Last weekend I found myself staring at the empty parking space left behind by my recently departed nightmare school bus project. I wondered what I should do with the large space. Do I fill it with cars? Do I cancel my lease? An alluring answer to my question is parked in Bay City, Michigan. This 2002 Neoplan Cityliner is one of the weirdest coach buses ever put on American roads, and it would make one epic RV.
If you haven’t heard of Neoplan, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s a German manufacturer of some really distinctive buses and while it had a presence in the States, the company pulled out of the country entirely in 2007. The buses that you occasionally see on the road today are what remains.
Neoplan was launched in Stuttgart in 1935 by Gottlob Auwärter. His small shop produced produced bodywork for bus and truck chassis with flair. After World War II, the company’s designs moved to all-steel bodies. Then in 1953 Neoplan started building buses with partial monocoque designs featuring tubular steel skeleton for strength.
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The company would continue to evolve with buses with then novel air suspensions, independent front suspensions and rear engines.
Neoplan’s engine provider in Europe, MAN, notes that the 1960 Neoplan Hamburg was the first bus to feature air nozzles that could be manipulated by passengers; a feature not unlike what planes and buses have today.
Neoplan would get its first shot in America in 1976. Then, Neoplan licensed a transit bus design to U.S. manufacturer Gillig for what would become the Gillig-Neoplan. But Neoplan wanted more, and in May 1981 the company opened up a plant in Lamar, Colorado. It was a match made in heaven, the New York Times reported, as Lamar wanted to diversify its economy and Neoplan believed that people living in rural areas had a better work ethic than others. UPI News reported that the buses were constructed of parts from all over the world and when finished, the workers that built them were driven home in them and asked to critique their own work.
Neoplan built a little bit of everything from low-floor transit buses, articulated buses, a double-decker and this, the Cityliner AN116/3.
This bus was designed to be a luxury coach and launched in 1971 at the International Exhibition of Buses in Monaco. As you probably guessed from its design, these are made for speed and comfort, unlike a transit bus. The American Cityliner differed from its European counterpart with changes like an American engine, transmission and HVAC system. And it was constructed with a steel structure with a galvanized roof and side panels.
This is a high-deck touring coach where the passengers sit high up above the road. There is ample interior room and the space underneath is wide open for luggage or whatever else would fit. The Neoplan Cityliner differed from other high-deck coaches of the day—and even today—with a characteristic upper front window.
Power comes from a 12.7-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60 inline-six making 400 horsepower and 1450 lb-ft torque. The seller says that it runs, drives, and comes with a new alternator.
However, you can tell that the 45-foot bus hasn’t lived the easiest life as parts in the engine bay have rust and what appears to be amateur welding repairs. A search of the bus’ VIN indicates that it used to be owned by Northampton County Schools in North Carolina before it was sold in 2017.
Fix that rust up and you have a solid and unique platform to do whatever you want. Not even a Prevost has looks like this coach.
Even though it’s a bus of a German design, the Detroit Diesel and Allison transmission means that it should be reliable and that parts shouldn’t be too difficult to find. The Detroit 60 was used in a number of semi trucks and have been known to reach and exceed a million miles.
I’d think it would make a great RV, and some of the hard work is already done as the bus has a toilet and ample storage.
Sadly, Neoplan had a shaky existence in America, with officials at a number of transit operators complaining about structural cracking, drivetrain problems and even a fire resulting from electrical problems. One bus even had structural cracks before it even reached 500 miles on its odometer.
Neoplan USA at one point claimed to have a 40 percent transit bus market share in America, but it wouldn’t last. Warranty claims and canceled orders would lead to Neoplan USA filing for bankruptcy in 2006 before leaving entirely in 2007.
While Neoplan USA may be gone, the buses that survived like this Cityliner exist as examples of its past. And at least the German operation is still going, still building wild buses. This piece of history is just $7,900, and I hope you pick it up before I make a really bad decision.