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Old 01-06-2019, 10:41 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
Mesa Bus- The Other One

"The bus came by ang I got on, that's when it all began"

I'm finally starting this long overdue thread so will have to play catch up. For years I have been wanting to build my own larger camper, having built several basic van campers. I have always loved the shorter, flat front buses, so when one came up on craigslist a mile from home in late 2017, I had to go look. And down the slide I went! I found this site, read, and read, and read but finally let that one go.

After seeing Brokedown's Vista, I was hooked on the small platform despite some of the warnings regarding noise, ride quality. I bid and won one (well actually 2 by mistake) in Mesa, AZ in Feb, 2018. Early March saw me flying into Phoenix to pick her up. A 1998 Thomas Vista 5 window with a International T444E and an....AT545 (replaced in 2011). + Two A/C units. And no rust-None! Buy in AZ!
20180309_161830.jpg
The bus barn was super easy to deal with and when I asked for any tips about it, having never driven one, they sent out a mechanic to go over it. She had worked there since the bus was new and gave me all sorts of tips for operating, etc.

After getting a temp permit and some supplies at HD to make locks for the rear doors, I grabbed a drive motel for the night.
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Then it was time to hit the road for the 1,300 mile shakedown. Five mountain passes later, I have confidence that the wind resistance balances the 12,000 lb. empty weight quite well. No worries with the AT545 going downhill- though I do yearn to replace it for improved highway travel. I learned the hard way that my glow plugs needed replacing on my first morning in the mountains of UT.
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Three days on the road got me comfortable driving, though man- is it loud! More on that later....
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:14 PM   #2
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
My wife thought we should do a spring break trip to try things out. The bus was a wheelchair bus so only came with five benches. I built a quick bed in back and rearranged the seats.
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Off we went to Oregon- Mt Hood:
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Through Portland and to the Oregon Coast- in April- can you say WET? Well, on the return trip, we awoke in a park in the Columbia Gorge to the start engine beeper wailing. The rain had shorted something between the engine and batteries. We learned that old Peterbuilts are much quieter than T444Es
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We got towed to a Ford Mid-duty truck dealer and we rented a rig to get home for work & school. The dealer was clueless- had the bus for over a week and finally admitted to knowing nothing. They felt bad and didn't charge us, and after a struggle, even credited us for the $400 they wanted to replace the U-joint they claimed was damaged in towing-no proof. A couple Hours at Absolute Diesel in Portland and they had it diagnosed and repaired.

Home again to start some mods...
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:33 PM   #3
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
Soundproofing and painting

In June I had researched some options to quiet the beast. I borrowed a friends shop and stripped the engine compartment and masked. I then applied Lizard Skin sound and heat reducing ceramic paint to the firewall, doghouse and nearby panels.
IMG_20180616_124007.jpg IMG_20180618_171332.jpg
Did it help? Maybe? Slightly. In hindsight, that's probably better for big tinny panels. More soundproofing to come...
Next week, I rolled back into the shop to prep and paint.
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Scotch bright and sandpaper prep. Harbor Freight HVLP sprayer. 2 coats Benjamin Moore Super Spec Urethane Alkyd Enamel- one gallon. I could have thinned for a slightly smoother finish but am happy with the slight orange peel look.
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:40 PM   #4
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 482
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Funny that you made "C-OOL BUS" from "SCHOOL BUS" as I did the same just after my wife and I purchased ours in October of 2017.


P.S.:My wife likes the shot of the bus in the shhop getting painted ... likes the color of the bus.
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:47 PM   #5
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
Temp interior mods

I had found some nice leather-like seats on our Portland trip from a woman converting a turtle top shuttle. Those along with a Habitat Restore cabinet completed our temporary summer camper. Oh, but what to do for curtains? My 14 yo son strung parachute cord on the screws above the windows and stretched some tapestries.
IMG_20181221_165632.jpg
IMG_20181221_165712.jpg
Just in time- Off to the Gorge- Dead & Co
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Lots of approval in that crowd
IMG_20180629_092034.jpg
Driver Training- Cowboy hat mandatory
IMG_20180703_095138.jpg
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Old 01-07-2019, 07:16 AM   #6
Bus Geek
 
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 8,453
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
So...exactly what did the diesel shop determine your problem was?
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Old 01-07-2019, 07:21 AM   #7
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,243
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
awesome bus!!! yeah the 444E is a loud beast... they do quiet down once they warm up fully.. but im guessing louder in a vista than in my red bus..



