1976 MCI MC-8 Crusader (Build #11964, Fleet #822)

A refined update of the rugged MC7

MCI MC8 bus (1976 model), with MCI MC7 bus. Photo taken at Lancefield in February 2022

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

About This MCI MC-8

Our MC-8, fleet #2PC822, was purchased new by Ansett Pioneer in April 1976. Pioneer’s original fleet number was 822, 8 allocated to Pioneer’s MCIs and 22 being the unit number, but when company control passed from Ansett to Murdoch (News Limited) and Abeles (TNT) in the early 1980s, the fleet numbering system was changed to suit TNT’s truck numbering system. 2PC was added before 822, 2 signifying New South Wales (or 1 if it was Victorian based) and PC, possibly signifying ‘Pioneer Coach’ as distinct from a TNT truck, although this still remains unclear.

MCI MC8 bus (1976 Model) as found, June 2016
1976 MCI MC8 as found, Gembrook VIC, June 2016

Ansett Pioneer sold this MC-8 to Grenda’s Bus Services, Dandenong VIC and it then went to Stuart Douglas, Langwarrin VIC to operate West Coast tours from Melbourne and sometime later it was acquired by Rob Duke in Gembrook, VIC to be converted to a motor home. When Driver Classics located the MC-8, Rob had been working on the exterior and mechanicals and was about to gut the interior for the motorhome conversion.

MCI MC9 Bus (1984 version)
1984 MCI MC9 #39336 (fleet # 2PC854) that was traded for the MC8, Mt Waverley VIC, October 2017
MCI MC9 painted in Ansett Pioneer Livery. Photo taken at Mt Waverley in November 2019
Rob Duke’s 1984 MCI MC9 #39336 (fleet # 2PC854) motorhome after painting by Driver Classics, Mt Waverley VIC, November 2019

Driver Classics tried to purchase the MC-8 from Rob, but he was only interested in selling if we could find another MCI that would be suitable for him to make into a motorhome. We located a good condition MC-9 with a gutted interior in Brisbane, QLD that was perfect for Rob’s use. In October 2017, Driver Classics purchased the MC-9, had it trucked to Melbourne and traded it for Rob’s still seated MC-8! We believe it was the last seated MC-8 coach that remained in Australia.

The MC-8 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.

The Story

The MCI (Motor Coach Industries) MC-8 ‘Crusader’ was an updated version of the very successful MC-7, the first 40 foot coach to operate in Australia.

There were 4,475 MC-8s built between 1973 and 1978 by Motor Coach Industries in Pembina, North Dakota USA and Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada.

When Ansett Pioneer ordered the MC-7s from MCI, they placed an initial order of ten with more to follow. The MC-8 had replaced the MC-7 by the time the additional vehicles were required, so Ansett Pioneer then ordered a total of 29 MC-8s that were delivered between June 1974 and February 1977.

Early Ansett Pioneer MC8s had a very similar paint scheme to their MC7s but featured a new, dramatic black window look.

MCI MC8 bus in Ansett Pioneer original livery colours, Also 1967 GM PD-4107. Photo taken in 1981.
Pioneer 1975 MCI MC8 # 1PC819 in original colours with 1967 GM PD-4107 # 1PG707 (left), Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, 1981

Pioneer had intended to order 30 MC8s but after taking over the Broken Hill - Sydney service where an RFW coach was inherited, the order was amended to 29. The first 5 (#811-815) were converted to right hand drive (RHD) by Ansair in Melbourne with Ansair also making the seats. The next 15 (#816-830) were converted to RHD by Blitz in Chicago USA and it is believed they were delivered with seats. The remaining 9 (#831-839) were built RHD by MCI, the last 4 of the 9 being built without restrooms for Ansett Pioneer Tours touring program.

The MC-8 was a modernised version of the MC-7. The ruggedness of the MC-7 had given way to an MC-8 with a smooth, more refined design that simply did its job as intended with the utmost reliability.

MCI MC8 bus featuring in Ansett Pioneer advertising as an illustration. Late 1970s.
Late 1970s Ansett Pioneer advertising for the MCI MC8, “A word or two from your coach”

There were obvious design differences with the MC-8…the roof window of the MC-7 was gone and replaced with a low raised deck design, the destination sign above the windscreen was also gone, the header/marker lights were flush with the body and the overall shape was smoother with less fluting used on the exterior panels.

MCI MC8 bus with silver back and MCI MC8 with white back, both featuring Ansett Pioneer livery. Photo taken in 1987.
Pioneer 1976 MCI MC8 # 2PC829 “Silver back” alongside 1976 MCI MC8 # 2PC824 in the white livery, Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, 1987
MCI MC8 bus, 1973 version, Brochure Cover
1973 MCI MC8 brochure cover

The MC-8’s new black window sash combined with the next generation paint scheme, the ‘Pepsi’ red, white and blue, was impressive to say the least. It inspired a new trend of ‘black windows’ in Australia. As with previous Ansett Pioneer liveries, the new ‘Pepsi’ paint scheme was based on a Greyhound USA design.

Ansett Pioneer Express timetables from 1978 and 1980 featuring MCI MC8 bus.
Ansett Pioneer Express timetables from 1978 and 1980

Ansett Pioneer used the MC-8 primarily as a flagship long distance intercity express coach until the arrival of the MC-9s in 1984 and the Denning Landseers in 1985. Some MC-8s were also used in Ansett Pioneer’s tour program.

MCI MC8 bus (1976 model), Ansair Pioneer Express in bicentennial/Pepsi livery. Photo taken at Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, in April 1987
1976 MCI MC8, Pioneer #2PC821 in the bicentennial/Pepsi colours, Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, April 1987
MCI MC8 bus (1976 model), Ansair Pioneer Gray Line in final white livery. Photo taken at Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, in April 1987
1976 MCI MC8, Pioneer #2PC824 in the final white livery, Footscray Road yard, Melbourne VIC, April 1987