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Old 09-27-2016, 02:55 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Bus Shopping!

Yay! We are finally shopping for a bus. The first one we looked at is a 1998 Gillig. I love the big transit style windows, but I'm not sure about a transit bus. I recorded a video of me looking at the engine and pretending to know what I'm looking at: https://youtu.be/5ekfe7xdw7Y

Those of you who know more about buses than I do, let me know what you think. We are heading out to see bus #2 right now, so I'll have more soon!
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Old 09-28-2016, 09:02 PM   #2
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Because this is a School Bus forum, there may not be a lot of knowledge about the Transit style buses. I watched your video, but other than a quick look at the engine it did not tell much about the bus.
Try to post more info about the bus you are looking at, size, model, engine type, trans type, what you plan to use it for, anything you can tell us may help the forum to advise you on your bus purchase.
Also, look at a lot of converted buses and see what they have done, many of the newer Gillig Transit buses I have seen, would not be an easy, or a very good RV/Tiny house conversion bus. But without seeing it, its hard to say for sure.
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Old 09-28-2016, 11:17 PM   #3
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Welcome, very excited to see you are on the adventure path.
We plead with you to buy a bus that the majority of us are familiar with so we can pretend to know what advice to offer

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This reminded me of Mr. Mom "220...221, whatever it takes."
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:52 AM   #4
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My husband recorded video of the inside of the transit bus and the two school buses we looked at, but he hasn't uploaded them so I haven't been able to share them yet. We've ruled out the Gillig for a few reasons - as lovely as those big, tinted windows are, the bus sits sooooo low to the ground and I worry about trying to fit tanks and such underneath. Also, it has a fiberglass frame and I prefer the nice steel school bus. That said, bus #2 was very clean and nice, already titled as an RV, and already has the seats out. It's a real contender, so I'll try to get pics, video, and more info for you guys. Bus #3 was an already converted "party bus" and... No. Just, no. The guy had bolted a wooden box over the doghouse for the engine and said it would take 4 hours to get it open. He's had the bus for 4 years and hasn't done ANY maintenance on the bus itself. The stripper pole he installed really spins, though. O_o
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Old 09-29-2016, 11:17 AM   #5
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Here is a video of the interior of bus #2: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1AW4...w?usp=drivesdk

Here's a pic of the underside (look at how little rust there is!) https://drive.google.com/file/d/14uR...w?usp=drivesdk

And here's an exterior shot https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TXD...w?usp=drivesdk

We didn't get video of the engine, but everything was pristine and well cared for. I test drove the bus and it starts up and runs beautifully. It has a manual transmission, which is a plus and a minus for us - I mean, that's great for driving through the mountains, but I hope we don't have to sit in traffic very often. It felt a bit cramped after the transit bus. I'm worried about squeezing 5 people and a cat in there!

We are headed to Detroit to look at bus #4 today. This one is a 14 row monster, so we'll see how that one feels.
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:37 PM   #6
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Bus #4 might be the one. It's a 1999 Bluebird TC2000 with a Cummins 5.9TA engine and AT545 transmission. (Seems like I've seen those stats on a number of other conversions - must be a popular build.) The bus has been sitting for a while, so it needs a new battery. We were able to jump it to fire up the engine, and it seems to run just fine. The guy at the shop is finding out how much a new battery will cost.

It definitely felt more spacious than the other school bus we looked at, although there is some rust on this one that we'd need to deal with. It's a flat nosed, front-engine bus - which I think I like better than the dog nose on the other. It has hydrolic brakes, not air brakes, which surprised me on a bus this big. Should I be concerned about that, or is it not a big deal?

For comparison, bus #2 is a 1995 Thomas International with a DT466 and 6 speed manual transmission (not sure about specifics). It does have air brakes.
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:54 PM   #7
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the 5.9 /AT545 will be fine as long as you donrt want to go in the mountains alot.. or go fast in athe mountains you do go in..

I have an international DT-360 / AT545 (a 360 is a 5.9 litre.. juyst ,made by international and not cummins).. my bus will run 65 on flat ground if iwant it to.. but get it in the hills and she slows down some... ive run it through the appalachains, adurondacks, and smokies... and it runs right through but definitely on the long hills im in the slow lane with the semi trucks.. my bus is a 7 row with a weight rating of 27,500.. I have a minimal conversion so not much weight added from stock..

only thing I'll say about detroit is it is a very depressed city on the mend.. it went bankrupt.. so them buying new busses is likely not gonna happen soon... so I almost want to question a bus they sell..

you WILL have rust from there as they salt roads like fiends in micbigan... since michigan is flat and not hot during ther school year, the chances are the drivetrain has likely not been run too hard or overheated.. be especially noting of the suspension though... looseness, and such as michigan roads are total Pot-hole junk...

not saying you arent looking at a good bus..as they do exist... just give it a 100% look over..
-Christopher
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:37 PM   #8
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Here is a video of the interior of bus #4: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bzf...h5S2IzNkk/view

Here's the rust on the underside I mentioned: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-u...tmX1VhYWs/view
This was the worst looking area. My stepdad thinks we could probably sandblast this off, then paint it with some rust protective product and it would be ok. Those of you with experience - what do you think?

