The Blue Bird TC/2000 is a Type D school bus that was produced by Blue Bird Corporation (then Blue Bird Body Company) from 1988 to 2003. Introduced as a lower-cost alternative to the long-running All American line of transit-style school buses, the TC/2000 was produced in both front-engine and rear-engine versions.
After several minor updates during the 1990s, the TC/2000 was discontinued in 2003. The rear-engine version was not replaced, while the role of the front-engine model was largely taken over by the All American Front Engine; a new generation had been introduced in 1999.
All American: A Premium Product
In 1948, the Blue Bird All American was the first transit-style school bus to be popularized by an East Coast manufacturer. California-based manufacturers Crown, Gillig and Seattle-based Kenworth-Pacific had introduced transit-style school buses long before Blue Bird; while these were marketed outside the West Coast, they did not achieve a national following. A common theme among all transit-style school buses from their introduction and into the 1980s was that each manufacturer used transit-style (Type D) school buses as the flagships of their lineup; they were premium products that were not often purchased for fleet orders. The slowing economy of the late 1970s and early 1980s magnified the importance of large fleet sales, as the end of the baby-boom era reduced the overall demand for school buses.
With the All American's design, Blue Bird had chosen a path of slow evolution. By 1987, the All American had been on the market virtually unchanged for 25 years; Blue Bird was looking for an updated design to sell for a lower price (to attract large fleet orders) without cutting too many corners on quality.
TC/2000: New Markets for Transit-Style School Buses
The TC/2000 was introduced for 1988 using essentially the same exterior design as the All American with minor changes intended to lower its production costs. The majority of these design changes were visible on the front. The All American's massive amount of chrome trim was pared down significantly; four headlights were replaced with two. When the All American was redesigned in 1989, the headlight count became the easiest way to tell the two buses apart.
Inside, the All American's side control panel was retained in the interest of parts commonality, but the rest of the driver's compartment was unique. The All American's wood-panel dashboard was replaced with a black fiberboard design with the instruments positioned closer to the driver (who was greeted with a smaller steering wheel). Student seating capacity ranged from 54 to 90 in the FE and 66 to 84 in the RE (introduced in 1991).
As the TC/2000 was focused on being a no-frills design, hydraulic brakes and a gasoline engine were standard specifications, but most were ordered with diesel engines and some were ordered with air brakes. From 1988 to 1990, it was manufactured only in a front-engine version to streamline manufacturing costs (most manufacturers developed front and rear-engined transit-style buses). In 1991, a rear-engine version was introduced as an effort to attract more West Coast buyers.
End of production
With the 1997 introduction of the TC/1000, Blue Bird produced a total of five distinct transit-style school buses. However, the variety would lead to some model overlap. In 1998, Blue Bird discontinued the rear-engine version of the TC/2000. It was indirectly replaced by the new-for-1999 All American RE. Blue Bird's financial problems of the early 2000s led to the discontinuation of the TC/2000 FE at the end of 2003 in an effort to consolidate its Type D school bus lineup.