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Old 03-20-2018, 08:46 PM   #1
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1980 Chevy bus

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Hi I was wondering if anyone had any info about these old Chevy buses? This one says that it has only 88k original miles and all the hoses / tires look good from what I can tell. I have no real clue about the chevy 366 Engine though . Does anyone have any experience with these?

I really like the bus but don't want to get sucked down the rabbit hole of an old bus that never stops breaking.
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Old 03-20-2018, 09:13 PM   #2
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Ive run a few 366/385/454's though never in a bus. While they are fairly reliable for the era, and simple to maintain (parts commonality is much worse than with a standard short block though) the fact of the matter is youre asking a light duty truck engine to do wayyyy more work than it was ever designed to do.


Assuming absolute optimal engine condition:

Youll get terrible terrible horrible MPG

youll suffer persistant minor breakdowns
(Nickle and diming to death)

Youll be awfully underpowered

Even when that block was new the above held true, let alone almost 40 years later

Gassers are NOT meant to last that long, its worth the wait to find the right bus with the right powertrain - dont worry and keep looking youll find it

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Old 03-24-2018, 08:57 PM   #3
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I disagree.

The 366 was a medium duty, commercial fleet type engine, commonly used in buses and trucks, like dump trucks, grain trucks, flatbeds up to 2 1/2 ton.

The 366 was an old school big block V8. It had super low end torque. You could pull a house down the road with one.
Most were around 250 HP. But this is tank like low end pulling power. Stump pulling power! Not made to cruise 75 down the highway. But should go 60 pretty easy.

I had a 65 Chevy bus with a 366 in it coupled to a 4 speed manual. My bus was same size as the one pictured. It was extremely dependable, was bulletproof. CHEAP PARTS - EASY TO GET PARTS - EASY TO FIX. No special tools or intelligence required.

It drove like a pickup of that era would drive. Plenty of power for a bus. Got around 8mpg loaded. Maybe as much as 10mpg with the wind at your back.

I had an old 1 1/2 ton dump truck with the same engine. Never had a problem. I'd load that baby up with 3-4 tons of gravel and cruise up a steep forest road in 3rd gear at 30mph without a sweat.

You can not kill these engines unless you really abuse them.

In buses that old........ pay attention to RUST. Especially on the frame. Look over the brake lines and such as well.

Truthfully, I wish I still had the old 65. I'd buy another in a heart beat if I found one running.

BTW...that sure is a pretty bus in the picture you posted.
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Old 03-24-2018, 09:47 PM   #4
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Old 03-25-2018, 07:34 AM   #5
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that 366 is a great engine, fuel efficiency is not its high point butits all chevy big block and was made well into the 90s.. you can get parts for it still pretty readily. in a short bus like that (really Nice Old ward bus by the way!), you can expect 3-5 MPG.. maybe a little more if it has a 4 barrel carb that you dial in with the front 2 barrels being lower output for cruising and pull the secondaries in a little later.. ..

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Old 03-25-2018, 10:11 AM   #6
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that 366 is a great engine, fuel efficiency is not its high point ........................... you can expect 3-5 MPG.. ........................

-Christopher

Man oh man... I'm thinking the 366 you had was either in a towboat or really, really needed a tune-up bad.
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Old 03-25-2018, 11:06 AM   #7
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Man oh man... I'm thinking the 366 you had was either in a towboat or really, really needed a tune-up bad.
I had a 454HD in a school bus. came with a 2 barrel then I did heads cam intake and a 4 barrel. 2 Air conditioners..

-Christophers
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Old 03-25-2018, 11:17 AM   #8
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366 is a truck engine, meant for this kind of duty. Put fuel injection on it and get 20% better fuel mileage. If did not have mine already I would be looking at it too...neat bus
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Old 03-25-2018, 11:37 AM   #9
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I agree with Ronnie. Change out the top end for a 90's version with TBI. Just use the computer (with wiring) from the doner truck, add an electric fuel pump and you'll be ready to go. Handsome old bus. Jack
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Old 03-25-2018, 12:36 PM   #10
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366 is a truck engine, meant for this kind of duty. Put fuel injection on it and get 20% better fuel mileage. If did not have mine already I would be looking at it too...neat bus
An interesting idea...sounds good on the surface..... but applied to real life, how about this take-----------

OK... so lets say it get's 10mpg with a carb. You increase that 20% with fuel injection. So now you get 12mpg. (if you are lucky ).

Now take into account the time, cost & aggravation of converting to fuel injection.

Add to that the fact you do not drive this daily like you would your primary car.

Then add the fact you just made it less simple to work on and more costly to repair. And for only 2mpg more!

So in reality & in my opinion..........you really gain nothing because it will take a long time for the tiny fuel savings to pay for itself (if it ever does) and you just wasted time doing something not really needed that just made your bus more complicated and more expensive to maintain.

