School Bus Conversion Resources

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baadpuppy 02-22-2008 11:38 AM

New member...
 
Just wanted to post and say "hi" to everyone. My name is Jim, and I've been lurking here for a few weeks now, and doing a lot of research into schoolbus conversions. I'm now looking for a schoolbus to convert while I scrounge together some money.

Just a bit of background: Back in august I bought an older class A motorhome, 30ish foot model. It turns out that I made a hasty decision and shouldn't have bought it. It has many things wrong with it. After finding all the things wrong, I decided to tear it down to the chassis/body and build it back up. I've almost finished the teardown. In the mean time, I have been building a plastic skinned polebarn type structure to work within, 16'Wx40'Lx14'H or so. That build is almost complete. Due to zoning requirements, the structure is a Tent, not a building. It is meant to be temporary for the rebuild, and will be disassembled upon completion.

The closer I've gotten to the point where I would need to begin the actual buildup of the RV, the less I like the basic platform. I have a lot of problems with it that just aren't worth getting into here. Over the past month I've decided to just part out the old RV as much as possible to get back as much of my investment as I can, and get a bus and build it the way I want it. I know I'll feel a lot safer in a bus.

Unfortunately, most of my money is tied up in the old RV so it'll be a little while before I can afford the bus. However, I keep checking ebay and other sites daily keeping an eye out for the "perfect" bus.

I'd like a 70 passenger or greater, forward control, diesel, allison AT based bus. A bus like the one that dentarthurdent has would be the best to me. I really like what he has done in sketchup. I'm still undecided about rear engine vs front engine, but leaning more towards rear engine. I'm also undecided about air vs hydraulic brakes, but am leaning towards air brakes.

From what I've read in the various threads here, this seems like a great group of people and an awesome resource. I look forward to starting my project and borrowing more ideas for everyone else's projects.

jim

swinada 02-22-2008 07:40 PM

Re: New member...
 
Welcome to the group and all the best for your bus hunt. It is for sure the right decision to scrap the RV and go with a bus. So you should have everything you need for the conversion from that RV.

reprobate 02-22-2008 08:32 PM

Re: New member...
 
I second Swinada. I was going to build a travel trailer when I stumbled across this site and fell in love with everything skoolie. Now we're heavy into conversion. Welcome and good luck. This a great bunch.

baadpuppy 02-22-2008 08:47 PM

Re: New member...
 
Thanks everyone. I appreciate all the support. :)

Reprobate, I have read your progress thread and can't wait to see more.

Elliot's roof raise for millicent is inspirational.

I can't wait to be able to get started, but I must practice patience this time. :D

thanks y'all,
jim

dancarrigan 02-23-2008 02:53 PM

Re: welcome
 
hey jim;
yeah welcome! i'm new too, although i first registered about a year ago. it took me that long but i got my bus a few weeks ago, after a diesel benz and a sailboat. anyway, i just wanted to say i've been touring over the road for like 17 years or something in all manner of vehicles and the bus, after removing all but two seats is the coolest liveaboard. this 65 passenger gmc just has endless room and possibilities if you can pound a nail. and especially my dog spot, who's disposition has really improved, loves the space and windows. pallet wood has proved a fine building material, and it's free.
best,
dan

Elliot Naess 02-24-2008 12:34 AM

Re: New member...
 
:D
Thanks, Baadpuppy! My purpose in life is to inspire others to greatness -- while I stumble along in the gutter myself. :lol:

Be advised, "forward control" means a flat nosed bus with the engine in the front. I believe the origin of the term is this: In the beginning, Henry Ford created the Model T, and it had the engine way out front, completely in front of the driver. That style is now called a "conventional". Then somebody decided he needed more cargo space, without having to lengthen his garage, and he figured out that he could put the driver on the front fender and gain the floor space where the driver used to sit. He relocated the steering mechanism and the other controls forward, and a bit left and up to clear the engine, and this became the Forward Control model. The driver complained about the wind and the rain out there on the front fender, so the builder enclosed the driver in new bodywork, creating the flat-nosed look. (Also known as "cab-over", for the cab being over the engine.) Blue Bird actually used the term Forward Control in their official terminology, as did Jeep. (Yes, they made "cab-over" Jeeps!)

