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Old 04-29-2020, 08:56 PM   #1
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Checking out a 1984 MCI MC-9: what should I look at and for?

Pretty much the title. I found an okay deal on a running 1984 MCI MC-9 with the Detroit Diesel engine. The outside looks to be in good shape. It was most recently used as a food truck, so the inside is going to get gutted by me.

I'm going to see it in person on Saturday. What should I make sure I look for and at?
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Old 04-29-2020, 10:00 PM   #2
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I can't really offer anything, but I remember this thread being quite informative about coach buses and the DD engine. Crown Guy seems to know his way around coach buses. Give it a read.

https://www.skoolie.net/forums/f36/h...2-29315-2.html
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Old 04-29-2020, 10:08 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Busasaurus View Post
Pretty much the title. I found an okay deal on a running 1984 MCI MC-9 with the Detroit Diesel engine. The outside looks to be in good shape. It was most recently used as a food truck, so the inside is going to get gutted by me.


I'm going to see it in person on Saturday. What should I make sure I look for and at?
Way too much and many many things to cover. Check out one of the coach conversion sites for input. Coaches in general according to the laws of the universe as well as Senior Murphy are guaranteed to cost exponential more amounts of money and time to deal with the most trivial of things. Basically the best rule of thumb when dealing with coaches, and even transit buses, is that if you have to ask...anything, you really don't know enough to be genuinely and properly terrified and should NOT even consider it.

With respect, ignorance in dealing with coaches can cost you everything you have, and then some. I know because I've driven and owned all manner of Crowns and Coaches for more than 50 years in business and privately, and even I won't easily consider a Coach until I have a VERY large, constantly renewable income stream to afford to play that game.

Coaches are as bad or worse than Airplanes, Boats, Ex-Wives, and should be approached as never ending money pits. Coaches are orders of magnitude more complicated with all kinds of extra systems and wiring and things that like to fail.

Just for instance if that DD 2-stroke engine, whether a 6V-92 or 8V-71 should ever need serious repair work, either from day one or 100 miles down the road once you own it you better plan on spending a cool $12-15k bill on it. And then hope you can even find an experienced and reputable shop/mechanic who knows what he's doing. I love DD's to death but I have access to good shops and have experience myself and can get the most out the engines, which also have to be driven properly or you WILL break it. It's definitely becoming a lost art, both driving them and repairing them.

But hey if that all works for you, by all means give it a try, just don't say you weren't warned. All it takes is MONEY.....lots and lots of MONEY. Even a FREE coach. It isn't how much you get it for, it's how much you spend to make it usable and the never ending ongoing repairs and trying to find all manner of proprietary everything at whatever they want to charge you.

Age, service history, road conditions, snow and ice, salt, corrosion, historic quality of repairs, drivers abuse through the years, parts availability, and many many more. Caveat emptor.
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Old 04-29-2020, 10:35 PM   #4
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Thanks! That's excellent to know.
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Old 04-30-2020, 08:27 AM   #5
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@Crown_Guy Thanks so much, seriously. I had kind of fallen in love with it, but I am not prepared for a true money pit.

Back to the drawing board, with the MCI scratched off the list.
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Old 04-30-2020, 08:42 AM   #6
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@Crown_Guy Thanks so much, seriously. I had kind of fallen in love with it, but I am not prepared for a true money pit.

Back to the drawing board, with the MCI scratched off the list.
if you're going to get a coach an mci is a very good coach.
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Old 04-30-2020, 09:10 AM   #7
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Up shot to a Detroit Diesel is that they are veritably bulletproof, and run a good long time with proper care and maintenance. The down shot is that it is getting harder to find a diesel mechanic that understands these engines, and they simply will not run right without an experienced set of hands working on them.

Not sure if the one you are looking at is new enough to have air ride, but blown airbags are a concern, and will be obvious if the coach is leaning to one side. General rule of thumb, the larger and heavier a vehicle is, the bigger the repair bills when they come. Maintenance is expensive too, most oil changes on any commercial vehicle are going to require gallons of oil, not quarts, and it is a special oil for diesels as well.

