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Old 01-06-2008, 07:32 PM   #1
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1985 Chevy Short Bus

Hi everyone,

Well, I've been lurking around here for a few months now, hoping and wishing, trying to learn about these cool toys. As of last night, for better or worse, I am the proud owner of an '85 short bus! I don't know much about it, but believe it's a 350 V8, with the 700R4 tranny (not sure). The guy who owned it before me, bought it about six months ago from a church. He put the surfboard roof rack on top and painted it. I am probably taking the rack off, and will eventually re-paint it, in my own style.

I live in San Francisco, and am keeping at my friend's workplace in the East Bay at the moment. If there is anyone around here that can give me any advice, in terms of good mechanics, places to store it, etc. I would really, really appreciate it. It actually didn't pass smog, but I got such a good deal on it, I decided to go for it. I've run it around a couple hours already, and it runs well. I am hoping the engine will just need a tune-up to pass smog, so I need to find a shop around Oakland quickly.

Anyway, I just wanted to show it off here, and say that I love this site!

I am not too sure how to add pictures here, but I think these Photobucket links should work.
http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc55 ... terior.jpg
http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc55 ... w_baby.jpg
http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc55 ... e_view.jpg

Thanks!
-Nathan
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Old 01-06-2008, 08:37 PM   #2
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

I'd put money down saying it's a bluebird
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Old 01-06-2008, 08:40 PM   #3
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

Thanks! I actually read your posts and your bus info. a few weeks ago, and it got me even more interested in getting a short bus. I'm not quite sure who converted it, didn't think last night to look at the info., but I'll check it out, and get back to you.

I am definitely going to go through it, and convert it. Right now, I am focusing on making sure it gets smogged and legal, and then find a place where I can store it, to work on it.

I think mine has the 350, with a 700R4 tranny, like yours. Any quirks or tips you want to pass along????

I have a feeling the tranny is going out. I drove it around this morning, and came back, and noticed a bit of red (I think auto tranny) fluid on the ground. When I was driving it, it would rev really high before shifting into 2nd gear, and then into 3rd gear it seemed fine. Maybe this is normal, I've never owned a bigger vehicle before. I had to take off, so didnt check the tranny fluid level, but will check it in a few days and see where/if it's leaking. Either way, a rebuilt tranny (worst case scenario), is totally worth getting, so I can have a kick-ass shorty bus to convert!

Thanks so much for all the info. you've posted! I am definitely going to have a blast enjoying my new schoolie!

-Nathan
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:01 AM   #4
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

There are a couple of factors that could contribute to the shifting problems you guys have listed. Mostly I'd like to just think it is par for the course. Firm, hard shifts are what keep a transmission alive in a 1 ton. It is going to be calibrated differently from a car.

That said, there are some things you can check. Shift firmness and timing is controlled by two pretty simple factors. You have the governor on the tailshaft of the transmission. This is RPM sensing and is what is going to tell the transmission it is time to shift or the engine might come apart.

The other controlling factor is the throttle valve (and also the vacuum modulator in some cases) which tells the transmission it is time to increase the line pressure and hold on to a gear longer because of engine load.

Normally they work in relative harmony, but there is some adjustability. Given that your shifts are delaying and happening hard I would look at the TV cable adjustment.

Is it surging or anything or just making good firm, delayed shifts? Also, do you know what transmission you have yet? 4 speeds=700R4 while 3 speeds would indicate either a TH-350 or TH-400 with the TH-400 being more likely.
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:23 AM   #5
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus


To post pictures, copy and paste the BOTTOM of the four addresses.
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:24 AM   #6
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

I believe it's a three speed, 1st, 2nd, and drive. Maybe that's a good thing, as the turbo 400 should be a bit beefier than a 700R4, right?

The guy I bought it from told me that lately it seemed to be revving higher than normal for him, before shifting into 2nd gear. So, he added a quart of transmission fluid, and it went away, he said. When he and I were driving it around yesterday, it seemed to shift fine. And I didn't see any tranny fluid in his driveway or anything.

Today, it seemed to just take forever to shift into 2nd, but you're right, maybe I am just not used to the way it is supposed to shift and/or didn't notice it yesterday. It still has an obvious leak of something, but I'll figure it out.

Thanks for the help guys!
-Nathan
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:31 AM   #7
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

A TH-400 is infintsmally stronger than a 700R4. Both were used in 1 tons, but that doesn't make it right. The early 700R4's were notoriously weak. They can be built into decent trannies and are ideal in some applications, but I hold fast to the idea that it's throwing good money at bad, atleast in the applications I generally deal with.

Have you tried a tranny service? I don't think bad fluid is the cause of your issues, if they are in fact issues, but it is good practice to change all the fluids anyway. A filter and gasket kit is going to run you maybe $25-$35. The TH-400 isn't really going to care what fluid you use, but regular Dexron/Mercon III would be a good choice and should tame those shifts. Running the newer Dexron might even tame them more, but the friction additive package in Dex III is a good choice for you.

The job is easy and may well solve your problems. At the very least you will make sure you have good, clean fluid at the proper level and wil give you a chance to make sure you don't have real nasties on the magnet in the pan (some fines are ok).

Oh yeah...stiff shifts in the morning aren't uncommon. The fluid is thicker when it's cold. Does it seem to get better after driving some?
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Old 01-07-2008, 03:30 AM   #8
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

I would get the smog thing figured out before you spend any money on anything else. Except for the tranny service. Congrats on the purchase.
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Old 01-07-2008, 03:31 AM   #9
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

By tranny, I meant transmission not the other kind.
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:50 PM   #10
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Re: 1985 Chevy Short Bus

Yep, smog is definitely my first plan of attack, today or tomorrow, hopefully. I need to get it done quick to appease the California DMV gods!
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