The C2140 comes back as the 40-foot minibus
Thrasher Brothers takes delivery on the newest wrinkle in ABC Companies’ Customer Refurbishment Program
By David Hubbard
Alan Thrasher and his father Jim went to UMA EXPO 2012 looking to “kick tires” and try to fill a need in the Thrasher Brothers Trailways’ fleet for a small bus.
“We had been evaluating the different offerings over the last several years,” says company President Alan Thrasher. “I knew we needed a minibus of some kind with our competition adding small buses to their fleets.”
Thrasher says for that reason he never really warmed to the idea of a cutaway vehicle, but the smaller monocoque coaches piqued his interest.
“I was always worried about the durability and longevity of body-on-chassis buses,” he says. “Still, small buses have certainly come a long way, but we have always operated big motorcoaches and I am most comfortable with them.”
Coincidently, ABC Companies, Faribault, MN, had come to Long Beach, CA with a newly refurbished 40-ft Van Hool C2140 for operators to consider.
Jim Thrasher understood the value of redressing a bus. He was among the first in the industry to cap O1 and O5 Eagles with Model 10 caps that lent a newer look. When Roman Cornell, vice president, National Sales for ABC Companies, walked him over for a look at their work on the C2140, he needed no convincing. He and Alan were sold on the revitalized 40-ft coach at first sight.
ABC Companies launched its Coach Refurbishment Program in early 2011. Partnering with motorcoach industry vendors, the company sees the multi-step refurbishment process as a unique approach to equipment overhauls.
“We saw this as a way to give operators a business advantage in this downturned market,” says Dane Cornell, president and CEO, ABC Companies. “We believe our refurbishment program is a great tool for leveraging existing fleet equipment by extending new life and vitality into older model coaches.”
The program is essentially the outgrowth of ABC Companies’ successful and ongoing Greyhound Fleet Revitalization program at its facility in Nappanee, IN. The company says in addition to the Nappanee facility, as of now its Florida and Minnesota locations are similarly equipped with the correct equipment, tools and experienced mechanical and technical staff to offer the program to fleet owners. Fleet refurbishment offers myriad safety, body, and passenger amenity features that comes standard and additional options that allow a customer to customize the process, plus comprehensive inspection services.
In addition to the customer fleet refurbishing program ABC Companies also offers select refurbished inventory models as fully-serviced pre-owned coaches, which carry an “R” designation in the model number for “refurb.”
In addition to updated front and rear capping and upgraded windshield, the standard features to every Van Hool refurbishment include new LED taillights side turn lights, wheels and tires and rear window. Upgraded touches to the interior feature new Van Hool or Amaya seating with three-point seat belts, luxury all-wood flooring and fabric replacement on the parcel racks. Silicone hoses and a driver heater valve are part of the mechanical package.
Available options include overhead reading lights, card tables, 110-volt outlets, Wi-Fi and a nine-inch wheel upgrade.
Alan Thrasher says general refurbishing is not unlike what his family was doing with coaches purchased from Trailways.
“A lot of operators were updating older coaches to some extent,” he says. “The practice seemed to go out of vogue in the 1990s once money got a little easier to come by. We all started buying new buses, but now the realities of economics are bringing refurbishing back around.”
According to Thrasher many operators caught up in the situation are compelled to keep equipment longer, which further lowers any trade-in value. He says if they sell their older vehicles, the buyers typically have a broken down bus on their hands, one perhaps best used for parts.
“The fact that an operator can take his own coach in for a complete refurbishment at a cost of $100,000-plus or minus, and come away with a fully enhanced and mechanically sound unit makes all the sense in the world,” says Thrasher. “We all know the metal frame of a coach will last many years. The full renovation in terms of all the mechanical workings, the parts and components is the real key. The airlines have refurbishing for years, and we have to do it in the bus industry.”
The impetus for ABC Companies to give the once-standard 40-ft motorcoach a new life draws on its operation in Nappanee in conjunction with the increasing market for 35-ft coaches.
With a number of C2140s showing up on the lot as trade-in the company decided to test the waters by speculatively decking out one of the units to show at UMA EXPO 2012.
According to Roman Cornell, the thinking was Van Hool owners and operators would have a very cost-effective opportunity meld into the fleet a smaller bus with a lot of miles left without treading into new territories for service, parts and maintenance.
“We made the refurbished C2140 a more inviting small bus by removing a few seats and installing card tables to accommodate a maximum 43 passengers with more legroom and comfort,” says Cornell. “At the moment we have about six 40 footers underway for other customers. As interest grows we will most likely seek out more idled C2140s.”
Alan Thrasher says at first the lower seating capacity concerned him.
“Even with more leg room I would worry about losing the advantage of compartmentalization,” he says. “But with three-point seat belts as a standard it is not an issue. In fact it is a big plus for this concept.”
He says Thrasher Brothers sent the new vehicle out for a run with one of his college basketball teams shortly after they got it home, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I received a text message from the coach mid-trip thanking me for the ‘brand new coach,’” says Thrasher. “His six-foot-six players really appreciated the space. The word ‘refurbish’ never came up.”
Thrasher says as close as it is to the regular fleet, he can still charge the same as for a 45-ft coach.
“We may have been the first to buy, but we were certainly not thinking about being the ones to bring back the 40-ft coach,” says Thrasher. “We were just looking for a strong, sturdy cost alternative to a standard minibus.”