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Old 04-07-2017, 07:35 PM   #1
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Obligitory bus type discussion

Ok, I've poured over and done a lot of reading here and other places. I've seen some conflicting information so I wanted to open it up to help narrow my search. FE dog nose, FE Flat, RE, Transit, others I may not have thought about!

My priorities:
1. Living Space! Capital, underline, exclamation point. Final living space is the key #1 thing.
2. Longevity, Engine, transmission, all that good stuff.
3. Is there a type that would have adequate head space for good ceiling and floor insulation and head clearance without having to do a roof raise? Transit maybe?

Obviously I don't want to spend more than I have to, but I shouldn't need to go as cheap as possible if it's better for the top three priorities. Any input is welcome and appreciated!
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Old 04-07-2017, 07:45 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by StoneGuard View Post
Ok, I've poured over and done a lot of reading here and other places. I've seen some conflicting information so I wanted to open it up to help narrow my search. FE dog nose, FE Flat, RE, Transit, others I may not have thought about!

My priorities:
1. Living Space! Capital, underline, exclamation point. Final living space is the key #1 thing.
2. Longevity, Engine, transmission, all that good stuff.
3. Is there a type that would have adequate head space for good ceiling and floor insulation and head clearance without having to do a roof raise? Transit maybe?

Obviously I don't want to spend more than I have to, but I shouldn't need to go as cheap as possible if it's better for the top three priorities. Any input is welcome and appreciated!
Flat front Fe busses would probably have the most livable space.
As far as the engine/trans/gear ratio is concerned... It depends on your plan. Lots of travel on highways the Cummins 8.3 with an Allison 3060 would be best (not 100% sure that flat fe busses had those) next best would be the international dt466 with a 3060.
If you are lucky enough to find a mechanical engine, then the Allison 643 is the get. It has a torque converter lock up that really saves wear on the trans.
Read the threads here and you will find lots of different opinions, and understand that we all have our preference.
Good luck!

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Old 04-07-2017, 08:58 PM   #3
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"adequate head space" depends most of all on how tall you are.

Seems like I recall the high-roof school-type buses typically having a max height inside around 78 inches -- 6.5 feet. If you're near 6 feet tall and want to have an inch or two of insulation on the floor and the ceiling, those inches go really fast! A city bus or highway coach will have a higher ceiling.
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Old 04-07-2017, 09:23 PM   #4
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I was *thinking* they probably would have higher ceilings, but couldn't find anything for sure.

Are buses measure from external bumper to bumper, or internal windshield to windshield? Because if external to external I figured it would be obvious that FE are likely to be roomier, however I don't want to just make that assumption.

Now as I understand it RE buses don't have an drive shaft running down the length, and so are easier to hang storage/tanks from is that correct? Though I was seriously considering storing the fresh tank beneath the bed in the rear of a FE bus to protect from freezing, but still in conceptual phase.
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Old 04-07-2017, 09:50 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by StoneGuard View Post
I was *thinking* they probably would have higher ceilings, but couldn't find anything for sure.

Are buses measure from external bumper to bumper, or internal windshield to windshield? Because if external to external I figured it would be obvious that FE are likely to be roomier, however I don't want to just make that assumption.

Now as I understand it RE buses don't have an drive shaft running down the length, and so are easier to hang storage/tanks from is that correct? Though I was seriously considering storing the fresh tank beneath the bed in the rear of a FE bus to protect from freezing, but still in conceptual phase.
Length is measured on the outside, excluding "safety equipment". So bumpers, mirrors, and lights are allowed to extend beyond the "length" of the bus.

And that's correct regarding the driveshaft on an RE. Same goes for the exhaust also.
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Old 04-08-2017, 12:40 AM   #6
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Terminology is not a certain thing in this sport.

"Transit" is a general term for any bus that is not a "conventional". So a "transit" is simply a flat-front, whether the engine is in front or back.

"Pusher" is often used for a rear engine bus.

A pusher and a front-engine (both flat front) have roughly the same floor space, but having the engine in that dog-house up front is a major drawback in 40-11 ways.

In a pusher, the engine does take up floor space, but you can put the bed on top of it, and thus not really lose much space at all. And water tank, yes.

Sounds to me like you want a 40-foot pusher.

Of course, the student-hauling people do not count feet; they count butts -- small butts, three to a seat. So a 40-foot bus will be listed as having seats for something like 84 "pax" (passengers). This number will vary a bit between brands and models.

Me... I wouldn't dream of not raising the roof.
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Old 04-08-2017, 02:58 AM   #7
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Elliott explained it well.

