Eagle Bus, (in full, Silver Eagle Bus Manufacturing, Inc.), is an American bus manufacturing company with a long history. During a period of over four decades, some 8,000 Eagle coaches were built in four countries on two continents. The coaches have been a common sight on American highways and have been associated with Continental Trailways for over three decades.
The first 55 Eagles were Golden Eagles built by the German company Kässbohrer. They were part of an order for 185 highway coaches manufactured under a contract with Continental Trailways. Of this original group, four were articulated. All of these coaches were of the "Setra Design" which meant that they had a chassis-less frame called selbst tragend (self-carrying). The bus was called Setra, a name formed from the first letters of those two words. Golden Eagles originally contained an aircraft style kitchenette plus a rear lounge that had two tables, observation windows and other luxury features. An on-board hostess served snacks and drinks en route. The exterior stainless steel siding was anodized in gold, hence the Golden Eagle name. A less well equipped model, called the Silver Eagle because the stainless steel siding was in silver. The Silver Eagle became the standard fleet bus for Continental Trailways. The first Eagle buses were powered by MAN D1566 diesel engines from Germany. The four Super Golden Eagles had Rolls Royce engines. Most NEW Silver Eagles had Cummins NRTO engines but some arrived in the USA without engines as GM finally released the Detroit Diesel 8V-71 engine and these were installed when the buses arrived. All older Eagles received 8V-71 engines to replace their original power plants.
In the late 1950s, Kässbohrer announced its decision to concentrate on European coaches. At this point, Continental Trailways formed its own company, Bus & Car Co, N.V., in partnership with the Belgian company La Brugeoise et Nivelles and established its own factory at Sint Michels bij Brugge in Belgium. Kässbohrer fulfilled its commitment under the contract with Trailways and Bus & Car picked up production in a plant set up by and near to the main office of La Brugeoise et Nivelles. The Trailways Eagles provided a more comfortable ride than Greyhound Lines GM and later MCI coaches. During the middle 1960's, Trailways and Greyhound ran competitive services on the Boston to New York and Washington routes with hourly departure schedules. This allowed frequent travelers to draw comparisons between the lines' equipment. The Eagles were warmer in the winters, had a softer ride, more comfortable seats and a quieter cabin appointed in better quality materials.
A small number of other models were built in Belgium for different markets through 1980. The Model 05 was introduced partway through the 1968 model year and was produced in Belgium and later in the USA. The first 05's had the 05 chassis changes built into the 01 body style and the 05 styling changes first appeared in 1969.
In the early 1970s, drivers referred to Old (round) Eagles and New (square, based on body design) Eagles. The Old Eagles had the tag axle behind the drive axle, like an MCI. The New Eagles had the tag axle located forward of the drive axle which made them 'interesting' to drive. The front suspension was very soft with a lot of travel, and since the tag axle torsion bar (mounted crosswise) was also pushing the front end up, some drivers said it was like driving a diving board. The front end went up and down at every expansion joint in the road and occasionally the driver had to grip the steering wheel to remain seated. On the other hand, Eagles had very little body roll in curves or corners, unlike buses with air suspension which gave the feeling they were about to roll over. All Eagles had suspension seats for their drivers, and some drivers would take the hydraulic jack from the tool kit and set it under the seat to reduce its motion.
In 1974 Eagle International, Inc. started building coaches in Brownsville, Texas, and for two years, the Model 05 was built both in Belgium and Texas. Since 1976, all US-bound coaches have been built in Texas. MOL, N. V. bought the remains of Bus & Car after it went bankrupt in 1977 and continued selling buses and parts up to at least 1980. The Model 10 was introduced with many design changes in the US during 1980. In 1985 the Model 15 was introduced making the standard bus 102 inches wide, then four years later coaches could be ordered 45 feet long. In 1987 Greyhound purchased Trailways and Eagle International, Inc. The name was then changed to Eagle Bus Mfg. Inc. In the 1990s, Greyhound declared bankruptcy, which also included all of its subsidiaries including Eagle Bus Mfg. Inc. Some Eagles were being made, mostly "Entertainer Coaches" for celebrities.
In the late 1990s the company was split and moved to two locations in Mexico. Mexico has a high demand for seated buses and Eagles were built for that market - all with the Eagle Ride "Torsilastic Suspension".
