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Old 12-01-2018, 01:38 AM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2018
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Greetings, from deep in South TX

I currently have a 98 Dodge 3500 Maxi-Wagon. It was a retired 15 passenger transport van for a home for the disabled. I have enjoyed many road trips in it with my growing family of 9, and it's my wife's grocery getter. Sadly the roof has rusted through in several places due to a poor design that plagues every Dodge van of this generation. In my search for a suitable replacement, I got the hair-brained idea... why not a short bus instead? I have always loved the curves of classic busses, especially from the 40's-60's with their nice round posterior! I have google- searched and found a few in the same ball-park, price-wise, as a comparable size van.

One in particular I liked the looks of is a '53 Dodge bus that seats around 30 for about $3500. If I go this route, I'd want to cut it down to about 5 rows long to ease drivability around town and parking options. I also considered swapping the body onto a more modern bus chassis and running gear with 5.9 Cummins, or alternatively a Ram 3500 Dually truck frame.

I'm new to busses, so I don't know how difficult either of these frame swaps would be. Would it even be worth it? Probably easier just to swap running gear from a Dually Ram 3500. How harsh is the ride in an old bus, on crappy city streets? Would it be safe cruising at 70 mph on the Interstate, assuming everything is properly rebuilt and the drivetrain is capable? How expensive are maintenance parts? Are these parts even available (bearings, suspension bushings, brake pads, etc.)?

The intended use is a family hauler, grocery getter, and Road-Trip-Mobile. Most of the time it would see lots of short around town driving seldom getting above 35 mph, however we take 2 cross country Road Trips a year hauling our baggage, camping gear, maybe towing a small trailer with bikes, etc. Does a vintage short bus fit the bill? Does anyone here daily drive a vintage bus?

Tons of questions, and lots of reading are ahead for sure!
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:52 PM   #2
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Join Date: May 2018
Location: topeka kansas
Posts: 554
Year: 1954
Coachwork: wayne
Chassis: old f500- new 2005 f-450
Engine: cummins 12 valve
Rated Cap: 20? five rows of 4?
my story with old short bus

1954 ford b600 with wayne body.
no engine, no transmission, wheel rims nicknamed "widow makers", original no shocks on rear suspension. weighs 6,200 lbs in this condition. $2000 + $2500 to ship from colorado to kansas.

frames on trucks after WWII are a standard 34" wide but, the engine bay area are often narrower from 46 to about 53.

3/4 ton pickups do not generally match the 34" frame widths. Only the 3/4 ton sold as "cab and chassis" look right for swaps. f450, dodge 4500, gm 4500 and larger, fit the 34" frame rail width specifications.

air bag suspensions /salvage can be found on ambulance/bus chassis. There are four or five companies that do air suspensions. Supposed to be very compliant over rough surfaces. My air suspension is made by Reyco Granning and cost about $5000 and is rated at 13,500 lbs for rear axle

I am using a 12 valve 5.9 cummins, modified pump, camsahft, turbo, valve springs, twin plate clutch, estimated flywheel, 425 hp and 800 ft/lbs torque.
engine max rpm 3400 rpm, intended cruise rpm 1800rpm -1900rpm

six speed manual NV5600 transmission. drive shaft yoke from the 1995 dodge 3500 five speed fits the nv5600 transmission. Cost of a brand new six speed from dodge is about $8000 as quoted to me by a dealer. Total rebuild with "fixes" looks like a new one from the outside $4000

used allison 4speed, 5speed auto transmissions are about $1500 to $2500.

Here is what I have and what my plan is.

1954 ford wayne short bus five rows of seats two in each seat = 20 seater
158" wheel base. $2000 + $2500 transport
1995 dodge 3500 5speed manual transmission - donate engine, cruise control, some wiring harness and part of the driveshaft $3000
2005 ford f450 crew cab chassis, donate chassis, with all the braking system including ABS, donate electric vacuum pump for cruise control, $1200
New in the box, ford power steering box $800, brake hoses $200
all, inside and out, lights for the bus, $1500
NV5600 transmission $4000
3.73 rear differential $800

I am putting the the 54 bus body on the 2005 f450 chassis. powered by a cummins 5.9 12 valve with about 400 hp. Designed cruise speed 65 mph with engine turning about 1875 rpm. 65 mph in 5th gear will be about 2525 rpm. six speed manual, with abs braking, and cruise control. Brakes are boosted from the power steering pump. vaccum for cruise is supplied by electric pump. passenger seats are from 2017 ford transit van, they recline, like air plane seats do, about 10 degrees, cloth, built in seat belts, and can be unlatched and removed. they are mounted to ford built seat rails. one side of each bench seat has provisions for baby seat teathers. will have toilet in the right rear, with sink. underdash heat/defrost/air conditioning will be vintage air gen 4 magnum unit.original bus heater will be used to heat cabin behind driver, a larter tm21 ac compressor mounts on dodge truck bracketry, and will power underdash and rear ceiling mount ac unit. supposed to be able to keep inside at 80 in 105 degree heat. four single seat units more for adult seating, one air ride seat for driver. three more fully reclining seats in the cabin. top opening refrigerator 12 volt powered.
there are a ton more details but that is the jist of it . Because I am going the close to new as I can get route, total cost is expected to be in the 30 to 40 thou range. I am certain if I were shop around and do this with more time to get it done, the cost would be half or one third,


yes you can get a longer old bus and shorten it. just takes a bit of time and planning.

william
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:14 PM   #3
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,476
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Love the total idea of a re-chassis onto the modern bus... only thing id do is go allison 6 speed auto and ditch the stick.. I drove stick enough in the mountains to hate it... if you go with a custom allison TCM you can run multiple shift schedules using the ECON and tow / haul modes ...



