I well remember this review when it was new. As a bus aficionado, Now that was an unexpected treat. And I had wondered for some time just how long it took a big DD-powered coach to hit sixty from a standing start. I suppose I could have timed one myself, in rough terms, but I was a statistics junkie—I compiled a loose leaf binder of all of the R&T spec pages so I could readily access things like 0-60 times in that pre-internet age.
So here it is again, and a welcome refresher from that first reading over 50 years ago.
R&T noted that there were two new 40′ big buses in Greyhound’s fleet to replace the venerable Scenicruiser, thanks to its purchase of MCI some years earlier. The MC-6, which was 102″ wide, 6″ wider than the max. allowed in many states, and thus be doomed to operate only in some coastal states and Canada. It was powered by the DD 12V-71 two-stroke GM diesel.
The other one, including the tester, was the 96″ wide MC-7, which would become the mainstay of Greyhound’s fleet for many years to come, and would be the basis of several future generations of MCI/Greyhound coaches to come. It was powered by a 285 hp version of the DD 8V-71, backed by the traditional Spicer four-speed manual.
What’s interesting is that although both these coaches are the same 40′ length, they are very obviously quite different in terms of their body design, height, windows, styling, etc.. You’d think MCI might have just widened the MC-7 body by 6″; not so. It’s a bit hard to understand why now; presumably the MC-6, which came out a year earlier, was intended to be the only 40′ coach at Greyhound, like the Scenicruiser had once been. The MC-7 shares much of its body with the shorter MC-5, already in use by Greyhound for some years.
R&T spent some time on the basic design of the GM DD 2-cycle diesel engine, a subject we have covered here many times. Greyhound got an average of 600k miles before an engine overhaul was needed; some went as far as 600k miles. The front-line coaches averaged some 100k miles per year.
R&T wondered about the “archaic” 4-speed manual. Greyhound’s VP of Engineering pointed out that fuel economy was paramount, given the $20M annual fuel bill. Automatics just weren’t as efficient. The other reason is that Greyhound got long clutch life with the four speed, since drivers had to start in first gear. Hmm; that strikes me as a questionable answer. Even if they used a 5-speed, it’s hard to imagine drivers starting in second. Did they ever test this theory with a 5-speed? Me thinks not.
The reality is that these Spicer (or Fuller) 4-speed had been used on rear engine coaches ever since GM essentially invented the genre in the 1930s. It was a proven design,and one that worked well enough. Yes, another intermediate gear might have been nice on mountainous routes, but unnecessary otherwise. The real benefit was one less shift, given how balky these 40′ long mechanical linkages were.
As to the actual road test, the author states that “the MC-7 is a joy to drive, primarily because you have to work to get any performance out of it”. True that! It’s pedal-to-the-metal all the time. Greyhound insisted that all of its buses were governed to 65 mph, but “we suspect that the governed speed is actually a little over 70 mph from our highway experience”. That sounds about right.
Here’s the hard data. Fuel consumption was pegged at 6 mpg. Sounds about right too.
Upshifts on these unsynchronized transmissions were slow but easy enough, but downshifting was another thing. Double clutching and a small prayer hopefully accomplished the deed, but I remember seeing some drivers struggling. The author had noticed the same in his frequent bus rides.
“Roadholding is remarkably good”. Ok. Yes, a big bus rolling down the highway does have a tendency to hold the road, but taking it through a twisty back road is another thing.
Bus Stop Classics: MCI MC-6 “Supercrusier” – Six Inches Too Far Ahead of Its Time
On The Go Bus Outtake: MCI MC-7 Bus
Bus Stop Classics: 1964-1980 Motor Coach Industries (MCI) MC-5 – Middle Hauler
I also remember this review in its original appearance. I was riding Greyhounds to college and back and regretted that I never even saw much less rode on an MC-6.
$55K for this bus as tested in 1969 is a reality check. What do comparable buses cost today, 50 years later? At least 500-600K?
With inflation, I think that 55K would be around 450-500k. I used to have a customer that bought Prevost bus chassis for conversion to touring buses (for bands etc) he told me a new one ran around 800K to a million. I imagine you get a volume discount but still really pricey.
My father worked for theTTC (Toronto public transit) and around the early 60s he took me on a tour of one of the garages. I was around 10 years old and I remember his saying that a city bus cost about the same as a Rolls Royce but a highway bus (I.e. an intercity bus) cost about 2 Rolls. At that time the TTC owned an intercity company, Gray Coach Lines, so they bought both types of buses. I don’t know what the prices of Rolls were like in those years, but it seems generally in line with the numbers in the article.
I too remember this road test when it first came out in R&T. Aging myself!
I always loved these April Fool road tests. I think the next year they did the Mercedes-Benz GT (garbage truck). Unless it was the 12 cylinder in line Jaguar XK-EE.
April often offered the R&T “joke” test. Not fake, but weird. This one was classic.
