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Old 08-06-2017, 07:13 PM   #1
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The Daily Driver Bus

I just purchased my second bus!
This is my first school bus and I'm excited to be working with metal instead of fiberglass.
It is a 2002 GMC Carpenter bus from South Texas. At 16 and 1/2 feet long it is 12 feet shorter than my festival bus and will now be the daily driver/camper for my girlfriend Diana and I. This should make ventures to the supermarket and crowded parking lots a lot easier.
This is the last year of the 350 which is the engine I was going for. The reliability, access to replacement parts, and the familiarity of people all over the country in regards to repairing it were the biggest reason we purchased it. Also, the handicap lift door is in the front leaving the room to build a bedroom undisturbed in the back.
It didn't come with a lift but I'll be purchasing one to add. The only downside is no air conditioning only a fan but I will be adding that aftermarket as well.
I'm not sure of the transmission but the seller believes it is the 400 turbo.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to test drive it ahead of time but I spoke with the seller several times and believe his sincerity of the shape it's in. He purchased it for his wife along with another bus that they were going to both rebuild but she ended up not using it. It has 105,000 miles, good tires, and runs like a champ. My friend from Huston will be picking it up for me in the next week and bringing it to Fayetteville Arkansas where we will be completely rebuilding it. I imagine he will be taking some pictures of the journey I can share with you all.
The plan is to unbolt the seats and pile them in the front so that he can put his motorcycle in the back to drive home after he delivers it. What a good friend.
These are the photos I got from the seller:
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg bus5.jpg (155.3 KB, 74 views)
File Type: jpg bus6.jpg (167.2 KB, 76 views)
File Type: jpg bus7.jpg (113.1 KB, 68 views)
File Type: jpg bus8.jpg (178.4 KB, 75 views)
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Old 08-06-2017, 10:10 PM   #2
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Daily driver buses RULE!!! Congrats on the nice lil score! I love those classic chevy vans.
I got a shorty for just such purposes. I wanted something that I could enjoy NOW, and fit into regular parking lots and such.


Maybe this will become more of a "thing" and we'll end up with a mega-thread on daily driver shorties!
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Old 08-06-2017, 11:54 PM   #3
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Awsome.!!! nice first daily driver school bus, ill be watchin.
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Old 08-07-2017, 01:08 AM   #4
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I hate to call out. But that looks to me like a mid 80's Vandura. If it has a 350, it ought to be a 3L80E or TH400 variant. Headlights scream that it is pre-91 facelift. They also introduce the 4L80E in 91 for vans of I recall. Which means to me that it is likely non-overdrive. I have a half dozen TH-350 and TH-400 transmissions I am junking this week, because nobody wants them. Please correct me if I am wrong, but in 1995 they should have started introducing the Chevy Express which saw the end of the 350 in 2002.

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Old 08-07-2017, 08:38 AM   #5
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thats definitely not the pictures of an 02, they were using the newer savannah chassis in any busses after about 97.. charles has it right, looks like a mid 80s van.. I didnt know of any van using a TH-400 after the late 80s.

yellowxj has one very similar and his is a 350 with a TH-400 transmission. that combo is virtually bulletproof as far as reliability and ease / cheapness of finding repair parts for. it will likely not be great on gas depending on its rear gearing.

I love the drivetrain combo just because of my old hotrod background.. we used this combo a lot..

adding A/C is going to be a pain to do if you want it in the dash.. (I know ive done it before on one of these).. you'll need to plan on serveral trips to the junkyard and completely removing the dash assembly down to the frame.. thats the best way to install it.. I still see these vans in the wrecking yard with front dash A/C so it can be found.. but these vans had no provisions for A/C if ordered without.. you'll need the box under the hood.. everything inside the dash.. - ducts, vents, air-door mechanism, vacuum actuators, etc.. then you'll want to make sure you have the correct fan clutch as the ones without A/C didnt have a high enough minimum speed to handle A/C.

I totally LOVE a daily driver bus!!.. I drive my red one around like that! as a daily driver! . right now im 2600 miles into a 3700 mile road trip... im at starbucks right now and the bus is right around the corner

-Christopher
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:58 AM   #6
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If anyone really is giving away some Th400 trannys I'll take em!
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Old 08-07-2017, 01:52 PM   #7
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Well ****.
You guys are exactly on point. It is a 1991 G3500 Vandura. The seller says he has too many cars and it was the honest mistake.
Can you guys give me some good advice? I wanted the newer version because I heard that the gas mileage was better. Would this be fuel injected?
If this helps: 2GDHG31K4m4508122
What sort of gas mileage and I'm looking at? Can any of you verify the transmission?
Thanks for all your help.
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Old 08-07-2017, 02:00 PM   #8
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Well ****.
You guys are exactly on point. It is a 1991 G3500 Vandura. The seller says he has too many cars and it was the honest mistake.
Can you guys give me some good advice? I wanted the newer version because I heard that the gas mileage was better. Would this be fuel injected?
If this helps: 2GDHG31K4m4508122
What sort of gas mileage and I'm looking at? Can any of you verify the transmission?
Thanks for all your help.
I like the older ones, personally. the newer ones are nice, but don't have that classic look or feel.
But this is a great example of why I only buy from schools.
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Old 08-07-2017, 02:06 PM   #9
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Well ****.
You guys are exactly on point. It is a 1991 G3500 Vandura. The seller says he has too many cars and it was the honest mistake.
Can you guys give me some good advice? I wanted the newer version because I heard that the gas mileage was better. Would this be fuel injected?
If this helps: 2GDHG31K4m4508122
What sort of gas mileage and I'm looking at? Can any of you verify the transmission?
Thanks for all your help.
Any ammount of modifications could be on that 350. Either advanced, or simplified. So it should be a 350 with throttle body injection. Decent engine, though the newer would be a vortex 350 with marginally better fuel econemy, it would be far less reliable with all the electronics. You may also be exempt from emissions, so possibly not catalytic converter to deal with. That's always nice.

