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Gillig Corporation, formerly Gillig Bros., is a manufacturer of heavy-duty low floor transit buses located in Hayward, CAmarker. Prior to 1993, Gillig had also been a manufacturer of school buses.


Gillig headquarters in Hayward
In 1890, Jacob Gillig opened a carriage and wagon shop in San Francisco, CAmarker, and was joined by his son Leo in 1896. The original shop was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but reopened as the Leo Gillig Automobile Works manufacturing automobile, hearse, truck, and bus bodies.

In 1920, Leo's brother Chester Gillig joined the company and introduced and patented the "California Top" roof construction style consisting of a hard-top roof and sliding windows. The company's name was changed at this time as well to Gillig Bros. In the late 1920s, Gillig starting producing pleasure boats and heavy trucks, and produced their first school bus in 1932. In 1937, Gillig introduced their first transit-style (flat front) school bus, and in 1938 the company moved to Hayward, CA. In 1957, Gillig purchased Pacific Bus division of Kenworth Truck Company, and by that time the company was devoted almost entirely to the production of school buses. In 1959, Gillig pioneered the diesel-powered rear-engined transit style school bus with the release of the C-series Transit Coach, and within five years the C-Series accounted for three-quarters of all of Gillig sales figures. In 1967, Gillig produced the highest capacity school bus ever produced, the 855-D, which had a passenger capacity of 97 pupils.

In 1969, Herrick-Pacific Steel purchased the company and changed the name to the Gillig Corporation. During the time they built school buses, Gillig earned a reputation for being one of the "safest" buses ever built due to the near total absence of recalls. The only recall for a Gillig-built school bus was in 1979 for rear-end axle separation issues.

In 1977, Gillig decided to branch out into the manufacture of transit buses and teamed up with Neoplan to build a series of European-styled transit buses that had the option of propane fueled engines. However, the partnership with Neoplan lasted only until 1979, and in 1980 Gillig introduced the Phantom, a heavy-duty transit bus based slightly upon their previous round-body school bus platform. A State of Californiamarker tax-free subsidy helped early sales, and sales were later buoyed by low-bidding on contracts and specializing in serving smaller transit agencies. This strategy has proven to be successful, as the Phantom became one of the longest-lasting transit models in existence. Production of the Transit Coach School Bus ceased in 1982, but a school bus variation of the Phantom was offered beginning in 1986, but production stopped in 1993 when Gillig exited the school bus market altogether.

The Spirit, a late-1980s attempt at a medium-duty bus, did not sell well and was discontinued after a few years. In 1997, Gillig entered the low-floor bus market with the Advantage (originally called "H2000LF", and is currently called the "Low Floor"). Like the Phantom, the Low Floor was first purchased largely by rental car companies for use at their airport facilities, but transit sales increased as the model matured.

Currently, Gillig produces around 1,200 to 1,300 buses a year.

On August 1, 2008, Gillig became a Henry Crown company under CC Industries, Inc. CC Industries will operate Gillig in the same location with the current management team. Also, the Phantom model has been discontinued from manufacturing after 28 years from Gillig.

Alternative fuels

In 1992, Gillig began producing an LNG fueled version of the Phantom in an attempt to produce a low-emissions transit bus, but this was later discontinued. The only LNG Phantoms in existence currently operate shuttle service at Los Angeles International Airportmarker and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airportmarker.

In 1996, Gillig introduced a diesel-electric hybrid powered Phantom, which they produced until 2006. The Low Floor bus is now offered in a hybrid powered version as the company continues to focus its efforts on "clean diesel" technology.

Currently, Gillig does not offer buses with alternative fuel engines as they have decided that the "clean diesel" pathway was more cost effective and required fewer changes to their products. However, some transit districts have converted Gillig buses to run on CNG or LNG.

In 2001, Gillig partnered with Alstom and produced the "Trolley" for Seattle's King County Metro Transit. These coaches took the propulsion packages from the old fleet of AM General trolley coaches (G.E. Traction Motor, Randtronics Chopper Control, and electronic card cage), and Alstom refurbished and installed them into new Gillig Phantom bodies with KIEPE pneumatically operated fiberglass trolleypoles.



Model Length (ft) Picture Introduced Notes
Low Floor 40, 35, 29
1996 Older buses have a flat front windshield and a somewhat larger headsign area (as seen in the picture at top left), while newer models feature a larger windshield. Frameless side windows are also an option, as seen in the picture at bottom left.
Low Floor Hybrid Electric Vehicle 40, 35, 29 2004
Low Floor BRT 41, 37, 31
2000 Also available with hybrid drivetrain (as seen in the picture at top left).
Frameless windows are a popular option with this model.
Trolley Replica 35, 30
Low Floor variant produced in collaboration with
Cable Car Classics of Healdsburg, CAmarker.


Model Length (ft) Picture Introduced Retired Notes
Transit Buses
Phantom 30, 35, 40 1980 2008 Offered in 102" or 96" widths. A hybrid version was also offered from 2001 to 2006.
Spirit 28 mid-1980s late-1980s A 28-foot medium-duty bus offered as lower-cost alternative to the 30-foot long Phantom.
Gillig-Neoplan 35, 30 1977 1979 A rear-engined transit bus built as a joint venture with Neoplan, a German bus manufacturer. Available with either diesel or propane engines.
School Buses
Phantom School Bus 37, 40 1986 1993 96" version of the Phantom redesigned to school bus specifications as a successor to the Transit Coach.
Transit Coach School Bus 35-40 1940 1982 A long-running lineup of transit-style school buses offered by Gillig prior to the production of the Phantom.

Available in mid-engine and rear-engine models with single or tandem rear axles.

Preservation of historic Gillig school buses

Having been a major builder of school buses for over 75 years, interest in the history and preservation of Gillig school buses has grown in recent years, particularly along the west coast where Gillig school buses were most commonly found. The Gillig Transit Coach / Pacific SchoolCoach Online Museum, a website focusing on preserving Gillig's line of earlier-built school buses, was founded by the owner of a Gillig school bus in 2001, with the aim of increasing general awareness of the older Gillig school buses.

In 2006, efforts began to create an historical society dedicated to the preservation of older Gillig school buses under the "Transit Coach" name, and on August 12, 2006 the official dedication of the Gillig Coach Historical Society occurred at the American Truck Historical Society's 11th Annual Truck Show at the Mason County Fairgrounds in Shelton, WAmarker.



  1. Stauss, Ed (1988), 66.
  2. Stauss, Ed (1988), 67.
  3. Stauss, Ed (1988), 68.
  5. Metro Transit Bus facts and figures - Gillig Trolley Bus,, retrieved on 2007-11-18
  6. Metro Employee Historic Vehicle Association - Bus #1008,, retrieved on 2007-11-18
  7. Gillig Products,, retrieved on 2008-01-21
  8. The Gillig Story... Then and Now,, retrieved on 2008-01-21
  9. The Gillig Trolley Bus Replica,, retrieved on 2007-10-27
  10. Low Floor Trolley,, retrieved on 2008-01-21

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