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Old 11-21-2016, 10:17 AM   #1
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Need advice!!

Hello everyone! My name is Matt, I'm new to this forum.
My girlfriend and I have been looking for a vehicle that we can convert into a tiny home and tour the States.
This vehicle won't only be used for our trip, we would like to be able to live in it while we are not traveling.
My question is I've been looking at so many different busses and engine/transmission options, body styles, rear end ratios, etc. I'm sure like most of you were in the beginning, I'm starting to get overwhelmed.
To add to the anxiousness of this situation, my girlfriend and I just re-couped from taking a $2k loss on an RV we bought last year. I want to buy the perfect bus because this is going to be our home, but I want to take my time and make sure I am informed and know exactly what I am looking for.
At first we wanted a short bus with a handicap lift for the extra width, but the short bus we were looking at required a CDL. So with further thinking we decided we may be better off going with a mid sized bus since we needed a CDL anyway. This would allow me (6'5") to actually be able to stand up straight and not hit my head, and provide us with a more comfortable living area.
I was wondering what busses should I be looking for? I really want something with a DT466. Do they make mid sized busses with DT466's? And if so would any of these models have a handicap lift? Also what transmission should I be looking for?
I know I probably sound like a noob, but that's because I am lmao. Thank you for all your future help
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Old 11-21-2016, 11:14 AM   #2
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Check with your state, but almost all don't require a CDL for an RV, regardless of it's size or air brakes or not.

So you need to get the bus titles as an RV then you're good regardless of size.

The DT and 545/645 trans are in older buses..to me that's anything over 10 or 12 years..but I drive a bus and practically no school district here keeps them beyond that. Many reasons for that - the local school contract requires us to buy 2.5 new buses a year, the fleet is 22 buses..so nothing is over 10 years old. Another big congtractor here changes half his fleet every 2 years - so NOTHING is over 4 years old.

And yes, these 2005 buses go for 4-6k. Allison 3000 is what we have for transmissions and they do no break. maybe a speed sensor or something, but not the trans.

CAT's are expensive (parts). cummins common as are the dt466.

Why do you want a handicap lift? Width? AFAIK all buses are the same width give or take a few inches. And few if any big buses have the lifts.

Buses come in many lenghts/capacities..i drive a mix of 66, 72 and 76 passenger buses, mostly convention but we do have a BB transit (for now..it goes bye bye in june). I may tell my boss to list it here - 135k miles and always garage kept, new rad and many new air system parts in the past month. I'm tempted...

google 'school bus types' and read up a bit.

With your height you'll probably want a taller bus (they make them..not too common) or else raise the roof.

An alternative would be to get a former city transit (not geared for hiway usually) or a OTR coach - the ideal as they are the biggest, tallest and have basements (think prevost). More miles on them (by far) for teh same price though.
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Old 11-21-2016, 11:36 AM   #3
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Everyone one of us are noobs. With a bus you will learn everyday. Save another $2k or more buy reading every thread you can find here. Free knowledge for the reading. Knowledge is power in this hobby. Ignorancey in this hobby can and will be costly.
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Old 11-21-2016, 12:08 PM   #4
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Absolutely good advice!

You can do sooo much with a bus - from 'fancy tent' to full out high end RV.
Making a plan, and gathering the knowledge to do it and learn from others, um, mistakes, i mean, experiences, is well worth it!

Go to RV shows and dealers and look at how the 'pros' solved problems, where they put things (like tanks, panels, etc) is helpful too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Versatile View Post
Everyone one of us are noobs. With a bus you will learn everyday. Save another $2k or more buy reading every thread you can find here. Free knowledge for the reading. Knowledge is power in this hobby. Ignorancey in this hobby can and will be costly.
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Old 11-21-2016, 12:47 PM   #5
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At 6'5" your selection may be slimmed down pretty seriously unless you are comfortable with raising the roof. I know that there are 78" headroom buses around but of all of the buses that I have looked only a handful of them were that tall. Even with a 78" factory ceiling you will loose some if you insulate well.

As far as I can tell all of the Bluebird A3's (All american 3rd generation?) are 78" headroom. Somebody please correct me if I am mistaken?

As far as power train goes, there are numerous threads here comparing engines and transmissions. Read up and you will get a goo education

Prof.fate gives some good advice.

CAT=Expensive to service.

Cummins 5.9 & International T444 - Very good in a smaller bus. Perhaps a bit under powered in a full size. These are "dry liner" motors built very much like a car engine in that to rebuild them you pull the engine out and bore the cylinders & replace part etc.
International T444. Service and parts are readily available.


Cummins 8.3 & International DT466 - Great motors in any bus (IMHO). More displacement means more horsepower and torque. More fun to drive and you are not flogging the motor constantly. That gives you better reliability and (generally) better fuel economy. These are "wet sleeve" motors which means that a rebuild can be done "in-frame". You don't have to pull the motor. You replace the cylinder liners, bearings and other parts with the motor in the bus.