At that year, it should be a heavy duty version of the TH400 which is a great overbuilt tranny, just without OD. Vin will not matter if it has ever been swapped. If you ever get a chance, take some pictures of the tranny, and we can tell you. Should have a visible plate on the tranny as well.


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Old 08-07-2017, 02:07 PM   #10
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91 "should" be Throttle Body injected 350 and may have overdrive.. quick pics of the engine compartment wit hthe air cleaner off and the PRND shifter label will tell you if it has a 700R4 trans or not.. in 1991 some of them did.

the 700R4 is a lockup overdrive transmission however it wasnt the strongest muscle in the arm, if you arent planning to tow or haul a ton of weight a 700R4 is OK.. but load themn down heavy and they break.. on vehidles with the 700 it would be a PRN(D)D21 (D) being circle D or overdrive..

-Christopher
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Old 08-07-2017, 02:40 PM   #11
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OK,
He said it without OD. So are we fairly confident it is the TH400? I can't decide if I should keep it or not. How will it do on the highway and in town? I was hoping for decent gas mileage. Searching for 1991 G3500 Vandura online it's claiming around 15 MPG. Could this even the correct?
https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymo..._Vandura.shtml
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Old 08-07-2017, 03:27 PM   #12
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91 "should" be Throttle Body injected 350 and may have overdrive.. quick pics of the engine compartment wit hthe air cleaner off and the PRND shifter label will tell you if it has a 700R4 trans or not.. in 1991 some of them did.

the 700R4 is a lockup overdrive transmission however it wasnt the strongest muscle in the arm, if you arent planning to tow or haul a ton of weight a 700R4 is OK.. but load themn down heavy and they break.. on vehidles with the 700 it would be a PRN(D)D21 (D) being circle D or overdrive..

-Christopher
Good info. I have a 1992 chevy with the 700R4. A good note, 1 - 2 - D - (D). The overdrive is inside a big O. On both of my 4L80E trucks, it is; 1 - 2 - 3 - D.

I haven't seen any 700R4 in one yet, but he is spot on. You can find that tranny in a lot of early 90's 1500 chevy pickup trucks. But if I recall GM went straight from the TH400 variants into the 4L80E in the heavier duty chasis around 91. Since the 700R4 would not hold up well to towing with a 454 or 6.5L. But none the less, always a possibilty.

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Old 08-07-2017, 03:38 PM   #13
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OK,
He said it without OD. So are we fairly confident it is the TH400? I can't decide if I should keep it or not. How will it do on the highway and in town? I was hoping for decent gas mileage. Searching for 1991 G3500 Vandura online it's claiming around 15 MPG. Could this even the correct?
https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymo..._Vandura.shtml
As long as the info you are given is correct. Which is a big IF. I feel confident confirming the likelihood of a TH400 variant W/O OD. I would expect mileage to vary, but presumably 14-16 mpg hwy, and somewhere around 10-12 mpg city. That is an educated guess, nothing more. Biggest factor will be rear end ratio, which you can only really determine once you get it.

Still a cool bus, and I doubt you plan on doing any highway adventures in it. Getting a bus is always a gamble, no matter how experienced. Just gotta make the best of what you get. If you want Overdrive, you may want to research dropping in a 4L80E from any 90's 3/4ton+ truck. It has O/D, and they are bountiful in junk yards and on CL.

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Old 08-07-2017, 04:16 PM   #14
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Thanks. I guess I'm going to finish the purchase.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:09 PM   #15
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Anyone else have a daily driver? Let's see them.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:22 PM   #16
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Here is my redByrd - I took it to Asheville NC this past week for a Vintage Christmas COnvention.. so i even lettered it for the occasion..

right now its in front of my apartment in st pete.. I typically drive it nearly every day to places like starbucks, and to dinner, etc..

3AE5860F-3D6F-4E82-B07C-559F916F5A8F.jpg

asheville at the christmas convention.. everyone Loved it and wanted to ride it!
IMG_2098.jpg

Coffee time!!!
IMG_2067.jpg

Summer Night city-drive - stereo up.. windows open!
IMG_2087.jpg

-Christopher
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:06 PM   #17
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Here is my redByrd - I took it to Asheville NC this past week for a Vintage Christmas COnvention.. so i even lettered it for the occasion..

right now its in front of my apartment in st pete.. I typically drive it nearly every day to places like starbucks, and to dinner, etc..

Attachment 15133

asheville at the christmas convention.. everyone Loved it and wanted to ride it!
Attachment 15136

Coffee time!!!
Attachment 15134

Summer Night city-drive - stereo up.. windows open!
Attachment 15135

-Christopher
I LOVE that bus!
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Old 08-08-2017, 12:01 AM   #18
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redByrd Rocks!
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Old 08-08-2017, 12:07 AM   #19
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Very cool man. It's a necessity for me to use a bus. Sometimes I need to get out of my chair on long trips and we need something you can stand straight up in for transfers. I will always have one. Now I have small and medium next is large!
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Old 08-08-2017, 12:58 AM   #20
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Bery cool man. I will always have one. Now I have small and medium next is large!
Uh oh, the sickness is bad with this one.
Do t bla.e ya one bit. I'm sick myself and only on #1 but looking for #2, 3 and 4...
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