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Old 05-13-2017, 05:54 PM   #1
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Time to make a choice...

Good afternoon everybody. I have been looking at a bus that is about 400 miles away. A 2002 Thomas RE with air suspension, 78" roof, Cummins engine, 3060 Allison trans, ??? axle gear ratio, and 165,000 miles. I just found a couple of rear engine Blue Bird busses today that are less than an hour from my house. The first is a 1997 BB re with spring suspension, 78" roof, Cummins, Allison trans (don't know which one), 5.38 gear ratio, 81,000 miles. The second is a 2000 BB re All-American with air suspension, 78" roof, CAT engine, Allison (again don't know but has push button shift), 4.78 gear ratio and 155,000 miles. I have the transmission serial #s from the ID plates inside the BB busses if there is a way to find out what they are. The Thomas is an 84 passenger, the two BBs both measure 35' from back of driver seat to back window (plenty of room!). All three busses are priced the same $4,500. Tires on the BB have great tread depth but have some slight cracking, have not seen the Thomas. Any constructive thoughts, comments or advice one way or the other to help me make this decision would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:11 PM   #2
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If I had the choice I would stick with a cummins engine cause the parts are more readily available. A CAT engine will cost you anytime you have to open the hood on it.
Any push button Allison is electronic . And I can't speak for which one is there.
Cummins is a common in most parts stores but CAT is a money pit.
My opinion?
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:17 PM   #3
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Agree with everything Jolly Roger said.

You can punch your Allison serial numbers in here to find out all about them. If memory serves me correctly, anything that starts with 6510 will be an MD3060.

Any idea which Cummins the Thomas has in it?
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:19 PM   #4
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Also meant to add that I want and am attempting to add air suspension on my 86 but when/if I do then I know the age of the bags themselves?
An air bag suspension is great for many reasons but it is high dollar maintenance/replacements verses sucking up the bounce of a spring ride.
The only way those two busses should be priced the same is that one is the body is better than the other.
Just my thoughts
Good luck
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:59 PM   #5
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I concur with Jolly Roger Cummins all the way if you can't get a Detroit DT466, caterpillar is just too expensive to work on.

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Old 05-13-2017, 07:50 PM   #6
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Go with the '97 and stay all mechanical.
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Old 05-13-2017, 08:09 PM   #7
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I concur with Jolly Roger Cummins all the way if you can't get a Detroit DT466, caterpillar is just too expensive to work on.

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Sorry, miss read your post. edited my foot out of my mouth.
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Old 05-13-2017, 08:22 PM   #8
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Thank you all for the input and support so far. I am shy of the Thomas because it is so far away I can't just run and look at it and that is a long way to try to drive a bus I realistically know nothing about. Communication with the seller has been unreliable this far, not answering, telling me he sent pic or info and I never rcvd it. Just don't want to go on LONG distance joy ride for it to end up a bust. As for the two BBs I found today, on one hand you have a 1997, spring suspension, Cummins, unknown Allison transmission, with 80k miles, and 5.38 gears (it's not a school bus, it has smooth sides and no rub rails). On the other hand there is a 2000, All American, with air suspension, and 4.78 gears, but it has the CAT, and 150k miles. I like 97 with the Cummins and low miles but it probably has the non lockup trans. I like the 2000 because of the air suspension but don't like the miles or what I have heard about the CAT engine. Am I too hung up on the air suspension? Has anybody had experience with rear engine Blue Birds in that age with and without air suspension that could give a comparison? I want any long rides to be as comfortable as possible.
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Old 05-13-2017, 10:07 PM   #9
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I'm not really understanding the deal with air bags. Yes your bus runs smoother when you're traveling. Where are you when you're traveling? In the driver's seat, and most buses don't have air ride in the front.
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Old 05-13-2017, 10:31 PM   #10
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This bus has air ride front and rear, and both busses have an air ride driver's seat. My concern is more for my family traveling with me. My memories of riding on a bus as a kid would equal that of a pogo stick crossed with a jackhammer! Maybe the suspension systems changed a lot from the 80s to 1997, I don't know. Just looking for an experienced opinion from somebody that has been there done that before I make my decision.
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Old 05-13-2017, 11:03 PM   #11
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Find out which which Cummins engines those two buses have. There's a big difference between a 5.9 and an 8.3. Also, look up the transmission numbers on the site I linked to. Find out all the details so you can make an accurate comparison.

And you aren't placing too much importance on an air suspension. It makes a huge difference. That said, I'd take a spring suspension before I'd take a bus with a Cat in it.

