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Old 05-26-2017, 09:31 PM   #1
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Question Starting from Scratch!

Unfortunately, that's not just describing the bus. After having my now ex remove my name from our lease and tell me I needed to move while I was out of town, I've decided that is a position that I never want to find myself in again. I am a single mom living in Colorado.

Within three days after this occurred, I was presented with the opportunity to fulfill a dream I have had for many years - converting a school bus into my own home.

I'll be honest, the idea of this scares me beyond belief. There are so many opportunities for me to fail, and so many things that I simply don't know. I am thankful to find this group, and hope that this will help me along my path.

I've got a bunch of ideas for how to go about the plumbing aspects, but I am still nervous about the registration and licensing of it, as well as insurance, electrical, weight ratios, etc.

I will be doing this completely on my own, and hope to use as many recycled goods as possible to keep costs down, but having a guide, someone to walk me through the tough parts when I'm lost, would be amazingly helpful.

The bus I am looking at is a 1976 International Loadstar with a 354. I understand that the top speed of this is around 50 mph, which I don't mind. It has already been gutted, and the person I am getting it from has already done all of the mechanical work on it.

Any advice from here on out would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 05-27-2017, 12:05 AM   #2
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
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Year: 2001
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Originally Posted by cncamacho View Post
Unfortunately, that's not just describing the bus. After having my now ex remove my name from our lease and tell me I needed to move while I was out of town, I've decided that is a position that I never want to find myself in again. I am a single mom living in Colorado.

Within three days after this occurred, I was presented with the opportunity to fulfill a dream I have had for many years - converting a school bus into my own home.

I'll be honest, the idea of this scares me beyond belief. There are so many opportunities for me to fail, and so many things that I simply don't know. I am thankful to find this group, and hope that this will help me along my path.

I've got a bunch of ideas for how to go about the plumbing aspects, but I am still nervous about the registration and licensing of it, as well as insurance, electrical, weight ratios, etc.

I will be doing this completely on my own, and hope to use as many recycled goods as possible to keep costs down, but having a guide, someone to walk me through the tough parts when I'm lost, would be amazingly helpful.

The bus I am looking at is a 1976 International Loadstar with a 354. I understand that the top speed of this is around 50 mph, which I don't mind. It has already been gutted, and the person I am getting it from has already done all of the mechanical work on it.

Any advice from here on out would be greatly appreciated!
That's going to be one of the IH "Y-block" engines if I remember correctly, which were the 266(?), 304, 345, and 392 engines. They're getting hard to find parts for these days, so if you plan to do much driving, you'll want to keep that in mind. They'll get somewhere between 3-5 MPG on the highway, I would estimate. Not many places will stock parts for these (and many bog box stores won't have parts listings either).

If this is something you only plan to drive once and leave parked afterwards, it should be fine. If you plan to rack up some miles, you might be better off finding something diesel powered and newer (the fuel savings alone will soon offset the cost difference).
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Old 05-27-2017, 05:32 AM   #3
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you need a more modern bus than that with a diesel engine. keep an eye on govdeals.com. do you have any friends in the trades? make some if you don't. good luck
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:12 AM   #4
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you need a more modern bus than that with a diesel engine. keep an eye on govdeals.com. do you have any friends in the trades? make some if you don't. good luck
Why do you say that I need a more modern diesel?
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Old 05-27-2017, 11:54 AM   #5
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A more modern diesel is needed because the bus you're intending on buying is to expensive to drive based on miles per gallon. In addition you won't be able to buy parts easily for repairs, and there will be repairs.

You didn't mention a price for the bus you've been looking at buying. We, here on this site, don't like to see people buy buses that can't be made dependable. It's a waste of money and gives buses a bad name.

The interesting thing about this is Colorado is one of the favorite places to find good buses. Many of us like the all mechanical buses, as opposed to computerized buses. Generally speaking you could easily buy a 1998 or older diesel bus and have a good running bus you can actually drive. It's always nice to take your house out for the weekend. Moving your house does not involve any cardboard boxes when you have a bus.

Are you committed to the older bus, or can we still recommend something better for you?
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Old 05-27-2017, 12:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cncamacho View Post
Why do you say that I need a more modern diesel?
As Robin said, if you do much driving, there will be repairs. Parts for these 345's (and its siblings) are getting hard to find. Imagine being on the side of the highway, in the middle of nowhere, trying to get someone to look up parts for it over the phone. Even if you do manage to get some part numbers, chances are slim any parts places will even have what you need. "Oh, we can order it. Delivery will be a few days. Oh, and you'll have to pay shipping." I've owned one of these engines a few years ago (does this sound like the voice of personal experience talking?).

