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Old 01-27-2018, 06:38 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Location: Cleburne, Texasa
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Year: 1999
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Engine: Cat 3126B
Rated Cap: 20800
Ready to pull the trigger!

After several years we are ready to purchase our first bus! After much searching we found what appears to be a great one about 2 hours from us.

1999 THOMAS flat nose
84 small child passenger
Cat 3126B Diesel rear pusher
Allison automatic transmission with overdrive.
Tires are 95%.
Pictures do not show any body damage and as a Texas bus, no exterior rust.
Government maintained since new. (Insert jokes here!)
Per seller starts and runs perfect.
Asking price $5,000

But then I seemed to recall something about Cat powertrains on the forum and went looking. Oil leakers, 3126 is underpowered, very expensive to maintain and work on, etc...

Is it even worth our time to go look at? Opinions from y’all would be appreciated.
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Old 01-27-2018, 06:51 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzyman View Post
After several years we are ready to purchase our first bus! After much searching we found what appears to be a great one about 2 hours from us.

1999 THOMAS flat nose
84 small child passenger
Cat 3126B Diesel rear pusher
Allison automatic transmission with overdrive.
Tires are 95%.
Pictures do not show any body damage and as a Texas bus, no exterior rust.
Government maintained since new. (Insert jokes here!)
Per seller starts and runs perfect.
Asking price $5,000

But then I seemed to recall something about Cat powertrains on the forum and went looking. Oil leakers, 3126 is underpowered, very expensive to maintain and work on, etc...

Is it even worth our time to go look at? Opinions from y’all would be appreciated.
Plenty of people are happily running around with CAT engines.

Check the mileage and the hours, and look closely for oil-leaks. Be suspicious if it looks like it has been steam-cleaned.

For extra peace of mind, have a diesel mechanic run a few basic checks.

If the engine is good, the chances are it will stay good for a long time. If it breaks it will cost more to fix than Navistar of Cummins.

It sounds like a nice bus and if those tires are that good, and not more than a couple of years old, or so, then the price isn't too outrageous either.
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Old 01-27-2018, 07:31 PM   #3
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Dizzy,

I drove a 2001 Thomas. Same set up. LOVED it! The 3126 is a good engine so long as you maintain it well. She did have a tendency to leak oil, but not that much. She did use oil (not burn it, but it did seep out the seams from time to time) every fourth or fifth day of heavy use (regular route, field trip, regular route, then to the garage for the night).

$5K is in line with retail expectations for that bus. A little high, but not out of line.

My two cents....

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Old 01-27-2018, 07:40 PM   #4
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The CAT engines have a reputation for leaking oil.

But so do Cummins, and so do Navistar.

If you touched the bottom of any random skoolie you'll draw back an oily hand.

Similarly, there are a million buses driving around with a motor people here will call "underpowered". THe engines in both my short and long buses are frequently called underpowered. Underpowered by what standard? Compared to something with more power? My buses didn't get a combine 400k miles sitting in a parking lot.

$5k from a dealer seems in line with dealer prices. It's more than you'd pay at auction obviously. I assume it doesn't have air conditioning at that price!

As far as parts go, CAT specific parts cost more. Most of your regular maintenance stuff will be comparable. The big ticket items might be more expensive.
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Old 01-27-2018, 09:55 PM   #5
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Thanks Steve for the encouraging words and accompanying advice, I will follow through with it.
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:01 PM   #6
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M1031A1 and Brokedown,
Thanks to both of you, common sense replies.
It does have AC, 4 units in fact! One in the drivers area, one in the back and two on the sides!
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:10 PM   #7
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https://images.craigslist.org/00I0I_...0r_600x450.jpg

Hope I did this right, shows 3 of the 4 AC units.
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:11 PM   #8
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How's the mileage? Almost new tires and the a.c. makes it sound pretty appealing. I'm looking for a 9-10 window like that
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:12 PM   #9
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Looks like it worked, here is an outside shot. Plan on driving down Monday to look at it.

https://images.craigslist.org/00606_...zV_600x450.jpg
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:22 PM   #10
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Good looking bus! Do all buses have the entry door angled in like that, or just Thomas? Or is the bus body just wider than the frame? First time I've noticed it.

Wish you luck in your purchase!
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:27 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jjhwick119 View Post
Good looking bus! Do all buses have the entry door angled in like that, or just Thomas? Or is the bus body just wider than the frame? First time I've noticed it.

