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Old 03-08-2017, 01:47 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Western Mass
Posts: 33
Year: 2001
Chassis: BlueBird
Engine: 3126
Rated Cap: 54
Greetings from Massachusetts!

Hey everybody, I'm from Mass and finally gotten to a point in life where I'm seriously considering a bus conversion. It's been a dream of mine for many years, my girlfriend as well. She's probably more excited than I am hehe
Our idea/goal is to build a bus, travel the US and Canada, look at the sights, just kinda be for a bit, find a nice place we like and maybe settle for a little while. We're mid 30s I've seen most of Europe and been cross the US a few times (mostly the southern half), she hasn't traveled much.
I have a pretty good general knowledge of all the mechanical and engineering aspects. I've single handedly built old pickups frame up etc...
I'm resourceful and capable of doing pretty much anything myself including upholstery, plumbing and electrical. My personal plan for the bus would be to create something fun/cool but on a budget and earth friendly, I like the challenge of re purposing as much as I can but not having that hipster/gypsy feel.

I've done a lot of research already and will be reading my way through here some more before I start asking a bunch of repeat questions. I've also talked to my local school bus maintenance company guy about which engines are good and which not. Being unfamiliar to school buses I'm curious about what experiences people have had with different things so I can make a good educated decision on what to get/build or if this is not something that makes sense for me to do right now.

Here's what I've gathered so far (correct me if I'm wrong):
How many of you have CDLs for your skoolies? I want the biggest bus that doesn't require a CDL, preferably not a flat nose, can anyone give me an idea which models/lengths/window count that might be? Also having a hard time finding the different sizes and their GVWR.

Preferred shopping place? I scan craigslist, ebay, gov auctions, local tranist companies that resell retired buses. I've seen some bad stuff and good stuff (but require CDL), prices from 2k to 50k, been told to stay away from salvage yards. But have seen buses at gov auction sites that all appear to be junk and a bus at a salvage yard to be pretty nice but no title.

Powertrain? I've been told to stay away from cats because of emissions, 545 trannys are junk and cummins cost a fortune to update the computers also very slow. I gather the 466 are preferred and the alison 2000 4th gen are solid. But the 444 I've heard 50/50 good/junk.
Air brakes vs hydraulic, pros cons? Called the state police in MA and was told under 26k lbs air brakes doesn't require CDL.

Registration and insurance?
I gather the easiest way to title it Motor Home is the VT route, especially because anything RMV related in MA is a huge PITA! I talked to my insurance today (progressive) they said if I installed these things it would be private motor home insurance: cooking (not microwave), toilet, fridge, A/C and heat (separate from engine), water supply, separate electrical system. Also they would need exact values and prices of all the modifications and add ons. The guy kept recommending I just buy an RV, he also kept saying a conversion would probably cost 60k and take way too long, I told him not to worry about it and answer my questions eesh hahaha

Conversion:
Dimensions are obviously a big factor, a couple of the bigger things I've considered were raising the roof in some manner either all or just a section as I'm 6'2" Also would like to make some kind of larger side opening if possible for those warm summer lake view sunsets but not fixed on that. Would def like to add a deck onto the back and with ladder to deck on the roof maybe even the entire length of roof that will hold solar, storage, maybe a lounge are and I've been considering a small green house.
I'm still on the idea phase here so any input is useful.

Sorry for such a long post, I'm very excited and have lots of questions and ideas, I'd love for this dream to come true for us but I'm also a very rational person, I know I still have lots of things to research and I will be reading around here a lot more, just thought I'd take a break and say Hi at least.
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Old 03-08-2017, 04:44 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 1,497
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 24v
Rated Cap: 72 pax
Quote:
Originally Posted by nightfury View Post
Hey everybody, I'm from Mass and finally gotten to a point in life where I'm seriously considering a bus conversion. It's been a dream of mine for many years, my girlfriend as well. She's probably more excited than I am hehe
Our idea/goal is to build a bus, travel the US and Canada, look at the sights, just kinda be for a bit, find a nice place we like and maybe settle for a little while. We're mid 30s I've seen most of Europe and been cross the US a few times (mostly the southern half), she hasn't traveled much.
I have a pretty good general knowledge of all the mechanical and engineering aspects. I've single handedly built old pickups frame up etc...
I'm resourceful and capable of doing pretty much anything myself including upholstery, plumbing and electrical. My personal plan for the bus would be to create something fun/cool but on a budget and earth friendly, I like the challenge of re purposing as much as I can but not having that hipster/gypsy feel.

