Join Date: Jan 2010
Engine: 406 Ford
Rated Cap: 25
It's been awhile, but we're still at it!
Well, it's great to see all of you on here still living the dream.
It's been about 5 years since I last visited here, so I thought I'd do that while I'm living the civilized life (for the moment).
So, last I visited, I'd acquired a '91 Ford Thomas with the 7.8 and a 5 spd., juice brakes. She was,and still is, a wonderful bus. After 70K, she still runs strong, though she's become a semi-permanent structure on our little slice of heaven in New Mexico. She never let us down, and never needed anything major- well, the brake booster motor failed, but other than that, she still wears the same tires she had when we bought her, even.
Currently, I find myself up in the great state of Montana needing a bus, so I visit Harlow's (in Libby, MT), and meet with a fellow named Hugh. This man spends 4 hours with me-and I'd already told him my cap for a bus was $2500, he spends 4 hours getting ready the buses that I want to drive, which ended up being only 2. Great service at Harlow's!
Anyway, the first bus I tested was another Ford, this time with the 6.6.
Well, it was pretty challenged in two very important ways- the brakes were getting pretty sketchy, and the transmission clunked and jerked going into gears. A no go.
The second bus I wanted to test was a 1993 Amtran Genesis. I was excited, because he'd told me that the bus was $3200, but the owner would take 25 for it. I was already drawn to it for reasons other than that- it was powered by the DT466 mated to the MT643 (a winning combo, as I'd learned from all of you!), it had the higher roof line, and it was a 40' beast of a bus!
I was hoping for belly bins, but you can't always have it all. I'll build mine own, someday, if it's that much of a need.
Well, the bus had been sitting for almost two years (that made me cringe slightly), but the tires (at least the parts that weren't buried from sitting so long) were in decent shape. The batteries were shot, so they replaced them with a fresh, big single, and she fired right up. Belched one great blast of black smoke, then cleaned up right away- a good sign. She sounded nice, after all that time sitting- amazing!
Next for the test drive. Well, she couldn't power herself out of the ruts she was in, so Hugh went and got a huge front loader, and pulled (drug) her out of the ruts. One set of back wheels were locked. Damn, I thought- too good to be true. Gonna need brakes. Well, not being familiar with air brakes, they had just rusted to, a bit, and the mechanic (another nice fellow- forget his name) had the problem solved in twenty minutes.
Ready to drive! Hugh tells me to go on- didn't even ride with me- what a fellow! I get her out on the Hwy. 2, and get her through all of her gears- plenty of power, and fairly peppy for a bus her size! Take her out for about 10 miles, get her maxed out at 65 mph (I'm pretty certain she's governed to that, the way it felt when you reach 65- kind of sighs reluctantly that she can't be unleashed) The whole time I'm kind of worrying about the quality of the fuel. It was sitting for that long- about a half tank, and I was imaging the potential damage to my pump and injectors, so I took her back.
I've gotta say, I'm not a fan of auto. transmissions, but that Allison sure lives up to its rep. A smooth and solid tranny.
I get back and start talking biz. He'd already dropped the price by 700, but I ask him how much they'd work with me on a service- fluids, filters, and a lube.
Well, Hugh threw that in for only $200! WOW, I'm thinking- stellar fellow(s) there at Harlow's. I run up to the parts house, and grab some Power Service brand Diesel Kleen and Clear Diesel for the tank. I stand by their products. They are kind of spendy, but they work. Their diesel supplement+cetane boost added power and mpg to our Ford, and I never had a problem during the cold(-30) Winter's we subjected her to, of gelling, or the like.
Anyhow, I'm the proud owner of one new Genesis!
Driving her the 80 some odd miles back home was FUN. The only bone I might have to pick, was the see-saw action I experienced, but I suspect that will cease when she's loaded. She powered herself up substantial hill's at 60 mph, and never saw 180 coolant temps, and the tranny never reached past 110. Oil pressure hovering just under 60 psi (good enough). She's relatively high miles, at 234K, but came from a good Washington school district (well maintained).
So, once again, her first chore will be as moving van extraordinaire. We pulled 20 of her 27 seats, and cleaned most of the chewing gum and crud (nasty lil' heathens!) from her, and will be taking her on her 1200 mile journey back to New Mexico, leaving out this Friday.
I told myself that I'd sell/trade her for another, smaller rig when I got her home, but I've already fallen for her! Her lines are too nice, and she's begging to stay in our family, and become another house on wheels. She wins.
Well, my fellow Skoolies, it's been great to catch up a bit. Glad to see so many carrying on this fine legacy. I'll try and pay a visit, and post our progress, but don't hold me to it. It may be another(!) 5 years , or more.
I've include some pics of our Ford (Lazy Mary the 2nd) as she sits in New Mexico. Notice she still flies her original school colors. I tell myself that I'll paint her, and I will someday. I noticed something, though. When you're driving a school bus with school bus colors (I know- illegal in some states), no one notices you, and I mean NO ONE!
I've also included a couple of pics of our newest member as she sat in the bus yard. Ain't she a beauty?