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Old 06-23-2020, 09:39 AM   #1
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Question 2000 FE Thomas MVP w/Allison 3000?

Hi,

We are a family looking to do our first skoolie to live in and travel for a few years.

We recently found a really good deal on a 2000 front engine Thomas MVP with about 170k miles. It has the CAT 3126b ending, which Iíve read isnít the best, but the price is right. My main concern is the transmission as Iíve read a lot of things that say to stay away from the AT 545. The bus is a few states away and the seller is not able to get pictures of the transmission. Heís asked the person he got it from and they told him it was an Allison 3000 series. Is that a possible combo for this year and model bus? If so, is that a good combination?

Right now we are on the fence and need help deciding if this is a good bus for us. We want to live in it for a number of years. Currently thinking that even at worst case scenario (replace engine, re gear tranny) weíd still be out less than the cost of one yearís rent.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!
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Old 06-23-2020, 09:51 AM   #2
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Ask for pictures of the shifter. It well tell you what transmission is in it.

The Cat 3126 is a fine engine. As good as any other medium duty diesel of its era.
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Old 06-23-2020, 11:24 AM   #3
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Ya it's not turned me off from the bus, sounds like they are great engines if maintained properly and can go a long while. Also seems that major repairs can get expensive pretty quickly. I'd want to do most of the maintenance and repairs myself as well, so that should help keep cost down and teach me more about diesel engines.


My main concern is if the engine/transmission combination is likely. It's not one I've seen in searching for this year and engine, and I don't want to buy it if it's actually an AT545 since they seem to have a lot of problems.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:15 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by alpedfam View Post
Ya it's not turned me off from the bus, sounds like they are great engines if maintained properly and can go a long while. Also seems that major repairs can get expensive pretty quickly. I'd want to do most of the maintenance and repairs myself as well, so that should help keep cost down and teach me more about diesel engines.


My main concern is if the engine/transmission combination is likely. It's not one I've seen in searching for this year and engine, and I don't want to buy it if it's actually an AT545 since they seem to have a lot of problems.
I can promise you this much- A 3126 Cat doesn't cost a penny more to own, operate, or repair than a 5.9 Cummins, Dt466E, etc.

I do my own maintenance and I'm loving my 3126. The hardest part was one of the belts and it really wasn't a big deal once I figured it out.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:23 PM   #5
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Cool. I'm thinking of driving the 12 hours out to look at it. If it is actually an Allison 3000 series I think we'll buy it, it's quite cheap. Needs work to even move it, but everything has been stripped and it's already cut for a roof raise. Just don't want to get into something that could be a huge PITA down the road.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:33 PM   #6
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Looks like it's a push button shifter - what do y'all think?
Guy said it was 4 speed auto.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:34 PM   #7
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Is it a Thomas? If so the roof raise is a bit trickier on them.
It can be done, but its not as easy as an IC or BB.
Push button shifter is definitely a 3060 transmission.
What's it need to move/run?

those kinda buses are often money pits. The failed projects. Individual owners rarely maintain their buses like a school does.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:36 PM   #8
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Looks like it's a push button shifter - what do y'all think?
Guy said it was 4 speed auto.
That's a 3060 shifter.. I wonder if the OD gears are disabled?
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:36 PM   #9
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So the body is cut, rivets removed front and back. Will need to spot weld it, install seatbelt, bolt in drivers seat at minimum to move it. Potentially have to change oil and replace windshield wiper motors.



Guy said he is 2nd owner, 1st owner bought from school district, but they don't have the maintenance records. Says runs fine. Oh and it's a turbo.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:37 PM   #10
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Oh and yes it's a Thomas, says it's an MVP. Ya the roof raise looks a bit harder with the way the body goes in towards the windows. That's why he cut it right below the windows.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:43 PM   #11
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YEah they're all turbo.

Seems like there are a lot of "what ifs" with taking on a project at that stage. I'd personally rather have one straight from the school. I like em fresh!

Lots of us on the forum do our maintenance and keep up with it even when our buses sit a lot. But that one sounds like its done lots of sitting.

There are definitely deals to be had on failed projects. It all depends on lots of variables. How handy are you, how good the bus really is, how cheap it can be had, etc.

How much are they asking for a cut up bus they don't know much about? I'm very curious.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:49 PM   #12
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$3000

Pictures show no rust on the undercarriage and a little on the floor inside, pretty clean.

We wanted to do a roof raise anyways, and this would be a jump ahead of having to take our seats and stuff.

That being said, I donít want to get into more than I can handle. Plan would be to learn to weld, get it moveable, then drive it the 600 miles back home. Thinking thatíll bring the initial cost up a few thousand.
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Old 06-23-2020, 01:06 PM   #13
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Like I said so many variables.

