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Old 09-01-2017, 07:55 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
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Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
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Intro and Bus Opinions Wanted

Hi all,

Not super serious yet, but my family is fantasizing about taking a year off starting next summer to wander the county in search of a new place to live. We sort of ended up in Phoenix by accident, and next thing we knew we'd been here for 15 years. We've seen enough of RVs to know that's probably not the best option for us. I don't think we've managed a single outing with the grand parents in their 32' class A without the boys managing to break some cheaply made piece of RV furniture or interior

We will probably be renting a Winnebago View to try out sometime soon. The 15-25 mpg on the Mercedes diesel sprinter platform is at least somewhat appealing given the shock of the thought of giving up our 50mpg Priuses for a <10mpg bus/RV. I'm also a sucker for vintage buses, but that's probably a whole lot more trouble than we're ready for.

So in many ways a skoolie probably makes a lot more sense for our family of 5 (2 adults, 3 boys 11/9/3, 2 cats and 1 dog to spend a year living in. We don't really need anything fancy, just rugged, reliable, and convenient/comfortable enough to not get too much in the way of the primary goal of exploring and spending time together.

I think I've picked up some of the basics of what to look for, but wanted to see what you all thought of this as a possible example of what we might want to build on:

1997 BLUE BIRD ALL AMERICAN RE, 78 passenger (36-37'?), 8.3L Cummins, Allison (maybe 3k series based on pics) transmission, high roof (assumed from windows line in pics), air brakes (possibly air ride as well?), dual roof AC, 3 under bus storage compartments, and transit style windows. 247k miles. Price is $10k fresh out of fleet service and inspected by large local new/used bus dealer. Seems a bit high, but maybe worth it if dealer bought translates to ready to drive, and/or some significant service done for mileage? Like the idea of the transit windows vs. traditional school bus windows, under storage seems very handy, seems like potentially a good drive train / mechanical setup for the size? Maybe good enough for towing a trailer or vehicle?










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Old 09-01-2017, 10:42 PM   #2
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Its cool, but man that's a lot of money.
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Old 09-02-2017, 03:14 AM   #3
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With 5.38 rear gear I would guess that bus has the MD3060 OD transmission. The touchpad gear selector also suggests it has the OD transmission.

Coach A/C is nice but I wouldn't pay extra for it. I don't know how that coach A/C system is hooked up. I do not see an A/C compressor in the engine compartment. I only see on alternator so I doubt it is an all electric system.

The bus looks extremely clean. If it is at Canyon State Bus Sales in AZ, the buses they sell used tend to be really nice. The old dogs are usually sold south of the border or to scrap. If it is at Tillery's in NM, they usually have very little in the way of inventory and what they have is always very nice. If it is in CA at A-Z, they always price their buses at crazy prices and for some reason they are able to sell that at those prices.
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Old 09-02-2017, 09:55 AM   #4
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That's an clean bus but the price is steep. If your willing to drive to Oregon I bet you could find a better deal. I have a few friends that bought their buses from western bus sales, they have a website but if you call them they usually have cheaper deals.
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Old 09-02-2017, 12:06 PM   #5
Skoolie
 
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Thanks all, appreciate the feedback very much! I'm going to try to go see this bus next week if I can to get some more info.

The price seems high to me too, though I suppose it's all relative. Expensive compared to dragging a free bus out a field, cheap compared to buying a $150k class A RV ;) Finances are of course one of the big concerns about taking this leap. I don't want to spend more than we have to, as it eats into our overall savings for spending a year on the road. But have also had enough experience with vintage vehicles to know that buying the cleanest / best platform you can afford often pays big dividends in terms of reliability and rehab time / costs. I don't know how much that translates into the skoolie world, or if this is an example of a prime sample or just inflated price.

Part of my concern is if we go for it, we won't really have a ton of time to work on it before next summer. Particularly given all the other projects we'll have on our plate of getting our house ready to sell, thinning out our possessions, and getting the rest into storage. Which makes the thought of potentially minimal mechanical needs quite attractive. It's also one of the draws of the transit style windows, which might save us a whole lot of time and effort dealing with school bus windows?

cowlitzcoach: I'm hoping for a MD3060 based on the control panel and gear ratio just as you observe. The bus is at AAA Bus in Phoenix, any experience with them?

