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Old 07-28-2018, 12:10 PM   #1
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1969 Crown Bus --Thoughts

Hello All! Thanks for all the feedback so far. I posted a reply to my last thread but for some reason is never showed up... my apologies.

I found a Crown that has already been converted into a skoolie. It looks like it mostly needs cosmetic work--updated paint, TLC on the inside. One of my questions is, what is the value (approximate) of a bus like this? Their asking price is over 10k. I'm sure that is a loaded question. I'm looking for a ballpark.
Any advice is greatly appreciated. THANKS SO MUCH!

Here are some of the specifics:
-265 hp Cummins engine with a turbocharger
-odometer reads 31,842 mi. since rebuild
-Jacob engine brake
-power steering
-Eaton 10 speed manual transmission (Road Ranger - ?)
-differentials upgraded for 65 to70 mph
-double axel
-new tires in 2007
-Onan gas generator: 6.5kw 110V. and 220V
-110V. air compressor
-100gal diesel fuel
-approx. 140gal. freshwater tank
-70gal. grey tank
-70gal. black
-70gal. propane
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Old 07-31-2018, 09:20 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: SoCal
Posts: 152
Year: 1989
Coachwork: Crown Coach
Chassis: 40ft 3-axle 10spd O/D, Factory A/C
Engine: 300hp Cummins 855
Rated Cap: 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meleah2018 View Post
Hello All! Thanks for all the feedback so far. I posted a reply to my last thread but for some reason is never showed up... my apologies.

I found a Crown that has already been converted into a skoolie. It looks like it mostly needs cosmetic work--updated paint, TLC on the inside. One of my questions is, what is the value (approximate) of a bus like this? Their asking price is over 10k. I'm sure that is a loaded question. I'm looking for a ballpark.
Any advice is greatly appreciated. THANKS SO MUCH!

Here are some of the specifics:
-265 hp Cummins engine with a turbocharger
-odometer reads 31,842 mi. since rebuild
-Jacob engine brake
-power steering
-Eaton 10 speed manual transmission (Road Ranger - ?)
-differentials upgraded for 65 to70 mph
-double axel
-new tires in 2007
-Onan gas generator: 6.5kw 110V. and 220V
-110V. air compressor
-100gal diesel fuel
-approx. 140gal. freshwater tank
-70gal. grey tank
-70gal. black
-70gal. propane
I might have been a little rough before, but at least you deserve an answer. In my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions, I think you're chasing a rainbow due to the infinite varieties of conversions to be found. Even assuming the underlying vehicle, whatever it is, is sound enough and deserving of being converted in the first place. By the way, this is one of the overwhelming reasons for doing conversions on bus chassis, they are assumed to be better and stronger mechanically than any conceivable commercial, matchstick and staple type RV. But even then it could be rusted, drive-line wore out, have suspension, brakes, body issues, the list is long. Any pics of it yet?? That tells a tale as well, Rust, body dings, overall condition etc.

So even if the vehicle is still in good enough condition, now comes the infinite issues surrounding the conversion "vision" and "concept" of the converter. All I can say about that is that it could be a dream come true, or a nightmare in waiting, if something is envisioned incorrectly and doesn't work in real world practice and use.

This is why you see a tendency to constantly take out and re-do something after finding shortcomings in use. Many examples on here for how that happens. Then the really big worry has to be the actual physical construction and implementation of said conversion "Vision". Some work is done with skill and due regard for not damaging the underlying vehicle, and some, to put it mildly are not. In fact they create a nightmare scenario of sloppy, unskilled construction, with probable cuts and holes in the vehicle structure creating an unsafe or even un-driveable vehicle.

This is usually the point at which the converter decides he doesn't want it anymore and tries to unload it on the next, lets say sucker, because that's what they are. It matters not how much cool sounding equipment, exotic wood paneling, flooring, sound system, ad nauseum, they list in the conversion, if it doesn't work, or the vehicle itself isn't driveable, it's all a big bucket of $hit.

Oh, and they ALWAYS want way too much for it and include the labor costs, as if they can get that back. As far as I'm concerned, they de-value the underlying vehicle with their conversion and nothing they do is worth anything, since I don't share their vision, and I don't trust their execution and or competence in design, materials, or construction. ANY money or labor expended on a coach conversion has to be considered money down the drain, because that's exactly what it is. It's one of the ultimate risks in life, you either make it work for you, or dump it at a total loss.

