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Old 01-01-2017, 02:38 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
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New, considering a Gillig low floor

Hey all,

I've read a lot of threads on here, but this is my first post. I really want to do my own conversion, potentially over the course of the next year. I have a lot of general skills, some engineer friends to lean on, and keys to a metal fab shop a friend operates for more involved stuff, so I'm pretty confident I can tackle the build. My question here is if a Gillig low floor would be good for my project; it appears to be great, but I don't know what I don't know.

My priorities are likely different than most of yours, so I'll explain in case that makes any difference. My ultimate goal is go full time in the rig with myself, plus one, and a cat. Our intention would be to have this as a home, not to use for transportation. We have bicycles that we currently use for all of our transportation year round, and we'd keep it that way. This means that hp, engine brakes, highway tuned transmission, or any other such would not be important to us as it won't move much and when it does we'll be in no hurry. Having the additional sf of a R/E is definitely worth it for us because we won't care about the loss of engine performance.

We'll be going with a composting toilet to eliminate the need for a black water tank or any of the plumbing that goes with it. A R/E low floor should make plumbing to the grey water tanks a breeze even if we want them inside so they don't freeze because the rear sits so much higher. Going with a transit unit like this also makes me think that wiring should be easy, as there's some sort of conduit or whatnot already routed through the bus that could be repurposed before being insulated over.

I'm asking if the Gillig Low Floors are are a good candidate for a conversion like this because I saw a few comments elsewhere that insinuated that they were no good, but didn't hint at why. Is this going to be an acceptable option for my goals, or should I keep searching? Also, I know the SE US is a good place to purchase buses to mitigate the risk of corrosion, but would I be pushing my luck to look in Des Moines? I grew up around there, and while the roads were salted, it didn't happen often, and they didn't seem to lay it on too thick. Govdeals has a few buses that look too good to be true right now, I want some honest feedback before I get my hopes too high.

Thanks!
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Old 01-01-2017, 05:42 AM   #2
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The Gillig LF is a great bus.

Try and find one that was used in suburban use. They tended to have highway gearing and bigger HP engines. If there is no difference in price why not get one that can do highway speeds and climb hills without slowing down that much?

Low floor designs do not allow for anything to be attached under the bus. On the other hand, with such high ceilings you can put tanks, plumbing, and anything else you can think of on the floor and then build a new floor over everything. Not only will it keep everything warm and keep it all from freezing but it all allows for a lot of insulation in the floor.

The buses came in 30', 35', and 40' lengths. If you can get the long one. You will really learn to appreciate the extra feet in length. The other nice thing about most Gillig LF's is they are 102" wide. You wouldn't think an extra 6" would make much of a difference but in conjunction with the high ceilings and long length the interior volume is HUGE compared to a school bus.

Whatever bus you decide to purchase, the more important thing you do not want to get in your bus is RUST! Gillig LF's use a lot of stainless steel in the frame and lower body panels but there is still some mild steel in parts of the suspension that can get eaten away by rust if the bus was run in salt very much.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 01-01-2017, 10:47 AM   #3
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I see a lot of Gillig LF's out there.. my guess is alot of them may be coming up to their end of useful life.. I realiuze the midwesat isnt a great place to buy a bus.. but a lot of midwestern cities are repalcing their diesel LF's with the new CNG models so there may be deals to be had on older ones.. most cities i have seen move their coaches around on the routes so the busses are almost all capable of doing the 65 MPH speed limit that the city freeways run as many routes involve some freeway usage even on non express runs.. at least its that way in ohio.. CLE, CMH, CVG.. not a great place to buy as I mention because of rust but might be some deals to be found.
-Christopher
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Old 01-01-2017, 01:12 PM   #4
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One other thing to look out for, some cities have 9 foot wide buses, which would mean an oversized permit every time you want to move it. So check before you bid
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Old 01-01-2017, 01:56 PM   #5
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Jim (Lostranger) in North Carolina has detailed the conversion of his Gillig LF on the Nomadicista forum: https://nomadicista.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2541 Well worth reading. He also posts on BCM.

Although it's not a LF, Darryl (Lucky Chow) in Georgia has a beautiful Gillig transit conversion, also detailed on Nomadicista: https://nomadicista.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3037 I especially like the way he's done his interior - bright, clean, simple, very nice. He has also occasionally posted on BCM.

John
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Old 01-03-2017, 01:27 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
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Thanks everyone for the replies and information! I was considering a particular bus because it was really close to me, and a good deal. I have decided against going with it because too many little things that weren't ideal for me started to add up, and would have likely ended up being a huge headache. I don't want to rush myself into a poor decision that's going to affect my comfort and happiness in my HOME for years to come. I'll keep reading and searching for thge just right bus for me. If anybody finds a decent diesel/electric hybrid 40ft gillig lf made for the highway and under $6k let me know, but I won't be holding my breath

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Old 01-03-2017, 08:40 PM   #7
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There have been very few hybrid full size school buses built. Since the cost was almost 2X the cost of a regular diesel powered bus and about 1.5X the cost of a CNG bus very few people paid for the option.

Most of the transit buses that are hybrid drive have been in service such a short period of time very few of them have yet to be put out to pasture.

The transit agency in Astoria, OR purchased a couple of IHC/Eaton hybrid drive medium duty buses. Unfortunately for Astoria the buses were a disaster for them. They were able to sell the buses to the transit agency in Salem, OR where they have continued to under perform.

