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Old 09-20-2012, 01:19 PM   #1
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Found a bus, need help - newbie questions.

Hi all! I've been a member for a while, but sort of lost my nerve a while ago and never got around to actually starting a project. I've got the bug again, and really want to see it through this time.

I'm looking for a bus to start my conversion. I've found a 1993 Bluebird TC2000 for what I believe is a good price. It's got the 5.9 Cummins and Allison 545 combo. My plan is to turn the front half of the bus into living space for "camping" (we frequently take trips for riding four-wheelers as there are no ORV parks nearby), and I'd like to haul a trailer as well. My current plan is to cut off the rear of the bus and make room for both a normal receiver hitch and also a gooseneck or 5th wheel to pull a larger trailer. The bus has a 30k GVWR and, from what I'm told, weighs about 17k empty. This leaves me with 13k left to pull a trailer, which is more than enough. The bus I'm looking at has 4.78 rear end gears. I wasn't able to test drive it as I was only able to spend a few minutes looking at it during my lunch break today.

Is the 5.9/545 combo a good one for towing/hauling? Should I look for a different bus, or is this one suitable (or even optimal)? The bus odo reads 166k miles and the seller says that's accurate. What all do I need to look for before I bite the bullet and bring this thing home with me? It's got ...I don't know what to call them... weird-looking wheels; not like something you'd find on a semi-truck or whatever. How hard are these to upgrade or replace? I know a big about paint and body work, so I'm not too concerned about that - and it's DEFINITELY going to need some paint work. Some general tips on first-time bus-buying would be GREATLY appreciated. I'm also worried about the engine/tranny combo; I want to make sure that's going to be enough to do what I want to do. I do not yet have the trailer, so as long as this bus is suitable for the *general* idea of what I'm looking to do, I can find a trailer that matches the bus capability.

Thoughts?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 09-20-2012, 01:56 PM   #2
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Re: Found a bus, need help - newbie questions.

Really I think (and remember you ask) I think the floor of the bus will be too high to mount a 5th wheel hitch and pull a 5th wheel trailer.

While the cummins 5.9 is a great engine it is not over loaded with power and the 545 Allison transmission does not have a lock up torque converter and is probably not the best for towing.

30 K MAX ... 17 K empty,....... does this mean you're not taking anything with you the bus? By the time you load the bus you can figure appx 1500 to 2000 lbs of stuff.
Water weights in at 8.3 lbs per gallon and the weight can add up fast... don't forget the bodies... you and whoever will be there too.

The wheels are what I think are called bud wheels. kinda star shaped?

Shop around, take your time, find the best bus you can and be sure what you want before you start cutting...
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:03 PM   #3
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Re: Found a bus, need help - newbie questions.

I'm not really an expert here, but there are bigger engines commonly found in buses than the 5.9 Cummins. There are also transmissions that have taller gears for better top speed. Of course rear end gear ratio also affects acceleration and top speed. It could be that the 5.9 will slow down considerably on hills if you are pulling a lot of weight. An 8.3 Cummins or DT466 might give you more flexibility. I'm not familiar with the CAT motors, but they also commonly come in a couple different sizes. There's nothing wrong with the 5.9/545 combo, but it might not be the MOST optimal combo. But don't take my word for it - hopefully others will chime in... Lapeer20 on this forum has owned several buses and hauled heavy loads; he might have some words of wisdom.
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:06 PM   #4
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Re: Found a bus, need help - newbie questions.

Well, I figured the removal of some of the body and a little bit of the rear frame would compare weight-wise to the additions I plan to make. I'm not sure how much of an RV conversion it'll be vs. a tow rig. Obviously I'd love to have some couches, a Television, etc... basicaly a living room type setup with couches that fold out into beds. I'm probably not looking to go with a full RV conversion with built-in beds, bathroom, etc. The places we usually go are all within a couple of hours and we usually don't camp out for more than a day or two max. I don't need to have all the luxuries of home, just a few would be nice. I'm mainly wanting the bus for a tow rig and sleeping and entertainment quarters. I don't need/plan to add a kitchen, pantry, tons of water tanks, or anything like that. SOME of that stuff would be a great addition, but not required for my situation. Think a hybrid tailgate/party bus with enough provisions to sleep inside. Nothing super luxurious - I'm not planning on sleeping 10 people for a week or anything. Just some space for me and a few buds to hang out once it gets too dark to ride our four-wheelers at the off-road park.
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Old 09-20-2012, 06:53 PM   #5
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Re: Found a bus, need help - newbie questions.

Quote:
I think the floor of the bus will be too high to mount a 5th wheel hitch and pull a 5th wheel trailer.
I haven't actually measured, but I don't think the frame/floor of a bus would be any taller than the frame of a semi. There are a lot
of them pulling 5th wheels.
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Old 10-16-2012, 12:24 PM   #6
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Re: Found a bus, need help - newbie questions.

I have the same bus; same year, same powertrain, same 4.78 rearend ratio etc. The man I bought it from put 10,000 miles per year on it for three years hauling one or two motorcycles inside and towing a trailered racecar. He usually had several people onboard too, along with their gear. The bus never gave any issues, and it got 9 mpg fully loaded and towing the racecar; 10 mpg w/o the racecar.
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