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Old 11-23-2020, 09:47 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Posts: 18
Should I purchase?

I need some eyes and opinions for a bus I'm looking at.

About the bus:
  • It's an 9 window, 1993 Thomas/International 3800 DT408. According to the "label" - INC VEH MFD BY: NAVISTAR in 12-93, MFD BY- THOMAS BUILT BUSES, INC. in 02-94. (High Point, NC and Woodstock, ONT.)
  • It was used a camp bus, fully stripped, insulation started, floor done up to driver's area, pandemic happened and unfortunately, has to to sell.
  • Almost none to very little rust, underneath/floor/engine. Predominantly, bus has been on the W/SW coast.
  • Has 2 underbus storage sections already (what I'm excited about!)
  • Super nice person, it would've been their first build, but knowledgeable about skoolies and willing to help me work on it too!

About me:

  • I would like to be on the road. Pandemic challenges have opened up the door to a more permanent wfh situation for both my partner and I. So 2 adults, on video/phone calls, at least 6 hrs/day.
  • I'm leaning towards a shorter/midsize bus, so we can get to more places and go to more interesting boondocking locations.
  • Priority #1 is ability to live offgrid, minimum 4-5 days. I've been diligently researching this forum for conversion ideas so this is functional for us in the long term. Welcome any ideas for this too. We're willing to work on it ourselves, but not above getting a professional or two to do projects like solar/electrical.
  • We plan to stay in the temperate climates for winter until we get used to skoolie life.
  • Getting a skoolie, will allow us to enjoy the flexibility that WFH provides
I'm attaching a few photos, but I would love to hear more from the experts! What should I ask more about? What are initial thoughts, etc?

I think I might be first in line for this one and I'm really excited about the size, lack of rust anywhere (YOU CAN SEE THE ENGINE COLOR), price!

Thank you! Be safe everyone!
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Old 11-23-2020, 05:48 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Virginia
Posts: 2,018
Year: None
Coachwork: None
Chassis: None
Engine: None
Rated Cap: None
DT408 is a good engine. However, you should verify which trans this bus has. An AT545 isn't the kiss of death, but it has limited capabilities and also somewhat weak.

A quick peek underneath at the driver's side of the fluid pan will determine if it is an AT545 or MT643 - the MT643 has a fluid temp sensor built into the pan -- the AT545 does not. The MT643 also has torque convertor lockup in 3rd and 4th gear, the AT545 does not. The MT643 also has a pronounced difference in appearance on the mounting boss plates. The lockup acts as a sort of overdrive, reducing the typical 'slippage' present in an automatic transmission. What this means for you is that the MT643 is a better choice for highway driving, which seems to be in your plans.

Also, try to find out what the rear differential gear ratio is -- numerically lower is a higher gear, numerically higher is a lower gear. Regardless of whether it has the AT545 or the MT643, chances are good that this thing is going to top out at 55-58 mph, and be screaming for mercy unless you re-gear the rear differential.

The DT408 is supposedly rated safe to 2600 rpm, but as with most International engines, they are most efficient around 2000-2200. I wouldn't run one much higher than that. Even with 4.33 gears (a godsend for this application), 2200 rpm with 37-inch O.D. tires (245-75R22.5 or equivalent) gets you around 55 mph.

I'm not saying the engine is not safe to 2600 rpm, but I can assure you it will last a lot longer at 2000-2200. 2350-2400 is as high as I would push it, which with a typical 5.29 rear gear ratio, would be 50 mph. So finding out which transmission and which rear gear ratio this bus has is critical for determining whether it is suitable for highway driving as-is.
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Old 11-23-2020, 05:54 PM   #3
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Virginia
Posts: 1,904
Year: 1971
Coachwork: Wayne
Chassis: International Loadstar 1700
Engine: 345 international V-8
Certainly clean, so that is a great start in itself. Mechanical fuel injection, no electronics that is good too. Trans may be the AT 545. Not a great trans but if taken care can be ok. Look on the passeneger side of the trans and there will be a tag with the model number.



