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Old 03-03-2015, 12:10 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Can you tow behind a rear engined school bus?

Can you tow behind a rear engined school bus?

I am planning on doing my first skoolie conversion and I am looking at a rear engined Thomas as my platform. But being able to tow a trailer (at least 5000#-no more than 8000#) is essential. I am wondering if anyone knows if rear engined school buses can be fitted with a two hitch, and/or can a Thomas HDX or Bluebird All-American be fitted with a tow hitch.

Thanks for your time and expertise.
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Old 03-03-2015, 05:55 AM   #2
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Not sure with the way school buses are framed, but with coaches you need to have the engine cradle reinforced or it will warp and ruin the bus. However, that's the good thing about school buses over coaches, they are made infinitely stronger and typically have a full frame that the body and engine are just set into/onto. Check under the bus and see if it has full frame rails running front to back, if so I don't see any reason a standard receiver wouldn't work on it as it would a front engine.
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Old 03-03-2015, 08:02 AM   #3
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I can't say about the others, but on a Blue bird RE the main frame does not go all the way to the back. The engine is mounted on a smaller frame that is bolted to the main frame. I'm sure it's strong enough to tow with, not sure how much weight it will support.
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:02 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Outcast View Post
Not sure with the way school buses are framed, but with coaches you need to have the engine cradle reinforced or it will warp and ruin the bus. However, that's the good thing about school buses over coaches, they are made infinitely stronger and typically have a full frame that the body and engine are just set into/onto. Check under the bus and see if it has full frame rails running front to back, if so I don't see any reason a standard receiver wouldn't work on it as it would a front engine.
This is precisely what my thoughts were as well. I have not had the opportunity to examine any rear engined school bus myself to see how far the frame rails extend.

I am hoping that someone here has personal experience with one of these models or one similar.

Thanks.
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhereinusa View Post
I can't say about the others, but on a Blue bird RE the main frame does not go all the way to the back. The engine is mounted on a smaller frame that is bolted to the main frame. I'm sure it's strong enough to tow with, not sure how much weight it will support.
That's good info to have thanks. The idea of bolting a tow hitch to a subframe that is, in turn, bolted to the main frame and then trying to tow a flat bed car hauler behind that makes me wary.

Thanks.
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:12 PM   #6
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Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 11.08.57 AM.png

I found this imagine, which is supposedly a Blue bird All american chassis.

I cannot see a reasonable way to attach a hitch to the back...
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Old 03-04-2015, 04:16 PM   #7
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Towing

I have no idea, but if you want advice on how to build a hitch you came to the right forum.
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Old 03-04-2015, 04:52 PM   #8
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We need detailed pics of the back end frame rails of a TC2000 Rear engine.

All buses can survive a hit from the rear. Therefore there has to be something there strong enough to bolt the trailer hitch to.

Nat
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Old 03-05-2015, 12:42 AM   #9
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Here are a few shots from the back of my year 2000 CSRE. No idea how it compares to a TC2000 frame.. but at least it's something to talk about.

Somewhere along the way a previous owner set it up with some extra C channel and a 2" receiver tube in the rear bumper for towing. The photo also shows the section of C channel spanning between the two engine sub-frame rails to support the front engine mount. (it's still called the front mount, I guess, since it's on the side where the serpentine belt is -- even though that's more to the rear of the vehicle)

The trouble is, the hole for the hitch pin is so far back that I can't find any ball mount with a throat long enough to reach. I began cutting out the receiver tube, intending to weld in a new piece with its hitch pin outside the surface of the bumper, then noticed there's another hitch pin hole drilled through it but hidden inside the bumper assembly. I haven't decided whether to use that inner hole with some kind of long-reach hitch pin like what B&W have done with their turn-over ball gooseneck hitch (click the FAQ tab and scroll down a bit for photos), or finish replacing the tube, or abandon the whole thing in favor of a new hitch like the Draw-Tite 41990. My hang-up with the Draw-Tite is that the receiver would be lower to the ground than I like. But those angle brackets on the existing bumper setup aren't super confidence-inspiring: the misalignment is so bad that several bolts can't be fully tightened so that the metal is clamped together well.

Anyway.. that's where things are at with my towing with a rear engine.
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Old 03-05-2015, 08:12 AM   #10
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I do have a hitch on my BlueBird RE, there is no doubt it is strong enough for a towed where there is no downward hitch weight involved. In my case not much weight of any kind. My towed only weighs about 1800 lbs. Pictures of the hitch here.

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/so...a-6318-15.html

As you can see, I welded a cross brace inside the bumper that is as wide as the frame rails to eliminate any bumper flex, then tied the whole thing to the engine cross member. I don't seem to have any pictures of where the engine frame bolts to the main frame. I'll try to add one later.

