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Old 10-17-2020, 08:55 AM   #1
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Shortie height options?

Hi there! New to the forum, but been considering a skoolie conversion since I took a 2-month rock climbing trip around the southwest with some friends in a bare-bones short bus 15 years ago. My wife and I are now considering building up a relatively simple shortie as a way to facilitate Covid-era recreation for the family (and hopefully after, but especially now, when flights and hotel rooms have lost some of their luster).

Was wondering if folks could help me understand the various height/width options for short buses. Because we wont be living in it full time, Im leaning towards a bus with single rear tires (as opposed to dualies) - sacrificing some width for driveability. However, I am 61 and would, preferably, like to be able to stand completely upright somewhere in the bus (especially after I add some insulation to the floor). What are the height options available? Are the taller shorties available without duallies? I have found a number that are 6, but I also hear there might be shorties that are taller - 63-ish. If thats true, anyone got some search terms to help me?

On a related note, we live in NH and hope to use the bus to facilitate skiing. I have no experience driving a duallie bus in the snow. On a weight-per-square-inch-of-contact-patch basis, I would think the single rear axle would be better, but that is mostly a guess. Any advice? (Well definitely put on snow tires.)
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Old 10-19-2020, 10:03 PM   #2
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Hi there, yes, there are shorties that are 6' original height (that will become about 5'10" if you insulate the floor and ceiling). There are shorties that are, I believe, 6'5", again that will change if you alter the floor and/or ceiling. I'm not sure how to look for those taller ones, but you could pm navigationnowhere on Instagram. He is responsive to messages, on his second build and has a taller shortie. His is also a Collins body, which you may also look out for, as Collins as opposed to Thomas are more square instead of curved on top (easier for the build). You can also look into shuttle buses, which have more interior height. You can also raise your roof, as I may do after realizing my 6' ceiling is a 6' ceiling. From my research a roof raise is not as scary as it sounds. Or, you can put in an elevated skylight or two.
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Old 10-19-2020, 10:51 PM   #3
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Thanks. Yeah, from what I can tell, here are the heights of some various models:

Collins Bantam Hi-top (6'1.5")
Trans Tech ST Aero (6'2")
Blue Bird Micro Bird (6'4")
Thomas Minotour (6'1")

These days, most of these are offered in single- and double-rear wheel models - it doesn't seem like height is particularly driven (no pun intended) by wheelbase width. I'm having a harder time finding older (i.e., cheaper) tall buses with a narrow body. Currently looking at a Collins Hi-Top narrow body - it checks a lot of boxes for what we are looking for.'

Edit: and you are totally correct about shuttle buses usually having more interior height. Some of the newer Ford Transit-based are pretty appealing - and pricey!
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Old 10-19-2020, 10:56 PM   #4
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Im 65 tall and only stoop slightly in my 1996 Chevy Van G30 Bluebird. It must be about 64 tall. Im going to cut a 4x8 hole in the roof and do a partial roof raise. Im not sure why my little 4 window bus came with dual rear wheel but it sure is stable.
I just went inside a couple of old coaches. Very low!! I love the older stuff but they sure skimped on the head clearance.
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Old 10-20-2020, 12:06 AM   #5
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A shuttle bus usually has 6 foot plus height. They are all heavy duty chassis design, so you'll have dual rear tires no matter what you look at.
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Old 10-20-2020, 01:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LostCause View Post

On a related note, we live in NH and hope to use the bus to facilitate skiing. I have no experience driving a duallie bus in the snow. On a weight-per-square-inch-of-contact-patch basis, I would think the single rear axle would be better, but that is mostly a guess. Any advice? (Well definitely put on snow tires.)
Dually = way better traction under power in the snow. I drove shuttle buses for the ski resorts in Tahoe back in the day. Duallies have a larger contact patch on drive wheels, larger contact patch equals more traction which will help you put power to the ground. You can increase the contact patch even more by airing down in snow.
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:52 PM   #7
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Dually = way better traction under power in the snow.
It's interesting you would say that, because I was always taught the opposite - that you don't want a large contact patch in the snow, so that your tires penetrate to the road. Like for my recently deceased wagon - OEM all-season tires were 225/45r17; the snows that I put on were 195/65r15. Been doing that for the last 15 years.

Maybe the difference is location? In Tahoe, I'm guessing there is commonly enough snow (or sufficiently packed snow) that there is no hope of the tire penetrating to the roadbed. In that case, you'd want as much surface area as possible - like in sand, where airing down will also help. Around here (NH) we don't get as much snow, so getting down to the roadbed might make more sense.

