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Old 08-13-2020, 12:41 PM   #1
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Should I purchase this bus

Iím in the process of buying a new bus within the next couple of months. Instead of a full sized bus, Iím looking at getting a short or mid sized bus that way itís easier to get into most parks and find parking. My goal once I buy this bus is to travel throughout the US to both National and State parks. I would need a bus that would be good for long hauls and driving through mountains with incline. Iíve found this bus, but I need a little help on whether or not this would be a good option. Hereís some of the info Iíve received from the current owner of the bus..

1991 International/Navistar
New batteries, tires and repaired engine
$4,500
28 feet in length
44k miles on it
Model 3700
Engine capacity V8 7.3 liter
Break system air
Diesel
Drive line type 4x2
No rust in or outside of the bus

Any suggestions? Pros? Cons?
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Old 08-13-2020, 07:19 PM   #2
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Great size, but way under-powered for highway and mountain driving.
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Old 08-14-2020, 07:06 AM   #3
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What would I look for in a bus to make sure it’s correctly powered for mountain and highway driving?
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Old 08-14-2020, 07:55 AM   #4
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What would I look for in a bus to make sure itís correctly powered for mountain and highway driving?
Anything WITHOUT an AT545 transmission

and no MAXXFORCE stuff
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Old 08-14-2020, 08:26 AM   #5
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If you're set on getting a school bus that's capable of highway and mountain climbing then look for a bus from a mountain region, typically Southwestern states, Pacific Northwest or Colorado. These will be pricier but will be bigger engines with higher HP rating, deeper gearing and usually include engine brake retarders of some type (i.e. Jake brakes but not technically the same as semi trucks). If you look specifically in the SW you'll find many zero-rust buses. Ideally you'll probably want a pre-2004 so no emissions complexity and as stated above no AT545 and avoid MaxxForce. A rear engine bus may be preferable but if you're wanting to stay under 30-35' length this may be a bit of a unicorn (there's a whole thread where we discussed shortest REs ever found) and if you want turning radius a front engine flat nosed 30-footer is going to be as nimble as a minivan but could be a little bouncy or feel less stable at high speeds. I'll repeat what I always say, which is that most school buses weren't build for highway speeds in the first place so we here in the skoolie realm are asking it to be something it's not. Highway capable buses are out there but are less common and more in demand which commands a premium price so expect that up front. Shorties are also less common and more in demand so $$. And based on your powertrain expectations I'd say plan to be looking for a while for the right bus for you. It exists but it's probably more rare and more sought after.
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Old 08-14-2020, 08:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
If you're set on getting a school bus that's capable of highway and mountain climbing then look for a bus from a mountain region, typically Southwestern states, Pacific Northwest or Colorado. These will be pricier but will be bigger engines with higher HP rating, deeper gearing and usually include engine brake retarders of some type (i.e. Jake brakes but not technically the same as semi trucks). If you look specifically in the SW you'll find many zero-rust buses. Ideally you'll probably want a pre-2004 so no emissions complexity and as stated above no AT545 and avoid MaxxForce. A rear engine bus may be preferable but if you're wanting to stay under 30-35' length this may be a bit of a unicorn (there's a whole thread where we discussed shortest REs ever found) and if you want turning radius a front engine flat nosed 30-footer is going to be as nimble as a minivan but could be a little bouncy or feel less stable at high speeds. I'll repeat what I always say, which is that most school buses weren't build for highway speeds in the first place so we here in the skoolie realm are asking it to be something it's not. Highway capable buses are out there but are less common and more in demand which commands a premium price so expect that up front. Shorties are also less common and more in demand so $$. And based on your powertrain expectations I'd say plan to be looking for a while for the right bus for you. It exists but it's probably more rare and more sought after.
He's exactly right... I too came blindy in expecting to "find" what I wanted.

And I too found that it didn't exist.

I found what I thought was the perfect bus... a 1998 Thomas Vista. I bought it, and THEN I came here and found out most do not find it desirable at all, and that I had fallen into the AT-545 "trap".

I did luck out though, as my vista has the air ride and the air brakes... so it rides well. But I was still stuck with the shitty transmission and a top speed of barely 57 at full revs.

And as for my drivetrain I went more extreme than most. When the advice from most was to sell the vista and get a "better bus" I decided to swap out the AT545 and do a custom one off job and stuffed an Alisson 2000 5 speed auto in it's place. This job is not for everyone

now the bus flies, it has the flat nose, and is just lovely.

but the point is you gotta do one or more of a couple things

1. wait...and look... and PATIENCE
2. Have lots of cash if you don't have lots of skills
3. Be prepared to get the wrong bus if it fits more checks than not, but also make sure you CAN upgrade out of the AT545 that about 90% of "affordable" buses come with

