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Old 10-12-2015, 05:18 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Salutations from Southern-Middle Tennessee...But Hopefully Not for Long

Hello, All! I am a complete newcomer to the world of bus conversion. Although I've Googled "best bus for conversion" (as well as other phrases) and read what was available, I'm afraid searching internet forums isn't my strong suit. Thank you in advance for any and all feedback and advice!

My wife, our [soon to be] four kids and I are about to embark on an adventure, and I (as well as most people here, I would presume) am trying to do my homework before even beginning to seriously look for or consider a bus to convert. We are looking to say "goodbye" to renting and the monotony of being stuck in one locale, and "hello" to traveling the country in our mobile four-wheeled abode. Freedom of location is what this conversion will grant us: freedom to explore, freedom to experience, freedom to educate ourselves and our children, and freedom to not have to be constrained to the sedentary lifestyle so many Americans seem to be enslaved to (if no one reading this feels that way, then please forgive that last little bit of soap-boxing and read on).

Though this part of the country has its own particular allure, I'm hopeful that we will find in our travels other places where we might choose from to settle down, or maybe we'll live on our bus for the foreseeable future. Who knows? At this present moment, all I DO know is that I want to convert a bus, and I need your help!

I've found a lot of information scattered across the internets, and I have an idea what I want to do, but I want to make sure I have the basics down first:

1) I've deduced that there are two basic incarnations of school buses: conventional and transit. I like the prospect of better maneuverability, less noise, a better ride, built-in storage, and more headroom (is this a given?) of a transit, but I don't know if they are as adept as conventionals at traversing backroads. If I wanted to have the option to "take the dirt road", would I be able to do so in a transit? If not, could a transit be modified fairly inexpensively to do so? Also, are/were there any transits that would be geared appropriately for higher-speed/interstate driving?

2) I would like to better understand the breakdown of the different components of a schoolbus (ie. chassis, engine, transmission, etc.), especially where different manufacturers play into them. For instance, in my reading, sometimes the engine is referenced as though it is part of the chassis, rather than the engine and chassis being two separate "options" from two separate manufacturers, so clarification on this would be extremely helpful.

Doubtless I will have many, many more questions, but these seem to be the ones hindering my research presently. If there are any comprehensive resources available, please do let me know. Thanks again!

Dan
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Old 10-12-2015, 06:18 PM   #2
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Welcome.

This topic has been beat to death here. Just look around and start reading on this site.

Nat
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Old 10-12-2015, 07:00 PM   #3
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As I understand it Blue Bird buses are (almost?) always built on chassis of their own making, whereas the other brands are usually bodies set onto a chassis from another vendor (often International). I wouldn't say one is inherently better than the other; it's just different.

As for the components: I don't go to the Blue Bird "dealer." The systems are more independent than on a modern car so I call on a place that deals in whatever system I'm working on. I go to the local branch of Rocky Mountain Cummins for engine parts, and I know a couple local outlets that distribute parts for the Spicer axle components, the Bendix brake system, etc. Yet another company is the local rep and shop for Allison/World Transmission. For body stuff like door actuators, wiring, lighting, and hoses I consider myself to be entirely on my own to make something up whenever something "needs" modification or repair.

You kind of get the hang of it after calling a few heavy truck places looking for one thing or another. Their people generally are aware of the other major distributors and the lines they carry, so if one place can't provide what you need they may know who you should try calling next.
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Old 10-12-2015, 07:30 PM   #4
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As to headroom- the districts are more responsible for that than the style of bus. Conventionals and transits can be ordered in standard or high headroom form.
If height is an issue, then a roof raise is probably in the cards. If raising the roof it won't really matter too much if you get standard or high headroom.

For maneuverability, a front engine transit style bus is awesome.
For backroads and dirt roads I'd want a conventional.
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Old 10-13-2015, 09:56 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
As to headroom- the districts are more responsible for that than the style of bus. Conventionals and transits can be ordered in standard or high headroom form.
If height is an issue, then a roof raise is probably in the cards. If raising the roof it won't really matter too much if you get standard or high headroom.

For maneuverability, a front engine transit style bus is awesome.
For backroads and dirt roads I'd want a conventional.
Thanks for the replies, Guys (Gals?)!

CB, thanks for your reply and advice.

My purpose in asking about the headroom issue is this: If I am able to buy a bus with enough headroom, then I won't have to spend the time/money to raise the roof, though I know I'll have to take some space away in calculating for the headroom department, since I'll probably be adding an interior ceiling, along with insulation...so a roof raise may be inevitable.

I'm sure I will fall in love with buses, at least to some extent, during this process (it's my nature to become at least slightly obsessive when researching/working on a project); but my main objective is to find exactly what I want/need in a bus before purchasing, so as to get it converted with as little modification to its existing structure as possible/necessary (and I'm sure you understand that).

About transit versus conventional, do rear engine transits differ in some way from a front engine transit where maneuverability is concerned? I've been leaning in the direction of a transit, with the intention of pulling a vehicle (obviously) for exploration beyond the asphalt; but if, for some reason, I had to venture off the beaten path, I would like to know the bus would be able to handle it, within reason.

In other words, I want perfection, the best of both worlds.

No, really.

Dan
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:02 AM   #6
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Rear engine school buses have alonger wheelbase and turning radius. For instance- the gate that I have to get my 40 footer through is pretty tight and is a 90* bend. I barely make it in my FE, but I don't think a RE would make it.
For towing, I think the FE is the winner as well.

RE chassis layout-


FE layout-
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by family wagon View Post
As I understand it Blue Bird buses are (almost?) always built on chassis of their own making, whereas the other brands are usually bodies set onto a chassis from another vendor (often International). I wouldn't say one is inherently better than the other; it's just different.

