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Old 10-21-2016, 10:50 AM   #1
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Ford vs GMC vs Chevrolet

Hello all,

I'm thinking about buying a 4 window short bus. Most I've seen are GMC and Chevrolet.

I learned about ford 7.3L engine is good and 6.0 is bad.
Anything I should avoid or prefer in the Chevrolet and GMC van chassis?

Thanks

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Old 10-21-2016, 02:44 PM   #2
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GMC/Chevy had a few options. The 6.2 non-turbo is good, but under-powered in a base van. The 6.5 with the turbo is much better. Neither are a 5.9l Cummins, but the 6.5-t is the better of the two. Both are Diesel.
Now Gas options are plenty depending on the year. Everything from the old stand-by 350 to the newer LT based engines.
All in all, non of the engines listed will go much over 200K without a lot of luck and good maintenance.
If you don't mind a little less power, but want the cheapest to live with, the old 350 is the KING! Cheap parts, cheap to rebuild, cheap to upgrade to make more power(within limits) and will last as long as any of the others.
With Ford 7.3=Good, 6.0=bad. Not all 6.0's are bad, but the odds are not in your favor.
BTW, all of this applies to the short buses, not anything medium duty like a 66 passenger, then the options are vast.
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Old 10-21-2016, 03:18 PM   #3
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Hello Oldmopars,

I know there is probably not a straight black or white answer. But since I'm not a car guy, I figure I go about buying based on some general ideas.
Here are my ideas: diesel under 150k, gas under 100k.
Ford 7.3L
GMC/Chevy 6.5t (based on you)

By old 350, you mean Oldsmobile 350. Is that diesel or gas?
Also what year should I find that engine?

Thanks for the input.



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Old 10-21-2016, 03:33 PM   #4
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What mean by Old 350 is the small block Chevy engine used for about 40 years by GM. In the truck/vans it often was a 350 4 bolt main. This is a good engine and a work horse. Another advantage it that any shop in any town can fix it. If they can't, they don't deserve to be called a mechanic.
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Old 10-21-2016, 03:53 PM   #5
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I believe that same base engine is used in NASCAR as well, though of course built for a LOT more horsepower.

I also helped a friend of mine tear one down, clean it up and rebuild it using parts out of the Summit Racing catalog.... very basic and reliable engine, not a whole lot of things really to go wrong in it.
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:28 AM   #6
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I think alot of it has to do with what your plans for the bus are...

im a huge proponent of small block chevies only because ive built them for years... from mild to wild...

countless number of trips to jegs and summit on late saturday evenings putting engines to gether in my garage fill my memory books...

as far as engines go they are Cheap to fix... in fact if you blow one completely to hell, you can buy a completely remanufactured one ready to run for a couple grand..

any small blcok checy you find in a short skoolie cutaway (similar to the look of your last bus.. looks like a van i nthe front end).. is likely to be older which presents issues of rust on the frame and body...

how much are you going to travel? a gasser in a bus is gonna want quite a bit of gas.. gas is usually cheaper than diesel per gallon but you'll use twice as much.. if you are driving 10,000 or less miles a year then a gasser in a short bus isnt a bad thing at all.. esp when you consider your repairs are less costly as mentioned..

diesels - anything built in a ford before 2004 will have the 7.3.. so most busses you are looking at likely are going to be a 7.3.. the 7.3 is much more solid than a 6.0 but its still not fool-proof.. if its been cared for, had clean oil, and not been run hot you have a great chance at it being a long-lasting solid engine to run...

the BIGGEST expense most normally with an engine is if any of the electronics fail...

the next biggest thing is take your time to find your bus.. you saw what happened by just grabbing the first thing that came along... while you couldnt predict the transmission was gonna be defunct in your last bus.. you can take your time, maybe even find a bus being sold by a local aschool where you can write or call the fleet manager to ask about the bus...

most often fleet managers are honest... they have nothing to lose or gain by being honest about a bus... they arent paid to sell a bus.. and by the time a bus is for sale, if it was a headache for them, its already decomissioned and they will do the happy dance to tell you that it was a pain in their rear...

-Christopher
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Old 10-22-2016, 09:21 AM   #7
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Hello all,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, I hope to put it to good use in the future.
For now, I will not jump into anything else right away. Been there, done that. I ll definitely take my time.

