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Old 02-06-2019, 11:16 PM   #1
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Advice for gas, manual trans., short -mid size, sturdy, affordable bus to buy?

Hi all. ( I posted a similar question in mechanic section, but realize it may be better suited to this section, also. )
I do not yet own a bus. Am saving money to purchase one to convert for blend of living and working out of. Am asking for recommendations from those of you with experience, what buses are most compatible with my preferences -

One thing I am noticing from browsing cl and other ads of buses for sale, is most school buses seem to be both diesel fuel and automatic transmission. Both of which are opposite of my preferences.

I definitely prefer regular gas as its more affordable to maintain, repair and buy gas for. With as high gas mileage as possible.


And automatic transmissions tend to also be more expensive and complicated to repair or replace than manual transmissions.


Any suggestions for short to mid size ( I have seen a few buses which are in between short and long, which is ideal ), mechanically and structurally durable buses run on regular gas, and manual transmissions?


And given Californias' smog red tape, compatible with smog requirements.


Ive heard Collins are better built structurally.?

Definitely need height enough to stand fully upright in. Ideally with some extra space I can add a loft to some portion. Even the type with an outcropping space above driving area cab is good. Realize i may just need to do a roof raise for this preference.?


I am in the SF Bay area of California.
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Old 02-07-2019, 05:43 AM   #2
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Must say I am not aware of any modern, gasoline powered manual trans buses. Van cutaway shorties can have gas engines, usually automatics though.

What you are looking for was common in the 70's and even up into the 80's. But then you are buying an antique, and it is best to be mechanically savvy.
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Old 02-07-2019, 08:58 AM   #3
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If you plan on doing much traveling at all you will find both a diesel engine and a good automatic trans will fare much better in the long run. There's a long, long list of reasons why virtually all commercial vehicles on the road for the past 50 years are all diesel and the new auto trans when properly maintained (mostly just not overheated) will out perform a stick. They are proven to be the better choice financially in terms of ownership, better mpg's, higher torque, much longer maintenance intervals, etc., etc., you get the idea.



Don't be put off with unfamiliarity of these two options. They make a lot of sense and are worth investigating without bias.


Not my two cents but the results of decades worth of highly studied analysis by folks who monitor every penny per mile of service.


Just for disclosure, I worked on the Shell Rotella T ad account for years and was privy to some amazing studies. Engines that were routinely turning two million miles (all diesel) with nothing but routine maintenance. No gasoline engine has ever come remotely close. "Comfort" with a particular engine type or even oil type/brand had no impact on the resulting data.
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:27 AM   #4
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I do have to say after trying an automatic I have now taken it out and put a manual in. Much better from my view.

In fleet service yes an automatic is going to be better overall. I see two weaknesses with an automatic,

1. it can not see ahead and anticipate need, a properly driven manual will have the driver paying attention and will be prepared to shift at the correct time, instead of always after the correct time of the automatic.
2. it has hydraulic pump(s) that take power and cause heat. Very few manual trans have or need oil coolers. This uses power and will reduce fuel mileage compared to a properly driven manual.

Proper driving is key though. An automatic you can toss anyone in and not hurt much. Great for fleets.

Of course then we have the AT545 automatic..... It works but not well liked and without a lock up converter is not efficient and a great producer of heat. This seems to be used so often in school buses though.

