Blue Bird All American

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Blue Bird All American
2009 blue bird all american fe.jpg
Blue Bird All American Forward Engine (2009 model)
Overview
Manufacturer Blue Bird Body Company (1948-1992)
Blue Bird Corporation (1992-present)
Production 1948-present
Body and chassis
Doors Single door
Two door (export)
Floor type High floor
Chassis

Forward Engine: Blue Bird (1952-present)

Rear Engine: Various (to 1988)
Blue Bird (1988-present)
Related Blue Bird Wanderlodge
Powertrain
Engine
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
Capacity 54-90 (school bus)

The Blue Bird All American is an American school bus produced by the Blue Bird Corporation (originally Blue Bird Body Company). Introduced in 1948, the All American is the longest-produced transit-style (Type D) school bus by an American manufacturer. While not the first to use the transit-style design, the All American popularized it through most of the United States during the mid-20th century. It is produced in both a front engine-version and a rear-engine version.[1]

In October 2012, Blue Bird revealed the sixth and current version of the All American, which entered production as a 2014 model.[2] Previous major updates were introduced in 1952, 1957 (with upgrades in 1962 and 1977), 1989, 1999, and 2008.

Development[edit]

In the 1930s, to expand student seating capacity in school buses, manufacturers developed "forward control" school buses. By modifying conventional truck chassis, the engine was placed next to the driver and the front axle moved rearward of the entrance door. This allowed for the use of greater capacity within the same overall length and better forward visibility; the shorter wheelbase gave them improved maneuverability. In 1932, Crown Coach would introduce the Supercoach alongside a similar design by Wayne Works; Gillig would introduce a design with a rear-mounted engine. In 1937, the Crown Supercoach was expanded to a capacity of 79 passengers, becoming one of the largest school buses of its time.

In the years following World War II, Blue Bird company founder A.L. Luce sought to develop his own forward control bus. In 1948, during a trip to Europe, he and his son George visited the Paris Auto Salon.[3] One of the vehicles on display was a front-engine motorcoach (either Van Hool or Jonckheere bodywork) with a General Motors chassis built in an Opel factory in Belgium.[3] Inspired by the design, A.L. Luce sought to develop uses for the chassis as a school bus; however, the Luces learned that it was a model specifically for export markets.[3]

In an effort to reverse-engineer the vehicle, A.L. Luce purchased the Paris Auto coach from the body manufacturer in order to ship it to Blue Bird in Fort Valley, Georgia.[3] Moving past the bodywork, Blue Bird engineers would find that the Opel chassis shared much in common with Chevrolet medium-duty trucks converted to forward-control; the front axle was widened and modifications were made the steering gear. In a unique feature, the transmission was shifted by remote control.[3]

Due to its commonality with the Opel design, Blue Bird chose Chevrolet as the initial chassis for the forward-control prototype.[3] The first prototype, named Blue Bird All American, was completed in 1949. Plagued by engineering issues, the All American did not enter full production until 1950.[3]

First generation (1950-1956)[edit]

For 1950 and 1951, the All American saw relatively little marketplace success. A key factor slowing its production and sales was its method of production. While sharing a chassis with any cowled-chassis Blue Bird using a Chevrolet/GMC chasssis, the frame of the All American had to be stripped bare and converted to a forward control layout before the body was fitted; this also meant that nearly every chassis component had to be re-checked for functionality.[3]

In order to improve quality and cut down on production time, Blue Bird ended use of second-party chassis in 1952 in favor of one designed and produced by the company. Allowing for the use of engines and powertrains from a variety of suppliers, Blue Bird also redesigned the All American for the first time.[3] The roof was extended further forward, expanding the entryway, entry door, and allowing for a much larger windshield. In the chassis redesign, Blue Bird expanded the overall capacity of the All American, with some versions seating up to 72 passengers.

