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Old 04-01-2007, 12:33 AM   #1
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New member needs some advice

Hi there
as you noticed I am new to this forum, and i am sure I'm not the only one that ended up here because he is looking for some info on Skoolies.
I am located in Northern BC Canada.

We are planning to take our 6 kids on a extended road trip within the next year, so we have been looking at different options on how to get us around. Most Motorhomes do not fit a family with 6 kids, traveling with the Van and pitching tent everynight is ok for a coupple weeks in summer but for an exyended period it probably wouldnt be the best.
So we ended up with the Bus / School bus vonversion option.
We do not need a full conversion with all ameneties, as long as we have a place to sleep and travel we're ok.

So I saw this add for a bus and since I really never had anything to do with schoolbuses (not even ever ridden in one yet) I would like to ask somebody in the know how of their opinion.
Bus is a 1997 Ford / Thomas with a 5.9lt Turbo Diesel and a 5 speed stick shift. it only has 65'000km (40'000miles) and the present owner has aparently taken very good care of it. The Bus is 1200km away and hence I really would have to be sure that it is worth the trip to go and take a closer look. Asking price is $25'900.00 Canadian.

Is this a good bus? have these models been troublesome or fairly good.
I know that the 5.9lt diesel is one of the best and most reliable engines in Pick ups, but how are they in school buses? (i read different opinions on this board)
So any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated.
Here a coupple of pictures.





I already spent all afternoon browsing the different conversions posted on this board, and I have to say there many fine buses outthere which inspire me even more to start this project.
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Old 04-01-2007, 12:47 AM   #2
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Welcome! First off, in my opinion, that is WAAAAAYYYYYYY too much money to pay for a school bus. I think that you'll find that most people on this forum spent less than $5,000 US for their bus. I paid $2,000 for mine. You could find a REALLY nice bus that is a lot bigger and has a better motor for a lot less than that. It will be older, but just as good. You can get a nice BIG flat front diesel pusher bus with a DT466 motor (best bus motor in most people's opinions), and 14 windows in great shape for less than $7,000 US. The bus you have pictured is only an 8 window. When I was looking for a bus, I figured out that each window equals about 2.5 feet of living space from front to back. That's an 8 window so figure on about 20 feet of living space roughly. Also, most buses top out about 65 mph TOPS. Some are even slower. My bus will go 65, but it does a lot better and is quieter at 55mph. Look for a pre 1995 bus. They're usually cheaper as well. If you're just wanting something to throw some bunks in, then get a short gas powered bus. One that looks like it was built on a van chassis. They're faster and would be easier to convert into a temporary RV. Good luck!
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Old 04-01-2007, 01:31 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply.
yes I know this is a lot of money, but it has hardly any mileage on it and is already proffesionaly repainted (which apparently is a must in BC, no yellow permitted) also has some nice add ons like the Platform and luggage rack as well as the big bumper.
The reason I really do not want a much larger bus or one of the E ford minibuses is where we intend to travel. Lots of logging and gravel roads up here need to be explored, the bigger the bus the less side roads we can take. I dont think the mini buses would fair to well on the gravel roads.
So, in your opinion the 5.9lt isnt a good engine? And why would you reccomend gas engines? diesel seem to be way more reliable, arent they.
I do want a bus that will last me many years, for once the kids are gone traveling will be on top of the list.
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Old 04-01-2007, 01:49 AM   #4
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Cubes, you want lotsa cubes and highway gears. The bus looks nice but I wouldn't pay $26k even with Monopoly money. You didn't say anything about the inside. If it just seats, forget it. Thats a rip off.
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Old 04-01-2007, 02:19 AM   #5
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inside is 20 seats with extra legroom and big luggage storage area divided off by steel mesh frame, since it was used as a tour bus.
I didnt see the inside yet, seller is supposed to send me some next week.

What would you think would be a reasonable price to offer the seller?

Doesent lots of cubes equal higher fuel milage?
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Old 04-01-2007, 02:30 AM   #6
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Yep. If you're going to get a big bus, DEFINATELY get a diesel. The only gas bus I would buy is one of the mini buses on a van chassis, or one that I was going to race on a figure 8 track or demolition derby. Diesel is definately the way to go. But $26K Canadian is WAAAAYYYY too much money. I hope that these back roads don't have any mud. Any dual rear wheel axle vehicle SUCKS in the mud. Especially a school bus. Gravel will be fine though. If you're wanting a roof rack for luggage, you could build one out of 2x4's for less than $40. Most of us like our buses because it's cheap and we like working on them. If you have $26K to spend and you just want to drive around and explore, there's better ways to go in my opinion. You could buy a crew cab diesel truck and a travel trailer with bunks in it for that price. You wouldn't have to do any converting, and you could cruise at 70 mph no problem. If you buy a school bus, it's a huge commitment and a LOT of work to get it done. Just getting the seats out can be a huge job. I figure that I'm still a good 6 months away from using mine on a camping trip and I'm working on it all the time. But I highly recommend the school bus. I am having a blast with mine. How many people do you know that have a converted school bus? Everybody has an RV. Boring. My bus will be nicer, a lot more well built and cheaper than any RV when I'm done. Plus, it will be custom built to my liking and have all sorts of cool features.