The R&T April road tests were great! I don’t think they ever put them into a single volume unfortunately, I would have gladly bought a copy.
An interesting and well written R&T article there .
At that time (mid 1960’s) I rode the ‘hound all over New England, comfy and fairly quiet, always lots of shady characters in the depot .
I’d have thought a Clark 5 speed would be better but we’ll never know .
I remember in the 1970’s my buddies sneaking back to the toilet and trying to smoke a joint next to the tiny opening window only to have the driver yelling over the intercom “! put that out RIGHT NOW or I’ll stop for the next cop I see !” .
It seems to me the airlines managed to have seat belts that were easily put between the lower cushions and arm rests .
I worked for Greyhound at their Minneapolis MN maintenance facility from 1974 to 1977.
We had one MC-6 that ran between Minneapolis and Winnipeg Manitoba. It had an over-width permit for this route. The MC-6 seemed so much more imposing than a MC-7.
Greyhound did switch to the Allison transmission with the change to the MC-8.
The statement that the coaches were governed to 65 mph is not quite true. The engine was governed to a maximum RPM, there was no road speed governor. Detroit Diesel mechanical governors used on on-highway engines only govern minimum RPM and max RPM. Anywhere in between these two RPM’s full fueling is allowed. One other minor issue was governor “droop”. The engine running at max RPM in a no load condition would run approx. 100 RPM higher than it would under load. This was known as “droop”. It was very common to find the governors set 100 RPM too low because “droop” wasn’t accounted for.
Not adopting turbochargers sooner was another missed opportunity. A lot of that black smoke that was blowing out of the exhaust pipe was wasted fuel that need some more air to produce more power.
Using a four speed trans really hampered fuel economy, wide gear spreads and running the engine at max rpm while at cruising speed is not fuel burn friendly. A six speed trans would had been a solution but it would have required another linkage set running the length from the driver back to the transmission. The real solutions were not going to show up for awhile. The Allison World 6 speed transmission would be the answer. The earlier Allison’s were available, 4 or 5 speed, but they had their issues. Automatics were also a plus for finding drivers.
We had one MC-7 equipped with a turbocharged 8V-71 and a 5 speed Allison. That was a fun coach to drive.
IIRC, Coach 1750 was the number of the MC-6 on the Minneapolis-Fargo-Winnipeg run. Just so happened, that one of its scheduled stops was Pembina..the town it was born in. 🙂
I remember we were delayed for some length of time at a layover, when the driver restarted the engine. He repeatedly started the engine and then turned it off, explaining it was starting up backwards. Is that possible, or was he “blowing smoke”?
Detroit Diesels can start and run backwards. Seen it happen a few times when working at Greyhound. I worked the service lane for about 1 year as a bus inspector. The GM coaches were the ones that seemed to do it most often. I think this was because of the softer suspension. It usually would happen when the engine was nearly stalled and the coach would rock side to side. This was in the mid 70’s and a lot of the coached still had oil bath air cleaners. When the engine started running backwards oil would start pouring out of the air intake grill on the side of the bus. Now there was a mess to clean up and an air cleaner that needed to be serviced.
There were MC-7’s that had paper air cleaners, four of them. The issue with the paper air cleaner elements was water. The air inlet was on the left rear side of the bus. Lots of misty water tossed in the air and it was pulled into the air intake. On wet days you would see lots of air restriction indicators in the red. I would reset the indicator and note it on the repair order. The guys on the floor would swap in a “cleaned” set of filters and put the dirty ones in the air cleaner service room. Greyhound had a wash tank and drying station for the paper filters. It was a common practice but NOT recommended by the filter manufacturer. It was not very effective, the washed filters did not last long. The other interesting piece was the new MC-8 coaches out of Pembina had oil bath air cleaners.
Last item was minor rumor concerning the MC-8 coaches. Supposedly one reason for the MC-8 was to get around the Federal pricing freeze that was enacted in 1971. MC-8 came out in ’73 so maybe?
The MC-8’s were a good looking coach, red, white and blue paint scheme, polished aluminum wheels. Auto trans made driving simpler and that torque convertor really helped to get the big dog rolling smoothly.
Cool old test!
Here in Canada Greyhound is now gone forever, so intercity bus transport is a patchwork of unrelated companies or non existent depending on where you are. I had a few unplanned long Greyhound trips when I was a young guy on “Scenicruiser 6” buses which I suspect were MC-7s. Greyhound Canada used them right into the ’80s, maybe longer in cargo service. “Terminals” in rural BC were often cafes, gas stations etc.
Fellow passengers ran the gamut from grandmothers travelling to visit family to guys just released from prison. Smoking was permitted, though not in the first 5 rows, and there wasn’t much heat but you’d eventually get home.
I can’t say I enjoyed it at the time but it was a comfort to know that no matter what happened or where you were, if you kept 20 or 30 bucks back you could make your way home. As to governed speed, anyone who drove mountain passes in those days will recall crawling up hill behind one until you could get by and then trying to stay ahead of him on the downhill side. Only thing worse was a Safeway truck.
