Thomas Vista

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Thomas Vista
Thomas Vista.jpg
1995-1998 Thomas Vista
Manufacturer Thomas Built Buses, Inc.
Production 1989–1998
Assembly High Point, North Carolina
Body and chassis
Class Type C
Body style School bus
Layout Semi forward-control 4x2
Platform International 3600
Engine Diesel
Transmission Allison AT545 4-speed automatic
Allison MT643 4-speed automatic
Width 96 in (2,400 mm)
Successor Thomas Freightliner FS-65

The Thomas Vista is a school bus that was manufactured by Thomas Built Buses from 1989 to 1998. While considered a cowled-chassis conventional-style school bus similar to the Saf-T-Liner Conventional, the Vista combined design elements of conventional buses and transit-style school buses, as well as those from smaller school buses.

Following the 1998 acquisition of Thomas Built Buses by Freightliner, the Vista was discontinued. While the Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 was not intended as a direct replacement, its design would incorporate features previously utilized in the Thomas Vista.


During the early 1980s, school bus manufacturing in the United States underwent a period of relative turmoil. Following a sharp decline in student populations with the exit of the baby-boom generation from the public education system, innovation was now key to survival. In addition, the federal government had significantly toughened standards for crash protection in school buses at the end of the 1970s.[1] While safety had long played a role in the marketing of school buses, designers were taking a new, proactive stance; by increasing the visibility of a driver, the chances of preventing an accident potentially increased.[1]

In 1985, AmTran/Ward introduced the Ward Patriot, an all-new full-size bus using a modified version of the Chevrolet/GMC B-Series chassis. By shortening the chassis and moving the engine rearward, the Patriot was given a sloped engine hood similar to a delivery van, out of the driver's blind spot. On the inside, the Patriot was configured similar to a front-engine transit bus, with part of the engine cowl next to the driver.

Model History[edit]


In 1989, Thomas Built Buses introduced the Vista as its own semi forward-control bus. Using the same shortened Chevrolet/GMC chassis as the Ward Patriot, the Vista introduced several unique design aspects. With a set-forward front axle, much of engine of the Vista sat next to the driver, similar to the Saf-T-Liner EF.[1]

To improve loading-zone sightlines, the shortened fiberglass hood (designed by Thomas) was designed to maximize forward visibility; for the side loading area, the bodywork ahead of the door was given a loading-zone window, as on the Thomas Minotour.

After 1991, General Motors entered into a supply agreement to supply the B-Series to body manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation, effectively ending the production of the GM-chassis Thomas Vista.

Engine Years Produced Notes
Detroit Diesel 8.2L V8 1989–1991 Available in turbocharged or non-turbo ("Fuel Pincher") configuration


1994 Thomas Vista

Following the end of General Motors chassis production, Thomas was able to secure a supply of chassis from Navistar International for 1992. As before, the Vista would be based on a modified conventional bus chassis; rather than shortening a chassis, Navistar would design Thomas a completely new chassis for the Vista: the International 3600. While the 3600 was heavily based on the International 3800, it remained a unique design. To showcase the model change, Thomas fitted the Vista with a Navistar hood (cut nearly in half to fit the shortened chassis).

As before, the driver of the Navistar-chassis Vista was positioned next to the engine, similar to a Thomas EF bus. To eliminate several blind spots on the body, in 1994, the forward body was redesigned; the side window was enlarged and the windshield was changed to a wraparound 4-piece configuration.

Following the acquisition of Thomas in 1998, the Vista was removed from the Thomas product line as it was produced solely on a Navistar chassis. As the Navistar 3600 chassis was designed specifically for the Thomas Vista body, its production ended as well.

Engine Years produced Notes
DT360 1992–1994
7.3L IDI V8
DT466E 1995–1998
T444E V8