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Old 05-07-2020, 09:02 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2020
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Opinion on this flat floor bus please

Hello everyone, the wife and I have been looking at a 30ft Thomas Flat Front Bus to convert into an RV. We currently use a teardrop when camping but the kids are outgrowing it.

The interesting thing about the bus we like, is that it is a flat floor with no wheel wells. Do they raise the floor (and reduce headroom), or do they adjust the suspension and reduce the bumpstop? There has to be a downside to this tradeoff, there cant just be flat floors for free in a bus.

I like the engine and transmission, but I need to know what else to ask. Also, I am very concerned about what I can see regarding the rust on the back above the door (does this mean water also got inside the back and rotted out the floor pan?)

It's located 8 hrs away, so I cant just stop by and look at it. What all should I ask for from the seller (its a bus depot) so that I can better analyze this bus?

2003 Blue Bird

128,000 miles

Cummins 5.9L - 24 Valve

Automatic Allison 2000 Transmission with Overdrive

Air Ride

Air Brakes

Cruise

Tilt Wheel

Front Engine

Flat Floor

75 3/4 inch ceiling height floor to ceiling. - this feels a little claustrophobic

Price is $3,500

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Old 05-07-2020, 09:06 PM   #2
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Pictures

Pictures from the seller
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Old 05-07-2020, 10:04 PM   #3
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Wheels are smaller than a normal bus and they're given less clearance, which is how the flat floor happens.

With the matting and plywood up, your ceiling will be 6'4"-6'5" - this is almost as good as it gets (mine is 6'7" but that's pretty much the ceiling for buses, pun intended).

Nice bus if it's rust-free. Maybe a tad expensive but not hugely so.
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Old 05-07-2020, 11:09 PM   #4
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The area around the battery box is heavily rusted.


I the rear above the door is another batch of rust and the driver side corner in the rear has been in some sort of incident and shows body damage.


You may do well to offer less than the asking price.
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Old 05-07-2020, 11:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
The area around the battery box is heavily rusted.


I the rear above the door is another batch of rust and the driver side corner in the rear has been in some sort of incident and shows body damage.


You may do well to offer less than the asking price.
Oh, yeah. My eyesight must be going. I didn't see any signs of rust first time through.
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Old 05-07-2020, 11:49 PM   #6
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I don't know about the rust on the bus, but that bus might make a really good conversion candidate.

What is the prices these days for a bus? Regardless, $3,500 was the price of a good used car back in the good old days -- 3 months ago!
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Old 05-08-2020, 12:06 AM   #7
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For rust to accumulate above the door (versus below it or along the frame) how would that even happen? Is that from salt spray from behind the bus?

I don't want to drive 8 hrs to find out it's a rust bucket. Nor do I want to buy sight unseen then find a rusted floor pan when I pull up the subfloor...
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Old 05-08-2020, 12:09 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
Wheels are smaller than a normal bus and they're given less clearance, which is how the flat floor happens.



With the matting and plywood up, your ceiling will be 6'4"-6'5" - this is almost as good as it gets (mine is 6'7" but that's pretty much the ceiling for buses, pun intended).



Nice bus if it's rust-free. Maybe a tad expensive but not hugely so.
The seller says it's currently ~76" (or 6'4"). How would it gain height to 6'5" once the floor insulation and plywood are installed? Or am I misunderstanding you. If so I apologize
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Old 05-08-2020, 12:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bus-bro View Post
I don't know about the rust on the bus, but that bus might make a really good conversion candidate.

What is the prices these days for a bus? Regardless, $3,500 was the price of a good used car back in the good old days -- 3 months ago!
The rust visible on the outside is only the tip of the rustburg. What this means is the OP should be careful in examining the bus. Crawl under with an ice pick and poke at the frame and floor. See if there are any rust-through spots. Same for the stairwell as this is also a high-rust area. I also forgot to mention that the hinges show rusting.
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Old 05-08-2020, 05:56 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTwitch View Post
For rust to accumulate above the door (versus below it or along the frame) how would that even happen? Is that from salt spray from behind the bus?

I don't want to drive 8 hrs to find out it's a rust bucket. Nor do I want to buy sight unseen then find a rusted floor pan when I pull up the subfloor...
Buses rust from the inside out. The windows, lights, hatches and roof seams (basically every opening in the bus body) are prone to leaking, and then water gets inside and where it comes to rest (usually in the plywood floor but also sometimes in parts of the rear wall structure higher up) you start having major rust. Even without any leaks, kids track in salty snow which melts into the floor. Rust on the exterior of a body can seem minor, but it never is.

