HISTORY OF THE EAGLE COACH
The Eagle coach was the result of a contact between Continental Trailways in the United States and the Karl Kassbohrer bus and coachbuilding firm in Germany. Kassbohrer had introduced its integral coach range in the beginning of the 1950s. These were called Selbst Tragend (self-carrying). Kassbohrer also was a pioneer for articulated buses in Europe and its patented trailer section was dominating the market for a decade or so. One result of the contacts was the export in 1956 of two articulated coach for Trailways, built on an underfloor Henschel chassis with Kassbohrer bodywork and trailer. Also in 1956, Kassboher built a high specification 40 foot 3-axle coach especially designed for Trailways. In May 1957, Trailways director Mr. Moore and Mr. Otto Kassbohrer baptized this coach the "Golden Eagle" during a ceremony in Germany. This coach was a success, and fifty coaches with MAN engines were delivered in 1957 and 1958. In 1958, 41 more Eagles were be built by Kassbohrer, though this batch was to a lower specification. These were called "Silver Eagles", as the "golden" sides changed to "silver" at the same time.
The result with the articulated coach was such that Trailways ordered four articulated coaches with the Golden Eagle design. These coaches were delivered in 1958. They featured underfloor Rolls Royce engines and a Kassbohrer trailing section, but had the same body design as the rigid examples. However, Trailways decided to standardize on the Silver Eagle rigid coach, and no more articulated Eagles were built.
Around 1958, Kassbohrer announced its decision to concentrate on the European market and declined to build more Eagle coaches for Trailways. Trailways looked for another European partner that was found in the form of La Brugeoise in Belgium, an old company mainly building railway equipment. In 1960-1961, La Brugeoise built 185 Silver Eagles of a somewhat different design, called Model 01. In 1961 the Bus & Car factory was opened. Low labor costs were apparently the main reason for the decision to build the coaches in Belgium, using many US components, and then transporting the vehicles to the US. Bus & Car built the Model 01 until 1968, when the new Model 05 was introduced. The main visible difference was the interchange of the rear axles, with the tag axle being placed in front of the main axle, providing for more luggage space, however this change also resulted in a wider turning radius. The Model 05 also received a squarer appearance in 1969, though these design changes were gradual. Late Model 01 and early Model 05 coaches have the same appearance. Bus & Car produced the Model 05 for the US market until 1976, mainly using Detroit Diesel engines. In 1967 one prototype 2-axle 102" wide coach was built for Trailways, called the Model 03, while in 1969-1970 45 3-axle Model 07 coaches to the 102" width were delivered to various Trailways companies, though these were virtually indistinguishable from the Model 05.
In addition to the coaches for the US market, Bus & Car developed other models. The Eagle 04 was a 2-axle coach for the European market, small numbers of which were sold in, among others, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom around 1966-1970. In 1972, Bus & Car built twenty Eagle 09s for South African Railways. These had the external appearance of the 05, but were shorter. Other exports of Model 05 look-alikes were made to Australia (24 coaches) and various European countries. In 1974 forty Eagle Model 14 buses were built for the Belgian Vicinal Railways (NMVB-SNCV, series 4285-4324), using Mercedes engines and SNCV's standard body design. Another effort at building buses resulted in the delivery of fifteen Eagle 16s with Caterpillar engines to the Brussels public transport company, MIVB-STIB (series 8046-8060) . While the design of these buses followed the standard Brussels model they featured "silver skirts" and a rather special windscreen. By 1978, however, sales had dropped so much that the company got into financial trouble and was sold to Mol, a long-established Belgian builder of heavy machinery. Mol had built a small number of bus chassis and wanted to expand in this area. In total, Bus & Car built around 4,000 Eagles. 1,450 of these were Model 01 coaches.
Mol revised the Eagle range and added the production of chassis. At the 1979 Kortrijk, Belgium, bus show, Mol showed two different Eagle coaches. One basically looked like a Model 05 with the Model 01 axle arrangement, but had bonded windows, a feature never used on the US coaches. Another coach was called the "Transcontinental". It had the typical European low central exit door. Also shown were a prototype transit bus which was somewhat reminiscent of the Brussels Eagle 16, called the "City", and a coach chassis, named the "Touring". This one had Spanish Irizar bodywork. Also in 1979, Mol built three small chassis with Cummins engines, the Mol Eagle M28, for Belgian Vicinal Railways for use on their Brugge city services (series 5559-5561). These received Jonckheere "Trans City" bodywork. In 1981-1982 a series of 25 bus chassis, Mol Eagle M31, were built for the Vicinal Railways for use around Gent (series 5715-5739). These had Mercedes engines and received Jonckheere A120 standard bodywork. In total, Mol produced only fifty Eagles until 1987, when production ceased. Apparently the "City" transit bus was demonstrated in the United States, among others in Seattle, though it seems no orders materialized.
Rising labor costs in Belgium and a declining dollar resulted in the decision to shift production for the US market to the other side of the Atlantic. The Eagle Coach Corporation factory started deliveries from Brownsville, Texas in 1975. For one year, the Bus & Car and Eagle factories both produced coaches for the US market, but since 1976, all US Eagles were produced in Texas. The Model 05 was built until 1980, when it was superceded by the Model 10, of which 2,217 were built until 1987. In 1982 a second factory was opened in Harlingen, Texas, to produce a 2-axle Model 10 Suburban, which met with little success. In 1985 marketing began of the Model 15, a 102 inch wide bus or coach (all the others had been 96 inches wide). Finally, the Model 20 was introduced in 1987, which was basically a Model 10 with the external design of the Model 15 - i.e. a narrow Model 15 with a smaller engine. Externally it is difficult to distinguish the Model 15 and 20. Over the years, many smaller improvements were made and some companies ordered special versions of the standard models. For example, New Jersey Transit bought a special version of the Model 20, called AE-20, which had, among other features, large destination displays. In 1988, a 2-axle 35 foot version and a 3-axle 45 foot version of the Model 15 were introduced. In 1989, smooth sides became an option.The Eagle also became popular as a conversion shell for motorhomes. Over 3,000 Eagles were built in Texas, mostly for the US market, though there were some exports, for example to Australia, Mexico and Taiwan.
In 1987 Greyhound bought Trailways and Eagle, but went bankrupt in June 1990. Eagle production stopped in December, 1990, and Eagle filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991. In October, 1991 the factory was sold to a Mexican corporation as Eagle Bus Manufacturing, Inc. Production resumed in July, 1992, but output remained low, with a fairly large proportion of vehicles built as conversion shells. By the end of the decade the company got into trouble again and filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, 1998.The Eagle trademark and product line were purchased by Maplex, and activities were re-launched as Eagle Coach in August 1998 when some of the old facilities were leased from the town of Brownsville. Priority was given to the manufacturing of spare parts.
During its production of over four decades, some 8,000 Eagle coaches have been built in three different countries on two continents, and they have been the trademark of Continental Trailways for over three decades.
Buses Worldwide, Issue 100, May/June 1999 Setra Veteranen Club, Germany Bus World (MAK Publishing) , March, 1998 Encyclopedia of Buses by Ed Stauss, 1987 Modern Intercity Coaches by Larry Plachno, 1997 Mol Eagle Bus by Walter Deckx
"The following text was written by John Veerkamp and published on: www.busexplorer.com ,Thank you John, for sharing this informatiom on the History of the Eagle Bus with us.