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Old 05-28-2017, 10:12 PM   #1
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Thomas Safe-T-Liner HDX for Conversion?

I'm looking to build a short (around 181" wheelbase) rear engine diesel bus conversion. I'm pretty sold on the Thomas HDX, but I see a few engine options out there.

I am going to tow a trailer (max 15k lbs) that will carry a Jeep JK and a Polaris General 4, and a bunch of outdoor gear with my family of four (including myself).

I do realize the chassis is not setup for a heavy hitch. I will handle that part properly and safely, rest assured.

Does anyone here have any feedback, negative or positive, on the Thomas-built HDX buses? I am specifically interested in hearing which of the available motors would be best for the above requirements. I have seen a couple of different Cat motors and a Mercedes 906.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 05-28-2017, 11:23 PM   #2
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Generally speaking, most of us try to stay away from Cat because of repair costs, and Mercedes are even more expensive to repair than Cat. Of the two I'd choose the Cat over the Meced. There's people here that love Cats, so do what you think is right for you.

Nice bus choice. Go big or go home, huh?
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Old 05-29-2017, 01:04 AM   #3
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Either of those engine would keep me away. Both have so much proprietary BS that you have no choice but to overpay. And the MB's have not been coming even close to living up to their German engineering standards. Too many issues and nearly all wonky computer and sensor related problems that typically require a trip to a dealer which means even more bucks.

The trend towards building vehicles that are intentionally designed to be essentially unfixable by owners and even small shops began years ago and has gotten completely out of control. They claim safety and saving the planet. Nonsense. It is all about squeezing owners for more of the almighty moolah.
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Old 05-29-2017, 05:16 AM   #4
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Either of those engine would keep me away. Both have so much proprietary BS that you have no choice but to overpay. And the MB's have not been coming even close to living up to their German engineering standards. Too many issues and nearly all wonky computer and sensor related problems that typically require a trip to a dealer which means even more bucks.

The trend towards building vehicles that are intentionally designed to be essentially unfixable by owners and even small shops began years ago and has gotten completely out of control. They claim safety and saving the planet. Nonsense. It is all about squeezing owners for more of the almighty moolah.
THIS^

I'd pretty much take ANY bus over one with a Cat or Mercedes.
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Old 05-29-2017, 08:27 AM   #5
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First off, thanks for the replies.

Secondly - that's not what I hoped to hear. Well, shoot.

I'm pretty sold on this body/chassis. I'm not really looking to get into an engine swap situation, so I may need to make the best of the bad choices. I don't mind breaking a few eggs to make an omelet, but I do want to start with a good engine.

Here's my last "conversion" - FollowMyBuild | Volvo 730 HDT RV Hauler

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Nice bus choice. Go big or go home, huh?
Actually, I'm downsizing quite a bit, in terms of size and cost. The 181" wheelbase is pretty small, all things considered. Currently, we travel in a traditional motorhome (40' Tiffin) and I have just never connected with it. It's too fancy; just not for me. I think the creativity of this build will be more in line with what I want and will work better for our family adventures. Our current motorhome is just that, a home. I want the bus conversion to be more of a basecamp, not a home.
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Old 05-29-2017, 11:41 AM   #6
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Either of those engine would keep me away. ...snip... It is all about squeezing owners for more of the almighty moolah.
Keep in mind that the government is responsible for emissions and energy use standards. Those standards have made it necessary for engine manufacturers to go to extremes just to stay in business. Does that hurt the consumer? You bet it does! Do the service centers make more money on repairs? Of course they do, in order to recoup loses from much more expensive diagnostic equipment and training.

I live in California and drive a 1966 Chevy K10 because it's "smog exempt". Of course I like the truck, but I've now lost two 1980's cars because it's too expensive to get them to pass smog, given legislation that has decreased allowable emissions. At some point I'll need to leave the state because the loonies in charge will require that only state-certified union employees be able to repair vehicles.
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Old 05-29-2017, 12:00 PM   #7
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Do you remember in about 1980 they started putting plugs in carburetors rather than adjustment screws to prevent people from adjusting the carb settings? Ah, those were simpler times.

Now they're just teching you out of working on your vehicle with all the computers and diagnostic equipment. The government makes the rules but it's up to you to obey and pay.
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Old 05-29-2017, 02:29 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
Do you remember in about 1980 they started putting plugs in carburetors rather than adjustment screws to prevent people from adjusting the carb settings? Ah, those were simpler times.

