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Old 01-07-2012, 02:19 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Cascadia
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: P35
Engine: 6.2l diesel
Still searching for my bus....

Hi all, I'm new to the forum, but have been dreaming of converting an old bus into a camper for years. I live in Oregon, so see plenty of examples on the road. I have been searching a 2-3 hundred mile range around my home, looking for a 6-8 window bus that I can afford and is in "decent" condition. I see alot of 4 window buses, and plenty of 10+ window buses, but the 6-8 window guys are pretty rare around here.

I've had a few buses that almost worked out, but so far, I've been lied to on CL, where someone tried to sell me a bus that had a damaged frame, and the title had the bus labelled as "not to be driven." Another CL bus was old, rusty and overpriced. The guy told me that $5000 was a great deal on a 1988 Bluebird Workhorse with holes in the roof and it needed 6 new tires. The engine hadn't started in 3-4 years, and he wasn't sure what kind of engine it was. I was pissed that I drove an hour to see that one.

So, I've been watching Craigslist (Search Tempest is very helpful when searching multiple CL sites) and Ebay but haven't seen many buses in my size class. I have also been trying a few school bus dealers in the PDX area that mainly sell new buses, but also sell old buses that are traded in as part of a new bus purchase. Their stock is slim, and their prices are high. The sales manager at one place told me that buying a bus is alot harder today than it was a few years ago. She said that things will only get worse in the next few years. I'm not sure if she was giving me good industry insight, or trying to sucker me to give her $4900 for a 6 window 1989 Bluebird Workhorse with a 6.5L diesel with 255,000 miles. Either way, I walked away. I've been trying to contact First Student, whose website shows that they have a few buses nearby that would fit my needs. They have not responded to emails, and have no local phone numbers listed.

Anyways, I'm getting frustrated with this search, and mostly wanted to vent, but also figured that I would announce that I am looking for a bus in case anyone in the PNW had something that would fit my needs. I'm hoping to find something that can haul 3-4 mountain bikes, and have space for 2-3 to sleep and hang out for 3-5 day road trips. I dont need anything fancy, but I need enough room to fit our gear and not climb over each other all day.

Ideally, the bus would have a handicap door near the back end of the bus to make it easier to load bikes into the "garage" I have planned for the rear of the bus with a sleeping loft above it. I hate the buses with the handicap door next to the main entry. Aesthetically, and functionally, they are horrible. I'll use the back door for garage access if I dont find a bus with the handicap door in the rear corner.

I need to keep the bus small enough to handle some remote gravel roads and tight turns, but I'm not going 4 wheeling, and I don't plan on driving 1000 miles on the highway at a time. Mostly trips of 50-200 miles. Basically, I want a bus that is mechanically sound and has the right amount of space. Fuel efficiency isnt a major concern, but I do want a diesel engine for longevity.My budget is approx $3000 for the bus.

I have been looking at conventional shaped dog-nose buses and the Workhorse chassis "P30" buses. I see alot of the van based mini buses, but they all seem to small for my needs. Do they make van based buses that have 15ft of space behind the driver seat? I also worry that a van shouldn't take such a big load, and that a real bus would be the safest choice. Do you agree, or is 15-18 feet of basic living area without heavy tanks for toilet or shower within the weight limits of the 450 vans?

Any other good spots to look for a good bus? The more that I look, the more worried I am of finding a "good bus" 500 miles away and arriving to find a piece of crap awaiting me. I'd really like to find a bus within the state of Oregon, or in SW Washington.

Thanks,
Boudreaux
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Old 01-07-2012, 06:34 AM   #2
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

the short ones are up on the oregon cl sites all the time. check them all, or use something like claz. and eastern wa is not too far, neither is boise.
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:38 PM   #3
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

I would reconsider the larger bus just so you have more options.
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:55 PM   #4
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

there is a ton of them - short to 40' and even a 4104 converted which probably can be had for 5000. in the salem and portland cragislist... i just checked by typing in "bus" in the search box.
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Old 01-07-2012, 02:42 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Cascadia
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: P35
Engine: 6.2l diesel
Re: Still searching for my bus....

Quote:
Originally Posted by chev49
there is a ton of them - short to 40' and even a 4104 converted which probably can be had for 5000. in the salem and portland cragislist... i just checked by typing in "bus" in the search box.
Huh? I just searched Craigslist again, searching for the word bus in all categories and I see the same few buses that keep coming up. CL Salem has a 4 window bus (too small) for $2900 that just came up in the past 2 days, plus there is an airport shuttle bus and a converted 35' GMC bus (too big) for sale. CL PDX has a few more options, but nothing in my range. They have alot of high mileage shuttle buses for 3000-6000. I am really hoping to get a real school bus and not a fiberglass framed shuttle bus, but I may have to settle on what is available.

The closest thing I can find in a skoolie is this:
http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/ctd/2775528379.html
but it has the handicap window in the worst spot. This bus is pretty nice otherwise, but on the small end of my range.

