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LESSER-KNOWN D.S.R. OPERATIONS:
Those who were around during the late-1960s more than likely remember the "Psychedelic Era"— that
counterculture period characterized by an array of "tripped-out" experiences and altered states of consciousness.
Hippies, love, peace, LSD, the sexual revolution, the anti-war movement, psychedelic music, psychedelic art, and
more, all come to mind when reflecting upon that period in American history — influenced by the likes of Timothy
Leary, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Peter Max. Although this movement was at first frowned upon by mainstream
America, psychedelic inspired values would soon have a major affect on the mainstream culture, influencing popular
music, television, film, literature, art and advertising.
|In July 1969, the DSR began operating a cut-down, jazzed-up, open-air, psychedelic painted bus known as the
"DSR Mod-Mobile." This special bus was used on sightseeing tours to points of interest across the city. In this
photo the Mod-Mobile is seen posing at the east-side DSR Shoemaker Terminal. The driver had better check the
weather forecast before pulling out with this coach. (Hey! check out that sun awning above the operator's seat)
(Joseph V. Degowski photo; G.J. Degowski Collection 4471, courtesy of Stan Sycko)
The DSR Mod-Mobile began service on Tuesday, July 8, 1969, by offering 45-minute tours of Downtown Detroit for
50¢. The tours operated Monday through Saturday from Campus Martius and Woodward, and offered a different
tour of the downtown area each day of the week. The idea of a "topless" bus was conceived by then DSR general
manager Robert E. Toohey as "the best means of recapturing the natives" by offering trips to places suburbanites
may not have seen for many years or have never visited. The tours were intended to woo suburbanites who had left
Detroit and forgotten what the city—off the freeway—looks like. One tour included a ride along W. Grand Boulevard
from Fort Street to Woodward to Campus Martius, to "learn how the inner city looks."
The Mod-Mobile eventually began offering $1.00 three-hour Sunday sightseeing tours to various points of interest
across the city. The tours would originate at a different major outlying suburban shopping center each Sunday,
offering trips to view places such as Belle Isle, the Cultural and Medical Centers, Wayne State University, Chinatown,
Civic Center, Central Business District, Tiger Stadium, Greektown, and the Lafayette Park and Elmwood Housing
The Mod-Mobile proved to be popular during its initial years, particularly with those employed in the downtown
area who would bring their lunch and hop aboard. Even though the psychedelic bus would survive the remaining
DSR years, its popularity seemed to have already faded by the early seventies — with the coach now only limited to
summer-time Charter Service operation. By the time the DSR had been replaced by DDOT in July of 1974, the
Mod-Mobile's days of service, for the most part, had already ended. The coach was officially retired by DDOT
during the mid-1970s.
On April 21, 1976, under the Coleman A. Young administration, the city of Detroit held its very first “world’s
largest garage sale” to help reduce the city's budget deficit. More than 75,000 shoppers had attended the event
and paid $100,000 for surplus city equipment. According to transit historian and author Jack Schramm, the Mod-
Mobile was one of the items sold at that first City Garage Sale held downtown at Cobo Hall.
One development that arose out of the psychedelic
era was the creation of Psychedelic Art — an art
form characterized by kaleidoscopic and paisley
patterns, extreme depth of details, collages, spirals,
concentric circles, and bright and highly contrasting
fluorescent colors. This new art form would soon
impact mainstream culture, and it wouldn't take long
for the DSR to jump on the psychedelic bandwagon.
In May of 1969, the Detroit DSR began work on a
jazzed-up "topless" bus it called the Mod-Mobile.
This unique vehicle would soon make its debut on
the streets of Detroit, and would no doubt turn a
few heads while it maneuvered through city streets.
Between 1968 and 1969 the DSR began selling-off
a number of its older (#1200-1300-series) GM "old-
look" coaches to other properties. However, one of
the coaches became involved in a coach-swapping
deal with the Maple Heights Transit Co., a small
bus company located just outside of Cleveland. OH.
The trade would involve former DSR coach #1321,
which was traded for a bus manufactured during
the late-1940s by the White Motor Company.
|The psychedelic art imagery of rainbows, birds, hearts and flowers
also influenced the world of advertising as evident during this 1969
7-UP billboard campaign inspired by New York artist Peter Max.
The former Maple Heights coach arrived in Detroit on May 8, 1969, and would soon undergo a major transformation
by the DSR. Although it had retained its trademark White Motor rounded belt-rail that wrapped around the coach,
most of its appearance had been altered by the addition of a tinted windshield, GM dual headlamps and other body
changes. But perhaps the most noticeable change about this coach was the removal of its top. The cut-down White
(probably a model 798) was repainted in psychedelic colors and images, re-numbered as "RT #1" and transformed
into an open-air 41-passenger sightseeing bus known as the "DSR Mod-Mobile." The bus was equipped with its
own bell and on board stereo music.
The above article was complied from numerous Detroit News and Detroit Free Press newspaper clippings courtesy of the Stan Sycko Collection, including
"Mod-Mobile whisks tourists around town" (The Detroit News—Tuesday, July 29, 1969). Additional information courtesy of "Miss DSR says" info cards
from the website owner's personal collection. The 7-UP billboard ad images also courtesy of the site owner's collection (©1969 — by the Seven-Up Co.).
|The DSR Mod-Mobile is seen in this 1969 photo exiting a gate along the south-east side of the DSR Highland Park Terminal
property, which led to a private-right-of-way roadway to Woodward Avenue. (Today that road would be Manchester Parkway)
(Photo source: Krambles-Peterson Archive Collection: G. Mac Sebree photo, courtesy of Art Peterson)
|A rear view of the Mod-Mobile while parked near the former DSR Administration Building, which was adjacent
to the Shoemaker Terminal property. The rear of the bus did give the impression that the bus has its top down.
|FOOTNOTE: The old DSR Administration Building (right) and the former Shoemaker streetcar barn (left) were
original buildings built on the property in 1922. Both buildings were demolished beginning in 2007 as part of a
major DDOT reconstruction project to the Shoemaker Terminal property.
(Joseph V. Degowski photo; G.J. Degowski Collection 4472, courtesy of Stan Sycko)
. ADDED MOD-MOBILE FOOTNOTE: According to DSR historian Jack E. Schramm, in information relayed through his son Ken
Schramm, "The reason [the DSR] choose a White Coach over the GMC Old look (which the DSR at the time had plenty of), was
that the White Coach offered a better frame in order to cut it down and still have a sound structure and a better ride.
|The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.