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Old 08-08-2015, 02:40 AM   #1
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Year: 1998
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Cummins 8.3 vs Cat 3126B

I bought my bus in June, a 2000 Thomas MVP-ER. As I've gotten into this project, I've discovered that the steel floors are rotted out quite a bit, the transmission is throwing a code for the lockup solenoid, the engine is leaking oil from several O-ring locations, the exhaust is pretty bad, and the rear tires are so-so at best.

On that solenoid, the online price is $50, but apparently Freightliner and Stuart-Stephenson don't know what "F Solenoid" (as it's referred to in the service manual) or "Lockup Solenoid" is or how to find it for pricing/ordering and I'd rather have the part in hand than ordering some unknown object online.

I've pulled the seats, scraped off all the lettering, removed the stop sign and front clearance bar. I've installed a vapor/moisture barrier, framing, and OSB sub-flooring, drilled for a primitive shower, and am about to commence bed and living quarters installation.

This thing is supposed to take us to Burning Man on the 28th, so I've got my work cut out for me.

NOW, there are suddenly a pile of RE buses for sale that I believe will have Cummins 8.3's in them (can't verify until Monday). I have no idea what the price will be, but I'm having serious thoughts about trying to buy one, scrap mine, and start over.

I have 3 weeks. Is the Cummins worth the hassle of starting over?

PS - My Thomas was originally a Montgomery County bus (there are several threads in here about them), built and bought for flat land operation. It does not have any retarder and I've got several mountains to cross in the next month. Not sure that these new prospects have one either, but I would guess they do if they were originally purchased for use in Colorado.

I'm leaning toward the Cummins if the option presents itself. If you know of any definite reason to go with it or to NOT go with the Cummins, please let me know.

Also, if you're familiar with them, what kind of fuel mileage can one expect? On the Cat, I've heard anywhere from 7-10mpg, so that's clear as mud.
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Old 08-08-2015, 07:29 AM   #2
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Hey, I say if you can afford Burning Man, you can afford two buses!
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:30 AM   #3
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Sell your bus and get the Cummins.
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:59 AM   #4
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Is the auction another Maryland sale? If so, well, the rust and mechanical issues will be very similar. Just ask Porkchopsandwiches. If the auction is much further south, then I'd say go for it, use the 2000 as a parts bus, then when the conversion is done, scrap the 2000. Since I don't have deep pockets, heck, I don't even have shallow pockets, I spent three years looking for Heavy. Bought her for the best price, from the most rust-free area of California, and drove her home without any issues. Just sayin'......
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:55 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Hey, I say if you can afford Burning Man, you can afford two buses!
Oddly enough, buying the bus wouldn't be the biggest problem, but parking would be beyond challenging. My current spot is $100 a month and I think they're out of spaces...

I appreciate the thoughts.
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Old 08-08-2015, 02:05 PM   #6
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those buses (the roller auction) look real good. im considering one too.
the down side of those buses is the lack of underneath storage or the tall roof. but they are real nice starting platforms.
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Old 08-08-2015, 02:36 PM   #7
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I'm gonna head over Monday morning, kick some tires, go from there.
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Old 08-08-2015, 06:16 PM   #8
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please share what you see....

im about 150 miles northeast of there so not to convenient to see. if they go for cheap, i'll get my second bus.
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Old 08-09-2015, 02:24 PM   #9
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I'd love to get my hands on an 8.3L pusher bus. Would also like to know what's available.
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Old 08-09-2015, 02:43 PM   #10
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I'll take a look tomorrow morning, try to see if anything stands out as great or terrible...
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Old 08-10-2015, 03:59 PM   #11
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Sounds like you're in the same boat as me and my lady. We are going to Burn too. Leaving on the 26th. Huge 40ft project. I wish you luck
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Old 08-10-2015, 06:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by StruggleBus View Post
Sounds like you're in the same boat as me and my lady. We are going to Burn too. Leaving on the 26th. Huge 40ft project. I wish you luck
Thanks! We're leaving Colorado on the 28th,so I have all kinds of time, lol....

