Gillig Corporation

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Gillig Corporation
Industry Transit
Founded San Francisco, California, 1890 (1890)
Founder Jacob Gillig
Headquarters 25800 Clawiter Road
Hayward, California 94545
, United States
Area served
North America
Key people
David H. Dornsife (Chairman)
Products Heavy-duty low floor transit buses
Parent Henry Crown & Company

Gillig Corporation (formerly Gillig Brothers) is an American designer and manufacturer of buses. The company headquarters, along its manufacturing operations, is located in Hayward, California (the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay). By volume, Gillig is the second-largest transit bus manufacturer in North America (behind New Flyer). As of 2013, Gillig had an approximate 31% market share of the combined US and Canadian heavy-duty transit bus manufacturing industry, based on the number of equivalent unit deliveries.

While currently a manufacturer of transit buses, from the 1930s to the 1990s, Gillig was a manufacturer of school buses. Alongside the now-defunct Crown Coach, the company was one of the largest manufacturers of school buses on the West Coast of the United States.



The oldest surviving bus manufacturer in North America, Gillig was founded in 1890 as Jacob Gillig, trained in carriage building and upholstering,[1] opened his own carriage shop in San Francisco.[2] In 1896, his son Leo Gillig entered the business as a shop foreman, becoming a full partner in the business in 1900.[1] The shop was destroyed as part of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but the Gilligs rebuilt the shop on a separate property; Chester Gillig joined the business as a bookkeeper.[1] In 1907, Jacob Gillig died at the age of 54.[1]

Following the earthquake, the company reopened as the Leo Gillig Automobile Works, which manufactured custom-built vehicle bodies.[1][2] In 1914, two major achievements would happen to the company. After building a three-story factory, Leo and Chester Gillig re-organized the company as Gillig Brothers, its name for the next half-century.[1][2] One of the first bodies built inside the new factory was one for a motor bus, though production would not shift entirely to buses for another two decades.[1]

During the 1910s, most cars in the United States were open touring cars; at the time, fully enclosed sedan bodies were expensive. To offer improvement over the minimal weather protection, Gillig developed an add-on hardtop, patenting its own version in 1919.[1][2]

The increase of closed car production in the 1920s would render the "Gillig Top" largely obsolete by 1925. While other hardtop manufacturers went out of business, Gillig survived largely on its body production, which became its primary source of revenue. In the late 1920s, the company would briefly produce pleasure boats and produce a prototype of a heavy truck; the latter would never enter production.[1]


Following the start of the Great Depression, Gillig Brothers began to look for a steady source of revenue to ensure its survival. Although the company had produced buses sporadically since 1914, in 1932, Gillig designed its first school bus body, a configuration it would produce for most of the next 60 years. In 1935, the company designed its first ambulance body; it also became the West Coast distributor of Superior Coach Company, a manufacturer of school buses and professional cars. In 1937, Gillig introduced its first flat-front (transit-style) school bus.

By 1938, demand for school buses had surpassed the capacity of the San Francisco facility, leading Gillig Brothers to move to Hayward, California, on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay.[1]

In 1940, as a response to the Crown Supercoach, the first Gillig Transit Coach was introduced, as both a coach and school bus. The first mid-engine school bus, the Transit Coach wore an all-steel body and was powered by a Hall-Scott gasoline engine.[1] During World War II, Gillig halted school bus production, instead producing trailer buses to transport workers in defense factories.[1]

Following the end of the war, Gillig resumed production of the Transit Coach, introducing a rear-engine version in 1948. In 1950, the body of the Transit Coach was redesigned.


Gillig headquarters in Hayward

In 1953, Chester Gillig retired, following the death of Leo Gillig. The management structure of the family-run company was changed, with Stanley Marx (previously in charge of sales),[1] assuming control of Gillig. In 1957, a major acquisition was made as Gillig purchased the Pacific bus division of Washington-based truck manufacturer Kenworth. At the time, Gillig controlled a 70% market share of Northern California over Crown Coach (based in Los Angeles), along with a similar share of Washington State, Oregon, and Nevada.[1]

In 1959, the company introduced the first rear-engine school bus with a diesel engine: the Cummins C-Series Transit Coach. Although still offered with gasoline engines in various configurations, the C-Series Transit Coach accounted for over three-quarter of all Gillig sales within only five years. In 1967, Gillig would introduce the largest school bus ever produced: the tandem-axle DT16. Along with it corresponding Crown Coach competitor, the DT16 is the only 97-passenger school bus ever produced in the United States (during 1977, its capacity was reduced to 90).

