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Blue Bird Corporation

From Academic Kids

The Blue Bird Corporation is a large manufacturer of buses. Blue Bird's corporate headquarters are in Ft Valley, Georgia, US. Blue Bird's factory in Mount Pleasant, Iowa was closed in 2002. It continues to run factories in Canada and Georgia.

Blue Bird Corporation is not affiliated with another company with a similar name, Blue Bird Group (http://www.bluebirdgroup.com/), a taxi operator in Indonesia.


Contents

Albert Luce Sr.: all-steel school bus bodies in 1927

Blue Bird was founded in 1927 by Albert L Luce, Sr. His company became a leading producer of school buses in the Americas. That same year, both Blue Bird Body Company and Wayne Works of Richmond, Indiana reportedly began building all-steel bus bodies, an innovation which soon replaced the wooden bodies which were then in common use around the United States.

Dr. Frank W. Cyr: father of the yellow school bus

Most school buses turned the now familiar yellow in 1939. In April of that year, Dr. Frank W. Cyr, a professor at Teachers College in New York who became known as the "Father of the Yellow School Bus," organized a conference that established national school-bus construction standards, including the standard color of yellow for the school bus.

Engineers from Blue Bird Body Co., Chevrolet, International Harvester, Dodge, and Ford Motor Company, as well as paint experts from DuPont and Pittsburgh Paint showed up. Together with the transportation administrators, they met for 7 days and agreed on 44 standards, including the color and some mechanical specs such as body length, ceiling height, and aisle width.

It became known officially as "National School Bus Chrome". The color was selected because black lettering on that hue was easiest to see in the semi-darkness of early morning and late afternoon. The distinctive color later became officially known as "National Glossy School Bus Yellow".

Cyr's conference, funded by a $5,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, was also a landmark event inasmuch as it included transportation officials from each of the then 48 states, as well as specialists from school-bus manufacturing and paint companies. The conference approach to school bus safety, as well as the yellow color, has endured into the 21st century.

Growth in school bus use after World War II

Following World War II, continuing a transition from one-room schools, there was a nationwide movement in the U.S. to consolidate schools into fewer and larger ones. This meant that fewer students were attending school in their immediate neighborhood, particularly as they progressed into high school. This led in turn to a large increase in the demand for school buses.

Blue Bird has always been a leading name in church bus and school bus safety efforts. The company became a major school bus body builder in the post-World War II period.

All-American: a successful transit-style U.S. school bus

Wayne Corporation, Crown Coach Company, Gillig Corporation, and others had experimented and developed some early transit-style school buses. Crown and Gillig products with a flat-front were used extensively on the West Coast in the 1950s through the 1980s.

In 1948, Blue Bird founder Albert Luce Sr. saw a design for a flat front bus at an auto show in Paris, France. Two years later, in 1950, Blue Bird Body Company developed a transit style design which evolved into the Blue Bird All-American, generally considered one of the first successful transit designs to gain widespread use for school buses throughout in the US. However, the "conventional" design, with a truck type hood and front-end (known as type C on modern school buses) was to continue to dominate US school bus manufacturing through the end of the 20th century.

During the second half of the 20th century, many of the Blue Bird buses originally designed and used for North American school bus use became the common intercity bus in much of Latin America.

Recreational vehicles, other bus applications

In the 1960s, Blue Bird Body Company also started making motor coaches, and in the 1990s commercial buses. Its first Wanderlodge was built in 1963. It entered the commercial public transit bus market in the 1970s.

By 1980, it was one of the big six school bus body companies in the United States, competing with Carpenter Body Company, Superior Coach Company, Thomas Built Buses, Inc., Ward Body Company, and Wayne Corporation. During the next 20 years, that number would be reduced to three.

Until 1992 Blue Bird was a private family-owned company. Blue Bird was owned by the British Henlys Group PLC with a substantial financial stake held by Volvo Group (http://www.volvo.com/bus/global/en-gb/) from 1999 to 2004. Henlys had financial difficulties during this time, including some not related to its investment in Bluebird.

According to news release from the company in the fall of 2004, Henly's will no longer hold a financial interest in the company. Blue Bird is now the "sole operating subsidiary" of a newly created holding company, Peach County Holdings Inc. As part of the deal, a banking syndicate made up of Henlys creditors will own 42.5 percent of the Peach stock, according to Blue Bird. The Volvo Group (http://www.volvo.com/bus/global/en-gb/) (the world's largest bus manufacturer) will own another 42.5 percent, while the balance will be owned by Henlys' "pension scheme" and Blue Bird's management.

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