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The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 4:30 pm
by system improver
1.The clean looks and smart livery made the PD4106 a stand out on Australia’s highways in the early 60s:


The PD4106, like its Pioneer predecessor the Flxible Clipper, was light years in front of any local competition. This, however, did come with a significant price tag. A PD4106 was about £30,000 (including £3000 for RH drive conversion) compared to a locally produced coach costing about £10,000 (in 2010 dollars, those figures are $720,000 total cost, $72,000 for RH conversion and $240,000 for the local product). Anyone who travelled in a PD4106 thought it was worth it. This coach, like the Flxible, pushed the regulatory boundaries. In this case, it was its length, 35 feet, and its place of origin. In those days, there were currency restrictions. Importing from the US was a no-no. Worse, the local transport regulators, particularly in Victorian and NSW, were aghast at the thought of these "long" buses. To be fair, the roads in those days were pathetic. Today’s roads are close to perfection in comparison. Anyway, Sir Reg Ansett (who owned Pioneer) strongly influenced the government of the day to have the US dollar restrictions lifted and then received “special permission” to run the PD4106 on highways. Of course, none of Sir Reg’s competitors, or would be competitors, were going to be able to purchase any of these buses. Sir Reg wanted more competition -for him- but not for his competitors, something that would bite him in future years.

Thirty five PD4106s came to Australia in four tranches, with the dates to service as described:
623 to 632 inclusive, 11/61- 1/62, 10 coaches, which became Pioneer 623-632
1219 to 1226 inclusive, 9/62 -10/62, 8 coaches, which became Pioneer 633-640
1240 to 1251 inclusive, 10/62 - 12/62, 12 coaches, which became Pioneer 641-652
2636 to 2640 inclusive, 8/64 -9/64, 5 coaches, which became Pioneer 653-657

Eight further PD4106 coaches were purchased second hand from Greyhound USA, seven in 1970 and one in 1972. This was an interim measure when Pioneer was awaiting a decision on 40 foot coaches operation in Victoria and NSW from the regulatory authorities. They were numbered 658-665.

The GM nomenclature was relatively straightforward. For the PD4106, the P stands for “Parlor Coach”, the D stands for “Diesel”, the “41” stands for the seating capacity (without toilet) and the “06” is the actual model number. It was built in the US from March 1961 to about June 1965, and 3,227 came off the production line. It was powered by the Detroit Diesel 8V-71 which had enough power for the coach as well as the Freon compressor for the air-conditioning. Until then, most coaches with aircon required a separate engine for this purpose. It is a fully monocoque construction (no chassis). It came with a four speed gear box.

2. Here is an impression from the US GMC sales staff of how the PD4106 would look prior to the arrival of the first (the Ansair badge never made it to the final version). The coach was almost perfectly symmetrical, so they just flipped the image:

3. Smoking was still allowed on public transport in those days, and interstate coaches were no exception:

4. Opening the window was one way of clearing the smoke, but not recommended whilst at speed on the road:

5. A rear shot of a PD4106 contrasts the window treatment of it and its successor the PD4107:

6. The RH drive conversion was undertaken at Ansair’s Essendon Airport factory:

7. Three PD4106s, the one on the left is one of the 8 second hand vehicles imported in the early 70s and distinguishable by the different GM badge.

8. For dusty and animal prone roads, a bull bar and wind deflectors were installed on a number of units:

9. The PD4106 cascaded to day tour work over the years and some had the toilet removed and more seats installed. This one was new 10/62 and is shown in possibly its last livery for Ansett Pioneer:

10. Finally, a PD4106 new 1/62 and a GM Scenicruiser with the relatively "gutless" Toroflow engine from 5/67, shown side by side:

To my knowledge, no PD4106 has been restored to its former glory, although Gary Driver has one as his next preservation project.

The importation of these coaches had an unintended consequence on the local industry. No doubt, in 1961, there was simply not a local manufacturer capable or interested in building these sorts of vehicles, to the standards required anyway. But there were those who learned quickly, and set about adopting some of the principles of the PD4106 for a local product, most notably, Alan B Denning.

