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Old 03-18-2021, 11:51 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Opinion on 2005 Blue Bird C7 Engine

A dealer near me has a 2005 Blue Bird 71 passenger 12 window standard dog nose bus for less than $5k; It's Been listed there for a while. It wouldn't start when I showed up out of the blue to look at it, but they said it's got a dead battery. This dealer is not afraid of listing some buses as needs work, and they represent that this bus runs and drives fine. They said this one was pulled from service after May 2020 but was employed by school district as a running driving activity bus prior to that.

The school district lettering written on side of the bus was in northeast Missouri. They see snow there, but not a lot of salt. (It is sort of sketchy roads up there when it snows).

It did not have rust visible on body or floor when I crawled under.

Questions:
How does Blue Bird compare with International or Thomas (traditional dognose 65 to 72 passenger size) for a similar age?

Is the C7 engine the "most desirable"? The sales lady said it was a popular engine for the skoolie community.

I don't like the "look" of the sloped hood of the blue bird, but that's the last concern; Anyone else opinion on the look of a school bus (international or thomas or blue bird)?

What do people know about a 2005 C7 engine regarding emissions at that time?

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Old 03-18-2021, 11:53 PM   #2
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here's a pic
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File Type: jpg Used-2005-BlueBird-BlueBird-1.jpg (56.6 KB, 19 views)
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Old 03-19-2021, 12:01 AM   #3
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Nice looking bus!


Luggage boxes already! Bonus! Do those go through to the other side? Double-bonus!


What transmission does it have? That is an important question to know, but I think by 2005, you won't get a "lame" one, only "good" or "best."



Can't say a word about a CAT, myself. Except meow.
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Old 03-19-2021, 01:43 AM   #4
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Boxes don't go through. They are simple box shapes that use up the space between the frame rails and outside skin. Those boxes are the reason I've looked at this specific bus! (And the price is one of the lowest in the yard.) I'm also sort of hoping that as an activity bus it was able to go interstate speed. But it belonged to a rural school district. They may have kept to 55 mph roads.

My goals for a Bus:

1) an RV not full time tiny home.
2) simulate a class C RV with a bunk room - I plan to copy the layout of an RV.
3) Instead of RV construction = laminated fiberglass walls / rubber roof on plywood; I'd have an all STEEL body.

4) Cruise at 70 mph on Interstate. (might be tough)
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Old 03-19-2021, 05:16 PM   #5
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Engine: 5.9L 24V-L6 Cummins ISB
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I've got the "worst" tranny: an AT545. I can do 70MPH all day on the highway. It's in the rear-end gearing. Mine is low (3.56 if I remember correctly) which gives faster top-end speed, but less power to go up hills.


With an activity bus, if it is not speed-governed, I bet it will do 70MPH. Just be careful at that speed with that big of a rig!


If this is a nice bus with nice options, then I would ask why the lower price compared to the others on his lot? Don't be afraid to bust the dealer's balls with hard questions about that.


P.S. that sloped hood is your friend when parking it.
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Old 03-19-2021, 05:27 PM   #6
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It seems priced low because this dealer prices blue bird lower than other makes, it's higher mileage than others, a few years older.

Also the clear coat on the hood or any fiberglass looks just awful in person. Horrendous and hideous paint which seems to be bad for Blue bird. I think the hood is fiberglass.

But to a non school operator, bad paint like flaking clear coat is just a good value driving down price for something I'm painting anyway
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Old 03-19-2021, 05:44 PM   #7
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personally I like the C7.. others will tell you it sucks.. while I dont own one ive got several friends with C7s and they have been driven everywhere.. if any of the service lights are on ie Check engine, ABS, etc.. and the dealer wont fix then walk away..


check the oil and coolant for mixing.. after you drive it (see below) look for blowby while idling a worn out C7 will puff like a chimney out of the draft tube.. a good one will have just a bit of light smoke.



drive the bus warm it up really good and watch for oil pressure.. it should stay in the 40-50 range while cruising the highway for 20-30 minutes.. (it can idle at 15-20 and be OK).. remember test it at full warm temperature.. all engines make good oil P at cold ..



C7s dont like RPMs.. you will drink the diesel if its running up at 2400 - 2500 RPM cruising the highway.. the like toi cruise at 1900 to 2100, maybe 2200.