DO make sure your electric modulator is good on your AT545 or you will destroy it like I did mine.. right after it shifts into a hiugher gear.. like 3-4 at light throttle floor it and see if it goes back to 3.. if it does then you are golden, if not then start testing that modulator.. it regulates heavy throttle line pressure.. in low mode at heavy throttle climbing hills and such == bye bye tranny.. dont ask me how I know that..



Dynamat or hush-mat on the Inside of your metal floors / firewall in the driver area will help with noise.. though not much with heat... thats what your 2 A/C units are for.. dont take them out! you'll regret it.. you can likely dynamat then reflectix the doghouse underside to help with heat and noise.. but in general school busses are louder than peter-bilts.. that said, id rather be on the school bus and not in the pete-seat!


-Christopher
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:20 PM   #8
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Funny that you made "C-OOL BUS" from "SCHOOL BUS" as I did the same just after my wife and I purchased ours in October of 2017.


P.S.:My wife likes the shot of the bus in the shhop getting painted ... likes the color of the bus.
Yes, I knew we wouldn't be the 1st C-OOL Bus. We're considering scraping off the rest, but I still get a kick out of watching people glance at it and then realize it says something different than they thought. Then the grin follows.
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:23 PM   #9
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
So...exactly what did the diesel shop determine your problem was?
As I recall, the ground connection failed going to the ECM. Taking a desert SW bus to the Oregon coast probably was just too much for the old girl. I used to live in Oregon, but the rain we had on that trip was crazy!
Going to have to hone my electrical tracing skills.
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Old 01-07-2019, 03:39 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Sandpoint, ID
Posts: 115
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
awesome bus!!! yeah the 444E is a loud beast... they do quiet down once they warm up fully.. but im guessing louder in a vista than in my red bus..


DO make sure your electric modulator is good on your AT545 or you will destroy it like I did mine.. right after it shifts into a hiugher gear.. like 3-4 at light throttle floor it and see if it goes back to 3.. if it does then you are golden, if not then start testing that modulator.. it regulates heavy throttle line pressure.. in low mode at heavy throttle climbing hills and such == bye bye tranny.. dont ask me how I know that..



Dynamat or hush-mat on the Inside of your metal floors / firewall in the driver area will help with noise.. though not much with heat... thats what your 2 A/C units are for.. dont take them out! you'll regret it.. you can likely dynamat then reflectix the doghouse underside to help with heat and noise.. but in general school busses are louder than peter-bilts.. that said, id rather be on the school bus and not in the pete-seat!


-Christopher
Hi Christopher, Thanks for the advice on the tranny. So far it seems to be a solid transmission. We did have to stop and cool on big mountain climbs last summer so a secondary trans. cooler would probably be good. Honestly though, I've read your Redbyrd Trans thread several times and would love to do the same. I think 5th gear would allow cruising at lower RPMs and hence be quieter. Better MPG too. There's a used truck dealer in Southern Idaho that deals transmissions and if I could get them to do the swap, it might be worth it. I'm not that mechanically inclined.
I debated the Dynamat, but opted for the Lizard Skin. I've since made additional sound reduction improvements I'll post soon.

Thanks for the note on the AC too. I was getting ready to ask the question, though I knew what your answer would be. My debate is to keep both or move the rear AC to the location of the smaller front one- which isn't blowing cold. I wondered if the one big one would suffice if up front. Gets the cool air closer to where the passengers are and gets the obstruction from over the bed.
Thanks for your thoughts,
Chris
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