The Mercedes-Benz O405 Hispano was the workhorse in its heyday in the mid-1990s. Back in the days of Trans Island Bus Services (TIBS), 73 O405s were introduced into the fleet. The last remaining O405 was deregistered in September 2016. We pay homage to this classic bus model that has charmed many passengers and bus fans alike.
Senior Bus Captain (BC) Tan Boon Thian has been with SMRT since 1993 and he used to drive Service 960 from Woodlands to Marina Centre. Senior BC Tan drove the O405 for 15 years, long enough for him to recognise the bus by the noise the engine makes. “The buses were air-conditioned and were very stable,” he explained in Mandarin, adding that the O405 buses were much more comfortable compared to the old Nissan buses. “But the modern buses today are definitely more comfortable for the passengers.”
The O405 did have its drawbacks, despite being a very popular bus. “You have to have a certain body type to drive this bus. Too short and you can’t reach the pedal.” BC Tan also pointed to the steering wheel and then to his belly, “Too much here and you won’t fit in the seat”. Buses today have steering wheels that can be adjusted to the BC’s preference. While the O405 was still a very good bus, it was starting to show its age. The needs of the passengers were also changing. The O405 is not a wheelchair accessible bus and has been a training bus in recent years.
Senior Engineering Supervisor Mohamed Rafi Bin Syed Masood has been with SMRT since 2006 and has worked on O405 model servicing. From an automotive mechanic’s perspective, O405 is reliable because Auto Service has a strong maintenance regime. The new bus system is completely different from O405 and technicians are required to pick up more skills. The Preventive Maintenance team that services the buses are made up of five groups: Air Conditioning, Body, Undercarriage, Driveline and Vehicle Electrician.
Rafi can also identify the O405 just by the sound of the engine. “These buses are like my children. I have spent so many years with them. Of course I can tell how they sound like.” When comparing the O405 to the newer buses, Rafi felt that the old buses had their own character. “When you drive an old bus, it feels like driving a bus. Driving one of the newer buses feels like driving a car.” He was referring to how the older buses were slower to pick up while the new buses speed up quite easily.
Rafi said that he will miss the O405, “Old is Gold,” he said with a smile.