Re: Soon-to-be Short-Bus Owner In Need Of Suggestions!
Yea I have a 1992 Ford E-350 chassis bus and I couldn't be happier with it. Mine is the 7.3L pre-powerstroke diesel with about 230,000 miles on it as of current. I bought it from the Santa Clara country school district storage yard where I paid the warehouse manager a measly $375 for it, drove it off the lot, and have never had to do anything more than regular maintenance to it. I'm very happy with the 7.3 diesel--its reliable, torquey enough to power my 8,400lb bus up ANY steeeeeeep-ass San Francisco hill (even when loaded with an additional 2000 lbs of fully grown adults) and OK on fuel, getting around 10-12 as previously stated by someone else. I've had some problems with power in extreme conditions, like steep, looong freeway grades in 120 degree Mojave heat, but places like this often have slow lanes for the big rigs and other such vehicles. I have dual rears and they don't really make the bus any wider, the inner wheel is just closer to the differential. At about 7.5' wide and 19' long, I've been able to maneuver it through every single street I've ever encountered in SF, including the infamous "curviest street in the world," Lombard, as well as cutty little alleys in the Mission, chinatown, etc.
One thing to watch out for, however, is the transmission. Many of these 350 chassis/7.3 combos have the E4OD transmission which while not horrible, isn't especially known for its longevity. If I'm not mistaken, I don't think the pump circulates fluid while in reverse, leading to easy overheating while backing-up. Check for burnt or fragrant fluid when inspecting your bus. Test drive if possible.
Oh, and also, Ford just sent me a letter about a recall on my VIN number regarding an issue with brake fluid leaking and a possible fire hazard. Repairs are free at the dealer.
I assume you're from somewhere near Sacramento or the bay area? If so, there's an auction in Oakland, CA this coming Wednsday the 16th at an impound lot that has a shuttle-style bus starting at $300. Not sure if its diesel or not, and it looks to be a bit older than what you're looking for though.
And as far as the wheelchair lift goes, I had a working lift in my bus that I wanted to ditch, I posted it for sale for $150 for a while with only one guy showing some mild interest. I eventually just gave to a guy who helps me get rid of garbage so he could get some money for it as scrap metal.