Eagle Buses today
As of January 2007, Silver Eagle Bus Manufacturing Inc. (SEBM) offered the following models: Model 15 in 38 ft, 40 ft, and 45 ft versions, Model 20 in 38 ft, 40 ft, and 45 ft versions, and the new design Model 25 in 40 ft and 45 foot versions. The only significant difference between the Model 15 and Model 20 is the width of the body - the Model 15 is 102 inches wide and the Model 20 is the classic 96 inch width body. One of the design changes incorporated into the Model 25 is the height of the body. A similar design analogy could be made by comparing the MCI 'D' series with the MCI 'E' series buses. The Model 25 is 102 inches wide, and (at the time of this writing) has not yet been certified and completely tested for US Government standards required for intercity buses, so it can only be ordered as a shell for conversion into an entertainer coach or built as a 'House Car' or motor home.
At the time of this writing, all three models are available with a choice of Cummins, Detroit Diesel Series 60, or Caterpillar engines. Two transmissions are available, the fully automatic Allison 500 series or the standard Eaton Autoshift.
By June 19, 2009 Silver Eagle had reviewed sites in middle and western Tennessee as well as Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi and negotiated with several communities before choosing to break ground on a new location in Gallatin, Tennessee. The reason for this move was to get the production, sales and parts facilities closer to Nashville. Classic Eagle buses had a large following with country music singers for use as touring coaches and band buses and it was hoped that locating to the Nashville area would stimulate demand for new coaches. Officials from Silver Eagle joined Governor Phil Bredesen, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, and local officials in announcing the project.Silver Eagle Bus Mfg has brought together all of the jigs and blueprints from the original Eagles to make the classic "Eagle" once again, plus they have introduced a newer design.
As of April 2010, SEBM has only produced one single Model 25 conversion coach which has received less than stellar reviews in the cosmetic department for its departure from traditional Eagle styling. Prior to moving from Brownsville they had a partly assembled 35-foot Model 20 in the factory, but it is not clear if this coach was ever completed. SEBM seems to have never really left the ground but does have a large stock of parts and accessories for classic Eagles from the past on hand at its warehouse.
Current Model range
- Silver Eagle Model 15, based on the AE 15
- Silver Eagle Model 20, based on the AE 20
- Silver Eagle Model 25, a new design
Past Model range
- Golden Eagle (1956-58, 51 built) Kässbohrer, Germany
- Super Golden Eagle (1958, 4 built) Kässbohrer, Germany
- Silver Eagle (1958, 41 built) Kässbohrer, Germany
- NEW Silver Eagle (1960–61, 85 built) Kässbohrer, Germany
- Silver Eagle Model 01 (1961–68) La Brugeoise et Nivelles (1961) and Bus & Car, Belgium. Early versions were reverse-engineered NEW Silver Eagles.
- Golden Eagle Model 01 (1963 (31) and 1964 (13)) Bus & Car, Belgium. 1963 versions had higher roofs and were called 'Hightops'
- Silver Eagle Model 02 (1964, only one prototype used in Texas, 40 feet long with only 2 axles and 102 inches wide) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Silver Eagle Model 04 (1966–69 unique model for European and north African customers, 110 built) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Silver Eagle Model 05 (1968–76) Bus & Car, Belgium, Bus & Car, Belgium
- Golden Eagle Model 05 (1969 (50) and 1971 (12)) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Silver Eagle Model 05 (1974–79) Eagle International, USA
- Silver Eagle Model 07 (1969–70, 45 built as 102-inch-wide versions of the Model 05) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Silver Eagle Model 09 (1972, 20 built for South African Railways) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Silver Eagle Model 12 (1972, 37-foot version of the 05 with two axles, 96 inches wide) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Eagle Model 14 (1975–76, 45 for SNCV in Belgium, designed for local interurban services) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Silver Eagle Model 15 (1972, 2.5-meter-wide (94.5 inches) European version of the Model 12) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Eagle Model 16 (1975, 15 for STIB, the Brussels transport operator, city buses) Bus & Car, Belgium
- Eagle Model M15 Transcontinental (1975-80, European development of the 05 with many changes) Bus & Car and MOL Eaglebus, Belgium
- Eagle Model M17 (1976, a few prototypes of an advanced city bus) Bus & Car and MOL Eaglebus, Belgium
- Eagle Model M20 Touring (Around 1980, MOL chassis and body from Spain, only a handful made) MOL Eaglebus, Belgium
- Eagle Model 10 or AE10, (1980–87, improved version of the late Model 05) Eagle International, USA
- Eagle AE 15 (1985–96, 102-inch-wide version of the AE 10) Eagle International, USA
- Eagle AE 20 (1987–96, updated version of the AE 10 with AE 15 styling) Eagle International, USA
- Silver Eagle Bus Manufacturing
- Eagles International An International Chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association