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Old 11-30-2019, 08:22 PM   #1
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Big Block

1986 Chevy 427 (big block) in a Blue Bird...

So this is the engine in our bus. Should we just look at upgrading to a diesel? Or are there any good performance options for this one? I would think going the fuel injector route would make it a lot better, or is it not even worth it?
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:32 PM   #2
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1986 Chevy 427 (big block) in a Blue Bird...

So this is the engine in our bus. Should we just look at upgrading to a diesel? Or are there any good performance options for this one? I would think going the fuel injector route would make it a lot better, or is it not even worth it?
What are your goals?

diesel fuels 60 to 80 more cents per gallon...
That's a lot of miles to reach your ROI (return on investment)
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:35 PM   #3
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Well, we eventually plan on living in it and doing some travel. It will probably end up sitting more than it moves, at least for the early years.
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:43 PM   #4
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Well, we eventually plan on living in it and doing some travel. It will probably end up sitting more than it moves, at least for the early years.
Making it even less likely to recover investment. If it doesn't need to move often or far, it probably doesn't need much, if anything at all.

It won't be the fastest on hills or freeway, but it'll get you everywhere you need to go for years to come for not that much money.
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:53 PM   #5
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Well, we eventually plan on living in it and doing some travel. It will probably end up sitting more than it moves, at least for the early years.
Get on a GM truck forum -- it will be easy to find all new or used parts to switch over to OEM GM throttle body fuel injection and electronic ignition.
This will give you improved reliability and probably a bit better fuel economy. It will for sure handle changes in altitude better.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:59 AM   #6
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I'm with the others, you won't be driving it enough to justify swapping to a diesel. So unless you have the components sitting there and don't have a value on your time, it's not really worth it.

I think we've all decided that the average person would be money and time ahead buying a bus with the engine/trans combo they want then buying a cheap bus and swapping it.

So either live with what you have, or sell it and upgrade to what you want.

As far as swapping to fuel injection goes, I like the idea, but you'll need the in-tank high pressure fuel pump too. And also swap in a variety of different sensors for the ecm.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:37 AM   #7
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I think we've all decided that the average person would be money and time ahead buying a bus with the engine/trans combo they want then buying a cheap bus and swapping it.

So either live with what you have, or sell it and upgrade to what you want.

In my case, though, what if the powertrain I want wasn't readily available (or even offered) in a bus? Say, for example, dropping an ISX Cummins in one? Now, admittedly, that's a lot of time, cost, and effort and driving it a couple times a year wouldn't justify all that, but if I drove it a lot and felt justified in using a high-horsepower motor, then why not buy a $500 El Cheapo with a dead engine/transmission and do a swap?


I agree with your point, though. Buying a DT466 or 8.3 Cummins equipped bus will be far cheaper and easier than swapping ... even if you found one with a "dead" engine and had it rebuilt.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:38 AM   #8
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SNIP...
As far as swapping to fuel injection goes, I like the idea, but you'll need the in-tank high pressure fuel pump too. And also swap in a variety of different sensors for the ecm.
Not that much for throttle body injection -- temp, knock, air flow.
I would grab it all from a junkyard including the ecu (which can be reprogrammed for your driving). Get the engine wiring harness AND every sensor the harness goes to -- you can replace the sensors later but this way you know what they look like.

Use a Ford external fuel pump from early 90's that mounts to the frame rail.
The TBI isn't the high pressure that newer multi-port injection systems are.
You'll also need a fuel return line --

Those are the highlights --
Plenty of good writeups if/when you get serious about it.

(You can tell I'm over my romance with the carburetors of my youth...)
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:48 AM   #9
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The 427 in your bus is almost surely a "tall deck" 427, not a Corvette motor. It was designed as a medium duty truck engine and has several features that increase durability. There are some performance upgrades available, big gains can be made in the heads and intake.

You can find parts at Jegs or Summit, just make sure you're looking at Tall Deck parts. They are less popular so expect to pay more than you would have for a regular version of the engine.

Racers would take those engines and bore/stroke up to 572 cubic inches and make huge power... but they remove all the things that make it work as a bus engine in the process.

A diesel swap would be pretty costly, just sourcing a 6BT would be a few thousand bucks. You would also need to change your torque converter and likely your rear axle gears as well. Could be a fun project but if your bus runs and drives now I personally would have a tough time justifying that swap.

An EFI upgrade could be nice. I dislike working on automotive carbs (motorcycles and small engines with carbs only bother me a little) and knowledge on them in the wild is dwindling.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:58 AM   #10
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The 427 in your bus is almost surely a "tall deck" 427, not a Corvette motor. It was designed as a medium duty truck engine and has several features that increase durability. There are some performance upgrades available, big gains can be made in the heads and intake.

SNIP...

An EFI upgrade could be nice. I dislike working on automotive carbs (motorcycles and small engines with carbs only bother me a little) and knowledge on them in the wild is dwindling.
Exactly this.

And don't buy any "holly projection" or mega-squish garbage either!
20 year old OEM parts from the junkyard WILL be more reliable and more importantly swapping the oem TBI system to your engine means a mechanic in Central America can diagnose AND get the repair parts you need if you ever drive that far south.
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Old 12-01-2019, 10:22 AM   #11
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Thanks for all insight. I'm thinking swapping TBI over for another motor is my best option for what I want. As far as doing the work, in my past life I was a mechanic, so added the needed components will not be difficult for me. Also, I need to drop the tank anyways, so installing a new pump is already in the plans.

