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Old 02-28-2019, 02:07 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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7.3 t4443 4x4 ponderings

so apparently this happened: https://www.proxibid.com/Vehicles-Ma...ation/42622892

aannnnd, its got me thinking, and googling and wishing I knew more about all things with big tires.

Ive done a google search on this site and seen some other 4x4 busses and talk of conversions, and I have done some lite searching at pirate4x4, where it appears many have converted busses, but I couldn't find much in the way of build-a-long type detail. The kind of detail I would likely need, unless I make some new friends.

so, here are the quick questions I have now, before I go too much further into the weeds of rockcrawler forums.

4x4 school busses apparently exist, my ideal would be a dognose 5 window shorty. I've seen a few that appeared to have operated as 4x4's for the school district.

were these conversions done by a fab shop, or did the manufacturer offer this stock?

are there any particular chassis known to be easy, or even bolt on conversions? I know that cutaway buses make easy conversions, but I'd like to be aesthetically picky.

3600 vistas like the one in the link above can be had pretty easily and cheaply, but i wonder how much fab the job would take. Any idea what axles and transfer case those are in the picture?

I assume the at545 that comes in most vistas would need replacing while we're at it?

Lastly, there is the most important question, is it even worth it? fun as it would be to be the belle of the adventure vehicle ball, how necessary is 4x4 in a ~25' bus? I plan to do a lot of rock climbing (on a rope, not in the vehicle), backcountry skiing, and dispersed camping. I'd love the ability to shuttle dirt roads for mtn biking, but that would be a cherry on top. I want to do all this mostly in Colorado, but also all over the rockies and cascades on longer trips. I don't mind going slow, but within reason, say 55 highway and 30+ up moderate mountain passes (maybe this is asking too much?).

In such a heavy vehicle with dual rear axles and plenty of torque, is 4x4 truly necessary for mountain snow and moderate to washed out dirt roads? I plan to lift whatever bus I get for clearance, gear it appropriately, and put 4 season tires on. It's worth noting I do a lot of this alone, and would likely be the only vehicle big enough to unstick myself, and tow trucks don't go off road.

thanks for reading to the end! any help, encouragement, or well intended ribbing is encouraged.
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Old 02-28-2019, 11:08 PM   #2
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I can't answer most of your questions.

I have a 36-foot rear-engine bus with everything stock (t444e engine, at545 transmission, stock tires and suspension). I've driven it down streambeds, through overgrown trails and rocks and mud. It handles that stuff better than most cars, but I'm always aware that recovery could be difficult.

My bus cannot handle snow or ice, not even a little bit. I've gotten stuck trying to pull into campgrounds with 4 inches of snow on the ground and had some scary experiences sliding on icy roads that other cars just drive up.

My top speed is 58 mph. I'll lose speed on steep inclines, dropping to as low as 30 mph.
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Old 02-28-2019, 11:14 PM   #3
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Are you in the Fairbanks area?
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Old 02-28-2019, 11:32 PM   #4
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I've got an E450 cutaway that I converted to 4X4. Run 19.5 Continental Mud n Snow tires and do like the 4X4 for the deep snow but have not used much in the winter due to the ice. Looking to get straight snow tires for next season if finances allow but even still it's a handful n not too ideal.
I'm used to regular cars and this is the biggest n heaviest vehicle I drive so might be biased. Would not trade or go back to factory 2wd though. Would also like to convert a dog nosed larger bus to 4X4 with a set of Rockwells or equivalent axles and a divorced transfer case.
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Old 03-01-2019, 01:22 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Biscuitsjam View Post
Are you in the Fairbanks area?
Currently I live in Eugene Oregon, I plan to be based out of Durango Colorado.
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Old 03-01-2019, 01:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Oldcarnut View Post
I've got an E450 cutaway that I converted to 4X4. Run 19.5 Continental Mud n Snow tires and do like the 4X4 for the deep snow but have not used much in the winter due to the ice. Looking to get straight snow tires for next season if finances allow but even still it's a handful n not too ideal.
I'm used to regular cars and this is the biggest n heaviest vehicle I drive so might be biased. Would not trade or go back to factory 2wd though. Would also like to convert a dog nosed larger bus to 4X4 with a set of Rockwells or equivalent axles and a divorced transfer case.
Sounds like I want 4x4. But it may have to wait budget wise. Also, I want to be living in the thing by mid summer, so perhaps not enough to time to wait for the perfect bus to come up for auction, or to do a conversion first. Im thinking Id like to build one out first and convert the drivetrain at a later time.

On that note, anyone in here who was a factory 4x4 dognose, what chassis is it on? Thx
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Old 03-01-2019, 07:29 AM   #7
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One other option is stick with 2 wheel drive for now and put a locking differencail in. Even if you convert to 4 wheel drive later this is a good first step. Detroit gear makes the Detroit locker for larger rears. My bus has one so I know they are available, or at least were at one time.

The second thing would be a large winch for self recovery.
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Old 03-01-2019, 08:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
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One other option is stick with 2 wheel drive for now and put a locking differencail in. Even if you convert to 4 wheel drive later this is a good first step. Detroit gear makes the Detroit locker for larger rears. My bus has one so I know they are available, or at least were at one time.

