Crown Coach Corporation

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Crown Coach Corporation
Industry Transportation
Fate Defunct
Founded Los Angeles, California (1904 (1904))
Founder D. Brockway
Defunct March 1991 (March 1991)
Headquarters Los Angeles, California (1904-1985)
Chino, California (1985-1991)
Area served
West Coast, United States
Products School Buses
Fire Apparatus
Parent GE Railcar (1987-1991)

Crown Coach Corporation (founded as Crown Carriage Company) is a defunct American bus manufacturer. Established in 1904, Crown was headquartered in Los Angeles, California until the mid-1980s, moving to Chino, California until its closure. Best known for its Supercoach school buses, the company also produced motorcoaches and various fire apparatus.[1][2]

Crown closed in March 1991 due to declining demand for school buses at the time.[3][4] At the time of its closure, Crown was a subsidiary of GE Railcar.


Crown Supercoach school buses
1977-1991 tandem-axle Crown Supercoach
Crown Supercoach
1989-1991 Crown Supercoach Series II (N-Body)  Model 2R-40N-552 or 2R-40N-505
Crown Supercoach Series II

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1904-1920: Wagons to school buses

At the beginning of the 20th century, Don M. Brockway found himself working at the first hardware store in Los Angeles, California;[2] to supplement its income, the hardware store also sold parts for wagons and carriages[1] In 1904, Brockway founded Crown Carriage Company, producing purpose-built horse-drawn carraiges. While the first vehicles were built in a wooden shed, the company moved to a brick factory in 1910.[2]

After 1910, as carriages gradually became "horseless", Crown experimented with building truck bodies. In 1916, the company built its first bus body for transit use; it was an open-air design heavily influenced by wagon design.[2] After World War I, Crown built its first body for school bus use.[1][2]

1921-1945: Metal bodies and Supercoaches

In 1921, a major shift in company production occurred as Murillo M. ("Brock") Brockway, the son of the company founder, was put in charge of school bus production.[2] Viewing school buses as a growth market in the suburbs of southern California, Brockway discontinued all wagon production in favor of bus and truck body production. To expand production and improve shipping of its vehicles, a much larger factory in Los Angeles was opened in 1923.[1]

In pursuit of developing heavier-duty and higher-capacity school buses, Crown introduced the first school bus with dual rear wheels in 1927. In 1930, it produced its first all-metal school bus body (on a Mack chassis), with a 43-passenger capacity.[2]

1932 would mark several major changes for the company. As part of his taking over day-to-day operations of Crown from his father, MM Brockway introduced a ground-breaking school bus body; elements of its design would change school bus design forever. To improve forward visibility, the new bus was a cab-forward design, with the driver sitting next to the engine and radiator.[2] To improve safety, the bus was designed with an integral chassis; the windows were mesh-reinforced safety glass.[2] Alongside the standard braking system, the bus also was equipped with two backup braking systems.[1] In 1935, the cab-forward school bus was updated and dubbed the Crown Supercoach.

For 1937, to increase seating capacity to 79 passengers, Crown produced its first mid-engine Supercoach; the bus came with a Hall-Scott gasoline engine.[2] In 1939, Crown acquired Moreland Motor Truck Company; as part of the acquisition, Crown moved to a larger factory in Los Angeles.[1] Additionally, the Supercoach was changed from a mid-engine to a rear-engine configuration for 1940.[2]

1950-1980: Mid-engine school buses

In the United States during the years immediately following World War II, population growth of suburbs expanded, fueled by the post-war baby boom. As that segment of the population entered school, demand for new schools (and school buses to transport them) rapidly rose. In 1946, Crown began development on a new mid-engine Supercoach. Heavily influenced by motorcoach design, Crown intended it primarily for school bus use. Introduced in 1949, the all-new Supercoach used unit-body construction with high-strength steel in place of a separate chassis; to combat corrosion, all body panels were aluminum.

To prove the durability of the Supercoach to potential customers, Crown sold the vehicle with a 20-year/100,000 mile warranty for the body.[1]

During the mid-1950s, several changes were made to the Supercoach. In 1954, the Cummins NHH diesel engine was added as an option, becoming the first diesel-powered Supercoach. A year later, the tandem-rear axle Supercoach made its debut; the largest school bus of its time, it seated as many as 91 passengers.[2]

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Crown Supercoach and the similar Gillig Transit Coach became two of the most common school buses on the West Coast of the United States. Although conventional-type school buses remained in demand, the development costs did not justify starting an all-new model line. To supplement its income, Crown served as the West Coast distributor for other manufacturers, including Wayne, Blue Bird, and Thomas Built Buses; Crown also marketed Prevost motorcoaches alongside its own coach buses.

1980-1991: Decline

In 1979, the Brockway family sold Crown Coach Corporation to a local truck distributor; this began a sequence of ownership changes.[1] During 1984, Crown moved from Los Angeles to Chino, California in San Bernardino County. To diversify beyond school buses, Crown entered into a joint venture with the Hungarian firm Ikarus to produce articulated mass-transit buses. The Crown-Ikarus 286 was bodied in Hungary, with final assembly by Crown in California, with the fitments of American-sourced powertrains and interiors. In 1986, the partnership ended, with 243 buses produced.