Second generation (1957-1989)[edit]

Second Generation
1980sBBAllAmerican.jpg
Early 1980s All American Rear Engine
Overview
Manufacturer Blue Bird Body Company
Production 1957-1988
Assembly Fort Valley, Georgia
Body and chassis
Layout front-engine 4x2
rear-engine 4x2
Related Blue Bird Wanderlodge
Powertrain
Engine
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
Transmission
  • Manual
  • Automatic
Chronology
Predecessor Blue Bird All American (1952-1956)
Successor Blue Bird All American (1989-1998)
1980s All American Forward Engine in use as a police bus

For 1957, along with the Conventional, the body of the All American was given a ground-up redesign.[3][4] Less rounded than its predecessor, the All American was distinguished by flat sides and a taller roof; the latter was done in part of an effort to allow older students and adult passengers to walk the full length of the bus standing up.[3] In an effort to improve forward visibility, the windshield was made panoramic; the two flat panes of glass were replaced by a configuration wrapping around from the entry door to the driver window. In addition, the entry door glass was enlarged to eliminate blind spots.[3] In 1958, after federal legislation permitted their use on road vehicles, quad headlights were added to the All American.[3][4]

For the next 31 years, Blue Bird would only make gradual changes to the All American. In 1961, the All American model line doubled in size as the forward-control configuration was joined by a rear-engine "pusher" configuration. Developed largely to secure bids in areas where rear-engined buses were favored, Blue Bird outsourced the chassis for the All American Rear Engine to GMC.[3][5] For 1962, the windshield of the All American was enlarged further. Two configurations became offered: a 4-pane flat glass version (standard) or a 2-pane curved glass (optional). For 1967, the roofcap above the windshield was redesigned. To better accommodate the 8-lamp warning systems coming into use, the curved roof cap seen since the 1930s was replaced with a flat, vertically oriented unit.[3] For 1968, the bodywork below the windshield was updated, leading to a new grille, vertically-stacked headlights, and a reduction in the amount of chrome trim on the front bodywork.[3]

During the 1970s, the All American saw few external changes, but more changes were made under the skin of the bus. To comply with federal regulations, Blue Bird strengthened the skin and structure of the bus for 1977 safety regulations, which also saw the addition of high-back padded passenger seats.[3] In addition, for 1977, Blue Bird changed the rear roof cap to match its counterpart in the front (borrowing bodywork from the Wanderlodge).[3] In contrast to the first All Americans, which were available in a maximum of 60 student passengers, the largest versions of the All American could now be equipped to seat 90 student passengers.

As with the previous decade, the 1980s saw relatively few changes to the All American. Following the discontinuation of the Ford Super Duty V8 in 1981, the All American was left with only the Chevrolet 427 cubic-inch V8 as a gasoline-engine offering. Concerns over fuel economy after the 1970s fuel crises had led to widespread adoption of diesel-fueled powertrains in high-capacity school buses. In response, by 1980, the All American was produced with diesel engines from Cummins, Caterpillar, and Detroit Diesel. In 1982, after being available as option for several years, a drop-sash window in the rearward row of seats became standard, replacing a fixed piece of glass.[3] In 1988, Blue Bird begins chassis production of the All American Rear Engine for the first time.

Design Epilogue[edit]

With the exception of the D3-Series All American and the EC-72 prototypes, all full-sized Blue Bird school buses produced since 1957 have derived much of their bodywork from this generation of the All American. While using a lighter-duty chassis and different interior design, the TC/2000 is also derived from this generation of the All American. In various sizes, Blue Bird has retained the same design of windshield introduced on the All American in 1962 on current versions of the Vision; it stayed on the All American to 2014.

