The GM Buses

GM Diagram

Click on the diagram to see a full plan and elevation

Text by Robert Lubinski

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GMC New Look “Fishbowls”

In the 1950’s General Motors began developing what was to be the basic transit bus design for North America, the model 5300 series. This model, designated the “New Look”, was the first major city bus design in more than 20 years. It was powered by a standard 6 cylinder “V” type engine with an automatic transmission and had many interior design, suspension and heating and ventilation improvements which made it the most comfortable bus to ride.

In 1959 the Commission ordered 50 model 5301 New Looks (2900 - 2949), which were built by GM at Pontiac, Michigan. These buses entered service in January of 1960 and were greeted favourably by passengers and drivers. More orders followed, and production shifted to London, Ontario as the bus fleet expanded greatly during the mid-1960s when TTC service was extended along new suburban routes and buses replaced streetcars on some routes. Later, when the venerable GM ‘Old Looks’ and ‘Twin’ coaches were due for retirement, more New Looks were ordered to replace them. Subsequent orders had different features as years went on such as the exhaust pipe moved up to near the rear roof, water bumpers, newer-design front safety bumpers, enhanced tail light/turn signal designs, updated seating from bench seats to individual seats, and mechanical improvements such as new transmissions. By 1978, the oldest New Looks were themselves being replaced by more New Looks.

The TTC ordered its last 246 New Looks in 1982 (8740 - 8985) and as older New Looks were retired the fleet began to shrink in size. By 1995 the TTC decided to embark on a rebuilding program of the last 246 buses to ensure continued reliable service. In 1999, 20 second-hand ex-Montreal buses were also rebuilt and put into service, making this small group the last New Looks acquired by the TTC. The 8740-8985 group was rebuilt again by 2004 and renumbered 2240 - 2485 at which time approximately 500 rebuilt New Looks were in service. This number began to drop steadily as the TTC took delivery of new buses in the form of the Orion VII model. As more Orion VII buses entered service, the number of New Looks slowly dwindled until there were about 120 in service at the beginning of 2010, and just over 40 in service by early 2011.

The remaining New Looks were consolidated at the Mount Dennis division in March 2011 and were steadily confined to fewer routes as more bus routes were designated accessible. Following the designation of the 71 RUNNYMEDE and 90 VAUGHAN routes as accessible in early 2011, the remaining New Looks were assigned to the 52 LAWRENCE WEST route. By the fall of 2011 only a dozen New Looks remained in service. December 16, 2011 was the last day of revenue service with buses 2281, 2286, 2290, 2444 and 2855 operating on the Lawrence West route. Bus 2281 had the honour of being the last New Look in revenue service and operated on the late-night Yonge Subway shuttle bus, running into the Mount Dennis garage in the early hours of December 17. However this was not the very last New Look to operate in Toronto. Bus 2252 was assigned to Toronto Island service, and remained active until March 2012.

In 2010 the TTC approved the retention of two GM New Looks as historic vehicles, similar to the two PCC streetcars and Peter Witt streetcar. While the exact use of these buses isn’t known, it’s likely that they would be used for special events. One such event took place on July 5, 2012 as the TTC temporarily bussed the 510 SPADINA streetcar while it upgraded the tracks and platforms. The event coincided with the release of a new album by a musical group known as the Shuffle Demons. Two decades before, the group achieved cult status when they recorded the song Spadina Bus. A video, which featured extensive guerrilla filming of GM buses and the group partying with passengers along Spadina received considerable air play, and when the group released its new album in 2012, they saw the return of buses on Spadina as an excellent marketing opportunity. The TTC agreed, and brought GM New Look #2252 out of retirement, providing shuttle service on the route while the Shuffle Demons serenaded passengers on board, to the delight of the local media.

As the most recognizable bus and certainly the workhorse of the TTC fleet over the past 50 years, it is fitting that two GM New Looks are preserved by the TTC.

Fishbowl Condensed Roster:

  • 2900 - 2949 - TDH 5301 - Delivered 1959
  • 2950 - 2984 - TDH 5301 - Delivered 1960;
  • 3100 - 3139 - TDH 5301 - Delivered 1962;
  • 2985 - 2999 - TDH 4517 - Delivered 1960 (35’);
  • 3140 - 3149 - TDH 5302 - Delivered 1962;
  • 3300 - 3379 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1963;
  • 3500 - 3599 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1964-65;
  • 3700 - 3799 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1966;
  • 7100 - 7179 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1967;
  • 3150 - 3174 - TDH 5304 - Delivered 1963;
  • 3980 - 3999 - TDH 5304 - Delivered 1966-67;
  • 7180 - 7199 - TDH 5304 - Delivered 1967;
  • 7300 - 7354 - T6H 5305 - Delivered 1968-69;
  • 7355 - 7395 - T6H 5305 - Delivered 1966-70;
  • 7523 - 7552 - T6H 5305 - Delivered 1972
  • 7570 - 7599 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1973
  • 7700 - 7774 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1973
  • 7775 - 7962 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1974 - 75
  • 8010 - 8117 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1975
  • 8140 - 8158 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1976
  • 8160 - 8204 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1977; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155
  • 8270 - 8314 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1979; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155
  • 8320 - 8369 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1980; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155
  • 8520 - 8985 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1981-83; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155, 2240 - 2485, 2700 - 2858
  • 2600 - 2619 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1998 (Ex- STCUM Montreal) Retired 2005
  • 2000 - 2155 - T6H-5307N - Rebuilt 1998-2000; retired 2005-2009
  • 2240 - 2485 - T6H-5307N - Rebuilt 1998-2000; retired 2005-2011
  • 2700 - 2858 - T6H-5307N - Rebuilt 1998-2000; retired 2005-2011

