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Old 02-08-2016, 09:20 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 14
Intro and General Questions

Hail and well met. I'm James. Been a lurker here for a while. Finally everything has lined up for me to pursue this dream of living on the road and being able to move every couple of months. I am a traveling healthcare provider that flies to work on a weekly basis with 1 week off for downtime every 4-6 weeks. My partner in life, Amanda, is a jack of all trades type and can find work doing just about anything. We are looking to make this dream come true, but don't know where to start with the motor/trans/length combos. Here is some general info.

We have a decently large budget to do this the right way. We want a bus with enough space for us and our two fur babies - one daschund mix and one shepherd mix. We would like the bus to be diesel, and be able to tow our Jetta station wagon on flat surfaced highways. We would likely drive the Jetta up and down steep grades to avoid any issues. We are likely going to spend the winters hitting the slopes in cold places, and the thought is to have gray and fresh tanks integrated inside the bus to keep them from freezing, with a compostable toilet. Therefore, a bus with undercarriage storage is necessary to store infrequently used items. Currently living in Florida and looking for a bus in this state, but we are willing to get one further away if possible. I travel out west for work a lot, and can look at buses out there. We are both able bodied and critical thinkers/planners, so we will be completing this all ourselves. Likely will do a wood burning stove for heat/oven. Propane tank supplied stove top. Open floor plan with only enclosure for bathroom.

I'm not necessarily looking for links to specific craigslist ads or auctions, but more for some general advice as to what size, make, and motor/trans to look for and what to stay away from. Thanks again, and looking forward to learning everything you guys are willing to teach so I can pay the knowledge forward in the future.

Regards,
Amanda and James
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Old 02-08-2016, 05:03 PM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Billings, MT
Posts: 914
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: HDX
Engine: Cat C7
Rated Cap: 84 passenger
Welcome, JHands & partner.

Makes? Well, some like Fords, others Chevys. It all boils down to whatever floats your boat. Me? I've a 2003 Thomas HDX Transit style with a Cat C7 diesel engine, basement storage and air brakes. Without the 1400 lbs of passenger seating, I have approx. 240 sq ft of living space. The engine is in the rear, making for a quieter ride and better weight distribution. According to a local shop, hooking up a hitch and lighting for a towed device will set me back $800 to get it done right. Potable and grey water tanks with a heater blanket (for year-round use), a propane tank and a composting toilet ($1K). Install some LED lighting to cut back on the battery drain, baseboard heat with hydronic heating device (approx 0.17 gph diesel use). The only drawback? 4 wheel humps intruding into the cabin. Solution? I've a full-sized bed over one of the rear wheel humps and will install cabinetry and a day bed over the front humps. (Hump? What hump?) {Sorry, Mel Brooks!} The middle 1/3 is earmarked for the kitchen/bath area and is covered in linoleum. The front and rear 1/3 are carpeted. The overwhelming majority of the windows will be removed when nice spring weather arrives and the openings blanked out.

Some like conventional style buses (with a hood). Some like Front engined transit style (no hood). Disadvantage to transit style is that you have front row seating to an accident. Front engined buses are noisier.

Take your pick and take your time. I knew what I was looking for and I got it at a very reasonable price.
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Old 02-08-2016, 05:30 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 14
Is yours a full length 72 passenger? And where are your tanks? Outside the living space ? Never heard of this heater blanket set up. Insight to that would be awesome.
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Old 02-08-2016, 06:34 PM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Billings, MT
Posts: 914
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: HDX
Engine: Cat C7
Rated Cap: 84 passenger
84 passenger. Tanks will be in the basement. Heater blanket and heated water hoses allow for full-time living, which is what I'm doing. Rental in my town is obscene. Previously, I was paying $675 for a SINGLE room. I've now got 3x the amount of room and it's ALL MINE!

The heating blanket and heated water hoses prevent (hopefully) the water from changing from liquid to solid in sub-freezing temps. They plug into 120VAC. Holding Tank Heater Hose Heater

I'll be spray insulating underneath when the weather improves, as well. Inside, I've 1" foil faced rigid foam insulation. It only delivers an R-6, but it's better than nothing. The windshield on this beastie is almost 331 sq in of heat loss. Insulating it has already given me back some measure of comfort without having to bundle up like Nanuq of the North.
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:32 PM   #5
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 12,157
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
If lots of miles are your goal, get AIR RIDE. And while there are some very ardent fans of Cat, most of us won't touch one. Sorry squid.// No disrespect to you, but the Cats are just something most of us would rather avoid.
For all around the US travel- You want space, no rust, and a big powerful diesel. With air ride, and a retarder.
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Old 02-08-2016, 09:21 PM   #6
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Denver
Posts: 489
Year: 1982
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: International S1800
Engine: DT466 Trans: MT643
Rated Cap: 65
Good to see the pros on this site giving good advice. I second everything said, but I'm staying out of taking sides on engines....I'm an International guy myself, but that's what I know best and they've been good to me.