With Blue Bird producing chassis for both versions of the All American, it marked a transition to producing chassis for all of its vehicles; with the exception of the Micro Bird, all Blue Bird vehicles are produced on company-designed chassis.[6]

Third generation (1989-1998)[edit]

Third generation
90sAAFE Chicken Bus.jpg
1989-1991 All American Forward Engine (retired, photo from Costa Rica)
Overview
Also called Blue Bird TC/3000 (export)
Blue Bird CS
Production 1989-1998
Assembly Fort Valley, Georgia
Layout front-engine 4x2
rear-engine 4x2
Powertrain
Engine Diesel
Compressed Natural Gas
Transmission Automatic
Chronology
Predecessor Blue Bird All American (1957-1988)
Successor Blue Bird All American "A3"
1992-1998 All American Rear Engine

Coinciding with the 1988 introduction of the Blue Bird TC/2000, the All American saw major changes for 1989. While not a complete redesign, the All American saw it most extensive changes in 32 years. The most visible changes were focused on the front bodywork; although not as simply adorned as the TC/2000, the amount of chrome and trim on the new All American was reduced significantly. For the first time since 1967, horizontally mounted headlights were used. To improve serviceability, Blue Bird made a number of the front body panels removable without the use of tools for general maintenance. Inside, the driver's compartment was completely redesigned with a modern instrument cluster and a smaller engine cover for front-engine models. Entry doors gained more visibility through the use of larger glass panels (a feature later adopted throughout the Blue Bird lineup).

For the first time, the All American was no longer available with a gasoline engine (the Chevrolet V8 was now the base engine in the TC/2000). Additionally, the entire diesel engine lineup was redesigned, with the introduction of the Cummins C8.3 and Caterpillar 3126 engines.

Another change that this generation of All American marked was its name used in export markets; to bring it in line with the TC/2000, the All American's export name changed to the Blue Bird TC/3000. Previously, Canadian exports (the largest market outside the United States) were re-branded as Blue Bird All Canadians.

As with the previous generation, the 1989 All American would change little over its production run. 1989-1991 models are distinguished by widely spaced "Blue Bird" lettering below the windshield while 1992-1998 models are identified by narrowly spaced lettering. In 1991, Blue Bird became the first manufacturer to produce a school bus fueled by a compressed natural gas (CNG) powertrain as it introduced the option on rear-engine All Americans.[7]

A3 Series (1999-2014)[edit]

Fourth generation (A3 Series)
Scarborough bus 14.JPG
Overview
Also called Blue Bird TC/3000 (export)
Blue Bird CS
Production 1999-2014
Assembly Fort Valley, Georgia
Layout front-engine 4x2
rear-engine 4x2
Powertrain
Engine Diesel
Compressed Natural Gas
Transmission Automatic
Chronology
Predecessor Blue Bird All American (1989-1998)
Blue Bird TC/2000
Successor Blue Bird All American "D3"

In 1999, Blue Bird introduced a new generation of the All American, internally designated "A3". Although the All American Forward Engine was sold alongside the TC/2000 and TC/1000, the 2000 All American Rear Engine served as a successor to the rear-engine TC/2000. The TC/2000 also donated its larger windshield to the All American. This was a change that necessitated a smaller grille (on FE versions); the Blue Bird lettering moved from above to below the grille in between the headlights.

Structurally, the All American A3 FE differed from its predecessor (and from all other front-engine school buses); the A3 FE debuted the design of the "dropped" front frame. The front portion of the frame rails were designed lower than the rest of the frame. Consequently, that reduced the size of the engine housing and its intrusion in the driver's compartment. The driver's compartment also received a redesign of the instrument and control panels from the 1989-1999 generation.

2006 All American RE

Throughout its lifespan, the A3 All American changed relatively little. However, it came at a time when Blue Bird significantly trimmed its transit-style bus lineup. In 2001, the TC/1000 was removed from production and the last TC/2000 was produced in 2003. As such, at the end of its production life, the two A3 All Americans were serving the customer base initially served by five buses when it was introduced. After the introduction of the All American D3 in late 2008, the rear-engine version of the A3 was discontinued while the front-engine version remained in production alongside both D3 models. The A3 front-engine All American remained in production into 2012. And due to popular demand for the A3 All American, and that there are still A3's on back order, it is still being produced today, alongside Blue Bird's newest All American, the T3. The D3 was discontinued in 2013.