I would also be prepared to take a CDL course, if you do not already possess such knowledge. Non commercial use does not require a CDL, but buses that large and heavy are extremely dangerous in untrained hands. The same holds true for skoolies, but a tour / coach type bus can do a lot more damage in a bad situation. Converting it to a motorhome does not change any of that.
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Old 04-30-2020, 09:27 AM   #8
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Any MCI with a 2-cycle DD is going to overheat. It isn't a question of if it will overheat. It is a question of when. From the factory the cooling system was adequate for the flatland of flyover country. But when you got into the real hills of the west when the ambient temperature goes over 80* you will overheat. And depending upon how steep the hill is and how hot it is outside will determine how many times you will have to stop on the way up the hill.



An 8V-71 at 318 HP is going to travel very easily at 70 on the flat but will be down to 25-30 MPH on 7% grades. Even slower if it is hot outside. A 6V-92 at 375 HP will be down to 30-35 MPH on 7% grades and will overheat even faster. An 8V-92 at 450 HP will be down to 40-45 MPH on 7% grades and will really overheat fast if you keep you foot in the throttle on a hot day.


Older MCI's have a LOT of electrical gremlins. The MC-9's are not nearly as bad as the A3's, B3's, and C3's. And no comparison to the D and newer models.


Rust can be a problem, especially if the bus was in service in the mid-west and east. A lot of bus re-sellers will move an east coast bus out to the west and try to sell it as a west coast bus.
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Old 04-30-2020, 09:00 PM   #9
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A few thoughts on these replies regarding coaches and MCI's. They are all correct and illustrate the complex nature of operating a Coach of any brand in commercial service initially and later in private hands with limited funds and resources for repair and overall care and feeding. I prefer MCI's for many reasons and would only consider ever getting one for myself.

Coaches are many times more complicated compared to school buses due to all the extra systems like air-ride suspension, A/C, lighting for the passengers, other things for passenger comfort, 24V with many expensive parts, more use of computers in the later years, and generally very proprietary parts per manufacturer forcing you to go get everything from them or used from a scrapyard. Not too many generic or universal parts.

These are only my opinions and worth exactly what you think of them.

It's true that all MCI's had barely adequate engine cooling capacity due to the design of the coach body and twin radiators placed on either side at the rear. They were too small and built for the CANADIAN colder climates(MCI is Canadian). Even the American Mid-west was warm enough to start giving trouble. Certainly in the mountains you had to downshift and keep the engine RPMs up close to the governed engine speed to circulate enough coolant and draw in enough air through the radiators and hoped for the best. Thus all the creative solutions like smaller diameter fan pulleys and "elephant ear" air scoops outside to ram more air into the radiators, even water spray nozzles to cool the radiators. It was all we knew and everyone just lived with it.

It's true that the DD 2-stroke is a very very reliable and fairly hard to kill engine and one of the reasons why so many fleet operators both trucking and almost every bus on the road at the time had them installed. They were extremely plentiful and parts and mechanics to fix them were cheap and easily found. They proved hard to hurt by all the typical "Drivers" at the time.....BUT ..... and it's a key BUT..... Everyone at the time were taught how to drive them properly and get the most out of them. This meant that you could go from an 18 wheeler to a bus (which I did a lot) with the very same DD 2-stroke engine of whatever size and know exactly how to drive it (like you're mad at it) which is what it needs to keep running for many happy 100's of thousands of miles.

This art and experience has been lost with the introduction of the massive and wonderful Series 60 4-strokes and automatic's into the buses where they have made it so brain dead easy to drive (herd) the thing down the road anyone can do it and the professional skill-sets of old are dying out. This means usually that anyone without the experience or training in how to properly drive a DD 2-stroke might buy an old workhorse and inadvertently do damage to it and incur a serious repair bill. Two Cardinal rules NEVER to be broken. Never get it HOT and always keep RPM's up and DON"T LUG it. Everyone knew this.

The newer MCI coaches with the DD 60 had much larger radiators located all across the rear of the bus giving it immense more area and virtually eliminating overheating. This is the reason for the body style change to the large horizontal vents at the rear.

My experience has been that it's virtually impossible to overheat the things and they have so much power/torque they drive like a big car and go up hills keeping up with passenger cars. Awesome. This also leads to apathy by the commercial drivers who are never forced to learn about and develop the skills to know and understand the vehicles they are placing their trust and all their lives in.