You are definitely going to find a rusty bus at the end of your 8-hour trip. Check out my build thread if you want some extra motivation for not going.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTwitch View Post
The seller says it's currently ~76" (or 6'4"). How would it gain height to 6'5" once the floor insulation and plywood are installed? Or am I misunderstanding you. If so I apologize
I wrote
Quote:
With the matting and plywood up, your ceiling will be 6'4"-6'5"
By "up" I meant removed. The factory plywood is 3/4" and the matting on top is 1/8" or so, so you gain about an inch of headroom when you take it out. You will of course lose much of your available headroom when you insulate your floor and ceiling.
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Old 05-08-2020, 05:59 AM   #11
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Just my 2 cents-
I don't really care for lowrider buses on little wheels when it comes to how they ride. Expect a stiff, jarring ride.
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:15 AM   #12
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Thank you everyone. The most valuable part of these communities is having people highlight the things we subconsciously don't want to see.

Been looking for a 30ft flat nose Cummins for so long that the excitement of finding one for a reasonable price had me justifying "a little bit of rust" and an 8 HR drive.

There is a rust free 28 ft flat nose bus for sale in the town I work but:

It's a Cat engine bluebird

It's 2 feet shorter than the layout we planned

It's 3x the priceScreenshot_20200506-160740.jpg
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Just my 2 cents-
I don't really care for lowrider buses on little wheels when it comes to how they ride. Expect a stiff, jarring ride.
Tires, not wheels. We have a 30' dog nose with a flat floor and it's running on the normal 22.5" wheels, but low profile (255/70) tires. I do know they put the 19.5" wheels on some wheelchair buses, but a lot just run the low profile tires. Granted, the shorter sidewalls will give a rougher ride, but again, a wheelchair bus usually comes with air suspension so that helps.

Good luck on on your search!
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Old 05-08-2020, 01:34 PM   #14
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Update. The blue bus above is local. It's a 2005 caterpillar engine that has 26,000 miles. Seller claims it doesn't have emissions or DEF in it.

1. Is this possible?

2. Would anyone buy a caterpillar with this low miles? I mean I see everywhere how much people trash on the caterpillar engine as being expensive

They want $9kScreenshot_20200506-160715.jpg
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Old 05-08-2020, 02:21 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTwitch View Post
For rust to accumulate above the door (versus below it or along the frame) how would that even happen? Is that from salt spray from behind the bus?

I don't want to drive 8 hrs to find out it's a rust bucket. Nor do I want to buy sight unseen then find a rusted floor pan when I pull up the subfloor...
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTwitch View Post
Update. The blue bus above is local. It's a 2005 caterpillar engine that has 26,000 miles. Seller claims it doesn't have emissions or DEF in it.

1. Is this possible?

2. Would anyone buy a caterpillar with this low miles? I mean I see everywhere how much people trash on the caterpillar engine as being expensive

They want $9k
As has been said: school buses tend to rust from the inside out. In the case of the rust over the door frame I'd bet the clearance lights and/or the flasher/lites are leaking so imagine the trail of rust from the inside -- imagine the rust you see on the outside as where all the water and rust on the inside finally escaped from -- you see the tip of an iceberg...

RE: the cat engine -- I like mine! I think it's a Ford vs Chevy thing...
In 2005 I believe this will have a C7 engine. search "Adept Ape" on Youtube -- he talks about CAT with authority.

$9000 is high dollar for sure and I like the blue...
Depends on what else is going on with the bus -- all new full size tires are a $3500 bill right there...

My bus was free and I didn't finally agree to take it till after I looked at it -- 'cause "free" will cost you... ;)
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Old 05-08-2020, 03:02 PM   #16
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My Cat has 64k miles. Its possible to find a low mileage bus.
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:28 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTwitch View Post
Update. The blue bus above is local. It's a 2005 caterpillar engine that has 26,000 miles. Seller claims it doesn't have emissions or DEF in it.

1. Is this possible?

2. Would anyone buy a caterpillar with this low miles? I mean I see everywhere how much people trash on the caterpillar engine as being expensive

They want $9kAttachment 44288
My 2007 model Thomas has a C7 in a Freightliner chassis that was manufactured in November 2005. The C7 was introduced in 2003 and put into production in 2004 so is there a chance you have a 3126? Hard to say. Tell the seller to show you what engine it is. 26,000 miles? Really? I would want proof of that also
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:29 PM   #18
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Engine: Mercedes 6.4L
$9k is pretty steep....but, not having to paint your bus, what's that worth? say a couple grand? Local, you don't have to travel to get it...another grand?
Low miles....how many hours on it?
Go talk to the guy...have maybe 5k in cash in your right pocket, and maybe a little more cash in your left pocket....I'm betting that people aren't lining up to buy it right now, but who knows. The worse he will say is "no deal".
Good luck.
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:34 PM   #19
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Quote:
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My 2007 model Thomas has a C7 in a Freightliner chassis that was manufactured in November 2005. The C7 was introduced in 2003 and put into production in 2004 so is there a chance you have a 3126? Hard to say. Tell the seller to show you what engine it is. 26,000 miles? Really? I would want proof of that also
It's from a local airforce base, supposedly a lot of local running around from different sides of the base. Probably a ton of idle hours but I can see how the mileage would be low
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Old 05-09-2020, 12:12 AM   #20
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The last Air Force bus a member here purchased ended up being a gem!
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