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MCI Company History



Motor Coach Industries (MCI) traces its heritage to 1928 when founder Harry Zoltok stopped in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) on his way west and decided to call the city home. He started an auto body repair shop with his partner Fred Sicinski, and on April 9, 1932 the fledging company was incorporated as Fort Garry Motor Body and Paint Works Limited. The operation was established in a 5000 square foot plant located on Fort Street in Winnipeg.

In 1933, the company built its first coach, an 11-passenger body on a Packard passenger car chassis. In 1937, the firm designed and built its own chassis and manufactured its first complete coach for Grey Goose Bus Lines in Winnipeg.

In 1939, they designed and manufactured a new transit-type coach with the windshield over the radiator. The model 150 incorporated the first use of stainless steel panels on the exterior and also featured a "pancake" engine mounted midship under the floor. Even at this early stage of development, the company was showing the commitment to creative product development that would become its trademark in the years to come.

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In 1940, Fort Garry Motor Body and Paint Works was fully committed to the manufacturing of coaches, and relocated to a new 20,000 sq. foot facility on Erin Street and St. Matthews Avenue (Winnipeg, Manitoba), which is now known as "Plant One."

In the midst of World War II, on January 7th, 1941, the company changed its name to Motor Coach Industries Limited or MCI for short.

Motor Coach Industries (MCI) utilized its entire production capacity 24 hours a day to support the war effort by building Jeep trailers, boat trailers for rescue craft, army truck bodies, pontoon bridge sections, and reconditioned aircraft pontoons.

In 1942, MCI built and designed the first electric trolley bus manufactured in Canada. Model 1532 remained in active service for 25 years but, due to the scarcity of materials and excessively high import duties on traction motors at that time, it never became a regular production item.

After the war, coach manufacturing resumed, and the company diversified into producing road construction and maintenance equipment, such as road graders and trailers.

During this decade, MCI continued to expand. National Products, a subsidiary, manufactured and sold pole line hardware for the Prairie Provinces rural electrification program. National Porcelain, a sister company in Medicine Hat, Alberta, manufactured porcelain insulators to complement the pole line hardware items.

In 1949, Model 50, a 33-passenger capacity coach, was introduced as a successor to the Model 100.

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The Fifties were indeed an era of diversification. MCI abandoned the road machinery business and utilized its resources and excess capacity to expand the National Products Company, establish the Alsco Windows and Doors Company, and produce custom metal fabrication for truck bodies.

The National Products Company continued to grow and expanded into the sale of ornamental street lighting poles, in addition to the original pole hardware items.

The Alsco Windows and Doors Company was set up early in the decade to service the construction and retail markets with aluminum windows and doors. In the latter part of the decade, Alsco also entered the window wall construction market with its own design.

Meanwhile, the coach division developed more sophisticated models: 85, 90, 95, 96, and the first model of the MC series of coaches. The MC-1 was a revolutionary new design. It introduced many unique features including a heating system that used the engine cooling fans, and a translucent roof that gave the coach a light and airy interior.

At this time, a 13,000 square foot $150,000 addition was made to Plant Two on Wall Street and St. Matthews Avenue (Winnipeg, Canada). This was used for manufacturing pole line hardware, and for a new power house and boilers.

In 1959, MCI sold its subsidiary National Porcelain to Medicine Hat Brick and Tile, in order to focus on building coaches. It produced 26 model MC-1 coaches and developed the prototype MCX2.

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While most of us were glued to our television sets watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, the Sixties marked a period of dynamic growth and expansion for MCI with primary focus on the coach business. Early in the decade, MCI divested itself of Alsco Windows and National Products.

The company established Motor Coach Industries, Incorporated in Pembina, North Dakota on April 2, 1962 and entered the U.S. market in 1963.

MCI again developed new models: MC-2, MC-3, MC-4, MC-5, and MC-5A. Greyhound Lines, Inc. in the U.S. commissioned MCI to develop the MC-6 "Super Cruiser." This coach was truly unique and an engineering marvel. From its stainless steel frame to its 102-inch wide wheel base and V12 engine, it was renowned as the "Queen of the Highways."

Later in the decade, the company expanded its bus manufacturing capabilities with the acquisition of a 24-acre site in the Winnipeg suburb of Fort Garry, and the construction of a 134,000-sq. foot building. At the same time, a 62,000-sq. foot expansion of the original Plant Two on St. Matthews and Wall Street (Winnipeg, Manitoba) was completed together with a large expansion of the Pembina, North Dakota Plant.

