Crown Supercoach

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Crown Supercoach
Crown School bus at Meadowhall.jpg
1977-1991 Supercoach (retired) at a UK bus rally
Type Bus
Manufacturer Crown Coach Corporation
Body and chassis
Floor typeHigh-floor
ChassisCrown Coach; underfloor or rear engine
Single or tandem rear axles
Related Crown Firecoach
Engine Gasoline

International Harvester
Ford Super Duty



Detroit Diesel
Power output210-335 hp
Transmission 4-speed automatic
6-speed automatic
5-speed manual
10-speed manual
Length35-40 feet
Width96 inches
PredecessorCrown Super Coach (1935-1948)

The Crown Supercoach is a bus that was constructed and marketed by Crown Coach Corporation from 1948 to 1991. While most examples were sold as yellow school buses, the Supercoach formed the basis for motorcoaches and other specialty vehicles using the same body and chassis. While technically available outside of the West Coast, nearly all Crown school buses were sold in California, Washington State, and Oregon.

Crown Coach Corporation

The Crown Coach Corporation is a defunct American bus manufacturer. Established in 1904, Crown was headquartered in Los Angeles, California until the mid-1980s, moving to Chino, California until its closure. Best known for its Supercoach range of yellow school buses and motorcoaches, Crown also was the manufacturer of custom-built vehicles derived from its buses, including the Firecoach line of fire apparatus.

School bus Type of bus

A school bus is a type of bus owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district. It is regularly used to transport students to and from school or school-related activities, but not including a charter bus or transit bus. Various configurations of school buses are used worldwide; the most iconic examples are the yellow school buses of the United States and Canada.

From 1948 to 1984, the Supercoach was constructed at the Crown Coach facilities in Los Angeles, California; from 1984 to the 1991 closure of the company, the Supercoach was constructed in Chino, California.

Chino, California City in California, United States

Chino is a city in the western end of San Bernardino County, California, United States with Los Angeles County to its west and Orange County to its south in the Southern California region. Chino is adjacent to Chino Hills, California. Chino’s surroundings have long been a center of agriculture and dairy farming, providing milk products in Southern California and much of the southwestern United States. Chino's agricultural history dates back to the Spanish land grant forming Rancho Santa Ana del Chino. The area specialized in orchard, row crops and dairy.

Design History


In 1932, Crown Motor Carriage Company built its first complete school bus, in a shift from building bus bodies on cowled truck chassis. [1] Externally modeled after Twin Coach body designs, [2] the school bus body used a front-engine layout, with the Waukesha gasoline engine positioned next to the driver. [1] The body was of all-metal construction with an integrated chassis and safety glass; [2] [3] for braking, in addition to the standard hydraulic service brakes, the Crown bus was equipped with a redundant hand-operated system alongside the standard parking/emergency brake. [1]

Twin Coach

Twin Coach was an American vehicle manufacturing company from 1927 to 1955, located in Kent, Ohio, and a maker of marine engines and airplane parts until the 1960s. It was formed by brothers Frank and William Fageol when they left the Fageol Motor Company in 1927. They established the company in Kent to manufacture and sell buses with a new concept design. The body structure of this new bus was unique in that the body also became the frame and two engines – "twin" engines – were used to allow for larger passenger loads. This concept was patented by William B. Fageol.

From 1932 to 1935, Crown Body and Coach Corporation produced additional forward-control school buses. As the original 1932 design proved too expensive to produce on a large scale, Crown shifted to a design based on a Reo commercial truck chassis. [1] Named the Metropolitan, while still a front-engine bus, the new design significantly decreased forward visibility. [2]

The REO Motor Car Company was a Lansing, Michigan-based company that produced automobiles and trucks from 1905 to 1975. At one point the company also manufactured buses on its truck platforms.

In 1935, Crown revisited the 1932 design, introducing a new version as the first Crown Super Coach. With a seating capacity of up to 76 students, [2] it was one of the largest school buses ever produced at the time. As with its 1932 predecessor, the 1935 Crown Super Coach featured an all-steel body with an integrated chassis, safety glass, and a front-engine body. In a big change, the redundant braking system was redesigned, with the Supercoach featuring full air brakes. [2] [3]

In 1936, Crown produced the Super Coach as an intercity motorcoach, featuring onboard sleeper compartments. To maximize interior room, the powertrain layout was changed from front-engine to an underfloor mid-engine configuration. [1] In several variants, the Crown Super Coach would retain an underfloor layout through its 1991 discontinuation. In 1937, Crown would build the first mid-engine school bus, with a Hall-Scott gasoline engine; the change expanded capacity to 79 passengers. [1] [2] [3] To provide proper engine cooling, the bus was fitted with a front-mounted radiator.

