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Windsor, Ontario, Canada
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Type A (cutaway van)|
|Body style||school bus
commercial shuttle bus
|Layout||Dual rear wheel 4x2|
|Platform||Dodge Tradesman/Ram Van
Chevrolet Van/GMC Vandura
|Successor||Wayne Chaperone/Chaperone II
Mid Bus Guide
The Wayne Busette was the first small school bus designed on a cutaway van chassis. A product of Wayne Corporation of Richmond, Indiana, first developed in 1972, the Busette utilized a van chassis equipped with dual rear wheels. With a low center of gravity, Busette provided the combination of increased seating capacity and handling stability over a Chevy Suburban, conventional vans, and van conversions.
Cutaway van chassis
By the early 1970s, Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors were all manufacturing many models of passenger vans. Chrysler's Dodge Ram Wagon and Plymouth Voyager each had a maximum seating capacity of 14 persons plus a driver; these came to be commonly known as 15-passenger vans, eventually joined by similar models by the other manufacturers. Conversions of full-size vans into personal motor homes became very popular, drawing the interest of recreational vehicle manufacturers.
In the early 1970s, the so-called "Big Three" (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors) began working on higher-capacity models of their popular full-size vans; these heavy-duty chassis were intended for commercial use by second stage manufacturers. Second stage manufacturers build such products as bus and truck bodies, motor homes, and other specialized vehicles. Neither their product, nor the first stage portion, called an incomplete motor vehicle, are fully compliant with requirements for a complete motor vehicle. Neither portion can be licensed or operated lawfully without the other.
Featuring a van front end and cab design, the bodywork ended immediately behind the driver and front passenger seats; for shipment, it was usually covered by temporary plywood or heavy cardboard material. It was soon known by the name cutaway van chassis in recognition of this feature.
The cutaway school bus
In the early 1970s, Wayne Corporation began experimenting with an expanded cutaway van chassis with dual rear wheels. As a light duty vehicle, a bus body built upon the incomplete cutaway chassis could be marketed and serviced by automobile dealers, an advantage over a bus based over a medium-duty truck.
Wayne's initial prototype was built on a Ford Econoline cutaway van platform. With four rows of seats behind the driver, it was named "Busette". The overall weight was kept down by maintaining 63" of headroom, which facilitated seating for up to 24 children but limited standing room for most adults. Initially, curbside entry was provided through a makeshift arrangement using the original-equipment van door. After the 1976 introduction of the Transette, a conventional bus door and stepwell became an option.
The Busette prototype on the Ford Econoline chassis was well received. Initial production began in 1973 on Chrysler's Dodge chassis; the following year, Chevrolet and GMC chassis were made available. Due to differences in cutaway floor construction of Chrysler, Ford, and GM products, Ford production was deferred until 1981.
The Busette proved to be a very popular Wayne product. School bus versions were widely accepted by Head Start and special education programs. In comparison to vans and other small buses, the Busette's dual rear-wheel design was favorable to single rear wheels due to its greater stability. The Busette's low overall height made it seem smaller to drivers transitioning from passenger vans to larger buses.
In 1975, a higher headroom version for adult transportation was developed called Transette. Wayne modified the Busette to increase its headroom and include a bus-style walk-in door. Since the Transette was not bound by school bus safety standards, Wayne also added features like larger side windows, standee windows, and non-school bus seats. Also, an auxiliary air conditioning unit was made available as an option.
The Transette prototype was introduced to the dealer organization in the fall of 1975 at the annual Wayne dealer sales meeting, held that year at Richmond, Indiana. Dealers were very enthusiastic about the new Transette product. In early 1976, the prototype was introduced on a nationwide tour and orders began rolling in. One market for which the Transette proved well-suited for was airport car rental shuttles. Within a year, Wayne Transette minibuses became the primary small shuttle vehicle for all the major rental car companies: Hertz, Avis, National, Budget, and Dollar rent-a-car organizations each had purchased a number of Transettes for use at or near most of their US airport locations.
Busette and Transette minibuses both offered optional wheelchair ramps and electro-hydraulic lifts which had been developed by accessibility product pioneers Don Collins, a former Wayne dealer, and founder of Collins Bus Corporation which grew into a major manufacturer specializing in small buses, and Ralph Braun, a disabled man who started Braun Industries with products developed in his garage. The Transette became especially popular in small town transit and dial-a-ride paratransit-type services in the US.
Chaperone: The Next Generation
As Wayne produced the Busette during the 1970s, many manufacturers developed similar products of their own. During the mid-1980s, to increase its market share, Wayne introduced a second Type A product: the Chaperone. The Chaperone featured much of the same layout of the Busette, with the same dual rear wheel chassis available. However, instead of 3 rubrails on the side panels, the Chaperone featured 4; the body was essentially the same design used for the Lifeguard built to fit a van chassis. The Chaperone was produced by Wayne Corporation and by Wayne Wheeled Vehicles until its closure.
By the early 1980s, all five of the major school bus body companies in the United States had developed competing products built on the cutaway van chassis. These manufacturers were joined by several others which specialized in small school buses. In the early 1990s, the tooling and product rights of the Busette were acquired by Mid Bus, an Ohio manufacturer specializing in small school buses.
Today, cutaway van chassis are the chassis of choice of small school buses; the Wayne Busette was among the first to popularize the usage of such chassis.