There are basically four kinds of buses out there and they come in several different types in each kind.
  1. School bus--Type 'A', built on van-cut-away chassis with a driver's door. Type 'B', built on a rail chassis with the engine part way outside in front and part way inside with the service door behind the front axle and behind the drive. Type 'C', also known as a conventional, built on a truck chassis with a truck tilt hood out front over the engine with the service door behind the front axle even with the driver. Type 'D', also known as a transit come with the engine in front (FE), in the middle (most Crowns and some Gilligs with the odd KW Pacific thrown in), and in the rear (RE). None are longer than 40' and none are wider than 96".
  2. Commercial bus--built on van cut-away chassis, rail chassis, OEM vendor supplied chassis, and integrated chassis. They come in sizes as small as 6-8 pax to over 36 pax. The most common feature is most are built with a composite or fiberglass body panels. Most commonly seen running around airports and senior communities. Body widths can be either 96" or 102" with lengths up to 40'.
  3. Transit bus--the vast majority are rear engine buses with more and more of them built with low floors. Some of the suburban style buses only have one service door and tend to be geared faster than city transit buses. They come in lengths of less than 30' and can be up to 60' as an articulated bus. Most, especially the low floor versions, have ceilings in excess of 84". Most older models were 96" but most newer models are 102".
  4. Coach bus--all coach buses built since the '50's have been rear engine buses. In the '90's the OEM's started moving to all bus bodies being 102" wide. Older buses were two axle 35' buses. With the advent of the Scenicruiser lengths went out to 40'. Most 40' coaches were built with three axles but Eagle, GM, and MCI made a few 40' coaches with two axles. Starting in the '90's 45' models became the standard coach. There are a few 60' articulated coaches as well as a few double decker coaches.
Each bus is built for a specific purpose and as you will soon discover there is no one single bus that is prefect for every application.

As you go searching for a bus you need to decide before purchase who will be using it (if it is just you the size and configuration will be vastly different than if it is you, your significant other, kids, and pets), where you will be using it (traveling 10,000 miles or more per year on the Interstates is going to be a lot different than driving less than 1000 miles per year on back roads in the boonies and a lot of parks limit lengths to under 35'), when you will be using it (winter creates different challenges to summer challenges), and what the purpose of the conversion is going to be (weekend warriors require different stuff from those who choose full time living).

The absolute maximized space is a double decker or articulated bus. Both have significant challenges involved with not only converting them but also running them down the road.

It isn't hard to drop $20K on a build. That cost can go down significantly if you are able to scrounge free and low cost used or manufacturer returned /slightly damaged stuff from places like Craigslist, Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Your single greatest expense is most probably going to be the purchase of your bus. I have seen the prices of used buses go through the roof over the last 15-years. A bus for which I paid $1K in 2000 can be resold today for well over $3K. If instead of thinking anything over $1K is a rip off and you start thinking in terms of $10K being a reasonable price you will be happier in your search. I suppose what I am saying is since the bus itself is most probably going to be the biggest expense you need to make sure that the power package and gearing is what you want and need. And that the power package is in good running condition and not in need of any major updates, changes, or repairs. Changing stuff later can end up costing more than what you paid for the bus.

Good luck and keep us posted as to your progress.
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Old 04-08-2017, 07:19 AM   #8
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FE, ftw. Having a rear door is awesome.
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Old 04-08-2017, 01:21 PM   #9
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Fanstastic info people thank you!

Elliot it sounds like you're right, definitely leaning towards the 40' pusher, unless I can snag a good deal on a 45' coach (awesome details in there cowlit, thanks!).

As to my usage. We plan on traveling a lot, but not far each go. Probably not more than 2ish hours in a given day, then parking for a couple days unless there is a particular event we're trying to get to. In that case we'd still probably move every day but still not more than a couple hours. Driving 8 hours at a time is the part of travelling I hate the most, but with vacation time being limited it's kind of a must.

We also plan on Boondocking a lot, so I'll be pouring more time and effort in up front to set us up better for that. Knowing there are a number of parks we won't be able to camp at if we're over 35' is rough, but probably a concession I'll have to make in favor of the extra floor space.

Articulated sounds nice in a way, but severely limiting in where we can go I would imagine, so likely won't go that route. Same with double decker. I know even a raised roof with solar on top will be a limiting factor, but there are way too many tunnels and bridges a double decker would nix for us.

Yeah I've seen people talking how they're buses were under $4k a lot, but I'm comfortable with spending more. This will after all be our home, so spending more for low miles, no rust, and more space is something I'm ok with. Rough budgeting about $40k for the whole build at this point. Will be able to narrow that down once I have a bus in hand and can make specific plans.
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Old 04-08-2017, 03:24 PM   #10
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With that budget definitely look at some coaches. Nothing beats a coach on the interstate.
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