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Old 09-14-2010, 04:14 PM   #1
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A minor bus dilemma

A couple of weekends ago, my parents purchased a school bus with bare minimum conversion. This was a 1989 Thomas Built body on a Ford B600 chassis with the notorious 6.6L Brazilian engine.

They did a lot of research before buying the bus, and found that the general consensus on the net is that the engine is rock solid, a stable performer, but not a very strong or fast power plant. As the one that went to get the bus, I have to agree with that assessment.

The bus they bought actually performs a little better than my own 40' pusher with the 3208 engine.

Their bus got over 10mpg towing my car, at 58mph with the pedal on the floor. It didn't overheat, and worked quite well. The gearing is rather steep (6.something, written down at home), and ford actually had a 2 speed rear end in the same year for that chassis that had almost the identical gear ratio for one of the speeds, and 4.something for the other. While trying to find more information on that axle, I stumbled across a much newer bus than my own.

The newer bus is a 1997 thomas, with a 3116 turbo engine. Details: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eB...m=350392996029.

It appears to be about the same size, 12 years newer, the tire size I wanted, roof hatches that I don't have, the newer control panel that I like and wanted to duplicate, the transmission control in a better spot, better gauges, etc. Basically, it appears to be a much better bus. Also, there seem to be more under belly storage compartments. Hard to tell from pics, but it might even sit lower.

However, and this is a big one, apparently there is an "engine knock". The bus is located about 6 hours away, so whatever price I could possibly get it for, I would need to add all the interschola fees, any NY fees, and the cost of a trip. I would also have to have a second driver to bring my car back home. I could *probably* recover that money just from scrapping the old bus, but I'm not sure about that either.

In any case, my dilemma is this: should I try to get the newer chassis with the questionable engine that might not even get me home? Or should I just try to be happy with my much older model?

thanks,
jim
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Old 09-14-2010, 07:32 PM   #2
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

How much adventure do you desire? Best not to drive a diesel with an engine knock, because you might not have an engine afterwards.

If you could get the engine repaired locally for a reasonable price, it might be worth doing. You have to weigh the miles you will put on your conversion to the difference in fuel consumption. Probably never pencil out monetarily, but bus envy is a terrible disease. It's best to convert a shell you're happy with; because, as you are aware of, the cost of a quality conversion in time and money is quite high.
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Old 09-14-2010, 09:42 PM   #3
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

Personally, I've had some nasty results with the 3116 Cat. Those are still made in Japan (need I say more?). I'm familiar with these engines because the M35A3 Deuce&1/2 came with these crap engines. What happened? The owners IMMEDIATELY swapped them for 3208 Cats regardless of running condition. The BAE/Stewart & Stevenson Deuces also use these crap engines because they're the cheapest on the market (Uncle Sam is cheap when it comes to helping our troops - outrageous). I've worked with several collectors whom HATE the 3116. If you feel lucky, go for it. Personally, I'd pass ESPECIALLY if the engine already knocks (read: the compressor is already blown and sending the garbage straight into the block without ANY filtration), that's really bad news! Just MHO......
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Old 09-15-2010, 10:44 AM   #4
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

Thanks everyone for the advice.

I'll pass on this one.

The newer shell and updated transmission had me seriously tempted, but the unknown engine condition was a put off. Money is a bit too tight at the moment for me to be gambling on this bus.

Better body. Better windows. Better wiring. Better transmission. Better tires. if I lived close enough, it would be worth the gamble I think, even if it needed a replacement engine.

jim
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Old 09-15-2010, 08:28 PM   #5
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

I'd be fine with a 3116 Cat (it's the little brother of the 3126), but thet bus...engine knocks, no title (!), no mileage...RUN, FORREST, RUN!
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Old 09-16-2010, 10:37 AM   #6
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

Not having a title is common for government owned vehicles in many states. All the ones from that seller that were located in NY that I looked at had the same "no title" issue. I've gone thru the title recovery process here in VA before. Having a bill of sale simplifies that process quite a bit.

It also seems to be rather common for busses and medium duty trucks to not have the actual mileage. Engines and transmissions get swapped a lot. You will often find a hubometer.

I don't think I'd be unhappy with a 3116. Frankly, most of the MDT class diesels will do just fine for a skoolie owner as long as they're maintained well.

What I was mainly looking at on that bus was the MD3060 and the updated body/chassis. The power plant on a rear engine bus is relatively simple to swap out. Of course, you still have to have the facilities to do such work, which I don't, but there are several shops near me that do.

Also, they listed that the service records were available. That right there is worth quite a lot.

Regardless, today my commuter car reinforced to me that I made the right decision. The clutch is slipping really badly. Yesterday, it was driving fine, and today, it doesn't let me apply much power at all without slipping. So, I'll need to spend some money on the old girl real soon. 235,000 miles on the original clutch isn't bad.

jim
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:32 AM   #7
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

In actuality, it is not the main wiring harness, but is instead the main terminal/fuse box. It is the primary distribution panel for the DC circuitry.

If you look closely, the wiring diagram is on the inside of the door, and many things inside are labelled.

It isn't that complicated. Once you clear out all the school bus specific crap, there's a lot of room left inside.

In the 3 thomas busses I have in the yard, there are multiple wiring harnesses. In the pusher, they all run back to that main terminal/fuse box. In the 2 conventionals, it is worse... being the place where your left arm might rest when reaching out the side window.

On my older pusher, that panel is down below where the one in that picture is, so you have to squat or sit to work in it. That really sucks, and part of my planning is to relocate mine to the same spot.

jim
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Old 09-16-2010, 12:43 PM   #8
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

My suggestion (and you will probably find another again so I'm gonna tell you anyway) would be to convert what you've got. Use it well for the next couple of years (because you will not get back the time and $$ you spent on it so use it). You will change, your life will change, your needs will change. THEN go do it again! No matter how well you research and plan, there will be things that, at some point down the road, you will look at and say "I should have" or "I wish I had". It may be big or it may be small, but it will happen. There is no such thing as perfect.
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:52 PM   #9
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske
My suggestion (and you will probably find another again so I'm gonna tell you anyway) would be to convert what you've got. Use it well for the next couple of years (because you will not get back the time and $$ you spent on it so use it). You will change, your life will change, your needs will change. THEN go do it again! No matter how well you research and plan, there will be things that, at some point down the road, you will look at and say "I should have" or "I wish I had". It may be big or it may be small, but it will happen. There is no such thing as perfect.
That's why I'm already planning my next bus........... I'm learning.
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Old 09-17-2010, 11:27 AM   #10
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Re: A minor bus dilemma

Quote:
Originally Posted by M1031
That's why I'm already planning my next bus........... I'm learning.
You're just a sick puppy!
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