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Old 10-15-2016, 06:15 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2016
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Best bus for full-time living?

I've been doing some reading, but of course opinions would be appreciated

I'm trying to figure out what kind of bus to look for. The plan is to live in the skoolie full time with my husband (we live in NorthEast Ohio- so winters here are awful). The hubs has a lot of musical equipment and instrument plus a lot of drawing & art equipment, so I'm thinking that a FE engine bus would be better since we'll need some sort of a "garage". Ideally, I'd like to have a "walk-in closet" area also. So, I'm thinking that I'll need to look for the longest bus that I can find.

The bus won't be moved often, likely not even on a yearly basis. But, I would like a bus that can handle being on the highway if we do decide to take a road trip with her.

Any thoughts on specifics, like Thomas vs BluBird, flat nose vs dog nose, etc? Any input would be appreciated
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Old 10-15-2016, 07:28 PM   #2
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Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Music City USA
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Year: 2005
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: Detroit MBE906
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My personal preference is a rear engine flat nose, also called a pusher. You can get one in all three of the major flavors, those being International, Thomas, and Blue Bird.

You will want the longest one you can possibly get hold of.... I've seen Internationals that will carry 84 passengers, those are about the longest you can get. My Thomas is a 72 passenger so it comes in a little bit shorter but it's just me and my dog so it's not as big a concern.

Even though I have a Thomas, my personal preference is an International with a DT466 and AT643 tranny package. The DT466 is a million mile engine if you take care of it, and the AT643 is designed for the heavier use of a road trip. You'll also see T444/T444E and Cummins 5.9 engines in them.... those will do the job but don't expect a lot of power. Same with the AT545 transmissions.... they will work but don't have a lot of pulling power.

Will you need access to this "garage" from the outside (to be able to get larger items in and out)? If so then you will want a front engine model because the RE models don't have that big door on the back. If what you're keeping there is smaller items that can pass through the bus easily to go out the front or side doors then it's not a big deal, you can go either way.

If possible, try to get one that has luggage bays (more is better), you can use that for your garage and keep your inside space for other things (though you'll need to keep anything that is sensitive to temperature and humidity inside). On a rear engine they will go the full width of the bus underneath; if front engine you'll have separate bays on each side.

I prefer a flat nose to a conventional because the flats seem to turn a little bit tighter (shorter wheelbase than a conventional), which will be very handy if you have to negotiate a crowded parking lot or a tight turn.

I know all about those northern Ohio winters.... I spent two winters just outside of Chicago IL so if anything that is worse. You will definitely want to insulate the hell out of it.... rip out that inside steel skin and put some real insulation in it. A lot of people have used spray foam, while others just cut foam panels to size and drop them in, then put a new wall up. The spray foam you'll probably want to have professionally done... with the DIY kits you could end up with a lot of waste where it's put on too thick and you need to trim it down. Pay particular attention to the roof, that's where most of your heat loss will occur. I don't know how tall you are but if you can spare an inch or two of headroom the extra insulation will definitely help.

As for your walk in closet.... you can have it, but you'll have to give up something else. At best you're only gonna have a space about 35 feet long by 7.5 feet wide and you have to get sleeping/cooking/bath/potty facilities in there, not to mention pantry space, electric (120v and 12v), plumbing and everything else. My suggestion would be to lay it out on paper or on your computer first (I use Microsoft Visio but there are other tools out there). Make sure everything is laid out to scale, drop everything you want in there and shuffle things around to make it all fit while leaving enough space to move around comfortably. That will give you an idea of what you can put in and what you'd be better off going without.

Give some thought to weight as well... as you're putting things in you want to keep the weight of your building materials as low as possible without sacrificing structural strength and stability (you're basically building in a big steel box so you're ahead of the game there, but anything that adds to it is a Good Thing). There is a build on here, Broccoli Bus I think it was, who framed out his entire wall structure using square tube steel instead of wooden beams.... stronger yet thinner and half the weight to boot, if memory serves.

Look around at all the different builds going on here, you're bound to find some ideas that you like. I had a floor plan all set but with some of the ideas I've found here I find I'm revising it quite a bit.

And when you DO find your bus, after you rip all the seats out, lay out the floorplan using tape and maybe some cardboard walls... use folding tables or sawhorses and lumber to simulate counters and cabinets... and live in it for a week or two to test it out. Much easier to move tape and cardboard than walls and cabinets, as another Skoolie here so eloquently put it.... what looks good on paper doesn't necessarily work in practice.

Bottom line, how you build your bus is entirely up to you. There are as many different ways to fix up a bus as there are buses. Feel free to ask any questions you want or need to, there is a wealth of knowledge here, all you have to do is tap into it.

