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Old 05-27-2016, 09:51 PM   #1
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In Transition in NorCal

Hey all, just wanted to take the time to make a quick introduction before I start delving through the archives of info available here. Family of four located in Chico that are ready to leap intelligently into full time bus living. I'm sure many of you have felt the same callings, the failure of the modern housing crisis, the limitations of a stationary school system, and feeling like more time needs to be spent sharing worldly adventures with our family, and showing them that it is totally possible to live your dreams. We have spent the last few years transitioning into tiny living and pairing down to necessities.

We've had our eyes set on several buses in the last year or so, but have yet to pull the trigger. The first was an early 40's White Superpower with a Gillig body, already gutted, but more money than we could put into such an old, yet awesome project. The next dream was a '47 GMC Silverside that sat here in Chico for the last year, but recently I have noticed it must have been traded by the owner for a mid 60's Greyhound....eternally sad by passing on that, but it came with a hefty pricetag of 10k just for the beginnings of the project.

Currently perusing through CL locally trying to find a potential project, and have come across a 35foot '65 Ford with a Gillig body. It appears to be a v8 with a manual transmission...and I'm not certain if that's worth diving into as I once was more intrigued with the concept of converting an old Detroit into Veg-Diesel.

Here's what the post has to say, sounds like a sweet deal that is already partially started....

"This bus has all the seats removed and a counter has been mounted inside. Everything works inside and out with one exception, the interior heater. It's has a rebuilt motor with approx 7500 miles on it. It's has new carborator, plugs, wires and runs really good. The tires are almost brand new. This bus has been used by us for traveling and camping and even provided us a home for our family for 3 years. It's it's currently on a none op so there are no back fees due and we have the pink slip in hand. The windows are tinted with reflective color for inside privacy and temp reduction. This bus has many more thousands of miles to travel and we would like to see it not going to waste, but being used and loved by someone who will cherish it's as much as we did."

What do you all think? Worthy project or one I should pass on for something newer? I'm a sucker for older charm, but will be honest, am not keen on FoMoCo...so wouldn't break my heart if this wasn't the one...BUT WE'RE READY TO FIND ONE!!!

Anywho, hope to get some great info and networking out of this and look forward to learning from your collective wisdom!

-Eric
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Old 05-27-2016, 10:15 PM   #2
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Welcome from a fellow California located in Vacaville, I would try to stay away from gas & Get A diesel OR since it's pre smog do a diesel conversion
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Old 05-28-2016, 11:29 AM   #3
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Whats the cost and labor involved in doing a diesel conversion? What are recommended platforms? I know I've heard a lot of good things out of the '80's Cummins Turbo Diesels before they became to computerized.
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Old 05-28-2016, 11:46 AM   #4
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While all mechanical diesels are MUCH easier to work with than the electronic beasties...any gas to diesel conversion is fairly complex. The cost can be kept down a bit if you do most of the work yourself, but it's still not cheap. The fuel system has to be converted as well, usually requiring a new or custom built tank. Then there is the transmission and driveline which will have to be modified to work with the new motor.

How much dough? Lots of variables, but for a 5.9 Cummins...

New or rebuilt engine...$3000 to $10,000 (don't bother installing an engine that has not been totally gone through first)
Compatible tranny...$1500 to $10,000
Driveshaft...(2 piece most likely) $750 to $1200
Fuel tank(s)...$250 to $500

Then there are lots of little things like motor mounts, transmission mounts, beefed up suspension to compensate for the heavier engine, fuel lines, all new gauges (most diesels have a minimum of about 7 and as many as 10 specialized gauges.

Long story short...it can be done ( I am doing it as we speak) but finding a rig that already has diesel makes the most sense unless you are committed to building a custom rig pretty much from scratch.
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Old 05-28-2016, 12:21 PM   #5
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Wow Tango, that's an amazing '46! Right up my alley, and I could see why it would be worth converting a dream machine like that! Thanks for the financial specs on everything. Greatly informative.

Right now that's a bit out of my budget and skills expertise starting out. I'm hoping to start maybe a little closer to a turn-key solution that can just be gutted and ready to roll...Only because I'm just tired of waiting for the "Perfect Solution" and with a bus or two built in trial and error stages...by the time the "ONE" comes around, hopefully we'll have the knowledge and connections to do it right and have the experience of getting to know a floorplan or two and make adjustments based on the real living experience rather than just assuming it all works.

....And by that time, the kids may be grown, allowing for a smaller floorplan that I assume, is more common in a pre-55 type project that I would be most interested in.

