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Old 03-29-2014, 06:16 PM   #1
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A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

So in my spare time, I've often found myself looking at the wide world of living mobile. I used to live out of my truck for months at a time, and love browsing other peoples projects, homes, and adaptations. I've only recently become serious enough about getting my first skoolie, and have quite enjoyed browsing this and other forums. ^^ I still have a lot to learn, but am excited to get to learn in a more hands-on way with my own bus. That said, there's not exactly a kelley blue book for this, and it seems to me value can really vary. If any of you could spare some advice, here's what I'm looking at:

I'm looking for a short bus that seems reliable (I know automotive basics, but this is a bus, not a honda civic, so I've got some learning to do, and I'd rather not learn it all the hard way right off the bat) and I think I've found what I'm looking for on craigslist. It's a 1987 Chevy 350 short bus, rebuilt engine, rebuilt tranny, new tires, new battery, about 70k miles, automatic, diesel, all at around 4500. The seats are all taken out, and it's currently classified as a "van", and I'm pretty much in love with it, but want to avoid new-puppy-syndrome and keep my feet in reality.

Does it seem like a reasonable price? I'm having a hard time tracking down comparable pricing, but it seems good to me. I'm really excited about it, but it's a big leap to take on my own without any advice, and this is definitely the crowd to ask

I think I have insurance and logistics figured out (these forums ares SO helpful!! You guys rock!), though I need to make a call to the DMV to check on a few things. Looks like I have some work to do before I get it to RV status.

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Old 03-30-2014, 12:30 PM   #2
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

It looks like a great body, but the story on the engine would be a red flag for me. If the engine was rebuilt with less than 70,000 miles on it, it suggests to me one of two things. Either the engine was abused, or it is not a strong design.

GM had some diesel cars back about that time, and the engines were nothing but trouble. Instead of installing a diesel designed from the ground up, the story was that they took an engine designed for gasoline and boosted the compression up to the edge of the design limits. My boss at the time had a full-sized Chevy or Olds wagon with the diesel, and its engine died. My kid brother was working at the time at a "shade-tree" garage, and he and his boss made some of their money pulling out these GM diesels and installing gas V-8s rebuilt from junk yards.

I'm not an engine expert, but those are my thoughts based on your intro. I don't know if that short bus would have a truck diesel or one of the car diesels. Maybe if you can post the VIN someone with more experience can decode the engine type and give better information.

The bottom line might be that if you only intend to add curtains, toss a futon in the back, and use a camp stove and port-a-potty like you were living in your truck, it might be worth the chance that the engine will last as long as you are using it. If you intend to invest in building permanent cabinets and a bathroom, are you also willing to do and engine swap if it might become necessary?

I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm, but want to encourage you to shop with your head as well as your heart.
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Old 03-30-2014, 12:51 PM   #3
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

X2 on the red flags
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Old 03-30-2014, 01:15 PM   #4
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

If you know little about mechanical, I would not buy a gas powered bus.

I would find one with a mechanical 5.9 Cummins, DT 366, or a DT 466. All three engines will run without any wires connected. All three engines will run almost forever, as long as they have clean air, fuel and oil.

Simple is best. The engines I listed are as simple as it gets. Good fuel economy, and the ability to burn any fuel oil is just the icing on the cake.

Nat
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Old 03-30-2014, 04:21 PM   #5
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

Quote:
I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm, but want to encourage you to shop with your head as well as your heart.
Exactly why I posted, I got plenty of heart that wants to just go for it and jump in, so I absolutely appreciate the advice to balance me out here. Thanks on the red flags and explanation. The VIN is 2gbhg3ijih4i00585 , if anyone knows where I might be able to check on the engine specifics. It's going to be a lighter-use/more basic skoolie compared to some of the wonderful set-ups here, if for no other reason than I live/work in the field for part of the week, and this would be my go-wherever-I-want home away from work. Mostly quite short drives, and a big relocation or two throughout the year to a new part of the country.

Quote:
If you know little about mechanical, I would not buy a gas powered bus.

I would find one with a mechanical 5.9 Cummins, DT 366, or a DT 466. All three engines will run without any wires connected. All three engines will run almost forever, as long as they have clean air, fuel and oil.

Simple is best. The engines I listed are as simple as it gets. Good fuel economy, and the ability to burn any fuel oil is just the icing on the cake.
Thanks, Nat! Looks like I have a little research to do.