Personally I'd spend my time & money on stuff like good tires, proper tune-up...maybe a more modern carb or a pre-smog control type carb, Free flowing exhaust ( = headers & free flow mufflers using 2 1/2 inch pipe), proper driving habits to get the most efficient use of what you have, possibly changing the rear gear ratio to more match the type of driving you do.

And if the motor ever takes a dive....... install a 350 SBC or even better...a 292 inline 6. I had a few trucks and a bus with the 292 ci..........talk about a power house that is almost indestructible! You'd think you were running a v8 but more bottom end grunt.

And hey......if yer not gonna buy that bus........ message me where it's at...I may just go get it myself. It's truly a sweet looking bus!

CHEERS!
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Old 03-25-2018, 06:19 PM   #11
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I did the math and it comes to driving 10,000 miles to pay off. For me that is great, I will do that in a year. And I get a better running engine, better emissions, and better cold starting. There is a reason carbs are not used anymore.....

This may not be for everyone, but just what I would do, and am doing on our bus. Already have all the parts, just waiting for a bit warmer weather. I have done several others, so I do know what to expect.
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Old 03-25-2018, 07:26 PM   #12
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I have a '74 Chevrolet c60 with the same front clip as your bus. I'm curious if your chassis is the same as earlier 1965 to 1974 medium duty trucks. I found service/parts manuals for the medium duty trucks.

I have a 350 ci in my bus I'm sure it is a not the original engine. My bus has had a propane conversion done in the late 70's.

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Old 03-25-2018, 07:56 PM   #13
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I did the math and it comes to driving 10,000 miles to pay off. For me that is great, I will do that in a year. And I get a better running engine, better emissions, and better cold starting. There is a reason carbs are not used anymore.....

This may not be for everyone, but just what I would do, and am doing on our bus. Already have all the parts, just waiting for a bit warmer weather. I have done several others, so I do know what to expect.
There ya go
Hope it all works out as you plan it too.


PS - I replaced my Holley with a Demon carb 2 years ago on my 82 K10 (with a 73 built Vette 350)...... truthfully.... it's about as good as TBI as far as mileage and starting in any weather. And very tunable ( is that a real word??? ) and NO COMPUTER.
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Old 03-25-2018, 08:57 PM   #14
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TBI--starts every time at any altitude and always runs at it's sweet spot--so whats the big deal about a simple little computer (unless you happen to have a 40 year old Sun scope). Sure is handy to plug in an OBDII and know exactly what is wrong rather than just guessing at it. Good luck finding someone to rebuild a quadrajet any more. And this from a guy with an eighty three year old bus---
Jack
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Old 03-26-2018, 11:30 AM   #15
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TBI--starts every time at any altitude and always runs at it's sweet spot--so whats the big deal about a simple little computer (unless you happen to have a 40 year old Sun scope). Sure is handy to plug in an OBDII and know exactly what is wrong rather than just guessing at it. Good luck finding someone to rebuild a quadrajet any more. And this from a guy with an eighty three year old bus---
Jack
I fondly remember my old Ram 1500 not being able to idle and dying at every light or stop sign on a -20 F night a couple years ago. Good ole TBI that always runs..sure wasn't that night.

Was getting fuel just fine, firing just fine, no codes!
Anyways...to make a long story short... in the end...before I actually bought new parts, I found out (a girl who had same problem suggested this fix) if I unhooked the battery and drained all the juice out of the truck... then hooked the battery back up, it reset the computer and fixed the faulty TBI idle setup. It worked! ... got lucky!... good ole perfect running TBI. (YES - TBI breaks too)

But don't get me wrong.... I like TBI (88-95 Chevy trucks are a good example)

And ODBll !!!.....that's kinda antique itself these days,
But yes, one needs that computer to plug into with more modern machines because you can't tell if one of the sensors is malfunctioning by looking. And the darn things malfunction all too often. (I use a laptop to read my codes... more precise than a scanner & cheaper)

It's so heart warming to pay $150 or more for some little sensor. I especially enjoy the O2 ones firmly rusted into your otherwise good exhaust. Or worse... age welded in your manifold. And let's not forget the sensors in places where you have to take apart 1/2 the engine to get too! Man!...ain't the challenge stimulating?

And don't ya just love computers that only the dealer with his over priced scanner full of top secret software can access? To do even the most simple things. The prices they charge are great too. Plus ya just never know if they are scamming you or not for an unneeded repair.

IMHO, being able to easily & cheaply fix something along the road is a real luxury, especially in an old bus that would cost you a grand to have towed. Unless your rich and have money to throw away.

But I'm thinking most skoolie folks are the thrifty type that enjoy doing things for themselves and getting by on the cheap. I know I do.

And hey, I like my 50 year old tach & dwell meter too. Comes in real handy when I tune up my old motorcycle, British sports car or K10.

But I'm the type that fixes and builds all my own stuff no matter what it is. So I may have a different view of things.

But there are many roads to take.Whatever road one decides to take...........I wish you happiness and good fortune.
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Old 03-26-2018, 02:35 PM   #16
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Just an FYI theres a guy at Divine Autos in Baraboo Wisconsin (named Ryan, one of the owners i think) whos a master at tuning and rebuilding Q jets. Did some work on a 70s 454 i had for a bit, was awesome.

