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Old 01-01-2019, 11:15 PM   #1
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Questions about towing and converting?

Been debating on buying a school bus and converting it for traveling use and pulling an enclosed trailer.
I was wanting to buy a class a diesel pusher but not interested in spending 30k+ on an rv when I can buy a bus comvert what I want,build how I want and spend when I have the extra on it.

I know guys pull trailers with diesel rvs so I assume same can be done with a bus?

My question is will this work like I think it would? Will I be able to pull down highway around 65mph?

What bus engine combo should I be looking for?
will be pulling a 28ft enclosed aluminum trailer with racecar, parts, spare parts and such. Trailer should be weighing around 8k max total weight loaded.

there is a 94 international bus with a dt466 engine. plate says its an amtran model s3600. if that helps. would assume in a way it could as i was using my ford superduty 7.3L truck pulling an older heavy gooseneck trailer with a total weight of around 23k. bus seems to weigh around 18k and loaded with trailer total of 26k. comparable in weight sorta. also dt466 engine is a little bigger than my 7.3l. probably comparing apples and oranges.

anyways any help would be beneficial before wasting money.
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Old 01-02-2019, 01:12 AM   #2
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The answer is yes, with the right drivetrain. Transmission is going to be as or more important than the motor. Look for a 643, 2000 or 3060.

If you find a nice diesel pusher motor home that you like for $30k you should consider that though, depending on what is important to you. It is easy to spend $30k on a conversion, plus labor.

Pusher motorhomes usually have higher output motors and are geared for the highway. Busses are often geared for surface roads and stop and go.

I have a CAT 3126 and it has been good to me, but mine is a 210 hp version where motorhomes often got the 300 hp. I towed a Jeep all over the country behind mine last summer though.

If you go the bus route, a Cummins 8.1 or a dt466 are probably your best bets for towing, plus the above transmissions.

Choose the skoolie route if you like the idea of a big custom project. And sure, if you choose correctly and set it up for it it will tow, but if towing is your main goal and you want motorhome functionality, just buying a pusher will get you there a lot quicker and easier.
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Old 01-02-2019, 01:15 AM   #3
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Sorry 8.3 Cummins.
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:54 AM   #4
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Yes I figured 30k would be easy to spend converting. Just know I would rather spend 30k over next 2-3 years converting as I had the extra vs. a $500 monthly payment on a rv. used diesel pushers start around 30k and go up depending on age. Why I was considering school bus option.

and yes there will be some miles put on traveling. Have a racecar and planning on criss crossing the midwest all summer long.
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:06 AM   #5
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I'd be after a real tow rig.







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Old 01-02-2019, 09:04 AM   #6
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Trust me a toter would be sweet for what I am doing. but those rigs start as much and more than a diesel pusher rv. Trying to do on some sort of budget. trying to spread the spending out over as I have it. not be tied into a payment.

if all else fails then I will likely end up purchasing an rv. just wanted to know if bus was even a possibility with towing capabilities and performance.
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Old 01-02-2019, 09:37 AM   #7
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I've seen em used and priced within your budget of thirty grand.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:07 AM   #8
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30k yes is my general budget but trying to keep from borrowing at the bank to do it. hoping to find a good solid bus for 3-4k and start by spending around 5-6k total just to get rolling then as I have the extra start spending here and there to finish.
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Old 01-02-2019, 10:54 AM   #9
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30k yes is my general budget but trying to keep from borrowing at the bank to do it. hoping to find a good solid bus for 3-4k and start by spending around 5-6k total just to get rolling then as I have the extra start spending here and there to finish.

If you don't mind doing the work, I think its worthwhile to convert the bus rather than buy a used MH. As far as the towing capabilities, I can't answer that. We've got a 250HP DT466 with an Allison MT643 transmission and it's able to tow our 5000lb truck with no problem. We can easily travel 65-70, but our towed vehicle limits us to 60....which is just fine, actually. We're in no rush. I wish I knew the weight of the bus, but I just don't. I'm pretty sure it was around 18K, stripped of all seats and wall panels.
30K is totally doable, and you should be able to get a bus for 3-4K if you look around enough. We spent 5K and got a 95 Amtran with every option we wanted.
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Old 01-02-2019, 12:15 PM   #10
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We bought a 2003 International conventional bus, 11 window, wheelchair ramp, with a 195hp DT466, Allison 2000 tranny and a 4.6-ish rear end (255/70x22.5 tires). It will be used to haul our son's rally car on an open trailer, 5-6k lbs total. The rear 10' of the bus will be a workshop and the remaining 16.5' will be RV. From what we've learned here and from our local International dealer, this setup should be fine. We're still in the conversion process and haven't towed anything yet.

Take your time looking for the right configuration and something rust free. A wheelchair lift will be a great help if you are planning on a workshop in the rear. We spent just under $4k for ours.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:12 PM   #11
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Is that 60mph qhile towing vehicle limited to safety? or is that all bus can do without straining everything? I dont mind 60-65mph while towing one bit. Just dont want bus struggling at 60 pulling trailer.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:16 PM   #12
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Is that 60mph qhile towing vehicle limited to safety? or is that all bus can do without straining everything? I dont mind 60-65mph while towing one bit. Just dont want bus struggling at 60 pulling trailer.
Our Xterra has an upper limit that it can be towed at. 60mph, and every 500 miles we need to run the engine to circulate the trans fluid. The bus could probably tow at 70+ but I don't wanna fry the trans in the Xterra!
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:30 PM   #13
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Our Xterra has an upper limit that it can be towed at. 60mph, and every 500 miles we need to run the engine to circulate the trans fluid. The bus could probably tow at 70+ but I don't wanna fry the trans in the Xterra!
ok good to know. thanks.

also can transmission be determined off the data plate for bus? trying to prevent from having to look at each bus i find in person unless it meets criteria of big engine and recommended trans from above posts.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:32 PM   #14
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ok good to know. thanks.

also can transmission be determined off the data plate for bus? trying to prevent from having to look at each bus i find in person unless it meets criteria of big engine and recommended trans from above posts.
It can be determined from the VIN, but only by someone with the special decoder ring....
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:46 PM   #15
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It can be determined from the VIN, but only by someone with the special decoder ring....
Or a phone call to your local dealer for the specific manufacturers.