Also, diesel engines in general will deliver better fuel economy. I would estimate this old gasser to get somewhere between 3-5 MPG on the road. Again, the voice of personal experience here (in more than one vehicle with these engines). A diesel should deliver between 8-10 MPG on the road. It doesn't take much to realize you'll save a small fortune in fuel alone pretty quickly. Also, diesels will offer (generally) better performance on the road, you won't slow down for every little rise in the road. Most diesel engines may not have parts stocked at many bog box stores (For example, you probably won't find parts for a Cat or Detroit or IH DT466 at Autozone or Oreilly), but Napa does a lot of big truck parts, most truck stops and road service outfits will have access to parts, Truck Pro, and several others all across the country.

Consider that there are *THOUSANDS* of school districts all over the country, and all of them have multiple buses. They have to be able to get parts to service them locally, and (for the most part) these buses run diesel engines. Let's say I have an IH (same as Navistar) bus with a common T444 or common DT466 engine and have a breakdown, I can look up the nearest parts place and chances are good they'll have what I need in stock, can get it next day, or direct me to someone who does have it in stock. Cat engines are OK, but most parts are only available at Cat dealers (and usually at a premium price). Cummins engines are OK, parts are widely available (the 5.9 engine is merely adequate in a full size bus, as many here will personally attest). Detroit engines are not terribly common in school buses. The old 6V and 8V versions were known as extremely reliable workhorses, many going millions of trouble-free miles (built up until the mid 80's, these were very common in road tractors, dump trucks, city buses, and Greyhound-style buses). The more modern Detroit engines are similarly common in trucks and will last well over a million miles if properly cared for. IH/Navistar engines include the common and popular T444 (the Ford 7.3 diesel is essentially the same thing) and DT466 (No, it is *NOT* a Detroit engine!). The 466 will offer much greater torque and hill-climbing ability. The later 6.0 (used in Ford, also known as the VT365 in Navistar builds) had some major issues and is best avoided (they can be had cheap for this reason, the deficiencies can be corrected by mechanically inclined types and are known as reliable runners once these are addressed. Be advised that this involves major engine work and does not come cheap if done professionally.)
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Old 05-27-2017, 01:32 PM   #7
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It's just a suggestion.

We don't actually know how you plan to use your bus. Do you intend to drive it much? As said if you plan to park it just to live in, you'll be fine. On the other hand since you'll be living in a bus maybe you'd like to drive somewhere at sometime possibly. You'll find a diesel much easier to keep going than a gaser, not to mention a gaser that's hard to get parts for.

I think the point we're trying to make here is that building a bus to live in is so much work that we'd recommend a bus that's likely more reliable, gets better mpg and would be worth more in the end.

It's always up to you obviously. If you came here for advice, the advice is to start with a better platform (bus). There are lots of very cool older builds, but all the oldies take a fair amount of tinkering. Are you a mechanic, good at electrical systems with questionable schematics, if any? It's an involved process and we don't like to see people get stuck or quit a build because of problems like rare engines.

Be sure you take a look at the tires on that old bus. Replacements can be over $1,200 for cheap tires and easily $2,500 for name brand tires.

When you're looking at a bus it helps a lot if you can take photos of various parts and pieces and post them here. There's a lot of mechanics here. You'll hear from people with experience with that engine, as has already happened.

The gas mileage on that bus would be completely unacceptable to me. Lots of us dream about driving across the continent while few actually do it. If it cost me $800 to drive across the country at 11 mpg, what will it cost you to drive the same route?

As I say, we don't know your intended use for the bus. We also don't know your mechanical skill level or if you've got tools. We tend to imagine that you'd eventually like to do the same things with your bus that we do with our buses.

It's free advice from other busaholics. Take it for what it's worth.
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Old 06-01-2017, 02:46 PM   #8
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Location: St Petersburg, FL
Posts: 406
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Thomas Vista
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: Navistar T444E 7.3 Turbo Diesel
Hi! As part of a full time travelling bus couple, I have to agree with the earlier comments. I would not recommend a gasoline bus to anyone who owns to drive it, even short distances. Diesels power the vehicles that go far and last long, period. Buying an old gas powered bus is going to bring a lot of headache and expense. Gas motors don't last.

With that said... I was able to get my bus into a livable space in just a couple of days. I took some shortcuts where I could, and postponed some things that I could. Make a list of this you absolutely need on day 1 of bus living. Do those things. Move into bus. Do the rest as time allows, and realize that some of those things remain optional forever. Use the resources you have available like this forum, ask questions, and ultimately make your own decisions because you are the one who gets to keep both pieces if it breaks!

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