How's that for an ad hoc explanation?
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Old 10-22-2020, 12:33 AM   #8
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It's interesting you would say that, because I was always taught the opposite - that you don't want a large contact patch in the snow, so that your tires penetrate to the road. Like for my recently deceased wagon - OEM all-season tires were 225/45r17; the snows that I put on were 195/65r15. Been doing that for the last 15 years.

Maybe the difference is location? In Tahoe, I'm guessing there is commonly enough snow (or sufficiently packed snow) that there is no hope of the tire penetrating to the roadbed. In that case, you'd want as much surface area as possible - like in sand, where airing down will also help. Around here (NH) we don't get as much snow, so getting down to the roadbed might make more sense.

How's that for an ad hoc explanation?

I believe part of the discrepancy here may come down to snow vs ice and/or the quality and depth of the snow.
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Old 10-22-2020, 10:57 AM   #9
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Yes out here the storms are big enough that there is no hope to get down to the road surface. So traction on snow is typically more important to not get stuck or slide backwards down uphills.

Here's an example in the biking world where fat bike tires are the go to for arctic travel


On ice the only thing that matters is the rubber compound (softer the better) sipes, studs or chains. Difference in contact patch isn't gonna help. We would run studded snows and chain up only when forced to by highway patrol.
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Old 10-30-2020, 12:03 AM   #10
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'98-'03 Ford E450 MicroBird (BlueBird)is worth a look. I think it's 76", relatively flat roof, all aluminum body, and has a flat floor that sits above the wheel wells.

Could maybe utilize space between the frames and below the floor (like a boat) for Storage and/or Xtra insulation
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Old 10-30-2020, 07:43 AM   #11
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a lot depends on tires.. dually vs singles will always be a discussion but getting the right tires for the job and running the right pressures that manage the weight of the vehicle and also put the bigges patch on the ground..


ice is ice and tough no matter what unless you have some type of physical traction-adder.. like mentioned, sipes, studs, chains..



of course chains are paramount in snow as well..



itsn ot cheap but one option for a shortie is a system like OnSpot chains.. they arent quite as good as conventional chains however from people that have em im told they do a pretty decent job in snow as long as you arent trying to go so deep that you high center on your suspension..



a shortie van cutaway bus has much less ground clearance than a full chassis bus.. if the trails you travel are generally packed snow and not deep / drifted then ground clearance isnt a big issue.. but you definitely dont want to try and plow snow with the front bumper of a Van bus.. you'll stop in no time..
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:06 AM   #12
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As a former OTR semi driver, I can tell you that the idea is grip. The ability to push snow / rain / slush out from under the tires through tread is key. Ice, however, requires bite, meaning chains, cables, or studs, depending on the vehicle's weight and what can feasibly be put on/in tires. Mud, however, can be tricky. Weight, contact patch, and less power are key. You don't want to sink in, you don't want mud to stick in the tread (basically like having no tread at all), and the more you spin the tires, the more likely you are to sink in and clog the tread.

Contact patch can help, but that depends on the situation. A larger, wider single tire can help a bit in mud due to its ability to spread out its weight for less PSI (yes, pounds per square inch) of contact patch, but tread design and depth are still a factor. Dual-wheel arrangements help more with snow, slush and rain due to their ability to push slicker material out between them, helping the tires get down to firmer material they can actually grip.

Case in point, I'm sure you have noticed some semis are running large, wide single tires, called "Super Singles", on the trailers and sometimes the drive tires. I can tell you from my trucking experience, the reason is mostly due to rolling resistance and purported fuel savings. But they are a nightmare on such vehicles for two reasons. One, they are less stable in banked turns without a proper axle width. Two, they are much more likely to lose traction in rain, snow and slush, for the reasons I have stated. However, I have gotten stuck in mud with duals where the wider singles got out if I was careful not to spin the tires. Otherwise, though, a friend fom CDL school and I both called them "Stupid Singles", also for the reasons I have stated.

As to OP's roof height question, that depends on manufacturer, I believe. Blue Bird and Thomas likely offer higher roof height options on cutaways the same as they do with the larger ones, as they are essentially custom building a body on an incomplete chassis from a mainstream light truck manufacturer. Not likely to be as common with the cutaway style as their larger brethren, but still possible. The flat-nose buses also have high roof heights available. As CadillacKid has said elsewhere on this site, many buses are built to order, and it just depends on what the original purchaser's specs were. You can tell by looking at the side window height and how much extra sits above the cutaway cab roof.

