1972 MCI MC-7 Challenger (Build #9520, Fleet #806)

Australia’s first 40 foot coach - setting a new benchmark for the 1970s

MCI MC7 bus (1972 model) from front with MCI MC8 (1976 model) behind, Photo taken at Lancefield VIC in February 2022

(Click on photos to enlarge) - Images free to share and distribute but please acknowledge driverclassics.com.au

About This MCI MC-7

MCI MC7 bus (1972 model) build plate. Photo taken June 2024.
1972 MCI MC-7 builders’ plate - 9520, June 2024

Ansett Pioneer sold fleet #1PC806* MC-7 to Macquarie Towns Bus Service in 1985 and sometime later it passed to Eastside Coaches, Sydney NSW. Driver Classics acquired MC7 #1PC806 from Eastside Coaches in 1994 for restoration. A second 1972 MCI MC7 (Build #9516, Pioneer fleet #802) ex Glenhenry Tours was purchased from Rob Duke, Gembrook VIC in October 2017 for parts.

MCI MC7 parts coach, Glenhenry Tours livery, Photo taken January 2017
1972 MCI MC7 parts coach, fleet #802 ex Rob Duke, ex Glenhenry Tours, Gembrook VIC, January 2017

Our MC-7 is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V8 2 stroke engine, 568ci model 8V71, rear mounted in-line, with a 4 speed Spicer constant mesh transmission.

*Since 1994, Driver Classics’ 1972 MCI MC7 build #9520 was thought to be fleet #805. When Canadian MCI authority Brian Grams was researching actual MCI production lists in 2022, he discovered that the build numbers and corresponding fleet numbers used in a locally produced hand written fleet list compiled in the 1980s, were incorrect. So MCI MC7 #9520 is in fact fleet #806 and similarly, our MC7 parts bus build #9516 is in fact fleet #802.

The Story

MCI bus operator's manuals from the 1960s and 1970s (for models: MC-5A, MC-5B, MC-6, early MC-7 with enclosed tag axle, MC-7, MC-8 and MC-9).
MCI operator's manuals mid 60s to late 70s – MC-5A, MC-5B, MC-6, early MC-7 with enclosed tag axle, MC-7, MC-8 and MC-9

Harry Zoltok founded Fort Garry Motor Body and Paint Works in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1932. In 1941 the name was changed to MCI (Motor Coach Industries) and in 1948, Western Canadian Greyhound, a subsidiary of Greyhound Corporation USA bought shares in MCI leading to full ownership by Greyhound in 1958. Today and for many decades, MCI has been the largest selling coach builder in North America and MCI’s current owner, New Flyer, is the largest selling transit bus builder in North America.

MCI’s ‘MC’ series of coaches, dates back to 1959 when MCI introduced the MC-1 Challenger, a two axle 35 foot coach with a rear mounted GM 4-71 diesel engine. The 1963 MC-5 model was the first MCI to be exported in quantity to Greyhound in the USA. The MC-7 Challenger was the first 3 axle 40 foot coach made by MCI, predating the MC-6. MCI built 2550 MC-7s between 1968 and 1973.

MCI MC7 bus brochure cover and pages from the Late 1960s
Late 1960s MCI MC7 brochure cover and pages

Ansett Pioneer placed an order for an initial batch of 10 MC-7s, when it was denied bringing 40 foot versions of the GM PD 4107 into Australia because of non-compliant dimensions. Australian vehicle length laws were however, able to be increased for the MC-7 and it became the first 40 foot coach to operate in Australia. The MC-7 was later followed by 29 MC-8s and 15 MC-9s.

MCI MC7 bus on trailer ready for shipping to Ansair in Melbourne
1972 MCI MC7 ‘kit’ with plywood front, in Canada, en route to Vancouver BC for shipping to Melbourne, VIC Australia where RHD conversion, painting and fitting of Ansair built seats will take place, 1972
MCI MC7 bus, 1972 version, during LHD to RHD conversion by Ansair, Melbourne, Australia
1972 MCI MC7 during LHD to RHD conversion by Ansair, Melbourne VIC Australia
MCI MC7 bus, 1972 version, with newly completed right hand drive conversion
1972 MCI MC7 with newly completed RHD conversion

In a bid to increase loads and carrying capacity on services operating across Australia from the east coast to Perth on the west coast, Ansett Pioneer endeavoured to introduce larger second hand ex Greyhound USA, 40 foot GM PD 4501 Scenicruisers, at the same time as the MC-7s. Because of poor conditions on the main cross continent road to Perth, it was deemed inappropriate to use new 40 foot MC-7s, hence the application to utilize large, proven ex Greyhound USA flagship coaches. But it was to no avail, as the dimensions of the Greyhound Scenicruiser, had the same non-compliance issues as the regular 40 foot GMs.

Case for the operation of 40ft long coaches in Australia
Extract from the document 'Case for the operation of 40ft long coaches in Australia', prepared by Ansett Pioneer circa 1968
MCI MC7 bus (1972 model), Pioneer fleet number #801, original liver. Photo taken at Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, circa 1973
1972 MCI MC7 Challenger, Pioneer #801 in original livery, Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, circa 1973 (Geoff Foster photo)
MCI MC7 bus (1972 model), in Ansett Pioneer bicentennial/Pepsi livery. Photo taken at Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, circa 1981
1972 MCI MC-7 Challenger, Pioneer #1PC803 in the bicentennial/Pepsi livery, Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, August 1981