Thomas Vista

Last updated
Thomas Vista
Thomas Vista.jpg
1995-1998 Thomas Vista
Manufacturer Thomas Built Buses, Inc.
Assembly High Point, North Carolina
Body and chassis
Class Type C
Body style School bus
Layout Semi forward-control 4x2
Platform Chevrolet/GMC B-Series
International 3600
RelatedThomas Saf-T-Liner Conventional
Engine Detroit Diesel 8.2L V8
International DT360 I6
International 7.3L IDI V8
International DT466 I6
International T444E V8
Transmission Allison AT545 4-speed automatic
Allison MT643 4-speed automatic
Width96 in (2,400 mm)
SuccessorThomas Saf-T-Liner Conventional
Thomas Saf-T-Liner FS-65
Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2

The Thomas Vista is a model line of buses that was manufactured by Thomas Built Buses from 1989 to 1998. Produced nearly exclusively as a school bus, the model line was also sold in commercial-use configurations. To improve forward sightlines for drivers, the chassis of design of the Vista combines elements of conventional buses and transit-style school buses (as well as those from smaller buses).

Bus Large road vehicle for transporting people

A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry many passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-deck rigid bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses while coaches are used for longer-distance services. Many types of buses, such as city transit buses and inter-city coaches, charge a fare. Other types, such as elementary or secondary school buses or shuttle buses within a post-secondary education campus do not charge a fare. In many jurisdictions, bus drivers require a special licence above and beyond a regular driver's licence.

Thomas Built Buses

Thomas Built Buses, Inc. is an American bus manufacturer. Headquartered in High Point, North Carolina, the company is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America. While best known for its yellow school buses, Thomas also produces activity buses/MFSAB, commercial buses, and bus bodies for aftermarket conversion.


Following the 1998 acquisition of Thomas Built Buses by Freightliner, Thomas ended the production of the Vista in favor of the standard Saf-T-Liner Conventional. While the 2004 Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 was not intended as a direct replacement, elements of its body design would incorporate features previously utilized in the Thomas Vista.

Freightliner Trucks American truck brand

Freightliner Trucks is an American truck manufacturer and a division of Daimler Trucks North America. The division is known mainly for the heavy duty class 8 diesel trucks it offers, as well as class 5–7 trucks.

Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 Cowled-chassis bus manufactured by bus body manufacturer Thomas Built Buses

The Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 is a cowled-chassis bus manufactured by bus body manufacturer Thomas Built Buses. Introduced in 2004, the C2 marked the first usage of the Freightliner C2 chassis. While produced largely for school bus use, the C2 is also produced for multiple applications, including specialty and commercial configurations. The C2 is unique in that it is available in capacities up to 81 passengers, the largest of any type C conventional school bus in current production.


Ward/AmTran Patriot, first semi-forward control school bus Ward school bus Patriot.jpg
Ward/AmTran Patriot, first semi-forward control school bus

During the early 1980s, school bus manufacturing in the United States underwent a period of relative turmoil, as the exit of the baby boom generation from the public education system created a sharp decline in student populations. In the late 1970s, the US federal government had significantly upgraded crash protection standards for school buses. [1]

While safety had long played a key role in the marketing and development of school buses, designers were forced to take a proactive stance to increase innovation to production. By improving the sightlines of the driver, the chances of preventing accidents improved as well. [1]

In 1985, AmTran/Ward introduced the Ward Patriot, a semi forward-control body configuration. By reconfiguring the Chevrolet/GMC B-Series chassis so that the engine was positioned next to the drivers' seat, the front body was modified significantly, with a sloped windshield, with the sloped hood nearly out of view. While similar in layout to a small Type B bus, the design of the Patriot adopted the heavier-duty components of a full-size Type C bus body design.

Ward Body Works

Ward Body Works is a defunct American bus manufacturer. Headquartered in Conway, Arkansas, Ward specialized in yellow school buses, alongside buses for other uses. Founded in 1933 by D.H. "Dave" Ward, the company was family-owned for nearly its entire existence.

Model History

Through its production, Thomas Built Buses produced two different versions of the Thomas Vista. From 1989 to 1991, the Vista was built using a General Motors chassis and model-specific bodywork. From 1992 to 1998, the Vista was built on Navistar International chassis, using modified International bodywork.


