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Old 10-27-2017, 11:59 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Location: Charleston SC
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Buying a 1987 Gillig Phantom

Hi fellow school bus fans.

After about three weeks of reading, learning, and bus hunting (probably nowhere near long enough), I pulled the trigger on this 1987 Gillig Phantom all the way in California, and I'll be driving it 2,500 miles back to Charleston SC in a little less than two weeks. Here's the bus!

https://losangeles.craigslist.org/la...358086858.html

And for future reference when that link becomes dead I've attached images.

Here is what I know about the bus:

200K miles, 40 feet, 84 passengers, 77 inches from floor to ceiling, Detroit Diesel 6v92 engine, Allison MT647 Transmission, in service in a CA school district until being traded in at A-Z Bus sales in Colton, CA in the summer of 2017. 4.10 gear ratio and tires with allegedly 30-40% of tread left.

I'm in the beginning stages of planning the trip. I've never driven a school bus, or a 40 ft vehicle. I've never driven further than 1000 miles. My friend and I plan to drive it home with one 6 hour day (they day we buy it) and 3 12 hour days. We plan to sleep in the bus on the way. Exactly where we haven't figured out yet. We plan to bring hammocks to rig in the bus and if that fails we'll stop at wal-mart, buy some mattress pads, and maybe some tools for the road. We plan to take I-40 East.

I'm paying $7K for the bus from a dealer, and expect to spend about $1K in diesel, will have money for miscellaneous expenses.

Here are my questions at the moment.

First of all, does anybody need a ride from CA, or anywhere on the I-40 route to Charleston SC?! We're open to taking passengers/drivers as long as they understand we're roughing it.

Second, should I pay an independent mechanic to inspect the vehicle before buying, and/or should I have a full fluid change/inspection before I pick the vehicle up? I won't necessarily have time to do it once on the road unless there was a convenient mechanic on the way and it only took a couple hours (forgive my naivety here).

Are there any must have tools/supplies that you would take for a drive like this?

Lastly please feel free to give me words of recommendation or concern as you see fit.

Thanks for reading and wish me luck!

Justin
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Old 10-27-2017, 02:34 PM   #2
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I bet you are gonna love that bus. If you can get a good D mechanic to check it b4 you buy it, that would be your best bet. AFTER he gives you the ok, see what he would charge you to do the fluid changes, as well as anything (within reason) that he finds. That way you can get on with your cross country trek, with eaze of mind.
As far as getting a passenger to ride East with you, I'd check every town, on your route, that is listed on Craigslist. There is a section for folks looking for rides. I bet you may get several.
Be safe
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Old 10-27-2017, 03:07 PM   #3
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A thorough checkout, fresh fluids and minor fixes like worn out belts will cost a lot less than a 1500 mile tow. It will also make for a more relaxing, long, first ride.
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Old 10-27-2017, 06:20 PM   #4
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NICE looking rig and, IMHO, a nice drive train. You scored!

Last time I made the I-40 run from SoCal to Charleston was in an 8v71 equipped Eagle. I wish I still had that bus....

Have a safe trip.
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Old 10-27-2017, 07:34 PM   #5
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THose are REAL SWEET buses!
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Old 10-27-2017, 08:12 PM   #6
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Hey J, sick bus!
I picked up one identical in August, except with a CAT motor. They're great! I'm excited about the big windows and relatively high ceiling. I, unfortunately, haven't had a chance to do anything with it yet because I have been busy for various reasons.

I did the same thing with a hammock on the trip back from California and had no problems. It all depends on how your drive train is set up, but I had to hold about 60mph the whole journey. Luckily, I only had 1000~1100 miles to go. Watch your gauges! Especially on hills.

As far as never having something that big goes, I have driven heaps of different buses, transit and school, and Phantoms are some of the hardest at first. I was trained on a 40' Phantom years ago because it was easy to then transition to the rest of the fleet (even 60' artics). The wheelbase is much longer than many other 40' school buses, which makes your turns super wide. But you will not have to worry about tail swing as much as you would in other buses. One thing that makes it hard at first, but I absolutely love about Phantoms, is that they don't drive like a big pickup or anything; they drive like a big bus. Weird to describe, but you will see what I mean. One thing about lane positioning that I usually tell friends who are learning is "If you feel like you are too far to the left, that's right where you want to be."
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Old 10-27-2017, 08:12 PM   #7
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Thank you all for your words of encouragement and especially for your advice.