And the exterior looks like a bus: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UON...fxd44k0-A/view
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Old 09-29-2016, 10:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
only thing I'll say about detroit is it is a very depressed city on the mend.. it went bankrupt.. so them buying new busses is likely not gonna happen soon... so I almost want to question a bus they sell..
Yeah, we went through some... interesting... neighborhoods today. The guy selling the bus owns a mechanic shop and tow yard. He suggested we meet at his shop, and then had one of his employees escort us to the tow yard to see the bus, and then back to the highway. He was blunt about being armed and said we had to drive through some rough neighborhoods. O_O

We got to see 8 Mile. And 7 Mile. And 9 Mile. And we almost got to see Flint in person, instead of in the news (Technically, it was up the road a bit, but we saw signs for it). We had planned to get something to eat after checking out the bus, but between the armed escort, the crackhead stumbling across the road a few cars ahead of us, and the fear of being poisoned by the water, we decided to hold off until we reached Toledo.

I'm sure there are much nicer areas in Detroit. We just didn't get to see them this trip.

Oh, on the plus side - the bus is already a movie star! Apparently, they've had it for a while, and it's been occasionally rented out to production companies. It was in Transformers and Red Dawn. So, we could have a celebrity bus! :P
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Old 09-30-2016, 05:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mysty View Post
Bus #4 might be the one. It's a 1999 Bluebird TC2000 with a Cummins 5.9TA engine and AT545 transmission. (Seems like I've seen those stats on a number of other conversions - must be a popular build.) The bus has been sitting for a while, so it needs a new battery. We were able to jump it to fire up the engine, and it seems to run just fine. The guy at the shop is finding out how much a new battery will cost.

It definitely felt more spacious than the other school bus we looked at, although there is some rust on this one that we'd need to deal with. It's a flat nosed, front-engine bus - which I think I like better than the dog nose on the other. It has hydrolic brakes, not air brakes, which surprised me on a bus this big. Should I be concerned about that, or is it not a big deal?

For comparison, bus #2 is a 1995 Thomas International with a DT466 and 6 speed manual transmission (not sure about specifics). It does have air brakes.
Base model with 5.9, 545, and rust??
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Old 09-30-2016, 06:53 AM   #11
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go south to buy a bus right out of service. its worth the drive. plenty of sites online, good luck
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Old 09-30-2016, 07:47 AM   #12
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Personally I prefer that DT466 and manual transmission of bus #2. It should have air brakes too, a good thing. That combo would be bullet proof and be easy to get fixed if needed.
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Old 09-30-2016, 09:05 AM   #13
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I dont know much about the cummins as far as repairs.. like others mention, the DT-466 is bulletproof.. I personally didnt want a stick shift in a bus, some of them arent synchro, so unless you like to double clutch the shifts or RPM-Match you can grind em a bit.. however a manual is a direct lock to the engine and will give you the ability to select the gear you want to be in for uphill and downhill.. although if you never plan to run the rockies, or only want to do it once in a while, the AT-545 isnt the worst thing in the world..

the one thing about school busses is that there are always plenty of them out there to be found.. so you dont have to take the firsrt one that excites you.. as there will be more.. and even me, who had never bid on an auction site before in my life, stumbled into a rust-free southern bus last week.. that must be at ;east somewhat mechanically sound since I just ran it 1100 trouble-free miles..

as for detroit, the area of grosse-point, farmington hills, livonia are some pretty nice areas of town.. some beautoful architecture there.. alot of my mother;s side of the family were big-wigs at GM back in the Motor-City Hay day.. I remember family reunions at houses that seemed more like palaces in those neighborhoods..

I dont often go to detroit anymore.. but when I do my suitcase is usually a little "Warm" and I drive instead of Fly so i can pack "heavy"...
-Christopher
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Old 10-06-2016, 01:33 PM   #14
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And... bus #5 was the winner! It's a 1989 Carpenter 71 passenger School Bus, with a 7.8L Ford-New Holland I6 Engine. I did a search on this forum and read that while it's not the most powerful engine, they tend to be durable - might even outlast the chassis. When we did the test drive, the bus had no problem getting up and going at a decent speed, and its GVWR is 27,000 lbs. It has an automatic transmission (probably an Allison 545, although I'm not sure how to identify it just by looking. I don't expect to spend a lot of time driving through mountains, and my husband and I agreed that we are fine with driving slow and steady when we do go.) The bus has air brakes, and very little rust. I crawled all up underneath it, on top of it, and poked around in every nook and cranny. One tire was blown, but the guy selling it already has a new tire to replace it with that he is putting on the bus today. All the other tires still look new with a good 1/2" or more of tread on them. (The length of my fingernail.) There is a crack in the exhaust pipe, so I will need to replace that eventually, but the bus sounds healthy, starts right up, and drives good. It's a little older than I had planned to buy, but it only has 120,000 miles on it, all the maintenance records from the school district it came from, and the seller has had it since it went out of service. He paid $3500 for it, and sold it to me, including the new tire, for $2000. At that price, and in the condition it's in, I really couldn't say no.
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Old 10-06-2016, 05:15 PM   #15
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Your profile shows you live in GA, so I find it surprising you'd travel all the way up into Rust Belt territory to look for a bus. Plenty of deals to be had further south, and far less rust.

