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Old 12-19-2017, 02:50 PM   #1
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General questions for a newbie

Hello all my name is Greg,

After 12 years of military service, I decided to get out and explore the world. Iíve traveled all over the world, too often this was not on my terms and a lot of the times I didn't take the time to soak in the different scenery of the beautiful world we live in. I have decided to build a skoolie. Iím new to the skoolie world. I have many questions. I do have a general idea of what I want in the bus. Iím not sure how to go about listing things so Iíll just dive into everything. I apologize in advance for the long post.

List:
Wet bath (shower and toilet)
Fridge
Washer/dryer combo (Can I have enough power? Is it even possible)

One I looked at:
Power & Performance:
Kilowatt Hrs. per Year: 96 Minimum Circuit Rating: 15 amps Voltage: 110/120V
Sears.com

Raising the roof Ė This is optional. I would prefer it done however I called my local welder and was told it would cost $20,000 to just raise the roof and weld the side panels. No way Iím going to do this at this price. I donít have the equipment or tools to do this myself.

Solar Ė I would love to have a solar power bus. Iíd be willing to even do a combination of solar and battery if possible.

Plumbing: I would like something so I can be completely off the grid if I wanted to.

As for busÖ

I would like a bus on the larger side. How big can I go?

From reading the different forums and from the response to my first post, Iím told that for what I want the best bus for me would be buses with DT466, DT530 or Cummins 8.3. Transmission with MD3060 or 2000 Series. The body of a Thomas bus because of the success of getting the 6th gear unlocked.

1.Buses with the flat nose, can they come with the engine in the front or back? (I always assumed the engine was automatically in front.)
2.What are the benefits of getting a bus flat nose compared to a bus that isnít flat?

Bus Iím looking at:
Mileage:140,193/Passengers:78/Engine:7.6/Transmission/Fuel Type: Diesel/Brake Type: AIR

*I canít seem to find any Thomas makes or models*

When searching for a bus is the make and model the same. Iím browsing different sites and see a category for make and model, both have Thomas.

I apologize in advance if I have any terminology jacked up or sound like I have no idea what Iím talking about (I donít). Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated! I hope I posted in the right area!


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Old 12-19-2017, 03:38 PM   #2
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Howdy and Welcome Home!--- Always good to have another Vet here. I'm no expert but will try and address a few things on your list.

First and foremost...read all the "Build Threads" you can stand. They are jam packed with real-world info and experience regarding nearly every aspect of choosing, buying and building. From those you can get an idea of what might be right for you. And that is all that really matters. Making it right for you and your needs.

$20K for a roof raise is nuts. The tools and skills are commonly available. My ex-wife and I raised a 40' Blue Bird 19" in a weekend with nothing more than a 4-1/2 grinder with a cut off wheel and a couple of rented barn jacks. Lots of ways to go about it here in many threads. Closing it in can also be as simple as using rivets or finding a friend with a welder. Don't recommend nuts & bolts though, they can wiggle loose.

Solar I know nothing about but is heavily covered here.

Plumbing is very basic and can include anything from a hand poured Jerry Jug & Home Depot bucket to exotic shower massage and bidet. Here again, time spent reading up on this site will help provide both direction and details.

Bus particulars are like everything else, they depend on how you plan on using it. My short bus is all I need but other folks require more space. Skoolies are found in Small, medium & Large. Small, aka; "Shorties", (including cutaway vans) can be found starting around 20 feet...Mid size buses range from around 28 to 36 or so...and the largest are 40 feet long. Each has it's own benefits and limits.

Most will come with a diesel engine but there are some gas guzzlers around. Personally, if I ever planned on anything but occasional trips to a neighborhood Starbucks, I would never consider a gas burner. Diesels have the torque and longevity you'd expect from a big commercial truck (what most Skoolie chassis actually are underneath all that yellow). Much better MPG's too.

As for specific engine/tranny choices..you will no doubt get a range of opinions very quickly so I'll leave that for the group.

Yes.."Flat Nose" rigs can have the engine front (FE) or rear (RE). More opinions there will come but maybe the biggest advantage of an RE is that nearly the whole underbelly is available to hang tanks & storage & such.

Dognoses have the advantage of having more mass out front if a head on collision occurs. But unless they have a tilt up hood, they can be tricky to service and work on.

All Skoolies should be ID'd by Make & Model. They are not the same. Just like Plymouth Dart tells you who and what it is, a Skoolie description should include a manufacturer and the specific model. Not sure about Thomas models but Blue Bird has made quite a number...TC-2000, All American, Micro-Bird, Vision and so on. With many Thomas owners here they can likely fill in those blanks.

