If you walked the floor at the 2011 Limo Digest show this past November, then you surely noticed there was a bus on display no matter which way you turned. There’s no question that these vehicles are becoming more than just a trend in the limousine industry. Only a handful of bus companies can say they were ahead of the curve when it comes to serving our industry with these large people movers. Of them, Indiana based Turtle Top is one of the most recognized names in bus manufacturing and has a rich and diverse background of serving many industries, beginning with RV’s back in the 1960’s.

Turtle Top was brought to life by the Cripe family, founders of Cripe Lightning Rod Company (now INdependent Protection Company or IPC), which still ot this day manufactures, installs, and services lightning rods. Earnest Cripe, son of Henry, created a design for an expandable roof–nicknamed “turtle top”–for the lightning rod installation vehicles, allowing more space for people to stand up and walk around inside. The innovative design caught on and the Cripe family thought this design would make perfect sense on recreational vehicles. That market was lucrative for nearly a decade, but dies off in the late 70’s. That’s when Richard Cripe, Earnest’s nephew led Turtle Top into the shuttle bus industry and eventually the limousine and livery market.

Drawing from it’s reputation of building RV’s better and stronger than was traditionally offered to the market by using metal instead of wood, Turtle Top brought that mindset of using safe, and long lasting materials into it’s woprk on buses. J. Timm Bledsoe, director of sales and marketing, says that Turtle Top uses fully integrated steel cage construction on all of its vehicles., whether on a Ford, Chevrolet, or Freightliner chassis. “When you’re shopping for a vehicle, you can look at the outer skin and the inner wall but not know what’s in between,” he says. Bledsoe also says Turtle Top pays a great deal of attention to building a solid foundation and uses steel flooring, distributing weight to the edges to prevent the floor from sagging. “We build a cage and floor with better stability that will protect passengers.”

As a veritable ground-up builder, Turtle Top has the ability to customize vehicles in any way the client wishes. The company only uses the cream of the crop when it comes to materials and amenities inside of the vehicles. Side walls and headliners in Turtle Top vehicles are not just plastic., but cloth and vinyl to make for a quieter interior, free of those pesky creaks that you sometimes hear. Flat-screen TV’s can be wall-mounted , or even tucked away in hidden compartments. Walnut wet bars with pleanty of shelving for drinks, passenger tables, and fiber optic lighting round out some of the options available to customers. “Our Executive Limousine interiors are like a classy lounge,” says Bledsoe. “We’re not really known for mirrored ceilings or dance poles.