We'll be at 7 and Esp. Bruleé - Bacon brunches, stop in and say hi if you like.

Red n yellow circus tent. Might be a red and black set up as well.

- Vic
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Old 08-10-2015, 07:33 PM   #13
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Updates. Yes, all the buses listed as having "7.3 Cummins ISC" engines have 8.3's, MD3060's, and retarders. Most have at least one issue standing out. Most of the issues are things that can be fixed with enough time and/or money, but there are a few that I'm just not sure which way to go.

There's one with a fairly new looking engine and decent tires. Everything was looking good until the rear tank suddenly dumped air pressure. It didn't trip the E-brake, but it did go into alarm and is showing red on the gauge. Not sure what could cause that. Power tank drain perhaps? Didn't see any switches for that and I'm not sure how it would work.

Another one, everything looks great, but there's no light on the retarder switch. Could be a switch, could be a dead circuit, could be a malfunctioning piece of equipment. Again, no way to really dig into it.

There's another one that has great tires, runs good, but the switch to change with gauge you're looking at fails to operate, one of the ABS modules twitches after you shut it down, etc.

A couple of them have dead batteries. The blue bus (#45, I think?) has the start of a conversion done wrong and the batteries were too dead to start. It has a 5.9 24V Cummins. Not sure which trans, but I'd guess 545. Has a shifter handle instead of the pushbutton setup.

Lots of things to think about for the next couple of days. If you have questions about a specific lot, feel free to PM me and I'll answer it the best I can.
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Old 08-12-2015, 07:30 PM   #14
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Well, now I have one of each kind. Pics of the "new" sled...
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Old 08-12-2015, 10:39 PM   #15
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Nice! What are you going to do with it and how are you going to tow it away? How often does this place have auctions for buses like this? I will be keeping an eye on this site. Those buses are exactly what I'm looking for in a skoolie. 8.3L, MD3060 and I'd love to have the emergency door on the right side so I could lower it and put a RV style door in and a seat up front for the passenger. I wanted to bid on one of these but couldn't get to Denver for a few weeks at least.
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Old 08-13-2015, 12:22 AM   #16
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I don't think there's any set schedule, just whatever comes in for auction each month. I bought my Thomas in June, but there were only two school buses and about 30 Orion V transit buses. This auction had about 20 school buses from Jefferson County, very little rust. I guess they got a bunch of money last year, bought new buses, so these got retired.

As for the tow away, this bus had a note about a bad throttle valve. I picked up a new one this afternoon, but it had the wrong mounting boss. I loosened up the existing valve to see if I could make the air cylinder work. I was doing something in the cab and noticed the cylinder wasn't leaking air anymore, so I fired up the engine and hit the pedal one time. The resounding VROOM was enough for me to put it back together and drive it to my shop. I guess they don't like sitting in reserve....

Whatever the cause, this one went for about $1000 less than the driveable buses. Between the new tires and LED tail lights, I'm pretty sure I could part it out and be money ahead...
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Old 08-14-2015, 12:17 AM   #17
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Sounds like you got your work cut out for you
Are you going to try and register it as a motorhome?
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Old 08-14-2015, 12:55 AM   #18
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Yeah, probably. We made an interesting discovery tonight. On the Thomas, the rubber floor was laid directly on top of the steel deck. On this Bluebird, there's a layer of plywood under the rubber and it's swelled quite a bit in places, especially around the fuel fill cutout.

I was planning to strip the floor, coat with Ospho, lay a vapor barrier, Styrofoam underlayment, and vinyl planks. I'm afraid there will be more rust than I planned to contend with right away, so I think we're gonna leave the rubber in, just put down a layer of carpet padding and some cheap shag, do everything as cheap, but practical as possible, then tear it out and do it right for next year.

Ain't got time to do it right, always got time to do it again...

PS - I'm having a sale on bus seats. I got brown ones and green ones, high backs, low backs. Hurry, supplies are limited!
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Old 08-14-2015, 12:58 AM   #19
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And yeah, gonna shoot for RV registration.
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Old 08-14-2015, 08:14 AM   #20
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How much was it? My next one will have AC
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