The Blue Bird All American is an American school bus produced by the Blue Bird Corporation (originally Blue Bird Body Company). Introduced in 1948, the All American is the longest-produced transit-style (Type D) school bus by an American manufacturer. While not the first to use the transit-style design, the All American popularized it through most of the United States during the mid-20th century. It is produced in both a front engine-version and a rear-engine version.
In October 2012, the latest All American was revealed as a 2014 model. Previous updates to the model were done in 2010, 1999, 1989, 1977, and in 1962.
The Blue Bird All American was created as the design of schools in the U.S. education system changed immediately following World War II. Additionally, the baby boom generation caused a large increase in the demand for school buses in transportation. In rural communities, one-room schools were phased out in a nationwide movement in the US to consolidate schools into fewer and larger ones, facilitating graded class structures. This meant that fewer students were attending school in their immediate neighborhoods, particularly as they progressed into high school, and the previous practice of walking to school for many became impractical.
Company founder Albert Luce Sr. saw a design for a flat front bus at the 1948 Paris Auto Salon. Blue Bird Body Company developed their own transit-style design later that year which evolved into the Blue Bird All-American, often considered among one of the pioneering designs that gained widespread acceptance for transit-style school buses in North America. However, the first school bus manufacturer to design that type of school bus was Crown Coach Corporation. Crown designed their Supercoach in 1932 and had redesigned it in 1948; with minimal updates, the 1948-style Supercoach remained in production for 43 years (until Crown's 1991 demise).
At the 1948 Paris Auto Salon, Albert L. Luce, the owner of Blue Bird Body Company, saw a forward-control bus based on a GMC chassis. After the show, Luce brought back to Fort Valley, Georgia, a fully built forward-control bus produced in Belgium because he was unable to secure a supply of GMC chassis in order to produce bodies. The chassis for the first All Americans were conversions of conventional truck chassis, a common practice of the time.
First generation (1948-1988)
In 1952, Blue Bird became the first school bus manufacturer to produce its own chassis rather than rely on outside suppliers for the All American. Not only was the chassis produced in-house, but rather than modifying a truck chassis, it was designed from the ground up as a bus chassis. In the late 1950s, the All American's body and chassis were redesigned with flatter sides and a taller roof; quad headlights, a signature of the All American, were also added. In 1962, a taller and wider windshield was added. All of these changes were passed onto the Blue Bird Conventional and the basic body shape would stay unchanged for nearly 50 years. In 1963, the front-engine version of the All American was developed into a high-end recreational vehicle, the Wanderlodge. The Wanderlodge gained a reputation for its hand-crafted interiors as well as its all-steel construction. As did all school bus manufacturers, Blue Bird upgraded the All American during the 1970s to pass the more stringent school bus safety standards for 1977 with stronger bodywork and higher, padded seats. The 1970s also saw the introduction of diesel engines as Blue Bird sought to increase the All American's fuel economy as well as better compete against West Coast manufacturers. As the front-engine version of the All American proved more popular than the rear-engine version, the rear-engine chassis continued to be outsourced (typically to International Harvester). In 1988, Blue Bird introduced its first purpose-built rear-engine chassis for the All American. Today, all Blue Bird buses (with the exception of the Micro Bird) utilize a Blue Bird chassis.