Also be advised that as you search for a rig, you will no doubt encounter sellers that do NOT have a clue what they are selling as regards model, engine, tranny or much of anything else. So the better educated you become on your short list of targets...the better you can negotiate.

Best of luck and once again...Welcome Home.
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Old 12-19-2017, 03:39 PM   #3
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Welcome Greg

Your terminology may be a little off at times, but you're doing great. You have a good idea what you want, and that's a good start.

Yes, flatnose buses come in both front engine (FE) and rear engine (RE). The main advantage to this type of bus is there is more floorspace in comparison to overall length. A conventional dognose bus of the same overall length will have less floor space.

Nearly all your choices are a tradeoff. The dognose bus will give the most normal feeling driving experience. The FE and RE buses have their own advantages. It all comes down to what you plan to use it for.

Most RE buses come in one length, while FE buses come in medium length as well as the 40'er. You've got lots of choices to make about the right bus.

I needed something that could turn around in tight areas. That would lead you to believe I chose a shorty, but I'm in a medium size bus that turns sharper than a shorty. It's all about choices.
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Old 12-19-2017, 04:04 PM   #4
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And I thought ten grand was too much for a roof raise!

Welcome to the forum!
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Old 12-19-2017, 04:30 PM   #5
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I thought $5k would be a reasonable price for a roof raise. We're in the wrong business.
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Old 12-19-2017, 04:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
I thought $5k would be a reasonable price for a roof raise. We're in the wrong business.
5k is, IMO a reasonable price.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:02 PM   #7
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Thomas bus names are pretty consistent.

The Saf-T-Liner and F65 are probably the versions that would interest you.

I have a Saf-T-Liner MVP, it was also available as a beefed up, West Coast edition just called the ER instead of MVP. Both are fine but the ER has a build quality similar to Crown, and with prices to match if you can find one.

Bus came in a variety of lengths, conventional or flat front, front or rear engine.

It's the equivalent of the Blue Bird TC2000 and All American range.

One difference is that many of the Saf-T-Liners left the factory with a 78" ceiling height. This is a major plus because for many that would mean it would be comfortable without a roof-raise. Thomas's are a little more complex because they slope in from the window line.

A variety of engines are available, but many have the bigger engines and transmissions to match.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:02 PM   #8
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The legal side of my brain says there would be a lot of liability issues with raising someone else's roof.

Yes, most people have left and right brain. I have legal and illegal.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
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The legal side of my brain says there would be a lot of liability issues with raising someone else's roof.

Yes, most people have left and right brain. I have legal and illegal.
If there were a standard for structural integrity, then there might be issues. As these vehicles are no longer certified as School Buses, then I doubt any standard exists. U-Haul box trucks are pretty flimsy.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:23 PM   #10
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AD Air Force

Hey, I'm basically doing the same thing. ECCB did the roof raise for me, but everything else I'm doing myself. Its overall not that much if you take your time and break the tasks up. That's how I'm attacking it. A roof raise is highly recommended and it is entirely possible to do by yourself as evidenced by a number of posters in this forum. I had the opportunity to buy one from someone I trusted, knowing that the time saved was invaluable. I'm located in Del Rio TX, which isn't the most resource-friendly place in the country, but I'm sourcing a lot of things locally somehow. I have faith in you too!

Let me know if you have any questions. I'm about a month in and just put walls up on the exterior.
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Old 12-19-2017, 07:56 PM   #11
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Greg,

Welcome to the insanity we call "skoolies"! Take a look at my build "Heavy Fuel" in the Bus Conversions "Skoolie Conversion Projects" page. I have a "tall roof" Thomas. With the raise from the factory there really isn't any need to raise the roof further. The 6* side angle at the window line and the roof hump at the front of the bus makes for really steady driving in crosswinds. With blanking out some windows and adding spray foam, my RE bus is relatively quiet and stable going down the road. I have almost 40' of build space and it's easier for me to work on her as well.

Everyone's different here on the site. My suggestion is go and read the threads you find interesting, add some questions for the OP to answer, and that should help you find a bus more to your wants and needs.

Hope this helps.