For 1989, Thomas Built Buses introduced the Thomas Vista as its own semi forward-control bus. Adopting the same reconfigured Chevrolet/GMC chassis as the Ward Patriot, Thomas introduced several new design elements for the Vista. To improve engine access, Thomas designed the bodywork to allow for a larger hood opening than the Ward Patriot. To minimize the blind spots in loading and unloading passengers, the bodywork ahead of the door was given a "loading-zone" window, as on the Thomas Minotour.

Thomas Minotour

The ThomasMinotour is a bus body manufactured by Thomas Built Buses since 1980. The smallest vehicle sold by the company, the Minotour is a bus body designed for cutaway van chassis. Primarily sold for school bus usage, the Minotour is also produced as a MFSAB or in specialized configurations specified by the customer.

Sharing the General Motors chassis of the Ward Patriot, the first-generation Thomas Vista adopted much of its bodywork from the standard Thomas Saf-T-Liner Conventional. As with both the Conventional and Saf-T-Liner EF/ER, Thomas built the Vista its own dashboard and control panel, with the Vista receiving a GM-sourced steering column and instruments. The engine of the Vista sat next to the driver (a Detroit Diesel 8.2L V8), similar to the Saf-T-Liner EF. [1]

After 1991, General Motors entered into a supply agreement to supply the B-Series to body manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation, effectively ending the production of the GM-chassis Thomas Vista.

EngineYears ProducedNotes
Detroit Diesel 8.2L V81989–1991Available in turbocharged or non-turbo ("Fuel Pincher") configuration


1994 Thomas Vista George M. Carroll Bus 56.jpg
1994 Thomas Vista
Closeup of sideview of Thomas Vista hood and windshield Thomas Vista hood closeup.jpg
Closeup of sideview of Thomas Vista hood and windshield

For 1992, Thomas was able to continue production of the Vista, as it secured chassis supply from Navistar International to replace the General Motors chassis. In place of modifying an existing chassis, Navistar developed a purpose-built chassis (the International 3600) for the Vista. While heavily based on the International 3800, the 3600 was a design unique for the Vista. To showcase the model change, Thomas fitted the Vista with a Navistar hood (cut nearly in half to fit the shortened chassis). For the first time, the Vista was available with multiple engines, as Navistar offered both the DT inline-6 and IDI V8 diesels.

As before, the driver of the Navistar-chassis Vista was positioned next to the engine, similar to a Thomas EF bus. To eliminate several blind spots on the body, in 1994, the forward body was redesigned; the side window was enlarged and the windshield was changed to a wraparound 4-piece configuration.

During the mid-1990s, the Vista also served as the replacement for the Mighty Mite, as Thomas expanded the Vista from the full-size segment into the Type B segment. [2]

Following the acquisition of Thomas by Freightliner in 1998, the Thomas Vista was withdrawn in favor of the Thomas Saf-T-Liner Conventional and Thomas-Saf-T-Liner FS-65. As the Navistar 3600 chassis was designed specifically for the Thomas Vista body, its production ended as well.

EngineYears producedNotes
DT360 1992–1994
7.3L IDI (Indirect Injection) V8
DT466E 1995–1998
T444E V8

Related Research Articles

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.


American Transportation Corporation was an American manufacturer of school bus bodies. Founded in 1980, the company traces its roots back to Ward Body Works, established in 1933. Following the 1979 bankruptcy filing of Ward Body Works, AmTran was formed; in 1991, the company was acquired by Navistar International, a move that would begin a series of alignment between school bus body manufacturers and chassis suppliers. The AmTran corporate headquarters and manufacturing facilities were located in Conway, Arkansas.

The Chevrolet and GMC B series is a series of cowled chassis that were produced by General Motors, primarily fitted with school bus bodies throughout its production. Based on the medium-duty trucks produced by the Chevrolet and GMC divisions of General Motors, the B series was produced in three separate generations; GMC initially produced its own version separate from Chevrolet. Introduced in 1966, the B series was redesigned in 1984 and 1992 as a 1993 model.

Chevrolet Kodiak medium duty trucks

The Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick are a range of medium duty trucks that were produced by the Chevrolet and GMC divisions of General Motors from 1980 to 2009. Introduced as a variant of the medium-duty C/K truck line, three generations were produced. Slotted between the C/K trucks and the GMC Brigadier Class 8 conventional, the Kodiak/TopKick were developed as a basis for vocationally-oriented trucks, including cargo haulers, dump trucks, and similar vehicles; on later generations, both cutaway and cowled-chassis variants were produced for bus use.