A/C I'd go Dual Sanden Enhanced HD7 (more powerful than standard HD7) rather than a single TM-21.. while i like the TM-21. is a lot pricier and tougher to get parts for... sandens you can buy at autozone or amazon... one of the issues ive run into in my multiple evaporator single compressor systems is that the TxV sees the low suction pressure of the system as a whole and fails to open enough when running single evaporator mode.. at the minimum you may want to run a solenoid valve on the liquid line of each so you can run them separately without issues of ver ycold refrigerant from an evaporator with no blower-running to go down the suction line..

-Christopher
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Old 12-01-2018, 05:30 PM   #4
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Join Date: May 2018
Location: topeka kansas
Posts: 554
Year: 1954
Coachwork: wayne
Chassis: old f500- new 2005 f-450
Engine: cummins 12 valve
Rated Cap: 20? five rows of 4?
cadillac -ac

I am trying to stick with one compressor. The tm21 performance curve show just a little bit more capacity than than the enhanced sanden - and that information is from the sanden web site. I figure total output at about 33,000 btu that is with the rear cabin evaporator, firewall mounted vintage air system. the skirt mount condensor is going to be around 51" long package. I doubt I will ever be less than 4 souls on board. trips in the desert areas of the united states are expected, the point is, I dont think I will ever be running evaporators one at a time, the way I see it now if the front is on the rear will be on too. I am interested in hearing more about what you have to say. Sounds like I should anticipate problems with one compressor and two evaporators.

william
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Old 12-01-2018, 05:32 PM   #5
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Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 17,992
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Post us some pics of this classic!
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Old 12-01-2018, 07:12 PM   #6
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,476
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
one compressor 2 evaporators works great as long as both are showing similar load .. what I ran into was when one would have virtually no load or i had its fan shut off.. it makes the suction line cold and the pressure lower across the TxV.. my thinking was a true TxV only measures the suction temp from THAT evaporator.. which is true.. but appraently extra low suction pressure becomes a closing force on the valve.. suction pressure gets lowered by its temoperature dropping. so an evaporator thats cold withg no fan turned on is quite cold as its TxV goes ot minimum.. it may not freeze but its close to it..



my solution in that bus was to valve off the unused evaporator.. the danger of that is in losing oil return to the compressor.. I valved right in front of the TxV in the liquid line. and havent had any detrimental effects on the compressor so oil hasnt been an issue..



the Enhanced SD7 is the real deal.. but the TM21 is definitelty higher capacity.. most of the compressor specs are conservative.. you can run them with a lot of condensor and evaporator area and still get good flow.. they start to drop off at idle first.. since the engine RPM range is much less in a diesel bus than in a car, I can run with the smaller size pulley option and get good idle cooling and still not over-speed them on the highway.. in a gas engine you have to account for 600 RPM idle and 4000 RPM engine.. many wiull shut off above 4500 or so. but if you are climbing hills in a gas motor its not unheard of to run 4000 RPM or close to it so they cant have the A/C off the whole time or customers would complain.. so they run a smaller engine pulley or larger compressor pulley,. in our diesels. we likely top out somewhere in the 2500-2800 range so we can spin our compressors faster at idle since the RPM band is narrower..



put your skirt condensor near the rear of the bus even though you'll have a long liquid run to your dashboard A/C.. you circulate much cooler intake air when you arent recycling engine heat that makes its way into the side of the condensor.. the skirt fans should take the air in from the skirt and blow it out under the bus.. good fans make all the difference.. the Cheapie fans will not last and dont give as much air out.. im a SPAL kind of guy..

-Christopher
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Old 12-02-2018, 03:41 PM   #7
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Sounds like a great project, William!

I don't have quite as high of ambitions. Cost is the primary driving factor behind my desire for a vintage short bus. I like your idea for reclining seats. I want to add AC too, most likely a junkyard solution from a full size van or bus.
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Old 12-10-2018, 12:17 PM   #8
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I am still searching for an old bus to fit my needs. I'd prefer a shorter bus, around 15-20 passengers. I have child #7 on the way in May, so we need plenty of room for 9 passengers... with room for a few more maybe?!? Their friends like to ride along with us too occasionally. Also the extra room comes in handy to carry camping gear, luggage, car parts, etc.


I like the rounded bus bodies from the 40's-50's. Some of the 60's busses look pretty cool too, although they are more squarish. I plan to repower with a more modern big block gas engine or a commonly available diesel engine. I'd prefer to stay away from electronics as much as possible for durability purposes, and ease of maintenance. If I go diesel, I'd like something capable of running WVO or used motor oil in case of the zombie apocalypse.

Anyone know of any old busses in TX?
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Old 12-10-2018, 08:34 PM   #9
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 8,462
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
Just a kwik note or two on "older Skoolies"...


You will find that just about anything made during or before WWII will have an extremely narrow front frame section (it tapers in, inside the fenders). Very tricky/tight to install a alternative/larger motor. From 1947 on...they have straight frame rails and are MUCH easier to build on. Another issue is glass. There are a few that have curved windshield and window components. They are crazy expensive to replace. Flat glass is cheap & easy.


Running gear on such buses will be typically geared to around 45 mph. Be prepared to upgrade the driveline/axle if you ever plan on going faster. And...brakes. No assist except the occasional Hydroboost. But...the master will be a single pot (one cylinder for all 4 wheels). Very dangerous. Needs to be upgraded to dual pot (separate front/rear cylinders). And if the speed is increased via engine/gearing improvements...be prepared to do a serious upgrade to the brakes all around. More "go" needs more "stop"



All for now. There are some great looking vintage buses still out there, go for it!


For reference and qualifications...see my Avatar.
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