Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Is This A GM Turbocruiser?


During the late 1950s and 1960s, the "Big Three" US automakers were busy experimenting with the next best thing, the Gas Turbine.

This development is notably attributed to Chrysler, who, among having installed their powerplant designs in vehicles from the 1950s to 1980s, let 50 Ghia-bodied special cars be driven by consumers.

Regardless, GM too had notable advancements, and usually showcased them in flashy concepts, like the Firebird I, II, and III, respectively. The powerplants were even found in sleek, futuristic trucks like the Turbo Titan I, II, and III.

But perhaps less well-known, and definately less glamorous, were GM's application of the gas turbine to transit coaches. Named the 'Turbocruiser', these coaches were relatively un-modified GM products, equipped with gas turbine powertrain.

GM Turbocruiser II
According to GM history, Turbocruiser I was unveiled in 1954, and photography of it is not currently available. Turbocruiser II was shown in 1964, and was a 40 foot New Look with minute trim detail changes.

But what's this? This odd bus is TDH-3501, serial 001. Built in 1964, 001 was a GM Truck & Coach experimental bus. What first shocks the senses is the frontal appearance of the coach, which is that of a New Look, with the lower window panels blocked out. Additionally, the remainder of the coach body is that of the Old Look design.

However, this coach had its GMC V6 removed, and a gas turbine engine installed. But the mystery is whether this is a Turbocruiser or not?

The coach was built in 1964, which places it too late to be Turbocruiser 1 (1954), and too early to be Turbocruiser 2 (1965). However, according to notes on the Ohio Museum of Transportation's bus production rosters, a TurboCruiser 5 was built in 1968.

So could this be TurboCruiser 3 or 4, at this point? No word on that of yet. However, this bus is thankfully preserved by the Chicagoland Historic Bus Museum. After the turbine experimend, a Buick nailhead V8 was installed in the bus, and currently powers 001. The CHBM is working on converting it to run on propane.