Oh, by the way... Welcome aboard!
:D

baadpuppy 02-24-2008 09:15 AM

Re: New member...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Elliot Naess
Be advised, "forward control" means a flat nosed bus with the engine in the front.

Oops, my bad. I stand corrected. I had somehow reached the conclusion that forward control meant having the controls forward of the steer axle, regardless of engine location.

Thanks for the clarification!

jim

Elliot Naess 02-24-2008 10:57 AM

Re: New member...
 
:D
Quote:

I had somehow reached the conclusion that forward control meant having the controls forward of the steer axle, regardless of engine location.
You know what... You may be right. It may be I who need correcting. In my 56 years on this planet, it may finally have happened. :lol:

(And you are very gentle and diplomatic, my new friend. Many would have alerted me to my possible error in less polite language! :lol: )

You are certainly correct in that there is minimal reference to engine location in the phrase Forward Control. I'm thinking this may be a matter of "common usage" rather than mechanical specification, but.... Oh dear.

There goes all day today. I'll be sitting here researching this all over the internet. :lol:

All right... who actually knows? And give us The Meaning Of Life while you are at it, please.
:D

dentarthurdent 02-24-2008 12:25 PM

Re: New member...
 
I love a good semantics discussion (as does any INTP)...

I think the term originates from "cab forward" rail engine designs that put the drivers in front of the big boilers, etc. I found an article on Wikipedia about it. Here's an excerpt from that:

Quote:

In the case of vehicles other than passenger autos, the term refers to a design in which the steering wheel is placed forward of the front axle, which, typically, is located directly beneath the driver's seat. This arrangement is perhaps better known as forward control.
I think Blue Bird confused things a bit by using "Forward Control" as a model name denoting the front engined TC2000 buses and also using FC in the designations of the front engine Wanderlodge motorhomes. They seem to have forged (or at least reinforced) the link between "forward control" and sitting beside an engine doghouse whilst driving. So at least with a Blue Bird product, "forward control" definitely means front engine.

Jim - there was a pretty nice looking 1986 All American RE on Public Surplus recently that went for $2,750. They are out there if you look. I spent almost three months looking daily for mine (INTPs also tend to be a little obsessing at times :shock: ) but I am very glad I did.

good luck and welcome! - Tony

Elliot Naess 02-24-2008 01:33 PM

Re: New member...
 
:D
When am I ever going to learn to be more careful about what I ask for! I said...
Quote:

And give us The Meaning Of Life while you are at it, please.
...and I got...
Quote:

(as does any INTP)...
Now I'll be reading about THAT all day, but at first glance it looks like you may indeed have "diagnosed" me.

How's THIS for thread drift?! :lol:
Baadpuppy... You still here? :lol:

(To be continued.)

Baadpuppy, where do you live?

[I really think we should all enter our home town and state in our Profile. Makes it so much easier to exchange realistic leads on buses and parts.]

baadpuppy 02-24-2008 06:35 PM

Re: New member...
 
Yep, I'm still here. I too am an INTP.

dentarthurdent, thanks for that link. I'll have to make sure to check there daily. :)

Thread drift doesn't bother me. :)

I'm located in Virgina, on the Eastern Shore Peninsula. I've added that info to my location in my profile. Missed it before.

I work in Maryland, doing IT support for a bunch of libraries. My commute is about 110 miles round trip so I spend a bunch of time listening to audiobooks, and thinking about what I'll do next with my plans. :D

Oh Elliot, I wasn't trying to correct you, I was just clarifying where my assumption had originated. :D

Anyway, it's been a long day. Today we put the roof on the structure we built to work on the RV. Eventually I'll have to figure out how to squeeze a bus into that structure... hehe.

jim

sportyrick 02-26-2008 01:00 PM

Re: New member...
 
