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Old 07-25-2006, 10:49 AM   #11
Bus Nut
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Location: Tucson, AZ
Posts: 524
Year: 1993
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: IHC
Engine: Dt360
Rated Cap: 19
First time was driving our bus from Elkhorn, WI to Flagstaff, AZ in December 2004. Fortunately the weather treated me, except for the time I almost froze solid sleeping in the bus at a rest stop in northern Indiana.

The only odd thing was sitting in *front* of the steering tires. Takes a few minutes to get used to.
Bus conversion/info here
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Old 11-29-2006, 10:46 PM   #12
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Posts: 8
Year: 1964
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: International
Engine: 549 gasser
Somewhat Scary

The first time I drove mine I also am surprised I didn’t get in an accident. I had some terrible dreams the night before I went to pick it up let me tell you. Mine has a 549 engine with a 5 speed manual transmission on an International chassis.

My first issue was when I went to pull into a gas station to fill the beast up. I tried to find a station that I could easily pull in and out of. I found one that looked somewhat suitable and when I went to pull in the engine died (probably my fault). So now I’m stuck in the middle of traffic on a single lane road blocking traffic trying to get the Bus started and back into gear. I managed to start the engine and had the clutch all the way in and I was pulling with all my might to get it into gear. I could hear the gears grinding but it wouldn’t go into gear. Finally it went into what I thought was 1st gear but it turned out to be reverse. My wife wasn’t real happy (she was in the car behind me) when I let out the clutch and started backing into her.

Obviously I learned my mistake soon enough and slammed on the brake and then the engine died again. To make matters worse the horn was going off that the air brakes had lost pressure. You could imagine the thoughts going through my mind at that time (a bus with no brakes with traffic on all sides of me). I then put on the emergency brake to try and collect my thoughts and figure out a way out of this mess. I then noticed that the clutch didn’t come all the way up as it had in the past. I pulled up on the clutch by hand and then the bus magically went into gear after I started it up again. With the air brake horn still going off I gingerly moved forward to try and get out of the congested intersection (it was my only chance since the light had just turned green for opposite traffic).

After a few minor hassles I managed to fill up the bus for its 150 mile trip to my house. Then a new adventure began. The bus is an absolute handful to drive (I have to give the school bus drivers of 1964 a lot of credit). I had driven a 32 foot RV before and figured this wouldn’t be that much more difficult being only 3 feet longer (35 feet). However, one of my complaints with my 32 foot RV was that it had a short wheelbase and tended to wander in the winds or when a large semi-truck passed by. Well, the 35 footer doesn’t have that issue since it has a longer wheelbase – but then that makes you have to make very, very wide turns as I found out very quickly when having to drive downtown San Bernardino, Ca during rush hour and also hit a few curbs.

Believe me I had no intentions of driving through a major city during rush hour in a bus I had never driven before but didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Luckily everything turned out OK and after my wife pried my fingers off the steering wheel when I stopped (just kidding) and I was able to park it at our destination.

Actually, once I got the Magic bus on the open road it handled very well even though the top speed was only about 50 to 55 mph and the bus is 42 years old!

After driving the bus and starting to feel comfortable with it it’s like you’ve ridden one of the meanest Brahma bulls or untamed stallion and got the better of it and broke it down to make it your newest ride.
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Old 11-30-2006, 05:40 PM   #13
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 105
Year: 92
Coachwork: ward flat nose
Chassis: international
Engine: dt466 mt643 air ride
Rated Cap: 84
When I first picked up my bus, I drove it 3 blocks to a motel. During that 3 block ride, my biggest concern was the tail section swinging out too far and ripping off somebodies car hood.

While at the motel, I couldn't rest from the excitement of finally getting my own skoolie. Been wanting one for a long time. While the wife slept, (being a bit tired from our 900 mile drive to get the bus) I was inside, on top, and under the bus, checking out whats what with this 38 foot new (to us) ride. Thats when I discovered it had air ride, yahoooooo.

The next morning we left around 7am from Lexington, Ky for our 900 mile drive to Oklahoma. Started out doing 45mph, then 55, then 65. Backed her down to 60 and settled for that. Man, what a nice riding bus I thought to myself, grinning from ear to ear, while looking for the first Flying J truck stop to top her off. The school district we bought her from had the tank full, but I wanted to check the mpg, so I wanted to fill it to the tip top.

The wife and I had planned to stop in St. Louis or Cuba, Mo to spend the night, so she wouldn't get overly exhausted having to drive the car all the way home without me there to relieve her. But we only ate dinner and she was ready to get home, so off we drove. I was too excited to be tired. We stopped for fuel 3 times, but that was since we were there for coffee mainly, the car and the bus could each go over 500 miles between fill-ups. But I also wanted to re-check the oil, tires, and lights, etc. more often then 500 miles.

The trip home was great. MPG at 60 mph was 10.35. The bus didn't use a drop of engine or trans fluid. The only issue I had was the air operated door would open when the lights were turned on, but the manual over-ride switch took care of that problem. We got home at 3am in the morning, the wife went straight to bed, and I, well I........ got on the internet to see what I can learn about our new baby bus. Cheers!!!
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Old 12-02-2006, 09:29 PM   #14
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Posts: 704
I had a lot of apprehension when I picked up mine. Now I have been driving F800 and DT466 Rollback Wreckers for several years, so driving something large was not new to me. Driving the bus was new, and I didn't know what to expect from the brakes.

