School Bus Conversion Resources

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pete c 03-04-2007 07:01 PM

20-25 folks? 20 motorbikes? 10K mile road trip?

Lemme guess. You are the leader of a nomadic shriner gang?

lapeer20m 03-04-2007 07:43 PM

lots of info on veggie in the wvo section.

for a skoolie with that much weight you're probably gonna want at least a DT466 and a manual trans would be a nice bonus.

i've driven my bus loaded to the gills with almost 15K pounds of people and cargo on top of the 20K pounds the bus weighs empty. Drove from michigan to nevada and back. it's about a 5K mile roadtrip. I have the DT360 and that was not nearly enough motor for the 35K pounds, especially in the mountians. I figure the bus ran full throttle for well over 100 hours.

If there are a few people working on the project, you can convert a bus before may. I converted my current bus starting in July and took it to burningman 2005 at the end of august. I did most of the work myself, however i did have a good deal of help from a buddy of mine.

20 people are a lot for a road trip in a skoolie, but you can do anything you put your mind too.

the_experience03 03-04-2007 10:40 PM

Five of us working our asses off got my bus converted in 2.5 weeks so it's very doable before May.

Personally, I think a trailer behind you is the best bet. An enclosed trailer isn't going to hurt your aerodynamics much like a bunch of stuff on the roof might given the fact that the bus with the same profile as a two story shithouse has already cut through the air. It will also most certainly be easier to load and unload. Just climbing up on my roof without a bunch of stuff in my hands takes a little effort.

I'm thinking you must have a pretty good handle on what engines and transmissions are the best for your application. I will suggest that you get a conventional if you plan to do a WVO conversion just because everything will be soooooo much easier.

Elliot Naess 03-04-2007 10:57 PM

Motorbikes on the roof -- are ya daft, man! :shock:
Just the thought of getting the silly things up and down on and off the roof.... :(

I'm thinking 40 foot bus and 25 foot trailer.

The DT466 is an International Harvester. I suppose you will find them most easily in
buses on IH chassis, but they could be in anything.

One problem with a conventional (engine out front under a hood) is that I have never
seen a 40 foot conventional. They seem to stop at 35 feet, minus the hood. Rear
engine buses, on the other hand, are often 40 feet long, so you get about eight or ten
more feet usable space. Sounds like this is what you need -- often called a "pusher".

Forget the "Forward Control" buses (flat front, engine in front) -- small engine in
tight engine compartment.

the_experience03 03-04-2007 11:28 PM

My 36 foot tip to tail (65/66 passenger) sleeps 6 comfortably without messing with a dinette or anything. I have seen 84 passenger conventionals. I can't imagine what I would do with the additional 8-9 feet of space.

Pushers are quiet and spacious with tighter turning radius, etc. They are also generally more expensive to buy and while I will agree they are probably easier to work on than a front engine transit, there is no doubt in my mind that a conventional is easier to work on, a huge selling point for me in terms of converting to WVO. The choice is yours. :D

the_experience03 03-04-2007 11:49 PM

What kind of budget are you stuck with if you don't mind my asking?

I was looking at your trip and I hope you mean 4400 miles done over two 3 day periods. Otherwise you will need to average over 60 mph for the whole trip! That means no stopping for food, fuel, anything. With the trips you are looking at, rear axle ratio and a lockup or overdrive transmission is going to be of the utmost importance. School buses are not rocketships as a general rule. Many will do 75 mph, but they're working at those speeds and getting thirsty. Given the speeds you are looking for, I think a transit style bus would probably be your best bet.

I know there is a Thomas THRE for sale locally with an 8.3 Cummins, MT64s, air brakes, air ride most likely though I don't know, and 84 passenger capacity. I actually looked at it before I bought my bus, but it was just too much. They list the price as $10,000, but I think there is probably some room there. I recognize it as an activity bus from when I was in high school. That means it routinely did the 1 hour+ trips for games so I would imagine it goes down the highway just fine.

the_experience03 03-05-2007 12:46 AM

Well that first one sounds pretty doable. In August of 2005, a friend and myself piled into my truck. We had laid the last bead of the solid axle swap on on Monday. It was now Wednesday evening (after work). We drove from Eveleth, Minnesota to Sutherlin, Oregon and back taking Hwy 101, Hwy 2 to Glacier National Park, etc. All told the round-trip mileage was well over 4500 miles. I was back for work on Thursday morning. The truck has similar characteristics to a bus with a top speed of 60-70 mph depending on how it's feeling35-40 mph mountain climbs, etc. The advantage you will have is that you will have multiple drivers. I drove the whole way. After 24 hours of straight driving you start to see that damn shadow man.

With your budget, I think some concessions will need to be made, but isn't that the way it is with everything? To get a roadworthy transit bus with good tires in that price range, I would suspect you're going to get running a 6BT 5.9 liter Cummins. This isn't all bad though. There is TONS of power to be had with the engine for relatively cheap. Parts are everywhere thanks to the Dodge guys. I have also seen a rather large number of these backed by the MT643. I think this might be due in part to the extra weight of a transit.

lapeer20m 03-05-2007 04:15 AM

and the 5.9 has the capability of getting over 10 mpg......and the 5.9 in phills bus beats the crap out of my dt360 in every aspect. makes more hp, has higher top end speed, climbs hills better, gets double the fuel economy of my bus.....the 5.9 cummins is exactly the same displacement as the dt360.

let me know when you're gonna be in kzoo and i'll try to stop by and say hello. Phill lives pretty close to there, i'm about 1.5 hours away.

it's worth paying extra $$ for a good gear ratio. paying $1,000 up front for a better ratio would pay for itself on that one trip. i think phill has about a 4.44, i have 5.56. I think that is one of the major factors affecting the difference in fuel econoy between our two buses. 1 round trip from here to texas costs more in fuel than our buses are worth. (we won't even mention the tow truck bill for an unrelated ocean incident)

the_experience03 03-08-2007 11:33 PM

That is the first bus on that chassis that I have EVER seen. I've seen some of the Thomas Vistas that are similar, but never a Ward body. I've always been interested if they offer the benefits of a transit with the convenience of a conventional or the hassle of a transit with the flaws of a conventional.

captainkf 03-09-2007 08:35 AM

How are you going to liscense the bus? If you register it as an RV there are often restrictions on how many passengers are able to ride in the vehicle. For mine it is a max of 15 persons. If it needs commercial insurance your drivers will need cdl DL's, much more expensive insurance and to stop at vehicle inspections.


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