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Old 02-22-2007, 06:03 PM   #1
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Need suggestions for starting point....

Sorry for the Newb question that we all fear the most, but with what seems to be an over whelming variety of chocies and combination of engines and what not, I could really use some help narrowing down the choices a bit.

Im from the DFW Texas area and Im thinking about taking the plunge on a bus for converting into a "RV" type set up. What type of buses are most suitable for this sort of conversion that would provide the most room for the footage in length? What combination of Bus, Trasmission and Engine is the most reliable and easiest to maintian and repair? Of course price out lay is always a issue as if there is ever a time when its not...but I would rather pay a little more up front and get a solid suitable vehicle to start from as opposed to something that will have an achillies heel to forever deal with. Im a recently retired USN Weapons Tech, so I kind of subscribe to the "do it right the first time" mentality thats been pounded in me for the last 21 years, as you rarely get a chance to screw up twice with explosives...

Im sure there are several here that have "been there and done that" and have some suggestions or recommendations for possible "donor vehicles" to seriously consider for such a project. I would gladly appreciate any sound advise that one wants to provide!
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Old 02-22-2007, 06:25 PM   #2
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For me, I'm looking for another bus to replace the 76 IH Thomas body that has seen better days, and I am looking for a Blue Bird TC 2000. Some others prefer the conventional hoods that allow you to get to the engine easier, but I'm looking for more living space that I feel the TC 200 allows. Also you have to figure if you want an FE, (Front Engine), or RE (Rear Engine), if you go with the RE you'll get the benefit of less noise up front while driving...
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Old 02-22-2007, 07:29 PM   #3
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Welcome aboard!

You say you want maximum room, so that rules out the conventionals -- the ones
with the engine out front under a hood like an overgrown pickup truck.

School buses run up to 40 feet long. The size of a bus is most often listed by
number of passengers, often abbreviated “pax”. Mind you, the system is to count
children at three kids per seat; six kids per row. My bus is an 84 pax. Divide by 6
and you get 14 rows. This bus is 40 feet long. It has the engine in the front, next
to the driver -- the driver has to step over the “dog house” (engine cover) to get to
the seat. And the entry stairs angle rearward to clear the engine. It’s darn difficult
to work on the engine in that tight engine compartment.

A rear engine bus loses some space in the back instead, but only down low --
you may be able to put a bed above the engine compartment and “reclaim“ that
space. And there is no obstruction up front. And I believe it is easier to work on
the engine in the rear -- we’ll be hearing from “pusher” owners soon, I’m sure. A
40 foot pusher is perhaps what you want.

Absolute maximum interior space is probably in the old Crown with the engine
under the floor (96 pax?), but those are getting hard to find.

There seems to be universal agreement that the International DT466 is the best
engine -- both powerful and durable. The Cummins 8,3 may rival it, but seems to
be rare. The DT466 has a little brother called DT360 which is also good, though
small. You’ll be hearing more about engines also soon.

Two Allison automatic transmissions are common; the AT545 and the MT643.
Try to find an MT643. They are usually, but not always, in bigger buses and/or
with bigger engines.

As for bodies, it is possible that Blue Bird has the best reputation and Carpenter the
worst. (Not counting Crown, which is King of the Hill.)
Your milage may vary.

You are at the stage I was a year or two ago. There is a ton of information on this
forum going back years!
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Old 02-22-2007, 09:41 PM   #4
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If you were to stumble across a Ford conventional, I can comment that the 6.6 and it's big sibling, the 7.8, are both good engines. They are not the most powerful engines out there, but they do seem to outshine the 6.9 and 7.3 IH engines and are right on par with the 5.9 Cummins in terms of power. They are sleeveless engines so an inframe rebuild is not really an option, but I don't know that many of us would actually go through with the trouble of doing that anyway. Both the 6.6 and the 7.8 are turbocharged and aftercooled. Neither has an intake grid filter or glowplugs, but that can be both good and bad. While you lose the cold starting aid, mine seems to start just fine anyway and it has a block heater on top of that. Both engines are stupidly simple. They use the common and desirable inline style Bosch injector pumps. Parts may or may not be on hand at every parts store, but I've never been without when I've needed fuel filters, oil filters, etc. In the farm belt you might be even better off given that the engine was used a lot in New Holland tractors. Long story short, they are a good engine series, even if they are a bit gutless.
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Old 02-22-2007, 09:58 PM   #5
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Thanks for the tips! I appreciate it.