I think OP may find a shuttle / party bus, bloodmobile, or bookmobile to be more likely to have a heigher roof height.
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:17 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
As a former OTR semi driver, I can tell you that the idea is grip. The ability to push snow / rain / slush out from under the tires through tread is key. Ice, however, requires bite, meaning chains, cables, or studs, depending on the vehicle's weight and what can feasibly be put on/in tires. Mud, however, can be tricky. Weight, contact patch, and less power are key. You don't want to sink in, you don't want mud to stick in the tread (basically like having no tread at all), and the more you spin the tires, the more likely you are to sink in and clog the tread.

Contact patch can help, but that depends on the situation. A larger, wider single tire can help a bit in mud due to its ability to spread out its weight for less PSI (yes, pounds per square inch) of contact patch, but tread design and depth are still a factor. Dual-wheel arrangements help more with snow, slush and rain due to their ability to push slicker material out between them, helping the tires get down to firmer material they can actually grip.

Case in point, I'm sure you have noticed some semis are running large, wide single tires, called "Super Singles", on the trailers and sometimes the drive tires. I can tell you from my trucking experience, the reason is mostly due to rolling resistance and purported fuel savings. But they are a nightmare on such vehicles for two reasons. One, they are less stable in banked turns without a proper axle width. Two, they are much more likely to lose traction in rain, snow and slush, for the reasons I have stated. However, I have gotten stuck in mud with duals where the wider singles got out if I was careful not to spin the tires. Otherwise, though, a friend fom CDL school and I both called them "Stupid Singles", also for the reasons I have stated.

As to OP's roof height question, that depends on manufacturer, I believe. Blue Bird and Thomas likely offer higher roof height options on cutaways the same as they do with the larger ones, as they are essentially custom building a body on an incomplete chassis from a mainstream light truck manufacturer. Not likely to be as common with the cutaway style as their larger brethren, but still possible. The flat-nose buses also have high roof heights available. As CadillacKid has said elsewhere on this site, many buses are built to order, and it just depends on what the original purchaser's specs were.

I think OP may find a shuttle / party bus, bloodmobile, or bookmobile to be more likely to have a heigher roof height.



2 winters ago a semi truck for stuck on the apron trying to get into a home depot parking lot.. the thing I found interesting is that he has 8 tires on the back of the tractor and only 2 of them were spinning.. just 1 set of duals out of 4.. he also was running all positions vs running "gnarly" drives.. was his truck broken or is that normal to only have 2 tires out of 8 able to drive..
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:33 AM   #14
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2 winters ago a semi truck for stuck on the apron trying to get into a home depot parking lot.. the thing I found interesting is that he has 8 tires on the back of the tractor and only 2 of them were spinning.. just 1 set of duals out of 4.. he also was running all positions vs running "gnarly" drives.. was his truck broken or is that normal to only have 2 tires out of 8 able to drive..
There is a switch for an air locker to engage the second differential. SOB was probably either too stupid to know, or too stupid to know when to engage and disengage...

Sounds like they'd driven at highway speed for a long distance with the locker engaged and probably broke it. Steering wheel holder, as we called them. Was it a Swift, Werner, CRST or Scheider truck?

Most of these fleet trucks don't have posi. I HAVE driven one where the rearmost axle was simply a tag axle for weight reduction and weight distribution - no differential. Not common though.
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:37 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
There is a switch for an air locker to engage the second differential. SOB was probably either too stupid to know, or too stupid to know when to engage and disengage... Most of these fleet trucks don't have posi. Sounds like they'd driven at highway speed for a long distance with the locker engaged and probably broke it. Steering wheel holder, as we called them. Was it a Swift, Werner, CRST or Scheider truck?

it was a brand new 'T880''.. is that a thing? freightliner? or is T800 a kenworth? prettyy gold truck so im guessing CRST?



i found it wierd that a truck driving in ohio had all positions for drives.. most everyone driving in these parts runs a more aggressive drive..
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:38 AM   #16
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at one point I swear he mustve shifted into 10th gear and floored it.. those wheels were squealin on that snowbank lol
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:47 AM   #17
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Gold would likely be a CRST, or at least a former CRST, and I have seen some KW's in their fleet since I left. T-series is KW model series - T660, 670, 680, 880, etc. Poor Kenny-Whoppers - they deserve better. Crooks Recruiting SuperTruckers, I called them, even though I trained there -- I just wasn't as clueless as the average recruit.

The axles are more or less all made by Meritor... Air-ride, fifth wheels too in most cases. I suspect Paccar, Daimler, Mack, etc mostly just plop their running gear and cab in / on a rolling chassis from a third-party supplier.


It took me a few to realize when you said all positions instead of gnarly drives, I presume you mean trailer tires on the drives. Some do that because it helps fuel economy. Not so good for grip, though.

OP, sorry your thread's been hijacked.
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