Along as its traditional role of a school bus, Blue Bird still produces the A3-generation All American for GSA orders as well as for export worldwide.

D3 Series (2010-present)[edit]

Fifth generation (D3 Series)
2010 blue bird all american fe 01.jpg
Overview
Also called Blue Bird TX3 (export)
Production 2009-2012
Model years 2010-2013
Assembly Fort Valley, Georgia
Layout front-engine 4x2
rear-engine 4x2
Powertrain
Engine Diesel
Compressed Natural Gas
Transmission Automatic
Chronology
Predecessor Blue Bird All American "A3"
Blue Bird TC/2000
Successor Blue Bird All American "T3"

The new-generation 2010 All American, known by the code name "D3", was unveiled at an industry trade show in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on October 28, 2008.[8] The exterior features the most extensive changes to the All American's body design in nearly 50 years.

A notable feature of the D3's redesign was the design of the headlights: the 2010 All American is the first version since the 1950s to have dual headlights instead of quad headlights and it is the first All American to have round headlights since 1988. Inside, the driver's compartment was completely redesigned for better visibility and ergonomics.

Other changes were intended to make the D3 more passenger-friendly; the D3's roof has squared-off corners to increase headroom while standing up and a flat floor is available as an option in front-engine models. Both of these designs were influenced by the TC/1000 of 1997-2001.

Model Name All American FE [9] All American RE [10]
Seating Capacity 54-90 66-84
Overall Length (inches) 354–487 inches (9.0–12.4 m) 405–489 inches (10.3–12.4 m)
Body Width (exterior) 96 inches (2.4 m)
Body Height (depending on configuration) 123–124 inches (3.1–3.1 m) 126 inches (3.2 m)
Wheelbase 141–232 inches (3.6–5.9 m) 189–273 inches (4.8–6.9 m)
Interior Headroom 78 inches (2.0 m)
GVWR Up to 36,200 pounds (16,400 kg)
Fuel Type(s) Diesel
  • Diesel
  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
Engine Cummins ISB-10
(200–280 hp or 150–210 kW)
  • Cummins ISC-10
    (260–300 hp or 190–220 kW)
  • Cummins ISL-G CNG
    (250–280 hp or 190–210 kW)
Transmission
  • Allison PTS 2500 (standard)
  • Allison PTS 3000 (optional)
  • Allison PTS 3000 (standard)
  • Allison PTS B300 (optional)
Brakes

Standard

  • Hydraulic Brakes
  • 4-wheel Anti-lock

Optional

  • Air Brakes

Standard

  • Air Brakes
  • 4-wheel Anti-lock

T3 Series (2014-Present)[edit]

Sixth generation (T3 Series)
Blue Bird Buses.JPG
Blue Bird All American T3FE activity buses
Overview
Production 2013-present
Model years 2014-present
Assembly Fort Valley, Georgia
Powertrain
Engine Diesel
Compressed Natural Gas
Transmission Automatic
Chronology
Predecessor Blue Bird All American "D3"
Blue Bird All American "A3"

In October 2012, the sixth-generation 2014 All American made its debut, as a dual replacement for the D3 series produced simultaneously alongside its A3FE predecessor in production since 1999.[2][11] Although safety was emphasized with the redesign, with the vehicle given a stronger body structure and roofline, another strong emphasis was made in lowering production and service costs by increasing parts commonality with other Blue Bird products (the Vision and previous generations of the All American).

Visually, while the T3 appears to be a hybrid of the A3 and the D3 (aside from a new grille), there are more extensive changes. While an all-new round roofline results from a reinforced body structure, and the window mechanisms are redesigned. Inside, the redesigned dashboard from the D3 (now shared with the Vision) is carried over.

Previously available only as a compressed natural-gas (CNG) engine, the Cummins ISL 8.9 became available in rear-engine versions in diesel-fueled form, largely to replace the Cummins ISC 8.3.

