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Old 12-17-2019, 08:42 AM   #21
Bus Crazy
Mountain Gnome's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 1,136
Year: 1999
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC1000 HandyBus
Engine: 5.9L 24V-L6 Cummins ISB
Rated Cap: 26 foot
For what it's worth...

My mid-size bus has a relatively short wheelbase, and is fairly easy to park. The wheelbase is only a few inches longer than my minivan was, but the bus is 26' in length. I can parallel park it with ease.

My mom has a 2013 Nissan Versa, a sub-compact car. It is so poorly designed, I call it a rolling blind-spot with a front portal. Really, I have a better idea what is around me while driving my BlueBird. When I back into parking spaces driving the Versa, I'm never in there "strait" (parallel with the white parking-space stripes). Even when I pull in forward, it is not so strait. Yet I can blindly back my BlueBird over the small bump at the top of the driveway and then down a hill to the bottom where it ends, and get it positioned within a few inches of where I want it.....on the first try. I park my bus in a parking lot (taking two spaces end to end), and the while lines are parallel and I'm nicely between them.

If I were to brag, I would sat that I'm a very good driver when it comes to the skills of physically controlling my vehicles. Comes from my days of 4×4ing and road-racing my truck when I was a kid...

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Old 12-17-2019, 08:50 AM   #22
Bus Geek
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 23,323
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
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Old 12-17-2019, 09:09 AM   #23
Bus Geek
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Weeki Wachee, FL
Posts: 3,028
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: Cummins 5.9
Rated Cap: 72
I think a short bus is great if you're not full timing but I've been on both ends of the spectrum and recently bought a 38 footer.
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Old 12-17-2019, 09:25 AM   #24
Bus Crazy
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 1,136
Year: 1999
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC1000 HandyBus
Engine: 5.9L 24V-L6 Cummins ISB
Rated Cap: 26 foot
Originally Posted by BusVagabond View Post
I've settled on a Flat-Nose bus between 22ft and 24ft in exterior length. After much brainstorming and many revisions, I know I can pack the floor plan I want into only 18ft of space. The established extra length occupied by driver's seat, bumpers, etc appears to be 6ft for flat nose buses, while I have also seen several threads where it has been less than 4ft.

Problem is, no flat-nose buses were made that short. The closest appear to be the TC-1000 which seems to range from 26ft to 28 ft in its smallest iterations, as have been discussed in many threads and several conversion threads here. Also an excellent bus in its flat floor for wheelchair access.

However, it seems that almost all TC-1000s came with the dreaded Allison 545 tranny.

I don't plan to drive up Everest with this bus, but I do plan to ask a lot of it, well within the range of 25K to 50K miles a year. Those miles will consist of a wide variety of climates and grades. Interstates and narrow mountain roads alike. All things that school buses in general were never built to do, and more than the average Skoolie is looking for from their bus. Then add in Allison 545 with no lockup torque converter...

I don't want to be one of those people who buys bus, pours everything into conversion, becomes emotionally attached to bus, to then only have fantasy of skoolie lifestyle vanish while I struggle up a slight grade at 35 mph on the freeway.

I'd like to comfortably be able to maintain 55+/60+ mph in all freeway settings regardless of grade, and 70mph/75mph on flat road if so desired.

Thanks to the thread from @CadillacKid on his Red Byrd Tranny swap (, I understand that switching out the tranny wouldn't be as simple as one might hope.

Add the Cummins 5.9L, and I'm well below 200hp. If I'm going to do a tranny swap, why not just upgrade the engine too?

I love my BlueBird TC1000. The AT545 is not a "bad" transmission - just not desired. The Cummins 5.9L gets the fuel-mileage, and has no lack-of-power issues for a bus this size, even when I loaded it with tons of crap to help some folks get to a festival that they were vendors at (the rental truck they had in mind was rented). A whole kitchen full of stuff filling my bus almost to the ceiling, and from the back-door to the center. I didn't even notice it, or the trailer, while driving it through the mountains in N. Cali.

You can swap out the tranny for an Allison MT643 with relative ease. Swapping the motor is not a relatively easy job.

