In 1909, the Garford Motor Truck Company was established in Elyria, Ohio, a small town 30 miles outside Cleveland.
By June 1912, the company was awarded a lucrative contract with the United States Post Office. The first order called for 11 trucks; the following for 20 trucks, for a total of 31 trucks. "This is very significant of the practical efficiency of this most advanced commercial car." The post office had experimented for two years "with practically every truck made." They tried not only all the leading American trucks but the foreign trucks as well. The test resulted in the Garford being awarded first honors. The Garford proved to be the most practical truck under all conditions.
In 1925, the company changed its name to the Superior Body Company and moved its operations to Lima, Ohio, where it occupied a new plant housing a large manufacturing facility and administrative offices. The company diversified, introducing a line of hearse and ambulance bodies (known as professional cars and becoming a major producer of school bus bodies for the U.S. and Canada as well as export markets. For its professional-car platforms, Superior signed an agreement with Studebaker, thus gaining instant access to some 3000 dealers and Studebaker's chassis engineering. The company saw continuing success for several years and, on the strength of this arrangement, rose to a prominent position in the professional-car business; by 1930 Superior and Studebaker had the only complete line of professional cars in the North American market. In 1938, having achieved success and having established a dealer network of its own, Superior left the partnership with Studebaker and began building bodies on General Motors platforms.
The company changed its name to Superior Coach Company in 1940. And the years that followed saw hearses styled on Cadillac, LaSalle and Pontiac chassis. By 1949, the company had added Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge chassis to its funeral coach line, offering customers a smaller investment and lower overhead. School bus bodies were built primarily on Chevrolet/GM, Dodge, Ford, and International Harvester truck chassis. In 1951 the Lima facility was expanded and a new facility in Kosciusko, Mississippi was dedicated.
In 1969, Superior Coach Company was acquired by an industrial conglomerate and auto parts maker, the Toledo, Ohio-based Sheller-Globe Corporation. The 1977 model year saw a major downsizing in the automobile chassis used for the professional car business. The ambulance sector switched to larger vehicles based upon van, cutaway van chassis, and truck chassis. The watershed year of 1977 also brought new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards-(FMVSS) for school buses built after April 1, which increased both costs and engineering challenges. In addition to higher costs, at the same time, a downturn in North American school bus purchase volumes began as the children of the Baby Boom completed their elementary and secondary educations.
By 1980, Superior was one of the "Big Six" school bus body manufacturing companies in the United States, competing with Blue Bird Body Company, Carpenter Body Company, Thomas Built Buses, Inc., Ward Body Company, and Wayne Corporation, as well as Gillig Corporation and Crown Coach Corporation (manufacturers which traded primarily on the West Coast). Bidding competition for reduced volumes became devastating to profits and even liquidity. In 1979, Ward declared bankruptcy, reorganizing as AmTran the following year which later became IC Bus.
Faced with these challenges, industry over-capacity among school bus manufacturers, and the loss of ambulance business in the professional car sector, Sheller-Globe Corporation liquidated its Superior-related investments in late 1980, and portions of its assets were sold.
(Thanks to Wikipedia for allowing the use of company history)
Drivers area of 70's Superior.
72 Superior on Chevrolet Chassis.
Small 1979 Superior/GMC 36 passenger.
Superior control panel.
Lima, Ohio plant.
1974 GMC from Moffat County.
1978 International on Loadstar Chassis.
North Country High School had this 1972 Superior/International.
Superior lineup from 1977.
1986 "DK" conventional bus.
Butterfly hood 1976 Superior from Ohio.
A 77 and a 79 Superiors, but with different style International Chassis.
1980 "S" series Superior International drivers area.
The outside of the same 1980 bus.
1966 on a Dodge chassis.
1970's era Supercruiser on GMC chassis. The young fellow in the orange shirt must be expecting a flood...
1977 Ford/Superior from Rowan County.
More to come!