Baadpuppy: Welcome aboard and I am sure everyone else, like me, is interested in spreading our disease to the masses and are glad to have a confirmed "kill". Now that you have turned the corner and have been enlightened about weight, stability, integrity, imagination, ingenuity and the always unbeleaveable ability of the human body to absorbe punishment for extended lengths of time, go for it. I guarantee you that with support of your new peers you will never look back at your decision and think it was a bad one (although others may not share you conviction). OH you WILL have your tests along the way just like the rest of us but you will overcome them and have your character developed to a higher level you never thought exhisted. Just look at all the characters here at this site, could you ever find a more "developed" bunch of dreamers?
On a serious note, I don't know how large your donor RV is but chances are it's pretty big so here are some ideas to help propell you along towards your first skoolie. It's probably got a big engine and there are people out there that are looking for such things so it's probably worth a bit of money. They might also want the heavy duty transmission that goes with it so try and sell them as a pair. I paid $450 for a rebuildable 427 chevy and it was only that cheap because he had it sitting in the barn for 2 years and was scared to call it "good". The rearend is probably a "dually" so it's worth a lot to the right person as well as the 16" tires and wheels. Do a search on Ebay in those areas of interest and click on the "completed listings" to see what those items have brought in the past. I think you could roughly generate $1500-2000 of income from these main parts plus quite a bit more in the little things like the gas tanks, driveshafts, front axle, frame, steering column, etc. Look at it from another angle, you have got all kinds of RV stuff for a small price compared to what you would have to pay retail.
Good luck on your conversion, keep your pencil (mind) sharp and gleen all you can from this eclectic group of out of the box thinkers. sportyrick

baadpuppy 04-11-2008 01:14 PM

Possible bus for me?
 
Today I noticed on public surplus this bus:

http://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/auc...iew?auc=249263, a 1997 Thomas MPV.

This bus is located about 300 miles from me, which is convenient. It appears to be rear engine which is what I want. The only 2 things I'm uncertain about are the engine and transmission combination... Is the CAT 3126 + an Allison 3000 series transmission a good combo? I do expect to be doing some towing, and want to make sure the driveline will be up for it before I invest much money.

I'm giving this bus some *serious* consideration. Is there anything anyone sees that would make you want to avoid it?

Thanks in advance,
jim

Elliot Naess 04-11-2008 04:59 PM

Re: New member...
 
:D
I don't know what "MPV" stands for, but that looks to be a 40 foot long bus, and with the engine in the rear, yes. And it is very new, as these things go.

Edit: Looking at it a second time, the roof MAY be mid-height -- a couple of inches higher than standard school bus low. Not sure. You need to walk into it and jump up and down a little.

That little Cat is not the best engine Cat ever built, but it should serve you well enough if it is not in any way damaged. Note "Running condition: Runs." You need to hop on your scooter and go look at this thing. Listen to it run. Drive it, if possible -- it's fine if one of them drives it and you ride, so you can listen and feel. And talk, if it's the mechanic who is driving. The best person to talk to when you go down there, is the mechanic who has maintained it.

The Allison 3000 is a newer model than the ones we usually see on our older buses. Again, it is a perfectly good transmission model -- you just need to find out what condition it is in.

Over all "Condition: Fair." Never buy a vehicle sight unseen.

I would ask why they are selling it so early -- only 11 years.

If engine and transmission are in great shape, and there is no serious rust, then that would be one fine bus to have. It's all about the condition of the engine and tranny.

Edit: The disk wheels are a very good thing. But do inspect the tires for condition also.

Air brakes are a good thing.

:D

baadpuppy 04-11-2008 08:36 PM

Re: New member...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Elliot Naess
:D
I don't know what "MPV" stands for, but that looks to be a 40 foot long bus, and with the engine in the rear, yes. And it is very new, as these things go.

I don't know what MPV stands for either, and unfortunately mazda has a vehicle with the same letters so google isn't as helpful as I'd like, even with '-mazda' in the search terms. The youth of the vehicle is definitely intriguing. And the closer I can get to a 40' bus, the happier I'll be. I plan to be living in this full time when I finish, and I'm not the smallest of people. :lol:

Quote:


Edit: Looking at it a second time, the roof MAY be mid-height -- a couple of inches higher than standard school bus low. Not sure. You need to walk into it and jump up and down a little.

I'm not too concerned with roof height, as I plan to borrow a chapter from your book and raise that sucker. :lol:

Quote:


That little Cat is not the best engine Cat ever built, but it should serve you well enough if it is not in any way damaged. Note "Running condition: Runs." You need to hop on your scooter and go look at this thing. Listen to it run. Drive it, if possible -- it's fine if one of them drives it and you ride, so you can listen and feel. And talk, if it's the mechanic who is driving. The best person to talk to when you go down there, is the mechanic who has maintained it.