I have seen alot of buses online and on the road that have the set up that I am looking for. I'm looking as far away as Seattle and even the SF Bay area, but worry about buying a bus sight unseen when it is hundreds of miles from home.

Thanks for looking for me. To help clarify what I'm looking for: 6-8 window school bus with 20-27ft total vehicle length and 14-18feet of interior length behind the driver's seat. The bus would ideally have a handicap door at the rear end of the passenger side.

Roll on....
-B
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Old 01-07-2012, 04:14 PM   #6
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

i had a short bus 45 passger but after u get one u'll wish u had a 35 or a 40 fter 72 passger i'have build a many of bus for people and they turn around an sell them for a bigger one..
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Old 01-07-2012, 07:11 PM   #7
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

govdeals
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Old 01-08-2012, 10:40 AM   #8
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

Quote:
Originally Posted by keith
i had a short bus 45 passger but after u get one u'll wish u had a 35 or a 40 fter 72 passger i'have build a many of bus for people and they turn around an sell them for a bigger one..

even people who have 40' coaches frequently want the 45' ones...

35' - 40' is enough for me.... esp with trailer...
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Old 01-10-2012, 03:07 AM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Chassis: P35
Engine: 6.2l diesel
Re: Still searching for my bus....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boudreaux
The closest thing I can find in a skoolie is this:
http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/ctd/2775528379.html
but it has the handicap window in the worst spot. This bus is pretty nice otherwise, but on the small end of my range.

Thanks for looking for me. To help clarify what I'm looking for: 6-8 window school bus with 20-27ft total vehicle length and 14-18feet of interior length behind the driver's seat. The bus would ideally have a handicap door at the rear end of the passenger side.

Roll on....
-B
I've been negotiating with the seller of this bus. They aren't coming down much on the price, and I can't get over the location of the handicap door. For loading bikes, and the use of a loft over the bike storage, the rear of the bus with a side door to load bikes is the perfect set-up. I also doubt the condition of the bus, but I would hire a mechanic to inspect the bus before I'd ever agree to purchase it. It'll cost me $100 for the inspection, but it could save me plenty.

I think I need to work on my patience, because I keep trying to talk myself into buying this bus, even though I know that a better option will eventually come along. I've never been good at waiting, especially indefinitely.
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Old 01-10-2012, 04:01 AM   #10
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

i see two reasons why they won't lower the price much. First... it's a dealer... .. you are paying retail. and Second.... it's worth that if it runs and trans, etc works correctly. and has great tires. The dealer probably paid about half of that, and may have it on his lot for a long time. Personally, I try to pay only about a third of what a vehicle is worth at the auction cause its pretty likely i will have to fix some things.
and if you are actually willing to pay the full price if necessary, you can always bring cash with you and tell them that you have 3K cash and are looking at two others in the next hour...
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:24 AM   #11
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

I'd like to have that one!
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Old 01-10-2012, 11:07 AM   #12
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

If you are TRYING to talk yourself into the bus, then you will be unhappy with it once you get it. Move on. When the right one comes along, you will know it. You might want to expand your size lengths to include slightly larger. It seems your main thing is the rear side door. So look at everything, no matter how long, with a rear side door.
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:13 PM   #13
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

I don't know what your building skills are, but there are plenty of folks on this forum who have moved doors. Don't like the one near the front? Cut it out from the front, cut out an identical sized hole where you WANT the door, switch & stitch 'em back into place. Walla! Door where you want it on the bus you need.

I realize that's an oversimplification. But it may be something to consider when you find that bus that A) runs great, B) has a good transmission, and C) has a decent set of tires.

Whatever you do, patience will always serve you in the long run! GOOD LUCK.
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Old 01-10-2012, 11:23 PM   #14
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: P35
Engine: 6.2l diesel
Re: Still searching for my bus....

Quote:
Originally Posted by TygerCub
I don't know what your building skills are, but there are plenty of folks on this forum who have moved doors. Don't like the one near the front? Cut it out from the front, cut out an identical sized hole where you WANT the door, switch & stitch 'em back into place. Walla! Door where you want it on the bus you need.

I realize that's an oversimplification. But it may be something to consider when you find that bus that A) runs great, B) has a good transmission, and C) has a decent set of tires.

Whatever you do, patience will always serve you in the long run! GOOD LUCK.
I think that this idea is beyond my skills. I'm confident that I'll find a bus with the handicap door in the rear, it seems more common that way in school buses.

I've found abit of patience for now, and each day holds hope for something I've missed in my search or a new bus on Craigslist. I've been using SearchTempest.com, it allows you to search multiple cities at once within an adjustable range. My range covers most of Washington, all of Oregon, and California north of San Jose.

I would consider a bigger bus (I've seen a few ads that tempt me) but I'm limited by the parking space at my home which is only 27 feet long. I have to fit the bus in my driveway so that I don't piss off my neighbors too much. Even if I do, I'm legal so long as the bus fits in my driveway without sticking into the street. My street is narrow and I can only park in front of my house for 48 hours without moving it or I will get a parking ticket. I also want to keep my bus fairly nimble so it can get me into some pretty remote areas on rough and narrow roads.