I concur completely that MCI is probably the finest coach to try for based on the commercial operator friendly designs and super quality of construction. They are built to be easily repaired, compared to other coaches, overall they are much simpler with fewer complicated extra frilly systems and features which are always hard to keep functioning. I consider them a very solid workman like workhorse that can be kept running and generating revenue, which is all an operator really wants.

This isn't true unfortunately for everything they've built through the years since there have been some solid hits and a few really lousy misses. Anyone familiar with the abysmal "F" coach series? If not that's because they didn't last long and were pushed off cliffs as soon as the (unfortunate) operators who got them found out what POS they all were. I drove a few and hated it every single time.

I've always liked and have personal knowledge driving (lots) of the MC9's all with DD 2-stroke and the later D's and J coaches with DD Series 60 4-strokes. These are all very solid and long production run designs which speaks to their success in service. In fact the D's and J's are still in production today even though they have increased complexity with air quality Cow Piss DEF crap, multiplexed wiring and computerized everything, which they have always had actually but it's gotten worse and show no sign of ever getting better. Compared to Van Hool and Prevost the MCI is still reasonably easy to keep on the road.

I would say that if you can find a good condition MCI D older than about 1999 which will have the DD Series 60 and a good Allison AT740 or World transmission in it you could probably be all right. It will STILL be a complex coach with air-ride and A/C and other systems to be kept in repair but it may be possible for a private party with limited funds to operate it and get the most out of it.

Since they are designed for many 100's of thousands of heavy duty commercial driving they will not typically cause a private owner doing a few thousand miles a year many problems. Once they get fixed you can't drive it enough to break it any time soon. That's a good thing. But getting repairs done in the first place can be hideously expensive. At least in most cases they will STAY fixed....for a while. Driving them is also the best thing you can do. Letting them sit for months will incur all sorts of gremlins. Take them out every month or so and put 50-100 miles on it to keep batteries and everything lubed and seals wetted. This is good advise for any vehicle but especially a coach. They MUST be driven regularly enough to get the engine to operating temp and at road speed to keep everything limbered up and moving as it should.

I don't want to scare anyone out of getting a good coach if they found one, I merely want to provide information to keep you from jumping in to water you may not have known was dangerous. Many guys have perfectly wonderful experiences with coaches and when a good one is found and can be kept in repair they will provide many more years of safe and enjoyable traveling than any kind of commercial RV stick and staples unit.

The trick is to get a good one of a certain year vintage with known historical service history and driving conditions. Preferably a West Coast or non-rust belt state where road salts aren't in use. Low mileage gentle commercial service is a plus and an operator who actually takes pride in keeping his fleet repaired and doesn't scrimp or cheat on repairs and parts. They're around but require patience and research to find and nail down. I fully intend to get an MCI and have my eye on a few right now with operator friends of mine when they decide to part with them. But I have the advantage of knowing the operators and the fleets and they are near me and in some cases I've actually driven the actual units in commercial service with them.

So don't give up hope or be panicked out of ever considering a coach. A wise approach is to get a simpler school bus of some kind you can handle and gain experience......both good and bad....where you will be better informed of what you intend to do and how you will be using your bus/conversion. It's a grand adventure with many rewards and the learning curve and educational opportunities, that means getting kicked in the balls a few times, are many and profound. At least a simpler bus won't, (may not), if you're lucky, take everything you have, but not for lack of trying. You really must watch out and start easy and try to keep your "lessons" under control and within your budget for "learning". Many do this and manage to survive??? It's all part of the madness and yes it can be worth it and the feelings of accomplishment and confidence you'll gain is definitely a PLUS. Just be prudent and don't jump in and bite off more than you can initially handle.