What makes the 3126 "not the best engine Cat ever built"? I've found a few message boards where people slam that engine, but haven't found much evidence of why people feel that way. Cat's website is also rather informationless about this model in a bus. The forums where the engine was slammed also tended to be marine applications.

Quote:


The Allison 3000 is a newer model than the ones we usually see on our older buses. Again, it is a perfectly good transmission model -- you just need to find out what condition it is in.

I intend to ask the seller which specific model transmission it is. How do these rate compared to the 545 and 643?

Quote:


Over all "Condition: Fair." Never buy a vehicle sight unseen.

I would ask why they are selling it so early -- only 11 years.

If engine and transmission are in great shape, and there is no serious rust, then that would be one fine bus to have. It's all about the condition of the engine and tranny.

Edit: The disk wheels are a very good thing. But do inspect the tires for condition also.

Air brakes are a good thing.

:D
I was figuring on having to replace the tires within 12 months. I'm paranoid about tires. I'm also curious about the "early" selling. That's just one of the many questions I'm making up to ask the seller. :D You make a lot of great points Elliot. Thank you. I was hoping for feedback along these lines before I contact the seller with a bazillion questions.

I'm gonna cross my fingers...
jim

Elliot Naess 04-11-2008 09:11 PM

Re: New member...
 
:D
Looking at the photo again, I believe it says MVP. (Whatever that means? :?

By window count and proclaimed seat count, that pretty much has to be a 40 footer, yes.

Ah, yes... You are one of my Roof Raising Diciples. Very good! 8)

I have no personal experience with the 3126 Cat. I probably read all the same message boards.

I know no details about the 3000 series Allison either. But I have found that it is easy to find Allison information on the internet -- just search a little.
:D

baadpuppy 05-20-2008 09:45 AM

My new (to me) bus!
 
Well, I finally got a happy confluence of a) having enough money and b) finding the bus that I was looking for.

My requirements were basically a rear engine turbo diesel w/air brakes and not the AT545 transmission. I wanted to get as close to 40' length as possible.

I found a 1985 Thomas Saf-T-Liner on eBay about 10 hours from here with a 3208 turbo diesel, MT643, air brakes, etc etc. It looks like a 40'ish bus. It has some underbelly compartments. It is already registered as a "house car" in NC, so the paperwork will be easy. Also, it has already been gutted and much of the paint prep work has been done, so I actually have a bit of a head start on the conversion process. :D

I plan to go get the bus the weekend of May 30th. After I get it, I'm going to swing down to GA to visit some friends and visit a few choice junkyards. Then I plan to drive back home that sunday, and spend the monday finishing up any registration/titleing paperwork in VA.

I'm taking lots of tools with me, just in case. I'm also taking a lot of money for diesel. :(

I'm looking forward to getting started! I'm re-reading the millicent thread again to refresh my memory on roof raising. :D

jim

baadpuppy 06-02-2008 09:24 PM

Got my bus!
 
Well, it isn't a Turbo 3208, but I still like it. :)

The trip went fairly well. Not as great as I hoped, but much much better than it could have been. Driving the 40' bus was MUCH less stressful than driving my old 32' motorhome. It just feels much safer inside. Of course, the operator's area in the bus is properly engineered, and the motorhome manufacturer seriously neglected that step.

Anyway, there are details here: http://skoolie.baadpuppy.net/2008/06/bought-my-bus.html. I hope it is an entertaining read. :D

I can't wait to get started on the conversion part. :D

jim

Elliot Naess 06-02-2008 10:42 PM

Re: New member...
 
:D
The turbocharger I have seen on a 3208 was about the size of a walnut, so you may not be missing out on much. Congrats!
:D

Elliot Naess 06-03-2008 09:59 AM

Re: New member...
 
:D
There is no waiting list! :lol:
I'd be happy to lend it out. But the stuff is big and heavy -- not something I can just toss in an envelope! You can rig something similar yourself much easier than transporting this equipment cross country.
:D


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