One of America’s most beloved classic vehicle fleets to receive hybrid conversions as part of multi-year project
One of the most recognizable modes of public transportation in America is set to be refreshed: The Glacier National Park Red Bus Fleet – which debuted at the popular Montana tourist attraction in 1936 – will be converted to a more environmentally friendly hybrid system by Legacy Classic Trucks of Driggs, Idaho, as part of a total fleet overhaul. The company specialises in restoring and modernising vintage American vehicles. Their work has included Thirties Yellowstone buses, a Mt. Rainer bus, as well as over 100 classic Dodge Power Wagons.
“We are honored to be entrusted with
such an iconic slice of Americana,” says Legacy Classic Trucks CEO Winslow
Bent. “When people think of classic American public transportation, the Glacier
Red Bus Fleet is in the same class as the San Francisco Cable Cars. By updating
the busses to an electric hybrid system, they will have a much lower carbon
footprint in Glacier National Park. Regenerative braking will charge the
batteries during downhill descents.”
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An official statement from Xanterra Travel Collection added, “The improvements will ensure that the fleet continues to operate in Glacier National Park for the foreseeable future, with improved safety and serviceability, whilst retaining the same visitor experience in the park that has existed for over 80 years.” National Parks Service concessionaire Xanterra Travel Collection selected Legacy Classic Trucks to perform the upgrades, based on that company’s more than 100 combined years’ experience reviving military and historical vehicles.
Glacier National Park’s beloved 33 Red Buses – White Motor Company Model 706s – were put into service from 1936 to 1939. They are operated and maintained by Xanterra Travel Collection. The fleet was last updated between 1999-2002 via a collaboration with Ford, which included the automaker adapting the bus bodies to E-series Van chassis and propane systems. Since then, each bus has logged between 130,000 and 150,000 miles, averaging 10,000 each year.
Legacy Classic Trucks will restore and update each bus in the fleet during the park’s off-season months during the multi-year project. Each bus will get a new Ford chassis and Ford 6.2L V8 engine. The powertrain will be bolstered by a pass-through hybrid electrical system that will increase fuel economy and lower emissions by up to 25%. Legacy Classic Trucks will also upgrade to 19.5-inch-tall wheels to replicate the original Thirties units. Similarly, retro-looking gauges will be added to give the buses a period-correct appearance. Bus bodies will undergo rust-repair and be re-painted on an as-needed basis.
Glacier was the first National Park to offer motorized tours, beginning in 1914. Since then, the Red Bus Tour is one of the most popular ways for visitors to see the park. The buses are driven by “jammers,” named for the noisy transmissions and gear-jamming sounds emanated by the original buses.