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Old 01-02-2020, 09:24 AM   #1
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Question Bus Options and Advice

Hi all,

My fiance and I are currently deciding between two Bluebirds, and would love some advice from those of you who have been through the process of converting on which we should invest in. To provide a little context, we are planning to go full time from the bus, with her working full time remote and me working either full time remote or part time remote and taking point on the build/cooking/cleaning/driving, etc.

The first bus is a 2002 Bluebird driven in VA beach with a Cummins diesel and an automatic allison transmission at about 130k miles. Recently had about 9k work put into the transmission (im guessing that the salt air from the beach had something to do with that?), and tires have decent tread. It comes in around 28" in length, and already has the seats removed/ floors touched up and ready for insulation and flooring. She wants at least 7 for it, which seems a little high, but understandable given the engine work. Starts beautifully and we would make sure it runs well before purchase. She doesn't have the title, so we would have to go through a lost title process, and I am not sure how much work that would take.

The second is a 1989 Bluebird with a 6.0 gas engine with an automatic transmission (did not get a type on the engine or trans), also with about 130k miles. The front end brakes have been rebuilt recently. A church had to get rid of it during their use because they did not have anyone with a CDL to drive it (supposedly that only applies if they had passengers, and I'm not sure if I would have trouble getting it retitled as an RV). IT is a little longer (a loose measurement would put it at maybe 35", which is probably not a great thing for us, as we will likely be towing an outback, and that extra 7 or so feet seems daunting at the moment). Given it was used as a transport bus most recently, all of the work of removing the seats and prepping the floors would need to be completed. In terms of the shape, the engine started well enough while we were there, and he tooled it around the parking lot to demo that it works. He said he would be happy to sell it to us at another location, as well, to prove that it drives well. The end asking price is somewhere in the 3k range, which is a lot prettier.

To the best of my knowledge, good considerations would be - is the diesel, fresh trans, shorter length, 13 year younger age, and already gutted interior worth the extra 4k? That being said, I am by no means an expert on buses or conversions, so are there other factors or context around the different models that I am not aware of that might affect the decision here?

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your advice!

-Tim
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:37 AM   #2
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OK, two things.

#1: Allison is a brand, so when you say it has an Allison transmission what you really mean is you don't know what transmission it has.

#2: a gas engine in a big bus is a terrible idea unless you're a collector like Cadillackid. I'm assuming you aren't, and that 3mpg and regular breakdowns isn't your goal.
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:37 AM   #3
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So it sounds like you've seen how much floor space a 28 footer offers, the first question is can you live full time in that small a space? If not, its off the list.

The 35 foot gasser is larger but well its a gasser so then you have to ask yourself how much actual driving do you plan to do and where? Add to that you plan to tow a Subaru and chances are you're not going anywhere fast or with any kind of fuel economy. So if those are factors, its off the list.

Don't let yourself get trapped mentally into this artificial conundrum that your only choice is between these two. If neither suit your purpose or your budget, keep looking. There's never a shortage of buses on the market, you just need patience to find the right one for you.
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:39 AM   #4
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I am not an expert. But I'm not excited about either.

$7000 seems like a lot. I got the seats out of mine in a day and few hours. For an additional 4k that's like paying someone $400 an hour for seat removal. I also think there are busses out there with functional transitions. Not sure I'd want to foot the bill for a rebuilt tranny if I didn't have to.

As for the other one, my preference for a large vehicle destined to put on miles is a diesel. So, for me, I would have ruled that one out.

As a comparison, I bought a 2003 Bluebird with 165,000, Allison 2000 transmission at DT 466E for $2300. It had some rust in the floor that I had to deal with, but it seemed reasonable based on the price.

Again, I'm not an expert, just offering my perspective.
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:42 AM   #5
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Ceiling height of your intended bus? Unless you're both short or are planning a roof raise regardless...

The nice thing about an already gutted bus is that you can really inspect the floor condition.

You can get a good idea of floor rust from inspecting underneath the bus IF you're experienced with inspecting rusty metal -- identifying rust patterns, habits...

Just because someone spent a lot of money getting something fixed doesn't guarantee it was fixed well... paperwork? warranty for parts/repairs?
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:50 AM   #6
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I should also mention that 7k is way more than I would be spending on that first bus. They made a mistake putting that money into it and then selling it.
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:23 AM   #7
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Hey folks,

Great advice here. Yeah, not knowing too much, I think you guys just helped me to avoid a pretty significant mistake. As far as the trans goes on either, I had assumed at least knowing the brand on the trans was better in terms of risk analysis than not knowing a thing, but absolutely see the points on waiting on the market to give us a better look than either of these two.

The goal of this endeavor is to travel, and I had assumed we would want a diesel if at all possible for both the power and the lifespan of the engine, but wasn't sure of the tangible differences between the two.

