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Old 11-29-2016, 08:09 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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3 Different Busses, 3 Drastically Different Options

Hi all, first post but long-time lurker who's ready to pull the trigger. I've got a great location to store the bus during conversion. I'm really just looking for a rock solid weekender that can support up to six people for potentially a week (hello playa). I'm following the same process I took when I decided to live aboard a sailboat, which was a wild 1.5 years of my life (and totally worth it), and because of that experience I know I must seek out the advice of those who have gone before me.

So, there are three potential busses, and after a whole lot of google searching this site, I've come up with a list of pros and cons for each one. What do the experts think about my conclusions? Any thoughts on each one?

Bus Candidate(s) Number 1 (https://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/5824202862.html)
1980's Wayne body, they say the 9.0L is 180hp and no rust on the underside, Allison 545 transmission
PROS:
  • Love the way it looks
  • Already painted white
  • Not registered as a school bus (I'm guessing it's commercial)
  • No rust
CONS:
  • High asking price
  • Have to remove the seats/gear in back
  • Registered commercial--is that an issue in California for driving to storage? (I live there)

Bus Candidate Number 2 (https://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/cto/5874526671.html)
PROS:
  • Seats are already removed
  • Nifty grill step in the front
  • 40' long
  • It sounds like it's low mileage/hours
  • Currently registered non-op
CONS:
  • Manual transmission (is this really a con though?)
  • Pretty old
  • Needs a LOT of cosmetic TLC
  • Still yellow (from what I understand, it can't be yellow in California)

Bus Candidate Number 3 (https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/5878583016.html)
PROS:
  • Super funky looking
  • Inside is already cleaned out
  • Plenty of room for activities
CONS:
  • Manual transmission (is this really a con though?)
  • Pretty old
  • Outside would need to get repainted
  • Veggie Oil system needs to be removed
  • Where is the engine? Front, middle, or back?

Here are my general thoughts, and feel free to tear them apart--I have a thick skin.
  • All three are asking ~$5000, which seems to be way too much for what they are. I am willing to pay 3-3.5k for each of them, but definitely not more than that. Candidate 1 explicitly has OBO, so I'm thinking they're the best option for this.
  • Manual vs Auto. This seems to be a non issue for me. I can drive a stick just fine, but I would prefer an auto for ease of use and for others to be able to drive (my lady is also quite short, so she may not be able to depress the clutch all the way). So I'm leaning more towards automatic, but it's not a deal breaker--either way, I'm leaning towards Candidate 1 on this.
  • Lengths are all pretty good, the ones in Candidate Number 1 (the firefighters) are 36-38' long, which I don't want to go any shorter than that for my interior plans. However, I don't want too much bus because I'm not going to be full-timing it and do appreciate some maneuverability... so I'm leaning towards Candidate 1.
  • I don't plan on driving these in any big city (definitely not SF). However, some places I do plan on driving involve mountain passes, unprepared surfaces such as the desert flats of Nevada, and gravel roads that lead to certain music festivals. I've read that dog nosed busses are better for steeper terrain or places that need more maneuvering. And I'm guessing those firefighter busses, which hauled firefighting crews in and out of their op areas, are pretty well suited for that.

Basically, everything I've researched here points to Candidate Number 1 as being the best option for my uses (a shorter "long" bus, dog nose, enough storage capabilities for a week at a time (water, fuel, etc...)). But one of my concerns with that particular bus is transporting it to my storage location, which is 1.5 hours away. I plan on just getting a vehicle moving permit (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1...t_facts/ffvr36) for the day I move it to storage for conversion.

What do you guys think? I really appreciate everyone's perspectives, and don't worry--you won't hurt my feelings if you really rip into me. I'm here to learn, and there's no better place for that. Thanks.
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Old 11-29-2016, 04:46 PM   #2
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Vroom,
I'm thinking that the fire bus angle, is the way to go. I did notice that the busses in the pictures, didn't match up to the #s on the shown busses. Make sure what you are bidding on, and remember that they are priced OBO, which leave you wiggle room. Nothing beats having eyes on a possible purchase, and with you only being 11/2 hrs. away, I'd plan a road trip.
Good luck
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Old 11-29-2016, 06:19 PM   #3
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I'd avoid the 9 liter. They're more or less obsolete.

