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Old 09-16-2010, 01:31 PM   #1
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Bus search- some info

I've been lerking for a while. I have a scheme to build a very specific purpose built vehicle. My plan may seem crazy to some of you but here it is:

I would like to find a bus with some very specific option - Diesel pusher, 5 or 6 speed Allison auto, tandem rear axles (preferably both drive axles), 40 foot or very close, I would prefer a Cat or Int engine, but a big Detroit would be OK too (something with plenty of torque), and air brakes are mandatory, I would also like an exhaust brake.

Here is why - I want to move the rear wall forward and leave a flat deck in the back with enough room forward of the rear engine (with roof or awning) to put my Jeep on. I would then put a very small "camper section" in the remining interior space behind the driver's seat. A small bathroom with a small stand up shower, toilet, and sink. opposite of the bathroom would be a bench that could maybe fold out into a bunk. Behind the bathroom a small bedroom (basically a closet just big enough for a bed). I suppose the body configuration would be easier with an FE, but the pusher would be balls!

So my question is - what should I be searching for? It seems the Crown Supercoach is the most likely to have a tandem axle set up. I suppose I could add a idler axle to a single axle if I had to, but plumbing the additional brakes into the air system would be tricky and I'd rather start with a tandem axle bus. I need enough power and gearing to drive through the mountains while loaded and cruise at 65MPH. I will keep searching the internet (which I suck at), but I figured that some of the people on here are so knowledgeable that they woould likely know right off what I should be searching for. Thanks!

And no, I'm not jumping in blind without needed skills or ability. I am an ASE certified Master Auto Tech and also hold several truck certifications (including air brakes). I also have some fab skills. I am just having trouble finding a good collection of bus specs and available specifications on different manufacturers models.
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Old 09-19-2010, 01:29 PM   #2
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Re: Bus search- some info

Why don't you just tow your Jeep? They tow very nicely and I doubt if I have much over $500 put into my used tow bar and brackets?
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Old 09-19-2010, 03:29 PM   #3
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Re: Bus search- some info

If you don't care how high the jeep shelf is, you can probably cut away any old highway coach to build your dream. From what I've seen I think the three-axle buses might all have a drive axle plus a tag axle. (I've only worked on a pair of Prevosts, myself. The drivers had air valves to lift the tag axles for tight maneuvering.) If you really must have twin screws, it may be possible to swap the axles with ones salvaged from a scrap twin-screw semi-tractor, but it would be a lot of work just to get to the starting point for your conversion.

It's your money, your time, and your dream. Modify the design to save time or money, or don't. We are not all the same in our desires.
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Old 09-20-2010, 08:53 AM   #4
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Re: Bus search- some info

Thanks for all of the responses.

The exhaust brake is something I could very easily add, so really not a big deal.

I have a trailer and a tow bar, that's just not what I want to do. I am getting old and hate tents. I also don't really want to drive a 40ft long vehicle with a trailer behind it. I don't use the tow bar for long hauls because that is still putting wear on the Jeep tires, and at $500 a piece I would like to make them last as long as possible.

I guess the inline six mounted on it's side is what I was picturing on the RE, but it sounds like I'm not going to find that in a domestic bus. ME would be fine, I will even go FE if I need to. It's not like I won't have plenty of weight on the rear of the bus. Now that I think about it, the FE might give me the best weight distribution.

The most important thing is the tandems, amount of torque, and the gearing.

I want the tandems and air brakes for the same reason, stopping power. While I would prefer both rears to be live, it's not an absolute must.

The tandems also obviously are for load capacity and stability while loaded.

The engine will obviously need a resonably high amount of torque to make it not be miserable to drive with all that weight.

The axle gearing needs to be low enough to keep me going uphill while in the mountains. And the transmission needs a deep enough over drive to travel at highway speeds. I'm not looking to run 90mph, but being able to cruise at 65 would be nice.

So, is there a ME tandem Crown with a 5 or 6 speed Allison auto? It sound like that may be one possibility to consider.

If I go FE,what would I be looking for? I know it's a lot of annoying questions, but finding what manufacturers made which configuration in which models for what years is actually not that easy. Or perhaps I'm just internet challenged.

So, basically I just need a tandem axle bus with good torque, highway gearing and air brakes. I am in no hurry, I just need to figure out what bus would best fit my needs and then the search is on. Thanks for the tip about the GM highway coach, that's the kind of stuff I don't know.

It seems to be the consensus that I will likely be looking for a Crown or Gillig...
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Old 09-22-2010, 07:22 AM   #5
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Re: Bus search- some info

Yes, thank you. But, I am well aware of the nuaces of auxilliary brakes on different types of diesel engines. I mis-spoke and should have used the term auxiliary brake rather than exhaust brake.

If I could find the proper information I could failry easily build a stand alone transmission controller for an electronic transmission. would I really want to? No, not really...

I guess the real question is the top confortable cruising speed of a bus with a four speed Allison. Since I've never driven an automatic transmission bus I don't have any frame for refference.

I fear we've gotten way too far off track here. I would prefer to spend time identifying and then searching out the bus that would best suit my needs over massive mechanical conversions. The great thing about these buses is the price. If you compare what you pay for a used bus to what you would pay for the components seperately, the bargain is huge. If you start swapping tranmissions and such you drive the cost up significantly.

So I'm really trying to identify the ideal donor vehicle for my project. That being said, the most important things would be - tandems, plenty of power, automatic transmission, air brakes. Any suggestions?
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Old 10-06-2010, 12:50 PM   #6
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Re: Bus search- some info

What you propose could be done , but the euro folks (not allowed to tow) have a different solution.

They simply raise the rear (or all) the bus roof and place a "garage" over the rear engine spaces.

They winch the toy up a steep ramp, and drive off.

The only bus I know that had tandem rears was the Senicruiser , hard to find.

Most will have a driven rear axle and a set of "tags" that allow another 10-12,000 lbs of rear weight. Paid for at every toll booth.

FF
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Old 11-09-2010, 03:33 PM   #7
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Re: Bus search- some info

Unless your cargo is going to weight more then 15k pounds, i fail to see why you need a tandem setup. With engine exhaust brakes, you'll have plenty of stopping power. Also, there are plenty of FE models with the back end cut down to carry some very hefty loads. MY FE has the capacity to load an additional 15k as it sets now, and if I remove the rear 8 windows and sides, I could carry one ton more.
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Old 11-09-2010, 07:30 PM   #8
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Re: Bus search- some info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redbear
... Even putting slide-outs into (an) Eagle is a major re-engineering exercise to preserve its structural integrity.
John
An Eagle is about the only bus that you can put a slide out in without losing structural integrity. If Prevost is still using Eagle's frame design, that would be the only other one that I know of.

As for a RE coach bus. I know how high our Eagle's rear engine was. Be better off sliding a smart car in a bay!
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