By 1968, the 40-foot long, 96-inch wide MC-7 was developed, and placed in production (just before the MC-6); this brought MCI's product line to three models all being built concurrently.

The company had progressed from an annual production rate of about 50 coaches in the early Sixties, to approximately 500 units by the end of the decade.

Supporting the growth was an expanded U.S. sales force, plus the development of a strong service and parts organization upon which MCI has built a solid foundation.

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The popularity of MCI coaches in the market place accelerated at a remarkable rate during the early Seventies. In 1971, a new parts distribution center opened to support U.S. customers' growing needs. This group was named Universal Coach Parts with headquarters in Des Plaines, Illinois (U.S.)., (and recently renamed MCI Service Parts).

MCI continued to expand its market arena with the first sale of coaches to Mexico and its first offshore export order of coaches to Australia, Saudia Arabia, and Taiwan orders soon followed.

In 1974, Frank Fair Industries, a plastics manufacturing company, was acquired to produce fiberglass parts and some machined items. In 1975, the Fort Garry plant expanded again to include a cold warehouse for storage and shipping of knocked down shells to Transportation Manufacturing Corporation (TMC). In 1975, MCI relocated its Canadian service parts distribution center to expanded facilities in its Fort Garry property.

New developments during the period included the introduction of the MC-5B, which was built from 1971 to 1977. The MC-7 coach model was replaced in 1973 by the introduction of the 40-foot MC-8, which had an unprecedented acceptance in the market place at that time. The Challenger series of coaches also progressed with an introduction of the MC-5C, successor to the MC-5B.

In 1978, the company developed the MC-9 Crusader II which became the best selling coach in North America.

The first MC-9 coaches boasted:

  • gear-driven oil-cooled alternators

  • new axial flow condenser fans

  • larger capacity air compressors

  • standardized matching side passenger windows which were four inches higher than on the MC-8

  • single level roof lines

  • and new design parcel racks that incorporated passenger lights and speakers

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In 1980, MCI purchased a 32,000-square foot building on seven acres in Newcastle, Ontario, and set up its Eastern Canada Parts Distribution Centre.

In the early part of the Eighties, MCI discontinued production of its 35-foot model MC-5C. Concurrent with this, a capital expansion program included enlarging facilities at Fort Garry (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Pembina (North Dakota). In place of the MC-5C assembly facilities, a second assembly line for the MC-9 was added in Fort Garry and Pembina to double the production capacity of the popular model. This development provided capacity for producing about seven MC-9 coaches a day.

In addition to its manufacturing and production capabilities, MCI maintained a full range of support activities, including:

  • new coach sales;

  • aftermarket part sales in the U.S. and Canada;

  • field service engineering;

  • research and development;

  • accounting;

  • data processing;

  • material management;

  • and quality assurance.

MCI's new appearance coaches started entering the scene in 1984 with the advent of the 40-foot 96A3. The 102A3 in 1985 and the two-axle 102A2 in 1986 followed the introduction as the first 102-inch wide coaches. The new models featured more aerodynamic styling, deeper windows, luxurious interior trim, plus numerous options and "specials" tailor-made to customers' demands.

In 1988, the 102C3 tour coach was introduced. It featured:

  • a higher roof;

  • more spacious interior;

  • fully paintable exterior surfaces;

  • and raised parcel racks, that provided greater visibility.

In 1989, MCI introduced the 102C3SS tour coach. It featured durable stainless steel below the belt line. The MCI tour coach models became the best sellers for that year, and continue to maintain a leading market share to this day.

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In 1990, MCI produced a prototype of a fully accessible coach. It included a new design wheelchair lift that stored below in the baggage bay, and a fully accessible washroom.

But that was only the beginning of a series of new developments for MCI. In October of 1996, while being serenaded by the legendary musical group, The Beach Boys, at Hawaii's Ihilani Resort MCI launched its newest model, The 102EL3 Renaissance (now the E4500). Fireworks blasted at all corners of a huge crate, whose walls fell outward to reveal a completely redesigned coach that set new industry standards. MCI became the only tour coach manufacturer to offer a 2 1/2-year warranty. The company has also won several awards for the latest in technology, design, and engineering.

Most recently, MCI previewed its J4500, G4500 and F3500 coaches which are currently available for orders.

As we reflect on MCI's rich and illustrious past, we look forward to the future with optimism, and a firm commitment to upholding MCI's leadership reputation for quality, reliability, integrity, and value.

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