Cruise like the Eagle

EAGLE MODEL 20... Lever Coach Lines' Eagle Model 20, pictured, was the last Eagle to be delivered to Australia. Photo: Deanne Jeffers.

IN 1956, the first Eagle was built for Continental Trailways USA, to compete with Greyhound’s GM PD 4501 Scenicruiser. Unable to find a builder locally who would build the Eagle on Continental Trailways’ terms and design, they eventually settled on Kässbohrer Setra in Ulm, Germany, as the builder.

Those early Eagles, dubbed Golden Eagles due to their golden aluminium panels, featured a rear viewing lounge, galley, and tables. Next was the Silver Eagle, featuring more conventional specifications making it better suited to line haul work.

Greyhound was the prime user of Eagles in Australia with the first Eagle Model 05 arriving in 1973. All told, four Model 05s and 13 Model 10s were operated by Greyhound, a Model 05 for Batterham’s, a Model 15 for Trailer Tours, and a Model 10 and Model 20 for Lever Coachlines. Lever later acquired Batterham’s Model 05. An overall total of 57 Eagles were operated in Australia.

Both Greyhound’s Eagles and Pioneer’s MCIs were the flagship coaches for interstate express during the 70s and 80s in Australia, with both companies having routes that criss-crossed the country. Each long-distance driver had an opinion on which coach they favoured, Eagle or MCI.

One thing never disputed was the Eagle’s handling. Torsion bar suspension prevented the coach from leaning in corners and provided superb handling and ride. The downside was that unless the shock absorbers were in peak condition, the Eagles were sometimes known to have a bucking motion in their ride.

Kialla’s Museum of Vehicle Evolution currently have the Eagle Model 20, which belonged to Lever Coach Lines. It was the last Eagle shipped to Australia and although it is a Model 20, it was designated as a Model 10LT to avoid re-assessment for Australian Design Rule requirements, as it was essentially the same as the Model 10.

The Eagle Model 20 is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V6 2-stroke diesel, 552ci model 6B92TTA, rear mounted in-line, with an Allison HT750 automatic transmission.