I love these First gen visions.. that hood rocks to me.. looks liek the lampoon family truckster.. !


who cares about the paint you will paint the bus anyway.. just prep the surface nicely by removing all of loose paint and sainding smooth..



diont forget to check the tires.. date codes and also look for any signs of beginning weather cracking on the sidewalls.. tires are expensive for a school bus if they are shot..
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Old 03-19-2021, 09:48 PM   #8
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I'm also in the "C7's a solid engine" camp. Every engine has their pros and cons...and lovers and haters...but the C7 has a generally good history and I'd own one in a second.
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Old 03-22-2021, 02:43 PM   #9
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Here's a pic of a tire; They are in bad shape.

I figure for a <$5k price for the bus, I don't mind paying for new tires and doing the extensive paint prep (which any color change paint job needs anyway)

I can't really start my project until July or later. So, while replies about this specific are appreciated, I'd love to know people's opinions about bluebird bus vs thomas bus vs international.
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Old 03-22-2021, 03:01 PM   #10
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Here's some other buses that I think might be more money than necessary to use a starting point for a conversion; But they are in better shape, and potentially they would have benefits to using as a conversion platform.

Please compare and contrast:

The models are the original bus posted about in question:
2005 Blue Bird with a C7 engine 72 passenger almost 190,000 miles
2008 Thomas with a flat nose front engine Cummins and 84 passenger 156,000 miles == listing price is $3,000 more than first bus.
2007 Thomas Freightliner Safe-T-Liner 84,000 miles same price as the other flat nose Thomas.

Basically, once I can start the project (which is at least 4 months away), I would probably choose the cheaper one as my platform on which to build.

But the other buses offer more length, or more headroom by the windows / walls.

My main question: Is it worth an extra $3000 in bus price to get the newer or bigger bus? Is there anything about a bluebird platform that is less desirable than a Thomas?

Please note; the safe-t-liner is a northern bus and has a much higher chance of rust.
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Old 03-22-2021, 03:37 PM   #11
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Engine: C7 Cat
Quote:
Originally Posted by rgjarrell View Post
Here's some other buses that I think might be more money than necessary to use a starting point for a conversion; But they are in better shape, and potentially they would have benefits to using as a conversion platform.

Please compare and contrast:

The models are the original bus posted about in question:
2005 Blue Bird with a C7 engine 72 passenger almost 190,000 miles
2008 Thomas with a flat nose front engine Cummins and 84 passenger 156,000 miles == listing price is $3,000 more than first bus.
2007 Thomas Freightliner Safe-T-Liner 84,000 miles same price as the other flat nose Thomas.

Basically, once I can start the project (which is at least 4 months away), I would probably choose the cheaper one as my platform on which to build.

But the other buses offer more length, or more headroom by the windows / walls.

My main question: Is it worth an extra $3000 in bus price to get the newer or bigger bus? Is there anything about a bluebird platform that is less desirable than a Thomas?

Please note; the safe-t-liner is a northern bus and has a much higher chance of rust.
I'm liking your first choice bus, the 2005 with the C7. And I agree I really don't care much for the hood but that underbody storage is a real nice bonus. The bus model is 05 but they are using chassis supplied that may have been built as much as two years earlier so that 05 could have an 03 or 04 Cat engine. Most times when people are talking big problems with the C7 they are refering to the HEUI pump failure. In most cases this failure can be attributed to a poor oil change schedule. Dirty oil can take out the pump and if that happens the shrapnel can end up in the injectors. The C7 has a B50 rating of 500,000 miles, this means that 50% of them could achieve 500,000 before requiring major engine service. As a comparison the 5.9 Cummins B50 is 350,000 miles. My bus has a C7 and we have several of them at work and I'd have no problem buying another one. What ever you decide, get an independant mechanical inspection and get building that bus.
Stay safe

Oscar
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Old 03-22-2021, 04:36 PM   #12
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another try at uploading the 3 pictures;

1 pic of a bald tire from the 2005
1 pic of the 2007 flat front thomas
1 pic of the 2008 safe-t-liner thomas
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Old 03-22-2021, 05:01 PM   #13
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Year: 2007
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Engine: C7 Cat
Quote:
Originally Posted by rgjarrell View Post
another try at uploading the 3 pictures;