Wish you luck in your purchase!
They (Thomas) are all like that. It is a function of fitting a doorframe into the sloping sides.

That one has the high ceiling too.

It looks like it also has the locking deadbolt on the door ... Nice bus.
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Old 01-28-2018, 12:55 PM   #12
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Thanks jjhwick119. Don’t know what the mileage is yet, will find out Monday. As far as the steps, no clue but I bet a lot of the folks here can answer that!
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Old 01-28-2018, 01:07 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
They (Thomas) are all like that. It is a function of fitting a doorframe into the sloping sides.

That one has the high ceiling too.

It looks like it also has the locking deadbolt on the door ... Nice bus.
You would think if the walls slope inward, then the door would slope the other way, not inward also.
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Old 01-29-2018, 08:38 PM   #14
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Looked at and drove the bus today

Drove the 2 1/2 hrs to where the bus was to look it over and take it for a spin. Drives nice, steering is tight, fires right up. Air brakes, air ride drivers seat and air door. Tires have excellent tread, pics attached. Until about 6 months ago it was in service with the Plano ISD in the DFW Metroplex. I will upload pics of the odometer, engine and the door lock which is better than I expected. We go back down in 3 days to bring it home! Seller will have all of the paper work ready.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Rear tire tread at purchase.jpg (177.4 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg Front tire tread at purchase.jpg (132.8 KB, 7 views)
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Old 01-29-2018, 08:46 PM   #15
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Few more pics

The odometer shows 198,803 miles. The engine was dusty and yes, had a small amount of oil on the bottom! I was unable to get underneath to see exactly what transmission it has, the shifter has 1/2/3 and D. As you can see on the engine pic there are two new AC compressors. The rear AC could be felt all the way to the front and was ice cold! The two side ones were chilly and we were unable to figure out how to access the front drivers unit. Will figure that out when I get it home. All for now, we are so excited!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Odometer at purchase.jpg (135.3 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Engine.jpg (189.1 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg Door lock.jpg (181.7 KB, 9 views)
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Old 01-30-2018, 10:18 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzyman View Post
The odometer shows 198,803 miles. The engine was dusty and yes, had a small amount of oil on the bottom! I was unable to get underneath to see exactly what transmission it has, the shifter has 1/2/3 and D. As you can see on the engine pic there are two new AC compressors. The rear AC could be felt all the way to the front and was ice cold! The two side ones were chilly and we were unable to figure out how to access the front drivers unit. Will figure that out when I get it home. All for now, we are so excited!
Great door lock...are you going to keep the ac units?

Sent from my VS500PP using Tapatalk
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Old 01-30-2018, 11:04 AM   #17
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Preliminary plans are to keep the front and rear AC and remove the two side units.
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Old 01-30-2018, 11:14 AM   #18
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That is not a bad looking bus with a decent price.

What is the top speed? I have driven a similar bus that topped out at 62 MPH.

Which HP rating?

The MVP model was the Thomas response to the BB TC2000. They were built with less expensive components in order to keep the cost down. At the time that bus was built a Thomas HDX/Westcoaster would have cost $15K to $20K more with the same engine and transmission.

The frame rails were heavier duty, the cooling system was larger, the axles were usually one or more sizes heavier duty with a higher GVWR, and the engine would have had a higher HP rating.

For our purposes the differences really are not that important. As stout as a MVP or TC is it is more than up to the task you will be putting it to as an RV.

Good luck and happy trails to you!

PS--I don't like Cat engines because they cost more to own and operate. There are very few independent shops that have qualified Cat technicians. In order to change the HP, redline, etc. on a Cummins or Detroit all it usually takes is a few minutes hooked up to the big computer to reprogram the brain that operates the engine. With a Cat, to change the parameters it requires a lot of tech time that really adds to the cost.
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Old 01-30-2018, 01:24 PM   #19
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I will figure out the top speed in a couple of days when we drive it home. Fortunately I have a friend that works in a a large equipment repair shop and is their Cat guy.

Dumb question - how did you determine it was an MVP? I'm on the beginning of the bus/diesel learning curve!
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Old 01-30-2018, 02:56 PM   #20
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The MVP was Thomas' flat nose bus of that period. Not a lot of choices there!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Built_Buses
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