The Blue Bird TC 2000 looks about like what I am looking for. I can definitely relate to the "dog house" being an issue for the touring type, especially if you getting up there in years making it a bit of a pain, but I am still young enough to have more braun than brains. Since Im planing to convert this to a RV and ditch my 5th wheel, it will be spending 90% of its time parked anyways, so that looks like a worth while direction to go model wise.

I would most definitely fit a bed in above the engine compartment to recover the space. The rear engine sounds like a easier option for repairs though as opposed to one up front where access and work space might be more difficult.

Been lurking here a while and had seen the post on the DT466 and got the idea that it was a pretty sound engine design power wise over some other common options. Like wise on the Allison Transmissions. Just wasnt sure which bus models I would be most likely to find equipment like this in. This is going to be a pretty serious project so Im trying to sort all of the details and think things through long and hard before jumping in.

Im sure like the retro fit on my 37ft boat nothing is ever easy as it looks or goes as quickly as you plan...but if Im going to put this much money, hours and sweat into it, I definitely want a worth while end result to justify my efforts!

Thanks again for the "spiritual enrichment" !!!
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Old 02-22-2007, 10:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
which bus models I would be most likely to find equipment like this in.
That's a biggie right there. While there is some logic involved, along the lines of a
Ford chassis being more likely to have a Ford engine than a Chevy engine,
engines are rather well scattered all over the chassis map. All I can suggest is
that practice makes slightly-closer-to-perfect, so hang around and keep reading on
this and other sites.

The Blue Bird TC2000 seems to be considered a good 'un, generally. It also came
in a "deluxe" version called All American -- if I understand it correctly. I believe I
saw that somebody here just found an 84 pax AA with a Cummins 8.3, and even
the optional curved windshields?! (Again, as I understand things.)

The Cummins 5.9 is very common. Some people swear by it, and others point to
reliability problems. One advantage is that it is also found in a gazillion Dodge
pick'm'ups, and those guys have lots of hot rod parts and information.

The TC2000 and AA have a sister called the Wanderlodge. Wanderlodge is a
"Rolls Royce" level motor home.

School buses are built for kids, so they have low ceilings. This is fixable.
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Old 02-22-2007, 10:41 PM   #7
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Engine options I have personally seen in the TC2000/All Americans:

FE: 6BT, ISB, 427 Chevy, 3208, C7
RE: 6BT, ISB, ISC, 3208, C7
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Old 02-22-2007, 11:47 PM   #8
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Hey, THAT'S a list I'm going to print out and file safely! But we ought to add
brand names and other info for all the folks who do not yet speak fluent Skoolie.
Such as me!

Let's see... these are not facts, but what I think I believe...

6BT and ISB are Cummins 5.9 liter inline six cylinder diesel

ISC is Cummins 8,3 liter inline six cylinder diesel

427 Chevy is a gasoline V8 - 427 cubic inches = around 7 liters

3208 is a Caterpillar V8 diesel -- came both with and without turbocharger

C7 is a Caterpillar 7 liter diesel

How close am I?
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Old 02-22-2007, 11:53 PM   #9
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Close enough for me. The C7 is actually a 7.2 liter inline 6, turbocharged, intercooled, etc. Electronics aside, as I understand it this is the engine to have, especially if you used to have a T444E powered IH bus. This is purely anecdotal...from a professional bus driver.

The 427 does come almost right on 7 liters in displacement.

The 6BT is the earlier 12 valve Cummins. There is also an earlier 8.3 called the 6CT maybe? I can't remember for sure.

The ISB is also 5.9 liters, but is 24 valve. Ditto for the ISC.

Maybe we can convince Steve to sticky a thread where we can try and get everything we know about the various engines and transmissions for people to refer to. I know when I was shopping that really mattered and I was dumbfounded. I think a page with information about some of the lesser known engines (like my 6.6) could also be helpful as google is not very good about this. I certainly think we would be doing a service to current and potential skoolie owners the world wide web over.
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Old 02-23-2007, 12:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
But we ought to add
brand names and other info for all the folks who do not yet speak fluent Skoolie.
Such as me!
Habla skoolie?
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