I spoke to a nearby mobile truck mechanic with good google reviews (for whatever that's worth). He tells me that the dealer is reputable in his experience. He's offered a seemingly very comprehensive inspection for $495 (got immediate sticker shock from that one), and/or the basic service he recommended before departing for 2500 miles which I believe was oil, oil filter, some other filter, and lube the chassis for $450 and during that service he said he would look over the basics. I'm leaning towards the second option. Anybody got a reaction to that?

PNW_Steve, I'm sure you were taking a leisurely and enjoyable drive, but incase you weren't, do you think 42 hours of driving is reasonable? Man, so daunting.

Thank you 1olfart for the tip about Craigslist Rideshare. I'll check that out. Is $495 around what you were thinking an inspection would cost?
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Old 10-27-2017, 09:10 PM   #8
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Thanks for your input Statue4. How did you hang your hammocks without any upper storage compartments? I'm unsure about what I'm going to hook them to.

Yikes about the Phantom being difficult to start on. I'm really hoping I can just get on the highway and pretty much never leave, but honestly I have no idea what I-40 looks like or what I'll come across! I'll remember your tips about wide turns and the lane positioning. What exactly should I be looking for on the gauges? A particular oil pressure and RPM?
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Old 10-27-2017, 09:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juicifer View Post
Thanks for your input Statue4. How did you hang your hammocks without any upper storage compartments? I'm unsure about what I'm going to hook them to.

Yikes about the Phantom being difficult to start on. I'm really hoping I can just get on the highway and pretty much never leave, but honestly I have no idea what I-40 looks like or what I'll come across! I'll remember your tips about wide turns and the lane positioning. What exactly should I be looking for on the gauges? A particular oil pressure and RPM?
I-40 is a nice drive.

You are going to see a lot of desert, at fairly high altitude. Days will be hot, nights cold.

Through Arizona the surface is horrible. AZ idea of maintenance is to put up signs saying "Rough Surface", and then forget about it.

Albuquerque comes up as you cross the Rio Grande, and at rush hour there can be hold-ups.

The Texas panhandle is a high grassy plain. All that is missing are the bison. At Groom, Texas you will see a 190-foot high Cross, if that is your thing you will be happy. If not you will wonder "What's the point?". Oh, just before Amarillo you will pass Cadilac Ranch. It will be on your right. Well worth a stop. Take spray paint.

Oklahoma City is horrible. Rough surface, lots of traffic. The rest of Oklahoma is a breeze.

Someone else can take you the rest of the way.
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Old 10-27-2017, 10:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juicifer View Post
Thanks for your input Statue4. How did you hang your hammocks without any upper storage compartments? I'm unsure about what I'm going to hook them to.

Yikes about the Phantom being difficult to start on. I'm really hoping I can just get on the highway and pretty much never leave, but honestly I have no idea what I-40 looks like or what I'll come across! I'll remember your tips about wide turns and the lane positioning. What exactly should I be looking for on the gauges? A particular oil pressure and RPM?
Oh, didn't mean to scare you or anything. You'll probably love it once you get used to it. As far as gauges go, oil pressure is a good one, but primarily whatever temperature gauges you have. Definitely water temp, and you might also have gauges for transmission temp (I have never heard of this being a problem unless a trans cooler line breaks or something else bad) and exhaust temp (it is nice to keep exhaust temp from being too high for too long so you don't damage your turbocharger). Even if you don't legally have to follow standards for commercial vehicle stuff, it might be good to watch a video about how to do a DOT pre-trip inspection because it may point out some things to check that may be otherwise forgotten.

For hammock hanging I lowered some windows down one notch and tied an end around the thing between the windows (sorry my vocabulary is forgetting the right name).
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