Flxible Metro/Grumman 870
TriMet Flxible-built bus
Manufacturer Flxible
Production 1978-1983 (as Grumman 870)
1983-1996 (as Flxible Metro)
Assembly Delaware, Ohio
Predecessor Flxible New Look
Successor None - out of business
Engine(s) Detroit Diesel or Cummins
Transmission(s) ZF, Voith, or Allison
Length 30 ft (9.14 m), 35 ft (10.67 m), or 40 ft (12.19 m)
Width 96 in (2.44 m) or 102 in (2.59 m)
Height 120 in (3.05 m)

The Flxible Metro is a transit bus that was manufactured by the Flxible Corporation from 1978 until 1996. From 1978 until 1983, when Flxible was owned by Grumman, the model was known as the Grumman 870, with a Grumman nameplate.


Under the ownership of Rohr Industries since 1970, while the Flxible New Look was still in production, Rohr began development of what would become the Grumman 870 Advanced Design Bus. The Grumman 870 bus was one of two advanced-design buses (the other being the Rapid Transit Series (RTS II) developed by rival General Motors).[1] Both models were compromises by the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA), which sought to develop a "Transbus" design that would be "attractive, roomy, comfortable", and easier for elderly and disabled customers to board, accepting these two models as compromises. At the time, the federal government would subsidize the purchase of only the 870 or the RTS II.[2][3]

In 1978, Rohr sold Flxible to Grumman for $55 million USD, with the sale including the sale of two prototypes of what would become the 870. In spite of the fact that the second prototype failed testing as the result of a cracked frame, and with an endurance test not yet performed, Grumman decided that the 870 was ready for production, and discontinued the Flxible New Look almost as soon as the purchase closed[4](more in Litigation below). The first 870 rolled off the assembly line in spring 1978.[1] Under Grumman ownership, Grumman-Flxible (as the company was called at the time) received a major order of buses from the New York City Transit Authority along with other agencies. The NYC Transit Authority order, built in 1980, is notable because this batch would expose the design flaw in A-frame noted during testing: the inability of the bus to withstand wear and tear in cities where potholes were a problem, forcing all 870s built until that time to be taken out of service beginning that December while repairs to the A-frame were made, which would cost Grumman $7 million to fix. A total of 2,656 buses, including buses in Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles needed to be fixed.[2] Eventually, Grumman would be forced to sell the line to General Automotive Corporation in 1983 for $41 million, a 25 percent loss.[5]

Under the ownership of General Automotive, the Flxible nameplate was restored to the buses. Production would continue until 1996, when Flxible was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and liquidated, a move which would force General Automotive into bankruptcy the following year.[6] The last Flxible Metros were produced in summer 1996.

Litigation resultingEdit

NYC Transit Grumman Flxible 870 236

A New York City Transit Grumman 870, preserved as a historic vehicle

The Grumman era of production would result in a number of lawsuits related to defects in the A-frame of the 870, involving either Flxible's former owner Rohr or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York.

  1. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York) (MTA), in whose buses the cracked A-frame problem was noticed first, yanked its NYC Transit Authority fleet for the first time in 1980 (a separate batch for MSBA was built with the problem rectified the next year) and sued Grumman. This lawsuit would result in a settlement to fix all 870 buses built until that time (2,656 examples in all), along with an early termination of the build contract where the final 200 buses of the order were transferred to General Motors.[2][3]
  2. In 1983, shortly before Grumman sold Flxible, Grumman would sue Rohr Industries for $500 million in federal court, claiming that it was not aware of design flaws in the 870 model before it began production shortly after the sale closed. Rohr was quickly granted summary judgment, which was upheld on appeal; the court noted that Grumman indeed had access to all of the testing information, including knowledge that testing was incomplete.[4]
  3. In 1984, following a fire in an 870, David L. Gunn, in only his fifth day on the job with the MTA, ordered the Grumman 870 fleet within New York City off the road for the final time (the units for MSBA built in 1981, owned by Nassau County (NY) remained in service until the mid-1990s). That May, the MTA sued Grumman again (which by this time no longer owned the line), asking for $184 million in damages as the result in fraud and $140 million to purchase replacements, referring to the buses as "lemons".[7][8][9] This time, Grumman would countersue the MTA for $1 billion, claiming that poor maintenance was the cause, and took out full-page advertisements in local media attesting to this fact.[3][7] The MTA would end up paying $56 million back to the Urban Mass Transit Administration for refusing to run the buses. The buses would sit for nearly two years at the Brooklyn Army Terminal until late 1985, when the UMTA exchanged the payment for equity in MTA properties, allowing for 835 of the 851 buses to be sold.[10] 620 of the buses were sold to New Jersey Transit. The 16 unsold buses (including the bus pictured at the top of this section) were held for evidence until the lawsuit was resolved, with the other 15 being scrapped.[3]