Good size for two people.
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Old 11-23-2020, 10:14 PM   #4
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Central Alabama
Posts: 184
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 12-valve
Rated Cap: 1
Is this a local bus that you can inspect or are you relying on pictures and conversations with the owner? Unless I overlooked it, you didn't mention the price. That would have some bearing on a recommendation. Looks to be a higher roof that what I have.
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Old 11-24-2020, 08:45 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Posts: 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
DT408 is a good engine. However, you should verify which trans this bus has. An AT545 isn't the kiss of death, but it has limited capabilities and also somewhat weak.

A quick peek underneath at the driver's side of the fluid pan will determine if it is an AT545 or MT643 - the MT643 has a fluid temp sensor built into the pan -- the AT545 does not. The MT643 also has torque convertor lockup in 3rd and 4th gear, the AT545 does not. The MT643 also has a pronounced difference in appearance on the mounting boss plates. The lockup acts as a sort of overdrive, reducing the typical 'slippage' present in an automatic transmission. What this means for you is that the MT643 is a better choice for highway driving, which seems to be in your plans.

Also, try to find out what the rear differential gear ratio is -- numerically lower is a higher gear, numerically higher is a lower gear. Regardless of whether it has the AT545 or the MT643, chances are good that this thing is going to top out at 55-58 mph, and be screaming for mercy unless you re-gear the rear differential.

The DT408 is supposedly rated safe to 2600 rpm, but as with most International engines, they are most efficient around 2000-2200. I wouldn't run one much higher than that. Even with 4.33 gears (a godsend for this application), 2200 rpm with 37-inch O.D. tires (245-75R22.5 or equivalent) gets you around 55 mph.

I'm not saying the engine is not safe to 2600 rpm, but I can assure you it will last a lot longer at 2000-2200. 2350-2400 is as high as I would push it, which with a typical 5.29 rear gear ratio, would be 50 mph. So finding out which transmission and which rear gear ratio this bus has is critical for determining whether it is suitable for highway driving as-is.
I appreciate your thorough response. I’m not a mechanical person, but I try to do a bit of research. I’ve read about the 545 a lot on here, I’ve heard about getting it changed out too.

I’ll ask these questions of the seller and see what they can tell me. Quite frankly, the internal aspects are starting to overwhelm me bc I’m feeling the steel learning curve. I feel like a lot of the videos, I’ve watched don’t show half the internal components I read about here. Thanks, again!
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Old 11-24-2020, 08:47 AM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Posts: 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
Certainly clean, so that is a great start in itself. Mechanical fuel injection, no electronics that is good too. Trans may be the AT 545. Not a great trans but if taken care can be ok. Look on the passeneger side of the trans and there will be a tag with the model number.



Good size for two people.
I’ll ask about the 545. It was meticulously taken care of by the first owner and they took it up to big bear, etc. too. The second owner has had it for about 6 months and can’t keep it unfortunately. I might be getting lucky here but if it’s an AT545 I’m worried about issues down the road
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Old 11-24-2020, 08:53 AM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Posts: 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by BamaBus View Post
Is this a local bus that you can inspect or are you relying on pictures and conversations with the owner? Unless I overlooked it, you didn't mention the price. That would have some bearing on a recommendation. Looks to be a higher roof that what I have.
I am relying on the owner for pics and info. Regardless of which vehicle I ultimately purchase, I would like to get it checked out/inspected (any suggestions welcome). Price is $5500. Not sure if they’re firm on it, but I know they don’t want to let it go, but have to. They’d be willing to do some work on it until I get out there. Career is in construction it seems, so they have know how, but I know skoolies are a different beast. I’m thinking if it’s a decent price and I don’t bring them down and ask for a bit of work or pay a little more for basics then I can get on the road faster. The title still has to be changed to RV, potential new tires, I’m thinking of other initial costs/time to consider too.
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Old 11-24-2020, 12:14 PM   #8
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Virginia
Posts: 1,904
Year: 1971
Coachwork: Wayne
Chassis: International Loadstar 1700
Engine: 345 international V-8
two other pluses are the high roof, and at least one under body storage .


I do think the build can become very overwelming at some point for many. It is not a small project, and many make it more difficult too. Start simple, do the basics only at first then use it and change,or build more later.


The 545 can be helped with an extra trans cooler and reasonable driving. Plus a trans temp gauge. This is assuming it has the 545.
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