Crown Coach Corporation

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Crown Coach Corporation
Industry Transportation
Fate Defunct
Founded Los Angeles, California (1904 (1904))
Founders D. Brockway
Defunct March 1991 (March 1991)
Headquarters Los Angeles, California (1904-1985)
Chino, California (1985-1991)
Area served West Coast, United States
Products School Buses
Fire Apparatus
Parent General Electric (1987-1991)

Crown Coach Corporation was a manufacturer of school buses and fire trucks located in southern California. Crown closed in March 1991 due to declining demand for school buses at the time.[1]


Crown Supercoach school buses

1977-1991 tandem-axle Crown Supercoach
Crown Supercoach
1989-1991 Crown Supercoach Series II (N-Body)  Model 2R-40N-552 or 2R-40N-505
Crown Supercoach Series II

Crown Coach Corporation was founded by Don M. Brockway in 1904 as the "Crown Carriage Company" in Los Angeles, California, eventually moving factory operations to Chino, California in San Bernardino County. Both factories have since been razed. The property in Los Angeles is now a manufacturing center but was once slated to be converted to a prison before concerns regarding contamination arose; the office and paint shed of the Chino property stood for a while longer, but were eventually torn down as well. Since a large number of 30-plus year old Crown school buses are still in service, replacement parts are supplied by West Coach, a company started by a group of former Crown Coach employees.[2]

Crown Coach was the creator of the original large, flat nose (cab-forward transit style or "Type D"), high capacity school bus. Their first example appeared in 1932. That vehicle still exists today. Beginning as a wagon builder, and shortly thereafter a motorized truck body outfitter, Crown expanded into passenger vehicles which then became its main focus. Working with Tanner Grey Line of Los Angeles, Crown designed the well-known Art Deco coach that eventually led to a school coach using unibody construction, mid-ship underfloor mounted commercial truck engines (often by Detroit Diesel or Cummins; a handful of them had Caterpillar engines) and off-the-shelf Class 8 truck parts, which made them economical to operate. Starting with steel skins, Crown later switched to rust-resistant aluminum panels.[2]

Crown's Supercoach school buses were known for strength and durability, built of 90,000 psi steel, with an expected service life of 20 years. This became a factor contributing to Crown's shutdown in 1991, because competitors produced less expensive buses made of 45,000 psi steel. The service life of the average school bus today is approximately ten years. There are many Crown buses well over 20 years old still plying the roads of California, most notably those of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in private use as converted coaches. Many Crown buses, retired by school districts in the U.S., continue to serve in Mexico as local transit buses, private charters, and even cross-country tour coaches.[3]

From 1951 to 1985, Crown Coach Corporation was also a manufacturer of fire apparatus under the Firecoach brand, with the majority of Firecoaches being sold to west coast departments, especially in California. Beginning in 1972, two different Los Angeles Fire Department (LACoFD) 1965 Crown Firecoach engines were used to portray Engine 51, during the first two seasons of the NBC/Universal television series Emergency!. Engine 60, which was the fire engine stationed at Universal, was used for scenes filmed at the Universal lot, and Engine 127 was used for scenes filmed at Station 127 where location filming was completed. In 1974, LACoFD purchased a large number of P-80 Ambassador pumpers from the Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation, and the company opted to donate an additional, identical unit to Universal for use as Engine 51 on the show, thereby allowing LACoFD to discontinue taking the Crown Engines 60 and 127 periodically out of service for filming. Engine 127's Crown Firecoach was later destroyed in a traffic accident, however Engine 60's Crown Firecoach, as well as the donated 1974 Ward LaFrance, are now owned by the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association and have been fully restored.[4][5][6][7][8]

After being purchased by General Electric in 1987, operation ceased in 1991. Crown's difficulty in competing with manufacturers of smaller, less durable but cheaper school buses was cited by company president Bruce Freeman in October 1990 as a primary factor in GE's decision to leave the school bus market.[3]



Crown built approximately 880 Firecoach products in the line's lifetime (1951–1985)

