The GMC New Look Transit Coach series (nicknamed "Fishbowl" for its six-piece rounded windshield) was introduced in 1959. In production for over 25 years, it became the iconic North American transit bus. Like GM's over-the-road buses, including the Greyhound Lines Scenicruiser, the air-sprung New Look did not have a traditional ladder frame. Instead it used an airplane-like stressed-skin construction in which an aluminum riveted skin supported the weight of the bus. The wooden floor kept the bus' shape. The engine cradle was hung off the back of the roof. As a result, the GM New Look weighed significantly less than competitors' city buses.
Virtually all New Look buses were powered by Detroit Diesel 71-series two-cycle Diesel engines. The original engine was the 6V71 (V6). GM buses used a unique "Angle-drive" configuration with a transverse mounted engine. The transmission angled off at a 45-or-so degree angle to connect to the rear axle. The engines were canted backwards for maintenance access; in fact the only parts not accessible from outside the bus were the right-hand exhaust manifold and the starter. The entire engine-transmission-radiator assembly was mounted on a cradle that could be quickly removed and replaced, allowing the bus to return to service when the powertrain required major maintenance. Originally all New Looks were powered by the 6V-71. GM resisted V8 power but eventually gave in to pressure from customers.
New Looks were available in both Transit and Suburban versions. Transits were traditional city buses; Suburbans had forward-facing seats (four-abrest) and underfloor luggage bays. The center aisle was lower than the floor beneath the seats to accommodate the luggage bays. There were also "Suburban-style" transits which had forward facing seats on slightly raised platforms that gave the appearance of a dropped center aisle. GM refused to install lavatories on their buses; at least one transit authority (AC Transit in Oakland) added their own.
The New Look was built in 29', 35', and 40' lengths and 96" and 102" widths. 35' and 40' buses had different-length side windows so the profiles of both buses looked very similar.
Model designations: New Looks had model names similar to SDM-5301 or T6H-4523N. Key:
Next two digits were the model series. Transits: For 35' buses, odd numbers were 96" wide, evens 102"; for 40' buses odd numbers were 102" wide, evens were 96". All Suburbans were 96" wide.
Later buses used "A" for Air conditioned or "N" for Non-air conditioned. Some Canadian-built buses used an "M" suffix to indicated they were built in Montreal.
Production of the New Look in the U.S. ceased in 1977, when the it was replaced by the RTS transit bus. Production continued after this, however, at General Motors Diesel Division in Canada, due to the RTS design being rejected by Canadian transit agencies, with the name plate changing from "GMC" to "GM". Few were produced after 1983 due to the GMDD's introduction of the Classic that year. The last New Looks were ordered by Big Blue Bus of Santa Monica, California in 1986. A few cities still have them running to this day, nearly 50 years after introduction and 24 years after mass production ended.
The GM Buffalo bus, a group of intercity bus models built between 1966 and 1980, shared many mechanical and body parts with the fishbowl models, and were discontinued by the Pontiac, Michigan plant shortly after the RTS replaced fishbowl model production there.
GM later sold the rights to produce both Classic and RTS models to other manufacturers, and exited the heavy-duty transit and intercity markets for full-sized buses, although production of some medium-duty and light-duty chassis products sold in these markets continued.
These were the first New Looks. The taillights were housed in streamlined nacelles modeled after afterburners. The side roof signals were in geometric chrome strips. The logo was "GM" over black background. In addition, the first year New Looks had pantograph wipers rather than the familiar single arm wipers. An example is shown at the top of this article. Second Generation - 1963-1967
The taillight nacelles were removed, and the side roof signals were now put in small bullet-pods.
Third Generation - 1968-1970
This was the shortest-running generation of New Looks. The taillights were enlarged and given less flair, and there were five on each side. The logo was changed to "GMC."
Fourth Generation - 1971-1986
Due to safety regulations, there was an outboard exhast system, a trend towards modern buses. There were now four taillights on each side. Addition of a ventilation system on the right of the rear window was a popular option.
The General Motors streetcar conspiracy charges that GM bought up trolley lines in order to close them down and sell more buses. However, GM was deeply concerned about anti-trust action against the bus and truck division that would put their profitable car business at risk. With the New Look product line, GM went to great lengths to cripple their own product line. They eventually assisted Flxible, their closest competitor, with the re-engineering of their own New Look bus, including use of the well-liked V-drive, which boosted Flxible sales. GM resisted the move to V8 power and refused to offer certain configurations such as V8-powered 35' buses. When the Allison Automatic V730 transmission was introduced and offered by Flxible, GM continued to sell the older, more temperamental and more complex VS-2. (The very last batch of US-built New Looks offered the V730, and it was subsequently offered on Canadian-built New Looks.