Now they're just teching you out of working on your vehicle with all the computers and diagnostic equipment. The government makes the rules but it's up to you to obey and pay.
except when its tested.. I can build a "dummy" board that will fool any computer out there that its emissions gear is still there.. I can make it act exactly like a real sensor would read.. HOWEVER.. the government is starting to make it so illegal to remove stuff.. that merely by me sharing the plans of how to build such a device on a web board could make me liable for anyone who used it.. meaning I would have to pay their fines.. they get you under similar laws that preclude trackable websites from posting exactly how to make a bomb and how to use it.. the ones out there are rogue and often untraceable...

it keeps the avid hobbyist like myself in a "walled garden".. as im the type who chooses to share information.. if I ever were to build such a device, id never be able to let anyone know I did it.. thats how bad it is.. in certain states especially

most emissions controls are Knee-jerk reactions.. government passes a stricter law with a vdery tight timeline.. so manufacturers just toss something together to pass the tests.. (V-dub anyone?) ..

another example of government in bed with automakers was cash for clunkers - in the name of Climate-change, in reality it caused the price of used cars to go way up.. in the time when new car makers needed to sell new cars...

automakers started selling new cars.. Lease rates were incredible because the residual values were quite high so you could drive a cadillac on a chevy Budget...

it kept a low supply of used cars out there and high preices.. but wait.. now we are aty the end of the 2nd cycle of those cars.. Lessees turned them in and people snatched up nice clean lease returns.. now those cars are flooding the market.. while school bus prices are going UP.. used car prices are plummeting.. killing the ability to sell a lease these days..

oh and cash for clunkers cars overwhelmed every recycling yard in every city.. and so many of those cars were never parted out, they were simply crushed or shredded and put in a landfill.. further studies indicated many of those cars never even had their fluids drained or A/C reclaimed...

who knows what the enviromental trade-off between blown up engines due to failed emissions vs longevity is... or how many DPF filters it takes to equal one truck fire due to an overheated Regen cycle...

-Christopher
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Old 05-29-2017, 05:15 PM   #9
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RANT ALERT!!!

Very few people are aware of a Bill that made it all the way to Congress a number of years back. It was put together and lobbied (paid) for by the Big Three. If it had passed, it would have made it illegal for anyone (you included) but the dealer of that make to perform any kind of service on any vehicle less than five years old.

They very nearly snuck it through but the independent auto service groups found out and pounded them down.

The auto makers countered by simply making autos so absurdly complicated that the "average Joe" cannot take care of them.

This move has nothing to do with the Feds.

Example: Nearly all new cars have modular headlamp units. Many if not most can NOT be replaced easily if at all. My Toyota 4 Runner had a unit go bad so I went online. There are actually several discussion forums exclusively about the absurd design and replacement expense. The dealer wanted about $800 for the complete unit (you can't just replace the bulb, they said) and the labor would have been over $400 because they claimed it required dropping the bumper and loosening & lowering the fender to get to it. And mind you...this was just on one side.

All 100% BS but consistent with what I had read online from others also in disbelief.

Went to my super straight, go-to local mechanic and he confirmed my suspicions. He got me a "knock-off" replacement for just about a hundred bucks made by the same factory that sells the "official" Toyota version...then spent all of maybe five minutes pulling the old one and installing the new. No fender or bumper shenanigans whatsoever required. It's just that there is literally a "trick" to getting them in & out that the dealerships will not acknowledge exists.

And it is only going to get worse. I really feel sorry for folks wanting to acquire a skoolie in the near future as they are quickly succumbing to the same issues. Complexity for no other sake than limiting individuals capacity to take care of them on their own. There is already a premium demand of older, all mechanical units but it won't be long before they are all gone.

With only a very small portion of the world having the tech savvy of someone like Cadillac, I doubt many folks in the very near future will be able to fulfill the dream of...Doing it Themselves.

Rant over. For now.
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Old 05-29-2017, 08:28 PM   #10
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the legislative direction that is being taken now.. is the automakers are vying to be able to develop their own computer networks which are proprietary... current regulations state that all cars must operate on certain communications protocols and provide an OBD-II or J1708 or J1939 (examples) .. external interface... this is what allows aftermarket companies to produce programmers / diagnostic tools, etc..

whole the flash loads in the vehicles computers are defimitely IP or Intellectual Property, the protocols at which they talk are published..

since everyone was required to use OBD2 no compamny can claim it as their own.. so its out there,, and its a HUGE reason independent shops can work on your newer cars..

the push is that "due to hacking attempts and with more autonomous features, the open protocols create a definite security and safety hazard. and must be secured".. that is their take and why they are lobbying to abolish a single standard communications protocol.. if they make it proprietary then the only place you can go to service said car is to the dealer...

since the protocol would be proprietary.. anyone who would reverse engineer it and build a device to read it would be busted for copyright enfringement..

the actual software (firmware) inside the vehicle's computer itself is proprietary.. manufacturers could probably go after the "Superchips" tyoe makers, esp if those guys reverse engineered any source code from the car itself.. However the slippery slope is that the manufacturers make money off of modders.. for one all the botched mods that require a Voided-warranty trip to the dealer... secondly the crowd-sourcing that goes on.. social media creating cults of people buying a certain car because its easily modded for power gains, etc..

-Christopher
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