Bus revolution: How Neoplan reinvented the long-distance coach in 1971

The glamorous setting matches the presentation: in 1971, the Stuttgart-based coach manufacturer Neoplan presented a new vehicle in Monaco that took bus travel to a whole new level – literally, because travelers enjoyed the perfect view from the generous glazing on the first floor. A quantum leap in development, comparable to the VW Beetle or the Citroën DS. “The bus was bursting with innovations that caused a sensation,” says Rudi Kuchta from the commercial vehicle manufacturer MAN, now the parent company of Neoplan.

The Cityliner N116 also pushes the boundaries in bus construction in other categories. Previously, the aim was to get as many people as possible cheaply from A to B, but this is where Neoplan invented the principle of luxury travel for the industry. The impetus came from the chief engineer, the Swiss-born Hans Robert “Bob” Lee and the company owner at the time, Albrecht Auwärter.

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Her inspiration for this new form of travel was the double-decker in London and Berlin, which was legendary even before the Second World War: the second floor here turned the passenger into a stroll, enjoying a panorama over town and country from an elevated position. This is exactly what the new Neoplan bus should make possible. Lee’s vision: a “lookout car for the city”.
Neoplan Cityliner N116 (1971) 1: The Neoplan Cityliner N116 changed the world of buses

The bus established a new class: the “high-decker”.

High-deckers are becoming the standard long-distance bus model

What is being presented to the specialist audience on the Côte d’Azur at the 20th International Bus Week makes many puff their cheeks: The Cityliner N116 breaks with many of the conventions of the time. The passengers also sit here – and since then – on the second floor, in a light glass palace with an almost unobstructed all-round view. This “high-decker” has been the dominant bus model ever since, and everyone has it in their range.

Neoplan Cityliner N116 built in 1971

With the N116, the window surfaces extend into the roof.

Wheel arches, stowage spaces and engine shaft are located far below the passenger zone. This allows the lounge area to be designed steplessly with uniformly large legroom. For the first time, all 45 seats had jet ventilation and curtains, as we know it from every coach today. And there are other innovations that are almost a matter of course in a coach today.

Neoplan Cityliner N116 (1971) 17: The passengers felt like a glass palace

Panoramic view, stepless corridor – that was a novelty.

Six-cylinder with a displacement of twelve liters

The operator’s platform, also provided with a large windshield, is located at the boundary between the upper and lower floor. In the case of Neoplan models, it has since been divided into two horizontally. In the rear of the vehicle there is a toilet, a small kitchen and a sleeping cabin for the driver. The comfort features include a microphone and speakers for announcements while driving, a radio, a cool box, two tables with conference seating and air conditioning.
Neoplan Cityliner N116 (1971) 11: Neoplan Cityliner N116 with a thin, white steering wheel

Dainty two-spoke steering wheel for a 16-ton bus.

Luxury coach travel in the early 1970s

At the beginning of the 1970s, this was an unheard-of novelty in the bus, an almost unearthly luxury. The Neoplan Cityliner N116 is powered by a twelve-liter diesel engine from the Henschel company, which develops 240 hp from six cylinders in a row. The power is transferred to the road via a six-speed manual transmission. The large-capacity engine gives the vehicle a fantastic elasticity: Even in what is supposed to be a low rev range, the driver can cruise with it that it is a real pleasure.

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