In 1968, Stanley Marx retired from Gillig, and the firm was sold to Herrick-Pacific Steel, a Hayward-based steel manufacturer. Following the sale, the company was reorganized as Gillig Corporation, its present-day name.[1] During the acquisition and reorganization, Gillig began construction on a 117,000 square foot facility in Hayward, the largest bus manufacturing plant in the western United States.[1][2]

To diversify its product line, in the mid-1970s, Gillig began plans to enter the transit bus segment. Following the end of the "New Look" near-monopoly of GMC and Flxible, in mid-1976, Gillig entered a partnership with West German manufacturer Neoplan to build a series of European-styled transit buses.[1] The 30-foot "Gillig-Neoplan" buses featured propane-fueled engines as an option; the partnership with Neoplan lasted until 1979.[3]


As a more permanent follow-up to the Gillig-Neoplan, the Gillig Phantom entered production in 1980.[4] The first dedicated transit bus produced by Gillig, the Phantom would be produced from 1980 to 2008. A State of California tax-free subsidy helped early sales. Later sales were buoyed by low bids on contracts, and by specializing in serving smaller transit agencies. This strategy proved successful, as the Phantom became one of the longest-lasting transit models. In 1989, Gillig would introduce the Gillig Spirit; similar to the Gillig-Neoplan, the Spirit was a shorter, medium-duty transit bus.

After over 40 years in production, the Transit Coach ended production in 1982. After a temporary hiatus from school bus production, Gillig returned with a Phantom school bus in 1986.[5] While initially successful, the Phantom school bus would be discontinued in 1993 following poor sales (no examples were sold in 1991 or 1992).

In 1996, following an expansion of the Hayward facility, Gillig introduced the H2000LF, its first low-floor bus.[2] In 1997, it entered full-scale production as the Gillig Low Floor.[2] Originally designed as a rental-car shuttle bus, the Low Floor became popular as a second transit bus product line alongside the standard-floor Phantom.


During the 2000s, Gillig would make a number of advances with its vehicles, exploring the uses of alternative fuels and hybrid technologies in both the Low Floor and the Phantom.[2] In 2005, the Low Floor became available in BRT and Trolley Replica body styles.

After 28 years of production, the final Gillig Phantom was produced in 2008; by the mid-2000s, high-floor buses had largely fallen out of favor with transit customers.

On August 1, 2008, Gillig became a Henry Crown company under CC Industries, Inc. CC Industries operated Gillig in the same location with the current management team.[6]

In 2015, Gillig Corporation marked the 125th anniversary of its founding.[2]

A 40ft low floor Gillig bus as a part of UMass Amherst transit service fleet going up the scenic Rt. 116 in Pioneer Valley

Alternative fuels[edit]

In 1992, Gillig began producing an LNG fueled version of the Phantom in an attempt to produce a low-emissions transit bus, but later discontinued it. The only remaining LNG Phantoms currently operate shuttle service at Los Angeles International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

In 1996, Gillig introduced a diesel-electric hybrid powered Phantom, which they produced until 2006. The Low Floor bus is now offered in a hybrid powered version, as the company continues to focus efforts on "clean diesel" technology.

In September 2011, Gillig introduced an alternative fuel BRT model with CNG propulsion—their first CNG-powered bus produced and first production natural gas buses since 1998. Long Beach Transit purchased a pilot bus in 2011, and placed an order for 63 more in 2012.[citation needed]

Though Gillig has never built an electric trolley bus (ETB), in 2001-2002 the company supplied 100 body-chassis shells to Seattle's King County Metro Transit for the latter to equip as trolley buses. More than just shells, Gillig shipped these Phantom buses in fairly complete form, including interior fittings such as seats—lacking only propulsion equipment and other ETB-only features such as trolley poles. The Seattle transit agency, Metro, removed the propulsion packages from its old fleet of 1979-built AM General trolley coaches (G.E. traction motor, Randtronics chopper control, and electronic card cage),[7] which the Gillig vehicles were purchased to replace, and shipped them to Alstom (in New York) for refurbishment.[8] After Alstom refurbished the propulsion equipment, Metro installed it in the new Gillig Phantom bodies, along with Vossloh-Kiepe pneumatically operated fiberglass trolley poles.[8]