There are only an extremely few and rare, notable exceptions that I've seen, but even then I will want to put my own spin on it, and it needs to be able to accommodate to my "vision". Usually though, these well executed conversions are not for sale and happily being used by the converter as was intended. So what comes up for sale is to be suspected of having hidden and expensive flaws, that YOU inherit.

One other thing also to keep in mind and focused on is the little factor of having to repair something that someone else designed and (built?). What this means is that you will not have any idea what, where, or how various wires, plumbing, pumps, or assorted electrical, mechanical widgets in the conversion are located, or even what they are supposed to do. Imagine having some active component fail for you, somewhere on the hi-ways and by-ways of our great land, and you don't have heat inside all of a sudden. And it's getting really cold outside.....Where do you start looking for the failure and even if you find it, how do you know where to get a replacement since you didn't do the conversion and have no idea where anything at all originally came from or even if purchased new. It might have been something the guy had laying around and already obsolete and unavailable when he installed it.

I can give you my opinion on that particular Crown you listed, but understand my bias is for a Crown worth having and being able to keep it up and running with out killing myself or my limited funds. That means some Crowns just don't qualify anymore, as much as I'd like to save them all.

That Cummins engine, if it's indeed a turbo'd 262hp version, is not supported well at all for parts today. Finding experienced mechanics for it, and parts can be very difficult, bordering on impossible. It doesn't matter how many miles since a "re-build", is claimed, it's all suspect since a "re-build" can be anything at all, and maybe not done correctly, thus a reason to get rid of it. There could be issues with the engine running hot, due to cooling system problems, or internal passages blockages, any number of things that will only be seen after purchase and being driven by the new owner. Too many other potential issues with this particular engine series, I've seen issues with fuel leaks in heads that never seem to be able to be fixed. Head bolt failures, and heads loosening, causing leaks. Parts are hard to find.

I would also be very suspicious of his Jake Brake claims. A true Jacobs Engine Brake is a series of active components added into the overhead valve train inside the engine and activated when the throttle is at idle, as in going down a hill. They are expensive and for that engine vintage probably extremely rare. Crowns laid the engines down on their sides at 80 degrees, so oil would flow back to the pan, and I know that real Jake Brake units have to be modified structurally to work in that horizontal configuration. I've never seen a real Jake brake installation on any Cummins powered Crowns, of that vintage. They did show up later when the 855 block engines started being used, superseding the 220-262 hp series of engines.

BUT what they did use was a Williams Exhaust brake system that in effect placed an in-line valve in the exhaust pipe which closed and bottled up and created a back-pressure to slow the engine down. It's cheaper and I've only seen these in use from that era. I don't think it's all that effective, and they may not even be available today for service, or parts. Bottom line is that unless you don't mind scrounging for parts and doing a lot of your own work this engine is more trouble than it's worth.

Do you have any idea what a Fuller Road-Ranger manual transmission is?? Is it for instance a 10th direct, or 10th overdrive? Have you ever driven anything like it? Do you have anyone near you who can teach you how to drive it? I'm not trying to be mean, it's just that I've attempted lately to teach several new Crown owners how to drive the stick shift transmissions, and yes, one was a 10 speed Road Ranger, and boy was that fun, the common 5-speed manual is bad enough for a new driver. This manual transmission is not for the faint of heart or someone who isn't willing to dive into the wonderful mysteries of how to get a full-on heavy duty highway truck engine transmission drive-line down the road with skill and panache. I love it and I still do it commercially today, but it's a dying skill-set killed off by automatic transmissions.

All the other stuff listed, like the (gas?) generator, tankage capacities,....everything, are just white noise to WOW the uninformed and create a sense of value in the bus that really doesn't exist at all. I can think of a dozen things more important than the stuff he listed.

Just a couple for instances, I might have missed it but did he say how long it is??? 35 ft? 40ft?? In those years if it's 35ft long it has two axles and six tires on the ground. If it's 40ft long, it has three axles and 10 tires on the ground.