By the end of the 1980s, the Supercoach had been in production with only minor changes for nearly 40 years. As Crown prepared the Supercoach to use a methanol-fueled version of the Detroit Diesel 6V92, major changes to the bodyshell were necessitated. The rear-mounted engine required new rear bodywork, which forced a complete change to front body. Although not an all-new design, the Series II, as it was named, was the first major update to the Supercoach since 1948.

After its acquisition, operation ceased in 1991. Crown's difficulty in competing with manufacturers of smaller, less durable but cheaper school buses was cited by company president Bruce Freeman in October 1990 as a primary factor in GE's decision to leave the school bus market.[4]



From 1951 to 1985, Crown Coach Corporation was also a manufacturer of fire apparatus under the Firecoach brand, with the majority of Firecoaches being sold to west coast departments, especially in California. Beginning in 1972, two different Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) 1965 Crown Firecoach Triple engines were used to portray Engine 51, during the first two seasons of the NBC/Universal television series Emergency!. Engine 60, which was the fire engine stationed at Universal, was used for scenes filmed at the Universal lot, and Engine 127 was used for scenes filmed at Station 127 where location filming was completed. In 1974, LACoFD purchased a large number of P-80 Ambassador pumpers from the Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation, and the company opted to donate an additional, identical unit to Universal for use as Engine 51 on the show, thereby allowing LACoFD to discontinue taking the Crown Engines 60 and 127 periodically out of service for filming. Engine 127's Crown Firecoach was later destroyed in a traffic accident, however Engine 60's Crown Firecoach, as well as the donated 1974 Ward LaFrance, are now owned by the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association and have been fully restored.[5][6][7][8][9]

Crown Firecoaches
  • Firecoach 1951-1985 — pumpers, tillers, aerials and tenders
  • 50, 65, 75 and 85-foot Snorkels
  • 54, 55 and 75-foot TeleSqurts
  • 100-foot mid- or rear-mount aerials
  • 100-foot tillered aerial-ladder truck
  • Firecoach Squad
  • Water Tenders (tankers)
  • Open or canopy cab pumpers

Crown also built Firecoaches on various truck bodies:

  • Ford C850, C700
  • International Harvester
  • Pierce-Crown
  • Chevrolet Silverado chassis pumper

Crown also built custom fire vehicles from Supercoach and Firecoach chassis:

  • 28-foot bus for Los Angeles County Fire Department 1958
  • Custom-built bulldozer transport using Firecoach tractor for Los Angeles City Fire Department 1960
  • Two open-cab rescue trucks using Firecoach chassis for Honolulu, Hawaii Fire Department 1965
  • Heavy Utility tow truck using Firecoach chassis for Los Angeles Fire Department 1967
  • Mobile hospital/ambulance for Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington DC, using Supercoach body 1971
  • 2-axle trailer water tank/50-foot TeleSqurt for Tulare, California Fire Department 1975


Motor homes/Tour coaches

  • Motorcoach/Tourcoach

Highway coaches

  • Highway Coaches
  • Intercity Coaches

City transit buses

During the Post-war period Crown built Ford Transit buses. Crown built the Coachette City Bus from 1961 to 1962.

Transit buses

School buses

1980s Crown Supercoach

Crown's school buses were built with various chassis configurations. Lengths included 32, 35, 36, 38, and 40 feet. Axle configurations included 4x2, 6x2 and 6x4. The buses seated 33 to 97 passengers (90 passengers after 1977).

  • Crown Model B-3
  • Crown Model D
Crown Supercoach Information
Model Length (ft) Picture Year Introduced End of Production Fuel Type Notes
Crown Supercoach
Apple Valley Crown Coach Corporation.jpg 1948 1991 Gasoline
Along with introducing the transit-style school bus in 1932, Crown introduced diesel engines (Cummins) to school buses in 1955.
Crown Supercoach Series II (N-body) 40 Crown Supercoach II.jpg 1989 1991 Methanol
The Series II was originally designed as a way to accommodate a methanol-fueled version of the Detroit Diesel 6V92 in the rear; it would not fit in the tapered rear end of the Supercoach.

Other Products

Specialty vehicles

  • Security Jail Coaches 1950s — 35-foot and 40-foot chassis; 42-64 passengers
  • Mobile Command unit/Crown Coach HPO Bookmobile for Apple Valley


  • Truck cabs and bodies 1910s
  • Federal truck chassis


Crown made aircraft from 1925 to 1933.


  • Waukesha
  • Hall-Scott
  • International
  • Ford
  • Caterpillar 3208 (rear-engine Supercoach II and Firecoach only)
  • Cummins NHH (743 & 855 c.i.)
  • Cummins C8.3 (rear-engine)
  • Detroit Diesel 6v53, 6n71, 8v71, 6v92, 8v92

External links

  • Crown Coach Historical Society - founded by Sandi Brockway
  • [3] Bruce Vanderhorst Crown Fire Engine Website
  • [4] Paul Krot's Crown Firecoach Photo Archive
  • [5] Chris Arnolds Crown Firecoach Website


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Mark Theobald (2004). "Crown Coach". Retrieved 2010-04-29
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  4. 4.0 4.1 Sandi Brockway (September 8, 2010) "School Bus Maker Crown Coach to Close Next March," George White. October 12, 1990. Crown Coach Historical Society. Retrieved 2014-03-20
  5. [1]
  6. Los Angeles County Fire Museum Collection - 1965 Crown Firecoach
  7. [2] Visit the County Of Los Angeles Fire Museum Archived January 30, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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  9. County Of Los Angeles Fire Museum's Engine 51 Ward LaFrance