Following World War II, there was a rapid rise in transit-style bus sales, especially on the west coast. This was due to the “Baby Boom” generation that started in the 1940’s and continued into the early 1960’s. School districts were faced with a rise in student counts and were forced to consolidate the districts, buy larger school buses, or both. As a result, the use of the transit-style school bus skyrocketed during the mid 1950’s. In 1959, Gillig Bros. introduced the very first rear-engine diesel-powered school bus. The C-180 Transit Coach soon became the most popular rear-engine transit-style school bus on the west coast.
The first successful east coast school bus was designed by Albert L. Luce and evolved into the Blue Bird All American. However, the “conventional” design with the truck type hood and front end was to continue to dominate U. S. school bus manufacturing through the end of the 20th century.
But, as full-size school buses grew larger in the 1950’s, they became more difficult to navigate crowded, narrow streets of urban neighborhoods and rural, isolated roads. Yellow-painted vehicles such as the International Travelall and the Chevrolet Surburban came into use. Passenger vans were converted to school buses in the 1960’s, largely by use of warning lights and yellow paint.
We will delve into the next decades, including safety regulations, in our next blog.