Earlier versions of all of the above motors (Except maybe T444?) came with mechanical fuel injection. No computer. The electronic motors generally will make more HP and get a little better fuel mileage. The mechanical motors are simpler. Less to break and cheaper/easier to work on.

As far as transmissions go you will likely see mostly Allison's:

AT545 - 4 speed. No overdrive and no lockup torque converter. Not very desireable.

MT-643/647 - 4 speed. No overdrive but it does have a lockup converter and will handle more power than the 545

2000/3000 Series - 6 speed. BUT most buses have them configured as a 5 speed. As a 6 speed they have two overdrives as a 5 speed they have one. They also have lockup torque converters. This group would include the MD-3060. That is the one I would recommend you looking for.

A mechanical DT466 and an MD-3060 in a low miles West Coast bus would be a dream.

Good luck on your quest!!

S.
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Old 11-21-2016, 01:25 PM   #6
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Old 11-21-2016, 01:30 PM   #7
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Thank you everyone for your responses!

I have been doing a lot of research recently, including driving an hour to the closest bus dealership and spending 5 hours looking at different buses.

I'm not that picky about head clearance, being 6' 5" I am used to hitting my head on things so I am more tolerant, however when I was checking buses out in person there was one bus that I stood up in perfect, and it wasn't a full-size (That's a plus for me) I am not sure though if it is a type-b or a short type-c (If they even make those?) Like: Bus Sales New Used, School Buses Commercial Church Bus Airport Shuttles Limo Buses Wheelchair Vans all on Sale! and Bus Sales New Used, School Buses Commercial Church Bus Airport Shuttles Limo Buses Wheelchair Vans all on Sale! I read in a different thread on this forum that type-b buses aren't worth converting, so should I stay away from these? Is it possible to have a type-c this size?

I am looking for the smallest bus possible while still maintaining reliability, and live-able space. I would like to have the DT466 and MD-3060.

Also A handi-cap lift is preferred because we would like a second door, but will not have access to the back latch door because my motorcycle will be mounted on a hitch platform, blocking use of the door.
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Old 11-21-2016, 01:31 PM   #8
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Hi Matt, welcome to the forum! My boyfriend and are currently traveling the country in our 2000 Bluebird Mini-bird. Our trip has been amazing - I know how overwhelming it seems but so worth it.
Our bus has a T444E and I'm ashamed to admit I still don't know what tranny. We bought our bus for $2500, put another $1500 into the conversion and then spent $4500 at the repair shop to get the bus ready for our trip. I'd say spending more money initially will save you in repairs. Tires are expensive lol.
Our bus made it over the Smoky Mountains (4 mile 7% grade was tough but we did it). I'm not sure it would make the Rockies though. Top speed is 65 but we cruise at about 58 - don't want to push it.
You will fall in love with your bus. Remember to take it one step at a time, you'll get there!
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Old 11-21-2016, 03:35 PM   #9
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Look at previous conversions. You can rip out the interior and start over with the previously installed tanks etc. Saving thousands and lot's of time. Quite often you can find a bus that someone built as a monument to themselves. Nothing wrong with that until they go to sell it. Return will be low for them. Know your stuff and be ready to strike. Getting your hands on a DT466 with a MD3060 is doable but they go quick. These bus's are like old people they need daily care and the condition can change in an instance and the prescriptions can be very expensive. But around hear they are like gold to owners. All these things are is Just a big truck with a very big 6 cylinder engine. Don't jump to buy.

My 5.9 s a bit doggy on the bottom but it will run easy 75mph@ 2550 RPM The tranny is really the 643.
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Old 11-21-2016, 05:52 PM   #10
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Hey Matt,

Whoever told you that conventional buses are not worth converting is full of something. They have advantages and disadvantages just like any other style.

A flat nose front engine bus will be more maneuverable and have more living space than a conventional of the same overall length.

The conventional will be quieter and easier to work on the engine. If you spend a lot of time on the road the "quieter" part can be a big deal.

In the shorter buses I don't think that you will see rear engined buses.

I just bought a Bluebird rear engine 40' bus with a Cummins 8.3 and an Allison MD-3060. It was a "last minute" bid as I had started bidding on a conventional with a DT466 and Allison 2000 but lost that auction. The RE was my backup. I would have been tickled to have gotten the conventional.

Look around at the conversions here. You will see many fine conversions of conventional buses.

the bus in the link you provided looks like it could be a good candidate for conversion. Mileage/condition would be BIG questions. The asking price is what I would consider reasonable if it is a low miles well maintained bus. If it is a 200k mile bus with rough spots then I would suggest that you keep looking.
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