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Old 06-04-2015, 01:28 PM   #1
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Making a toy hauler: what to look for?

I'm buying a bus with the purpose of making a rig to haul my rock-crawling jeep and still have enough room in the front to sleep two.

I've been thinking a budget of around $5000 for the bus will suffice.

My main concerns are in this order:

1) Reliability
2) Hauling ability
3) Highway speed ability

I know a bus will never be cruising along at 70mph hauling a jeep around, but I'd like to do 55 comfortably. I'll be doing 2-4 hour highway trips with it.

What kind of busses should I look for or avoid? Rear engine won't work because there'll be a jeep parked back there lol. Is there a database of bus-build info that will tell me what rear end/trans is in what bus based off a VIN or serial #?
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Old 06-04-2015, 03:51 PM   #2
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Chassis: All American Rear Engine
Engine: C-8.3-300 Cummins MD3060
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If you get an international chassis they have a pretty good data base
on what was installed in the bus from the factory. Blue Bird is so so on
their stuff. With a 8.3L Cummins and an overdrive transmission 70
on the freeway towing your Jeep should be no problem.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:03 PM   #3
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Most of the busses in my area are Thomas or Bluebird and have the 3800 T444E. Not sure as to to trans/rears.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:11 PM   #4
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I second the 8.3 with a MT643 or MD3060 trans.
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:50 PM   #5
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The Blue Birds have a data plate on the front wall near the door which includes such things as axle ratio and engine serial number. I don't remember whether it includes transmission information. You can get a free "owners limited" Quickserve online account with Cummins to look up their engine serial numbers and find engine specs.

Common search terms for "not rear engine" are flat nose, dog nose, front engine, forward engine, forward controls. Any of those might help you find what you're after.

Don't forget to check whether the roof height at the outside edges is sufficient to clear your Jeep's outer corners, or plan on a roof raise.

Will the weight of the Jeep on the tail make it necessary to bob the end, move the axle rearward, park the Jeep farther forward than you wanted, or add ballast ahead of the rear axle so that you keep enough weight on the front axle? Likewise, consider the weight and position of the Jeep to avoid overloading the rear axle. My 1991 Blue Bird (flat nose with Cummins 5.9 in front) weighed about 19,000 pounds empty; IIRC the distribution was something like 12k on the rear and 7k on the front..? Can't remember what its axle ratings were.
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:51 PM   #6
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What kind of bus does the Cummins come in? Never seen one around here.
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Old 06-04-2015, 06:00 PM   #7
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I get the idea that Cummins engines are common in Blue Birds, but I couldn't say whether Blue Bird ever used another engine make, or whether Cummins engines also find their way into other bus brands too. Also seems like CAT is common in the Thomas buses.
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Old 06-04-2015, 07:18 PM   #8
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Blue Bird and Thomas have used Cat and Cummins. Thomas also had the Mercedes-Benz as an option for a few years.

What they got at the factory was pretty much dictated by what the original purchaser wanted.

Today the only engine available in BB, Thomas, and IC Type 'C' buses is the Cummins ISB.

Most of the Type 'D' FE buses with which I have had experience the weight on the axles empty were more weight up front than in the rear. As you loaded weight behind the rear axle it leveraged weight off of the front axle.

One Jeep behind the rear axle won't be enough weight to make that much difference on axle loading.

Just to make sure you don't have a problem the best choice would be for a Type 'C' conventional bus with the service door behind the front axle. They won't have nearly as much rear overhang as most Type 'D' FE buses.

If you decide to go with a Type 'D' FE bus, Ward/AmTran/IC made quite a few FE buses with the T444(E) and DT466 engines.

Just be aware that unless the bus was originally set up to do trips very few school buses will cruise comfortably over 60 MPH. Even if you swap out to different gears the HP and torque of the engine may not be enough to cruise at highway speeds without overheating or getting very high exhaust gas temps.

Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 06-04-2015, 08:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post

Just be aware that unless the bus was originally set up to do trips very few school buses will cruise comfortably over 60 MPH. Even if you swap out to different gears the HP and torque of the engine may not be enough to cruise at highway speeds without overheating or getting very high exhaust gas temps.
That's kinda my issue. When looking at busses, how do I know which is set up for what? Most busses in my area are T444E. So, for example, if I'm looking at 10 different T444E busses, how do I know which has the best trans, rear, etc.
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Old 06-04-2015, 08:53 PM   #10
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I vote international dog nose with a DT 466, 6 speed standard trans and air ride.

The DT 466 can make just as much power as the Cummins 8.3.

Far more power upgrades for the DT466 than the Cummins 8.3.

The standard trans will allow you to turn the power up on the DT 466 for better power for hills ect.

Common as hell here.

Nat
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