Welcome to the insanity, and most of all HAVE FUN!
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Old 10-15-2016, 07:33 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Darrington, Wa.
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Coachwork: Genesis/Am-Tran Tall Roof
Chassis: International, 643 transmission
Engine: DT 466ci 250hp, International
Rated Cap: 86 screaming Monsters
Dont forget about a roof top storage or a enclosed trailer. The other option is building a long step off the back of the bus at the doors floor height and extend the bus back for a storage area. Ive been going through pictures on here and there is so much more room not being used by most people.

Consider one of the semi truck roof top wings that get the air over the cabin and over the semi trailer. either at 13 or 14 ft. School bus is suppose to be max i read at 10ft height. So this gives you room storage boxes that can be 3 or 4 ft tall (3). Put them on both sides with a walk down the middle at make it look like it had the roof raised or its just a schoollie with a roof rack loaded up.

I'm building a shop in the back of mine for working in. So I only get 16ft it looks like for living space. I'm only going to be in warm weather so I have the out side to use for a bit of space. But I am considering a spiral stair case in my design as i don't have any coach or sitting space left except one spot that i could put the stair case in that spot. I found on line these canvas sheds or portable garages. there are many sizes but they have 8ft wide.
http://www.hayneedle.com/product/she...ow&tid=NA259-2
I was thinking myself of possibly making this a bedroom on the upper roof deck or a living room. I even was looking at those pontoon boat furniture that is UV stabilized and weather resistant to just leave up there like i see so many people doing with bicycles and such.
Its only me so i can get away with more than a family in terms of awkward. This is not a cold area plan for sleeping but If you are staying for long periods at one place it may give you storage that is covered up and not to hard to access, plus in the summer it should make a great deck? I'm not saying drive around with a canvas shed. but you may be able to pull it down over your gear and use it as tarp traveling to your next boondock.
Pontoon Boat Seats | Wholesale Marine

A marine hatch for the roof would seal up nicely. Maybe even use a emergency bus hatch that come with the bus if its large enough?

Seems like a person could build this hatch from steel for pennys on the dollar. or find a tool box door like would be in the side of your bus and weld that in the roof.

http://www.freemanmarine.com/_Galler...ches3140/3.jpg

https://www.salterspiralstair.com/st...0Listing%20Ads
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Old 10-15-2016, 07:58 PM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Darrington, Wa.
Posts: 285
Year: 1994
Coachwork: Genesis/Am-Tran Tall Roof
Chassis: International, 643 transmission
Engine: DT 466ci 250hp, International
Rated Cap: 86 screaming Monsters
I put some notes on this drawing. The front open area is the from seat and stairs the back is my shop. So this is why I considered going vertical for some living room space when i had guest that could be weather proof. Like wind or rain or be heated even from below letting the heat rise up plus i thought i would add another place for company to sleep. Summer months it should be an amazing way to get sq ft and not even have the roof up unless its for shade on the shed.
My idea was 8 x16 deck for the 16ft potable shed. but continue the deck back to the end of the bus or to at least enough room to install some type of sealed storage boxes for my extra storage which is 24" sq boxes i need to keep dry. I also off topic totally am installing a davit with a hand winch to raise and lower my supplies as the boxes will be awkward and heavy to go up and through a spiral stair case. Just installed the davit with a steel post it slides in to stand it up and pull on it in the cut off round post to swivel it. Very light weight for 100lbs or 200lbs max. Plus with no out side stairs or steps security is very high. As bonus its perfect platform for shooting from.
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Old 10-15-2016, 08:02 PM   #5
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Darrington, Wa.
Posts: 285
Year: 1994
Coachwork: Genesis/Am-Tran Tall Roof
Chassis: International, 643 transmission
Engine: DT 466ci 250hp, International
Rated Cap: 86 screaming Monsters
no idea why I cant upload a picture drawing JPEG
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Old 10-15-2016, 08:10 PM   #6
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Location: Winlcok, WA
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There is no one bus that will do for all purposes. Which is why buses come in so many different sizes and configurations.

In order to max out the space the best choice is a 45' motorcoach with full width under floor luggage compartments. There are even a few Prevost H5-60 articulated 60' motorcoaches kicking around still. The only real problem with a motorcoach is due to their great weight, height, and ground clearance they are limited as to where you can take them. There are very few roads, no matter how narrow and twisty, in this country that don't see a school bus going by at least twice a day.