The photographs: Pics 1-4 and 6 are official Ansett Pioneer pics, Pic 5 comes from the Paul Nicholson Collection, Pics 7 and 10 come from the Ken Magor Collection courtesy of the BCA(NSW), Pic 8 is by Bruce Tilley and Pic 9 is from the Andrew Potts Collection.

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 5:51 pm
by Bedford-29
Well this picture is going to surprise you of PD4106 taken in 1981.And Gary Driver has the coach now picture from the Leon Batman collection.

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:31 am
by Tas Bus Nut
Thanks system improver. They are magnificent shots of a magnificent vehicle. Very attractive and streamlined. The other one I liked was the PD4104 but NOT the PD4103. Looking at that last shot (front on) the PD4106 has a HUGE influence of the 1956 PD4501 (the magestic Scenicruiser) If you didn't notice the missing raised area above the screen, you could easily be mistaken for thinking it was a PD4501. Great shots. Always impressed by your availablity of historic photographs, but more importantly, your extensive description of various (older) buses/coaches. Many thanks. Cheers Neil

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:59 am
by leyland clippers
The Scenicruisers were a familiar sight in Tasmania in the late 60's and early 70's. Always used to see them parked outside the Four Seasons Motel in Queenstown which is now known as that Mount Lyell Motor Inn.

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:02 pm
by Looselion
Many thanks System Improver!

As the only national competitors up against this kind of superb equipment throughout the 1960's, we at Redline could only aspire to do everything else a little better. It was clear to us that Reg's Pioneer was coming on with all guns blazing as we saw the first of these handsome coaches take to the roads. I have little doubt though that in an obtuse kind of way, the capital cost (not to mention operating costs) of the PD4106's with the associated significantly higher fares structuring, played into our hands to a quite marked degree.

Although being an arch competitor during their "hey-day" I have nothing but admiration for this stunning piece of American Iron!

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:03 pm
by Car177
ex Pioneer 637 PD4106 at Beenleigh Wreckers in 1989.

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:10 pm
by Landseer
Fellows coach is still at Beenleigh wreckers 3 months ago

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:13 pm
by boronia
This coach, like the Flxible, pushed the regulatory boundaries. In this case, it was its length, 35 feet,
The Flxible was also 35 ft, so I'm not sure what the problem was.

It is hard to imagine these days that a coach just over 10m long could be regarded as "large". Not withstanding this, they were actually difficult to manouvre due to the relatively long wheelbase and poor turning circle of the steering. A normal left turn certainly required some lane sharing.

The air conditioning in these vehicles was also unusual. There was a compressor in the engine compartment driven by a dog clutch off the drive train; it could only be engaged with the engine at idle. The evaporator was located under the floor next to the luggage compartment, and blew air through vents in the frames below the windows. Heating could be effected by a "radiator" in the air duct.

Another quirk was the gearbox, or at least the gearchange. It had a 4 speed + reverse box, but only 4 positions in the gate. Reverse was obtained by selecting 1st, then pressing a button on the dash while moving the lever to the 2nd position; a solenoid on the box activated the reverse selector. Moving the lever back to neutral usually reset the solenoid, but if the linkage got dirty it would stick and there would be horrible noises next time you tried to use second :shock: :oops: :oops:

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:42 pm
by system improver
boronia wrote:...The Flxible was also 35 ft....

No, it was 33 feet. Eleven were lengthed 1960/61 by about 4 feet and have an additional window.

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:46 pm
by boronia
Thanks, I was quoting from an American reference book.

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:13 pm
by The Inspector
nice pics of a great looking coach, hmm and those to lasses in the publicity pic aswell

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:24 am
by stajourneyman
The Inspector wrote:nice pics of a great looking coach, hmm and those to lasses in the publicity pic aswell

...who are now either in their 80s..or dead from old age!

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:18 pm
System Improver this is excellent,these were the Landseers of the 1960's cheers!!

Re: The Pioneer PD4106

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:58 am
can we get these pics back.