I must admit I'm not terribly familiar with the 7.8 engine. It seems Ford (also) used the 8.2 Detroit "Fuel Pincher" and 3208 Cat engines, both of which were ... meh. Granted, both weren't "bad" engines, but I'm told that Detroit had its share of troubles keeping the Fuel Pinchers on the road (likely due to factors beyond its control, like using the engine for more than it was designed for) and the 3208 wasn't one of Cat's best engines either (and you go to a Cat dealer to get parts for it).

Come to think of it, I have no idea where you'd get parts for the Ford/Hew Holland engines. At least IH and others still have all the parts available for the various DT engines IH used. At any rate, good luck!
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Old 10-06-2016, 05:51 PM   #16
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I am from Georgia, however, I am staying in Ohio for the next year or so to work on the bus where I have family to help, and access to tools and a place to park the bus while I work on it. It also seems to be MUCH easier to retitle a bus as an RV in Ohio. (Georgia kept telling me, "once a bus, always a bus," and that they would never consider it an RV, whether I converted it or not.)

I did search for buses from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. (And the one in Michigan!) I was admittedly a little nervous about driving a bus all the way up here to Ohio, but I couldn't find any buses that fit our family's needs and budget down south right now anyway. I would have LOVED to have had the whole summer to shop for a bus, but it is taking a lot longer to deal with our house than we anticipated, and we weren't in a position to buy the bus until now. Because it gets bitterly cold in northern Ohio over the winter, that also puts a real squeeze on my schedule, since I need to have the bus ready by next summer. (My daughter graduates from high school next spring, and is taking one year off to travel with us before going to college. She's counting on me to get it done!)
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Old 10-06-2016, 07:40 PM   #17
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The Ford diesel is from Brazil. Parts and pieces can be challenge to find sometimes. And since Ford got out of the medium/heavy duty truck business parts support for Ford specific parts are going to become a problem.

I hope your brakes are not the Girling brakes. They stop the bus really well but parts and pieces for them are getting fewer and fewer to find which equals more $$$$.

Which is why I would recommend against a Ford chassis bus. So many of them have orphan engines, orphan brake systems, and obsolete parts that fixing them can require very extensive internet searches and purchasing stuff overseas and shipped here.

Of all of the buses you had us tour the one I would have chosen would have been the Gillig transit bus. Yes it is close to the ground but most people that have converted them put the tanks on the floor and then built a new floor over the top of the tanks. Since the ceiling height in the low floor portion of the coach is the better part of nine feet using up 18"-24" doesn't cut down the ceiling height all that much.

I am not sure who told you the frame on a Gillig was fiberglass but I don't think that is correct. Every Gillig transit I have seen had a stainless steel frame. Because it is a low floor it doesn't have the traditional frame rails most school buses and trucks have underneath them.

It appeared as if the Gillig had a Detroit Diesel Series 60 or Series 50 in it. Either engine is a great engine that goes more than a million miles if they are cared for properly. It may not have had highway gears but that is relatively easy to changed.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 10-06-2016, 08:06 PM   #18
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Thanks for the info! It's good to know what I'm in for. The transit bus was really spacious-feeling with those big windows. We'll see how this one goes and maybe someday I'll do another bus. ;)

For now, I am going to try not to second-guess myself too much and take it as an interesting project and a good learning experience. Hopefully, the bus gods will smile on me and everything will work out.
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Old 10-06-2016, 08:36 PM   #19
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I think sall that really matters is the bus fits YOUR needs as far as space, drivetrain, etc... there are lots of different kinds of busses and seems often people think one drivetrain / bus type fits all

reality is the only right bus is the one that does what you need it to. and that the energy feels right when you hop in the seat...

ive got a 91 carpenter.. its a heavy bus.. I run a little DT360 / AT545 from ohio to new york to the carolinas, to florida, to lousiana, etc.. all over the place and that little motor and trans seems to move me nicely.. i think that bus will be fine for the basically flat with small hills areas between ohio and georgia.. I know route 75 all too well.. i'll be running a a bus up to C-bus end of next week most likely..

-Christopher
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