Crown Firecoaches

  • Firecoach 1951-1985 — pumpers, tillers, aerials and tenders
  • 50, 65, 75 and 85-foot Snorkels
  • 54, 55 and 75-foot TeleSqurts
  • 100-foot mid- or rear-mount aerials
  • 100-foot tillered aerial-ladder truck
  • Firecoach Squad
  • Water Tenders (tankers)
  • Open or canopy cab pumpers

Crown also built Firecoaches on various truck bodies:

  • Ford C850, C700
  • International Harvester
  • Pierce-Crown
  • Chevrolet Silverado chassis pumper

Crown also built custom fire vehicles from Supercoach and Firecoach chassis:

  • 28-foot bus for Los Angeles County Fire Department 1958
  • Custom-built bulldozer transport using Firecoach tractor for Los Angeles City Fire Department 1960
  • Two open-cab rescue trucks using Firecoach chassis for Honolulu, Hawaii Fire Department 1965
  • Heavy Utility tow truck using Firecoach chassis for Los Angeles Fire Department 1967
  • Mobile hospital/ambulance for Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington DC, using Supercoach body 1971
  • 2-axle trailer water tank/50-foot TeleSqurt for Tulare, California Fire Department 1975


Motor homes/Tour coaches[edit]

  • Motorcoach/Tourcoach

Highway coaches[edit]

  • Highway Coaches
  • Intercity Coaches

City transit buses[edit]

During the Post-war period Crown built Ford Transit buses. Crown built the Coachette City Bus from 1961 to 1962.

Transit buses[edit]

School buses[edit]

1980s Crown Supercoach

Crown's school buses were built with various chassis configurations. Lengths included 32, 35, 36, 38, and 40 feet. Axle configurations included 4x2, 6x2 and 6x4. The buses seated 33 to 97 passengers (90 passengers after 1977).

  • Crown Model B-3
  • Crown Model D
Crown Supercoach Information
Model Length (ft) Picture Year Introduced End of Production Fuel Type Notes
Crown Supercoach
Apple Valley Crown Coach Corporation.jpg 1948 1991 Gasoline
Along with introducing the transit-style school bus in 1932, Crown introduced diesel engines (Cummins) to school buses in 1955.
Crown Supercoach Series II (N-body) 40 Crown Supercoach II.jpg 1989 1991 Methanol
The Series II was originally designed as a way to accommodate a methanol-fueled version of the Detroit Diesel 6V92 in the rear; it would not fit in the tapered rear end of the Supercoach.

Other Products[edit]

Specialty vehicles[edit]

  • Security Jail Coaches 1950s — 35-foot and 40-foot chassis; 42-64 passengers
  • Mobile Command unit/Crown Coach HPO Bookmobile for Apple Valley


  • Truck cabs and bodies 1910s
  • Federal truck chassis


Crown made aircraft from 1925 to 1933.


  • Waukesha
  • Hall-Scott
  • International
  • Ford
  • Caterpillar 3208 (rear-engine Supercoach II and Firecoach only)
  • Cummins NHH (743 & 855 c.i.)
  • Cummins C8.3 (rear-engine)
  • Detroit Diesel 6v53, 6n71, 8v71, 6v92, 8v92

External links[edit]

  • Crown Coach Historical Society - founded by Sandi Brockway
  • [3] Bruce Vanderhorst Crown Fire Engine Website
  • [4] Paul Krot's Crown Firecoach Photo Archive
  • [5] Chris Arnolds Crown Firecoach Website


  1. ^ J. H. Velentine. "Crown Coach: California's Speciality Builder". Tripod. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  2. ^ a b Mark Theobald (2004). "Crown Coach". Retrieved 2010-04-29
  3. ^ a b Sandi Brockway (September 8, 2010) "School Bus Maker Crown Coach to Close Next March," George White. October 12, 1990. Crown Coach Historical Society. Retrieved 2014-03-20
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Los Angeles County Fire Museum Collection - 1965 Crown Firecoach
  6. ^ [2][dead link] Visit the County Of Los Angeles Fire Museum
  7. ^ "Engine 51 Restoration". LA County Fire Museum, Inc. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  8. ^ County Of Los Angeles Fire Museum's Engine 51 Ward LaFrance