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Old 05-15-2009, 10:50 PM   #1
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need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Hello, I am looking to get a few questions answered. I have been researching buses and conversions all day today and most of the times I am lead to this site in one way or another. I have two Schoolies in mind and I need some advice.

The two buses I am looking at are
1989 Bluebird 31' with a 5.9l Cummins Puller with 95k miles
and a 1982 Thomas 35' with a unknown Cummins diesel. pusher with 65k miles

The Bluebird is in a little better shape cosmetically but I don't like the individual drip rails over the windows. I want to block off 90% of the windows and those rails are a dead giveaway that there is supposed to be a window there. Now the Thomas has one continuos rail which I like better.

First, any idea which engine is in the Thomas?

Second, Is that 5.9l big enough? Thats the same engine in the Dodge trucks right? Seems that platform is a little big for that engine. Maybe i'm wrong.

Which one has cheaper/more availible parts as far as the engine chassis goes?

I'd prefer the Thomas for the Pusher and the body but don't want a turd of a bus to start with.

Thanks, and sorry for the newbie questions.

Chad
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Old 05-16-2009, 01:37 PM   #2
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

The 5.9 is a fine engine for a bus. The Thomas might well have one. Unless it's a "triple nickel", the awful 555 Cummins. (That's a non-turbo V8.) RUN AWAY from a 555 as fast as you can. I recall most pusher Thomases were repowered with 3208 cats, but that one might be original. (If the engine is yellow, it's a Cat.)
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:22 PM   #3
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Ok, I found out the Thomas is a VT225 cummins Turbo diesel and the tranny is a Allison 3 SOD overdrive trans. MT643. Are these any good?
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:38 PM   #4
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

i think that's the triple nickle cummins 555.......i've heard nothing but terrible things about them, never seen one myself.

looking on some other forum i found this line about the cummins vt225

Quote:
Well, when ours weren't busy belching out a black oil cloud, they often found time to pump a bunch of antifreeze in the oil.
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:44 PM   #5
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

I just got off the phone with a local cummins mech. and he said they were good engines in there time but are obsolete so parts are near impossible. Also being a pusher, replacing that engine is goingt to be tough. Guess I'll keep looking.

On a different note, has anyone ever seen a blue bird with the drip rails removed?
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Old 05-18-2009, 09:41 PM   #6
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Found a '96 crown carpenter 40' down in texas with a 5.9l/allison 185k miles asking price of $5200 is this too high? I can't find any others for sale to compare it. It has the one piece drip rail that I want. So far the Thomas, Ward, and carpenters I found have a one piece d.r. I really getting burned out on looking for a bus What kind of headroom do school buses have? I haven't been in a bus in years.
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Old 05-19-2009, 02:05 AM   #7
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

5200 is to much if you ask me, keep looking have some patience the right deal will come along I paid 1750 (Canadian) for my 96 40' Thomas pusher with 200k miles. i dont think to many people on this site paid more then 25-3000 $ for their buses. Headroom in mine is 6'2" but higher ones are available. look at the roofline if it dips past the drivers area its around +6' some are straight and some even go up. wish mine would go up
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:57 PM   #8
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Ok, need some more engine choice advice.

Cat 3208
DT466
5.9l
Which would you choose in a bus?


I am looking a a 1991 Thomas 72 passenger now with the Cat 3208 pusher in it, It is everything I want but I was really hoping for a DT466 in a bus but if the cat is a good reiable engine I may go with it. Whacha think?
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Old 05-29-2009, 08:33 AM   #9
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

I hear ya on the patient part. Unfortunatley I have a lack of it. I am tired of tent camping. I'm getting too old for that crap. As a matter of fact I will be loading up today for a two night trip this weekend. I'm sure I will be worn out when I get home Sunday.

I just can't do the bluebird skoolies though. I prefer one long continuos drip rail like the Wards and Thomas buses. I think I will end up paying premium for "the bus I want". They are just not plentyful within 500 miles of me. And when you do find them Prices are typically $4000 and up. Maybe it is becuase of all the Churches here buying them up.

To be honset, I have not found my "perfect" combination anywhere in the US. This Thomas I just found yesterday is local and they are asking $3000 for it. I might be able to get it for $2500. It is as close to my combination that I have found. Just don't no about that CAT engine. I too prefer the DT466 but have never seen them in a Pusher bus. I will call and see if it is a Turbo today.

BTW, about how long is the inside of a 72 passenger Pusher bus? I am really hoping to get around the 35' range.
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Old 05-29-2009, 08:57 AM   #10
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

the 3208 cat is a great engine, practically bullet proof up to 250hp, unfortunately it's on the endangered species list due to emissions compliance, cat is/has phasing it out and is replacing it with a 6 cylinder 3116/3126 that is easier to bring into current and future emissions compliance.

it's a safe bet that parts will continue to be available for years to come.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:24 PM   #11
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

I'm in Claremore, Ok. It is bassically N.E. of Tulsa, Ok. N.E. corner of the State.
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Old 05-29-2009, 10:34 PM   #12
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

As stated, the Cat 3208 is nearly bullit proof, they put them things in trucks, buses and bull dozers for many years. I work for a truck dealer (Cat Cummins & Det Diesel authorized) and you can bet there are so many 3208's out there the parts will be available for a long time to come, they still sell rebuild kits for them too.