Thank you all

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Old 10-22-2016, 01:58 PM   #8
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alot of schools unload busses in the spring .. noit sure if you were planning on doing your build in the cooler florida winter or not but I see a ton of busses come up for auction in april may and june

-Christopher
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Old 10-22-2016, 05:36 PM   #9
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I dont really have a schedule for the bus.
basically is just waiting until the right one comes around.
The 6 window I bought before felt bigger than what I thought. I will go with the smallest possible (4 window).
not full conversion, just making a camper out of it.
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Old 10-22-2016, 05:58 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by oricha1984 View Post
I dont really have a schedule for the bus.
basically is just waiting until the right one comes around.
The 6 window I bought before felt bigger than what I thought. I will go with the smallest possible (4 window).
not full conversion, just making a camper out of it.
If you're going much smaller, maybe consider a cargo van conversion. STEALTH factor!
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:23 PM   #11
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4 window busses are pretty common... and since they tend to be lighter, the drivetrain usually hasnt worked as hard ..

Cargo vans seem to be all the rage here in ohio... econolines and sprinters are hard to find and cost 3x what a small skoolie does...

-Christopher
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:35 PM   #12
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Thought about van, but I think 4 window bus will be much cheaper than a high top van.

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Old 10-22-2016, 08:39 PM   #13
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Over the years a lot of different power packages have been used in the van cut-away chassis. Some have been pretty good. Some have been okay. And some have been truly awful!

In the past the Fords had the 351 and 460 gas V-8's, the 6.9L, 7.3L, and the Powerstroke. Newer Fords have had the 4.6L gas V-8, the gas V-10, and the 6.0L/6.7L diesel engines. The really old ones had C-6's. The newer ones had the E4OD with the follow on 4R100.

The only real difference between the GMC and Chevy badged chassis is the badge on the grille and steering wheel. Everything else is the same.

In the past almost all of the GM's in school bus use had the Chevy 350 small block with the Turbo 400 which turned into the Turbo 700R4. Some came with the 6.2L and later the 6.5L V-8 diesel.

Newer GM's received the 5.3L, or the 6.0L V-8 gas engine, or the Duramax V-8 diesel. The 700R4 was replaced by the 4L65 and 4L85 in the gas powered buses and the Duramax got an Allison.

In my experience the older Fords with gas engines were gas hogs, as in 6-8 MPG. The same bus with the 6.9L/7.3L/Powerstroke got 11-15 MPG.

In my experience the older GM's with gas engines were a little low on power in comparison to the Fords but got 2-3 MPG better, on average. The same bus with the 6.2L/6.5L got about the same mileage as the Fords that had diesel engines.

The newer buses with the modern gas engine management systems all got a lot better fuel mileage. Updated overdrive transmissions have also helped to get better fuel mileage. On average the GM's get about 1-2 MPG better than the Fords. Very few little buses newer than 2006 will have a diesel engine as Ford stopped offering the option in about 2012 and few operators are willing to pay the $14,000.00 premium for the Duramax in order to get 1-2 MPG more.

I do not like Fords because the transmissions were really weak links. The E4OD does not last long in large heavy vehicles. In vehicles under 10,000 lbs. they might go 100K miles. In vehicles over 10,000 lbs. they rarely went 50,000 miles. The follow on 4R100 was a little better but not a lot better. The 6.0L and the follow on 6.7L have been disasters for most operators. It is mostly because starting and stopping them a lot and not allowing them to get hot usually really makes a mess of the EGR system. Without a lot of heat the EGR system gets all gummed up and eventually gums up the engine. The V-10's had some teething problems but by the time you find one on the used market they will have become pretty reliable engines.

The GM's with the Chevy small blocks are very long lived and economical engines. It is not unusual for them to go 300+K miles. The transmissions usually held up as long as well if they were maintained on a regular basis. The 6.2L diesel was slug and struggled to get most little buses up to highway speeds if they had a full load (highway speed defined as 55-60 MPH). The 6.5L was a little better for power but it is a bit of disaster when it comes to finding parts and pieces for it. There are many G-series chassis specific parts that are no longer available. The parts and pieces that are available from the aftermarket are Pickup and Suburban specific and will not work on a G-series. The hard ones to find are all turbo and exhaust related. Once GM sold their interest in the medium truck market they also stopped making the parts. And once the ten year parts supply was exhausted there were no more.

The newer GM's with the newer Vortec engines are even better than the old style 350 V-8's. Better defined as better fuel mileage and longer life.