I just looked again and he insinuates with the "double axles" without saying so, that it's most likely 40ft long with three axles total. I thought that might be the case with the 10 speed transmission, they were often needed with the 220-262 Cummins for usable performance. This is commonly called a Crown Tandem and not as many were built as the regular 35ft version. I also don't think I buy the claim of up-gearing the TWO differentials in back. That's pretty expensive and I'd have to see it to believe it. It's easier to turn the transmission into an Overdrive, if it's not already, and get the extra 15 mph top end. 65-70 mph with an Overdrive is easy, using standard 4:11 Diffs. I suspect he may not really know himself. How do we even know if he was the guy that did the conversion? He may be a second or third owner far removed from the original converter, who may have had better knowledge of the Crown running gear equipment, but that's not always a sure thing either.

Now on to the tires, the list states the tire were new in 2007, is that correct? If they were new then that's 11 years old, and beyond the time that any commercial tire shop will work on them. They will insist on you buying new tires before they will touch them. That doesn't even get into how many miles on them since new. But it's a safe bet they haven't been driven all that much, since most private owners can't drive as much as they were built to drive when in commercial service. Tires last a long time but private owners typically have tires age out first before wearing them out. Tires today cost from about $250, for the cheapest, and up. Multiply that times the number of tires on the ground, and be sure to sit down first. All those tires, however many, will have to be changed, and they may not even be able to get you home if they are in bad shape. Don't even get me started on the issues of wheels and rims. they will probably all need to be changed, and upgraded, as well.

The more I think about this Crown I think I've seen it advertised around for sale and it's still around. There might be very good reasons for that. Some Buses seem to hang around for sale like the proverbial Flying Dutchman. I'd know if I saw pics of it.

There are many stories of the trials and tribulations of bringing newly purchased buses, of all kinds back home. And they are all illustrative.

I could go on, but I don't want to scare you too much. suffice it to say that if you are really not in a position to do your own mechanical work on a conversion, and need a completed one, I suggest you find a nice used standard RV, maybe a small one to start and get your feet wet and see how many things can go wrong. With experience and better ideas of what you want, you may consider a small shuttle bus type vehicle and do a very simple and functional conversion enough to make it usable inside. You can learn how to do things, lots of folks do, but learn to crawl first and then expand your horizons later influenced by experience. A conversion doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to be useful. Remember that, and keep it all in perspective.

A good solid rolling bunkhouse with enough to make life and overnights comfortable, is usually enough for camping on the road. Be sure to have a plan for how you want to travel and use it, and how often. There are plenty of threads here that will help you focus your thoughts and help you find a solution that works for you.

Best of luck, and don't be in too much of a hurry to bite off more than you can chew.