Try to get the seller of the Thomas to answer your questions. That might be the best of the three buses.
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Old 05-13-2017, 11:50 PM   #12
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Thanks Rameses! The 150k 2000 with Cat and air susp has a MD3066. The 80k 1997 with spring susp and Cummins 5.9 has MTB643.
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:43 PM   #13
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You never said where you're located, but if you're out west, this's a good one to look seriously at...

https://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?f...22&acctid=9850

I wouldn't hesitate to jump in that and drive it home.
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Old 05-15-2017, 10:12 PM   #14
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Thanks for the lead! Unfortunately I am on the MS Gulf Coast. The Thomas I mentioned earlier is also a 5.9 Cummins. I went and test drove the two Blue Birds tonight. WOW! What a difference in the two. The 2000 All American with CAT and air suspension drove great. I had never driven a bus before and felt very comfortable in just a couple miles. By comparison the 1997 with the 5.9 Cummins and spring suspension was terrible. I drove this bus second and was uncomfortable and turned around after about a mile. It rode very rough, felt every little crack in the road. And that engine in that big of a bus seemed to be very under powered, pedal to the floor and it took a lot to get to 35-40 mph. If I didn't read or hear anything about busses I would jump all over the 2000 BB. The Cat engine still has me a little spooked.
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Old 05-15-2017, 10:18 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jolly Roger View Post
Also meant to add that I want and am attempting to add air suspension on my 86 but when/if I do then I know the age of the bags themselves?
An air bag suspension is great for many reasons but it is high dollar maintenance/replacements verses sucking up the bounce of a spring ride.
The only way those two busses should be priced the same is that one is the body is better than the other.
Just my thoughts
Good luck
Air ride make for a MUCH better bus. Less breakage of your stuff, better ride.
I don't see how its really HIGH dollar to maintain, but leaf springs are definitely simpler, cruder for sure.
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Old 05-15-2017, 10:19 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rameses View Post
You never said where you're located, but if you're out west, this's a good one to look seriously at...

https://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?f...22&acctid=9850

I wouldn't hesitate to jump in that and drive it home.
For the love of all that is good, please DO buy that bus, its a SWEET one.
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Old 05-15-2017, 10:45 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bridg73988 View Post
Thanks for the lead! Unfortunately I am on the MS Gulf Coast. The Thomas I mentioned earlier is also a 5.9 Cummins. I went and test drove the two Blue Birds tonight. WOW! What a difference in the two. The 2000 All American with CAT and air suspension drove great. I had never driven a bus before and felt very comfortable in just a couple miles. By comparison the 1997 with the 5.9 Cummins and spring suspension was terrible. I drove this bus second and was uncomfortable and turned around after about a mile. It rode very rough, felt every little crack in the road. And that engine in that big of a bus seemed to be very under powered, pedal to the floor and it took a lot to get to 35-40 mph. If I didn't read or hear anything about busses I would jump all over the 2000 BB. The Cat engine still has me a little spooked.

Sounds like pretty sound analysis. When I was shopping for a bus, I was only considering one of it had either a Cummins 8.3 or an International DT466. Air ride suspensions are a really nice luxury, but are pretty rare. I'd love to have one, but not if it meant having a Cat powerplant.
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Old 05-15-2017, 11:01 PM   #18
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Air ride make for a MUCH better bus. Less breakage of your stuff, better ride.
I don't see how its really HIGH dollar to maintain, but leaf springs are definitely simpler, cruder for sure.
I bought new airbags for my Crown. It requires 8 of them for just the rear. Firestone had to spin up an old line to remake and ship them. Not cheap, and after sticker shock I realized that almost all big truck airbags aren't much better as far as price goes. ;)

Damn nice ride though and that's just with 'em in the rear. Springs up front.
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Old 05-15-2017, 11:34 PM   #19
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That thing rode great, and drove great with the Cat and Allison 3066 trans. BUT.......... I keep hearing people wouldn't touch it with a 40ft bus. Then there are some that say it's a good engine just expensive IF it has a problem. If I hadn't heard the negatives about the Cat I would have bought it on the spot! But since I have, I am struggling with the decision. Anybody out there want to chime in with their cat 3126 pros and cons experiences. How has your 3126 done for you?
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Old 05-16-2017, 06:27 AM   #20
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I bought new airbags for my Crown. It requires 8 of them for just the rear. Firestone had to spin up an old line to remake and ship them. Not cheap, and after sticker shock I realized that almost all big truck airbags aren't much better as far as price goes. ;)

Damn nice ride though and that's just with 'em in the rear. Springs up front.
Both my cheapo AmTrans came with air ride rear. The bags are a couple hundo to replace, each. Two in rear like any normal setup I've ever seen on a school bus.
Maybe I don't need a Crown if they're made so heavily of unobtainium.

After owning a bus on leafs and two on air bags, I'd never buy a leaf spring bus and spend time and money turning it into a horrible-riding home.
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