Thanks for the responses. I'm really looking forward to getting this Box Chevy rolling.
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Old 12-01-2019, 11:09 AM   #12
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Thanks for all insight. I'm thinking swapping TBI over for another motor is my best option for what I want. As far as doing the work, in my past life I was a mechanic, so added the needed components will not be difficult for me. Also, I need to drop the tank anyways, so installing a new pump is already in the plans.

Thanks for the responses. I'm really looking forward to getting this Box Chevy rolling.
What I like about the ford pump is access -- I'm all about future troubleshooting/maintenance.
If you convert your tank to take a pump I highly recommend having an access panel above the tank where the pump is. Just wresting the 32gal tank on my Scout is all I can do by myself anymore -- it weighs 80lbs empty -- if it's full that's ~260lbs
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Old 12-01-2019, 11:27 AM   #13
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TBI = Toilet Bowl Injection.... Ugggg carbs...
I went from a 30' class A motor home to a 39' diesel bus and the bust is double the weight of the motor home and gets close to 3 times the MPGs than that garbage 454 that powered my pace arrow.
I'm more bias against carbs than I am brand bias against GM stuff and that's saying alot. The gas engine of any make won't give you the same long life any diesel would. Other than I'd say I wouldn't swap in a 2 stroking detroit. Not trying to step on anyones toes, just looking at cost of ownership... Ohh wait I forgot to mention 6.5 GM diesels and IH VT365/6.ohs, I would take a gasser of those any day and any brand.
If your not planning on loads of driving then I wouldn't fool with it, but if you aren't staying put most of the time, the diesel swap would be well worth it, especially with the Cummapart 8.3 or DT466. If I were to have to pull the T444E on mine, I'd find a DT530 to throw in personally, those engines are true work horses.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:27 PM   #14
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What are your goals?

diesel fuels 60 to 80 more cents per gallon...
That's a lot of miles to reach your ROI (return on investment)
Gas engines get about half the mileage a diesel gets, so ROI is immediate.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:43 PM   #15
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Gas engines get about half the mileage a diesel gets, so ROI is immediate.
Amen, gassers can't compete, especially on the up hill climb either.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:14 PM   #16
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Gas engines get about half the mileage a diesel gets, so ROI is immediate.
Agree 100% /\ /\
Keep in mind you almost certainly will need a different gear ratio for a diesel as well.


AND
How much of an improvement a EFI install will depends on how well the carb you have now works.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:51 PM   #17
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As mentioned above, swapping a diesel engine would be considerable cost and time investment. It would likely be cheaper to buy a diesel bus than to swap a diesel into your gas bus.

Fuel prices vary. Diesel is about 20 cents a gallon than unleaded here.

I have two 2004 pickups that I use to tow my travel trailer. One 5.9 diesel and the other a 6.0 gas motor. Pulling the same trailer over the same route I get 15.7 mpg with the diesel and 9.5 mpg with the gas.

Pulling that trailer I can pull Snoqualmie pass at the speed limit without working it too hard with the diesel. The gas truck struggled up the pass running 35-40mph on the steep parts.

If you are doing very limited travel, it may not be a big issue. If you intend to do extensive travel you may want to consider upgrading to a diesel bus.

Good luck.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:56 PM   #18
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Exactly this.

And don't buy any "holly projection" or mega-squish garbage either!
20 year old OEM parts from the junkyard WILL be more reliable and more importantly swapping the oem TBI system to your engine means a mechanic in Central America can diagnose AND get the repair parts you need if you ever drive that far south.
Hey I have Holley pro jection.... Ok there is a lot better available now, but it still is better then a carb. Have used the pro jection on 4 International engines and generally get 20% better fuel mileage with it. Again there is a lot better systems out there now, so I would not buy another one.

To the Op, if not driving it much be happy with it, once you want to drive it more then getting the fuel injection off a junkyard engine would be a reasonable way to do it. There are a number of good after market systems too.
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Old 12-02-2019, 10:00 PM   #19
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In my case, though, what if the powertrain I want wasn't readily available (or even offered) in a bus? Say, for example, dropping an ISX Cummins in one? Now, admittedly, that's a lot of time, cost, and effort and driving it a couple times a year wouldn't justify all that, but if I drove it a lot and felt justified in using a high-horsepower motor, then why not buy a $500 El Cheapo with a dead engine/transmission and do a swap?
Because most aren't capable of doing such a thing. The amount of labor involved would be huge, let alone the cost of getting an isx and 15 speed transmission. Truthfully, the engine might not even physically fit under the hood without significant hacking and fab work.

I mean, if you want to shoe horn something that large into your engine compartment, I'd love to see it. But once you get in in, you'll be upgrading both the front and rear axles, the transmission, and the drive shaft to withstand such a swap. And at that stage, I wonder if the frame would even be strong enough to handle the torque of an isx.

In all honesty, if you really want an isx, You'd likely be better off buying a long wheel based semi truck and grafting the school bus body on top of it. And if you're going to do that, why even deal with the school bus body at all? There are a handful of manufacturers that make motor coaches, semi trucks with extended sleepers and "toterhomes" used in auto racing, I'd try and find one of them if you're serious about an isx.
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Old 12-03-2019, 03:02 AM   #20
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That's kind of my point. Most folks aren't into a swap of that nature, which is perfectly understandable. For that matter, most folks aren't into a swap at all and the few that might be, probably aren't up for the amount of cost/effort it would be, when it would be far easier and cheaper to buy, say, a dead 8.3 equipped bus and do an engine rebuild (or even cheaper, find one in running condition).
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