I very much appreciate the feedback. I gotta start somewhere, and well, here I am!
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Old 03-30-2014, 05:13 PM   #6
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

Try to find a 1997 or older model bus. Anything newer has a computer operated system...... Go diesel!!!
just food for thought
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Old 03-30-2014, 05:46 PM   #7
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

Oo, definitely something to take into consideration. I havent checked out the computerized systems, but I do know I'm more comfortable with less computer control.

And got a VIN lookup:
VIN: 2GBHG31J1H4100585
WMI / VDS / VIS: 2GB / HG31J1 / H4100585


Model: G30
Type: Van
Make: Chevrolet
Model year: 1987
Manufacturer: General Motors of Canada Ltd.
Manufactured in: Canada (North America)
Sequential number: 100585

Engine series: V-8 6.2L
Engine type: V8. 6.2L
Fuel type: Diesel
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Old 03-30-2014, 06:40 PM   #8
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

It sounds like a big amount of money- most of us have found our shorties for around $2k-2500.
a little life check can go a long way to making sure you get the most out of your bus.
Is the bus going to be used for a bunch of traveling-or mainly sitting as a residence? If you plan on putting miles on it, diesels the way to go (although the 6.2 isn't know to be one of the best-but all you're going to find in a Chevy) But diesel is now 25% more expensive than gas. That Chevy bus also had 350 gas motor. Cheap-dependable.
Are you comfy driving something larger? For that money, you can find a nice mid sized bus. I've never heard someone reget having too much space.
How much of a hurry are you in? Do you need a bus NOW-or can you shop around?
Will where you plan on parking it have any effect on your choice? (its going behind a friends house-can't put a big yellow bus there).
How much work are you willing--or able--to put into it? Take a price from fixxing a Honda-and at least double or triple it. Most every part on any truck/van/bus are much heavier duty that a car part (and price.) "just need brakes" might be $200 on the Honda, but $ 600 on a bus.
Is this something you're doing for a year or two + sell it--or a long term keeper?
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Old 03-30-2014, 07:01 PM   #9
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

My 2 cents of experiance I've had so far, insurance, when I called around the only company I found that would insure a Skoolie conversion was Good Sam for liability only, They specifactly told me it had to be a bus & could not be a short bus built on a van chassie,
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Old 03-30-2014, 07:21 PM   #10
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Re: A little advice for a girl who's new to all this?

Like I said, it'll be mostly sitting/short trips, with a few long ones each year. For the most part, not a real mover, but I do move from state to state with work once or twice a year. Sounds like from what I hear diesel is good for the long haul, definitely a fan club around here
My absolute ideal would be something a little bit larger, but not by much. I live pretty simple and am fine with small spaces, especially in favor of a little more maneuverability. But yes, a little bit bigger? Oh, I think I could live with that ;)
I'm not in any hurry beyond my general excitement to jump in. I'm happy to wait for something more fitting, but in searching around I'm really not sure how often opportunities come up. Distance is a thing for me, I don't want to have to make a big trip to get the bus, which I understand limits my options. I'm in Southern California, for reference.
For that matter, where else have you all found your skoolies? Places I've looked: craigslist, publicsurplus, ebay, and of course, these forums ^^ And a few that were outrageously priced or all east coast, so I didn't much bother.
I have a place to park it here, not too worried about that. I would like to get one already stripped of seats, for the simple reason of where would I get rid of all those seats? Free on craigslist? I dunno how much interest I'd get. Give them away with cookies at a bake sale? Have to be some damn good cookies. If I can avoid having to pay to dispose of them, bonus. If not, well I can figure something out I'm sure, but it's one step I'd rather not have to figure out if I can find an empty one
I'm aware repairs/maintenance cost more, I am planning on that being the case. Anything I can handle myself I'm happy to do, but I know I'm no mechanic extraordinaire, hence why I was asking that this one might not have me learning the hard way immediately. I'd rather have a period of getting used to a properly working bus, something new in itself, before I have my education in unplanned fixes. (with an issue or two I know in advance what I'm getting into is ok)
I'm not certain how long, a year or two, yes, but if I'm honest with myself, I'll probably learn all of the things I'd like to do better from that first year or two, and then go from there.

For the record, I was trying to google "questions to ask before you buy a bus" the other day. Looks like you just made me a chunk of that list, haha! Thanks ;)
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