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Old 02-05-2019, 08:59 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Advice desired!

Hi all!

So, I have fallen in love with a 1990 Ford Econoline short bus. 7.3L Diesel engine, automatic E4OD transmission, working Ricon ADA lift, $3500. The odometer says 65953.6, but that seems low for a 1990 and I wonder if there a 1 in front, that we can't see because the odometer doesn't go that high...

I'm going to take it to a recommended diesel mechanic to check it out and want to make sure I ask all the right questions.

Here's what comes to mind:
When/will I need a new transmission?
When/will I need to replace any of the fuel lines?
When/will I need to replace the brakes?
What needs to be done for her to easily manage heavy loads? (I'm building a stage on the side opposite the wheelchair lift.)
Is there any structural damage that needs to be taken care of? (the previous owner accidentally backed it into a tree. Broke the drivers side tail light, and has the replacement which is included in the cost.)

I took her on a test drive, and really like her. So I want to make sure my heart doesn't fully take me away!

What else do you recommend I ask the mechanic or the owners?

Many thanks!
Kate.
How easily can I find replacement parts if/when needed?
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Old 02-06-2019, 08:53 AM   #2
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IMHO, choose something different.

Most of those Econoline short busses were nearly overloaded from the factory from the get go, so any additional weight you add to it via a stage, instruments, etc will only make it worse. Find something heavier duty.
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Old 02-06-2019, 11:05 AM   #3
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I drove an E450 Thomas cutaway quite a bit.

After the seats were out we used it like a pickup. And a moving truck when we moved across the state.

I did not find it to be overloaded. It was a good runner.

The answer to all of your "when will I need to replace" questions is: when they wear out.

There are no magic numbers. It depends on many factors including how it has been driven and maintained. Throw in a dose of luck as well.

I would suggest taking it to a mechanic and have it checked out. Keep in mind that you are buying a used car. It is always a bit of a gamble.

Good luck.
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Old 02-06-2019, 11:18 AM   #4
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Generally sopeaking I'm not a fan of the cutaway style buses but I don't hate them either.

The bus you're looking at has the 7.3 IDI. This motor is very well known, it is REALLY boring which is a good thing. It's weak spots are well known and they can be very dependable workhorses for a very long time. The transmission was used in basically anything Ford considered a truck, it's not as strong as you'd find on a big bus but it doesn't need to be. Overall while cutaways are not as highly valued as medium duty buses they can still be very good for what they are.

As far as replacing things, a mechanic isn't going to say much other than it needs to be replaced now or it seems to be fine. brakes are a wear item so you replace them when they're worn. Fuel lines you replace if they get rusty, etc. Transmission again either works fine or doesn't and you're not going to predict how long between those stages.

Your cutaway bus is MUCH lighter than the bigger ones, it has an easier job to do, and as such as some advantages. You'll probably get amazing fuel economy, you'll probably have gearing more like a car and much better highway manners.
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:39 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post
IMHO, choose something different.

Most of those Econoline short busses were nearly overloaded from the factory from the get go, so any additional weight you add to it via a stage, instruments, etc will only make it worse. Find something heavier duty.
Do you have a recommendation that is still a shortie?
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:42 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
I drove an E450 Thomas cutaway quite a bit.

After the seats were out we used it like a pickup. And a moving truck when we moved across the state.

I did not find it to be overloaded. It was a good runner.

The answer to all of your "when will I need to replace" questions is: when they wear out.

There are no magic numbers. It depends on many factors including how it has been driven and maintained. Throw in a dose of luck as well.

I would suggest taking it to a mechanic and have it checked out. Keep in mind that you are buying a used car. It is always a bit of a gamble.

Good luck.
Any questions you wish you'd asked a mechanic? Or things you would plan for?
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:44 AM   #7
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[QUOTE=brokedown;309077.

Your cutaway bus is MUCH lighter than the bigger ones, it has an easier job to do, and as such as some advantages. You'll probably get amazing fuel economy, you'll probably have gearing more like a car and much better highway manners.[/QUOTE]

I hope this is true after the stage is built on her!
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
I drove an E450 Thomas cutaway quite a bit.

After the seats were out we used it like a pickup. And a moving truck when we moved across the state.

I did not find it to be overloaded. It was a good runner.

The answer to all of your "when will I need to replace" questions is: when they wear out.

There are no magic numbers. It depends on many factors including how it has been driven and maintained. Throw in a dose of luck as well.

I would suggest taking it to a mechanic and have it checked out. Keep in mind that you are buying a used car. It is always a bit of a gamble.

Good luck.
Will do. Appointment with the mechanic is Tuesday. And the owners father is the mechanic for the school district it was originally bought from. He obviously loves it, so hopefully it has been well maintained.
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Old 02-07-2019, 01:28 PM   #9
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When wondering if a van-bus is right for you just ask yourself- Would a van do this? Cause they're just vans with more weight and more bulk. Technically I think a regular van has more weight hauling/towing capability since its not loaded down already.
Have you checked out any short buses on bus chassis?
Would a van haul your stage?
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Old 02-07-2019, 04:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheatricalKate View Post
Do you have a recommendation that is still a shortie?
IMHO I'd go with something on a medium duty chassis. Like a type B style bus vs a type A, which is what most of your van chassis are.

