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Mr. Linsky


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Thanks to Ricard Silagi of NorCal Bus Fans we are treated to the image below of a Crown Coach Articulated operating for the Coast Counties Charter Company presumably of the San Francisco Bay area.

A number of assumptions must be made here because so little information is available. However, it would very possibly be a model 286 built sometime around 1980 and is very likely one of the original collaborations between Crown and Hungarian based Ikarus Coach - a forerunner of North American Bus Industries (NABI).

The bus, dubbed Miss America, stands tall, straight and very handsomely (for a Crown) and undoubtedly shares the same underfloor pancake Diesel as its School Bus cousins of the era and, in this case, it appears that the plant is amidships in the lead section.

Some very interesting history presented by NABI;

NABI's history can be traced to the attempts of its former parent, Ikarus Coach, to enter the North American market. In 1980, Crown Coach entered an agreement with Ikarus to produce the model 286, an Americanized model 280 articulated bus under the Crown Ikarus name. After the venture with Crown ended in 1984, Ikarus entered an agreement with Orion to continue production of the 286 for the Canadian market as the Orion III. Regardless of name, the 286/Orion III was beset with a multitude of problems ranging from poor construction to inadequate build quality which played a role in Crown's demise in the US.

In the wake of the 286 problems, Ikarus regrouped and entered a deal with Union City Body Company of Union City, Indiana, to market and assemble a new bus for the American market. In 1989, Ikarus reentered the US market as Ikarus USA and introduced the model 416 (an Americanized model 415). The next year, Ikarus USA introduced the model 436, an articulated model of the 416. Though the company had modest success, the end of the Cold War led to a vast decline of Ikarus' European output and to a period of uneasiness at the company. These problems contributed to Union City Body Company declaring bankruptcy in 1992, in turn putting the future of Ikarus' US operations in doubt.

Amid these problems, Hungarian-born/US-residing investor Peter Rona, director of the First Hungary Fund Ltd of Jersey, United Kingdom, purchased 75% of Ikarus USA in mid-1992 with Ikarus retaining 25%. With the purchase came many changes, most significantly the name of the company to American Ikarus and the base of production from Union City to Anniston, Alabama.

Though American Ikarus was more successful than its predecessors, by the mid 1990s Ikarus decided that they wanted to leave the North American market given increased competition in Europe. In 1996, Ikarus sold their share of American Ikarus to the First Hungary Fund which took on the current NABI brand name and NABI Rt. corporate name upon closing. Subsequently, NABI expanded into the European market with the purchase of Optare in 2000 and is now a rival to its former parent.

With its independence, NABI began expanding its product line to gain a foothold in the then-fledgling low-floor bus market with the launch of the LFW series in 1997, NABI's first original model. The LFW series has been successful, in turn launching the Compobus series (2001), the BRT series (2004), and the expansion of the LFW series into articulated buses (2002).

On January 23, 2006, NABI Rt. announced [1] that it had a preliminary agreement with NABI Gyártó és Kereskedelmi Kft and Homerica Investments B.V. for the acquisition of all of the stock of NABI Inc. and substantially all of the business and assets of NABI Rt. NABI Inc. then announced [2] that the purchase was by affiliates of Cerberus Capital Management. The transaction was completed on February 15, 2006.[3] According to the August 4, 2006 Interim Report, the Hungarian company changed its name to Exbus Nyrt. and became an asset management company, and the current directors are endeavoring to preserve the equity and use the directors' experience in the capital markets.[4]

On August 21, 2006, NABI announced their purchase of the Wichita, Kansas-based Optima Bus Corporation for an undisclosed amount. This will add the popular Opus low-floor minibus and American Heritage replica streetcar (rubber-tired trackless) product lines to NABI's roster. One week later, it was announced that Cerberus had acquired Blue Bird Corporation, thus giving Cerberus a full line of school buses, and 30 to 60 foot transit buses.[5]

On June 6, 2007, it was announced that Optima Bus Corporation "would cease operations in Park City on Aug. 8 or shortly after." [6] Soon after, Blue-Bird stopped producing commercial buses. Both operations were moved to the existing NABI plant, except for the Commercial Express product line, which was sold.

In 2008, NABI updated the look of its 416 and 40LFW, adding a new style front and rear as well as optional frameless windows. The new style front is available on a special order only. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada were the lanuch customers for the restyled low-floor model, with NJ Transit being launch customer for the high floor model.

A footnote; the mentioned Union City Body Company of Union City, Indiana did build all of Ford Motor Company's Transit Buses.

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY


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