From the pics at least I though it looked incredibly clean for a 20 year old bus. It will be interesting to climb underneath and see if it's as clean down there, but I'm hoping that's one benefit of looking at buses down here in Arizona. Again hoping that will potentially save us a lot of time if we don't have a whole lot of rehab related to rust and leaks. The engine compartment also looks really clean for the age to me. Wondering if that's just good maintenance or possibly a sign that it's already had some rebuild work done? Hopefully they'll have maintenance records so we can see what's been done.
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Old 09-02-2017, 12:27 PM   #6
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I have never had any dealings with AAA Bus Sales so I have no opinion about them. It appears that they have a very nice inventory of Type 'D' buses. From the picture of their sales lot it would appear as if they have more buses on the lot than they have in their online inventory.

If for some reason the BB doesn't do all that much for you in person the 2001 IC RE3000 looks like a great bus. It has just about everything the BB has except of coach/transit slider windows. 10424 - aaabussales.com

You may want to double check but starting in about '00 almost all IC RE buses came from the factory with rear air suspension. That is a really NICE option.

If the pricing for the BB and the IC are close I would choose the IC over the BB. I will freely admit part of the reasoning is a Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge sort of bias--I just don't like BB's, I don't like how they are put together, and I think the IC with the rear mounted radiator will have fewer issues with overheating than the BB.
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Old 09-02-2017, 01:15 PM   #7
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Thank, I appreciate the opinions. That International with the DT530 had caught my eye as well. Seems like a nice bump over the DT466. Air suspension (particularly rear) does seem like a really nice feature from a comfort and maintenance perspective from what I've read.

OTOH the BB has air horns ;) I admit I like the look of the classic BBs, part of me really wants a Wanderlodge. Probably the not so smart part. Not that this one has much of that look left to it anyway.
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Old 09-02-2017, 03:32 PM   #8
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Air horns can be retrofitted without too much difficulty. I plan to do just that to mine.
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Old 09-02-2017, 06:19 PM   #9
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You can find em cheaper in AZ we picked up ours for $5000, 1996 BB 84 pass, 5.9 12v Cummins. Smaller engine and trans but it'll get us where we need to go and it opens up the budget for the build

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Old 09-06-2017, 12:49 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
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Quote:
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Air horns can be retrofitted without too much difficulty. I plan to do just that to mine.
Sorry, that was an attempt at humor ;)
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Old 09-06-2017, 06:09 PM   #11
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 228
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
Am I right in thinking that the '97 BB is about the last of the all (or mostly) mechanical models? From digging around a bit it seems like '98 might be when they started adding ABS (and electronic engine controls?), with the major model changes starting in '99?

Interesting note, found 3 recalls on the '97, 9 on the '98, 16 on the '99.
Blue Bird All American 1997 - car safety information, failing parts, recalls, bulletins, complaints
Blue Bird All American 1998 - car safety information, failing parts, recalls, bulletins, complaints
Blue Bird All American 1999 - car safety information, failing parts, recalls, bulletins, complaints

Not necessarily opposed to electronics, just wanting to understand the time line.

Also, have come across several older BB TC2000s locally with what seems to be a generator driven trans/air airconditoner. Can't seem to find much info on this system, anyone know anything about it? Unfortunately nothing else on these busses quite fits, short roof, 9 row, 5.9L cummins, but curious if these systems were ever installed in other buses and if they work well.



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Old 09-06-2017, 06:19 PM   #12
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I suspect that what you are seeing there is not "generator run" A/C but is what some call a "pony engine" to directly run the A/C compressor(s).

If that is in you bus, I have to tell you that it is completely useless and you need to pull it out immediately and ship it to me so that I can dispose of it for you..........

You aren't buying my logic are you.......

With the pony engine you can run "road air" while parked and running a (relatively) tiny little 3 or 4 cylinder diesel engine instead of your big coach engine.
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Old 09-06-2017, 06:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
I suspect that what you are seeing there is not "generator run" A/C but is what some call a "pony engine" to directly run the A/C compressor(s).



If that is in you bus, I have to tell you that it is completely useless and you need to pull it out immediately and ship it to me so that I can dispose of it for you..........