Skoolies are built to specs for the environment they were planned on being used in. Most are stop-and-go in the flatlands for the TC1000, yes. But most hills do not slow me down significantly. Only the biggest/steepest ones, and I'm still passing the semis. So twice driving from GA to Cali I slow to 35MPH for a few mins. The rest of the time I can cruise and sip fuel at 60MPH using 10-11MPG, or for a 1-2MPG loss (never seen it less than 9MPG, driving in stop-and-go city traffic), kick it at 75MPH all day long. No probs for me...

Hope you find what you are looking for.....or can fabricate it. I would personally think twice about chopping up a longer bus, unless I was quite skilled with metal and quite the engineer, and had PLENTY of time.
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Old 12-17-2019, 11:12 AM   #25
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Colorado
Posts: 400
Originally Posted by BusVagabond View Post
Obviously extremely broad generalizations that have to account for numerous variables, but when should one start to worry about an engine "going" considering that it has been well maintained and taken care of? 200K, 250K, 300K? I thought I saw a thread where Cadillac Kid or someone said that if well maintained, shouldn't worry too much about anything under 250K? Could be way off base there, I'll try and find that thread again.

I'm here trying to learn, so please help educate me.
I know some people on here are not going to agree with me and the following but it is a industry standard most professionals go by.

A mechanical vehicle is designed to go about 200k miles and 15years before it becomes more expense then it is worth maintaining in most commercial applications. Numbers can vary with different models and mathematical formulas. When you buy a school bus from an action or a re seller it has been “retired” from commercial use because the odds are it will cost more to maintain it then leasing a new one. Basically the professionals that buy and maintain buses for a living were worried about the major components “going”.

In the world of “retired” school buses there are factors that make them worthwhile to many of us. Some have mechanical experience, time and space to work on things. If you go to 3rd world countries you see retired driving all over because labor is $30. for 60hrs. Many people get into one for 2k drive it for a year until it breaks down and needs 3k worth of work and discard it. Also we will drive them a lot less then the average commercial application making the odd of expenses possibly less. It is a gamble.

Old school buses work for a small number of people, it is a niche. Will it fit into your life and skill set ? Do you want to grow a skill set that will apply to that kind of project ?

I agree with others that you should get one and drive it around and camp in it before you get too far into your idea of what is the perfect bus. In the grand scheme of things It is a small entry barrier 2k-5k some time and space. Just do it.

If you flip houses you should be able to handle some issues and problems that come up. lol
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Old 12-20-2019, 10:37 PM   #26
Join Date: Jul 2019
Posts: 16
Originally Posted by BusVagabond View Post
I flip houses and acquire rentals. Flips are purely for purpose of helping to acquire more rentals. The goal is and has always been financial freedom through passive income. When I started out I did everything myself for several years until I was gradually able to outsource things. Now, I solely focus on business/design/logistics side of things. I currently turn 3-4 properties per month and have built up a substantial rental portfolio. I am in a very good place in my life financially.

However, I have never viewed money as the ultimate goal, but merely a means to do what I want, with who I want, when I want, where I want. Life isn’t about the destination and the material items you acquire and hoard along the way, rather it is about the journey and the people you get to share that journey with. For me, at a certain point, what is the point of pursuing more money? All I want is enough to pursue the experiences I desire with the special people in my life and I’m pretty much there.

For a while now, I have planned to start stepping back from business in Spring of 2020 and begin pursuing travel and these experiences with special ppl in my life full-time by Summer of 2020. This bus, is a small but very important piece of that vision.

It has been easily a year of brainstorming about this bus and what I’d need out of it. Which resulted in where I am now. If it costs $20K to get a bus that meets desires performance and reliability in the size I desire, then that is okay. I’ve pinched pennies in enough areas of my life for long enough to get to this point where I can pursue these experiences and adventures I’ve planned for so long without having to stress over budget.

I’m more interested in the HOW for this bus than the IF. I’m interested in the best way to go about creating the bus platform I desire, cost & difficulty not withstanding.

Thus, for the above 8.3L Cummins bus with the MD3060 transmission. If I find right person and spend enough money, is it possible to shorten frame as I desire to?
I’m with you BusVagabon. Rat Rods, dragsters, Wheelie buses. All personal custom efforts “just because we could”!!!
I’ve been toying with electric. 4 ea 80 hp motors. Low center of gravity with batteries. Combo diesel (LPG) generator to keep charge. Half track conversion on rear float axel ? Possibilities are endless. Shrinking a frame, adding slide outs, etc are all up to you.
I’m looking forward to your adventure. Dig in and go for it!!!
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