But its great to have some insight into how much some of you have spent on buses to get started. Thanks again to the timely answers!
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:29 AM   #8
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Take a minute and fill out your profile. Knowing your location would allow other members to find bus options near you
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:37 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by brokedown View Post
Take a minute and fill out your profile. Knowing your location would allow other members to find bus options near you
Done. For easier reference, we live in Charlottesville, VA. So far we have been looking in a few hundred mile radius and checking out options on our days off.
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:45 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by BlueRidgeBlueBird View Post
Hey folks,

Great advice here. Yeah, not knowing too much, I think you guys just helped me to avoid a pretty significant mistake. As far as the trans goes on either, I had assumed at least knowing the brand on the trans was better in terms of risk analysis than not knowing a thing, but absolutely see the points on waiting on the market to give us a better look than either of these two.

The goal of this endeavor is to travel, and I had assumed we would want a diesel if at all possible for both the power and the lifespan of the engine, but wasn't sure of the tangible differences between the two.

But its great to have some insight into how much some of you have spent on buses to get started. Thanks again to the timely answers!
I may be unique here in that I wasn't looking for a bus -- my bus found me...
It just turns out I'm lucky that I got a 5sp o/d A-2000 matched to a 5.13 axle ratio (nearly ALL the automatic bus xmsn' will be made by Allison) and a high ceiling 77Ĺ". Bonus for me is the 100 gal fuel tank and 7.2L turbo CAT engine. My initial thoughts were this drivetrain would go awesome in a 1962 IHC crewcab p'up truck I was looking at...

It's only reading a lot of threads here that I realize I've got a good base to build something on if I choose too... But I also enjoy the mechanical work as a hobby.

If you don't enjoy the puzzle of fixing sh!t then invest the time up-front in seeing what you need in a bus/platform and paying an independent mechanic to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before purchase.

I excepted my free bus only after I was told I'd be reimbursed the tow-charge to take it away... Free (okay, I paid $1.00 for it...) wasn't good enough... My point being repairs will add up QUICK if you're paying shop labor and tow-trucks to get the work done...
(I'm sure that's why some of these skoolie projects come up for sale after a year of sitting...)
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:58 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BlueRidgeBlueBird View Post
Done. For easier reference, we live in Charlottesville, VA. So far we have been looking in a few hundred mile radius and checking out options on our days off.
Greetings from Loudoun! Check out M&M Salvage, they buy school buses from around the state and have some decent offerings. They just got this one (#31), if I didn't already have a bus I would be down there right now checking it out myself.

Their current inventory sheet Just take your time and make sure you don't pick out a rustbucket, a lot of International/IC/Amtran pushers were retired for the passenger side frame rail swelling up with rust. This damage is visible from the holes in the front bumper.
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Old 01-02-2020, 11:07 AM   #12
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Greetings from Loudoun! Check out M&M Salvage, they buy school buses from around the state and have some decent offerings. They just got this one (#31), if I didn't already have a bus I would be down there right now checking it out myself.

Their current inventory sheet Just take your time and make sure you don't pick out a rustbucket, a lot of International/IC/Amtran pushers were retired for the passenger side frame rail swelling up with rust. This damage is visible from the holes in the front bumper.
Wow, this is absolutely perfect. Thanks for the help here!
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Old 01-02-2020, 11:20 AM   #13
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No title is a real problem in VA. It basically is not going to happen, at least not in Virginia. You can go the Vermont route, and that is what I did to get around not having a title, as they are a non title state for anything over 15 years old. Plus it is a good way to convert to motorhome registration.
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Old 01-02-2020, 05:26 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by ted@campbycanoe.com View Post
I am not an expert. But I'm not excited about either.

$7000 seems like a lot. I got the seats out of mine in a day and few hours. For an additional 4k that's like paying someone $400 an hour for seat removal. I also think there are busses out there with functional transitions. Not sure I'd want to foot the bill for a rebuilt tranny if I didn't have to.

As for the other one, my preference for a large vehicle destined to put on miles is a diesel. So, for me, I would have ruled that one out.

As a comparison, I bought a 2003 Bluebird with 165,000, Allison 2000 transmission at DT 466E for $2300. It had some rust in the floor that I had to deal with, but it seemed reasonable based on the price.

Again, I'm not an expert, just offering my perspective.
id pass on both also
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Old 01-02-2020, 05:31 PM   #15
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No title is a real problem in VA. It basically is not going to happen, at least not in Virginia. You can go the Vermont route, and that is what I did to get around not having a title, as they are a non title state for anything over 15 years old. Plus it is a good way to convert to motorhome registration.
yes no title can be a real problem. i bought a motorcycle with no title rebuilt the engine then when i tied to title it in my name i found a dudes exwife sold it to the guy i bought it from. long story i had to give it back to him and lose the cost of the overhaul
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