You aren't buying my logic are you.......



With the pony engine you can run "road air" while parked and running a (relatively) tiny little 3 or 4 cylinder diesel engine instead of your big coach engine.


Ah, very interesting. The seller listed it as a generator, but you could well be right! There are several of these similarly setup buses for sale in Phoenix right now from different dealers. All similar short wheel base, wheelchair lift, front engine TC2000s from the late 80s, early 90s. AAA just listed one on CL.

http://phoenix.craigslist.org/cph/ct...295690571.html



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Old 09-06-2017, 07:28 PM   #14
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I'll just chime in briefly.. Looks nice a nice bus. It's at a price premium and has more miles than I'd want to start out with. If it has the pony setup for the AC that's an awesome feature. Looks really nice, but some potentially expensive unknowns like tire age and wear are left out.. You could easily spend $3k on a set of tires.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:41 PM   #15
Skoolie
 
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Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
Thanks Brokedown, I suspect we're going to want to go with something like one of the bigger BB All American REs or IH REs discussed on the first page, but this feature certainly caught my eye. Since these are from some of the bigger new/used/parts bus dealers in town, I thought it might be interesting to see if they have any units out of the buses. Probably be a nightmare to retrofit into another bus though.

Our thinking currently is it's probably worth the premium buying from a dealer if it means we're getting a well maintained bus that's been gone over and made ready for service again.

Still hoping to go walk the lot on Friday, will be interesting to see what they have.


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Old 09-06-2017, 07:52 PM   #16
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With the unknown variables like tires, I'd say that price is around double what you should be looking to spend. Full size buses are not rare!

Check out govdeals, here's an example: https://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?f...35&acctid=6851
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:56 PM   #17
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I've seen mechanical engines in buses as new as 1999.
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Old 09-14-2017, 07:46 PM   #18
Skoolie
 
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 228
Year: 1997
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Thanks all again for the support.

For better or worse we just put down a deposit on the 1997 Blue Bird AARE. I'm sure its still on the expensive side, but we came to a deal that we didn't feel like we could walk away from in hopes of finding something as good at better price later. They did come down on the amount, and will be removing the seats and luggage racks plus taking care of some small mechanical issues.

The seller took us for a nice long ride and I have to say it rides and drives much better than I was expecting. Surprisingly good pickup and no problem marching right up to 75mph if you wanted to. He believes the top end was all rebuilt with a new p pump and upgraded to ~290hp based on conversations with the district mechanic. Hoping to talk to them directly and see about maintenance records, etc. Bus was still in service when it was traded in this spring, came from a small district up North that finally got bond funding to upgrade their fleet. Kind of ideal really, still no snow / ice to speak of, but also not as harsh as Phoenix's summers. Tire DOT codes show them to be late 2009, look pretty good. Spare tire is included.

It certainly shows its age in places, but overall I still can't believe how clean it is for it's age.




Cummins 6CT 8.3L Engine:





Hydraulic Fan / Radiator



MD3060 Transmission




More undercarriage




100G fuel tank


Under Storage


Battery Box


Wheel / hubs (front will be checked)



Air Seat


Swanky Faux Wood Panels


Dash (Note to self, check oil pressure sender)



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Old 09-14-2017, 07:56 PM   #19
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I would pay good money for a bus like that... while that pony engine is generally pueposeful for the A/C.. you can often fit a 200 amp alternator to it andhave enough power so that you can run an inverter with all your other needs for electricity..
-Christopher
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Old 09-14-2017, 08:15 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I would pay good money for a bus like that... while that pony engine is generally pueposeful for the A/C.. you can often fit a 200 amp alternator to it andhave enough power so that you can run an inverter with all your other needs for electricity..
-Christopher
I thought it was pretty intriguing but for better or worse the pony engine was on another bus, a 10 window low roof TC2000 special needs. One nice thing about visiting a dealer was getting to see lots of different busses all in one place and quickly get down to what we really wanted. I know we're still paying a bit more up front and am sure we'll still run into unexpected things in a 20 yo vehicle, but I'm hoping we can avoid some of the common problems folks run into by starting with one that seems very well cared for and already has most of the features that we need/want. Only time will tell if that was a smart move I guess ;)
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