Ford is ready to take you to school – or maybe just your kids next fall. Meet the Blue Bird Micro Bird T-Series bus, Blue Bird’s latest iteration of the short bus built atop the Ford Transit chassis cab with the bus prep package.

This marks the first time both Blue Bird and the Transit have come together. Traditionally, the Ford E-Series chassis cab has served this role, but with Ford beginning its phase-out, the Transit is getting some attention. The result nets plenty of benefits, including better fuel economy, a lower floor height, and increased outward visibility.

The T-Series bus is available in two wheelbases, with single or dual rear wheels, and with space ranging from nine to 25 passengers. The Transit offer all three of its engine options here as well, meaning school districts can choose between the 3.7-liter V-6, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, or the 3.2-liter inline five-cylinder Power Stroke turbodiesel. All three engines come mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Ford’s SelectShift and tow/haul mode.

What’s more, school districts can opt to run CNG or propane with the 3.7-liter V-6 by choosing the gaseous prep package. For those taking the diesel route, the 3.2-liter is B20-capable, so it can run on a 20 percent mix of biodiesel. As far as capability, the Transit T-Series has a lighter curb weight, which directly translates to an improved payload capacity that maxes out at 10,360 pounds.

Like the conventional Transit, bus prep package Transits are produced at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant but come with a heavy-duty alternator, dual batteries, an auxiliary fuse panel, an auxiliary HVAC prep package, and the right-hand door delete. That door delete allows upfitters to install a large window and the two-panel bus doors where the right passenger would normally sit.

Blue Bird is only one of several bus upfitters, including Collins Bus Corporation, Thomas Built Buses, and Starcraft Bus.

UPDATE 05/28/2015: The article previously stated the Ford E-Series went out of production. While that’s true for the E-Series Wagon, Ford says the Chassis Cab will soldier on till the end of the decade.

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Why It Matters

With the Ford E-Series Wagon no longer in production and the Chassis Cab being phased out by the decade’s end, school bus upfitters are beginning to adapt to the Transit platform. The change certainly makes for a different-looking bus, but it also brings along a bus with greater functionality, customization, and performance. Short buses might not be the most fashionable ride to be seen in, but they serve their purpose – now with the Transit carrying the torch the E-Series carried for decades.

2015 Ford Transit Gets Ready For School - image 631775
2015 Ford Transit Gets Ready For School - image 631774

Ford Transit

2014 Ford Transit - image 509390

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The Blue Bird Micro Bird T-Series

2015 Ford Transit Gets Ready For School - image 631775

Blue Bird chose the Transit chassis cab due to its superior fuel economy, payload capabilities and product breadth.

The T-Series is available in a choice of two wheelbases, with capacities ranging from nine to 25 passengers and as much as 10,360 lbs. The T-Series is available in school bus, Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV), Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) and commercial configurations.

Production is underway, with buses already on dealer lots.

Ford introduced the Transit van family last summer. It’s already America’s best-selling van, available in van, wagon, cutaway and chassis cab models, with a total of 47 configurations available from the factory.

The Transit cutaway offers school bus builders the power of choice. They can choose from three wheelbases, a gasoline or diesel engine, and single or dual wheels. The Transit cutaway can be equipped with the school bus body builder prep package designed specifically for school bus manufacturers or the MFSAB Body Builder Prep Package. The prep packages include banded tinted front door glass, dual heavy-duty batteries, a heavy-duty alternator, front license plate bracket, auxiliary fuse panel, auxiliary heater/AC prep package, right-hand door delete and school bus yellow paint.

There are three Ford engines to choose from: 3.2L I-5 Power Stroke diesel, 3.7L Ti-VCT V6, or 3.5L EcoBoost V6. The 3.7L V6 engine is available with a CNG/propane gaseous engine prep package to enable conversion to compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane. The 3.2L turbo diesel engine is B20-capable, so it can run on a mix of 80 percent diesel and 20 percent biodiesel fuel. A six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift tow/haul mode is standard.

Transit features a unibody design and a much lighter GVW than the Ford E-350 and E-450 cutaway chassis, which contributes to bus builders’ ability to provide higher payloads and improved fuel economy in a Type A bus. Transit also provides low entry for riders and excellent visibility for drivers.

In addition to Micro Bird, Ford also works with Collins Bus Corp., Thomas Built and Starcraft Bus.

Ford Transit is made at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri.

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