If you are unsure and have to ask for advise about anything, it's a good sign you may not yet be ready. Educate yourself so you will really know what you're looking at and if it will work for you. We've all been through that.
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Old 07-31-2018, 11:48 PM   #3
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Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. Since posting this thread, I have done so much research. I totally agree with you about the Crown bus on all aspects...Tires, engine, generator, what’s undermeath that I can’t see, etc. While I would really, really like to do a conversion, I am in no way capable of undertaking such a task. After doing all sorts of research I have come to the same conclusion as you… purchase a small RV and get my feet wet. From what I can tell, doesn’t seem to matter if you purchased a 2004 or a 2015 , you’re getting basically the same thing. Am I correct to assume that I should focus on getting a good diesel engine to balance out my weight ratio? How do I determine what a good weight to engine ratio? From what I can tell, I know I don’t want a gas engine that struggles over mountain passes or small hills. I don’t want to have to worry about in my rig is too heavy for my engine. The one thing that bothers me about a small or midsize RV is exactly what you addressed in your reply… A small chassis and engine trying to haul too much weight. When I look a The one thing that bothers me about a small or midsize RV is exactly what you addressed in your reply… A small chassis and engine trying to haul too much weight. Just from a visual standpoint of looking at a class C rig, I immediately wonder how all of that is being towed by engine listed in the specs, not to mention the chassis. It seems like the class C diesels are few and far between. Now I’m wondering if I should look at a shorter class A...under 30. There are honestly so many things to consider and learn that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you have any suggestions for starting places or the basics to start with; I.e. diesel (which engine, weight ratio,etc), best chassis (Freightliner), transmission (5speed/10speed/etc). I think starting with those things would be a first step that, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I really appreciate all your help and I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I really hope that my response will post. Last time I replied, it was a pretty long response and I included the link to the ad for the vehicle you were talking about. However, after my response never showed up I decided maybe I should not post the link and maybe administration did not post my reply because there is a link in it. Considering that, I will just tell you that the crown bus that I was talking about before was on the Yuma craigslist page. I called and talk to the owner and he said that he purchased a vehicle from a mechanic who had done most of the conversion. I just decided that with all of the variables involved I would be much better off just purchasing something that had more of a known history. Really, everything you addressed was spot on and great advice. Thanks again and I hope you have a blessed week.
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Old 08-02-2018, 08:49 PM   #4
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Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: SoCal
Posts: 152
Year: 1989
Coachwork: Crown Coach
Chassis: 40ft 3-axle 10spd O/D, Factory A/C
Engine: 300hp Cummins 855
Rated Cap: 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meleah2018 View Post
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. Since posting this thread, I have done so much research. I totally agree with you about the Crown bus on all aspects...Tires, engine, generator, what’s undermeath that I can’t see, etc. While I would really, really like to do a conversion, I am in no way capable of undertaking such a task. After doing all sorts of research I have come to the same conclusion as you… purchase a small RV and get my feet wet. From what I can tell, doesn’t seem to matter if you purchased a 2004 or a 2015 , you’re getting basically the same thing. Am I correct to assume that I should focus on getting a good diesel engine to balance out my weight ratio? How do I determine what a good weight to engine ratio? From what I can tell, I know I don’t want a gas engine that struggles over mountain passes or small hills. I don’t want to have to worry about in my rig is too heavy for my engine. The one thing that bothers me about a small or midsize RV is exactly what you addressed in your reply… A small chassis and engine trying to haul too much weight. When I look a The one thing that bothers me about a small or midsize RV is exactly what you addressed in your reply… A small chassis and engine trying to haul too much weight. Just from a visual standpoint of looking at a class C rig, I immediately wonder how all of that is being towed by engine listed in the specs, not to mention the chassis. It seems like the class C diesels are few and far between. Now I’m wondering if I should look at a shorter class A...under 30. There are honestly so many things to consider and learn that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you have any suggestions for starting places or the basics to start with; I.e. diesel (which engine, weight ratio,etc), best chassis (Freightliner), transmission (5speed/10speed/etc). I think starting with those things would be a first step that, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I really appreciate all your help and I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I really hope that my response will post. Last time I replied, it was a pretty long response and I included the link to the ad for the vehicle you were talking about. However, after my response never showed up I decided maybe I should not post the link and maybe administration did not post my reply because there is a link in it. Considering that, I will just tell you that the crown bus that I was talking about before was on the Yuma craigslist page. I called and talk to the owner and he said that he purchased a vehicle from a mechanic who had done most of the conversion. I just decided that with all of the variables involved I would be much better off just purchasing something that had more of a known history. Really, everything you addressed was spot on and great advice. Thanks again and I hope you have a blessed week.
I should make it clear from the start that I don't have any real experience in all the many and various types of school buses other than Crowns. I've worked for companies and driven their smaller, what I call "Conventionals", with hoods out front, and even some small transit type shuttle buses, but it was always in passing and as demanded by the trips involved. Never for more than a day or two as required. I have way more time and miles by far in over the road highway "Tour" type buses, even more than Crowns, because that's where the work was. But I learned to drive in 5-spd Detroit 6-71 powered Crowns and they will always be my first love because of their handling and Fun factor. For an individual/private owner a Crown is feasible due to it's inherent simplicity of design and ease of maintenance that a moderately capable owner can handle himself. It really isn't rocket science.

I meant to point you to my avatar as an example of what a three axle Crown looks like. I suspect that's what the guy was probably selling.

As a result of my past experiences I'm not a good source for advise on all the different types and varieties of smaller potential vehicles for use in a conversion. I even admit to not going along with, or understanding, what is meant by all the classifications like A,B,C,D E, F...Z, I see bandied about. I strikes me as an RV salesman type thing where they can "Upsell" you into something bigger, impressing you with all the WOW factor, and get a bigger commission. I see it usually used when describing RV's and they need a way to describe the various, ....all right I'll say it, Classes, in order for the buyer to be able to differentiate them and to put it in some kind of perspective.