Model historyEdit

The model history of the Grumman 870/Flxible Metro is as follows:

Grumman-Flxible 870 (1978–1982)
During this period, the same model naming that was used for the Flxible New Look's third generation was retained.
Nominal seating capacity Width Engine type Air conditioning
35 = 31 ft
45 = 35 ft
53 = 40 ft
096 = 96 in
102 = 102 in
-6 = Detroit Diesel 6V711
-8 = Detroit Diesel 8V712
-0 = No air conditioning
-1 = Air conditioning
Flxible Metro (1983–1996)
Following the purchase of Grumman by General Automotive, the model naming was revised to better identify the engines used.
Length Width Engine type Year
31 = 31 ft
35 = 35 ft
40 = 40 ft
096 = 96 in
102 = 102 in
-4D = Detroit Diesel Series 50
-6C = Cummins L10
-6C8 = Cummins C8.3
-6M = Cummins M11E
-6N = Detroit Diesel 6V71
-6T = Detroit Diesel 6V92TA
-6TL = Detroit Diesel 6V71TA (1983–1989)
or 6L71TA (1990–1992)
A = 1983–1986
B = 1987–1991
C = 1992
D = 1993–3rd quarter 1994
E = 4th quarter 1994–1996
  1. Some 1981-1983 units used the Detroit Diesel 6V92TA, including 1981 models which went to New Jersey Transit and Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines.
  2. Some 1978-1981 units used Cummins VTB903, including a few from 1978 which went to Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

See alsoEdit

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Flxible History". Retrieved on 2 January 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Can Anyone Fx Those Flxibles?", Time, Inc. (30 March 1981). Retrieved on 2 January 2009. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Feinman, Mark. "The New York City Transit Authority in the 1980s". Retrieved on 2 January 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Grumman Allied Industries v. Rohr Industries, Inc., - Alt Law" (31 October 1984). Retrieved on 2009-01-02.[dead link]
  5. "Grumman Corporation - Company History". Retrieved on 2 January 2009.
  6. Serwach, Joseph (May 1997). "Bankruptcy blamed on Flxible's downfall. (Flxible Corp. blamed for General Automotive Corp.'s bankruptcy)". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved on 2 January 2009.[dead link]
  7. 7.0 7.1 Anderson, Susan Heller; Carroll, Maurice (4 July 1984). "New York Day By Day - Grumman Tells Its Side of the Story", New York Times. Retrieved on 3 January 2009. 
  8. Finder, Alan; Levine, Richard (13 May 1984). "The Region - Next Stop, Court", New York Times. Retrieved on 3 January 2009. 
  9. "Corrections (May 12, 1984)", New York Times (12 May 1984). Retrieved on 3 January 2009. 
  10. "Kiley Gets Authority To Sell Flxible Buses", New York Times (22 December 1985). Retrieved on 3 January 2009. 

Further reading Edit

  • Ebert, Robert R. (2001). Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company, Yellow Springs, OH: Antique Power, Inc. ISBN 0-9660751-2-9.
  • McKane, John (2001). Flxible Transit Buses - 1953-1995 Photo Archive, Hudson, WI: Iconografix. ISBN 1-58388-053-4
  • Luke, William A. & Metler, Linda L. (2005). City Transit Buses of the 20th Century, Hudson, WI: Iconografix. ISBN 1-58388-146-8

External linksEdit

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