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Old 10-11-2019, 05:11 PM   #1
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First Bus - Thoughts?

Hey all, just registered so count this as my forum introduction! Wife and I are musicians, and hitting the road has long been our dream. Weíre in a position now to take the leap, and as scary as it is, if we donít do it now we may never have the courage to do it at all.
Anyhow, Iím looking at a bus: an Ď07 Thomas Freightliner with the Mercedes MBE engine. Itís very clean, no rust that I can see in the pictures (though Iíll judge that cautiously in person) and good tires. Itís reported to be in excellent running condition, was well maintained as part of a school fleet and now belongs to a retired gentleman who intended to convert it into a flatbed but found one that better suited his needs and was already converted.
Itís got 248k, which Iím apprehensive about... and Iíve heard a thing or two about The MBE powerplant, but itís hard to parse out whatís hearsay and whatís genuinely reported.
The most tempting thing about it is the price - 1500k asking. I hope that this gentleman simply doesnít know what itís worth, and is happy to sell it to someone who will use it after I told him my story.
What to look for? Where to apply caution?
Iím very hopeful that this bus will be what it seems, as the money we save in buying a platform will go very far towards conversion.
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Old 10-11-2019, 05:50 PM   #2
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Location: St Petersburg, FL
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Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: Cummins 5.9
Rated Cap: 72
"I love MBE diesel engines"
- Nobody, ever

The 904 and 906 were staples of Freightliner Thomas buses for a while. They're "sort of" Detroit Diesel as they all own each other, but your parts and service network will be almost exclusively Freightliner centers.

I know a few folks who own the 904 who find it to be gutless and barely adequate, and at least one person with a 906 who has no trouble towing a jeep behind them. I've helped work on both and the combination of Thomas and Freightliner results in the most ridiculous wiring diagram you've ever seen.. THomas wiring is always goofy but this was double goofy.

The general rule here is that we don't recommend buses newer than 2003 because EPA2004 regulations made their motors unreliable and fragile. $1500 is a price we all hope to pay but it would take a lot to convince me to buy an EPA2004 FS65 Thomas with MBE.
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Old 10-11-2019, 06:02 PM   #3
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Thanks a lot for the honest assessment!
Would a rust free, clean bus with good rubber convince you at a good price? Or is it too much to ask with that MBE?
It seems, and I’m very new at this, that many of the pre emissions busses with the DT466, Cummins, or even Cat motors go for *so* much more even when they’re riddled with rust... why is that? Does the price get driven up solely because of that power plant? Wouldn’t that rust dissuade a buyer even with a “good” engine config?
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Old 10-11-2019, 06:14 PM   #4
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Location: Dawsonville, Ga.
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: Genesis
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/3060
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Quote:
Originally Posted by escapingdrudgery View Post
It seems, and I’m very new at this, that many of the pre emissions busses with the DT466, Cummins, or even Cat motors go for *so* much more even when they’re riddled with rust... why is that?

It would surely concern me why a much newer bus with low mileage is being sold for half what a pre 04 bus would commonly go for. Somebody knows something their not telling IMHO.

I've heard from "1" guy, that if the EPA motor maintanance schedules are adhered to to a "T", they can be reliable. But talk to the mechanics that work on them and they will tell you they are seldom maintained properly and to run from them.

I misspoke on the mileage on that bus as low, 250k on a 12 year old bus is twice the normal mileage a bus sees.
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Old 10-11-2019, 06:17 PM   #5
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Location: St Petersburg, FL
Posts: 2,525
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: Cummins 5.9
Rated Cap: 72
Well buses are funny the way they get priced, it doesn't always make sense. The bus I just bought for $1300 last month, someone I talk to on Facebook bought a comparable (but without dual air conditioning) one for $6500.

And other things that just pure price are important, an obvious one being tire condition. A new set of cheap-o chinese tires will set you back $2600. bus tires typically age out rather than wear out, if it's been sitting a while they may have great tread but still need to be replaced right away. Figure a tire is good for about 6 years from manufacture (learn to read tire codes). A fleet maintained bus is likely to have newer tires than one owned by an individual because the fleet manager isn't spending his own money.

Optional features can make or break a bus too. Under carriage storage compartments, we love that stuff, we all want it. Pony motors, that's rare outside of bloodmobiles and similar specialty use buses but that can add thousands to the value of a bus. Not everyone realizes the value of engine driven air conditioning but those of us who do really only consider buses so equipped and we wouldn't give a bus without it a second look, where folks who don't know or don't care wouldn't value it higher than a bus without it.

The MBE is a red flag to me but honestly that generation of FS65 Thomas just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's me but I spent a couple hours helping a friend get one of her tail lights working again, and 5 other guys attempted it and failed before I got there. On the up side, it probably has an A2000 transmission which is pretty good!
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