdles.  First, with the booming post-war economy, the small transit bus market had significantly shrunk, with operators preferring larger models.  Secondly, if you needed a small coach, GM would gladly sell you its TGH 2708 (twenty-seven passenger) Old Look which given the popularity of its larger buses, allowed for better fleet standardization.  

As such, M-H discontinued production of this bus in early 1954 – it continued building its trolley coach until 1959.  Ford continued to offer a commercial bus chassis for conventional, school-bus type bodies; the “B” series, until 1998.