Gillig Phantom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gillig Phantom
Sound Transit Gillig Phantom 9105-P.jpg
2008 Phantom operated by Sound Transit; one of the final examples built.
ManufacturerGillig Corporation
AssemblyUnited States: Hayward, California
Body and chassis
Doors1 door (school bus)
2 door
Floor typeHigh floor, step entrance
Detroit Diesel
Capacity78-84 passengers (school bus configuration)
Length30–40 ft (9.1–12.2 m)
Width96–102 in (2,438–2,591 mm)
PredecessorGillig Transit Coach
SuccessorGillig Low Floor

The Gillig Phantom is a bus that was produced by American manufacturer Gillig Corporation in Hayward, California. The successor to the long-running Gillig Transit Coach model line, the Phantom marked the transition of Gillig from a producer of yellow school buses to that of transit buses.

The first transit bus assembled entirely by Gillig (the company assembled a few vehicles with Neoplan from 1977 to 1979), the Phantom was produced exclusively as a high-floor bus (with step entrance). Three primary configurations of the Gillig Phantom were produced. Alongside the standard transit bus, a suburban version was offered (fitted with forward-facing seats), and a Gillig Phantom School Bus (adapted for school bus use).

Following the shift towards low-entry buses in North America, the Gillig Phantom gradually became superseded by the Gillig H2000LF/Low Floor. Initially produced alongside the Low Floor, in 2008, Gillig ended production of the Phantom to concentrate entirely on low-floor buses. Production of the Phantom ended in September 2008, with some of the last examples purchased by Sound Transit.

Model overview[edit]

When introduced in 1980, the Gillig Phantom was offered in a single configuration, with a 96-inch width and a 35-foot length. For 1981, additional 30-foot and 40-foot lengths were introduced, with a 102-inch body width introduced in 1983. From 2005 onward, only the 102-inch-wide version was available due to stricter emissions and accessibility requirements.

With the exception of the Phantom School Bus, the Gillig Phantom was produced with a front entrance door and a mid-ship exit door. With the latter, two widths were available, with most transit customers opting for the narrower version (with the wider version often sold to airport shuttle operators and rental car agencies). A wheelchair lift (integrated into the step entrance) was available as an option for either entrance; if ordered for the rear door, the wider rear door was configured. On suburban configurations (with forward-facing seats), the Phantom was also offered with onboard luggage racks (typically mounted above the seats).

While a mandatory feature on the Phantom School Bus, a rear window was a rare option for transit/suburban Phantoms; Monterey-Salinas Transit and King County Metro are the only two transit authorities known to have ordered Phantoms with a rear window. On transit/suburban versions, several window configurations were offered; fixed side windows were a rarely ordered option.

During its production, the exterior of the Gillig Phantom saw little change, with the exception of modernization of its destination sign. The Phantom was offered with either dual headlights or quad headlights, with the quad-headlight version becoming the most common (the Phantom School Bus was primarily configured with dual headlights).

Gillig Phantom School Bus[edit]

Gillig Phantom school bus of Los Angeles Unified School District (California)

Introduced in 1986, production of the Phantom school bus ended after 1993.

In a fashion similar to its long-running predecessor, the Gillig Transit Coach School Bus, the Phantom School Bus was available on a national basis, though marketed primarily for West Coast operators. Although initially well-received, sales of the vehicle dropped off at the end of the 1980s. After no school buses were sold in either 1991 or 1992, a short run of 1993 models marked the end of 71 years of Gillig as a school bus manufacturer.

Design overview[edit]

Using much of the mass-transit Gillig Phantom as a donor platform, Gillig produced the Phantom School Bus in a rear-engine configuration. While a rear-engine configuration had been used in its Transit Coach predecessor, the Phantom chassis was completely new from the ground up. As a consequence of the Phantom chassis design, Gillig was forced to abandon the mid-engine chassis configuration used by the Transit Coach. While becoming common in motorcoach and mass-transit buses, the monocque (unibody) chassis of the Phantom was largely untried in school bus manufacturing (with the notable exception of the Crown Supercoach).

Gillig offered the Phantom School Bus in two body lengths during its production: 37 feet (78 passenger capacity) and 40 feet (84 passenger capacity). As federal regulations of the time did not permit the use of a 102" width body for a school bus, the Phantom School Bus used the narrower 96" body width of the Phantom (discontinued in 2004).

For its 1986 introduction, Gillig offered the Phantom School Bus a range of diesel engines, including the Caterpiller 3208 V8 (school buses were largely the only Phantoms with this engine) and the Detroit Diesel 6V92TA (replacing the 6V71 from the Transit Coach). With the withdrawal of the Caterpillar 3208 after 1990, it was replaced by the 3116 inline-6; it is unknown how many Phantoms were fitted with this engine.