Also, just my 2c, ive ran many GM tbi blocks. Get a diesel. Dont get me wrong, TBI is simpler than a carb and runs w less ... bologna ... but even with the OPs 366 theres just no comparison in reliability, ive never even heard of a 366 (or any gasser) going 400k + w/o major repair. Not even sr22's have that kind of milage in them. T444's, 6bt's, dt466's, 4bt's, 6ct's.... all day long wide open no bullshit - just fill the oil every time you check the fuel.

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Old 03-26-2018, 02:47 PM   #17
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Edit to my last post, yea im well aware of instances of the diesel blocks i mentioned breaking down well before 400k - my point is that its the exception, not the rule.

If i could find a gas block with that kind of expected longevity with the power needed for a bus id run it hands down, gas is way more driver freindly in my opinion. Just not gonna happen though.

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Old 03-26-2018, 06:25 PM   #18
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Think Toyota... Ok not a bus but 300,000 miles plus is the norm for me with Toyota's on a gas engine in a pickup. Ok not a great comparison, but just tossing it out there.

Of course I do have a Dodge 3500 with cummins and 360,000 on it now with no signs of wearing out yet.

For the fellow who started this post, have to really ask how do you plan to use it? how many miles a year? If you really like the bus and drive it a lot and wear out the gas engine do you have the ability to rebuild it, or change it out to a diesel?

Or are you going to mostly do shorts trips a few times a year? If so stick with the engine in it now as is with a good tune up and have fun. As you can see there are many ideas out there and all of them have value.
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Old 03-26-2018, 06:47 PM   #19
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Edit to my last post, yea im well aware of instances of the diesel blocks i mentioned breaking down well before 400k - my point is that its the exception, not the rule.

If i could find a gas block with that kind of expected longevity with the power needed for a bus id run it hands down, gas is way more driver freindly in my opinion. Just not gonna happen though.

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But.... the post is about a 1980 gas bus.
Converting it to a diesel would be very expensive and a royal pain. Not even close to being a cost effective alternative.

You could put a new rebuilt SBC or a BBC in this bus (or any other gas bus) for far cheaper and far less pain.
And if taken care of...will easily go at a minimum 300,000 miles & far more if not abused.

Next point is........ I seriously doubt 99% of skoolie drivers will ever see 300,000 miles in their bus. And "IF" they rack up the miles of a long haul trucker......well....... they shouldn't buy an old school bus anyway...or at least buy a newer one and a diesel.

But Yeah, I agree. A gas bus is more user friendly for most folks. Not to mention easier and cheaper to work on and maintain. Parts way easier to get.

Heck, one time I blew a 327 in an old bus and pulled the engine with a come-along on a tree branch, bought a used 400 out of a station wagon from a junk yard for $200 (we started it on the ground). Dropped it back into the bus the same way.... took all of 3 days, common hand tools and a couple 12 packs to do, just me and my girl friend. Sold the old block for scrap and recouped some of my money.... kept the now extra starter, carb, alt etc. Then drove it several thousand miles and sold it to a buddy. He had it forever and sold it, still running. For all I know...it may still be running.

A country can survive!

But once again............to each their own. Heck I saw a YouTube vid not long ago where a guy had a jet engine in his bus.........LOL
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Old 03-26-2018, 07:53 PM   #20
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I was under the assumption that the thread was more of a "should i buy this" type, if the OP does own it already then yea converting it over isnt practical.

If thats the case id just treat it nice till it (or the trans) craps out then buy a diesel bus...

As to most skoolies never seeing 300k, youre probably right but its a good bench mark since "most" diesels pass it easily enough and "most" gassers never get close..

Also, in reference to the 300k mark, remember these vehicles have anywhere up to 200k on them already before converting to *potentially* cross country full time RVs. Yeah, some are bought at way below the 6 digit mark on the odometer. Some see very very little milage post conversion. Remember were talking about a - what - 37ish year old vehicle NOT straight from a depot here, how much wiggle room is a good margin for overall longevity of the drive train?

As to a 366 seeing said benchmark, let alone a 350 or 454, i doubt 1 in 1000 reach it "without major repair". It just doesnt happen regardless of application. An SBC is solid up to 150k. A carbed bbc 125k, injected only slightly more. A 366 is just a factory-depowered 454 - yes the 454s deathknell (vibrating itself to pieces) is much less prevalent but that gives one the posdibility of - say perhaps 150k before worrying? Maybe 175k? Given this particular bus's assumed 88k - on an exempt and privately owned odometer - you know what,

Im sick of typing. Belaboring my fingers by attempting to convice the internet that diesels are more reliable than old-school gassers is just silly. Of course they are.

The original post worried about "an old bus that never stops breaking". A 1980 366 is the very definition of that.

Cheers guys

Dont mean to offend anyone, just dont want anyone to be stuck on the side of the road because their house is powered by a 38 year old gasser.


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