In my original post, I asked:
Quote:
I see alot of the van based mini buses, but they all seem to small for my needs. Do they make van based buses that have 15ft of space behind the driver seat? I also worry that a van shouldn't take such a big load, and that a real bus would be the safest choice. Do you agree, or is 15-18 feet of basic living area without heavy tanks for a toilet or shower within the weight limits of the 450 van buses?
Does anyone know much about the capabilities of the van buses? I've heard some have high ceilings that would be tall enough for me (5'7") and I worked to design a "simple" setup with only the essentials for 2 people (plus the dog, bikes and gear) and I've managed draw up a floor plan that will fit a 7x14ft space. I see alot of short buses for sale, but most are only 4 windows long. Would those be 10-11 feet long inside, or are they longer?

Thanks for all the good advice so far. Like alot of people seem to do, I'm coming into this bus world after years of dreaming, but I only recently started learning all the stuff about how to actually convert a bus and all the options and issues that may arise. I'm sure I'll have plenty of questions once I find my bus.

Keep Rollin'
-Boudreaux
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Old 01-11-2012, 12:32 AM   #15
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

Not sure on van sizes... Mine is just over 25' nose to tail... And very nibble, it has a sharper turning radius than my Chevy crew cab...
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Old 01-12-2012, 06:35 PM   #16
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

Shame that you are in Oregon. There is a Skoolie down the street from me (Roswell, NM) that has the handicap door on the rear passenger side. It has what looks to be a stock raised roof. It's for sale.
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Old 01-15-2012, 10:40 PM   #17
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske
Shame that you are in Oregon. There is a Skoolie down the street from me (Roswell, NM) that has the handicap door on the rear passenger side. It has what looks to be a stock raised roof. It's for sale.
New Mexico is a bit beyond my range, but thanks for keeping an eye out for me.
I think I found a good bus, I'm going to look at it tomorrow.

http://corvallis.craigslist.org/cto/2800845304.html

The owner says he has all the maintenance records from the school that retired the bus last year.
It has the handicap door where I want it, and while it is on the small end of what I want, it will easily fit in my driveway and should be pretty efficient on fuel.

Does anyone have comments on the 6.2liter diesel or the TH400 tranny? I've read good things about the tranny, but not such good things about the 6.2l diesel. If it has low miles since the rebuild, it should last for awhile (I hope).

The seller says the odometer shows 160k. Do they replace the odometer when they rebuild a motor, or would the odometer show the total miles that the vehicle has driven in its life?
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Old 01-15-2012, 11:17 PM   #18
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

I'm a Chevy guy and I won't own a 6.2... Myself, I would walk away from that one...
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Old 01-16-2012, 09:00 AM   #19
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Re: Still searching for my bus....

The busses around here normally get the hub meter rolled back and not the speedo. Sometimes the hour meter in the dash. As far as the mechanical, the th400 is a good transmission, and they are not hard to rebuild if you make up a few tools. In my opinion this chevy engine is not the greatest, as we have changed out two of them that had upper end problems. However, there are lots of those around for sale.
However, I don't know much, as my favorite engine is the throw away 3208 cat.
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:42 PM   #20
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Cascadia
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Year: 1990
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Chassis: P35
Engine: 6.2l diesel
Re: Still searching for my bus....

Quote:
I think I found a good bus, I'm going to look at it tomorrow.

http://corvallis.craigslist.org/cto/2800845304.html

The owner says he has all the maintenance records from the school that retired the bus last year.
It has the handicap door where I want it, and while it is on the small end of what I want, it will easily fit in my driveway and should be pretty efficient on fuel.

Does anyone have comments on the 6.2liter diesel or the TH400 tranny? I've read good things about the tranny, but not such good things about the 6.2l diesel. If it has low miles since the rebuild, it should last for awhile (I hope).

The seller says the odometer shows 160k. Do they replace the odometer when they rebuild a motor, or would the odometer show the total miles that the vehicle has driven in its life?
I looked at this bus today and liked what I saw. The maintenance records look good, and they show that the 6.2l engine was rebuilt at 135k. The test drive was kinda wild, geting used to the forward position of the drivers seat and worrying about running over curbs and mailboxes the whole time, but it drove well, and felt pretty smooth. Once I get used to using the mirrors, I should be ok.

It had plenty of power at lower speeds and I got it to 50mph without any trouble. I didn't take it on the highway to test top speeds.

The only weird thing that came up is that the speedometer reads 10mph below the proper speed, regardless of how fast you go. The odometer supposedly is accurate, tested out by the seller on the highway with mileage markers.

I may be taking a gamble, but Im hoping that the engine and tranny will prove to have plenty of life left, and enough power for my needs. I'm still trying to find a mobile mechainic in the area to check out the engine before I buy the bus, but I have had trouble finding a mechanic, so I may proceed without a more thorough inspection.

I'll post a few pics later tonight.
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