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DDOT'S FIRST FLEET OF SMALL "MINI" BUSES
*FLEET PRODUCTION INFO: City of Pontiac coach fleet model TDH-3301A; coaches #8501-8504 (delivered as #101-104), bus chassis
serial numbers 0121-0124 delivered June 1971; coach
#8505 (#105), chassis number 0160 delivered August 1971 (information courtesy
of
Ohio Museum of Transportation web-site -- Bus Production List)

Information for the above article compiled from information supplied from the
Motor Coach Age magazine articles titled, "SEMTA and
SMART"
by Robert L. Campbell and Jack E. Schramm; and "Pontiac" by James M. Franzen (October-December 2003 edition of Motor
Coach Age magazine), and coach fleet information obtained from various
Schramm Collection DSR and DDOT fleet roster listings.
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The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.
Coach #3003 was one out of a fleet of five "used" 29-foot GMC medium capacity coaches (#3002-3006) acquired by DDOT in
1975 for use on its two downtown Mini-Loop routes.  Coach #3003 is pictured here south along 17th Street at Rose while
working a special DDOT shuttle bus service during the American Freedom Train visit to Detroit
(June 21 – July 6, 1975).
(Photo courtesy of the H.B.Craig,II Photo Collection – DetroitTransitHistory.info)
The first coaches acquired by the Detroit bus system after becomng the Department of Transportation (DDOT) in 1974 were five GMC Light Transit Model buses initially owned by the city of Pontiac, MI.

EARLY HISTORY OF DETROIT's "BABY" NEW-LOOK BUSES:
In October 1970, the City of Pontiac decided to terminate its lease agreement with ATC's Pontiac Transit Corp. (the transit provider since 1960), and took over operations of the company's two bus routes on Feb. 1, 1971. Pontiac would operate the service through its Department of Public Works, operating under the name "Pontiac Municipal Transit Service." The city had applied for a federal grant to purchase five new transit buses that began arriving in June of 1971. These small-size 29-foot long, 96-inch wide GMC coaches *(#8501-8505), model TDH-3301A, would later become the property of the former regional transit authority SEMTA (Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority) after it acquired the municipal bus system from Pontiac on June 16, 1973.

SEMTA took over operation of the Pontiac bus routes on July 2, 1973. Because the Pontiac service was now being operated through "purchase-of-service" agreements between SEMTA and the suburban Great Lakes Transit Corp., these 33-passenger "baby" new-looks (as they're often called) were no longer needed. In 1975, these buses would find a new home in the city of Detroit under DDOT, where they were repainted and renumbered as #3002-3006. The buses were placed into service on the downtown Mini-Loop #1 and Mini-Loop #2 bus routes.

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D-DOT 40-FOOT BUS CUT DOWN TO MINI-BUS SIZE
It was also during this same period that the Detroit Department of Transportation's heavy repair shop was in the process of rebuilding one of its large-size transit coaches for mini-bus service. Former DSR (now DDOT) coach #1757 (identical to coach pictured in photo) was originally a 40-foot long, 102-inch wide GM "New-Look" transit coach model TDH-5301 that was first delivered to the Detroit Department of Street Railways (DSR) between June and July of 1960.

In early 1975, the DDOT Heavy Repair Shop cut down the 40-foot bus and converted it into a 30-foot mini-bus. This process involved cutting the bus in half from the side, removing a middle section, and then rejoining it back together again. Using this procedure would shorten the length of the bus, usually some five to ten feet.

Coach #1757 was rebuilt, repainted, and renumbered as mini-bus #3001. Instead of carrying the 53 passengers it use to seat in its former state, it now carried 33 passengers. Although the exterior of the bus was repainted, and those so-called impact-absorbing water bumpers comprised of seven rubber containers filled with water were added to the front bumper, the coach for the most part retained most of the old features from its previous life.

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Former DSR coach #1757 as rebuilt DDOT mini-bus #3001.  Although repainted in a new color scheme, the rebuilt coach
retained most of its prior standard features, including its original four-piece "jackknife" style folding exit doors.  In this
photo, coach #3001 is parked along the Washington Blvd. Loop between Cobo Hall and Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit.
(Schramm Collection Photo courtesy of Ken Schramm)
THE D-DOT MINI-BUS FLEET:
Although all six of the DDOT mini-buses were GM New-Look coaches, there were definitely major differences between the two models. At just under 30-feet, the five former Pontiac model TDH-3301As were of the smaller 96-inch wide design and came equipped with "push-type" rear exit doors and air-conditioning. These coahces were powered by a GMC D-478 Toro-Flow II Diesel (V-6) engine with an Allison "Torqmatic" transmission. The buses also came equipped with the air-operated "DD-3" parking and emergency brake system, which was applied by pulling up on a control valve knob located on a tower to the right of the driver's seat. Overall, aside from their smaller size, these light transit model buses (launched by GMC in 1969) still retained many of the same quality features found on the larger 35- and 40-foot GMC "third generation" New-Look coaches built during that same time.

Former 40-foot coach #1757 (now mini-bus #3001) would retain many of its original features it had when delivered to the DSR back in 1960, including its original 102-inch width. Unlike the five TDH-3301s, the converted TDH-5301 model never had air-conditioning installed and still had its original four piece folding exit doors. Of course the former 40-footer retained its 6V-71 Detroit Diesel engine and GM/Allison V-drive hydraulic transmission, and still had the old style "Johnson Bar" mechanical parking brake that was applied by manually pulling up on a lever. Coach #3001 also kept its original National Seating manufactured seats, used on all early 1960s era DSR "New-Look" coaches.

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In this 1975 photo taken at the DDOT Central Repair Shops, a now cut-down coach #3001 (right) is seen parked side-by-side
along coach #3003
(left) a former Pontiac Municipal Transit coach acquired by DDOT in 1975.  While the former Pontiac
transit coaches were 29' long and 96" wide, the converted mini-bus #3001 was 30' long and 102" wide.
(Schramm Collection Photo courtesy of Ken Schramm)
Rebuilt coach #3001 (ex-#1757) would now join the fleet of five refurbished 29-foot GMC TDH-3301As that were acquired from the suburban SEMTA system. All six of the DDOT mini-buses were assigned to the Gilbert Terminal and would provide service on the city's two downtown Mini-Loop routes. The mini-buses would replace a fleet of six 19-passenger Minibus MB-711s (#101-106) built by the Passenger Truck Equipment Co. of Huntington Park, CA and purchased by the DSR back in 1966 and 1968. The last of the MB-711s were all retired by 1976.

However, after the arrival in the fall of 1979 of seventeen new 35-foot GMC RTS-II coaches (#1701L-1717L) the #3000-series new-looks would soon find themselves replaced. In their later years, coaches #3002-3006 were mostly used on driver relief runs, while coach #3001 spent its later years parked in Campus Martius downtown, serving as a DDOT Information Center. All six of the mini-buses were retired and off the roster by 1986

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DDOT's 30-foot New-Look coaches would replace a fleet of six
gasoline-powered Minibuses acquired by the DSR in 1966 and 1968.
(photo courtesy of Carl D. Dutch collection)
Seventeen GMC RTS-II 35-footers (model T7W-203) would later
replace the GM baby new-looks on Downtown Mini-Loop routes.
(photo courtesy of Melvin Bernero)
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While working the downtown MINI-LOOP #1 route, coach #3005 can be seen parked at the Washington Blvd. Loop turnaround
across from the Cobo Hall Convention Center while decked-out in reindeer and candy canes for the Christmas Holidays.
(Detroit Dept of Public Information photo)
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