My Bluebird dealer was able to tell me:

Engine
Horsepower
Transmission
Rear gears
Suspension details
Original owner

And more......
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:40 PM   #16
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ok good to know. thanks.

also can transmission be determined off the data plate for bus? trying to prevent from having to look at each bus i find in person unless it meets criteria of big engine and recommended trans from above posts.
Not on the data plate. Just ask for pics of the transmission if you're unsure.
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:51 PM   #17
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Towing with a bus is very doable as long as you have everything set up correctly before you head down the road.


First, find a bus with the right power package and gear ratio. Swapping stuff in and out after purchase will burn up a lot of $$$ that could be used to do other stuff. Ideal engines would be the IHC DT530 or DT466 of at least 250 HP. Or the Cummins 8.3L 6CT/ISC of at least 250 HP. I have seen some buses with those engines that had 285-325 HP from the factory. With the big HP came a LOT of torque which is really handy when you get to the steep parts. Do NOT consider any bus with the Allison AT540 or 1000 series transmission--there just isn't enough transmission to handle the weight among many issues. Some trip buses left the factory with the MD3060 transmission with 6th gear unlocked. That would be the absolute ideal transmission.



Second, towing with a Type 'D' bus has some interesting issues. With a front engine bus a major problem is presented due mostly to the extreme length behind the rear axle. Mounting a hitch that is low enough to mate up with standard trailer hitches will make it virtually impossible to enter or leave curb cuts. You will need to modify the coupler on the trailer so that the hitch on the back of the bus is close to the rear bumper of the bus and not down by the frame of the trailer. With a rear engine bus you are presented with some different problems, chief of which are some buses do NOT have the frame rails going all the way to the rear of the bus. Some rear engine buses have the power package mounted in a removable cradle. If you attach a trailer hitch to the cradle you are apt to pull the engine and transmission out of the back of the bus.


Third, you want to find a bus with air brakes. Even the lowest cost option air brakes had more braking reserve than the highest cost option hydraulic brake option. Even better a bus from some place like CO that has an auxiliary braking system like a Telma driveline retarder or Jacobs engine brake would be extremely desirable and valuable. Even an Allison transmission with a built in retarder would be a big plus.


I realize what you need is going to be approaching unicorn status but I think you will be a LOT of $$$$ ahead purchasing a school bus to convert than purchasing a diesel pusher RV. Be prepared to spend $10K+ if you find the unicorn bus. But it will be well worth the $$$$.


One last caveat--NO RUST! The beauty of buses from the west is most of the time they have no rust. It may cost more to purchase and get back to your home but the $$$ and time saved will be more than worth it!


Good Luck and Happy Trails to you!
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Old 01-14-2019, 01:33 PM   #18
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Towing with a bus is very doable as long as you have everything set up correctly before you head down the road.


First, find a bus with the right power package and gear ratio. Swapping stuff in and out after purchase will burn up a lot of $$$ that could be used to do other stuff. Ideal engines would be the IHC DT530 or DT466 of at least 250 HP. Or the Cummins 8.3L 6CT/ISC of at least 250 HP. I have seen some buses with those engines that had 285-325 HP from the factory. With the big HP came a LOT of torque which is really handy when you get to the steep parts. Do NOT consider any bus with the Allison AT540 or 1000 series transmission--there just isn't enough transmission to handle the weight among many issues. Some trip buses left the factory with the MD3060 transmission with 6th gear unlocked. That would be the absolute ideal transmission.



Second, towing with a Type 'D' bus has some interesting issues. With a front engine bus a major problem is presented due mostly to the extreme length behind the rear axle. Mounting a hitch that is low enough to mate up with standard trailer hitches will make it virtually impossible to enter or leave curb cuts. You will need to modify the coupler on the trailer so that the hitch on the back of the bus is close to the rear bumper of the bus and not down by the frame of the trailer. With a rear engine bus you are presented with some different problems, chief of which are some buses do NOT have the frame rails going all the way to the rear of the bus. Some rear engine buses have the power package mounted in a removable cradle. If you attach a trailer hitch to the cradle you are apt to pull the engine and transmission out of the back of the bus.


Third, you want to find a bus with air brakes. Even the lowest cost option air brakes had more braking reserve than the highest cost option hydraulic brake option. Even better a bus from some place like CO that has an auxiliary braking system like a Telma driveline retarder or Jacobs engine brake would be extremely desirable and valuable. Even an Allison transmission with a built in retarder would be a big plus.


I realize what you need is going to be approaching unicorn status but I think you will be a LOT of $$$$ ahead purchasing a school bus to convert than purchasing a diesel pusher RV. Be prepared to spend $10K+ if you find the unicorn bus. But it will be well worth the $$$$.


One last caveat--NO RUST! The beauty of buses from the west is most of the time they have no rust. It may cost more to purchase and get back to your home but the $$$ and time saved will be more than worth it!


Good Luck and Happy Trails to you!
thank you for the detailed info on what to look for. By no means am I gonna jump on the first bus I see that may work. This is something I can wait on for a few months or summer until I find the right bus. Traveling west or farther south is no problem for the right bus. Living in Oklahoma we are fortunate to have fair winters. but heading to Texas or west is doable.
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