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Old 03-22-2018, 01:38 PM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 12
Thomas Off Road

Hey all,

Long time viewer, first time poster. Myself and my family (2A2C (5m/2yr), with potential for more...!) are looking to get set up with a Skoolie. We live in BC, Canada and plan on full-timing for an extended road trip down south through the US and beyond.

We are making the decision between a Thomas Pusher with a Cummins and a Int front engine DT466E. I know the reliability for the front engine (especially this specific one) is supposed to be great and the clearance/shorter wheel base makes the bull nose a better option for non-highway driving. However, the Thomas gives us better options for the interior. The classic dilemma.

I'm just wondering if anyone has any specific experience of taking a 40ft Thomas Pusher (RE) down dirt tracks and the like? We'd like to boondock as much as possible and get to some less well-trodden spots, is the Thomas capable of this kind of stuff? Also, longer term we'd like to get down into Central and South America and I'm uncertain about road quality along that route.

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Old 03-22-2018, 01:47 PM   #2
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Graded and maintained dirt roads, no problem (the FE would be easier because of the shorter wheelbase).

Jungo Road (Google it), not so much
Steve Bracken

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Old 03-22-2018, 03:59 PM   #3
Join Date: Mar 2018
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Thanks for your reply. Just looked at the road, it looks amazing, def going on the bucket list although not with a bus!

Do you know if a dog nose, shorter wheel base bus could handle that sort of terrain? I guess what I'm looking for is a comparism between the limitations of each vehicle off road. If there's not much difference then that would be good to know too, as the Thomas has other advantages to us.
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Old 03-22-2018, 04:42 PM   #4
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: Pendleton Indiana
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Year: 2010
Coachwork: IC
Engine: MF DT466
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Growing up in the 80/90s our bus went down roads that were impassable for cars half the time. But these were conventionals. I think alot has to due with tires our bus allways had mud/snow tires on the rear and at 55 on highway you about couldnt talk to one another. I guess alot depends on your term off road, I would take one down a dirt or gravel road bot not a Dakar.
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Old 03-22-2018, 08:46 PM   #5
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Outside of a driveway, I wouldn't take a 40 foot bus, particularly a pusher, on a two-rut road. A maintained gravel road maybe, but I'd go for 25 to 30 foot dog-nose bus for that kind of use.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:55 AM   #6
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 66
The big things for off road are ground clearance, approach and departure angles and maneuverability. Nothing worse than getting into a tight spot and having to back up a long ways. My record for years was a 33 point u turn on a single track trail that turned into a deer trail on the top ridge of a hill barely wider than the wheelbase and I could not back down. Broke that record getting into a tight spot and had to rub some trees to fenagle my way around. Think it was 35 points but don't recall. Either way it was fun both times but thankfully I was in a beater I did not care about paint wise or otherwise on the second round or I would have had to leave the vehicle behind.
REALLY helps to be able to see behind you and beside you when trying to turn around. Spotters help as well. And scouting out the trails or roads first. Good luck.
2002 E450 Thomas/ U-JOINT 4X4 family hauler
1954 Crown 35 foot RV conversion
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Old 03-23-2018, 09:49 AM   #7
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tire-wise i run a pretty aggressive tire on my Carpenter bus and it has paid off swhen ive needed to drive it on pretty soft areas.. I was out in a field with it last year helping a friend pull tree stumps out.. and those tires bit hard even on pretty soft ground.

I definitely hear them on the highway. but some sound insuylation around the rear wheel wells would help that greatly..

with off-road in mind I would look only at busses with 11R22.5" wheels / tires and not at ones with smaller rims / tires.. you will appreciate the ground clearance of the bigger wheels / tires. ground clearance can get you out of a lot of situations..

Length though - having spent a lot of time out jeeping over the years, ive found. that sometimes turns can be tight on small unpaved roads.. I would want to do some heavy map studying before i took a 35-40 ft bus down some of the roads... you need to make the corners as well as be able to turn around to get yourself out if needbe.

I would shy away from the Diesel V8's as anything less than pavement will require quite a bit of low end torque if the ground is at all soft.. DT-466 / CUmmins 8.3 would be my choice for a trip like that.. maybe even a bus that has slightly lower rear end ratios but with an MD3060 transmission so you have more gears to work with.. be able to maintain highway speeds but also have nice lower ratios for soft ground.

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Old 03-23-2018, 03:35 PM   #8
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My Thomas pusher has great traction with lots of weight at rear axle. I try to plan ahead and not get into a one track that is too soft or uneven. One of the most limiting factors is height many forest roads have low trees. Backing out of a problem area has not been problematic except when there is traffic.
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Old 03-24-2018, 12:06 AM   #9
Join Date: Mar 2018
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Thanks so much for your replies everyone. We'd love to go for a smaller bus but as a family of five who will be living in it full time we need the 40-footer so just have to work with that!

Have found out that the transmission is an MD3060 and that the rims are 8.25 x 22.5 and the tyres are 11R22.5H. So is the general consensus that that's pretty good? Engine is a Cummins ISB 6.7 240hp...
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Old 03-24-2018, 06:54 AM   #10
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 8,956
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International S3800
Engine: DT360
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
that 6.7 is a nice set up, MD3060 is definitely a nice transmission, you may even be able ti get 6th gear opened up if you want lower RPM;s for Hughway cruising..

6.7 is a newer engine / bus? nbe careful if its 2008+ these are full-on emission control busses and some of them had issues which can be pricey to fix .. id want to make sure everything is in good order before i bought a bus that is full-on emissions.

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