In 1940, Crown Coach redesigned the Super Coach bus body and chassis, moving the engine to the rear. [2] Featuring a wider and taller interior, the Supercoach gained additional emergency exits (a rear exit window and right-side emergency door), [2] following the standardization of school bus dimensions and exits in 1939.

During World War II, Crown Coach produced few vehicles, with all production diverted towards military use. [1] [2] [3] In late 1945, Crown resumed production of Super Coach school and coach buses, struggling to meet demand. [1] To better ensure its survival after the war, Crown entered a joint venture with Indiana school bus manufacturer Wayne Works, becoming the West Coast distributor of its product lines.


Late 1950s Crown Supercoach (restored) 1950s Crown Supercoach Hershey.jpg
Late 1950s Crown Supercoach (restored)

In 1946, Crown began development on a new generation of vehicles. Starting life as a sightseeing bus for a motorcoach customer, the new-generation Supercoach (renamed as a single word) entered production in 1948, with Crown producing its first school bus example in late 1949. [1] [3]

In a move back to the mid-engine layout, the design of the 1950 Crown Supercoach broke many precedents in school bus construction. Although built on a steel frame, to fight corrosion, the body panels of the Supercoach were of aluminum. [1] In place of the traditional ladder truck-style frame, the Supercoach featured a monocque-style integrated frame. [1]

In the early 1950s, Crown made several additions to the Supercoach model line. In 1951, the Crown Firecoach fire engine was introduced, heavily based on the mid-engine chassis of the Supercoach bus. At the same time, Crown began to explore other uses for the Supercoach; in 1954, several Crown Cargo Coach "brucks" were produced, combining the front body of a bus with the rear body of a van trailer. [1] [2] Crown Security Coaches came into use as prison buses throughout the West Coast. [2]

In 1954, Crown introduced the first diesel-powered school bus, introducing the 743 cubic-inch Cummins NHH220 as an option. [2] For school districts with growing student populations, Crown introduced a tandem rear-axle Supercoach in 1955. Expanding the seating capacity from 79 to 91 (with a later option for 97), this would become the highest-capacity school bus ever mass-produced (alongside similar Gillig Transit Coach DT-models) [2] [3]

To increase braking power, in 1956, Crown standardized 10-inch wide brake drums on all vehicles, the largest in the bus industry at the time. [2]


Retired 1960s Crown Supercoach in Mexico VintageBus1.jpg
Retired 1960s Crown Supercoach in Mexico

In 1960, the body of the Crown Supercoach underwent its first set of modifications since its introduction in late 1949. To enhance visibility, the windshield, driver window, and entry door windows were redesigned. To make the bus more visible, Crown moved the taillamps and brakelights from the doors of the luggage compartment towards the rear corners of the body.

Although overtaken by school bus production, Crown continued production of the Supercoach as an intercity coach in various lengths. [1] Designed similar to a GM Buffalo bus, the longest versions featured a raised deck over the luggage compartment; Crown also produced a bilevel coach similar to the GMC Scenicruiser in configuration. [1] [3]

During the 1960s, Crown began to further expand its engine line. To aid the performance of its 91-passenger buses, a 262 hp turbocharged Cummins NHH was added. Alongside the Cummins diesel, an additional option included an underfloor version of the Detroit Diesel 671. In 1973, the 743 cubic-inch Cummins NHH diesel was replaced by the 855 cubic-inch NHH diesel, requiring internal structural updates to the frame. From the outside, 1973-1977 Crown school buses are distinguished by flat-topped wheel wells.


1978 Supercoach 90-passenger 25Tansut.jpg
1978 Supercoach 90-passenger

During the 1977 model year, federal regulations took effect that forever changed school bus design in the United States. To better protect passengers from crashes and rollovers, the structures of many school buses had to be updated; the metal-backed seats seen for decades were replaced by thickly padded, taller seats. Aside from the redesign of the passenger seats, which lead to minor capacity reductions, the structure of the Supercoach needed relatively few changes to meet the new regulations; the company claimed that the Supercoach was compliant as far back as 1950. [1] Post-1977 Supercoaches are distinguished by larger pillars behind the drivers' window and entry door as well as the fixed window next to the side emergency door.

In the late 1980s, along with the Crown Supercoach Series II, Crown began to expand the Supercoach lineup beyond its traditional two models. In 1988, a 38' version (84-passenger) was introduced. In 1989, two new 40' versions were introduced: a rear-engine and a single rear axle mid-engine.