As for the components: I don't go to the Blue Bird "dealer." The systems are more independent than on a modern car so I call on a place that deals in whatever system I'm working on. I go to the local branch of Rocky Mountain Cummins for engine parts, and I know a couple local outlets that distribute parts for the Spicer axle components, the Bendix brake system, etc. Yet another company is the local rep and shop for Allison/World Transmission. For body stuff like door actuators, wiring, lighting, and hoses I consider myself to be entirely on my own to make something up whenever something "needs" modification or repair.

You kind of get the hang of it after calling a few heavy truck places looking for one thing or another. Their people generally are aware of the other major distributors and the lines they carry, so if one place can't provide what you need they may know who you should try calling next.
Thanks, family wagon, for taking the time to reply.

My question has less to do with how to get parts, and more about understanding and knowing, when I am bus shopping, what engines were available with what chassis were available with what tranny whose body was manufactured by whom...that sort of thing, though your advice on getting replacement parts will no doubt turn out to be priceless. Thank you very much.

Really, I think what I'm looking for is a more comprehensive resource than the forum for this, where that sort of information is laid out in a one-page list-type format, though it may not exist. If it doesn't, I'm sure I will scour the forum, and place all of the information into a more easily reference-able format for my research. Thanks again.

Dan
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:21 AM   #8
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Interesting, good to know, and excellent information. This is what I'm looking for. That's very helpful, BC. Thanks.

Dan
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat_ster View Post
Welcome.

This topic has been beat to death here. Just look around and start reading on this site.

Nat
I'm sure it has been beat to death. Unfortunately, that fact doesn't seem to make finding the information I'm looking for any easier. Thanks for your responsiveness.

Dan
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:35 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Rear engine school buses have alonger wheelbase and turning radius. For instance- the gate that I have to get my 40 footer through is pretty tight and is a 90* bend. I barely make it in my FE, but I don't think a RE would make it.
For towing, I think the FE is the winner as well.

RE chassis layout-


FE layout-
Can you tell me what kind of difference in the wheel base dimensions we are talking about between a FE and RE?

Dan
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Old 10-13-2015, 10:50 AM   #11
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The difference is enough to make FE layouts noticeably more maneuverable.
Check out the specs on Thomas' buses -
Saf-T-Liner HDX, Type D Bus - School Bus - Thomas Built Buses

Saf-T-Liner EFX - School Bus - Thomas Built Buses
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Old 10-14-2015, 09:50 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
The difference is enough to make FE layouts noticeably more maneuverable.
Check out the specs on Thomas' buses -
Saf-T-Liner HDX, Type D Bus - School Bus - Thomas Built Buses

Saf-T-Liner EFX - School Bus - Thomas Built Buses
Thanks. Is there a difference between a FE and RE where the steering gear box is concerned? In other words, since the steering gear is the other factor besides the wheel base, is there a difference between how FE and RE steering boxes are geared? For that matter, are ALL bus steering gear boxes the same? This could obviously make a significant difference in the turning radius. Thanks again.

Dan
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Old 10-14-2015, 10:15 AM   #13
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I'm unsure on any of that.
But the closer the front and rear wheels are together, the tighter the turning radius.
Right now I only need 40 acres to turn this rig around.
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Old 10-14-2015, 12:22 PM   #14
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Nice! I'm sure I'll be able to find that info somewhere.

Dan
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Old 05-06-2016, 03:52 PM   #15
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I'm back...had a baby (well, my wife), holidays, busy at work, yard work, four kids...but I'm even more convinced now that we're gonna live on a bus. I'm thinkin' we're gonna go with the longest pusher we can get with a rear engine. Everything I've read seems to point to the Cummins 8.3 or the International DT466 (non-electronic) with an Allison transmission (the 3060 seems to be preferred). I plan on going everywhere the bus can take us, and am curious as to whether you have any experience with climbing with your DT466. I grew up visiting the Smokies every year, and would love to visit the Rockies (never been there), but I know those passes were a challenge for some of our family vehicles back then, and certainly want an engine with plenty of power to climb them without issue. Thoughts?
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Old 05-06-2016, 05:35 PM   #16
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The older buses, quite literally, "drive like a bus." That's where the saying comes from. I had an older 40' dognose that couldn't negotiate a 90* turn between suburban city blocks without backing up before completing the turn. I removed the stops on the front axle and didn't gain anything noticeably.

This bus is pretty amazing at turning, and getting stuck easily. I may need a winch, because next time I might not be lucky enough for the ground to freeze.

Does anybody know why there's a number of stacks of steel plates hanging between the rear frame rails? Is that to keep me from tipping over frontwards when I stop to fast?
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Old 05-06-2016, 05:38 PM   #17
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Oh, congratulations Geick. I'm glad it wasn't you. Hope your wife is doing ok. What did you get?

I think the greater majority here would say the non-e 466 and your planned 3060 is a good plan. You know what to look for and people here already think it's a good idea.
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Old 05-06-2016, 06:13 PM   #18
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Does anybody know why there's a number of stacks of steel plates hanging between the rear frame rails?
Say what? Got a pic?
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Old 05-06-2016, 07:45 PM   #19
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Ok, here you go.

Rear view. What you're seeing is the supports for the steel plates.


Again showing the support from the side.








It's just not easy taking pics with a laptop in the sun. Initially I though it was some kind of boxes hung there, but looking closer it appears to be five stacks of steel plates. I don't know the function.
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Old 05-06-2016, 08:59 PM   #20
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Ballast maybe?
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