Everyone needs a hobby but some of us just can't help ourselves and get roped into this. What's wrong with us???
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Old 04-30-2020, 09:27 PM   #10
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I have an MCI 102D3, 1998 model, 60 series, B500 allison world series transmission, 6 speed, years ago I drove for greyhound when everything was 2 stroke, the 8V71's were de-rated to 270 hp instead of being 318's in greyhound buses, 6V92's were also derated, I personally never had one overheat but had one break it's blower drive shaft between Louisville and Indianapolis.


in the newer buses with 60 series engines, there is only one radiator, the other one is the inter-cooler for the intake system, each has a big fan with it's own clutch


mine needs the AC fixed, has a leak, probably going to cost over $1000 to fix at minimum
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Old 04-30-2020, 09:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
Any MCI with a 2-cycle DD is going to overheat. It isn't a question of if it will overheat. It is a question of when. From the factory the cooling system was adequate for the flatland of flyover country. But when you got into the real hills of the west when the ambient temperature goes over 80* you will overheat. And depending upon how steep the hill is and how hot it is outside will determine how many times you will have to stop on the way up the hill.

An 8V-71 at 318 HP is going to travel very easily at 70 on the flat but will be down to 25-30 MPH on 7% grades. Even slower if it is hot outside. A 6V-92 at 375 HP will be down to 30-35 MPH on 7% grades and will overheat even faster. An 8V-92 at 450 HP will be down to 40-45 MPH on 7% grades and will really overheat fast if you keep you foot in the throttle on a hot day.
Aside from the cooling issues typical of a rear engine bus, it should be noted here as well that 2-stroke Detroit diesels are famous for being unbeatable on flat ground, but a real dog on hills, and I feel this is a lot of the reason for the cooling issue noted here. A tidbit I forgot to mention in my earlier post. I do, however think the cooling issue could be remedied if you can live with the lack of power on hills. Some of these may have been turbocharged, but there is a trade-off with getting more power along with more heat.
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Old 05-09-2020, 03:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
Any MCI with a 2-cycle DD is going to overheat. It isn't a question of if it will overheat. It is a question of when. From the factory the cooling system was adequate for the flatland of flyover country. But when you got into the real hills of the west when the ambient temperature goes over 80* you will overheat. And depending upon how steep the hill is and how hot it is outside will determine how many times you will have to stop on the way up the hill.



An 8V-71 at 318 HP is going to travel very easily at 70 on the flat but will be down to 25-30 MPH on 7% grades. Even slower if it is hot outside. A 6V-92 at 375 HP will be down to 30-35 MPH on 7% grades and will overheat even faster. An 8V-92 at 450 HP will be down to 40-45 MPH on 7% grades and will really overheat fast if you keep you foot in the throttle on a hot day.


Older MCI's have a LOT of electrical gremlins. The MC-9's are not nearly as bad as the A3's, B3's, and C3's. And no comparison to the D and newer models.


Rust can be a problem, especially if the bus was in service in the mid-west and east. A lot of bus re-sellers will move an east coast bus out to the west and try to sell it as a west coast bus.

Where in the world did you get this overheating crap? As a young man fresh into the military in 1963 my primary source of transportation was Greyhound and Trailways. I made multiple trips from various cities in California to my home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Waukegan Il. I sat in bus seats until by butt got sore BUT I was never delayed by any overheat issue. On either bus line, the only thing they had in common was that they were powered by Detroit 2 strokes, 6-71's and 8V71's. Guess what, after at least 15,000 passenger miles in all US terrain I never saw an overheated bus.
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Old 05-09-2020, 07:39 PM   #13
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greyhound 8v71's were rated at 270 HP, not the normal 318 hp, so generated less heat, private owners tend to crank up the output power of them which will generate more heat than the radiators can handle, also those radiators are quite old and less effective by the the time they get into private hands which also leads to overheating
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Old 05-09-2020, 10:00 PM   #14
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In 1963 none of the Greyhound or Trailways buses had automatic transmissions. With the advent of automatic transmissions overheating became the norm because the cooling system, especially in the MCI buses was not enlarged in order to cool the engine and transmission. On any MCI bus with side radiators like what was found in -5, -7, -8, , -9, -10, and -12 models it meant the driver's side radiator cooled the transmission and the curbside cooled the engine. Effectively less than half the cooling capacity of the stick shift models.


I got the knowledge about MCI buses overheating from owning and operating several of them and working with people who collectively owned and operated hundreds of MCI's. Prevost and Eagle buses didn't overheat as often but if the day was out enough outside, the grade steep enough, and if you kept your foot to the floor even they would overheat.
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