In March 1991, Crown Coach closed its doors; the final vehicle produced was a 36-foot mid-engine Supercoach (with standard body).

Supercoach II (1989-1991)

1989-1991 Crown Supercoach Series II Crown Supercoach II.jpg
1989-1991 Crown Supercoach Series II

Introduced during 1989, the Crown Supercoach II marked the most substantial revision of the Crown Supercoach body since it entered production in 1949. Designed for participation in a California Energy Commission program to study the feasibility of alternative-fuel school buses, the Supercoach II was fitted with both "advanced diesel" and methanol-fuel engines. [4] [5] As part of the initial phase of the program, 153 Crown Coaches were purchased (103 diesel, 50 methanol). [4] As a secondary objective of the study, the buses researched the practicality of advanced safety features for school districts replacing buses manufactured before 1977. [4]

During the late 1980s, the only methanol-fuel engine that that complied with California emissions standards was the Detroit Diesel 6V92. To mount the engine in the rear frame of the Crown Supercoach, significant modifications to the engine compartment were required, including a new rear floor and wider rear bodywork. [1] [3] Along with redesigned lower bodywork to expand the engine compartment, the upper rear bodywork was redesigned, replacing the curved rear bulkhead with a vertical rear window, with a squared-off roofline. To match the redesign of the rear, the front bodywork was modified, with a squared-off roof above the windshield, an enlarged windshield (four-piece flat glass), and horizontal quad headlights. To maintain production commonality with the standard Crown Supercoach, the Supercoach II shared much of the bodywork between the entry door and rear seats with its predecessor. The drivers' compartment saw a major redesign, grouping secondary controls together left of the driver.

Following the production of the 153 CEC buses, the Supercoach II continued as a regular production model alongside the standard Crown Supercoach. In addition to the Detroit Diesel 6V92 diesel engine, the rear-engine Supercoach II was offered with the Cummins C8.3 inline-6 and the Caterpillar 3208 V8, along with the horizontal Detroit Diesel 671 of the mid-engine Supercoach. Produced primarily in a 40-foot rear-engine configuration, the Supercoach II was also offered in 38-foot lengths, in both rear and mid-engine configurations (no tandem-axle Supercoach IIs are ever known to have been produced).

During the 1990s, as the California Energy Commission program moved into its advanced stages, methanol was abandoned as an alternative fuel; virtually all of the 50 methanol-fueled Supercoach II vehicles were converted to operate on diesel fuel.

The Supercoach II was offered by Crown Coach through its closure in 1991; however, many of the 1991 vehicles produced by the Crown were of original Crown Supercoach body design. Following the closure of the company, the designs and tooling were acquired by Indiana-based Carpenter Body Works, which sought to restart production of the Supercoach II as part of its model line. Due to the complexity of the vehicle design, Carpenter was unable to produce the model at a competitive price, leading to the abandonment of the project. Several elements of the Supercoach II would live on in a successive product, the Carpenter/Spartan Coach RE, including its left-hand driver control panel and headlight layout.


Hall-Scott 590 cu in (9.7 L) OHC I6

779 cu in (12.8 L) OHC I6

International HarvesterGasoline
Ford Super Duty 534 cu in (8.8 L) OHV V8Gasoline
Caterpillar 3208636 cu in (10.4 L) V8Diesel1989-1990Rear-engine Supercoach II
Cummins 6C8.3 507 cu in (8.3 L) I6Diesel1989-1991Rear-engine Supercoach and Supercoach II
Cummins NHH743 cu in (12.2 L) I6

855 cu in (14.0 L) I6

Diesel1954-1972 (743)

1973-1991 (855)

Mid-engine Supercoach; first diesel engine in a school bus

Available in naturally-aspirated and turbocharged configurations

Detroit Diesel 6V53318 cu in (5.2 L) V6Diesel1961Produced as part of a customer-order rear-engine Crown Supercoach
Detroit Diesel 6-71/6L71 426 cu in (7.0 L) I6Dieselc.1963-1991Mid-engine Supercoach; also produced for mid-engine Supercoach II

Available in naturally-aspirated and turbocharged configurations

Also used in Crown-Ikarus buses.

Detroit Diesel 8V71568 cu in (9.3 L) V8DieselUsed in Crown motorcoaches; not used for school buses
Detroit Diesel 6V92 552 cu in (9.0 L) V6Methanol


1989-1991Rear-engine Supercoach Series II, bus body designed for use of engine

Most methanol-fuel buses converted to diesel.

Detroit Diesel 8V92736 cu in (12.1 L) V8DieselUsed in Crown motorcoaches; not used for school buses

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