When I showed up in Harrisonburg at the School Bus Garage to pick-up the bus, we took care of the paper work, they gave me a set of keys and told me where to find the bus.

I found the bus alright, but after about 30 minutes of trying and not being able to start it, I went back and asked for help. It was raining out pretty good too, and it was early October so it was a cold rain. They sent a mechanic up the hill to help me. It took him 2 hours of trying before that thing would fire up, Apparently they had parked it at the end of the previous school year and hadn't started it since. They wound up bringing in a jumper device, and he was squirting something into the air cleaner. It wasn't until I looked at the can and saw he was squirting 'Belt Dressing" in there and said something...a minute later he found a can of ether and with the third shot of that stuff the bus came to life.

Now the way they had it parked in there, I thought I'd never get it out. So I let him move it for me. I felt kind of stupid then when I saw what kind of turn radius this thing had...very impressed!!

Anyway, I thanked him, hopped behind the wheel and with a few jitters I drove off. Within 2 or 3 miles I felt very comfortble with the whole thing.

However, when I decided to stop for fuel, I was too afraid to turn it off, it took too long to start it at the garage. So I left it running while I put in $300 worth of diesel, and made the 5 hour trip home. Funny thing is, I have never had a single problem starting since then, and that was over a year ago. I do fire it up and move it around the lot just about every week...

You just might be a Redneck if...
...your motor home used to be a school bus!
...Your living room has a steering wheel!
...Your home has brake lights

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1989 Thomas Diesel Pusher (Cat 3208/Freightliner)
Chesapeake, Virginia
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Old 12-06-2006, 04:24 AM   #15
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Location: Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada
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Year: 1992
Coachwork: Bluebird
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Engine: 5.9 Cummins
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We just bought a Blue Bird tc2000fe. We drove it home from 400 miles away. Our biggest issue was when we got it up to speed it had a huge front wheel shimmy in it. So we got out and had a look and noticed who ever had put the two piece front rims back together did a half fast job. One was out 1.5" and the other 1" top to bottom. We brought it back to the school yard and he gave us a hand resetting the wheels. After that it ran smooth. - We then lost or broke (not sure yet) our brake booster, it then became a scary ride home (no insurance, or plates), almost no brakes. Got her home though and seats and floor are out.

First post, been following the board Very steady for 2 months. GREAT job on the site.
Chris Van Damme
92 Blue Bird TC2000FE
The Slab Cab'n
Follow my build up here
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Old 09-28-2007, 07:44 PM   #16
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Location: Hillsboro ND
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Year: 1993
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: MPV
Engine: Cat 3116 250
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Re: First time you drove a school bus.

My first time was while in the US Navy stationed in Charleston SC. The Bus Ministry at the church I attended was in need of someone to drive a bus on Sunday's. I took this 1960 Ford 58 passsenger Thomas Bus out the day before and drove around getting familiar with the clutch, brakes, steering, etc. One thing I had to do before I was allowed to drive with kids was to demonstrate proficient backing and parking.
1993 Thomas Safe T Liner MPVRE
Cat 3116-250
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Old 10-05-2007, 10:08 PM   #17
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Re: First time you drove a school bus.

Unless you have 300,000 on that 6.6 there is no reason to be fearful.
Skooling state at a time...
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Old 10-08-2007, 10:03 PM   #18
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Re: First time you drove a school bus.

I don't worry about breaking down and I have a 7.3. I figure if it happens I'll just have to call home for a return ride to come get me, and then I'd fab up some sort of heavy tow bar and borrow the brothers bus and go get it and I'm sure he would go with just for the fun. Although my bus is small enough I suppose I could tow it with my truck but stopping could be a little scary unless I actualy went out and bought a brake buddy.
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:21 AM   #19
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Year: 1990
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Chassis: Chevorlet AT545 Allison auto
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Re: First time you drove a school bus.

My first time driving a Skoolie was when I was 18 about to turn 19 on Dead tour. My friend and I ran around in this old bluebird from show to show. I was out in the lot selling grilled cheese when my buddy got real sick. we had a 6 hr trip to the next show and he couldt drive. So he asked me if I could. Now at that point I had only drivin one car in my life, a 1984 Chevy g20 van. So I didn't know what to expect. And I had to drive in Pitsburg traffic to learn. But the bus fit like a glove. 2 weeks later I got my first bus a 35 pass. wayne with I don't remember the drive train. But now its 12 year have passed and I still love Skoolie's.
"Escapin' through the lily fields
I came across an empty space
It trembled and exploded
Left a bus stop in its place
The bus came by and I got on
That's when it all began
There was cowboy Neal
At the wheel
Of a bus to never-ever land"
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Old 10-14-2007, 12:21 PM   #20
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Re: First time you drove a school bus.

I have a class B CDL, trained on a 1983 Ford L7000 soda truk (about 34' bumper to bumper) ,and have driven large vehicles many times, so the bus was no biggie.

Well, except fcor the knocking, rattling, smoking, backfiring, worn-out 370 gas engine I got it with.
Optimism is a mental disorder.
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