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The GM New Look "Fishbowl" Buses

GM Diagram

Click on the diagram to see a full plan and elevation.

Text by Robert Lubinski

See Also

Special New Look Pages

Charter Reports

In the 1950’s General Motors began developing what was to be the basic transit bus design for North America, the model 5300 series. This model, designated the “New Look”, was the first new major city bus design in more than 20 years, and arguably the most successful. It was powered by a standard 6 cylinder “V” type engine with an automatic transmission and had many interior design, suspension and heating and ventilation improvements which made it the most comfortable bus to ride. Over the lifespan of the New Look, 44,484 buses were produced, 33,413 in the United States and 11,071 in Canada. These buses would provide the backbone of the TTC’s bus fleet for over 50 years.

The New Looks Come to Toronto

In 1959, the Toronto Transit Commission ordered 50 model 5301 New Looks (2900 - 2949), which were built by GM at Pontiac, Michigan. These buses entered service in January of 1960 and were greeted favourably by passengers and drivers. More orders followed, and production shifted to London, Ontario as the bus fleet expanded greatly during the mid-1960s when TTC service was extended along new suburban routes and buses replaced streetcars on some routes. Later, when the venerable GM ‘Old Looks’ and ‘Twin’ coaches were due for retirement, more New Looks were ordered to replace them.

Subsequent orders had different features as years went on such as the exhaust pipe moved up to near the rear roof, water bumpers, newer-design front safety bumpers, enhanced tail light/turn signal designs, updated seating from bench seats to individual seats, and mechanical improvements such as new transmissions. By 1978, the oldest New Looks were themselves being replaced by more New Looks. The TTC ordered its last 246 New Looks in 1982 (8740 - 8985) and as older New Looks were retired the fleet began to shrink in size.

An Ambitious Rebuild

By 1983, the TTC had purchased 2,077 New Look buses. It is difficult to estimate how many they had in their fleet when it was at its height, as new buses were bought in the seventies as the original buses were being retired, but the number was certainly in the thousands. The majority of these buses easily lived out their 18 year lifespan, and some lasted even longer.

By the early 1990s, however, even the youngest GM New Looks were beginning to show their age. However, at the time, the TTC was feeling the pressure of budget cuts, so the cost of purchasing new buses to replace their aging fleet seemed prohibitive. Much as the TTC was committed to expanding its fleet of new low floor vehicles, in 1995, the TTC decided that rebuilding its remaining GM New Look buses was most cost-effective step they could take to ensure their current fleet could continue to serve Torontonians. GM buses from 1977 to 1983 (8160-8204, 8270-8314, 8320-8369 and 8520-8985) were taken and completely refurbished. When put back on the streets, they were renumbered from 2000 to 2155, 2240 to 2485 and from 2700 to 2858. Some of these buses were rebuilt again in 2004. The first bus in the series, Birchmount-based 8942, debuted its new paint scheme on February 22, 1995 and was in revenue service on March 22. The first version of the livery retained its existing paint with the grey removed. The position of the large red side stripe on the first version resulted in the TTC crest on the side of the bus straddling the red stripe and the white area above it. The revised version of the simplified scheme on 8942, seen a few weeks later, shows the red stripe lowered so that the TTC crest fits entirely on the first white band below the windows. This paint scheme would later be the standard TTC livery for future bus orders beginning in 1996.

As ridership began to increase in the late 1990s and a bus shortage loomed, the TTC looked for inexpensive used GM New Looks to bolster their numbers. In September 1997, the TTC turned to a company which had acquired New Look buses from the Utah Transit Authority of Salt Lake City. A total of 30 New Looks were acquired by short term lease. These buses kept their old colours and had TTC decals hastily slapped on them. They were numbered 1002 to 1036. The lease ended in April 1998, by which time enough TTC GM New Looks had been rebuilt to take up the slack.

In 1999, the TTC purchased twenty second-hand buses from Montreal (STCUM), to be rebuilt and put into service. Numbered 2600-2619, these buses retained a number of unique features from their Montreal days, including gates in front of the rear door steps. This precluded their use on routes which made free transfers with the Toronto subway, as it was no longer possible to board via the rear doors. For this reason, these vehicles tended to be used on the 35 JANE route. These would be the last New Looks acquired by the TTC.

