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Old 04-21-2020, 01:39 PM   #1
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Smile We just bought a 2003 International BlueBird with a T444E...

Hello Everyone -

Since Christmas time I have been watching youtube videos and doing research on what kind of bus I wanted to buy for my wife and I to convert into a skoolie. We looked at some flat nosed buses and decided we didn't like that model. We took some drives and looked as some shady ass buses. Yesterday I found a post on Facebook for a bus that was only 60 miles from my house. After looking over the photos and specs and realizing that it was worth the drive out to look at it we went out this morning to take a look.

Over the last few months I have been selling off things that I own to get the money together to buy a bus. It was also good practice on down sizing and letting go of things that are not critical to my life. I scraped together $3,500 and took it with me today.

I told my wife that I would try to get the best deal on the bus if it was worth buying. After a pretty through inspection of the bus I offered him 3k out of the gate. He was originally trying to get 5k. We eventually settled on 3,500. I brought a plate from my dad's camper and we drove it home and it is now in my yard waiting for the conversion to begin.

The bus we bought is a 2003 International Blue Bird with a T444E 7.3 turbo diesel , Allison transmission, air brakes, a new alternator, a new exhaust system, new batteries, 6 tires in great condition, a full gas tank, and cruise control. I believe that we got a great deal based on all of the buses I have seen on the internet.

For those of you who have a bus similar to this one I would love your advice and guidance on what went right with your builds, what went wrong, and most importantly what to avoid. I am planning to do an 18" roof lift and doing a full custom build out.

Thanks for reading and for any guidance you can offer.
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Old 04-21-2020, 02:10 PM   #2
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Congrats on your purchase, and welcome to the family.

A few things you should know if you didn't already...

First, if the bus is from the northern part of the country (sounds like it, since you are in CT), be on the lookout for rust, it is likely to have some, and it is better to deal with it prior to conversion than to have to pull things apart to fix it later.

'02+ diesels had emissions controls that can be costly to fix. The T444E may or may not have had any of this, as I understand it was phased out for the 6.0L VT345, and quite frankly, I'm surprised an '03 would have had a T444E, Ford started using the newer engine that year.

You should also know that not all Allison transmissions are created equal. The AT545 is very basic, somewhat weak, and very common. The MT643 / 2000 / MD6030 are much better. AT545 is fine if you're not doing a lot of driving, but the MT643 by comparison has a lockup torque convertor and if memory serves, is a 5-speed versus the AT545's 4.

Tell us more about your bus! Pics or it didn't happen!
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Old 04-21-2020, 02:39 PM   #3
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Congrats on your new bus!
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Old 04-21-2020, 02:42 PM   #4
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Year: 2003
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Engine: T444E, 7.3 turbo diesel
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thanks

Thanks for the welcome everyone. The bus has air breaks which I am glad for. Can anyone tell me what transmission I have or where to find this info on or in the bus? Again it is a 2003 International Blue Bird 3800 with a T444E engine.
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Old 04-21-2020, 02:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bearcrevier View Post
Thanks for the welcome everyone. The bus has air breaks which I am glad for. Can anyone tell me what transmission I have or where to find this info on or in the bus? Again it is a 2003 International Blue Bird 3800 with a T444E engine.
I'm not sure there's a way to know without actually looking at the trans itself, unless you know which bellhousing pattern your engine uses. Not even sure that's a given consistency.

On some, the shift console can give some clues, but I don't understand it to be a be-all, end-all. I've never seen any such identifiers on bus bodies and I don't think it can be determined from the VIN either.

Here is an image with which to compare yours.... If it doesn't match either of these, you probably have a 2000 or an MD6030. Both good transmissions from my understanding, though I've only ever had manuals myself.

Allison Trans.png
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Old 04-21-2020, 03:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
Congrats on your purchase, and welcome to the family.

A few things you should know if you didn't already...

First, if the bus is from the northern part of the country (sounds like it, since you are in CT), be on the lookout for rust, it is likely to have some, and it is better to deal with it prior to conversion than to have to pull things apart to fix it later.

'02+ diesels had emissions controls that can be costly to fix. The T444E may or may not have had any of this, as I understand it was phased out for the 6.0L VT345, and quite frankly, I'm surprised an '03 would have had a T444E, Ford started using the newer engine that year.

You should also know that not all Allison transmissions are created equal. The AT545 is very basic, somewhat weak, and very common. The MT643 / 2000 / MD6030 are much better. AT545 is fine if you're not doing a lot of driving, but the MT643 by comparison has a lockup torque convertor and if memory serves, is a 5-speed versus the AT545's 4.

Tell us more about your bus! Pics or it didn't happen!

the T444E was sold through the 04 model year in Navistar applications in USA and through 2006 in some overseas markets.. it is a non EGR, Non emission engine.. it isnt real powerful. but when taken care-of it can last you 300,000 plus miles..





transmission..

if the shifter is R-N-D-4-2-1 or R-N-(D)-D-2-1 its an allison 2000 series 5 speed..



if the shifter is R-N-D-3-2-1 its likely an allison AT545 4 speed non OD non lockup.. (the MT643 used the same shifter but was rare in a T-444E)


if the shifter is a pushbutton electronic keypad wit ha digital display its an Allison MD-3060. 6 speed dual overdrive automatic (with only 5 speeds enabled in a school bus)...
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Old 04-21-2020, 04:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
(with only 5 speeds enabled in a school bus)...

some people do get school buses with the 6th gear unlocked. Especially buses from out west.
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