Mine is Naturally Aspirated (non-turbo) and has done just fine, it'll hold it's own going up a grade even with the Jeep in tow. Not sure how much better the turbo would be, I'm sure it's gotta be better but I wouldn't be afraid of a Naturally Aspirated one. The motors no longer comply with current emissions standards so Cat has stopped making them. Mine has 191,000 miles on it and still runs great.
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Old 05-31-2009, 12:13 PM   #13
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by vanguy67
Quote:
Originally Posted by tfdfyrman
I'm in Claremore, Ok. It is bassically N.E. of Tulsa, Ok. N.E. corner of the State.
I know where you are! I used to live on South Peoria Ave in Tulsa. I worked at Valmont Industries in north Tulsa for a couple of years.

If I found a good bus for you here in Nashville, TN...I'd drive it out to ya just to see some of my old friends.

Did you go look at this bus that's on the Tulsa craigslist site: http://tulsa.craigslist.org/bfs/1192411349.html ??

He's had both of these buses for a while. (He actually has 2 for sale..or did), I talked to him on the phone about them but, at the time, he was kinda hinky about the titles. He said he bought them both from a school and they had just signed the titles over to him. I asked him when he would get the titles back in his name as I wouldn't buy a bus without a clear title and he hemmed and hawed around and never gave me an answer. I think he planned to sell them to someone with just a bill-of-sale to avoid him having to pay the taxes on them.....I blew it off.

They're supposedly sitting right off of the turnpike on the west side of Tulsa....

Yeah I am going to look at it today. That is the one I am referring to with the CAT engine.
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Old 05-31-2009, 04:51 PM   #14
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

I bought my bus just east of Dallas...is that within your area? When I bought a few weeks ago. He had two Thomas's and one BlueBird. The were almost identical. I bought one of the Thomas's. He was looking to move them. I had my choice at $2000. I still have his number if you want to call him. These buse are out of college station....no rust.

Be very patient grasshopper.....

After looking over my bus and what I want to do with it I should have held out for a pusher that had the storage underneath. I have to build it now and it will prove time consuming and costly I am sure. I did find a flat face and a cummins, which was non negotiable...what can I say Im partial. The others were flat faced as well.
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Old 05-31-2009, 06:59 PM   #15
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Well I am back. I went and looked at it. Settled on a price of $2500. I am supposed to go get it tomorrow with the stipulation that he can get it running. (The batteries were dead) Fluilds are all full and relatively clean, has 124k on the odometer and just under 10k hours on it (don't no if that is good or bad.) It is a Thomas 75th aniversary 35' Pusher the with a non turbo CAT3208/Allison 643 combo. It has a little damage to the drivers side on the ribs unfortumatley but I think I can deal with that. He said it ran like a champ at 70mph down the highway. Seemed like a pretty honest guy. He even got on to one of his employees for cussing in front of me kids, Which I respect someone that is aware of things like that. Anyway, I'm pretty excited and nervous at the same time. It's a big project and I'm a profectionist so this is libile to cost a lot of money in the long run.

Chad
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:58 AM   #16
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

He has the title in hand. I looked at it yesterday. What the deal is, is that it was signed over to him by the school trans. dept. I am meeting him at the tag office this morning. He said they will know the "best" way to do it. However, is the past what he has done is add the buyers name to the title. for example, "Baileys Salvage OR John Doe" And when you fill out the address part of the title it is addressed to John Doe with his address. 3 days later it shows up in your mail box and at that time you have the option of paying $12 to have it put in just your name only. Otherwise it will have to be changed to his name for around $50, mailed to him, then I would have to go get it and do everything over and pay another $50 to change it to my name. Of coarse I will varify that this is how it works with the tag office before I do anything. It is more of a risk on his part than mine. I will have the bus and title, he will have nothing. The "OR" part on the title will allow me to do what I want with it and not have his sig. Sounds confusing but It makes since to me andI have bought and sold many vehicles over the years.

Since these buses are put together is in panels, I was hoping I could replace the damaged one, but I don't know exactly where I would get one to match the style. I'll have to work on that.
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:43 PM   #17
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Got it. and it's home. Drove like a dream stopped on a dime. It is indeed a 3208Turbo/allision 643. I spoke with the Jenks Pubilc schools supervisor this morning about it. He said it was a good running bus when it went to auction. Had a ton of information about it simply by memory. He even remembered how many miles were on it. It has gobbs of acceleration power and top speed is governed at 65mph and it just purrs around 2800rpm.
I am a little concerend about the oil pressure though. once it warmed up it idles with pretty low oil pressure, around 10psi. At 1500 RPM it jumps to 45psi and running down the road at speed it runs 50psi. When I come to a stop though it drops to 0psi and the oil light comes on for a second then it jumps back to 10psi at idle. I guess I'll call a CAT mechanic tomorrow. Maybe a oil pump? It runs too darn good to be anything major.....I hope
I'll start a picture album soon.
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Old 06-01-2009, 10:24 PM   #18
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

Yeah I am going to change the oil before I drive it again. I am worried about the idle pressure though. Driving pressure is good.
Oh, and the title thing worked out great. We went to the tag office that he frequently goes to and the lady had him just sign it over to me and didn't even charge me the penalties. It cost me a total of $86.50 for transfer, registration, excise tax, and a new non commercial tag. I will have the title in the mail in 3 days
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:02 AM   #19
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Re: need advise to buy a schoolie for a conversion

From what I've read, the 3208 can be prone to excessive rod and main bearing wear if idled for excessive periods, or if lugged a lot. With your mileage in a Skoolie, it may be a factor in the low idle pressure. I've seen suggestions to change the bearings every 90K miles. Keep that thing running between 2000 and 2800 rpm, it's not a low RPM motor like some in line 6 cyl engines.
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