again this is only my blathering .02 mate

cheers
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:39 AM   #7
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I’m in Florida so I’ll be looking to purchase a bus closer to where I’m at. Thanks you both for your responses, if we aren’t able to find a bus we might just look into getting a sprinter van. The only problem is that we have two medium sized dogs so we want to make sure that they’re comfortable. It definitely sucks that finding a short or mid sized bus under 30 feet will be challenging. We’ve been wanting to get on the road for the past 2 years. Do you think that a sprinter van would be more ideal?
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Old 08-14-2020, 10:05 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by RoadRanger20 View Post
Iím in Florida so Iíll be looking to purchase a bus closer to where Iím at. Thanks you both for your responses, if we arenít able to find a bus we might just look into getting a sprinter van. The only problem is that we have two medium sized dogs so we want to make sure that theyíre comfortable. It definitely sucks that finding a short or mid sized bus under 30 feet will be challenging. Weíve been wanting to get on the road for the past 2 years. Do you think that a sprinter van would be more ideal?
FL is a horrible place to shop for a bus. I grew up here, but I go north and west for good buses.
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Old 08-14-2020, 12:31 PM   #9
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How far North and West do you usually go?
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Old 08-14-2020, 01:17 PM   #10
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The best stuff is out in CO, CA, TX, etc. Places that spend more money on their school systems than FL. Our buses are rode hard and put up wet and our buses are low-spec stuff.
My current bus was the closest of the last 4 I've gotten. Its from north GA. I got lucky, though. It was a back up bus for handicapped children and was very well kept with low miles.
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Old 08-14-2020, 01:26 PM   #11
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I just bought a 2001 Freightliner 9 window with a 5.9 Cummins and the AT545 and drove it 4.5 hours home from southern Iowa yesterday.

The AT545 is defitely a slushbox and isn't the greatest for climbing/descending lots of hills or towing a big trailer in addition to the weight of the bus.

THAT being said, however if you don't care about going more than 60ish mph and travel mostly on flatland then an AT545 is probably going to be fine. My opinion of these transmissions has changed somewhat and if you're aware of their limitations then they're not a bad choice if it means getting a cheaper bus.

This bus I bought is really NICE otherwise!! It has the factory 78 inch high roof, air ride rear axle and is a nice length that is halfway between a shorty and a full length. Also the Freightliner is probably my favorite of all the conventional bus chassis.
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Old 08-14-2020, 01:51 PM   #12
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My bus will do at least 80 and it has a 545. I'm only at 1750 rpm at 65.
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Old 08-14-2020, 03:10 PM   #13
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My bus will do at least 80 and it has a 545. I'm only at 1750 rpm at 65.
Hmm, I have not yet checked the rear end ratio. Possibly it's geared very low.
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Old 08-14-2020, 07:01 PM   #14
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Which states did you get your last 4 buses from? I never thought to look that far out West.
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Old 08-15-2020, 06:15 AM   #15
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Which states did you get your last 4 buses from? I never thought to look that far out West.
First Kentucky, then Colorado, then Texas, and now GA. All were good buses. The Texas bus developed a mechanical issue.
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Old 08-15-2020, 06:40 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by RoadRanger20 View Post
Iím in Florida so Iíll be looking to purchase a bus closer to where Iím at. Thanks you both for your responses, if we arenít able to find a bus we might just look into getting a sprinter van. The only problem is that we have two medium sized dogs so we want to make sure that theyíre comfortable. It definitely sucks that finding a short or mid sized bus under 30 feet will be challenging. Weíve been wanting to get on the road for the past 2 years. Do you think that a sprinter van would be more ideal?
I agree with ECCB, Florida is a terrible bus market, as bad as my local market in Indiana. The buses are rusty, underpowered because of the flat terrain, and school districts are very localized so they don't venture very far or very fast and subsequently the buses are spec'd for slow speeds.

To expand on my initial assertion and since you seem open to alternatives, what is it about a school bus specifically that attracts you? Because it sounds like you'd be as well served by a conventional RV and save yourself a lot of headache as well. I'm not trying to discourage you but want to understand if you've ruled out just buying an RV for a legitimate reason that will justify the inevitable headaches you'll face trying to convert a school bus that will justify that aggravation.
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Old 08-15-2020, 07:33 AM   #17
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My bus will do at least 80 and it has a 545. I'm only at 1750 rpm at 65.
very few buses are geared as tall as yours though

and I bet if you hit a hill with a rear end that tall you're done no?

and towing would be out too yes?

everything is a trade off
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Old 08-15-2020, 09:29 AM   #18
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very few buses are geared as tall as yours though

and I bet if you hit a hill with a rear end that tall you're done no?

and towing would be out too yes?

everything is a trade off
Goes over hill and dale just like all my other buses.

Motorhomes come with really tall gearing, too. Gotta gear it for the job its expected to perform.
The bus is always in its torque curve and has PLENTY of pull.
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Old 08-15-2020, 11:06 AM   #19
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Goes over hill and dale just like all my other buses.

Motorhomes come with really tall gearing, too. Gotta gear it for the job its expected to perform.
The bus is always in its torque curve and has PLENTY of pull.
I wonder if there were variations to the 1st/R gear ratios in the 545?
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Old 08-15-2020, 12:06 PM   #20
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Goes over hill and dale just like all my other buses.

Motorhomes come with really tall gearing, too. Gotta gear it for the job its expected to perform.
The bus is always in its torque curve and has PLENTY of pull.
I am not trying to sound like I don't believe you... but being the internet you can't see the seriousness and that I am NOT being an arse when I ask this.

but how is it you get so much incredible numbers, no issues over hills and etc as you claim? and at 1700 rpm even. But no one else seems to be able to accomplish this?

If such is the case why doesn't everyone just re-gear to what you have and call it sorted?

it just seems that only your bus pushes these amazing numbers, and everyone else who asks the reply would usually be "sell the bus, and don't ever by an AT545" etc and etc.



but here you are, 80 mph at low revs? And none of us else can get close it seems with an AT545?

so whats the catch then mate?

again I am doing my best to sound as non snarky or prickish as I can..

but I am genuinely curious as there is not seems to be another that can boast to get the number you do... I've read literally every AT454 woe is me story on here... but again here you are, the only one.
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