We have a few more intentions for a final bus project as well...but I'll get to that in later posts.

I've been fighting it for the last few years, but I'm thinking I may be looking into getting a more recent retired fleet school bus starting out. They seem reasonable, not usually too high on the mileage, available with fairly expansive layout and plentiful.
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Old 05-28-2016, 01:31 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Tango View Post
While all mechanical diesels are MUCH easier to work with than the electronic beasties...any gas to diesel conversion is fairly complex. The cost can be kept down a bit if you do most of the work yourself, but it's still not cheap. The fuel system has to be converted as well, usually requiring a new or custom built tank. Then there is the transmission and driveline which will have to be modified to work with the new motor.

How much dough? Lots of variables, but for a 5.9 Cummins...

New or rebuilt engine...$3000 to $10,000 (don't bother installing an engine that has not been totally gone through first)
Compatible tranny...$1500 to $10,000
Driveshaft...(2 piece most likely) $750 to $1200
Fuel tank(s)...$250 to $500

Then there are lots of little things like motor mounts, transmission mounts, beefed up suspension to compensate for the heavier engine, fuel lines, all new gauges (most diesels have a minimum of about 7 and as many as 10 specialized gauges.

Long story short...it can be done ( I am doing it as we speak) but finding a rig that already has diesel makes the most sense unless you are committed to building a custom rig pretty much from scratch.
Tango would know!
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Old 05-28-2016, 05:13 PM   #7
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There are tons of great buses out there these days with outstanding diesel engines and more & more are showing up with the later series of Allison transmissions (1000, 2000 3000 series with up to six speeds and double overdrive).

Take your time and buy the very best, rust free platform you can afford. It will pay back in spades when you build it out into your own, personal dream machine.

If it is a "classic" you have in mind...be prepared to spend several years and lots of money bringing it up to modern highway & safety standards.

Heck...when mine was built...the interstate system didn't even exist!

Best of luck on your hunt!
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Old 05-28-2016, 08:54 PM   #8
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A friend of mine has a 40 foot International with a 9.0 that he wants to sell me for 3k. He bought it to have a mobile glass studio for his artwork, but decided against it for some reason after gutting it. The biggest downside for me...he cut out the back end and installed a drop down drawbridge. For some projects that would be excellent....but however I'm trying to figure out if that is something I can work with or should avoid like the plague. It seems like 3k for a prebutchered bus of that vintage may not be worth it. Did a bit of research through here on that 9.0 platform and it seems like if it is a later model, then it would be mechanically sound and simple to work with. Apparently earlier versions had head gasket issues. Naturally aspirated, probably hooked up to an AT545 which I can't say is a good or a bad thing? They apparently discontinued the engine in '87 due to emissions...which makes me concerned over the fact that I live in California and don't know if it could/would have to pass smog.

I'm thinking I may be trying to do my research on something with a T44E?
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Old 05-28-2016, 09:58 PM   #9
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That's not a bad price if the bus is in good shape. Not enough information, but if you can't run it in CA... I bought my 97 at auction for $2,600 this past fall.

If you buy that one, I'll let you keep it here in Oregon.
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Old 05-28-2016, 10:03 PM   #10
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I might end up taking you up on that offer! I have a friend who is taking over her family organic farm here sometime in the next year or two. The farm is located in Rickreal, East of Salem, and I believe a bit SE of you on 22. We have been trying to coordinate something so that we could pull up our bus there and be able to work the farm with her. Wife and I met while living in Silverton, so definitely wouldn't mind hanging out in the Willamette Valley again!
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Old 05-28-2016, 10:37 PM   #11
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You're welcome here. Rickreal is real close. I don't think that would be the best bus for you, but my offer stands. Not trying to insult your skills about a conversion or anything. Just trying to send you on a shortcut to a relatively cheap and dependable bus for the same money. The cool part is doing this while your kids are still kids, so you need something fairly dependable without spending lots of time working on it. Actually kids never stop being kids no matter how old they get, but that's a different discussion.

The worst part about this area is driving 8' wide vehicles on a 9' wide lane while sharing with the occasional logging truck who is also 8' wide, and not loosing your mirrors at the same time. On the day I brought home the bus I bent a RF wheel by dropping it off the edge of the asphalt. Lucky I had six tires, drove home on five.
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Old 05-28-2016, 10:43 PM   #12
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A friend of mine has a 40 foot International with a 9.0 that he wants to sell me for 3k. He bought it to have a mobile glass studio for his artwork, but decided against it for some reason after gutting it. The biggest downside for me...he cut out the back end and installed a drop down drawbridge. For some projects that would be excellent....but however I'm trying to figure out if that is something I can work with or should avoid like the plague. It seems like 3k for a prebutchered bus of that vintage may not be worth it. Did a bit of research through here on that 9.0 platform and it seems like if it is a later model, then it would be mechanically sound and simple to work with. Apparently earlier versions had head gasket issues. Naturally aspirated, probably hooked up to an AT545 which I can't say is a good or a bad thing? They apparently discontinued the engine in '87 due to emissions...which makes me concerned over the fact that I live in California and don't know if it could/would have to pass smog.



