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Old 05-24-2016, 01:42 PM   #1
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Does such a bus exist?

Hey everyone, first post!

I've been doing some research, reading threads, etc, and I think I've come up with a list of criteria that I'm looking for in a bus. The problem is that I'm not sure this combination exists anywhere.

I think the bus I'm looking for is:

1. Rear-engine. This is both for driver comfort, and from what I've seen, the rear engine buses are easier to work on.

2. Cummins or Navistar engine. If a good Cat or MB engine came up with good records and a recent rebuild, I could be swayed, but I think I want to start with Inline-6 from Cummins or Navistar. Bigger engine is better, as I plan to climb mountains, but I don't think my build-out will be especially heavy, nor do I need to be in a huge hurry, so I can probably make out okay with one of the smaller ones.

3. Prefer Allison 6-speed with lock-up. The A545 could work, as long as the brakes were good and the gearing was otherwise okay. (Then again, a small-engine bus with a 5-speed transmission is probably going to have trouble both climbing mountains AND cruising at 65 mph on the flat.)

4. On the shorter/lighter side. Two reasons: (a) it'll be mostly just me in this bus so even 25-30 feet will be plenty of room, and (b) the place where I intend to work on the conversion has some access issues. Even getting a thirty foot bus in place is going to be challenging.

What does everyone think? Am I in fantasy land on this one? If so, which items on this list should I compromise on?

Thanks everyone!
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Old 05-24-2016, 04:50 PM   #2
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I don't think you need to compromise. Maybe you just need to narrow down your choices to what you want more. Big engine pusher, good idea. 545, probably bad idea for hill climbing/descending. Choose the best limited only by your own finances. Speaking of finances stay away from Cat and MB, or at least price some of their maintenance parts as compared to parts prices for other engines (Cummins/International).
It's about what works best for you.
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Old 05-24-2016, 04:57 PM   #3
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You wont get a short bus with a rear engine or a big engine. You will however get a medium duty chassis instead of a heavy duty, on a shorter bus.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:12 PM   #4
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I think I'm going to keep my eye open for a big pusher if I can find one local and at a good price. Competition seems stiff for those but occasionally I've seen remarkable deals. I've found shopping Public Surplus for the several months prior to Christmas and again around tax time often provides some remarkable deals. Fewer people in the running.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:14 PM   #5
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I just saw a couple nice RE buses with 8.3's in them sell for $2500 I think it was. Lot of hours on them but they were clean.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:24 PM   #6
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Re point one, I'm not sure that rear engine is easier to work on... It's probably easier than a front engine flat nose but a conventional (dog nose) is probably the easiest of the three options to work on.

A shortie rear engine may exist but I cannot recall ever seeing one. Short front engines both flat front and conventional are readily available but because they're smaller/lighter are going to have a corresponding smaller engine... And very much more likely to have a wheelchair lift.

If you're not in a hurry, look around and see what's out there and how much of your wish list it hits.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:24 PM   #7
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I just saw a couple nice RE buses with 8.3's in them sell for $2500 I think it was. Lot of hours on them but they were clean.
Seriously?! Links!!
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:26 PM   #8
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I dont ever mention them anymore here because no one seems to want to head west for a bus.

These were a couple weeks ago I think.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:33 PM   #9
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I dont ever mention them anymore here because no one seems to want to head west for a bus.

These were a couple weeks ago I think.
I think I remember those.
The buses out west ARE better. And seem to be cheaper sometimes!
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Old 05-24-2016, 08:33 PM   #10
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I don't think you need to compromise. Maybe you just need to narrow down your choices to what you want more.
But I'm afraid I've narrowed my field down to nothing!

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You wont get a short bus with a rear engine or a big engine. You will however get a medium duty chassis instead of a heavy duty, on a shorter bus.
Does the lighter chassis make up for the smaller engine?

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Re point one, I'm not sure that rear engine is easier to work on... It's probably easier than a front engine flat nose but a conventional (dog nose) is probably the easiest of the three options to work on.

A shortie rear engine may exist but I cannot recall ever seeing one. Short front engines both flat front and conventional are readily available but because they're smaller/lighter are going to have a corresponding smaller engine... And very much more likely to have a wheelchair lift.

If you're not in a hurry, look around and see what's out there and how much of your wish list it hits.
Yeah, I did some more reading and it seems like my thought that a rear engine was more mechanic-friendly was off. What is the downside to the wheelchair lift? More expense, or just more trouble removing and selling/disposing?

Fortunately I'm not in a hurry so I am planning to keep an eye on what's out there. I just don't want to wait forever on something that will never pop up.

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I dont ever mention them anymore here because no one seems to want to head west for a bus.
I would definitely head west for a bus! But if the 8.3s are all in 40-foot pushers, I'm pretty sure that's a non-starter for me. I need to go check out my intended workspace and scout it for bus access. There are two ways to my friend's land: one is across a creek on a bridge he built himself and one is across about a half-mile of non-graded turf.
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:05 PM   #11
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I don't know that a wheelchair lift is a bad thing, depends on what you're doing with the build in general. Pluses include a very large curbside door and fewer seats to remove in general while one con is that if you want the door but not the lift it's a bit of work to remove. I was only observing that a lot of the short buses seem to be lift equipped which may be intentional... The special needs stops take longer so you're not really going to fill up an entire 40-footer with wheelchairs. From what I've observed, a short wheelchair bus can be setup for up to 6 wheelchairs whereas a big bus with a lift probably only has one or two wheelchair positions anyways. It's the difference between a dedicated special needs route versus an incidental wheelchair need on an otherwise normal route.
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:15 PM   #12
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Thanks, Jake. I wasn't sure if you were implying something about the suitability of a wheelchair lift equipped bus for a conversion.

