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Old 08-15-2018, 05:18 PM   #1
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Is This A Good One?

I have found a 1986 Bluebird bus that the owner is willing to trade for my full size van. It is roughly 36 feet long and appears to be an activity bus with 6'4" ceiling height and under floor storage (yay!). It is also a pusher, which is what I wanted.

I was originally looking for a 40 footer since it will be me and my three kids living in it full time, but if I can make the floor plan work I was strongly considering this bus especially since they are wiling to trade, did all the demo, and have it licensed as an RV already. They are also close to home and the bus only has 160k mileage on it.

He said that a mechanic has checked out the engine already and says it is in great condition and ready for cross-country travel. However, I know nothing about the engine. I hear everywhere to go with a Cummins but this bus comes with a Caterpillar 3208. Is that a good engine?

Thanks in advance for your wisdom and advice!!!
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Old 08-15-2018, 05:59 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Mom2three View Post
I have found a 1986 Bluebird bus that the owner is willing to trade for my full size van. It is roughly 36 feet long and appears to be an activity bus with 6'4" ceiling height and under floor storage (yay!). It is also a pusher, which is what I wanted.

I was originally looking for a 40 footer since it will be me and my three kids living in it full time, but if I can make the floor plan work I was strongly considering this bus especially since they are wiling to trade, did all the demo, and have it licensed as an RV already. They are also close to home and the bus only has 160k mileage on it.

He said that a mechanic has checked out the engine already and says it is in great condition and ready for cross-country travel. However, I know nothing about the engine. I hear everywhere to go with a Cummins but this bus comes with a Caterpillar 3208. Is that a good engine?

Thanks in advance for your wisdom and advice!!!



The 3208 is an old motor. Most of them aren't turbocharged so it's going to be pretty slow. More important is going to be the transmission and the gearing. I wouldn't want a bus that tops out at 50 mph.



Some people on this forum swear by the CAT 3208 others consider it a boat anchor. Depends on who you ask but if it was me I'd keep on looking. Plenty of newer buses out there with better powertrains for not much more money.
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Old 08-15-2018, 07:17 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by WIbluebird View Post
The 3208 is an old motor. Most of them aren't turbocharged so it's going to be pretty slow. More important is going to be the transmission and the gearing. I wouldn't want a bus that tops out at 50 mph.



Some people on this forum swear by the CAT 3208 others consider it a boat anchor. Depends on who you ask but if it was me I'd keep on looking. Plenty of newer buses out there with better powertrains for not much more money.
It's funny because most of the people who claim it's a bad motor say so through word of mouth only and no personal experience. Everyone of those people who end up buying a Cat change their minds almost instantly.
Cummins makes desirable engine and not so desirable engines. Those that own theless desirable one rationalize how great they are, but I think they have no experience in a "better" bus to know the difference. The only downside to a Cat that "I've heard", but not experienced first hand is that Cats, need expensive parts and can only be serviced at Cat dealers, but I don't believe that all to be true.
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Old 08-15-2018, 08:54 PM   #4
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The 3208 isn't the best Cat engine, that's for sure. Its sort of semi-boat anchor status like the 8.2 DD and IH 9.0 engines.
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Old 08-15-2018, 09:00 PM   #5
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As much as I like Caterpillar, that is one to shy away from. Costly repairs on that coming if reports are accurate about it. Most agree they are so I would like to see you pass even if a good to you, trade seems lost.


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Old 08-16-2018, 06:48 AM   #6
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The popular reputation I hear about CAT is that they don't pass Quality Control if they don't leak. But in my experience, all buses leak.
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Old 08-16-2018, 08:51 AM   #7
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its an old school bus its probably going to leave a few drops of fluids on. the ground...



for reference ever notice how the truck-spaces at the rest areas are always stained with oils, coolants, grease, etc? those guys run their trucks on average 125,000 miles a year.. leaking and all.. keep things , checked and topped off..



from the people who drive school busses for a living, many of them lament how their CAT-3208s are gone because while they werent the most powerful, they tended to just go..



-Christopher
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Old 08-16-2018, 10:18 AM   #8
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It sounds like I would be smart to nix this bus. I figured it was too good to be true, so I will keep on looking!

Thank you, again, for your help!
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Old 08-16-2018, 12:22 PM   #9
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The popular reputation I hear about CAT is that they don't pass Quality Control if they don't leak. But in my experience, all buses leak.
My 3126 doesn't leak. Yet.
Only 64k miles on it though!
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Old 08-16-2018, 01:41 PM   #10
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3208 pretty much means you have at least an mt643 transmission if an auto, 545 would not handle the lowest torque rating of the 3208
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Old 08-16-2018, 02:07 PM   #11
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I think it got its "boat anchor" reputation because they put them in a lot of boats.. and maybe they fell out? I'm just guessing here.
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Old 08-29-2018, 07:00 PM   #12
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I don't know if I would pass on that bus because of a 3208 Cat I worked on them on and off for a long time and although they can be pricey to repair so can everything else Cat repairs ARE NOT dealer captive although some parts are any HD repair shop that work on Petes Kenworths Autocars and the like all are usually more than capable and ready to work on them of all the(older) V-8 diesels out there the are absolutely the best of them and although I don't how many are in skoolies there are plenty of 3208 turbo engines out and about. Gene
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Old 09-06-2018, 03:17 AM   #13
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I did e-mail him and got further information on the bus. He even sent me a video of him starting the bus, etc. I made plans to go down and see it and let him see my van, but he decided to sell it the day before I was to head down there. I bought the trip permits and everything, so I was quite disappointed but what can you do?

Thanks to all of you who contributed to this thread. It was very helpful! Better luck next time...
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