I'm thinking I may be trying to do my research on something with a T44E?
If you get it retitled as a RV you won't have to deal with smog.
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Old 05-28-2016, 11:37 PM   #13
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I didn't realize RVs were exempt in CA. I just read the information on auction equipment stating that it can't be run in CA. It definitely wouldn't be good to go through that process of re-titling a bus to RV here in Oregon. You can do that but you won't be able to get insurance unless it's a professional coach conversion. That's why I have a van. It's a big damn van. I'm curious to know if a owner of a conversion bus/RV already titled as an RV in another state could transfer to Oregon and be able to get insurance? Looking for a loophole.
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Old 05-29-2016, 01:45 AM   #14
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You're welcome here. Rickreal is real close. I don't think that would be the best bus for you, but my offer stands. Not trying to insult your skills about a conversion or anything. Just trying to send you on a shortcut to a relatively cheap and dependable bus for the same money. The cool part is doing this while your kids are still kids, so you need something fairly dependable without spending lots of time working on it. Actually kids never stop being kids no matter how old they get, but that's a different discussion.

The worst part about this area is driving 8' wide vehicles on a 9' wide lane while sharing with the occasional logging truck who is also 8' wide, and not loosing your mirrors at the same time. On the day I brought home the bus I bent a RF wheel by dropping it off the edge of the asphalt. Lucky I had six tires, drove home on five.
Yea, I'm thinking similarly. I'm very open to suggestions and am trying to weigh the pros and cons of several options. The important thing, is yeah, we want to full time it with the kids and homeschool traveling across the US. We have lived in Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, here in California, and I'm from Missouri where all my family are at, along with my Army time in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas...we have a real desire to keep seeing more, and wanting to share those constant real experience learning field trips with the kids.

Reliability is paramount. A large enough floorplan to incorporate the wife, myself two kids, and a pair of medium-large dogs... All other things I'm open for discussion. I've tabled aesthetics of a vintage bus, until I have built one or two. I'm definitely not skilled enough to tackle such a project, so a turnkey solution starting off would be great!
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Old 05-29-2016, 01:01 PM   #15
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I think you'll find the aesthetics of the build really unimportant in comparison to more reliability. You're talking about buying basically a 20 year old bus versus a considerably older bus that will need every rubber hose, belt and seal replaced before you can consider it reliable, not to mention the mechanical wear that needs addressing. The metal box isn't that much different. Old equals rust and pretty frequently lots of repair before the build can take place, not to mention the mechanical issues of an older build.
I personally would love to have one of these older buses, and given the right deal I might park a vintage bus right beside this TC1000, so I can work on it over a period of several years as parts come in. I don't have a shop or even a cement parking area, which makes things more challenging for working on anything.
Point is I don't have kids anymore, but if I did I'd buy an easy bus. Actually that's what I did when buying this TC1000. I didn't want to work on a vehicle, I want to travel extensively. There's a lot of problems with living the bus lifestyle already, so in my opinion reliability of the bus is obviously a major component that makes my scenery change instead of this being just a tiny house. I didn't need new tires for that.
Love the idea of your home schooling and traveling. My X would have never bought into that idea, or any of my other ideas for that matter. Actually I became domesticated for 20 years while raising the kids, but oh how it feels good to throw that off. Apparently I shouldn't actually be myself so I'll try to tone it down a little.

Before I write a book here, how about you tell what you want and let folks here try to help find the right bus you? There's nothing like having several hundred individuals thinking about what bus might work well for you. All disposable information if you so choose.
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Old 05-29-2016, 11:27 PM   #16
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We're excited. Really frustrated with trying to fit into the domesticated mold, want to let the kids know the world around them, and be able to travel around to see family and friends. The wife is just as excited as I am! Had a delightful conversation with her father this morning over breakfast. He's skeptical, but has been living some of his own dreams through recent retirement. Trying to win over the hearts and minds!

