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Old 10-13-2016, 09:08 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 35
Thinking out loud - Mini Bird 4x4?

Browsing the Skoolie forums and bouncing schemes to build a 4x4 bus off of other members has become a bit of a pastime for me, but recently I thought a little more in depth about the bus that many people probably picture when they think of "The Short Bus":



Yes, its goofy looking, yes its been equipped with everything from crappy 6.5L diesels to gas guzzling 5.7L gassers, but for a 4x4 conversion it might actually be a decent choice... I've looked at this from all angles at this point and pretty much figured out the following:

If you want to build a full size bus into a 4x4, your only option is a medium duty front axle ($$$), a lot of lift, and very expensive tires if you want aggressive tread and the ability to safely carry maximum GVWR. On the other hand, if you want to build the average short bus (E450 based) into a 4x4, it can be done by finding a wrecked F250/350 4x4 and some fabrication. However, what I don't like about the E450 based buses is that even if you find one with a full height roof and full width body, you still have that tight and awkward cab up front. The van front and fat body on an E450 based bus make it look like tick about to pop.

Enter the Mini Bird, built on the GM P30 chassis, which was used for everything from bread vans to small box trucks. GVWR on the Mini Bird, as I understand it, is 14,500. I'd be very curious to find out what an empty one weighs to find out how much leeway one has. I have been able to find some evidence that Mini Birds were equipped with the GM 14 Bolt rearend, which is good for 8600 GAWR. A Dana 60 up front (6500 GAWR) would bring GVWR up to 15,100. That plus a divorced NP205 transfer case from a scrap yard would be a pretty minimal investment. The Mini Bird uses leaf springs up front so adapting the D60 would be pretty easy. For tires I would go with these:



Michelin XML military tires - 38" tall, 13" wide, and fits a standard 16" wheel with a max load of 5,070lbs PER TIRE! With some lift, this kind of rubber, and a flat desert tan or olive drab paint job, I think the Mini Bird would start to look a little more like this:

Volvo C303


I welcome any comments/criticism, after all, I've never actually messed around with one these buses, just gleaned information about them from the internet. The biggest plus I feel is that you get the fullsize bus ceiling height and width along with the cockpit space without it actually being a medium duty and requiring a ton of lift and $$$ to convert it. Thoughts?
Badfish740 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-13-2016, 11:36 PM   #2
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I think you're on the right track!

Btw, 6.5's aren't crap, they're just finicky for a diesel... ;)
Scijad is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-14-2016, 02:19 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
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Almost all of the P-30 chassis in school buses had independent front suspensions with coil springs up front.

After Workhorse bought all of the rights of the P-30 from GM and particularly after Navistar purchased Workhorse the front axle went to a beam axle with leaf springs.

If the bus has the beam axle converting it to a driven front axle would not be very difficult.

If the bus has coil springs and unequal A-arms the conversion is going to be a little more involved.

Personally, I would pass on any P-30 chassis regardless of who built it. The P-30 chassis is for all intents and purposes a 1-ton truck chassis with some extra steel thrown in to keep it from racking and bending. And for the most part, GM was not very successful doing that.

We were always rebuilding something on the running gear on the P-30's. I can remember one time when a shock mount broke and pushed up through the floor in the back of the bus. That was quite the sight to see 6-8 inches of a shock absorber sticking up through the floor of the bus.

IC and MidBus made a lot of little buses on some medium duty truck chassis that are probably better candidates for what you propose. The only problem for you would be the fact those buses still had a driver's door so the bus body stuck out beyond the cab of the bus.

International 1999 CE
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Old 10-14-2016, 08:45 AM   #4
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 3,114
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International S3800
Engine: DT360
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
what about an IC BE? wasnt that a little freightliner chassis similar to a sprinter?
-Christopher
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Old 10-14-2016, 08:59 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
what about an IC BE? wasnt that a little freightliner chassis similar to a sprinter?


I think we have a winner! 16,000 GVWR - 9,000lb rear axle/7,000lb front. Replacing the front with a D60 would only de-rate it by 500lbs, which would easily be made up by removing most of the interior. I would imagine that the wheelchair lifts in these things could easily weigh 500lbs or more. The catch is that I've literally never seen one of these on the road in my area (New Jersey) and they only started production in 2010, so it may be a while before affordable decommissioned units become available. Thanks for the tip though-definitely something to keep my eye out for.
Badfish740 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-14-2016, 09:20 AM   #6
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 3,114
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International S3800
Engine: DT360
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
yeah and they stopped production in 2015.. I had thought they were made longer but I never checked...

now that said, my latest bluebird is only 17000 GVWR.. IHC calls it a 3800 chassis... however its nothing like the 3800 chassis i have in my 91 carpenter..

the one in the carpenter feels like a "TRUCK!!" the one in the bluebird feels like a "truck".. I dont know what rear as far as model is in one versus the other.. but theres a huge difference crawling under both in the brute... and in the GVWR... 10k differencr.. the bird is 17k.. the carpenter is 27.5, the carpenter is 7 row, the bluebird is 6... so maybe a different "3800" chassis can be found t ofit your need. as it seems IHC used the model loosely..

-Christopher
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