Dick
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Old 03-05-2015, 10:41 AM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 2.19.18 PM.jpg

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 2.20.22 PM.jpg

I took these two screen shots of what I believe is a late 90's early 2000's Blue Bird tc2000.

On these buses it looks like the frame rails run all the way out to the back bumper...

I am looking to haul a dual axle car trailer and I do not think the total weight with car and trailer will be more than 6000lbs but I also do not think that it will be any less than 5000lbs; which means that will come out to at least a 500lbs of downward force at the hitch:

Thoughts?
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Old 03-05-2015, 10:59 AM   #12
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That kinda looks like the Cummins 5.9L... I wonder whether they build with the frame rails full-length for the smaller engines that can fit in between, and shorten the frame rails when the bus is to be built with a larger and wider engine..?

Those frame rails sure seem to stop well short of the bumper, and when you add to that the length of a ball mount to finally arrive at the spot where the tongue weight hangs, it kind of looks like a long overhang to me. I'd guess the hitch framework would need to extend at least a foot, maybe two feet along the frame rails..? There might be some challenges involved in relocating whatever else might be bolted to the frame in all that space.
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Old 03-05-2015, 11:03 AM   #13
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Unhappy

Quote:
Originally Posted by family wagon View Post
That kinda looks like the Cummins 5.9L... I wonder whether they build with the frame rails full-length for the smaller engines that can fit in between, and shorten the frame rails when the bus is to be built with a larger and wider engine..?

Those frame rails sure seem to stop well short of the bumper, and when you add to that the length of a ball mount to finally arrive at the spot where the tongue weight hangs, it kind of looks like a long overhang to me. I'd guess the hitch framework would need to extend at least a foot, maybe two feet along the frame rails..? There might be some challenges involved in relocating whatever else might be bolted to the frame in all that space.
Good point. I had a similar thought considering I would prefer to have a much larger engine than the Cummins 5.9 for towing. I am beginning to doubt that, even with modifications, towing a car hauler behind one of these rear engined buses is wise.
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Old 03-05-2015, 01:19 PM   #14
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Physically the 8.3 is only a few inches bigger than the 5.9. The 8.3 is not any wider than the 5.9.

I have never seen a 5.9 rear engine. I think they did come that way though.

Nat
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Old 03-05-2015, 01:28 PM   #15
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I've seen 5.9 RE's.
For towing, I'd look for Bluebird FE with the 8.3
There was a really sweet BB AA FE with the 8.3 and low miles at auction here a few months ago when I was shopping. I bid like crazy and had to quit at 3500 .
That was a sweet east coast bus.
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Old 03-05-2015, 07:17 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I've seen 5.9 RE's.
For towing, I'd look for Bluebird FE with the 8.3
There was a really sweet BB AA FE with the 8.3 and low miles at auction here a few months ago when I was shopping. I bid like crazy and had to quit at 3500 .
That was a sweet east coast bus.
A 8.3 front engine rides real bad. Nose dive city.

Nat
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Old 03-05-2015, 07:21 PM   #17
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He won't be having any nose dove issues hauling tons of weight like he is planning.
Empty semi's ride bad, but I've never heard anyone complain about the ride of a bus based on what engine is in it.
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Old 03-05-2015, 07:27 PM   #18
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Here's the frame set up on a AARE Bluebird



As you can see it is pretty beefy, no idea if it's strong enough to carry a load, probably. It does flex quite a bit if you try to jack the bus up using it.
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Old 03-05-2015, 10:40 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I've seen 5.9 RE's.
For towing, I'd look for Bluebird FE with the 8.3
There was a really sweet BB AA FE with the 8.3 and low miles at auction here a few months ago when I was shopping. I bid like crazy and had to quit at 3500 .
That was a sweet east coast bus.
Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhereinusa View Post
Here's the frame set up on a AARE Bluebird



As you can see it is pretty beefy, no idea if it's strong enough to carry a load, probably. It does flex quite a bit if you try to jack the bus up using it.
Thanks for all that info, especially those photos of the engine frame's relation to the main frame.

All that guess work with the rear engine mounting options has me leaning towards something more like what you've got there EastCoastCB; everywhere I read, people talk about the reliability of the DT466. That engines reliability, plus the fact that I have mostly only seen it in front engine configurations has me second guessing whether or not its even worth it to try and go Rear engined.
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Old 03-05-2015, 11:42 PM   #20
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I'd jump on any good buses with 8.3 Cummins, too.
Great engines for buses.
For cheapness and reliability, the 466 is pretty hard to beat. For towing look for a 210 hp or higher. They made them up to 275hp if memory serves me correctly.
Another thing would be the transmission.
Get a stout one like a 643 or similar. I'd stay away from the 545's for heavier duty or towing.
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