Well, you ask about specifics. I must digress in admitting my own ignorance in the decision making process, but I have found online forums to be a great way of getting yourself up to speed through collective wisdom and knowledge. Right now, I'm waiting for a few books to come in from Amazon, and studying some old posts that may be relative to what I'm searching for. As time goes on, I know I'll gather a bit more knowledge and have more of a bead on what will be the best fit for the family.

I know I'd like to have plenty of floor space. We would like to have our own bed in the back and some potentially foldable or multipurpose bunks for the two little ones (4 y/o girl and 8 y/o boy) Definitely want a decent seemingly spacious kitchen setup, but we are realistic about the space that we have available.

Hell I'm wondering if a 90 passenger is too big? At the same time, besides driving towed howitzers behind 6x6 FMTV's, I can't say as I have much experience driving a larger vehicle. What's that transition like? What are the legalities for keeping everything within standard licencing?

Besides for having massive floor space, I would like a reliable and easy to maintain or service engine/transmission combination. I have been spending most of my time on here, researching those very subjects. I'm very open to any ideas. I would prefer the bus to be within the last 15 years or so, but I'm open to any well maintained vehicle that would effectively serve the purpose for the right cost.

Speaking of which...You said you picked up your rig for less than 3k through auction? Where do I find more information out about local bus auctions? I have been perusing through CL which hasn't turned up much.

We have been researching the possibilities and the costs of insulating using lightweight, super durable, breathable, carbon-negative hemp materials. Also have looked into hemp paneling materials. It's been a personal goal to try and create a healthy and sustainable living space that doesn't offgas from harsh processing chemicals. Hemp fits all those needs and can be manufactured through basic processes that keep materials cost effective and able to cover a vast array of specifics.

Wife is requesting a composting toilet along with a decent on-demand hot water heater for a shower...No arguments here....

As I've put out there a few times and you have addressed, I definitely want to spend more of my initial time traveling and experiencing the world with my kids. I would really like to try and sign us up with The WWOOF Network of farms across the U.S. so that our children can learn the values of organic and sustainable food production and so that we can develop a strong network of like-minded individuals that we can provide our services to, whilst simultaneously learning and absorbing, without requiring room and board or much else in the way of finances. The concept of being able to give of oneself without the worries of maintaining rent or a mortgage really entices me!

I hitched around the West Coast as a travelling musician for awhile in my teens after high school and moving out from the Midwest. The lack of possessions or expectations was the most liberating feeling I've ever experienced, and it really turned around the rest of my world view. I'm excited to be able to share that experience and create lasting memories with the entire family.

This is a huge learning curve for us, but it's where our hearts and our minds are at. We are determined to make the transition but, are gonna be bugging the hell outta you all, picking your brains while we pull all the pieces together to make the best and most educated purchases for our family needs. Like yourself, I also envision having a full time living arrangement with the bus, and restoring and renovating an older project simultaneously. That's a ways off, and I feel I have much to learn before approaching such an undertaking.

I appreciate all the sage advice provided here and through the archives so far!
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Old 05-30-2016, 06:41 AM   #17
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If your bus is titled and licensed as an RV you will not need any sort of special license. If you should cross over into Canada you will need to have an air brake endorsement in order to operate your RV with air brakes.

The buses with the most available floor space are the Type 'D' FE buses. A 12-row Type 'C' will be at least 5' longer on the outside as a 12-row Type 'D' FE but will have the same amount of interior space.

The best bus in which to travel will usually be a Type 'D' RE bus. You get a lot less heat and noise in the driver's compartment when you are the better part of 40' from the engine and you are always driving away from the heat and noise.

Since you express a real desire to see the USA, look for a bus that has big HP and highway gears. Even if you spend a lot of your time on secondary highways instead of the Interstate highways having big HP and highway gears will cut down on your noise while traveling. It is also pretty nice not to have to be in the far right hand lane with your 4-way flashers going every time you come to a hill.

There are a lot of really nice builds on this forum with some of the features you would like. The Broccoli Bus build is one in particular that comes immediately to mind as one that has features you might want to copy. http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/th...-bus-9394.html

Over the years there have been several minimalist builds that were basically wide open from front to back except for a toilet/shower closet. The more open the floor plan is the larger the space will seem. One build that I can't remember which it was had to have seating and sleeping space for ten adults. The floor plan relied on a lot of benches that converted into beds that went across the center aisle.

While minimalist builds are relatively quick and easy builds they also tend to leave out a lot of the amenities that we have all become accustomed to having. Hot and cold running water may not seem to be something you have to have but if you want to have your own private shower you are going to have to design and build a domestic hot/cold water system. That system will require a potable water tank, a grey water tank, a pressurization system of some sort, a hot water heater, an easy way in which to fill the potable water tank, and a city water connection that bypasses the onboard tank and pump.

