On July 9, 1947, Look magazine ran a feature article on the fastest growing form of transportation in America: intercity buses. “Bus travel, according to the sworn word of many highway fans,” the author wrote, “is the best way to make a sightseeing holiday trip.”[1]

The post-war boom in bus travel was indebted, in part, to clever marketing and cost-effectiveness. But it also ushered in an era of new innovations and experiments in the bus industry.  Customers desired more amenities—increased leg room was a priority, and toilet facilities offered the possibility of express routes with fewer stops.  (As Look magazine remarked, “Tall Americans have always had trouble placing their long legs in the limited space allotted them on trains, planes, and buses.”)

By the end of World War II, Greyhound was the largest bus transportation company in America, and it recognized a need for the “bus of the future.” In 1944, Greyhound announced it was at work on a new bus, one that would seat 50 passengers—9 more than their current buses. This was to be accomplished by creating seating compartments on two levels. The new bus would have precisely the same width and length as Greyhound’s existing bus fleet, but the height of the bus would be increased.  This would allow Greyhound to transport additional passengers while remaining within the federal restrictions of size for intercity buses. Orville S. Caesar, vice president of Greyhound, filed a patent for the design on August 14, 1944. Two variations of the bus were to be built, one by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, and the other by General Motors.  The styling for the buses was to be done by Raymond Loewy Associates.

By the end of World War II, Raymond Loewy was known internationally as a designer synonymous with the streamlined aesthetic popularized through his designs for the Pennsylvania Railroad and Studebaker, among others.  His firm’s design for Greyhound’s new bus featured lightweight extruded aluminum and aerodynamic cut-outs, reflective of innovations developed during wartime production.  (Loewy, in recalling his work for Greyhound, later dated this presentation drawing to the late 1930s. However, research confirms that the drawing was made between 1944-46).

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Image courtesy of theoldmotor.com

The GX-1, known as the “Highway Traveler,” was billed as an engineering innovation. But when it was finally released as a prototype in 1947-48, the full production met with challenges.  The bus billed as the “Highway Giant of the Future,” proved a troubled vehicle, and work immediately commenced on its replacement.  The double-decker design was ultimately succeeded in the 1950s by the “ScenicCruiser.”

[1] “By Bus,” Look, July 8, 1947, 31-38.

Caitlin Condell is the Associate Curator and Head of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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