THe only one I'd consider would be #3. That second bus is a $1500 bus on a good day.
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Old 11-29-2016, 06:56 PM   #4
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There is nothing special about #1 and #2. Seriously overpriced. I wouldn't pay more than $1k for #2personally. Maybe $1,500 for number 1. #3 would be a consideration because, hey, its a Gillig. Problem is people tend to overpay for Gilligs and Crowns because they have a cult status (though not undeserved) and are becoming rare due to the Rupublik of Kalifornia's stupid ass laws.
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Old 11-29-2016, 07:11 PM   #5
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I'd be all over #3 if I had the means..... though I'd have to redo the inside for RV use. That outside paint job is unique, think I'd hang on to that for a while.

As for #1..... if the DT466 engined one was available I might offer $2k for it just because of the engine that it has. I wouldn't touch any of the others, nor #2.
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Old 11-29-2016, 08:21 PM   #6
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number 3 all the way
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Old 11-29-2016, 09:01 PM   #7
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Wow, thanks fellas. I'm really glad I posted here because, to my untrained eye, I was thinking number 3 was the least desirable option, but it sounds like I am somewhat wrong about that.

I've done the requisite search for Gilligs on this forum, and here are my concerns.

It sounds like the engine is in the middle of the bus, which, from what I understand, is the least desirable place for the engine for conversions due to lack of space underneath and maintenance considerations. Are there any considerations with going up I-80 through Donner Pass with this location? My ignorance is definitely showing here.

And why is there a cult following for Gilligs? Is it the frame/body construction and shape? Are they freakishly reliable or comfortable on the road? And any thoughts on the veggie fuel system? I have nothing against going green but I also like to keep things simple.

And lastly, what do you think it's worth? I'm prepared to offer 3-3.5k for it but would be interested to know what all y'all think.

Thanks for the insights.
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Old 11-29-2016, 09:21 PM   #8
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The Gillig is like the '57 Chevy BelAir, or the 64 1/2 Ford Mustang, of the bus world. They don't make them any more, so they're gonna command a premium price, just like the old school Crown buses.
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Old 11-29-2016, 09:52 PM   #9
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I think the first 2 are very over priced. #1 with the DT466 is a great option, but for less money. To give you an idea, I got this 1985 Bluebird International with DT466 and a MT643 for $1500 (asking was $1800) from a church in Seattle Washington. No rust at all and drove home with new tires and full tank of fuel. I would keep looking.
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Old 11-29-2016, 09:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldmopars View Post
I think the first 2 are very over priced. #1 with the DT466 is a great option, but for less money. To give you an idea, I got this 1985 Bluebird International with DT466 and a MT643 for $1500 (asking was $1800) from a church in Seattle Washington. No rust at all and drove home with new tires and full tank of fuel. I would keep looking.
Any thoughts on #3?

Your purchase really puts this into perspective.
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Old 11-29-2016, 11:14 PM   #11
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Agreed on "Door Number One", as the 9.0 Liter - as good as they are - are a dying breed. I have one and it runs great, but finding parts is getting to be a challenge. Hey, it's an engine that hasn't been offered in almost 30 years (and they weren't all the common to begin with). I wouldn't say no, but I wouldn't pay that kind of price, either.

"Door Number Two", I'd pass on the Cat engine. Guess where you will go for parts? That's right, to the Golden Cat Dealer (and bring plenty of gold with you. You're going to need it ...) 1145, if I am correct, this is a sister engine to the 3208 Cat engine (which in my opinion was not all that stellar to begin with). A fellow I worked for had 2 Ford trucks with these engines and both had a tendency to lose quite a bit of oil (leaked), one had a tendency to go through rear main seals. One ran hot and as memory serves me, the engine was ruined due to that.

From "Door One", see if you can get a DT466 engine bus. (I'd avoid the Cat, I'd only consider the 9.0's if they can be had cheap). Skip the Ford, the Gillig might be a good choice (seller doesn't indicate what engine it has?), but it does appear to be a rear engine bus. Maybe an old Detroit?
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Old 11-30-2016, 01:20 AM   #12
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Welcome aboard, Vroom!
But the Playa sucks; don't go. (And it's not a music festival, at all.)

Many of us would love to have a manual transmission.

I see two buses of interest: The fire crew bus with DT466, and the Gillig. Forget the rest.
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Old 11-30-2016, 02:32 AM   #13
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Copy all. Although I must say about the playa... while I haven't been to burning man (and I'm not sure when I'll go), I did do Fourth of Juplaya this year and needless to say, it's what originally inspired me to pursue this project!

So based on what everyone is saying, I'm going to bump #3 to the top of the list (the Gillig), and then if that's no good, then I'll look at #1-DT466. All the others I'll pass on.