As far as engines, the DT466 is like the holy grail of bus motors. The DT360 is it's smaller cousin. Other good motors are the 5.9, the Catepillar motors, the T444 and some people even like the 7.3L. I have the 7.3L in my bus. It's a decent motor and it's easy to find parts if you need them. But if I had $26K to spend on a bus, there is NO way I would EVER spend it on any motor but a DT466. The DT466 has been around for decades. They use that motor is buses, dump trucks, semi trucks and basically any large vehicle. Parts are cheap and readily available. The motor has a lot of power, it's extremely reliable, and will go half a million miles at least before you need to do anything serious to it. A rebuild kit for the motor is less than $1,000. That's less than a Chevy 350. My next bus will have a DT466 in it. If you're wanting a shorter bus, you can find them with the DT466 as well. Seriously, if you want a bus, and you have that much money to spend on one, don't get one that doesn't have a DT466. Look around. They're not that hard to find.
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Old 04-01-2007, 02:48 AM   #7
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No, first up, I do not have the 26k to spend. at least not before I sell my PickUp and a piece of property.
The Crew Cab version does not work since even in a crew cab there is only six seatbelts. And since we have frequently visitors from overseas do we need at least 10 seats. One option we have been looking at was the 15 passenger van and pull a trailer. However we do like the idea of bus conversion better.
I was also looking at some 25 seater Champion Pusher buses with the 5.9lt engine. But they are also 25K and have over 250k in km's, and probably wouldnt like the backroads to much.
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Old 04-01-2007, 02:57 AM   #8
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Seriously, for $5,000 US, you can get all the bus you'll ever need. Check E-bay, and publicsurplus.com. 250KM is way too many miles for a bus over $2,000 US. Look for a TC2000 bus. They're pretty popular and a lot of them have the 5.9L pushers in them. I see them all the time for under $5K US. Tomorrow when I'm not about to pass out, I'll search for some buses in your area and send you some links.
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Old 04-01-2007, 03:23 AM   #9
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For reference check out United Truck Body here in Duluth, Minnesota. They have a couple of Fords similar only larger to the one you're talking about for $5000 with air ride! Those prices probably have a little room to get around too. If a luggage rack and front bumper are worth the extra $21,000 to you I'd happily sell you one of those buses with those items installed after paying $5000 for them. I think the point of all these posts is that you should shop around. Even after I basically decided my bus was going to be my bus I waited a few days and went out on a second test drive. I've never looked back.

As far as offroad ability...you'd be amazed. My bus is an 11 window model and I've taken it places some people wouldn't take their 4wd pick up. I'm not exaggerating. Heck, check out what Lapeer20m did with his bus. Just be prepared to spend some money if you bury it. I don't think the difference between an 8 window and a 12 window bus is going to be all that great in a turning situation. I have turned my bus around on a 1.5 lane dirt road before. It just takes some patience and Austin Powers maneuvering.
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Old 04-01-2007, 08:49 AM   #10
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yeah, lapeer's jacuzzi bus will go just about anywhere. just about. Then he got cocky and tried to take a shortcut from south texas to miami. That didn't go so good.

As for what to get, I think that bus you are looking at is perfect, so long as you get the seller to drop one of the zeros off the price.

It looks like a nice bus, but, it is wayyyyyyy overpriced even in canuck dollars. BTW, the canuck dollar ain't as whimpy as it used to be. What is the exchange rate currently? I think it's around 75-80 cents on THE dollar. That's somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 grand real dollars. Not a bad price for a very very very well done conversion, but, what you have is a low miles skoolie with a roof rack. Also, this is a commercial bus, from the looks of it. That means questionable maintenance. Commercial buses are in the bidness of making money, not spending it as are school buses. When a commercial bus is in the shop getting a lube and earl job, it ain't making money.

Buy yourself a skoolie......and a welder.......and some paint rollers/brushes and get all them damn kids busy painting and ripping seats out!!!!!

Good luck.
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