Using a Coleman type of portable camp stove is okay for a short term use. The installation of a stove usually means you also need to design and build a propane gas system. The propane system can not only supply fuel to the stove but to the furnace and hot water heater as well.

One way in which to reduce your costs is to purchase an RV that has had a roof leak that has destroyed the RV. In particular if you look to purchase a motorhome for a parts donor, many of the motorhomes came equipped with a genset. While a genset isn't required it comes in real handy when you are not close to a power plug in or if you want to run roof mounted A/C units while driving down the road.

For basically the cost of a new RV fridge you can purchase a donor RV and get tanks, appliances, A/C units, lights, plumbing fixtures, and RV windows with screens. You might even be able to salvage beds, seating, and cabinets.

The more self contained you build your bus the more options open up for you when stopping for the night while on the road. Wal-Mart camping is usually free and available just about anywhere. But that sort of camping is a non-starter if your onboard systems won't work without being plugged in.

If you don't want to go to the expense and bother of a roof raise you need to look at buses that have 12" windows instead of 9" windows. The extra three inches of headroom doesn't sound like a lot but can become quite a lot if you end up insulating the floor and ceiling.

As far as pricing is concerned, in order to get a Type 'D' RE bus that is only 15-years old you are going to have to raise your initial purchase price range into the $5K-$9K neighborhood. While that may seem like a lot compared to a $2K bus, because you are in CA where everything costs more, you are going to have to spend a bit more if you want the big bus with the big HP and highway gears.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:01 PM   #18
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Wow Cowlitz, thank you for such an incredibly informative post! That gives me so much more to work with while I'm researching. We have an RV and Camper dealer/supplier/expert not to far up the street in Red Bluff that my in-law's have spoken highly of. They may have some ideas on a used and broken down old camper of sorts for scrapping out. That does make a lot of sense.

I know we aren't trying to go Totally minimalist, but it'll have to be something that we are working on for a bit while maintaining domestication before we feel up to letting go of the amenities of a rental for adequate amenities inside the bus.

Again, thank you everyone who has taken time to volunteer insight and information towards our project already. My comprehension of the project ahead of us has more than doubled in just these two pages (yeah I'm pretty green to it all!)
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Old 05-30-2016, 12:07 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
I didn't realize RVs were exempt in CA. I just read the information on auction equipment stating that it can't be run in CA. It definitely wouldn't be good to go through that process of re-titling a bus to RV here in Oregon. You can do that but you won't be able to get insurance unless it's a professional coach conversion. That's why I have a van. It's a big damn van. I'm curious to know if a owner of a conversion bus/RV already titled as an RV in another state could transfer to Oregon and be able to get insurance? Looking for a loophole.
Before I made the jump I called the C.A.R.B & talked to them The guy I talked to directed me to page & paragraph that stated "Motor/ RV are exempted"
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Old 05-31-2016, 04:27 PM   #20
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I spoke to my buddy this morning. He said he'd take $1,500 for the bus, do to a favor that I paid him 15 years ago....so half price on it. He also happens to have welders and the tools to do the work, and has said I can park it where he is, and he and a buddy would be willing and able to help provide some work on it. He has built out two already. I asked him to send me a photo of the title so we can determine more info about it. Crossing my fingers that it's an '87 as to avoid the head gasket problems that I have read were an issue on the older 9.0 Liter.

He said it has interesting gearing. 3 Speed with no Park. Reverse, Neutral, High, and Low. He bought it from a few guys who cut the back end off and made a "draw-bridge" gangplank type opening on the back. Apparently, they were into tractor pulls and loaded up their 3 tractors in it and hauled them to their shows.

He informed me that when he purchased it, he drove it from Tennessee, out to Southern California, loaded up a 3 bedroom house inside it, and drove it back East. Said the leaf springs were flat coming back, 11 MPH over the pass, but was able to get up to 76MPH on a flat stretch.

It sat over winter, but after 20 minutes on the warmer, it fired right up. I've heard that 9.0 Liter is a tank of an engine platform.

So, with that option...plus the fact that he very well may provide me with employment for awhile while we are building this thing out, and potentially a place to crash with my family while we get it all running...what ya'll think?

Is 40' large enough to build comfortably for a family? I started reading the Broccoli Bus build...and while incredibly inspiring....I have NOwhere near the technical skills to perform roof raises and such. That is something I would Love to learn, but for now, we are just trying to break away and get on the road soon.
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