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Old 01-23-2015, 01:49 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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1986 E-350 SCHOOL BUS, a good choice?

Hello,
I am looking for a short bus to turn into a mobile art studio. I found a 1986 E-350 gas shortie on craigslist, they are asking 2500. The owner says it runs and starts good.

Here are the stats
1986 1986 E-350 SCHOOL BUS odometer: 100659 VIN: 1FDJE37HXGHB67735 bus drive : rwd fuel : gas transmission : automatic title status : clean cylinders : 8 cylinders condition: good

I am not super savvy mechanically, so am looking for something fairly reliable that I dont have to fuss with all the time. I am not going to drive it long distances, as I live on an island and want an on-island rig. Just trips to the beach etc.., so I can make my art in different atmospheres. So gas mileage not a huge factor for me.

Anyone have experience with this sort of beast? It is in my price range, but perhaps it would pay off in the long run to spend more money upfront... i am hesitant to buy something cheap, as I know you often get what you pay for.... however I don't need anything glamorous, just utilitarian.

that has a good start inside, it has cabinets and a spot for a woodstove.
heres the listing : http://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/cto/4857812011.html

Any input would be helpful! Thanks Bus people!
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Old 01-23-2015, 07:47 PM   #2
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Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
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The price looks good and the body looks fine in the pictures so the rest will depend on the condition of the running gear. Gas mileage will be in the single digits but not a big deal if you're not going far. 100 grand isn't too bad for a well maintained motor and trans. Brakes and 6 tires are pretty expensive to replace so those deserve a good look. Since you won't be traveling too far afield you can be a bit less paranoid about reliability.

Around here (Detroit metro area) used shuttle buses go for about that much but they're pretty wrung out.

Most states require that the school bus yellow color be painted over and the top flashers be disabled.
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Old 01-23-2015, 07:57 PM   #3
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That's a neat little bus! I have no experience with E350's from the '80s, but it doesn't have many miles on it for being so old.

The one thing that bothered me immediately is the chimney exit through the side of the bus. Out of necessity, a skoolie with a wood stove will have a much shorter chimney than what you would find in a house. Putting two 90į angles in the chimney will drastically decrease the draft (mm.. alliteration), especially with having such a short chimney to begin with. My guess is that the previous owner had all sorts of problems with back-drafting smoke and smoldering fires. Not a deal-breaker, though. It's easy enough to punch a hole through the roof. You can seal the exiting INSULATED CHIMNEY with something like this: Dektite Hi Temp Pipe Flashing.

The cheap chap in me thinks that $2500 is pushing it a bit, though. If - after a test drive - it turned out to drive smooth I'd offer $2000 and see where that put us.
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Old 01-23-2015, 08:01 PM   #4
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Also, having tire chains is pretty bad ass.. Those can go for a couple hundred dollars. I've been shopping around for triples for my bus and they demand about $300-$400 for a set (though my tires are a good bit bigger than this E350).
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Old 01-24-2015, 07:01 AM   #5
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I'd rather have a fresh one from the school district.
A newer one with the 7.3 or if gm then 6.5 diesel. These shorties go for CHEAP at auction. Like a thousand bucks...
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Old 01-28-2015, 02:24 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Much Thanks

Hi All,
Thank you so much for the wonderful informative and informed replies! Lots of things to consider.
The bus already having a wood stove setup was a big bonus for me, so if I would have to mess around with it anyway, thats a point against it.

I've had a few people that I've spoken to recommend getting one strait from a school district or other organization which has a regular maintinence schedule etc..
Ive also had people recommend a diesel Cummins engine, anyone have experience with those?

Thanks again!
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Old 01-28-2015, 02:36 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Chassis: Ford E-350
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That engine is a good one, but not efficient. Expect 8mpgs or less. Vans are cheap and plentiful even as busses. The 7.3 is a much better choice if you can find one. I would offer 1300 or so, maybe 1500.
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Old 01-28-2015, 03:28 PM   #8
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Year: 1992
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Quote:
Originally Posted by birdbus View Post
Hi All,
Thank you so much for the wonderful informative and informed replies! Lots of things to consider.
The bus already having a wood stove setup was a big bonus for me, so if I would have to mess around with it anyway, thats a point against it.

I've had a few people that I've spoken to recommend getting one strait from a school district or other organization which has a regular maintinence schedule etc..
Ive also had people recommend a diesel Cummins engine, anyone have experience with those?

Thanks again!
A friend is getting almost 75 mph and over 9 mpg with his cummins. They are good. International is better, but cummins is good.
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Old 01-28-2015, 06:52 PM   #9
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For the price that isn't a bad deal particularly if it is already titled as an RV.

Removing/disabling the 8-way lights is a requirement in the state of WA. One has to wonder why it wasn't done before it left the school district.

Painting it a different color is always a good idea. Keeping a bus National School Bus Chrome Yellow is a good way in which to get unwanted attention from law enforcement officers.

That seems suspiciously low mileage for a bus of that vintage. Figure 10K miles average per year and that bus would be a lot closer to 300K miles. Even at 5K per year it should have 150K miles.

In my experience few little buses with lifts ever do less than 10K miles per year. It is not unknown for little buses to go in excess of 30K per year. Knowing which district in which it saw service could help explain the lack of mileage on it.

If you are not going to be driving many miles I would stay away from diesel engines. Diesel engines do really well going lots of miles and really do not do well on short hops. They need to get fully warmed up to operate correctly.
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Old 01-28-2015, 10:30 PM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Hmm.... Good point, i hadn't thought about the diesel having to warm up.
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