I got a hold of the owner of the Gillig, and the engine is a 256HP Crown Coach Corp. Engine put in in 2009. So... I'm not entirely sure what kind of engine that is.
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Old 11-30-2016, 05:11 AM   #14
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As far as door number one is concerned, keep it closed. A 9.0L/AT545 with a Wayne body is three strikes in my book--the 9.0L was not a very good engine when it was new, the AT545 is okay but not the best, and the Wayne bus bodies of that period were the bottom of the heap as far as quality was concerned.

As far as door number two is concerned, keep it closed as well. With singled out rear wheels it says to me that someone was getting ready to scrap it and is now looking to get something more than scrap price for it.

As far as door number three is concerned, I see a lot of potential.

The engine in the Gillig is most likely a Cummins NHH engine. If it does not have a turbo is would be the 220. If it has a turbo it would be the 262.

Donor transplants would be easier to find from a Crown since the majority of the Gillig Schoolcoaches were RE buses. And in 2009 about the only place you would ever find a pancake style donor engine would be from a Crown.

It didn't say which transmission was in the Gillig but I did see a manual stir stick with a range button so it will have a Eaton Fuller transmission of some kind. The most common would be a 10-speed Road Ranger with 10th gear direct drive. It might have a 10-speed with OD or a 12/13-speed with the top gear(s) OD.
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Old 11-30-2016, 08:06 PM   #15
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If I were you and I had $4500-5000 to spend, I would look at something like this: BlueBird 40' Diesel pusher $4000
I know it is in Washington and you would have to fly to get it, but for the money you would save and the bus you would get would make it worth it.
Its a 1992 BlueBird transit style, rear engine Cumins, New tires and seems to be in great shape. You can fly for a few hundred dollars and drive home. SF to SEA is a short cheap flight.
This is one of the most desirable buses out there and in your price range. Skip those beaters and spend your money on this thing. And No, its not mine and I just found it on CL.
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Old 11-30-2016, 08:18 PM   #16
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a 74 superior!!!!! a dream bus of mine if I ever had one... yeah really... 74 Superior was the first bus i ever put my hands on the steering wheel of.. wow!!

Superiors havent been made in forever but they were good busses back then.. I think that may have been before sheller-globe .. it may very well have been made in my home state of ohio..

is that cat engine for real? that wouldve been swapped in.. a b7000 didnt have that I didnt think... maybe im wrong... they also show the bdy plate for the gillig and not the superior..

-Christopher
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Old 11-30-2016, 08:18 PM   #17
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How about this one: School Bus Cumins RE bus

Or this one: 1995 International DT466 FE Bus

Or another, transit style FE Cumins : 2001 Thomas

All of these are in your price range (with a little bartering) and would be way better than anything you found near you.
All of these are in the Seattle area, so there will be no rust. The cost of a flight and the fuel to return home would save you a lot over getting something local.
I am sure if getting from the airport to look at one of these is an issue, someone from this forum might be able to help you out if you covered the gas or bought some beer or something.
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Old 11-30-2016, 09:20 PM   #18
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3208 Cat would have been an option in ford medium duty trucks, so it would have been an option on a school bus chassis, the engine was developed for ford by cat in the 50's
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Old 11-30-2016, 10:00 PM   #19
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Thanks for those suggestions. So here's something I did yesterday, and I recommend anyone who is brand new to this and thinking about converting to do the same thing.

I went over to floorplanner.com and made a sample floor plan with everything I really wanted, and realized that it was impossible. There just isn't the space for all these cool things that I wanted to do and put in, and I also realized that I need a 40' pusher type, automatic transmission. As long as I have those base requirements met, I'll be fine. So all those busses I listed don't meet my requirements.

So I really appreciate you listing those Seattle busses, because not only are they more appropriate for what I want, I also didn't think about expanding from my local area. So of course it would make sense for me to buy a plane ticket up there for cheap, buy the bus, and then drive it back. That makes much more sense than reluctantly buying one of these other busses just because they're local.

I'm going to hold off on the busses I posted originally, and instead look at those Seattle ones and this one which just popped up near where I live:

1997 Amtran 40' bus

$7000 does seem like a little much, more than the cost of airfare + travel to the other bus (especially if they can remove the seats).

That leads me to the next step of what kind of licensing/registration/insurance I would need to drive the bus back down to Cali, but I'll do the appropriate searches for that because I've seen those threads around.
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Old 11-30-2016, 10:11 PM   #20
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be wary of california.. seems bringing vehicles from other states into cali requires some interesting inspections.. maybe old busses are exempt but I just hear of lots of california specific regulations esp in relation to emissions
-Christopher
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