I don't know if I answered your questions. But that is pretty much the experience I have had and the experience people I know have had with the cut-away chassis.

I know others have had different experience. Part of that difference could be the terrain. Flat ground is going to have different experience than those that have a lot of up and down.
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Old 10-22-2016, 08:51 PM   #14
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wow man,
i really appreciate the detailed explanation.
thanks, it helps.
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Old 10-23-2016, 03:31 AM   #15
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found this video about a short bus. something like this I guess it would work.

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Old 10-23-2016, 05:34 AM   #16
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4 window busses are pretty common... and since they tend to be lighter, the drivetrain usually hasnt worked as hard ..

Cargo vans seem to be all the rage here in ohio... econolines and sprinters are hard to find and cost 3x what a small skoolie does...

-Christopher
I keep bidding on cargo vans in the $700-$1000 range. I think I'm about to win one.
Same thing as a short bus with less weight and overhang.
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Old 10-23-2016, 05:41 AM   #17
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I know a local shuttle operator who bought a bunch of diesels in I think 05 or 06.. these guys run a valet service to the airport to their parking lot, those busses were 5 window cutaways.. they only kept those vans 3. Or 4 years before giving up in them and going back to gassers where they have been since..

Never buy a bus based on the c5500, friend of mine had a couple box trucks in that chassis and lost his ass as they were discontinued , , !becsuse of the rules of gmc bankruptcy they didn't have to keep making parts for them...

When looking at gas mileage it's important to think of how much per year you will drive and where you will go.. in Ohio diesel fuel typically commands 20% more in price than 87 gas. Gas buddy is a great site to view prices of gas and diesel in an area..

Point being if you are going to run lower miles and in areas where diesel is pricey, gas is a good option and is cheaper to repair .. as mentioned the gas engines in the busses are the same ones used in millions of pickups , parts are everywhere.

Some of the ford diesel busses are getting priced high simply because the ford diesel pickups are getting aged now to where the motors are wearing out .. buy a new motor from ford for 16k or go buy an old bus and yank the motor.. so the prices are heading up on some of the ford diesels..
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Old 10-23-2016, 11:57 AM   #18
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So the final verdict is: don't buy a bus, but rather buy a brand new van?

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Old 10-23-2016, 12:18 PM   #19
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So the final verdict is: don't buy a bus, but rather buy a brand new van?

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lolif you want something brand new.. the verdict is take your time and look around for what you want.. and dont be hasty.. and dont grt discouraged if the first bus you see gets outbid or isnt what you thought it was..

be vigilant.. after you got the kinks worked out of your last one it seemed like it would be a good unit if size wasnt an issue..

there are lots of decent looking cutaways out there.. I do see some 4 window units come along... though many are 5.. 6 is more rare (at least what I see).. obviusly brand new cargo vans are pricey...

if you wanted to compare brand new cargo can against a used bus as far as costs you would be into a new cargo van for 30k plus... you can be in a used bus.. a nice one for 5k or less.. even if you blew a transmission and had to put a new one in a 5k bus you are still at 8.. so brand new I think is over-kill..

I looked at leasing a brand new stripped-out skoolie this spring and the costs were way higher than buying used and replacing the complete drivetrain if I wanted to...

so my advice is go looking around.. even if it means you go to a dealer to kick tires and drive used busses to find out what you like. (yes they want you to buy one but you dont have to).. dealers are a place to buy as well... even though people on here hate them they are an option.. one of my busses is a dealer bus.. is it a better bus? no way to tell but I run it all over the place.. my second is an auction bus.. I paid 1/3 for it that i did for said dealer bus.. is it a better bus? no way to tell but ive driven it 2000 trouble free miles so far and done nothing but a full shop service, a fan clutch, a cheap pressure regulator and soon a thermostat...

the new bus was a fling, a whim. a "I sort of looking for a 2nd project bus... I want to learn how online auctions work so i think I'll bid.. OMG I won!" kind of thing... there was no hurry, rush,pressure, internal anxiety telling me I needed a bus now.. it came along and seems good..

when we get in a hurry is when we end up getting the first thing that comes along and going "OMG what did I do?"

I have faith that your bus is out there..

-Christoper
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Old 10-23-2016, 12:34 PM   #20
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Agree with you that is just a matter of waiting for the right one. I can wait, no rush this time around.

I'm looking at govdeals and surplus public auction. Any other websites?

Thanks for the response.


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