2015 Blue Bird All American T3RE school buses

Powertrain history[edit]

2008 Blue Bird All American RE (A3)

Engine[edit]

Gasoline
  • Chevrolet 427 cu in (7.0 L) Mark IV V8
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
  • Cummins ISL-G
  • John Deere 6.8L
  • John Deere 8.1L
Diesel
  • Caterpillar 3208
  • Caterpillar 3116
  • Caterpillar 3126
  • Caterpillar C7
  • Cummins VT555 "Triple Nickel" V8
  • Cummins B5.9/ISB
  • Cummins C8.3/ISC
  • Cummins L8.9/ISL
  • Detroit Diesel 8.2L "Fuel Pincher" V8

Transmission[edit]

Automatic
  • Allison AT545
  • Allison MT643
  • Allison 2000 Series
  • Allison World/MD3060
  • Allison B300
  • Allison PTS 2500
  • Allison PTS 3000

Export Markets[edit]

First Student UK school buses located in Wrexham, Wales.
Right-hand drive Blue Bird TC/3000 REs in Wales
Export Sales

Blue Bird has a history of exporting the All American to foreign markets. Outside of the United States, the name is changed. When it was first marketed to Canada, the All American was re-branded as the Blue Bird All Canadian. After Blue Bird began the production of the TC/2000 in the 1980s, the All Canadian was renamed the Blue Bird TC/3000, which also became its name in markets outside of North America. When the All American was redesigned for the 2010 model year, the name of all export versions was changed to Blue Bird TX3.

Central American Production

When Blue Bird had a manufacturing facility located in Guatemala (Blue Bird Central America), the All American body was produced. The All Americans produced in Central America differed from those in the United States in that they utilized locally available truck chassis (Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Hino) instead of the in-house Blue Bird chassis. These buses were used for both student transport and mass transit. Blue Bird ended bus production in Guatemala in the early 1980s.

Variants[edit]

Blue Bird CS[edit]

NJ Transit Blue Bird CSFE3000 #608 in Jersey City, New Jersey at Journal Square.
A Blue Bird CS FE

The Blue Bird CS (Commercial Series) is a commercial transit bus derived from the All American product line. During their production runs, the TC/2000 and TC/1000 also had CS derivatives of their own. Due to its high parts commonality with the school bus line, the CS is the only commercial bus product Blue Bird still manufactures in its focus on school buses. Currently, Blue Bird has not designed a transit bus variant of the D3-generation All American.

Wanderlodge[edit]

Main article: Blue Bird Wanderlodge
"Large Marge", a 1980 Blue Bird Wanderlodge FC33
A 1980 Blue Bird Wanderlodge

The All American school bus body and chassis served as the platform for the Blue Bird Wanderlodge, a luxury motorhome. The All American body was used from the beginning of production in 1963 until 1990, when Blue Bird switched from the All American platform to a 102 inches (2.6 m) wide motorcoach platform, 6 inches wider than the school bus body.

Comparable products[edit]

Other Variants
UNC Traveling Science Laboratory in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The All American is available as a specialty vehicle for a variety of uses.

Contemporary[edit]

IC Bus
  • IC Bus FE
  • IC Bus RE
Thomas Built Buses

Historic[edit]

AmTran/Ward
  • AmTran Genesis
  • AmTran RE
  • Ward President
  • Ward Senator
Carpenter/Crown by Carpenter
  • Carpenter Cavalier
  • Carpenter Chancellor
  • Carpenter Coach RE
  • Carpenter Corsair
  • Carpenter Counselor FE/RE (Crown FE/RE)
Crown Coach Corporaration
  • Crown Supercoach
  • Crown Supercoach Series II
Gillig Brothers/Gillig Corporation
New Bus, Inc.
  • New Bus Chickasha FE
Superior Coach Company
  • Superior SuperCruiser FE/RE
Thomas Built Buses
  • Thomas All Star EF
  • Thomas Saf-T-Liner MVP EF/ER
  • Thomas Saf-T-Liner ER/WestCoastER
Wayne Corporation/Wayne Wheeled Vehicles

See also[edit]

References[edit]