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Old 03-12-2018, 01:24 PM   #1
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short bus vs ambulance

I'm looking to long term RVing, nomadic, for a while. My general spec is:
less than 26 ft, why, I heard that was a limit in national parks, true or not?
prefer closer to 20ft, easier to park, maneuver etc.

full head room,

7.3L, why, heard its the best engine
non-electronic, is that pre 2002?
prefer pre97, less hassle in CA.
is pre-95 also mechanical injector pump

access from driver seat to back.

friendly to dirt roads in BLM,

I think I'm looking at either a 5 window short school bus or old ambulance.
What are some of the trade-off?
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Old 03-12-2018, 02:00 PM   #2
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All those nifty doors on the outside of ambulances, their cases take up a lot of interior room. Depending on the box manufacturer, they maybe welded in. There is a lot of info about ambulance conversions on expedition portal forum. My choice would be a short conventional bus. They are more durable. Ambulances and cutaways are just about maxed out when they're built. Not many of them are designed for long-distance highway operation. They are usually designed for short distance shuttle duty. At least this is they way I understand it.
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Old 03-12-2018, 03:14 PM   #3
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There are two 7.3L engines. The earlier IDI engine is non electronic but the later one is full computer control. The T444 and Ford Powerstroke are the electronic version.

Buses built on a ford or gm van chassis usually have highway gearing.
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Old 03-12-2018, 03:29 PM   #4
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more thoughts on ambulance vs short bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by ben2go View Post
All those nifty doors on the outside of ambulances, their cases take up a lot of interior room. Depending on the box manufacturer, they maybe welded in. There is a lot of info about ambulance conversions on expedition portal forum. My choice would be a short conventional bus. They are more durable. Ambulances and cutaways are just about maxed out when they're built. Not many of them are designed for long-distance highway operation. They are usually designed for short distance shuttle duty. At least this is they way I understand it.
Thanks for the input.

Does "not designed for long-distance" imply the trans and rear axle ratio might limit my top speed or the optimal MPG speed might be lower or just more uncomfortable. I dont need to jump over the rockies at 80 but I might like to crawl around on a back road in BLM.

The loss of interior space with the ambulance solution does worry me but I intend to live out of the vehicle not in it. If I'm inside I'm either sleeping, cooking or on the computer.

not really sure of the difference between a cut-away and not. I thought all 4 and 5 window bus bodies were on a van chassis.
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Old 03-12-2018, 03:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711 View Post
There are two 7.3L engines. The earlier IDI engine is non electronic but the later one is full computer control. The T444 and Ford Powerstroke are the electronic version.

Buses built on a ford or gm van chassis usually have highway gearing.
One of the vehicles I have my eye on is a 1994 e350 7.3L ambulance, for $7500 asking. I'm guessing this would be "an earlier IDI engine without all the electronics, right.
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Old 03-12-2018, 04:39 PM   #6
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National Parks do not have a 26' length limit.

There are a couple of places in the NP system that do have length limits, mostly to do with the roads to various scenic places. Maybe 26' is one of them ... they are very rare.

Campgrounds have some limits, and the more you go over 30', the more you will encounter. Again though, a very large number of state and federal parks can accommodate up to 40'. Staying under that will give you more choice.
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Old 03-12-2018, 05:23 PM   #7
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You can't even stand up in an ambulance. Choose a bus.
Here is some interesting information about vehicle length at national Parks:

Ideal RV Length for Fitting into National Park Campsites - Camper Report
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Old 03-13-2018, 12:32 AM   #8
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I was looking into a Type 2 Ambulance (Van body with bubble top) to convert into a family and bike hauler but noticed when I pulled up next to my neighbors ex-Ambo that my bike would take up too much room on the inside to have it and seats. Also would have to hit the whole thing and start fresh. A Type 3 Ambo (Van front with box on back) was out of thge question due to passengers (daughter mostly) being too far away in separate area and again, complete gutting of rear section. Also darker as less windows, if any.
Ended up getting a 2002 E450 Thomas handicap short bus off Craigslist for same amount you mentioned. BEYOND happy I went that route. Nice to be able to turn around and see everything behind me inside the cabin. I can stand up no problem, even in the cab area. Biggest plus is my daughter LOVES da bus and wife doesn't mind it either. Tons of room inside (never enough btw). Bus is as long as a Crew Cab long bed Ford truck and just as wide as a dually box van.
Before I converted to 4X4, my best mpg with a 4 inch straight pipe and livewire tune was 15mpgs at 55-60mph from Bend, OR to San Fernando, CA.
Only down side is California will NOT let you keep it School Bus Yellow and you cannot keep the "STOP" sign on the side, but I left there so no worries for me.
Another note, E450s can carry more, bus weighed 9980 pounds will an almost full tank of diesel with a capacity of 14500 while an E350 Ambo is pretty much maxed unless gutted but add in all the goods and you reach capacity quickly.
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Old 03-13-2018, 06:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711 View Post
There are two 7.3L engines. The earlier IDI engine is non electronic but the later one is full computer control. The T444 and Ford Powerstroke are the electronic version.

Buses built on a ford or gm van chassis usually have highway gearing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinekid View Post
Thanks for the input.

Does "not designed for long-distance" imply the trans and rear axle ratio might limit my top speed or the optimal MPG speed might be lower or just more uncomfortable. I dont need to jump over the rockies at 80 but I might like to crawl around on a back road in BLM.

The loss of interior space with the ambulance solution does worry me but I intend to live out of the vehicle not in it. If I'm inside I'm either sleeping, cooking or on the computer.

not really sure of the difference between a cut-away and not. I thought all 4 and 5 window bus bodies were on a van chassis.
Roach covered your question.


Also, the bus route could be cheaper buy in and they are usually maintained if they are coming out of service because of age.
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