I've done a lot of research already and will be reading my way through here some more before I start asking a bunch of repeat questions. I've also talked to my local school bus maintenance company guy about which engines are good and which not. Being unfamiliar to school buses I'm curious about what experiences people have had with different things so I can make a good educated decision on what to get/build or if this is not something that makes sense for me to do right now.

Here's what I've gathered so far (correct me if I'm wrong):
How many of you have CDLs for your skoolies? I want the biggest bus that doesn't require a CDL, preferably not a flat nose, can anyone give me an idea which models/lengths/window count that might be? Also having a hard time finding the different sizes and their GVWR.

Preferred shopping place? I scan craigslist, ebay, gov auctions, local tranist companies that resell retired buses. I've seen some bad stuff and good stuff (but require CDL), prices from 2k to 50k, been told to stay away from salvage yards. But have seen buses at gov auction sites that all appear to be junk and a bus at a salvage yard to be pretty nice but no title.

Powertrain? I've been told to stay away from cats because of emissions, 545 trannys are junk and cummins cost a fortune to update the computers also very slow. I gather the 466 are preferred and the alison 2000 4th gen are solid. But the 444 I've heard 50/50 good/junk.
Air brakes vs hydraulic, pros cons? Called the state police in MA and was told under 26k lbs air brakes doesn't require CDL.

Registration and insurance?
I gather the easiest way to title it Motor Home is the VT route, especially because anything RMV related in MA is a huge PITA! I talked to my insurance today (progressive) they said if I installed these things it would be private motor home insurance: cooking (not microwave), toilet, fridge, A/C and heat (separate from engine), water supply, separate electrical system. Also they would need exact values and prices of all the modifications and add ons. The guy kept recommending I just buy an RV, he also kept saying a conversion would probably cost 60k and take way too long, I told him not to worry about it and answer my questions eesh hahaha

Conversion:
Dimensions are obviously a big factor, a couple of the bigger things I've considered were raising the roof in some manner either all or just a section as I'm 6'2" Also would like to make some kind of larger side opening if possible for those warm summer lake view sunsets but not fixed on that. Would def like to add a deck onto the back and with ladder to deck on the roof maybe even the entire length of roof that will hold solar, storage, maybe a lounge are and I've been considering a small green house.
I'm still on the idea phase here so any input is useful.

Sorry for such a long post, I'm very excited and have lots of questions and ideas, I'd love for this dream to come true for us but I'm also a very rational person, I know I still have lots of things to research and I will be reading around here a lot more, just thought I'd take a break and say Hi at least.
Welcome. I am in western Mass. I am about to buy a bus myself.
Couple of guidelines I picked up from the amazing members here:
you don't need a CDL if it's titled and registered as an RV.
All the major brands of diesel engines are durable and after 2007 they all have emissions systems that are pricey to fix and maintain. You can't go wrong with a sleeved motor.
The at545 isn't a bad transmission for a school bus, but for highway driving a 643 (has trans lockup) or a 2000/3000 Allison has overdrive.
Flat nose busses give you the most square feet of living space. Front engined busses have the best maneuverability.
Most people look at auction sites or dealers.


