Apollo Trolley makeover lends vintage appeal

Glaval Bus capitalizes on Cable Car Classics ingenuity

By David Hubbard

Cable Car Classics first landed the concept with its conversion of the standard Gillig low-floor transit bus into a vehicle with a trolley appearance.

Partnering with Gillig Corporation in 2004, Cable Car Classics, the small specialty manufacturer based in Healdsburg, CA, developed its break-through, low-floor heavy-duty trolley-style bus at the insistence of Valley Transit, Walla Walla, WA. Executive director Dick Fondahn had a very clear idea of the true low-floor vehicle he wanted for his community.
Cable Car Classics Sales and Marketing Director Rick Ward recalls the long process of finding the correct chassis concept, ultimately electing to convert the standard Gillig low-floor transit bus into a vehicle with a trolley appearance.
The project marked a dramatic aesthetic transformation the two companies introduced to the public at the 2005 APTA Expo in Dallas, TX. Gillig Vice President Joe Policarpio saw the response promising enough to suggest a definite market for this vehicle.
Ward says since then Cable Car Classics has completed trolley conversions for customers across the country who desire advantages of transit-duty low-floor buses combined with ridership-boosting nostalgic trolley appearance, and backed by Gillig’s industry-leading quality and customer service.
Building on this success in the heavy-duty market, Cable Car Classics most recently collaborated with Glaval Bus, Elkhart, IN, to build the vintage-style Apollo Classic economical medium-duty trolley for sightseeing tours, shuttles for weddings and other special events, as well as general charter service.
Ward says the biggest visual change came with the roof and cupola assembly that affixes over the existing bus body, which attaches to the bus body in such a way it does not even pierce the roof. Extensive wood-like trim and restyled front engine grill also dramatically alter the appearance.
In addition to the trademark trolley-styled cupola roof and maintenance-free wood grained exterior trim, other vintage features include gold-leaf style custom graphics, a solid brass trolley bell, a realistic cowcatcher, roof accent LED lighting, trolley headlamp, solid American white oak seats and interior trim, and brass-styled hand rails with leather grab straps.
Ward and Glaval Bus Regional Sales Manager Dan Flynn described numerous phone calls and emailed photos required to fine tune production details, agreeing that the tedious process was worth it.
“At the time this seemed like just another project, one of several in the hopper,” says Flynn. “With little trolley experience, I really didn’t know what to expect.”

Cable Car Classics most recently collaborated with Glaval Bus to build the Apollo Classic economical medium-duty trolley.

He says whatever he expected was fully exceeded when the company unveiled the finished trolley at the 2010 UMA Expo in Las Vegas, NV.

“What the Cable Car Classics team did with the conversion absolutely blew me away,” says Flynn. “When I saw the appearance, quality, and attention to details, I knew at that point Glaval Bus had made a good decision to partner with Cable Car Classics. I knew our interests were being served.”

Glaval Bus Director of Sales and Marketing Paul Marnocha also noted the positive response from dealers and their appreciation of the new trolley sales opportunities he says Glaval did not have before the Apollo project.

Ward applauds Cable Car Classics CEO Matthew Etchell for successfully creating beautiful trolleys despite their unique engineering challenges in converting very different Gillig low-floor and Glaval Apollo buses, with each built for different markets.
“We are pleased with our strategic alliances with these two leading bus manufacturers,” says Ward. “They open markets we wish to reach with our best-in-class customer choices.”
Etchell adds, “We work closely with them to refine our designs and production methods to provide the high quality fit and finish we are known for.”
Gillig low-floor and Glaval Apollo trolleys offer diesel, CNG,  and hybrid-electric options, in lengths ranging from 27 to 40 foot, and 25,000 to 39,600 pound GVWR. BR