The basic problem is what the design/use parameter is for a diesel hybrid. They are designed for route service where speeds do not go over 35 MPH and have few, if any, hills. In Astoria all of their routes that are flat include stretches of highway with 55 MPH speed limits. All of the rest of the routes basically go straight up and down. The routes that Salem put the buses were suburban/rural routes that include a 50 mile country highway going up into the mountains. The hybrid drive does not do much of the work over 35 MPH or up hills. The hybrid buses in both Astoria and Salem performed very poorly because they have never worked within the performance envelope designed for hybrid buses. Any savings in fuel operating in hybrid mode were negated since the hybrids when they are running on diesel use considerably more fuel than identical diesel only buses.

As far as a candidate for conversion I think a hybrid drive unit would be really bad. None of them have been out on the road long enough to gain any real idea as to the real life cycle of the hybrid running gear. The cost of repairs and parts replacement have yet to really be brought down from experimental costs due to how few of them are out on the road. As the years go on more experience will be gained, more will be out on the road, and the unit cost will go down. But when the replacement battery pack for a Prius is over $6,000.00 I can't imagine what it would be for a transit bus.

The other real problem I see for a hybrid in a conversion is unless you are only going to be driving on the flats or every around the country at less than 35 MPH you will never be in hybrid drive and will not be gaining anything from the hybrid drive.

The same applies to Prius vs. Corolla cars. If you are going to be spending all of your time commuting at less than 35 MPH the Prius might make a lot of sense. But if you are going to be doing a lot of highway miles at highway speeds you can go a lot of miles in a Corolla before you ever get close to spending the difference in initial cost.
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Old 01-03-2017, 09:25 PM   #8
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columbus ohio got a grant for i think 20 hybrid gilligs that were put into service in 05 and 06, the grant required that the busses be run 10 years... last I knew after talking to a friend thats a driver he said they only had 3 left and were counting the days till they were gone.,.. to say the least they were maintenance nightmares and even though they were route service the savings were not much...

for one they didnt have electric A/C systems so the engines had to idle alot.. the idea was that on slow stop to stop traffic the engine would barely leave idle and the batteries were recharged by the engine as it idled..

part of the issue became that the busses idled all the time.. they had more engine issues with those busses than they did the old style diesels...

passengers complained about lack of good heat when it was 10 below outside and the bus stopped every couple hundred yards.. the older busses blew hotter air from the heaters...

because they were low floor busses, the batteries were up top and caused the busses to feel top heavy, i dont think they ever tipped one over buit the drivers didnt much like it if they had to make a tight turn where the right rear wheel might dip off the road..

columbus is mostly buying CNG busses now.. and despite the tanks being up top they say those busses are much better to drive, maintain, and the passengers like them better.. the oil and gas industry in ohio results in pretty cheap Natural gas , and other than the 'POP!' from the exhaust when they release throttle quickly, the general public likes them as they dont smell and blow clouds of black smoke at the riders who just got off the bus as it leaves the stop..

the CNG units are still too new to see how much savings and what longevity they will have.. ive only seen Gilligs in columbus.. i havent seen any other brands of CNG transit busses..

I believe the schools have 1 or 2 CNG school busses they are testing, and they have 1 or 2 of the new Bluebirds with the ford V10 Gasoline engine in it they are testing.. all those busses are conventionals.. 'visions?' i think they are called. I havent been inside or ridden in any of those.. (though my neighbor is on the board and says he'll take me to the bus garage anytime I want).. I did take a ride in the Cummins 6.7 2016 IC earlier in 2016 and wow what a big difference that was from the old school busses we all have here... that new IC was quiet and smooth.. though still a lot of stuff rattled on bumps.. I guess thats a bus thing even for one that did have only 300 miles on it..

-Christopher
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Old 01-03-2017, 11:13 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
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Once again thanks for the replies and info! With what you two explained and not much further research it's pretty clear that hybrids would not be advantageous, even before considering price. I was mostly hoping to utilize the preconfigured battery storage as it would be easy to access and maintain, and would get me additional capacity. I can achieve that a whole lot of other ways for a lot less headache than it looks like I'll end up with. Regenerative braking would be great though...I guess I'll change that order to a good diesel with a solid transmission!

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Old 05-08-2017, 06:52 PM   #10
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Trying to get more info on LF buses...
Are 102" oversize permits a common problem?
How much more difficult is it to ride with 102 " wide
Are there 96" wide low floor buses.


Thank you J
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Trying to get more info on LF buses...
Are 102" oversize permits a common problem?
How much more difficult is it to ride with 102 " wide
Are there 96" wide low floor buses.


Thank you J
No oversize permit is necessary for 102" width.
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Remove hence to yonder place....
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Old 05-09-2017, 05:57 AM   #12
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Ok , great thank you,
Later J
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Old 05-09-2017, 12:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan N View Post
No oversize permit is necessary for 102" width.
That is correct. But you will need an oversize permit if you have a single unit over 45' in length.

There are also some jurisdictions that make driving a 60' articulated bus difficult because they are generally viewed as a single unit. Most jurisdictions exempt transit buses that are up to 60' long and some are making the length even longer as there are now some transit buses that are three units long. But those exemptions only apply to active transit buses and do not include retired transit buses that have been repurposed.

102" is not a problem anywhere in the US.

Over 45' for a single unit can be a problem many places in the US.

Discover what is or is not legal for length where you live before you spend your $$$$ for anything over 45' long.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:18 PM   #14
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Great, thank you Cowlitzcoach.
Then I am of the hook , I am looking for a 30Ft version.
Any ideas about stainless frames on other brand low floor buses?

Later J
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