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Old 04-20-2017, 09:35 PM   #1
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New to buses, been dreaming for a while, getting close to pulling the trigger!

Hello! I have been dreaming of a van/bus conversion for a while, and have decided to go the short bus route! I have a couple of questions I have not been able to find answers to, and would be much obliged if yall would help me with your thoughts.

I am looking at 4 window buses, 1990s to early 2000s for years. Going with diesel. I have tentatively narrowed it down to the ford 7.3 powerstroke or a chevy 6.5. This will be pretty light duty, with no or very minimal towing. Looking to save on gas mileage- which would be better? I know that the fords are longer lived, but I would be getting a ford with 250k+ miles vs a chevy with under 100K for the same-ish price, if not significantly less for the chevy. Thoughts? I have heard that the ford is more of a heavy duty engine while the chevy might be better for mpgs.

As for location, I am in CO, but willing to travel most anywhere in the states to pick one up if the price is right. I'll also be heading to NJ this summer where a friend has a cabinet shop to fit it out to my exact demands, and will do a temporary interior outfit in the meantime. I would prefer to pick it up in NJ/east coast as that would be most convenient, but wouldn't mind the cross country drive, especially since there's way less rust out west!

Only other specification that i have is that I be able to stand up in it- I am 6' even- after adding insulation to the roof. That narrows it down a bit, but I have found several options.

Any of your thoughts, suggestions, etc are welcomed! I am not dead set on these two buses exclusively, they just seemed right from my internet wanderings. I want a short overall length so I can park it in normal-ish parking spaces.


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Old 04-20-2017, 11:49 PM   #2
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I bought my most recent bus in CO and its the nicest I've had.
It would be crazy to buy one too far from there.
NJ would likely be a rust bucket with a lot of miles.
CO and buses out west in general are MUCH nicer than the ones out here in the east.
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Old 04-23-2017, 03:05 PM   #3
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Do you know of any places to look busses in CO other than craigslist? Also, considering a chevy 6.5 right now... Any major cons to that engine in a bus?
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Old 04-23-2017, 08:55 PM   #4
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I don't think the 6.5 gets a lot of love here. You may google that engine, and read some diesel guys ideas.
Don't limit youself to Colorado C/L. Utah and Nevada are good places to look as well.
Good luck.
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Old 04-23-2017, 09:42 PM   #5
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Here's a couple more good places to look.

Public Surplus: Browse all categories
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Old 04-24-2017, 04:44 AM   #6
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The 6.5L turbo diesel in a G-model van/cut-away chassis is a disaster of an engine.

In pickups and Hummers it isn't a bad engine. But in order to shoehorn the diesel into the van doghouse GM used some G-chassis only parts.

When GM sold their medium duty truck line it included all of the parts support for the 6.5L that was used in the G-chassis. And since the newest one is a lot more than ten years old those dealer only parts are no longer available from GM.

Since the 6.5L was not a very popular option in the G-chassis vans sold through Chevy and GMC dealers there is virtually zero after market support for the G-chassis 6.5L engine.

Don't let anyone kid you that it is the same engine that was used in pickups. If you are talking about the major components, that is true. But all of the stuff that hung on the outside is slightly to majorly different and parts will NOT interchange.

If I was looking to purchase a 4-window bus I would look very seriously at an G-chassis bus that has the 6.0L gas V-8 engine and the 4L80 or even better the 6L80 transmission. In school bus and shuttle bus service those engines are going well in excess of 300K miles with no problems and most of them are getting 11-14 MPG. 11-14 MPG was about what I got on three different Ford E-350 van/cut-away buses with the 7.3L diesel engine with the E4OD power package.

I am also a little gun shy of the Ford products with diesel engines because of the transmissions that Ford used. The E4OD was an unmitigated disaster of a transmission when it was hooked to a diesel engine. In my three mini-buses I put seven transmissions into those three buses before I just parked them behind the barn. The most miles I got was 42,000 miles and the fewest was a little over 12,000 miles. Since those days there are aftermarket fixes that can make the E4OD more reliable. But it comes at a cost of around $4K.

Our G-chassis mini-buses that had the 350 gas V-8 and later the Vortec 5700 were very dependable buses that got 8-12 MPG. All of them were 300K+ mile engines.
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Old 04-24-2017, 06:50 PM   #7
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Thanks for your detailed thoughts- I have decided to stay away from the 6.5, and was planning on going with a 7.3 because of the reliability, but I hadn't really considered gassers. I think that I assumed a diesel would get significantly better MPGs, but I guess I am mistaken.

Another question: If I want to use this for CO ski trips, how much space do I need to budget for insulation? I was assuming 2-3 inches above my head, and another 1-2 on the floor... just want to make sure that I buy a bus tall enough that I don't have to bend my head all the time!
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Old 04-24-2017, 07:02 PM   #8
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Also, I found a few pre-powerstroke non-turbo 7.3s (IDI I believe, made by international?). What are your thoughts on those? I figured it would not be quite as good an engine, but they seem to have relatively low miles, heard that they are pretty durable. I figure they would get worse mileage, but they are also significantly cheaper to buy outright.
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Old 04-24-2017, 07:05 PM   #9
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You'll learn to identify the taller buses at a glance after a while. Generally we use the entry door as a measure of headroom. The side bus windows on taller buses are higher than the top of the entry door.

If you use as much insulation as you're talking about you'll be warm, but you'll also be ducking a lot.
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Old 04-25-2017, 04:07 PM   #10
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Hi, just my input on bus body choices. Ours is a Collins Grand Bantam with the Ford 7.3l. It is technically a 5 window (has the handicap lift). Because of the lift the headroom is great, my husband is 6'4" and can easily stand up in it. It is also a dually (wide body). There are no wheel wells inside which gives you lots more layout options (very important with shorties). Overall outside length is about 22', inside you have a shoe box 7.5' wide by about 12.5' long. I have a few pics in an album under our profile "FordBears".
We purchased our bus from a scrap metal buyer with a dealers license. He used to buy the buses for scrap and then realized that there is a market for running ones. He bids on the buses in lot form and sometimes gets them for screaming deals. We told him what we were looking for and he found us this one. He sold it to us at his cost because we helped drive the buses back up here for him. My husband got to drive our bus back (200 miles), best test drive ever. There maybe someone like this in your area.
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Old 04-25-2017, 04:32 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
The E4OD was an unmitigated disaster PERIOD.
There, fixed that for you
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