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Old 02-28-2019, 01:07 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 18
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, 10:08 PM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: North Pole, AK
Posts: 186
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Amtrak RE
Chassis: International 3000
Engine: T444e
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, 10:14 PM   #3
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Chassis: International 3000
Engine: T444e
Are you in the Fairbanks area?
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:32 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, 12:22 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
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, 12:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
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, 06:29 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, 07:52 AM   #8
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Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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Year: 1997
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Chassis: B3800 Short bus
Engine: T444E
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
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, 08:09 AM   #9
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:33 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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