The Long Twilight

The 8740-8985 group, purchased in 1983, were given rebuilt again by 2004. In total, 561 New Looks were rebuilt, and another 20 added from Montreal. This number began to drop steadily as the TTC took delivery of new buses in the form of the Orion VII model. As more Orion VII buses entered service, the number of New Looks slowly dwindled until there were about 120 in service at the beginning of 2010, and just over 40 in service by early 2011.

The remaining New Looks were consolidated at the Mount Dennis division in March 2011 and were steadily confined to fewer routes as more bus routes were designated accessible. Following the designation of the 71 RUNNYMEDE and 90 VAUGHAN routes as accessible in early 2011, the remaining New Looks were assigned to the 52 LAWRENCE WEST route.

By the fall of 2011 only a dozen New Looks remained in service. December 16, 2011 was the last day of revenue service with buses 2281, 2286, 2290, 2444 and 2855 operating on the Lawrence West route. Bus 2281 had the honour of being the last New Look in revenue service and operated on the late-night Yonge Subway shuttle bus, running into the Mount Dennis garage in the early hours of December 17. However this was not the very last New Look to operate in Toronto. Bus 2252 was assigned to Toronto Island service, and remained active until March 2012.


In 2010 the TTC approved the retention of two GM New Looks as historic vehicles, similar to the two PCC streetcars and Peter Witt streetcar. While the exact use of these buses isn’t known, it’s likely that they would be used for special events. One such event took place on July 5, 2012 as the TTC temporarily bussed the 510 SPADINA streetcar while it upgraded the tracks and platforms. The event coincided with the release of a new album by a musical group known as the Shuffle Demons. Two decades before, the group achieved cult status when they recorded the song Spadina Bus. A video, which featured extensive guerrilla filming of GM buses and the group partying with passengers along Spadina received considerable air play, and when the group released its new album in 2012, they saw the return of buses on Spadina as an excellent marketing opportunity. The TTC agreed, and brought GM New Look #2252 out of retirement, providing shuttle service on the route while the Shuffle Demons serenaded passengers on board, to the delight of the local media.

As the most recognizable bus and certainly the workhorse of the TTC fleet over the past 50 years, it is fitting that two GM New Looks are preserved by the TTC.

Fishbowl Condensed Roster:

  • 2900 - 2949 - TDH 5301 - Delivered 1959
  • 2950 - 2984 - TDH 5301 - Delivered 1960;
  • 3100 - 3139 - TDH 5301 - Delivered 1962;
  • 2985 - 2999 - TDH 4517 - Delivered 1960 (35 foot model);
  • 3140 - 3149 - TDH 5302 - Delivered 1962;
  • 3300 - 3379 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1963;
  • 3500 - 3599 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1964-65;
  • 3700 - 3799 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1966;
  • 7100 - 7179 - TDH 5303 - Delivered 1967;
  • 3150 - 3174 - TDH 5304 - Delivered 1963;
  • 3980 - 3999 - TDH 5304 - Delivered 1966-67;
  • 7180 - 7199 - TDH 5304 - Delivered 1967;
  • 7300 - 7354 - T6H 5305 - Delivered 1968-69;
  • 7355 - 7395 - T6H 5305 - Delivered 1966-70;
  • 7523 - 7552 - T6H 5305 - Delivered 1972
  • 7570 - 7599 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1973
  • 7700 - 7774 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1973
  • 7775 - 7962 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1974 - 75
  • 8010 - 8117 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1975
  • 8140 - 8158 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1976
  • 8160 - 8204 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1977; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155
  • 8270 - 8314 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1979; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155
  • 8320 - 8369 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1980; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155
  • 8520 - 8985 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1981-83; rebuilt, renumbered 2000 - 2155, 2240 - 2485, 2700 - 2858
  • 2600 - 2619 - T6H 5307N - Delivered 1998 (Ex- STCUM Montreal) Retired 2005
  • 2000 - 2155 - T6H-5307N - Rebuilt 1998-2000; retired 2005-2009
  • 2240 - 2485 - T6H-5307N - Rebuilt 1998-2000; retired 2005-2011
  • 2700 - 2858 - T6H-5307N - Rebuilt 1998-2000; retired 2005-2011

GM New Look Image Archive


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