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Old 10-26-2017, 07:10 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Some more bus questions from recent observations...

Y'all thought I was gone, right? Wrong... just busy... and lurking on other sites... here goes.

1) What's so great about a Crown bus? I watched a Public Surplus auction where a 1989 Crown with over 300,000 miles sold for over $12,000 with buyer's premium. People talk about Crowns as though they're the best you can get... why?

2) Do any of y'all think GovDeals and Public Surplus are overpriced? I find myself somewhat disappointed in their "pickings".

3) Is the Cummins 8.3 engine rare? I NEVER see it in any bus advertised on any auction site I visit.

4) I recently looked at a couple of buses that my local school district was retiring. Said "no" to both because they weren't tall enough inside, but noticed that one had a 5-speed manual transmission. (I think it was a 1998 model.) If I CAN get a manual transmission, SHOULD I? (I'm looking to figure out if a manual has the same advantages over an automatic in a bus as it does in a car - better gas mileage and lower maintenance / overhaul costs.)

5) Is there a "peak season" for bus sales / auctions, or do school districts tend to retire buses year-round at roughly the same rate? (If there is a "peak season", what is it?)
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Old 10-26-2017, 09:28 AM   #2
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I bought my 8.3 equipped bus on Govdeals and think it was reasonably priced.

8.3's are not as common as 5.9's or T444's but they are out there.
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Old 10-26-2017, 01:53 PM   #3
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1- they don't rust out due to climate/aluminum skins. They've got semi truck engines instead of box truck engines. They're cool looking. They're "hip".

2- If you think auctions are expensive don't even look on CL or dealer lots.

3- no the 8.3 isn't rare. Less common due to it being the premium Cummins engine, but plenty to be had.

4- Only you can decide if you like to shift gears and work a clutch or not. I don't like manual trannys in big stuff, personally. Drive through Atlanta traffic and you'll hate having a clutch.

5- Summer.
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Old 10-26-2017, 02:27 PM   #4
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Drive through Atlanta traffic and you'll hate having a clutch.
Lol. Take the Dan Ryan in Chicago during Winter to see some traffic, or LA. Hotlanta.
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Old 10-26-2017, 06:26 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
I bought my 8.3 equipped bus on Govdeals and think it was reasonably priced.

8.3's are not as common as 5.9's or T444's but they are out there.
I guess I'm comparing GovDeals and Public Surplus to the "little guy" local auction companies. Have any of y'all experienced a substantial difference in selling prices between what you see on those sites compared to what you see on local auction company sites?

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1- they don't rust out due to climate/aluminum skins. They've got semi truck engines instead of box truck engines. They're cool looking. They're "hip".
But do they come in smaller sizes and high headroom? I don't need a 90-passenger bus in which I would have to duck.

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2- If you think auctions are expensive don't even look on CL or dealer lots.
I look mostly for comparative purposes.

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3- no the 8.3 isn't rare. Less common due to it being the premium Cummins engine, but plenty to be had.
"Plenty"? Where would you recommend I look for one?

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4- Only you can decide if you like to shift gears and work a clutch or not. I don't like manual trannys in big stuff, personally. Drive through Atlanta traffic and you'll hate having a clutch.
I really don't intend to drive in much traffic. But I don't mind working a manual. I like the fuel savings. I had a 1992 F-150 with the 300 straight 6 and a 5-speed manual, and I averaged 19 mpg with that thing. (The modern F-150s won't average that with their fancy-shmancy automatic transmissions!)

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5- Summer.
Poop. I'd like to have mine by like March or April.
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Old 10-26-2017, 06:55 PM   #6
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aaabussales.com has plenty of big-engined buses ... at dealer prices (but not unreasonable prices).
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Old 10-26-2017, 10:24 PM   #7
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aaabussales.com has plenty of big-engined buses ... at dealer prices (but not unreasonable prices).
I see no prices on that site. What I DO see are distastefully high-mileage buses, none of which I'd be likely to consider even at auction prices. I don't want to buy, for my first bus, something that's likely to be troublesome... and high mileage generally raises the risk of serious trouble.
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Old 10-26-2017, 11:20 PM   #8
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I think most folks here would agree, Crowns are the Cadillac of buses. Most had heavy-duty road-tractor grade hardware, which accounts for many approaching 30 or 40 years and still going strong. I also like the rounded 50's-esque styling they had up through the 80's.