Regardless of what you decide is the "best" bus for you, make sure there is no rust. I know that people who in in IL, MI, OH, PA, NY, etc have a different criteria as to what is rust from what those of us in the west think is rust. The definition of not bad rust in the rust belt is there are no holes rusted through. The definition of bad rust out here in the west is the frame rails are no longer black.

Since you will be storing and schlepping along with you musical instruments it will be important to have storage areas that won't get cold and damp in the winter and hot and dried out in the summer. Wood and electronics don't like great changes in heat or humidity. You will have to give up some living space to accommodate that storage.

As it has been noted already you can expand your living area by adding storage below the floor or on the roof. You can also expand your living area by building an observation deck on the roof, installing awnings to expand outside on the ground, or if you have an FE bus adding a fold down deck at the rear.

If the musical instruments you have to move are large and bulky you may want to consider a bus with a lift. Most lifts have a lift capacity of almost 1,000 lbs. and make it really easy to load large bulky objects into the bus. Lifting heavy stuff chest height or higher or up and down stairs every time they need to be used can get old really quickly.

Once you decide what kind of bus you want you can then move on to particulars like brand and power packages.

Good luck!
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Old 10-15-2016, 08:41 PM   #7
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Darrington, Wa.
Posts: 285
Year: 1994
Coachwork: Genesis/Am-Tran Tall Roof
Chassis: International, 643 transmission
Engine: DT 466ci 250hp, International
Rated Cap: 86 screaming Monsters
Thats great advice I'm looking at my piano right now and it could easily be put on a lift with a modification to the ramp for a small extension.

I keep thinking with the price of the MCi style coaches being so low with high mileage 2 strokes in them that cost a fortune to over haul. That an adapter plate and a school bus engine couldn't be used. a lot less power and slow in the mountains. but so much less money and easier to work on. Ive run a lot of adapters in race cars to swap in different engines. Never a issue and easy to do. Imagine the amount of room back there to work on a DT466 or 8.2 cummin. Plus not being a 2 stroke it should be better MPG. Dont those buses way the same as the schoolies. maybe they would be in slower. its not hard to adapt look at how all the school buses have allison adapters to switch to different engines. The combo may already exist or at least the pattern to cut for the adapter would be easy. That's just a plate of aluminum.
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Old 10-15-2016, 09:15 PM   #8
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A coach that has an 8V-71, 6V-92, or 8V-92 will have considerably more HP than even the highest HP rated DT466.

I think you would have a difficult time swapping an inline engine into the engine compartment of an MCI MC-5, MC-7, MC-8, MC-12, 96A/B/C, or 102C3. The older MCI buses were designed with the "V" engine in mind so equivalent HP inline engines would be too long to fit.

It isn't just the size of the engine compartment either. The driveshaft on those rear engine buses is already pretty short. Cutting it down to fit behind a longer engine would make the driveshaft extremely short. Eagle and Flxible solved that problem by shooting the driveshaft over the top of the rear end and then into a drop box that then turned the rear end. Which then required the engines to sit higher in the engine compartment, lost power in the drop box gearing, added complexity, and really increase your costs if you ever have to find a replacement drop box.

So yes, with enough time and $$$ you can do just about anything. The real question is if the swap would be worth the time, $$$, and effort.
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Old 10-15-2016, 09:43 PM   #9
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Darrington, Wa.
Posts: 285
Year: 1994
Coachwork: Genesis/Am-Tran Tall Roof
Chassis: International, 643 transmission
Engine: DT 466ci 250hp, International
Rated Cap: 86 screaming Monsters
I forgot about the drive shaft hook up. That makes it easier i would think. A straight six isn't about the same size as a monster engine. Its the HP in the end. Nothing goes down the road like t8v71. At 20 to 40 k to make one new again they can keep them. I rather have simpler schoolie with lots of replacement parts to be had for cheap.
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Old 10-16-2016, 12:08 PM   #10
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Alleycat67, thanks for all the info. Very helpful, practical stuff

The hubs has multiple guitars, speakers, amp etc. so looks like a FE is the way we'll be going to have that "garage" access. We are currently living in Cleveland. I don't think I'll be able to find a spot to park the skoolie inside of the city, but I think I should have success in one of the surrounding suburbs (I'm a city girl through & through, so living out in a rural area is NOT for me). I'm thinking that a flat nose might be a better option since I might have to navigate through some city streets and tighter spots.

I was thinking that I could make some cuts in the living room area by having a fold down table mounted to the wall or even one that could be tucked away and pulled out when needed and getting a little creative in the kitchen.

I'm having a great time learning and coming up with different plans, so I'm sure when we finally buy our bus and start working its gonna be a blast. Looking forward to it
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