The second thing would be a large winch for self recovery.
I agree with these statements.

Most of the weight is on the rear wheels, so installing a diff lock gains you plenty of traction. Additionally, good steer tires are typically a ribbed design without much for lugs. They are great on pavement and dirt roads and will point you where you need to go in mud, but there is little gain in trying to drive them. So to get value from driving the front wheels you'd certainly need to change out to a lugged steer tire, which has the side effects of more noise and (probably) decreased lateral traction in normal driving conditions.

Having a solidly mounted heavy duty winch will result in lower mental stress levels.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:09 AM   #9
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https://sherpa4x4.com/products/stall...hoCFjAQAvD_BwE
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:33 AM   #10
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Quote:
The second thing would be a large winch for self recovery.
Quote:

Having a solidly mounted heavy duty winch will result in lower mental stress levels.
What size would y'all recommend for a 8 ton 3800 shorty? I'm thinking a 6000# or 8000# would be adequate. Obviously larger is better, but the only winch I've ever had was a 4000 pounder on a mid-'70s CJ5, and I felt that was overkill.

Not foreseeing anything major, just the occasional mudhole or rutted road / high-centered situation.....no rock crawling or tree climbing in this thing.
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:37 AM   #11
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Small but ok, get a snatch block to go with that doubles your pulling power, and halves the speed.

I would go as big as you can afford. Tractor supply has 12,000 lb ones reasonable.
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Old 03-01-2019, 11:25 AM   #12
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Keep in mind, winch ratings are for the first layer of line. As the diameter increases, the numbers get lower.
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Old 03-01-2019, 01:34 PM   #13
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a winch requires you have something to anchor to.. if you are out in the sand with no large trees that gets tough... you can use an 8000# winch with 1 or 2 snatch-blocks and while you may move very slow it will pull you.. you can see where you can make that 8000# winch pull 24000# if you needed it to.. remember if you are stuck its not just pulling your bus weight but also overcoming the friction that your tires couldnt...


https://www.thecrosbygroup.com/html/...ockrigcalc.htm


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Old 03-01-2019, 10:55 PM   #14
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I've been told that you should have a winch rated no less than the weight of your rig and preferrably 1.5 or 2x the weight.
As for the 4X4 conversion, that can be done at a later date as mentioned but the rear locker should come sooner than later if going off the beaten path. Look into surplus military trucks for the front axle and transfer case.
Frames should be the same between a 4X2 and 4X4.
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Old 03-02-2019, 03:43 PM   #15
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Ok, I’ll be on the look out for a bus with a locking rear dif. And a better transmission than an at545. Ill also start keeping an eye out for a used winch.

How common are loadstar chassis for busses? That seems to be what factory 4x4 kid sized trucks from international run on.
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Old 03-02-2019, 04:39 PM   #16
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Loadstar were common in their day but last date of manufacture was 1978, the S series and 3800 was offered in 4x4, you are more likely to find a donor truck vs a bus, the 3800 is very similar to the 4700 and 4900, the loadstar and S series were also offered in truck form.. ie box truck dump truck etc.
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Old 03-02-2019, 05:17 PM   #17
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A little expensive at $25K, but it's got the 4x4 bits under it.
(I just saw this posted yesterday.)


https://www.buslifeadventure.com/ind...50-pass-van,62



(Honestly, I'd see a ski lodge buying this thing and putting more miles on it before it becomes a skoolie. . . . )
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Old 03-03-2019, 10:24 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
Loadstar were common in their day but last date of manufacture was 1978, the S series and 3800 was offered in 4x4, you are more likely to find a donor truck vs a bus, the 3800 is very similar to the 4700 and 4900, the loadstar and S series were also offered in truck form.. ie box truck dump truck etc.
Christopher
Great info! Thanks!!!
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Old 03-04-2019, 02:58 AM   #19
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Here's a GMC - but it's got a quigly 4x4 conversion under it.

https://nh.craigslist.org/cto/d/exet...789752777.html

$15,0000
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Old 03-04-2019, 07:57 AM   #20
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Likely the best way to do this would be to find a donor vehicle of the drivetrain you're after. There are work rigs ranging from 2.5-15t that are 4x4, 6x6, etc. However, another option that is likely fairly cheap would be to hunt around for milsurp rigs. M123, M125, M35, Mack NO, M54, M809, M929, etc as the list goes on.... Some are more desirable than others.

From there one could decide to strip n fit or body swap frames or what have you. For simplicity sake and budgetary things, I would hunt around for something compatible for a strip n swap. Something like a M54 some of which were made by international.

The limiting factor for the Milsurp vehicles will most often be the sacrifice of top speed, and pretty mediocre mileage.

All that ramble aside, if you're moving to Colorado plow rigs and some of the dump/plow rigs will be likely 4x4 or 6x6. Up here there is a bunch of workstar 5t 4x4s. and the wrecker has a ton of older paystar 5000 series rigs. All of which are again Internationals
Freightliner would offer up things like the M2 or FL series, with the M2 having two bus chassis variants, and the M2 also can be found with 4x4 or 6x6.

So in short its all possible... cost versus time versus capability
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