M
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Old 12-21-2017, 09:00 PM   #12
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Can these haul a mid size car? Whatís the gas mileage on a typical bus? How many gallons? Ballpark is,ok, iím just trying to get a idea. I really want a 40 ft for the room but all I keep hearing is that they hard to navigate on some roads. Are most 40 ft buses allowed on ccampers? I need to be able to sleep 6
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Old 12-21-2017, 09:55 PM   #13
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I actually found a Bucher of these, but many have the Spring suspension. I read air is better. Also many that iím Finding have the caterpillar engine 3126. Whatís a good transmission for these? Would this be able to haul a mid size sedan?
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Old 12-21-2017, 10:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GBuch View Post
Can these haul a mid size car? Whatís the gas mileage on a typical bus? How many gallons? Ballpark is,ok, iím just trying to get a idea. I really want a 40 ft for the room but all I keep hearing is that they hard to navigate on some roads. Are most 40 ft buses allowed on ccampers? I need to be able to sleep 6
Yes they can haul a car. They may haul it very slowly, it will depend on the engine of the bus and, to an extent, its gearing.

Base your estimates on 10 mpg. You may get a bit more, or a bit less but 10 is ballpark.

My tank is 100 gallons. Some are smaller. Around 60 gallons is a common size.

The length of the bus isn't the only determinant as to where they can go. Critical is wheelbase. Front engine buses tend to have a shorter wb, and large overhangs. Rear Engine buses have short overhangs and long wb. Mine is 277" ... that is a whopping 23 feet between the axles. It makes it comfortable to ride in, and a pain to get into my yard.

40' RVs are allowed in any state or federal park where they will fit. Private parks are a bit snobbish sometimes. They often don't like the fact that you have wonderful comfort for $20000, and they spent half a million and don't know how to use most of it.
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Old 12-24-2017, 12:27 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
[B]

All Skoolies should be ID'd by Make & Model. They are not the same. Just like Plymouth Dart tells you who and what it is, a Skoolie description should include a manufacturer and the specific model. Not sure about Thomas models but Blue Bird has made quite a number...TC-2000, All American, Micro-Bird, Vision and so on. With many Thomas owners here they can likely fill in those blanks.

Also be advised that as you search for a rig, you will no doubt encounter sellers that do NOT have a clue what they are selling as regards model, engine, tranny or much of anything else. So the better educated you become on your short list of targets...the better you can negotiate.

Best of luck and once again...Welcome Home.
FYI, Plymouth made the Valiant, Dodge made the Dart.
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Old 12-24-2017, 02:50 PM   #16
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Yeah man.
I played MARINE and have been to more countries overseas than states in the U.S. And didn't take the time when I did have a little to appreciate it except when I was on mainland Japan at CAMP FUJI. Went to the top of MT. FUJI several times.
Having your end goal in sight before you purchase a bus is the key.
Look at motor,tranny and rear gears.
I had luck with buying directly from my local school system. I say luck because they handed me the full 20 plus years of maintenance records they had since the bus was brand new.
I didn't do my research ahead of time so I have a less than desirable final road speed that is costing me more than I paid for the bus to get up to where I want to be.
Good luck.
Have fun.
Be safe.
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Old 12-24-2017, 02:58 PM   #17
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I sounds like you have done a good bit of research all ready and have some great ideas.

A thought on one item: Washer/dryer.

I have lived full time in two different rigs that were equipped with a washer/dryer. IMHO: Unless you are on full hookups, a washer/dryer in an RV is a waste of space.

Living full time out in the woods I really tried to get as much "mileage" out of my clean clothes as I could in order to minimize the number of loads of laundry that I needed to do. Clothes washing still accounted for HALF of my total water use.

The first one I had was a Splendide combo and did a very poor job of drying the clothes. The second one had an "apartment" size stacking unit. It worked better but I could only use it when I had full hookups or similar.

Just my $0.02 based on 9+ years of living full time in my RV'S.

Merry Christmas
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Old 12-24-2017, 04:22 PM   #18
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I am not one for mechanical washers or dryers on a bus. I installed a full bathtub for many reasons. I need a soak in hot water at times as opposed to a shower, getting old injuries coming back a lot lately, that is one reason.
Provides a quick shower, mind you I sit in the tub, but it drains and rinses well.
If I have to wash clothing on the road I just throw the clothes in the tub. add the water and drive. That is my "agitator". Drain, rinse after another hour drive and drain again. I let them dry on A line someplace I stopover or let the sun dry some inside to add humidity when the wood stove is on.
I simplify everything.

John
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Old 12-26-2017, 09:01 PM   #19
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Read "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck. He would seal his clothes with soap and water in a 5 gallon bucket and strap them to the rear bumper of his pickup/camper rig. Drain and fill with rinse water at lunch. Drive some more. Rig a line wherever you stop for the night.
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Old 12-26-2017, 09:32 PM   #20
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Ye3ah, but Charley had the advantage of much bumpier roads back then.
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