Manual transmissions are more of a personal preference thing. I have one in mine, and I do live near Atlanta. That said, I do drive big trucks for a living so I am accustomed to driving a manual a lot. I think I can honestly say you'll never experience the same transmission failures automatics occasionally have - but I won't say you'll never suffer a failure at all. Clutches do wear out, and even manuals don't last forever (but there's a very high chance you'll wear out the engine first).
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Old 10-27-2017, 02:31 AM   #9
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1. Crown and Gillig were premier bus builders in CA. Most of their buses were sold in WA, OR, CA, and a few in HI,AZ, and NV. They were considered the Cadillacs and Lincolns in the school bus world. When new they sold with 25-year warranties. They could afford to offer warranties that long because their products routinely went that long without any major issues (witness the fact there are still a lot of them in daily service with the newest ones almost 30-years old). But like Cadillacs and Lincolns they were not cheap. You could usually purchase three or four Type 'C' eastern built buses or two or three Type 'D' eastern built buses for the price of one Crown or Gillig. Even though the last classic Gillig Schoolcoach left the factory in 1981 and the last Crown Supercoach left the factory in 1991 brand new Type 'D' RE buses still do not cost as much.

What made the Crown and Gillig buses famous and why they are still valuable today is they were built very heavy duty. Instead of Class 5/6 medium duty truck OEM parts and pieces they were built with off the shelf Class 7/8 heavy duty truck parts and pieces. The engines and transmissions were the same as found in semi-trucks. The frames were huge and heavy. Most were made of 150,000 PSI steel. The mid-engine buses had double frame rails between the axles for more support. For a frame of reference, new school buses use 50,000 PSI steel. Almost all Crowns and some Gilligs were made with aluminum body panels. So even though they were made out of some really tough and heavy stuff they weighed in about the same as an eastern built bus. With half again to twice or more HP/torque than any eastern built bus it meant that the Crowns and Gilligs could climb hills without slowing down. The heavy duty truck transmissions also meant that some of them left the factory with OD or double OD gears so that some of them could really make time out on the highway. I have seen a couple of Crowns that could cruise all day long, up any hill or down the other side, with a full load at speeds well in excess of 85 MPH.

Gillig made some 11-row buses. Crown and Gillig both made 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-, and 16-row buses. Most of the 15-row and all of the 16-row buses were 40' tandems. The rest were all two axle buses in lengths from as short as 30', to 35'-36', 36'-38', and up to 38'-40'.

So when a Crown 10-wheeler with an 855 Cummins (it was a $7K option in 1984) comes up for sale it will have a fairly high price. While any Crown or Gillig 10-wheeler is uncommon, a Crown or Gillig with the big Cummins is even less common. To compare to a car, while a Cadillac Sedan DeVille is a nice car and desirable, a Cadillac Eldorado is more desirable, and a Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible is the virtual unicorn and most desirable and will command the highest price.

2. govdeals and Public Surplus can be a very economical way to purchase a good piece of equipment. You need to know what something is worth to you and bid accordingly. A good bus an hour's drive away from you can be worth $2K more to you than a bus on the opposite side of the country since it will cost you at least that much to move your new purchase across the country. Dealers and exporters like this venues so that they can buy fleets of buses. It doesn't matter to them if they pay to much for any one bus because with their volume it will all average out over time.