Blue Bird Vision

The Blue Bird Vision is a bus that is manufactured and marketed by Blue Bird Corporation in North America and exported worldwide. In production since 2003, the Vision became the first cowled-chassis bus built on a proprietary chassis designed and manufactured by the same company. While it is sold primarily in a school bus configuration, the Blue Bird Vision is also offered with various commercial and specialty seating and design configurations.

International 3000

The International 3000 Series is a Type D bus chassis manufactured by Navistar International, used for school bus and commercial bus applications. In production since 1990, it has been produced in both front and rear-engine configurations.

Blue Bird TC/2000

The Blue Bird TC/2000 is a product line of buses that was produced by the American manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation from 1988 to 2003. Introduced as a second transit-style product range alongside the Blue Bird All American, the TC/2000 was produced in front-engine and rear-engine layouts. While produced primarily as a yellow school bus, Blue Bird offered the TC/2000 in commercial configurations and numerous custom-built variants. For commercial use, Blue Bird badged the model line as the TC/2000 or the APC 2000.

The bus chassis variant of the International S series is a cowled bus chassis that was produced by International Harvester from 1979 to 2004. Produced primarily for school bus applications, the chassis was also produced for other applications, including commercial-use buses and cutaway-cab buses. In addition, the cowled chassis formed the basis for front-engine and rear-engine stripped chassis produced for bus applications.

International 3300

The International 3300 is a cowled (conventional-style) bus chassis manufactured by Navistar International since 2005 for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. While primarily used for yellow school buses, versions of the 3300 are bodied for other applications as well.

Freightliner C2 Type of school bus

The Freightliner C2 is a Type C conventional bus chassis manufactured by Daimler Trucks North America, used for school bus applications. It was introduced in 2004 as the replacement for the FS-65. The C2 uses the hood, firewall, steering column, and dashboard of the Freightliner Business Class M2 medium-duty conventional.

Daimler Trucks North America LLC, formerly Freightliner Corporation, is an automotive industry manufacturer of commercial vehicles headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the German Daimler AG.

Ford B series type of bus

The Ford B-series is a bus chassis that was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. Produced across six generations from 1948 to 1998, the B-series was a variant of the medium-duty Ford F-Series. As a cowled-chassis design, the B-series was a bare chassis aft of the firewall, intended for bodywork from a second-stage manufacturer. While primarily used for school bus applications in the United States and Canada, the chassis was exported worldwide to manufacturers to construct bus bodies for various uses.

The Wayne Lifestar is a product line of buses that was manufactured and marketed by Wayne Corporation and its successor company Wayne Wheeled Vehicles from 1986 to 1995. Produced nearly exclusively in a school bus configuration, the Wayne Lifestar used a transit-style body configuration with a front-engine chassis. Marking the return to transit-style production, the Lifestar adopted the single-piece body stampings of the Wayne Lifeguard in its construction.

Freightliner FS-65

The Freightliner FS-65 is a cowled bus chassis that was manufactured by Freightliner from 1997 to 2007. Derived from the Freightliner FL-Series medium-duty trucks, the FS-65 was produced primarily for school bus applications, though commercial-use buses and cutaway-cab buses were also built using the FS-65 chassis.

International TerraStar

The International TerraStar is a product line of medium duty trucks that was manufactured by International Trucks from 2010 to 2015. The smallest conventional-cab truck ever produced by Navistar, the TerraStar is a Class 5 medium-duty truck. Although not officially designated by the company as the replacement for the CityStar LCF cabover, the TerraStar is of similar dimensions and GWVR.

Freightliner Business Class M2

The Freightliner Business Class M2 is a model range of medium-duty trucks produced by Freightliner. In production since June 2002, the M2 was the successor to the FL-Series introduced in the 1990s. In terms of size, the M2 is produced in Class 5 through Class 8 GVWR ratings, competing primarily against the International Durastar and the Ford F-650/F-750 Super Duty.


  1. 1 2 3 "Thomas school bus history,Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Thomas Built Buses, Thomas Built Buses div. of Freightliner, Thomas Built Buses div. of Daimler Trucks, High Point, N.C. -". Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  2. "Vista (1997 Thomas website)". Archived from the original on 1997-04-01.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)