Philip Smith just completed a full restoration of one of the rarest machines in the country, a Greyhound Escorter, built to shuttle people around the 1964 New York World's Fair. Of the 150 constructed, it's one of only three believed left in existence and is destined to appear in a Disney movie titled `Tommorowland.'
This is what Smith's Escorter looked like when he retrieved it from an overgrown lot in Houston 10 years ago. His uncle, owner of two bus companies, had bought four of the machines, but this was the last one left in his `collection.'
With the fiberglass body and roof removed, the mechanical workings of the Greyhound Escorter are easier to understand. The three wheel design is built on a steel rectangular tubing chassis powered by an Onan 2-cylinder engine that powers a hydraulic pump that drives the front wheels. The driver sits atop the rear dolly wheel that allows for amazing maneuverability.
Three gauges, a steering wheel, brake pedal and directional shift lever are about all that's needed to make an Escorter go. The manufacturer's plaque with original VIN remains in place on the simplified dashboard.
Greyhound contracted with the Kalamazoo Mfg. Co. to build the 150 Escorters, sometimes called `people movers,' for the 1964 Worlds Fair. The original emblems on both sides of the roof pillars were preserved, with the chrome bezels refinished and chromed.
One of the hardest to find pieces in the restoration was the DuKane musical horn, a mechanical device mounted below the dash. Smith found it online and paid a mere $5 for it. He was delighted when it arrived, complete with the Escorter name on one side and still set up to play the 'Leave the driving to us' song installed.
One of the few replacement pieces that had to be fabricated was the front grill. Rigidized Metal of Buffalo, N.Y., had provided the original material for the Escorters 50 years ago and was happy to supply two more ribbed metal grills to Smith for his project. The same company supplied the stainless steel metal used to construct the iconic `Unisphere' globe that symbolized the fair. RPPG of Arkansas City laser-cut the metal to fit the grille surround perfectly.
If those tail lights look familiar, they should: they are 1964 Plymouth Belvidere tail lights installed upside down, but used as a hot air vent to keep the engine cool. Note the digitally recreated Greyhound Escorter logo.
A 2-cylinder Onan engine in the proper factory green color powers the Escorter. Cummins Onan in Park City rebuilt the power plant. The original mufflers were reused, with new heat-wrapped exhaust pipes fabricated.
The blue colored hydraulic pump is attached directly to the engine, with fluid running to two hydraulic motors that drive the front wheels. A simple lever-controlled valve shifts direction of travel from forward to reverse.
There was precious little in the way of reference material to base his restoration on, but Smith used every scrap he could find, such as this old photo of an Escorter, to make his version as close to original as possible.