I'm much more practical in nature and for any conversion candidate vehicle I would look at the basic size requirements I'm after. The underlying quality of design of the body, drive-line, engine, transmission, highway speed capabilities are important to consider, and then ease of repair and parts availability. If it's all a sound vehicle design with common and easily found support then it becomes a candidate. This may or may not even be a "school bus" Per Se, it might be a nice little local shuttle transit type bus, of which I've seen some decent examples. The risks are that it may be a limited build and or uncommon design with little or no support or even rare and exotic components. These are to be avoided as you won't find help when you need it, and if you do they will charge you for all the money they can, because they can....It might actually be cheaper to buy, but beware the costs to run and support it, which could easily be more than what you paid for it. This is why it sometimes pays to spend a little more up front for a common and sound used vehicle that you can easily get fixed later, you'll be way ahead then.

I would caution against anything with a Gasoline engine, other than an actual normal pickup truck sized/based chassis running gear. Even then you'll be lucky to see 12 mpg if what I read around is close to true. There are lots of small van/pickup car based mini RV's around that are possible, and allow you to get your feet wet. Just don't expect to make your money back when selling or upgrading. All RV's are money pits, don't let anyone tell you different. They're just not as bad as "Airplanes", or "Boats", but they are symptomatic of the same underlying insanity.

For anything larger than a true Mini RV, I'd absolutely only look for a Diesel engine, and today there are many good candidates to pick from. I have no personal experience with any of the good candidates available, and cheerfully defer to the others here who know more than me. I will say that if you have any choice in engine size, you're probably always better off with a bigger engine that doesn't have to work so hard and a transmission that locks up in gear (no 545), as apposed to a smaller engine/trans combination that works it's guts out to keep up long hours on the highways at top end speeds.

It's important to note some engine/trans combinations were DESIGNED for medium duty, constant start-stop city driving, where nothing ever got too hot, with plenty of time for things to cool down at stop lights. Constant speed, highway driving, kills these dead, dead, dead. Heat and constant high engine speeds tax cooling systems not designed for it. If you keep some simple principles in mind and look at the use for which your candidate vehicle was intended, you can avoid some nasty surprises, and maybe find a diamond in the rough.

I do admit to an unrequited lust for a Dodge Diesel Pick'm up truck with the Cummins true million mile heavy duty 6BT 5.9L(?) diesel engine. But alas I can't afford one yet.

And still, I find myself with more than one Crown, ..how exactly that works I'm not sure, but I'm not complaining.

In your case I'd expand your horizons and look for all types of van, shuttle bus, small metro type buses, some even with rear engines, even some possible enclosed StepVan types like Fedex, etc. One of these may come up at a very reasonable price and if it has a diesel in it and decent transmission, you could do a simple conversion to serve your needs. Be sure to check to see it was taken care of properly so you won't have any expensive surprises, which can take all the fun out of it. I'm sure highway performance would be crappy since they are an intra-city vehicle, but who knows you may get lucky.

There IS a ton of stuff to learn, and you'll never stop learning, if you're smart. But you have to start someplace and you seem to be doing just fine. Nothing works as well as bitter experience, even though you do all you can to gain knowledge in advance, so be prepared as best you can, and take the plunge when you feel you're ready, then, hang on tight.

Remember that it's all up to you and that as long as you have a firm goal of what and how you intend to use it you should be able to find something to service that dream.

The fact you don't feel you can do your own conversion limits your choices, but it's not impossible, you just need to keep looking and have a goal and be ready when something pops up. Good luck and hang in there, you'll find something.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:06 PM   #5
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Wow! Crown_Guy you are amazing... and full of wonderful info!

I'm considering buying either a Crown tandem axel with a DD and auto trans
OR
a 2005 Blue Bird TC2000 28'.

I'd be doing a conversion either way.... something I can do but it's always nicer when you can just buy exactly what you want and start enjoying it right off. But you certainly pay for that luxury.....

Thoughts?
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:49 AM   #6
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Eastern WA
Posts: 6,306
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All American RE (A3RE)
Engine: Cummins ISC (8.3)
Rated Cap: 72
Hey Crown_Guy,

I have a 2004 Dodge 3500 with:

5.9
NV5600
Alcoa 22.5's
Quad cab
Long bed
Juice programer
5" Stainless exhaust

I'll swap with you for a Crown or two.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:05 AM   #7
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Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: IH 3800, 8 window
Engine: T444E w/ Spicer 5-speed MT
Rated Cap: I prefer broad-brims hats
(owwie..!)
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