1 pic of a bald tire from the 2005
1 pic of the 2007 flat front thomas
1 pic of the 2008 safe-t-liner thomas
Unless you are a Thomas tech, electrical engineer or a serious masocist I'd stay away from that 08 C2 Thomas. The 2007 is $3000 more and is a low ceiling bus so unless you're 5'6" or planning a roof raise(add more$$$$) that one is off my list also. Get the 05 running and have it checked out then use the tires as a bargaining chip is my opinion.
Good luck
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Old 03-27-2021, 05:45 PM   #14
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Location: Northern California
Posts: 30
Year: 2005
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: FC
Engine: Cat C-7
I have an '05 Thomas with a Cat C7. I bought it with 46k original mi. The C7 will run good and clean if the engine has been maintained. Clean oil, clean oil, clean oil!! Change often! If mated to a good Allison model and your cooling system is clean and operating properly, expect to have a long dependable service life! Just be patient with the low, 185-215 hp output. Our is loaded to 30,000 lbs gross, including 7000lbs trailer and have taken many a Western states mountian pass with no grief! Down hills are a different story🤔
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Old 03-27-2021, 05:52 PM   #15
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What top speed is it capable of? What top speed seems comfortable? I'd like to go 70 ish keeping up with semi trucks. My current class C motorhome really doesn't like more than 65 once we occupied it. (With it empty of people and stuff it likes 70 on interstate just fine).

How's fuel mileage?
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Old 03-27-2021, 07:13 PM   #16
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Year: 2005
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: FC
Engine: Cat C-7
Quote:
Originally Posted by rgjarrell View Post
What top speed is it capable of? What top speed seems comfortable? I'd like to go 70 ish keeping up with semi trucks. My current class C motorhome really doesn't like more than 65 once we occupied it. (With it empty of people and stuff it likes 70 on interstate just fine).

How's fuel mileage?
Not towing and the Air Con(s) off, Im about 8mpg on flat frw at 62-65 mph. It will go 70 at WOT. I don't mind a slower cruise, especially with a 7000 lb trailer behind. I guess with more hp, it would do better, but I just head to the bunk and let my wife take the level fwy driving.
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Old 03-27-2021, 07:31 PM   #17
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Friend of mine has a 40 footer rear engine 05 C7 all American with md3060 and she runs 70 all day long and doesn’t think twice. About 2100 rpm and consistently gets 8-10 mpg. It’s not converted as is a party and trip bus ( we fill it with tools and stuff on our bus rescue missions) and he runs 30-40 passengers when it’s rented as a party bus. Plus full of 100 gallons diesel . Had that bus like 2 years and zero issues out of the C7
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Old 03-27-2021, 08:04 PM   #18
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35 people averaging 150 pounds is the equivalent of 630 gallons of water!

I'm thinking an RV converted bus is lighter than a loaded bus. Seats and people weigh a lot.

Next consideration: flat tow offers the ability for my wife to drive the towed vehicle if we want the bus to handle better than with a tow. But a flat bed trailer is best on the car being hauled.

For now in the RV we've just driven the van instead of towing it. Or done without.
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Old 03-27-2021, 08:29 PM   #19
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Bluebird vs Thomas vs International:
I'm a school bus driver. I own an International skoolie, have driven Thomas and International (all sizes, years, models) for two different school districts. Yet, we have some Bluebirds. The last two days I've driven a 40' bus and didn't even think to look at the brand. I was like "wow, nice bus.". It was a Bluebird.

I wasn't surprised. They are considered a Cadillac of buses.

Engine:
If RossV and Cadillackid say the c7 is a good engine, it's a good engine.

Transmission:
I haven't seen that you've told us what transmission is in the bus.

Allison Transmissions - All automatics
Transmissions are matched to the HP of an engine. With lower HP you may have a lighter transmission, because the tranny doesn't have as much torque to tolerate.

AT545 - 4 speed mechanical. Don't buy if it has this tranny. It's a lightweight tranny and doesn't take much abuse from all I've read.

