Gillig Phantom (school bus)

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Gillig Phantom School Bus
Gillig Phantom School Bus LAUSD.jpg
1986 Gillig Phantom School Bus operated by Los Angeles Unified School District
Manufacturer Gillig Corporation
Production 1986–1990, 1993
Model years 1986-1993
Assembly United States: Hayward, California
Body and chassis
Class School bus
Body style Transit-style school bus (Type D)
Layout RR layout (4x2)
Platform Gillig
Related Gillig Phantom
Engine Caterpillar 10.4L 3208 V8
Caterpillar 6.6L 3116 I6
Detroit Diesel 9.0L 6V92TA V6
Transmission Allison HT-740, Allison MT-643 4-speed automatic
Spicer CM5252A, 6252B, Fuller T11605M 5-speed manual
Fuller Roadranger RT6610, Roadranger RT11610 10-speed manual
Length 37 ft (11.3 m), 40 ft (12.2 m)
Width 96 in (2,438 mm)
Predecessor Gillig Transit Coach school bus

The Gillig Phantom School Bus is the school bus variant of the Gillig Phantom mass-transit bus that was produced by Gillig Corporation in Hayward, 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 Phantom as a donor platform, Gillig produced the Phantom school bus in a rear-engine configuration (the mass-transit platform forced the abandoment of the mid-engine layout). While the layout itself was similar to the long-running Transit Coach predecessor, the chassis design was completely new from the ground up. In a design layout largely untried in the school bus industry (aside from the Crown Supercoach), the Phantom adopted a monocque (unibody) chassis in place of a separate frame.

As a school bus, the Gillig Phantom was produced in two body lengths: 37 feet (78 passenger capacity) and 40 feet (84 passenger capacity). As federal regulations of the time did not permit the use of the wider 102" body, the Phantom school bus was produced only with the 96" wide body common to all North American school buses.

When first introduced in 1986, the Phantom school bus was produced with two diesel engines. The Caterpillar 3208 V8 diesel was carried over from the Transit Coach (school bus versions of the Phantom were largely the only examples fitted with this engine). The larger engine compartment of the Phantom over its predecessor allowed the introduction of the Detroit Diesel 6V92TA, replacing the 6V71 from the Transit Coach. WIth the discontinuation 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]

As part of converting the Phantom mass-transit bus for school bus use, Gillig Corporation made a number of changes to the design in order for the Phantom school bus to meet school bus design standards at state and federal levels. While the most distinctive changes were the use of school bus yellow exterior paint and the fitment of high-back forward-facing padded seats seen in school buses, a number of other design changes were phased in as well.

On the forward section of the body, the mounting of the left-side (driver) windshield was changed from sloping inward to vertically mounted, 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). In order to properly meet regulations for school buses, the Phantom was fitted with larger sideview mirrors along with front cross-view mirrors. In addition, the design of the roof cap was modified to accommodate the red warning lamps fitted to school buses (with the ability to fit amber lights, for Phantom school buses sold outside of California)

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

For the Phantom school bus, the sides of the body saw a number of design changes. As it was to be used for school routes and not for transit use, the rear curbside exit was deleted; it was also a design change forced by regulations. In its place, an emergency-exit door was added to the left side of the bus (as required by design standards for rear-engine buses). As the Phantom school bus could not use transit-style windows, narrower split-sash windows (added to the Transit Coach during 1980 production) were fitted. On Phantoms outside of California, a stop arm was fitted to the left side of the body (the device was not required on new school buses in California until the end of the 1980s). 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.

As the Phantom was not required to be fitted with a wheelchair lift, it was deleted from the stepwell. As it did not need to accommodate a lift, the entry door on Phantom school buses is slightly narrower than on their mass-transit counterparts. However, the Phantom school bus retained the optional kneeling feature from the mass-transit Phantom, allowing the driver to lower the front of the bus to curb level when loading/unloading passengers.

Further reading[edit]