I like my bus, but if starting over and had a lot of money to spend would think about a Crown with the 855 cummins and 10 speed roadranger
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Old 02-09-2019, 12:42 PM   #5
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While automatics may be more expensive to repair, I see no difference in the installation process. With a manual you now have a clutch to deal with that may need replacing more often than an automatic needs rebuild.
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Old 02-09-2019, 02:31 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
While automatics may be more expensive to repair, I see no difference in the installation process. With a manual you now have a clutch to deal with that may need replacing more often than an automatic needs rebuild.
I'm leaning towards gas because of my unfamiliarity with diesels to the point that when I read the good advice written in the forum, it might as well be written in Greek in some instances, the cost of repairs of diesels - my handiman and I can change a blown head gasket, or thermostat or ?? on a gas engine in my backyard for a few $s -- the same repair in a diesel is going to require shop time in one of the few garages in my area that has the knowledge and equipment, to say nothing of desire, to get it fixed - balancing my comfort zone and extra cost for fuel against the undesirable areas of diesel power is making me lean towards a big block gas motor - - right now I'm puling a trailer with a pickup, staying in motels and eating in restaurants, so I'll be saving multi $s anyway
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Old 02-09-2019, 03:17 PM   #7
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I'm leaning towards gas because of my unfamiliarity with diesels to the point that when I read the good advice written in the forum, it might as well be written in Greek in some instances, the cost of repairs of diesels - my handiman and I can change a blown head gasket, or thermostat or ?? on a gas engine in my backyard for a few $s -- the same repair in a diesel is going to require shop time in one of the few garages in my area that has the knowledge and equipment, to say nothing of desire, to get it fixed - balancing my comfort zone and extra cost for fuel against the undesirable areas of diesel power is making me lean towards a big block gas motor - - right now I'm puling a trailer with a pickup, staying in motels and eating in restaurants, so I'll be saving multi $s anyway
When was the last time you saw a gas engine in a bus get 250k miles before rebuild?
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Old 02-09-2019, 03:40 PM   #8
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When was the last time you saw a gas engine in a bus get 250k miles before rebuild?
I don't know, but I can limp a chevy for a long way before it dies and pick up a decent replacement motor for $500+/-
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Old 02-09-2019, 03:57 PM   #9
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The international 345, and 392 gas engines are considered to be normally good for 200,000 Mikes average.

The 444 international, and the 5.9 Cummins are normally good for 250,000 on average.

All these are commen bus engines.

The heavy duty tractor trailer engines a million miles plus. But very few school buses have them.

I like diesel don't get me wrong , I really thought of putting ax 5.9 in my bus till I found out what a used one cost, then plus tranny. Ouch, more then I have in the bus. A low me age gas engine plus 5 speed tranny $900. It will take 10 years plus for me to wear out the gas engine. If I was going to drive it everyday that would change things.

One has to balance their own needs. Biggest issue I see is a gas engine bus is likely to be an antique. Not a good place to start. I like my bus to be sure but it would have been cheaper to buy a modern diesel bus. I like old iron. Plus I have had International trucks of this vintage so it is very familiar to me. I do not think it us a good chioce for most though.

If someone really wants a gas engine go for it. However do not to be afraid of a diesel. An engine is an engine if you can fix one you can fix the other.get a service manual and study up on it, then jump in
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:20 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
The international 345, and 392 gas engines are considered to be normally good for 200,000 Mikes average.

The 444 international, and the 5.9 Cummins are normally good for 250,000 on average.

All these are commen bus engines.

The heavy duty tractor trailer engines a million miles plus. But very few school buses have them.

I like diesel don't get me wrong , I really thought of putting ax 5.9 in my bus till I found out what a used one cost, then plus tranny. Ouch, more then I have in the bus. A low me age gas engine plus 5 speed tranny $900. It will take 10 years plus for me to wear out the gas engine. If I was going to drive it everyday that would change things.One has to balance their own needs. Biggest issue I see is a gas engine bus is likely to be an antique. Not a good place to start. I like my bus to be sure but it would have been cheaper to buy a modern diesel bus. I like old iron. Plus I have had International trucks of this vintage so it is very familiar to me. I do not think it us a good chioce for most though.
If someone really wants a gas engine go for it. However do not to be afraid of a diesel. An engine is an engine if you can fix one you can fix the other.get a service manual and study up on it, then jump in
I think I've read every post since I joined this forum and have learned a lot in the process - One thing I have learned is that it can be hard to find mechanics that are up to date on the older diesels, and how a seemingly minor problem can shut a vehicle down - when I've traveled a 1000 or 1500 miles north into the Territories in the winter months, I don't want to have to hunt for a diesel mechanic when the settlements are 100's of miles apart, or wind up with a repair bill totaling $1000's - I won't have the resource of this forum when I'm up there because I don't pack a cell phone and don't want one -I'll be more comfortable with the tried and true, which to me is a good old chevy v8 - parts are everywhere, mechanics that know chevys are common
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