3. The Cummins 8.3L is a fairly common engine but not found in buses very often. It has been labeled as the 6CT and the ISC at different times. It was an optional engine in the Thomas and Blue Bird Type 'D' buses. It wasn't chosen very often due to the fact it was a several thousand $$$ option. And when the top HP rating of the 5.9L/6BT/ISB was as much as one of the lower HP ratings of the 8.3L most schools didn't pay the extra $$$. At the same time the Cat 3116/3126/C7 and the Mercedes-Benz engine were offered at prices higher than the 5.9L but lower than the 8.3L. The 8.3L, in whatever label it had, will always be a better choice than any of the other engines commonly found in school buses except for the IHC DT466/530 of the same HP. It is not unknown for an 8.3L to be misidentified in advertisements and spe'c listings as a 5.9L/ISB. An 5.9L/ISB is not bad and better than a Cat or M-B but it isn't nearly as nice as a 8.3L. It is sort of like a Corvette with a small block is okay but a Corvette with a big block is something else!

4. If you are looking at getting a high ceiling bus look for a bus with 12" windows instead of the 9" windows. All IC buses were standard with 12" windows starting in about 2002 or so and optional before that. All Thomas C2's are 12" windows with 9" standard on all of the other Thomas buses. Blue Birds still have 12" windows as an option. You can tell very easily if the bus has 12" windows or not. The line at the top of 12" window buses is not in line with the top of the service door or the driver's window. In older buses, if the top of the window line is the same as the top of the service door or driver's window it will have the 9" windows and will have 3" less headroom. Some of the much older buses had almost 6" less headroom than the 12" window buses. All Crown and Gillig buses made after 1960 had a minimum of 78" of headroom.

As far as stick shifts in school buses are concerned, by the mid-90's you had to pay extra for a stick shift. The automatic became the standard spe'c for all school buses. So a stick shift is becoming another unicorn in the school bus world. If all the driving you were going to do was in the wide open spaces with no other traffic a stick shift would be okay. But if you ever end up driving between Salem, OR and Everett, WA or through Los Angeles during the day or around Atlanta or Boston during the day you will wish you had an automatic. In school buses, particularly with the advent of the automatic OD with lock up in almost every gear, the fuel mileage between a stick and an automatic is negligible. If you are comparing fuel mileage between an older bus with the Allison AT540 and a stick shift the difference will be 4-7 MPG with the automatic and 6-10 MPG with the stick shift. Most of the automatics will outlast the engine 2x if they are treated will and serviced properly. A used bus with a stick shift will most likely need a new clutch within a short period of time--probably within the next 10K miles.

5. In days gone by most schools and contractors preferred to take delivery of new buses during the summer months. It gave them time to finish the school year and ready the old buses for sale all while getting the new buses signed, sealed, and delivered with all inspections completed before the school year started. Many still do that. But all of the bus OEM's work on a "just in time" inventory system. You will not find fields full of completed chassis waiting for a bus body to be completed and placed on the chassis. Now, a bus does not start down the production line until there is a signed order for a bus. The dealer will tell you when a slot will open for when your bus will most probably be built. If you order right now today you might get your bus before Christmas. If you wait to order until March 1 you might not see your new bus until October 1 or later. In other words, the bus OEM's make about the same number of buses per day whether it is June or December and deliver the same number of buses every day all year long.

What skews the charts is there are companies like Mid-West Transit that leases hundreds of buses per year. The leases generally run from July 1 to June 30 with lease returns getting back to the dealer in July and August. The leasing companies take delivery of new buses all year long but mostly in the spring and park them out back until the people turning in lease returns pick up their new buses. When they put in an order for 500 buses for delivery no later than June 1 the OEM's tend to pay attention.

So it is a qualified yes that there are more used buses available in the late summer and early fall. But that doesn't mean there are not good used buses coming up for sale all the time.

I hope this helps in your quest for a bus for you.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 10-27-2017, 03:22 AM   #10
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I see no prices on that site. What I DO see are distastefully high-mileage buses, none of which I'd be likely to consider even at auction prices. I don't want to buy, for my first bus, something that's likely to be troublesome... and high mileage generally raises the risk of serious trouble.
They don't publish prices. they wanna get a feel for you before dropping that.
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