Vintage R&T Road Test: 1969 MCI MC-7 Greyhound Bus – 0-60 in 87 Seconds

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.

Related reading:
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