MT643 - 4 speed mechanical. Strong tranny. But, with only four gears the power range is wide and your mpg and cruise will be lower because of it. Also, as it's the same tranny I have, if it has an electric shift modulator, it's a known issue. I'm still trying to resolve the issue on my bus, and will be bypassing the OEM system to add a known workaround.

The 643 can have a lockup torque converter, which generally happens in 3rd and 4th, giving you a 1:1 ratio with the engine.

1000 Series, 2000 Series, 3000 Series:
These are all computer controlled with a minimum of 5 speeds. While all things mechanical have their pros/cons, these transmissions in general have good reputations.

Some have a 6th gear that may or may not be unlocked. If the gears are actually present, they can be turned on via the TCM (transmission control module - computer).

The larger the number, the heavier duty the tranny.

Personally, if I have to ever replace my transmission, even though I have a RE bus, I'm seriously looking at upgrading to a computer controlled model for the reasons stated.

Per testing the transmission, especially if it's a 545(yuck) or 643, test them going like 25mph then pedal to the metal. It should downshift. Hold it to the floor and, per Cadillackid, shifts should occur at higher (2400-2600) rpm rather than lower. Next, find a steep long grade, head up it again with pedal to the metal and hold it. See "IF" it downshifts or starts to lug as it looses speed. If it doesn't shift at the higer RPMs, doesn't downshift then you likely have something not right with the tranny.

Tires:
EXPENSIVE! Get quotes before negotiating, because I think you'll be surprised what 6 full size bus tires, mounted, tax, etc. will run you.

Front End:
School buses are designed for safety, not speed. That said, "some" activity buses are designed for over the road trips and the Engine, Transmission and Rear End gearing are matched to give you power going over summits and speed on the freeway. But, when I say speed, I mean like 65.

Because most buses spend their lives around town, going over all sorts of rough roads and such, you may find a front end issue. Alignment, wobble at freeway speeds, etc. All of these in a big heavy vehicle are unpleasant and UNSAFE.

Brakes:
Again, SAFETY and EXPENSIVE. When was the last time you jacked up a bus, removed 40" tall wheels and tires, pulled the drum and replaced the shoes? Right, probably been a while.

Test these for pulling at low and higher speeds. I've had buses pull the wheel through my hands when the front brakes grabbed.

Starting:
Batteries (plural) are not cheap. Knowing what batteries the bus uses (probably a group 31) and their condition are important. If one battery isn't in good shape, it can wreck the other batteries. Generally, when you have to replace starting batteries, you replace them all and don't mix and match brands, group, type. You get however many of the same new battery.

If you don't you are not going to really do anything except have to replace your batteries again much sooner than you should.

Summary:
All that said, it's just like buying a car, you have to check all the essientials. The difference is, it's not a car. It's a friggin' bus that is a lot harder to work on in your driveway, a lot harder to find parts and the parts are a lot more expensive. So, the better you do at checking all this before buying, the less chance your $5,500 bus will cost $10,000 after all is said and done.

Best of luck!
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Old 03-27-2021, 08:59 PM   #20
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Location: Columbus Ohio
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Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Quote:
Originally Posted by rgjarrell View Post
35 people averaging 150 pounds is the equivalent of 630 gallons of water!

I'm thinking an RV converted bus is lighter than a loaded bus. Seats and people weigh a lot.

Next consideration: flat tow offers the ability for my wife to drive the towed vehicle if we want the bus to handle better than with a tow. But a flat bed trailer is best on the car being hauled.

For now in the RV we've just driven the van instead of towing it. Or done without.

bus seats definitely have some weight but in the overall scheme not so much.. id say what 50 lbs per seat.. a 14 row bus like my buddy's wouldve have 28 seats.. so.. 1400 lbs.. or 7 fat kids.. .. his bus has about 1/2 the normal amount of seats being a party bus with all but the first couple rows turned sideways along the sides. .. an 84 passenger bus (elemantary kids 3 to a seat.. say 8400 lbs?



towing a car and a trailer is probably a total of what 6000 lbs (more if its an SUV)


the standard rear engine C7 in an A3RE. seems to be 250 horsepower and paired to an MD3060.. the bus does in fact haul ass when its empty.. maybe not like my red bus but it hauls for a big bus.. and it sounds good doing it. the C7 has a nice turbo sound
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