If you're going to learn to weld IDK if roof structure is a good place to start. I mean I've welded for a living before but I still called in a REAL welder for my roof raise. Everyone's got different levels of comfort with stuff.

Im not trying to dissuade you or be discouraging, and I'm just speaking from my point of view but it sounds like that bus isn't a great way to start. REmoving seats is an afternoon for two if you get a good plan together. I value seat removal at $300 on a 40 footer. That's how much I'd charge someone to do it , anyhow.

That's a long way to go for so many variables, but maybe more opinions will come in and you'll get a bigger range of input that just me. My strategy is to ALWAYS buy from a school and only in running condition unless its some unicorn deal or something rare.
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Old 06-23-2020, 01:11 PM   #14
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Thanks for the input! Ya we're on the fence, this is exactly why I'm asking people that know - to avoid a big headache.
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Old 06-23-2020, 01:50 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alpedfam View Post
Cool. I'm thinking of driving the 12 hours out to look at it. If it is actually an Allison 3000 series I think we'll buy it, it's quite cheap. Needs work to even move it, but everything has been stripped and it's already cut for a roof raise. Just don't want to get into something that could be a huge PITA down the road.
If community colleges open back up you can take a welding class and learn all you need to know to be comfortable right away...
You can do the roof raise with nuts & bolts and no welding if you like...

It's a long way to go to deal with something not currently drivable...

How can you do a proper test drive...? "red flag..."

positives are:
The 3060 is the best tranny out there for a bus.
The PO at least knew to start the roof raise from below the windows on a Thomas.
No rust is huge for something you want to keep the next ten years or more.
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Old 06-23-2020, 02:36 PM   #16
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I wouldn't spend $3k on it unless it had brand new tires, like less than a year old.

Even then I probably wouldn't spend $3k on it. That's more than double what I paid for my All American.
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Old 06-23-2020, 03:58 PM   #17
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Nice! Did you get it at auction?
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Old 06-23-2020, 11:34 PM   #18
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As for welding yourself, here's a pretty foolproof way to do it.

First, by all means take a CC introductory course in MIG. That's how I got started. While you're doing that, get a welder and start practicing on scrap. A good quality used welder is better than a new cheapie. Your welding instructor can advise you and might just have a lead on one.

I pulled old bedframes off the street, bought some casters, and made dolly frames for all my toolboxes and shop tools for practice. The nice thing about bed frames is they are made from the worst steel imaginable, full of impurities and crap. Back in the day old timers I knew called it "pig iron." Once you can get those to stitch up decently, (watch out for pops and spatter,) you'll then be amazed how nice it is to weld real steel from the mill. Utility welding (versus structural or critical work that really requires a pro) is a great skill to have and you'll never forget it. Takes practice, though. Be patient and put in the time.

When you do the raise, buy proper hat channel the same as your bus, or take a sample to a steel supplier or sheet metal shop who can fab it up for you on the brake out of sheet. It makes the job so much easier (faster) and both the interior and exterior fabrication to follow will be more straightforward.

I'm a big believer on using flux core wire outside. You won't need shielding gas. and its much easier to get good welds if it is breezy when you do it. You could use stick, but its a big PITA compared to wire feed, and you have a lot to do at less than ideal positions.

Raising a vehicle body is structural welding that requires professional grade skill, IMHO. You don't need a pro to do the heavy lifting, though. They only want to weld- not cut, measure, jack, grind and such...

You can safely do the raise; just tack the whole thing together. Practice your tack welding first. Six good tacks on each hat channel joint (a tack on each corner and both edges) is plenty strong to hold it all together safely. Wire wheel all the flux core tacks clean, and then hire a welder to come out and run beads over your tack welding and straighten out any problems you may not even realize you've created. It will take far le$$ of a pro's time and you'll be surprised how fast they can lay down beads when the job is all ready to go like that. A pro will probably respect you more and do a better job, too. And you'll have a safe bus done right.

Just a suggestion, but that is definitely how I would do it...
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Old 06-24-2020, 12:10 AM   #19
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Since your bus is already cut, I would absolutely not drive it tacked together. It won't be road strength and you'll have to undo it all and clean it up later anyway.

Better to put 1" square tube patches in the unraised channel with two 3/8" bolts above and below to hold it all together until you got home. I would keep it under 50mph on the trip, too, but that's just me...
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Old 06-24-2020, 11:00 AM   #20
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Definitely! We're going to keep looking for a better engine/transmission combo. If this bus is still available in about a month, when we'll be driving that way for a family vacation, we'll stop by and look at it. But all in all, seems like we should wait for a better bus.
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