The Phantom school bus was available with several transmission choices; all of which were carried over from the Transit Coach. The Allison MT643 and Allison HT740 4-speed automatics were paired with both engines. For school districts with mountainous terrain, the Phantom offered five manual transmission options: three 5-speed versions (Spicer CM5252A, 6252B, and Fuller T11605M) and two 10-speed versions (Fuller Roadranger RT6610 and RT11610).

Design modifications[edit]

To convert the Phantom to the Phantom School Bus, Gillig made a number of changes to the exterior and interior for the Gillig Phantom to comply with school bus design standards at both state and federal levels. While the most distinctive changes were the addition of school bus yellow exterior paint and the fitment of high-back forward-facing padded seats of school buses, a number of other design changes were phased in as well.

On the forward section of the body, the sloping driver windshield was replaced by vertically-mounted glass (matching the other half). In a change from its mass-transit counterpart, the quad headlights were deleted in favor of dual headlights (though quad headlights later became an option ordered by some operators). To properly meet design regulations, the Phantom School Bus adopted larger sideview mirrors, convex mirrors, and front cross-view mirrors. To give the vehicle traffic priority, red warning lights (with amber lights, for Phantom school buses sold outside of California) were fitted in the front and rear roof caps (a side stop arm was fitted).

On the rear section of the body, an emergency exit window was added, as it was required under design standards.

A number of changes were focused on the sides of the body. As the vehicle was to be used for school routes and not for transit use, the rear curbside exit was deleted (a design change also forced by regulations). On the drivers' side of the bus, an emergency exit door was added to the left side of the bus (a requirement for rear-engine school buses). In place of transit-style windows, narrower split-sash windows (required for school buses) were fitted to the body. To reinforce the body structure, Gillig added two full-length steel rails below the window line; unlike most school buses, the structure of the Phantom was additionally reinforced above the window line as well.

The Phantom School Bus was not factory-produced with a wheelchair lift, with the transit-style wheelchair lift deleted from stepwell. As a result, the entry door on the Phantom School Bus was several inches narrower than its mass-transit counterpart. However, Gillig continued to offer a kneeling feature from the mass-transit Phantom as an option, allowing the driver to lower the front of the bus to curb level when loading/unloading passengers.


The Phantom was originally equipped with either a Detroit Diesel 6V92TA, 6V71, or Cummins L-10 diesel engine, and was later available with either a Cummins ISB, ISC, ISL, or ISM diesel engine. The Phantom was formerly available with the Detroit Diesel Series 50 engine from 1993 until 2004 when Detroit Diesel cut production of the Series 50 engine. The Detroit Diesel Series 40 engine was available from 1995 to 2003.

A liquefied natural gas fueled version was produced beginning in 1992; it was later discontinued. A diesel-electric hybrid powered version was sold from 1996 to 2006; MTA in New York purchased a Gillig Phantom hybrid demo bus as well as diesels for MTA Long Island bus. From 2001 to 2003, King County Metro purchased 100 Gillig Phantoms to convert to trolleybuses. Purchased as "gliders" with no powertrain, the buses were fitted with the trolleybus propulsion system from its previous fleet, saving over $20 million from an all-new design.

Engine Manufacturer Engine Model Years Available Notes
Caterpillar 3208


3208: 1986-1990

C9: 2003-2008

3208 available almost exclusively in Phantom school buses.

Only 57 transit buses were specified with this engine, all of which went to Ride On in Montgomery County, Maryland and delivered in 1989; all were 30 feet long.

Cummins L-10
L10: 1984-1994

ISB: 1997-2008

C8.3: 1993-1998

ISC: 1998.5-2006

ISL: 2001-2008

M11: 1994-1998

ISM: 1999-2008

Detroit Diesel 6V71,6V71TA
Series 40
Series 50
6V71/6V71TA: 1980-1988

6V92TA: 1980-1994

Series 50: 1993-2004

Series 40: 1995-2003

The Detroit Diesel 6V71 engine was available only for 30' buses while the 6V71TA was available for 30' and 35' models.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Gillig Corporation,, Retrieved on 2006-12-25
  • Gillig Phantom, Retrieved on 2010-02-02
  • Gillig Transit Coach / Pacific SchoolCoach Online Museum,, Retrieved on 2006-12-25
  • GM Brings Clean Mass Transit to Environmental Conference,, Retrieved on 2006-12-25
  • Stauss, Ed (1988). The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses, Woodland Hills, CA: Stauss Publications. ISBN 0-9619830-0-0

External links[edit]