A transmission with a locking torque converter is nice (Allison MT643 or MD3060, the MD3060 also has overdrive which is cool)

I like Bluebird All-Americans from the late 90's--the rear engined ones. These were top-of-the-line in full spec and they often have the Cummins 8.3 engine and Allison MD3060 transmission, with Air-Ride and sometimes, a higher roof than usual, which is nice, and underbelly storage.

I also like AmTrans (aka Ward aka International/Navistar) Genesis or Senator model. These are flat-front and front engined. These often have higher roofs, underbelly storage, had air suspension as an option, and often came with the DT466 motor and Allison MT643 transmission. I've had good luck with these buses that that's my favorite motor--espcially if it is from before 1997 and has the non-computerized engine.

I live in a dog-nose bus because I like having a hood and it is the same model as the route bus I drove everymorning. It's not the most efficient use of the length of the bus, but the engine is easy to work on and will take some of the brunt in a head-on. Its also noisier.

Are you going to use a genny for power?

Good luck amigos.
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Old 02-08-2016, 11:50 PM   #7
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
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If you are going to be doing a lot of road miles you want the biggest engine you can get. IC offered the DT530 that had HP ratings of over 300 HP. Blue Bird and Thomas offered the Cummins 8.3/ISC and some even have had the ISL with HP ratings of over 300 HP.

Under 300 HP means you are definitely going to be in the slow lane going up any serious hill towing something behind you.

Most of the big HP optioned buses were rear engine buses set up as trip buses. They usually were heavy on the options including pass though under the floor luggage compartments and rear air ride suspension. Most of the trip buses on the left coast came with the 12" windows which equals 78" headroom. Many of the buses from the middle and right coast came with 9" windows which equals 72"-76" headroom.

Discussions about which bus is best becomes a Ford vs. Chevy vs. Mopar sort of discussion and can sometimes not be very helpful. For your purposes a rear engine Type 'D' bus is what you want. Stay away from the orphans as most of them are much older and can have some issues if you are not a real bus nut. As much as I like Crown and Gillig buses I would lump them in here as the newest Crown was made in 1991 and the newest classic Gillig in 1981. I would include Carpenter, Superior, and Wayne not because they are bad buses but they are all getting very old since none of them have been made in a long time.

Don't be afraid to travel some distance for a good bus. Many have gone to AZ and CA to bring a bus back to FL simply because there are a lot of schools out in the west that routinely travel 200+ miles one way for a football game. Buses from schools like that may have 200K+ miles on them and are only seven years old. They will cost more but will be a better bus than one that is 20-years old with 150,000 miles that has an asking price that is half the cost of the newer bus.

The ideal vintage would be pre-2007 when the really bad emissions stuff became required.

Good luck on your search!
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Old 02-09-2016, 04:58 PM   #8
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Billings, MT
Posts: 914
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: HDX
Engine: Cat C7
Rated Cap: 84 passenger
Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
If lots of miles are your goal, get AIR RIDE. And while there are some very ardent fans of Cat, most of us won't touch one. Sorry squid.// No disrespect to you, but the Cats are just something most of us would rather avoid.
For all around the US travel- You want space, no rust, and a big powerful diesel. With air ride, and a retarder.
ECB, I'm not a Cat fan, either. I'd much rather a Detroit Series 60 under the doghouse. And my experiences with a Jake are abysmal, because it was hooked up to a Cat C12. Using that Jake caused the engine to flame out on the uphill climbout and wouldn't restart for 10-15 minutes.

You can keep those big, yellow engines. A strong set of rubber bands would be better.
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:48 PM   #9
Bus Geek
 
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 12,157
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
I'd much rather have a driveline retarder than a jake.
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Old 02-11-2016, 10:59 AM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by charles_m View Post
Good to see the pros on this site giving good advice. I second everything said, but I'm staying out of taking sides on engines....I'm an International guy myself, but that's what I know best and they've been good to me.

A transmission with a locking torque converter is nice (Allison MT643 or MD3060, the MD3060 also has overdrive which is cool)

I like Bluebird All-Americans from the late 90's--the rear engined ones. These were top-of-the-line in full spec and they often have the Cummins 8.3 engine and Allison MD3060 transmission, with Air-Ride and sometimes, a higher roof than usual, which is nice, and underbelly storage.

I also like AmTrans (aka Ward aka International/Navistar) Genesis or Senator model. These are flat-front and front engined. These often have higher roofs, underbelly storage, had air suspension as an option, and often came with the DT466 motor and Allison MT643 transmission. I've had good luck with these buses that that's my favorite motor--espcially if it is from before 1997 and has the non-computerized engine.

I live in a dog-nose bus because I like having a hood and it is the same model as the route bus I drove everymorning. It's not the most efficient use of the length of the bus, but the engine is easy to work on and will take some of the brunt in a head-on. Its also noisier.

Are you going to use a genny for power?

Good luck amigos.
Is this the one you're speaking of?
School bus

Yes I will likely use a generator for power, and possibly solar. I'm going all out for this bus. Attempting to be OTG sustainable if necessary. Is a wood burning stove enough to keep the bus warm in cold temperatures with proper insulation?
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