GM/MCI “Classic”

Many Canadian properties did not wish to purchase the RTS model which was being offered in the United States, therefore in 1981 GM produced an updated prototype New Look with a new flat front end and larger window configuration, as well as a restyled back end. The engineering changes made to the buses could be considered ‘evolutionary’ rather than ‘revolutionary’, therefore GM decided to call this updated version the ‘Classic’.

In 1987 GM sold its bus building business to MCI, best known for building highway coaches. Classics were constructed at the former GM plant in St. Eustache, Quebec. MCI later sold this business to NovaBus of Quebec. NovaBus continued building Classics for several Canadian and US systems, and produced the last Classic for STO in Hull, Quebec in 1996.

In 1987 TTC took delivery of 84 ‘Classics’. Originally these buses were distributed across several divisions with 10-15 buses at each garage. By 2002, the Classics were consolidated into two garages, Eglinton and Birchmount. These buses were retrofitted with UWE connectors for outside storage. The Classics were rebuilt in 2000-2001 and were retired by 2008, except for two, 6221 and 6223, which were used for Toronto Island service until 2010 when they were stored at Mount Dennis until they were removed off the roster in early 2012 and sold to Belka in 2013.

The TTC nearly acquired another 135 Classics in 1995, however as part of an agreement to save Orion Bus Industries, the Ontario government guaranteed that bus orders from Ontario systems would go to Orion and as a result the TTC acquired 135 Orion V buses instead (7000 - 7135).

Condensed Classic Roster:

  • Fleet Numbers: 6210 - 6293 - TC 40102N - Delivered 1987

GM Classic Image Archive

GM’s New Look Articulated Buses

In 1982, the TTC tested twelve articulated buses produced by GM as part of a demonstration program sponsored by the Ontario government. At the time, articulated buses were a revolutionary idea for North American transit, although such vehicles had been in use in Europe for many years. The GM vehicles were also different because, rather than “pulling” the trailing section of the bus, the buses used rear wheel drive, so that the trailer section pushed the rest of the bus. These 60 foot buses boasted a seating capacity of 55 passengers, and were powered by an 8-cylinder diesel engine.

In addition to the “unique ‘pusher-type’ turntable”, the bus was designed to limit its angular motion to 7 degrees whenever the bus was driving at normal speeds in a straight direction and 2 degrees whenever the bus was at highway speed. Automatic control systems were supposed to correct things should the vehicle exceed these limits.

The vehicles were tested for two years. Although concerns were raised about maintaining these non standard vehicles, the fact that they could carry 1.5 times the passenger load of a normal 40 foot bus meant that the TTC could improve capacity on heavily used bus lines without having to pay extra drivers to do it. Due to the provincial government’s strong encouragement in the 1980s to purchase buses from transit vehicle makers such as Orion and UTDC, however, Toronto did not purchase any of the GM articulated vehicles, choosing instead Orion Ikarus models. The twelve GM articulated buses were sold to Mississauga Transit in 1987.

If you have pictures of the GM articulated buses in operation on the TTC and would like to share them with the public, please e-mail us.

GM Articulated Specifications

  • TTC 8500-8511 Model GMC-TA60-102N Delivery in 1982
  • Length: 60’ (18.3 m)
  • Width: 102” (2.6 m)
  • Height (maximum): 121.5” (3.1 m)
  • Wheelbase - 1st to middle axle: 235” (597 cm)
  • Wheelbase - Middle to last axle: 281.7” (716 cm)
  • Turning circle: 43’9” (13.3 m)
  • Weight: 33,260 lb (15,087 kg)
  • Engine: Detroit Diesel Allison 8V-71N
  • Horsepower: 255 HP @ 2,000 RPM
  • Displacement: 568 cu in (9,308 cc)
  • Transmission: Detroit Diesel Allison V735 Automatic
  • Fuel Tank: 125 Imperial Gallons (568 litres)
  • Seating Capacity: 55
  • Heating: 114,000 BTU (28,500 kcal) main system, 41,800 BTU (10,000 kcal) front and defroster system, 80,000 BTU (20,000 kcal) booster unit
  • Ventilation: 4 roof hatches for ventilation and emergency, 9 fully opening windows.

GM Articulated Image Archive


GM New Look Image Archive


References

  • Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses, Stauss Publications, Woodland Hills (California), 1988.
  • Diesel City Bus, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), 1991.

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