Railroad Model Craftsman Product Review

Rapido Trains’ GM ‘New Look’ Transit Buses

The New Look Bus was the face of North American public transit in the latter half of the 20th century, with almost 45,000 built between 1959 and 1986. Seen above is the Dallas DTS (silver/two-tone blue/persimmon) version.

Rapido Trains’ GM ‘New Look’ Transit Buses

HO Scale (1:87)Review by Harry K. Wong/photos by the author

If you grew up in a city of any size in North America during the latter half of the 20th century, chances are you’ve ridden in or at least seen a General Motors “New-Look” transit bus.

But why talk about buses in a model railroad magazine? Though buses and automobiles displaced a large majority of interurban and intracity streetcar lines since the 1930s, these rubber-tired mass transit conveyances served a vital role in transporting folks from home to work and, yes, down to the train station and back. No downtown scene can truly be complete without a local transit bus working its way down the main street. Though General Motors was dominant in automobile manufacturing for the majority of the 20th century, GM was a relative latecomer to bus manufacturing, as smaller companies first dominated the market.

Yellow Coach was one of these smaller enterprises that in 1938 began work on a monocoque (unibody) bus design. This innovative design leveraged aircraft construction principles to lower tare weight and boost efficiency without sacrificing structural strength. This design saw massive sales success both before and especially after World War Two. During the war in 1942, General Motors took control of the Yellow Coach Company. All buses produced after the war were branded as buses produced by General Motors Coach. Now known by transit historians as “Old Look” buses, these early buses proved extremely popular and by the 1950s, GM dominated the bus manufacturing market. 

After nearly twenty years of the same design, GM product development felt the call to develop  a radical new design that later officially became known as the “New Look Coach.” The “New Look” borrowed streamlined design elements from Greyhound’s intercity buses of the period and boasted 176% more front windshield area than its “Old Look” predecessors. The curved fishbelly nature of the front windshield also prompted many to nickname these new buses as “Fish Bowls.” Numerous internal and mechanical improvements were incorporated into the new buses. This included fluorescent lighting, new engine options, an all-new transmission, a low-maintenance airy interior, and much more. As with its predecessors, the “New Look” bus was offered in a multitude of configurations in length, width, power plant, heating and cooling options, and different seating layouts.

This bus is painted for Rapido Trains, which actually purchased one of the iconic buses. 

The first “New Look” buses emerged from GM’s plant in Pontiac, Mich., in 1959 and were delivered to transit agencies in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Ohio, St. Louis, Mo., New York City, and Oakland, Calif. Typically, each transit agency purchased a mix of configurations tailored to address the requirements of specific transit routes. Between 1959 and the end of production in 1986, over 44,000 “New Look” buses were produced for service across North America.

For many years now, modelers have been making do with basic representations of the GM “New Look” bus from other sources, but now, Rapido Trains is offering highly detailed renditions of this important prototype with new tooling specifically targeted to address the majority of North American transit agencies. 

Each Rapido “New Look” arrives in a sturdy plastic display box protected by a glossy cardboard sleeve. Inside the display box is a simple but highly realistic road surface and black and white urban background on which the bus is presented. While the model is intended for optimal display in a scene on your model railroad layout, collectors can simply enjoy the buses in the provided display box right on the mantle without delay.

Rapido offers their “New Look” bus in two trim levels – either “Standard” or “Deluxe.” As part of their research in creating this model, Rapido’s own 1:1 scale real GM “New Look” bus was 3D-scanned in order to accurately reproduce the complex contours and cross-sections of the prototype. Rapido’s models are intended to replicate the 40-foot-long, 102-inch-wide “New Looks” from model series 5303 and 5307…

Multiple schemes and bus numbers offered where appropriate. Prices starting at $49.95 each MSRP. Prices starting at $69.95 each MSRP for deluxe (lighted) versions. 

Rapido Trains, 500 Alden Road, Unit 21, Markham, Ontario L3R 5H5, Canada, rapidotrains.com

October 2021Read the rest of this review in the October 2021 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman! Subscribe today!

This article was posted on: June 20, 2022