Gillig transit buses (Current)
Model Name Production Configuration Length Notes
Gillig Low Floor

Spokane Transit Gillig Hybrid 8001.jpg

1996–present Low-floor transit bus 29, 35, 40 ft (8.8, 10.7, 12.2 m)[9]
  • Originally designed as airport shuttle bus (Gillig H2000LF); released as Gillig Low Floor transit bus in 1998.
  • Originally nicknamed Gillig Advantage
  • Front end-cap (windshield and destination sign) redesigned in 2002
  • Available with CNG, Diesel, or Hybrid diesel-electric powertrains[10]
  • Suburban configuration available (higher seating capacity with reclining seats and options for overhead luggage racks, power outlets and no rear passenger door)[11]
  • Side windows are available with either framed or frameless glass.
Gillig BRT

StarMetro Gillig BRT 29.jpg

2005–present Low-floor transit bus 29, 35, 40 ft (8.8, 10.7, 12.2 m)[12]
  • Variant of Gillig Low Floor (BRT=Bus Rapid Transit) fitted with streamlined bodywork (including front and rear end-caps)
  • Gillig BRT is the first Gillig bus since the Transit Coach produced with rounded fenders.
  • Available with CNG, Diesel, or Diesel-Electric powertrains[13]
  • Suburban configuration available (higher seating capacity with reclining seats and options for overhead luggage racks, power outlets and no rear passenger door)[14]
  • Side windows are available with either framed or frameless glass.
Gillig Low Floor Trolley

EMTA Bayliner 3.jpg

2005–present Low-floor transit bus 29, 35, 40 ft (8.8, 10.7, 12.2 m)[15]
  • Variant of Gillig Low Floor fitted with solid oak seats, brass colored interior stanchions, wood-like exterior trim, cupola, functional brass bell, and cow catcher
  • Produced in collaboration with Cable Car Classics
  • Available with Diesel, or Hybrid diesel-electric powertrains[16]
Gillig BRTPlus

Cincinnati metro 2013 Gillig BRT.JPG

2011–present Low-floor transit bus 29, 35, 40 ft (8.8, 10.7, 12.2 m)[17]
  • Variant of Gillig Low Floor fitted with both streamlined bodywork and streamlined roof fairings
  • Available with CNG, Diesel, or Hybrid diesel-electric powertrains[18]
  • Suburban configuration available (higher seating capacity with reclining seats and options for overhead luggage racks, power outlets and no rear passenger door)[19]
Gillig transit buses (discontinued)
Gillig Phantom

Suffolk Transit Bus 2001.jpg

1980-2008 High-floor transit bus 30, 35, 40 ft (9.1, 10.7, 12.2 m)
  • Offered in 102" or 96" widths.
  • A hybrid version was also offered from 2001 to 2006.
  • Also produced as a school bus from 1986-1993
Gillig Spirit mid-late 1980s High-floor transit bus 28 ft (8.5 m) A 28-foot (8.5 m) medium-duty bus offered as lower-cost alternative to the 30-foot-long (9.1 m) Phantom.
Gillig-Neoplan 1977-1979 High floor transit bus 30, 35 ft (9.1, 10.7 m)
Gillig school buses (discontinued)
Gillig Transit Coach School Bus

Valley View No4 img13.jpg

1940-1982 School Bus 28–40 ft (8.5–12.2 m)
  • A line of transit-style buses produced in several configurations; produced nearly exclusively as a school bus.
  • Discontinued in 1982; replaced by Phantom school bus.
  • Available in mid-engine and rear-engine models with single or tandem rear axles.
  • Along with Crown Supercoach, highest-capacity school bus ever produced.
Gillig Coach school bus c.1940-1980 School bus Various (to 40 feet) Variant of Gillig Transit Coach; body modified to fit customer-supplied cowled truck chassis

Produced on a limited basis after Gillig became distributor for other manufacturers of conventional-style buses.

Gillig Phantom School Bus

Gillig Phantom School Bus

1986-1993 School Bus (rear-engine) 37, 40 ft (11.3, 12.2 m) 96" wide version of the Gillig Phantom redesigned to school bus specifications

Replaced Gillig Transit Coach; produced from 1986-1993



External links[edit]