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Old 03-09-2017, 10:41 AM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Western Mass
Posts: 33
Year: 2001
Chassis: BlueBird
Engine: 3126
Rated Cap: 54
Thanks for the info!! I'm in Western MA also, right over the Enfield CT border.
There's a lot to take in when starting something new like this where you need to learn the legalities and get to know the buses. Sadly there's not all that much available near by, the local county bus place told me they sell their retired buses to New England Transit Sales in Tyngsboro MA up by Lowell.
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Old 03-09-2017, 11:07 AM   #4
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Eastern WA
Posts: 5,319
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All American RE (A3RE)
Engine: Cummins ISC (8.3)
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Njsurf73 View Post
Welcome. I am in western Mass. I am about to buy a bus myself.
Couple of guidelines I picked up from the amazing members here:
you don't need a CDL if it's titled and registered as an RV.
All the major brands of diesel engines are durable and after 2007 they all have emissions systems that are pricey to fix and maintain. You can't go wrong with a sleeved motor.
The at545 isn't a bad transmission for a school bus, but for highway driving a 643 (has trans lockup) or a 2000/3000 Allison has overdrive.
Flat nose busses give you the most square feet of living space. Front engined busses have the best maneuverability.
Most people look at auction sites or dealers.


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Good info!

One point gives me pause... FE is more maneuverable than an RE? I would have thought otherwise. I have driven a handful of RE buses (37'-45') but only one FE so my experience is a bit limited. The one FE I have driven had the widest turning radius of the bunch.

What is your take on this?

Thanks.

S.
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:08 PM   #5
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 1,497
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 24v
Rated Cap: 72 pax
Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
Good info!

One point gives me pause... FE is more maneuverable than an RE? I would have thought otherwise. I have driven a handful of RE buses (37'-45') but only one FE so my experience is a bit limited. The one FE I have driven had the widest turning radius of the bunch.

What is your take on this?

Thanks.

S.
Most full sized Fe busses have a shorter wheel base than same sized re busses.
Some of the shorter Fe busses have the same wheel base as a big pickup truck.
I have been in 1 Fe (around 35 ft) 2 re busses (around 30 and and 35) and the FE turned tighter than both re busses.
I prefer the re for driver comfort, but I think for actual usable space the FE may win. Every re I have looked at had some sort of rear engine cover that I don't think would be able to be permanently covered.


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Old 03-09-2017, 12:47 PM   #6
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Eastern WA
Posts: 5,319
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All American RE (A3RE)
Engine: Cummins ISC (8.3)
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Njsurf73 View Post
Most full sized Fe busses have a shorter wheel base than same sized re busses.
Some of the shorter Fe busses have the same wheel base as a big pickup truck.
I have been in 1 Fe (around 35 ft) 2 re busses (around 30 and and 35) and the FE turned tighter than both re busses.
I prefer the re for driver comfort, but I think for actual usable space the FE may win. Every re I have looked at had some sort of rear engine cover that I don't think would be able to be permanently covered.


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I will agree that the FE has more usable floor space and the RE is the more "driver friendly" when it comes to noise & heat.

Also agree that you have to be VERY careful when it comes to covering access hatches. I did, after asking the Guru, cover a needed access panel in my last bus. When I needed access I had two chilces: tear up a beautiful ceramic tile floor or replace the mech throttle with an air throttle. Wound up with the air throttle.

Now, I am determined to prove your point on the maneuverability. I need to find some FE's to test drive
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:48 PM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 1,497
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 24v
Rated Cap: 72 pax
Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
I will agree that the FE has more usable floor space and the RE is the more "driver friendly" when it comes to noise & heat.

Also agree that you have to be VERY careful when it comes to covering access hatches. I did, after asking the Guru, cover a needed access panel in my last bus. When I needed access I had two chilces: tear up a beautiful ceramic tile floor or replace the mech throttle with an air throttle. Wound up with the air throttle.

Now, I am determined to prove your point on the maneuverability. I need to find some FE's to test drive
Hahaha. Not that anyone needs an excuse to go drive a bus! Lol

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Old 03-09-2017, 01:35 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Posts: 45
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Amtran
Chassis: International 3000
Engine: T444E w/5 Spd Allison
Welcome! I lived in a skoolie in Mass for awhile back in the mid 90's. We were parked in grandma's yard in Scituate, right down the street from the beach. I loved it as a kid... until winter.
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