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Old 06-29-2006, 02:28 AM   #1
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Is this bus a good deal?

I'm looking at a bus in Illinois that's for sale. It's a 1993 Ward/Amtran 72 passenger body on a Navistar Chassis with air brakes. The motor is a DT466 and the tranny is an AT545. I called the guy and he says it won't be available until August but that it's in great shape and that I would have no problems driving it anywhere in the country to get it home. The price is $4,500. He says a $500 deposit will hold it for me. I'm thinking I should put the deposit down and fly out there and drive it home. What do you guys think? Good deal? Thanks! Matt
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Old 06-29-2006, 04:01 PM   #2
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Hey Matt, If its near me, I can get you a couple of pics if you want of it before you fly out. If you want, send me a pm with the location. Sounds like its real close to my 95 that I have.
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95 IH 72 passenger transit school bus w/ DT466 and 545 Allison.
79 IH Scout II/392 (0.030 over) Hamilton Injected/727/D300/Full size axles/36" Swampers/Lockers/OBA/38 gal Custom fuel tank, roll bar, tube doors.
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Old 06-29-2006, 09:24 PM   #3
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go for it it sound like an awsome deal..... does it come with a vehicle safety certificate ?
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Old 06-29-2006, 11:30 PM   #4
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Do your homework when it comes to the tranny. Check and make sure that it has fresh, unburnt fluid in it and that they have some proof of the last time it was serviced. The DT466 is a BIG motor for a school bus and even a detuned version is probably about all the AT545 can handle. That's why the DT360 was so popular...reasonable power without shredding drivetrains. Of course a remaned AT545 installed with a 2 year warranty is only $1200 at my local Detroit Diesel place....

That said, it seems like a pretty good deal to me. I guess it all just depends on how everything looks and what the normal price for something like that is in your area.
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Old 06-30-2006, 01:58 AM   #5
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I can't seem to find ANY buses in my area that are a reasonable price. If they are, they are total junk. The state doesn't seem to be auctioning any off either. The place that is selling the bus is http://www.used-bus.com. I think it's actually called Midwest Transit or something. It's in Kankakee, IL, just south of Chicago.

Is the AT545 not a good tranny? I really need an automatic tranny. My wife was born with two recessive genes for coordination so naturally she can't seem to learn how to drive a standard. I would like for her to be able to drive the bus at times too. How about the DT360? Is it a good motor? Can it pull a 12 window bus at 65 mph? What's the mileage like? Can they be converted to diesel? This sounds like a new topic to me...
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Old 06-30-2006, 02:08 AM   #6
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The DT360 is an inline 6 diesel. It is just the DT466's smaller brother and is considered equally stout.

If you ask around you will quickly find that what limits the speed of our buses is not the power, but rather the gearing and speed governor on the engine. I know mine could do better than 62 mph, but with that governor starting to cut fuel at 2500 rpm and fully stopping the juice at about 2600....well...I'm just kinda stuck, 20 mile downgrade or not.

As for the AT545....you will often hear the bad about them and many of the complaints are legit. However, this tranny was used FOREVER and in all kinds of applications. I would be willing to go out on a limb here and say 90% of us with autos have an AT545. Another 5% probably have an MT643. The rest are people like MacGyver with weird stuff like a 730

The Bad:

no overdrive

the torque converter never locks up which means lower fuel economy due to slippage

not the strongest tranny out there


The Good:

cheap to replace (cheaper than the beloved TH-350 Chevy tranny)

the torque converter never locks up which means torque multiplication at all speeds (ok...going out on a limb with that one)

there's not a mechanic out there that hasn't seen one


Personally...I know my AT545 emasculates my engine and cuts top speed, but that doesn't matter to me. It works great, shifts strong, and makes a cool whining noise from the gears on deceleration (I remember that from childhood on the buses too). Sure it has its shortcomings, but so do I and people still keep me around.

BTW...the MT643 or MT653 are the trannies you would have behind a DT466 in a perfect world as they are stronger than an AT545, have a lockup convertor, and in the case of the MT653, an extra gear.
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Old 06-30-2006, 08:49 PM   #7
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I have heard good things and not so good things about midwest transit. Before considering a bus ask them how much rust it has. They had some nice Thomas Saf-T-Liners for under $4000. The only drawback was they were more rust than bus.

From everything I have heard they are honest if you ask them. You might want to see what Greg has for sale. He usually has buses in Ohio waiting to go to Florida to the lot. http://www.floridachurchbus.com.

You are having a hard time finding buses in your area because most of them end up in South America. Those guys like to buy what is close to the border.

My bus has the AT-545 which is not my favorite. I would rather have an MT-643 or better yet MT-653. I do like the AT545 for going down large hills. My bus has highway gears so I can still cruise at 72 MPH. If I had an MT-643 I could get better mileage.
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Old 07-01-2006, 10:37 AM   #8
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I have experience towing heavy loads with a DT 360 and AT 545. I actually towed much more than I should have with the bus (c. 20,000lbs). I would NOT recommend towing that high (I had the roads blocked off and didnt go over 15). I towed a 7,000lb trailer with the bus many times. The drawbacks that you experience with the motor and gearing combo will be amplified with the trailer. If you slow to 50 on big hills (around WV for me) you will slow to 40 or lower towing 7,000lbs. My guess is that a 12 window bus weighs at least 12,000lbs (a minibird P30 weighs 10,000) so you will not have a good time towing this thing. My bus couldnt reach 65 unless I was going downhill, so I couldnt tell you if your bus would do it on flat ground. But honestly my guess is not. Thats just my opinion. There could be buses out there that will do it easily.

I could be telling you something that you already know, but check the DCA level in the coolant before you buy any DT series. I bought mine with less than 10k miles on a rebuild because of this
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