So I found this: 10419 - aaabussales.com

Small-engined pusher, but only about 34 feet or so by window counting. Not short, exactly, but I guess there are pushers shorter than 40 feet out there?!
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:57 PM   #13
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Yes, there are but none with big engines because they all are a medium duty chassis.
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Old 05-24-2016, 11:03 PM   #14
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Photo test.

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Old 05-24-2016, 11:05 PM   #15
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It's not even a RE.

Still, leave it to the British. I'd buy that in a heartbeat if I could. They were to slow to travel in.
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Old 05-24-2016, 11:08 PM   #16
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See, about nine benches and a few dividers to remove. I suppose the AC will be nice if it's operational but I am guessing those overhead units are just going to get in the way. Same engine / transmission as the 40-footer I'm getting so with a smaller overall vehicle it should be more than sufficient - is say no need to stress over a bigger engine for a smaller bus.

So is that about the size you want or were you talking even shorter than that?
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Old 05-24-2016, 11:51 PM   #17
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I'd have issues with that one raking a lot of leaves out of the trees. Anybody riding in the upper area might have some issues with those trees too.
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Old 05-25-2016, 01:44 AM   #18
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But I'm afraid I've narrowed my field down to nothing!


Does the lighter chassis make up for the smaller engine?


Yeah, I did some more reading and it seems like my thought that a rear engine was more mechanic-friendly was off. What is the downside to the wheelchair lift? More expense, or just more trouble removing and selling/disposing?

Fortunately I'm not in a hurry so I am planning to keep an eye on what's out there. I just don't want to wait forever on something that will never pop up.


I would definitely head west for a bus! But if the 8.3s are all in 40-foot pushers, I'm pretty sure that's a non-starter for me. I need to go check out my intended workspace and scout it for bus access. There are two ways to my friend's land: one is across a creek on a bridge he built himself and one is across about a half-mile of non-graded turf.
I almost bought a Bluebird FE 8.3
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Old 05-25-2016, 04:44 AM   #19
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About the shortest Type 'D' RE bus I have ever seen was a 10-row bus.

It was purchased specifically with a big engine and highway gears so it would be a decent trip bus but a short wheelbase due to the size and shape of the bus garage parking lot. The customer had purchased a 40' bus and trying to park it became a major aggravation--the school was located downtown and changes to the bus parking area wasn't going to happen.

So yes, Type 'D' RE buses with big HP and highway gears do exist that are only 30' long but they are only one in a bazillion of all buses built.

The one you have attached a link looks like it is going to be about the best compromise you will find in regards to length and power package. Most of the shorter Type 'D' buses, both RE and FE, tend to have the smaller power package. Part of the thinking is a bus that weighs a ton or more less isn't going to need as much go to move a smaller load. Axles and brakes are usually the same as the bigger buses only in order to keep repair parts inventory down.

No bus is easy when it comes time to do any real work on them. Even the Type 'C' conventional with a tilt hood is not easy simply because they try to cram as much stuff under the hood or into the engine compartment as will physically fit into the space with no real consideration as to how a technician is going to service or repair that stuff. Most of the regular maintenance items are relatively easy to access. But if you have to do any major work, good luck!

Wheelchair lifts, if you don't need one, are relatively easy to remove leaving behind a really nice large hole in the side of the bus that is covered by a door that usually locks. Even if you don't need a lift, the lifts in most school buses are rated for at least 800 lbs. these days. Having something that can lift from ground level to the floor level of your bus heavy stuff without the use of muscles can be a really good thing at times.

Unless you want to spend a lot of $$$ keeping the coach A/C system operating I would yank all of the system out of the bus. Not only do those evaporators tend to be head knockers but as you can see from the pictures, very little of the cool air is directed towards the driver.
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Old 05-25-2016, 10:01 AM   #20
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So is that about the size you want or were you talking even shorter than that?
Honestly, I don't know. I'm having trouble getting my head around what it means to have such a large vehicle. I was pretty much set to buy a 1-ton van to convert into a camper when I decided to check out buses as well. Extended vans top out at about 20' in overall length. Once you go beyond that, does it really make a difference whether the vehicle is 30 or 35 or 40 feet? I could get away with parking a 20' van in my apartment parking lot, and I'm sure I couldn't do that even with a 25' bus. Once I'm already resigned to offsite parking, I may as well buy a bigger bus.


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I'd have issues with that one raking a lot of leaves out of the trees. Anybody riding in the upper area might have some issues with those trees too.
Robin, you have about a 30-foot bus with the 5.9L cummins, right? Do you have trouble driving in the Cascades? I was out in Oregon last spring and you guys have some of the twistiest roads I've ever driven on.

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So yes, Type 'D' RE buses with big HP and highway gears do exist that are only 30' long but they are only one in a bazillion of all buses built.
Interesting. Maybe if I'm suuuuper patient I can find one. But I bet they're pretty expensive given their rarity and the possibility that I'm not the only one looking for this combination.

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Axles and brakes are usually the same as the bigger buses only in order to keep repair parts inventory down.
That's another good reason to go with a smaller bus for the mountains. More brake capacity relative to vehicle weight means less of a need for supplemental braking systems which I gather can be very expensive.

This bus is a conventional dognose style, but seems to fit the other items on my wishlist nicely:

Public Surplus: Auction #1614100

DT466 on a <26,000 GVWR bus, so a pretty good power to weight ratio.
Manual transmission so it's a lockup by its nature.
Less than 25 feet long, looks like.
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