Later in life I knew a few guys who drove for them. It paid pretty well if you could take the schedule.
55k for a bus? That seems like a bargain for what they got. Reminds me of the old joke: Came to Vegas in a $5,000 car – left in a $50,000 bus.
Thanks for giving this renewed visibility – lost my copy of that issue long ago. I’m hoping that you can also run R&T’s test of the Gresley A-3 Pacific steam locomotive from that era as well. Bravo…
Driving my 40′ diesel RV is similar. And they do handle surprisingly well.
Smooth. Air ride, air brakes like this bus. I’m sure it drove well.
Always enjoy reading this one again.
“What’s interesting is that although both these coaches are the same 40′ length, they are very obviously quite different in terms of their body design, height, windows, styling, etc.. You’d think MCI might have just widened the MC-7 body by 6″; not so. It’s a bit hard to understand why now; presumably the MC-6, which came out a year earlier, was intended to be the only 40′ coach at Greyhound, like the Scenicruiser had once been. The MC-7 shares much of its body with the shorter MC-5, already in use by Greyhound for some years.”
That’s because the MC-6 was going to be built by MCI exclusively for Greyhound, as their “halo model” flagship, like its predecessor, the GM PD-4501 Scenicruiser was, a decade and a half earlier.
The MC-7, was going to be their “bread and butter” model, and would be offered for sale to any other carrier. They were built to be price competitive with the contemporary GMC PD-4901’s, Eagle’s, and Prevost TS-47’s.
Great article…thanks for sharing the Road Test…I recall when it came out.
I liked their comment about the MC-7 being a “superb example of good industrial design”, but not as good as the Raymond Loewy styled Scenicruiser….
“Even if they used a 5-speed, it’s hard to imagine drivers starting in second. Did they ever test this theory with a 5-speed? Me thinks not.”
In my case of my business, we can’t get the drivers to start the Hino trucks in first gear. We have asked them, begged them and even posted signs but to no avail.
Instead they burn out clutches by slipping them from a standing start.
I had a customer once ask me to adjust the clutch so he could start off in second or third gear. Also did a fair number of clutch jobs where the obvious cause of the failure was trying to launch in a higher gear. Flywheels and pressure plates roasted into various shades of blue, gold and black and lots of surface cracks.
The manual transmission bus also suffered clutch abuse as they got older. The linkage would get sloppy and slack so it was difficult to maintain some free play and get a clean release of the clutch. That certainly added some more fun trying to shift that gear box.
I would have like to have driven a MC-7 equipped with a 6V-92 and a 6 speed Allison World transmission. I think that would have been a good combination.
I did run into a guy with a 500hp 8V-92 and Allison trans in a RV coach, I think it was a Prevost.
Never slip the clutch starting off just start with the engine idling in whichever gear it will move off in, then accelerate skipping as many gears as the torque will cope with to get good fuel economy.
That’s because you understand feathering the throttle and lot lugging the engine .
Few grasp this concept .
Remember many “Greyhound” rides from “PGH” to “DC” and visa versa. Also, “Continental Trailways”.
“CT” did have a smoother , quieter, ride as I recall.
This is the R&T April special I most remember. A gem. The other April funny that comes to mind is the elephant parade float.
Thanks to all for the deep info about buses.
A couple of inaccurate points in the article.
8V and 12V 71 series engines use 60 degree blocks, not 90 degree.
Never saw a 2 valve head in any of the coaches I worked on, all 4 valve heads.
Fuel injectors were rarely removed, tune ups were rarely done. The engine shop spent most of its time swapping power trains. It was rare that a clutch job was done or an engine repaired. If there was a problem the cradle holding the engine and transmission was pulled and a rebuilt one was swapped in. The rebuilt assembly came fully equipped, starter motor, P.S. pump, air compressor, and the later ones had gear drive oil cooled alternators.
I worked in the Minneapolis shop from 1974 thru early 1977. In that time only one coach had an engine overhauled in our shop. I worked with the lead mechanic on it. It was a GMC coach, a fairly low mileage 4900 series coach. The coach belonged to a local bus company that we serviced. Doing an in chassis engine overhaul in the rear of a bus chassis is a very dirty job. Everything is coated in diesel exhaust soot and road grime.
The primary driver for engine replacement was oil consumption. Oil usage was tracked and once it got to burning a quart every 125 miles that unit was flagged and put on the schedule for drive train replacement. It was pretty good testament to the reliability of the Detroit Diesel engines. Check the lube and coolant levels regularly, change oil and fuel filters every 16,000 miles, run them until they drop.
I eventually went to work for the GMC Truck and Coach division of GM in 1978. My coach experience was a factor in my hiring, the irony is I never worked on a coach again. The truck industry did keep me much busier repairing and overhauling engines.