I suppose this really should be a Bus Stop Classic, as this Model 719 by Yellow Coach (owned by GM) was the most influential coach in America ever. It was the first modern coach, in the format that all subsequent ones would be built, with a lightweight monocoque (unibody) structure that included a lot of aluminum alloys, a transverse rear engine, Vee Drive, and of course a front end without the then-typical long engine hood.
Here’s three great shots from Shorpy showing a proud driver and his new 719 owned by Peoples Rapid Transit, a Greyhound franchisee. Back then Greyhound included numerous regional operators, before it became a consolidated outfit.
The location has been identified as Richmond, VA according to a Shorpy commenter. It’s headed for New York, obviously, which back then was a very different trip, presumably up old Highway 1.
Here’s a great shot of the driver seated and ready to roll. These Model 719’s were still gas powered, as the new 6-71 diesel was not yet ready; they were available as of 1938. So they had a big 707 CID GMC six in the back, and presumably a four speed transmission. And still a floor shifter too. Its successor, the PD-3751 “Silversides” actually had a column shift for its rear mounted transmission. Must have been quite the linkage.
The right front tire in the second pic looks as bald as my pop’s head! Having never driven ANY bus, much less one of this vintage, I’m always struck by the impression that it must’ve taken quite a bit of strength and stamina to wheel one of these around crowded city streets…without the power brakes and steering that are omnipresent today.
Buses had air brakes, which required very little effort.
I drove city buses in the mid ’70s, and all of them had manual steering. But the wheels were huge, and the steering ratio was such that it wasn’t really physically demanding. There were a number of women drivers. It just took a lot of turns of the wheel to make a tight turn.
But sure, modern buses with power steering and faster ratio are easier to navigate.
Thanks for the info, Paul. While I’m a car nut, I’m not at all knowledgeable about buses or other HD trucks. I just assumed air brakes weren’t around back in the ’30s. Learn something new everyday!
Air brakes are actually older than hydraulic brakes. They replaced mechanical brakes on trains long before bus transportation was common.
Having driven such coaches w/o power steering, the real challenge was parallel parking.
Count all the amazing Art Deco details on this beautiful bus. The driver looks rightfully proud.
Aha!–sure looks like the inspiration for this 30s-40s birthday card—perhaps someone at CC is celebrating today!
One of the big differences for manual steering is the king pin’s location relative to the center of the tire tread, the closer the king pin is to the center the easier the steering is. This used to be pretty common on tanker tractors as the industry tried to keep the tractor/trailer combination as light as possible for maximum product capacity. Yellow Freight was still buying tractors in the early 90’s without power steering. One less system to maintain and repair was the logic.
Oh yeah, the ‘Center Point’ front axles.
The later 743 was very similar but had the 6-71. Both the 719 and 743 remained in Greyhound’s fleet through the 50’s, a few even lasting in service until the early 60’s. Many were substantially rebuilt in the late 40’s with ‘Silverside’ fluted aluminum exterior trim and the gasoline powered models getting 6-71’s. Quite some coach in it’s day. Great pictures!
That thing must have been advanced in its day. If I had to guess a year from just the pictures, I’d have been in the early ‘50’s
Your introductory photo immediately reminded me of this shot of Ralph Kramden. Alice seems to be chasing him to give him his lunch that he seems to have forgotten.
I like the way he wears his hat at a rakish angle in the first & third photos. He is one very proud man.
Great photos – very good quality. Beautiful bus.
Very informative. Thanks.
Look above the “NEW YORK” sign in the first pic; note the three lights with dark lenses. Those are now called Identification Lamps, a name they got in 1968 when Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 came in (and required them to be amber front/red rear); prior to that they were called “ICC Lamps” because the Interstate Commerce Commission required them—white, green (like these) or amber up front; red in the rear.
Their original stated purpose even earlier in the 1930s was “to allow for the visual identification of certain vehicles”, which is, uh, vague. A few years later, the SAE Lighting Committee altered it: “to allow for the visual identification of large vehicles”. Okeh, that’s a little more specific. Little rationale survives, but it’s a fairly good bet the idea was to give a bit of warning to those motorists foolish enough to try overtaking on their way up a hill on a 2-lane highway. With the ICC lights up at the top, they’d be the first thing visible as the vehicle approaches the hillcrest. The rationale for the rear ones is less guessable.
And that housing up on the edge of the roof, above the driver’s window, lookin’ like an inspiration for the ’61 Plymouth’s taillight pod, with the somewhat lighter-looking lamp lens at the front—those (there’s another one on the other side) are the clearance lights. These, too, could be white, green, or amber like these up front, red in back, until 1968 when amber became required for the front ones.
Clearance lamps are required on big vehicles pretty much everywhere—the rest of the world calls them End-outline marker lights and requires them to be white in front and red in back. But the central-group-of-three Identification lamps are an American phenomenon, required only in the US and Canada. Other countries scattered here and there permit them, sometimes only if the front ones are white, but they are not mentioned in the UN (formerly “European”) Regulations, and therefore not allowed in the many countries that adhere strictly to those regs.