It depends on your weight mainly. You might be able to get by with a van chassis, it all depends on the weight rating of the chassis/axles. But if you start with a van that weighs 7000 lbs, and has a gvw of 10,000 lbs, you've only got 3000 lbs of occupants, stage, and cargo. And that's assuming the weight will be distributed perfectly(it never is).

We maintained a fleet of cutaways and type B busses for the local council on aging and the cutaways were in twice as often for repairs and maintenance. Stuff just didn't seem as over-built/over-engineered and as durable on them.
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Old 02-07-2019, 04:55 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post
IMHO I'd go with something on a medium duty chassis. Like a type B style bus vs a type A, which is what most of your van chassis are.

It depends on your weight mainly. You might be able to get by with a van chassis, it all depends on the weight rating of the chassis/axles. But if you start with a van that weighs 7000 lbs, and has a gvw of 10,000 lbs, you've only got 3000 lbs of occupants, stage, and cargo. And that's assuming the weight will be distributed perfectly(it never is).

We maintained a fleet of cutaways and type B busses for the local council on aging and the cutaways were in twice as often for repairs and maintenance. Stuff just didn't seem as over-built/over-engineered and as durable on them.

I would have to agree with that.

The type B is generally heavier duty and easier to service than a cutaway.
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Old 02-07-2019, 09:08 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by TheatricalKate View Post
Do you have a recommendation that is still a shortie?

I think they are referring to something similar to what I have (I hope this link works):


https://photos.app.goo.gl/7kE32MLLbVx58EKL6
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:11 PM   #13
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I think they are referring to something similar to what I have (I hope this link works):


https://photos.app.goo.gl/7kE32MLLbVx58EKL6

I see your shorty and raise you one!
Well- only one is mine now.
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Old 02-08-2019, 10:57 AM   #14
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That's what you want right there. At least that's what I would get. Those guys can speak for what they paid, but I'm fairly certain you should be able to find one of them for the same price as what you're currently looking at.
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Old 02-08-2019, 03:19 PM   #15
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That's what you want right there. At least that's what I would get. Those guys can speak for what they paid, but I'm fairly certain you should be able to find one of them for the same price as what you're currently looking at.

I paid $2500 for mine (plus $250 auction fee). I spoke with the school bus barn manager and mechanics who gave me a good history of this particular bus (and even the maintenance records just for asking!). I arrived after payment and drove it home - they did advise me the batteries may be questionable, but "should be OK to get you home". I ended up having to replace them a few months ago.


The main reason I went with one of these, and not a cutaway style bus is as the others described. The GVWR of mine is 25500, and although I haven't weighed it, I am guessing probably around 11K empty. If some drunk ever crashes into it at high speed, I want as much chance to walk away unharmed as I can get (I don't feel sorry for someone driving drunk). These buses have full thickness frames and heavy duty axles and springs. I'll probably never overload it. It uses the same heavy duty brakes (or at least similar) as tractor-trailers ... you get the idea.


I have "Commercial Vehicle for Personal Use" insurance, most folks pay somewhere around $50 a month for it.
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Old 02-09-2019, 02:04 AM   #16
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Originally Posted by Brad_SwiftFur View Post
I think they are referring to something similar to what I have (I hope this link works):


https://photos.app.goo.gl/7kE32MLLbVx58EKL6
That is in fact *exactly* what I first fell in love with. There was one at Western Bus Sales for $12,500 but it was sold before I could get her.
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Old 02-09-2019, 02:09 AM   #17
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I would have to agree with that.

The type B is generally heavier duty and easier to service than a cutaway.
Makes sense. Thanks!
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Old 02-09-2019, 02:18 AM   #18
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Originally Posted by Brad_SwiftFur View Post
I paid $2500 for mine (plus $250 auction fee). I spoke with the school bus barn manager and mechanics who gave me a good history of this particular bus (and even the maintenance records just for asking!). I arrived after payment and drove it home - they did advise me the batteries may be questionable, but "should be OK to get you home". I ended up having to replace them a few months ago.


The main reason I went with one of these, and not a cutaway style bus is as the others described. The GVWR of mine is 25500, and although I haven't weighed it, I am guessing probably around 11K empty.
Good to know! That's a lot cheaper than what Western Bus Sales had. I'm nervous about auctions. I have a lot of skills, and being a mechanic isn't one of them! But the more I read and interact here, the more confident I'm getting!

Weight is my biggest concern - that and head height on the cutaway. The cost for raising the roof - in dollars and work - will be a lot.

And I'll be taking the bus to a weigh station for exactly this reason. It's GVWR is 25,500 lbs also. Which seems feasible with what I want to do... depending on its weight.
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:53 AM   #19
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That is in fact *exactly* what I first fell in love with. There was one at Western Bus Sales for $12,500 but it was sold before I could get her.
I got this one for $1625. Prob what the dealer paid for that one they wanted 12k for.


They don't sell for more than a few grand at auctions.
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Old 02-09-2019, 12:44 PM   #20
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Auctions are looking better and better...
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