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Old 01-17-2019, 08:34 AM   #1
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Tips, pros, cons for 1980's MCI Coach build?

Hi all!

I am looking for some information regarding a coach bus conversion. We are currently in the market to buy one. I would like some tips, pros, and cons about them maybe even compared to a traditional school bus? We are undecided if we are going with a school-bus or coach, the MCI's from the 1980's seem most available and affordable so those are the ones we are looking at for now. Anything helps! Thanks!
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:42 AM   #2
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a coach is superior out on the interstates and highways. A school bus is cheaper, more crude, but a bit more rugged. I personally think a huge portion of this new wave of school bus conversion owners would be better served by buying a real coach. If cross country travel is the plan you cant beat a coach.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:58 AM   #3
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I second ECCB's opinion. My family opted for a coach instead of the school bus. We realize that there will be places we can't go that school buses can because of that, but we wanted the easier ride and more room (coaches can go to 45' long while school buses can only go to 42' and most stay below 38').
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:22 AM   #4
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My $0.02

I put many miles on forestry and logging roads in my Eagle.

I did get a little stuck once and had to back up a couple of miles to get to a spot wide enough to turn around.

I think that some here have the idea that RE buses are limited to nice paved roads. I disagree
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:39 AM   #5
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I think that some here have the idea that RE buses are limited to nice paved roads. I disagree

I'm assuming you're including me in that based on what I said.


For me its not about RE buses, its about ground clearance and a tag axle. My bus has rather shallow approach and departure angles, smaller ground clearances (i.e. belly storage), and my drive axle isn't the rear-most axle. The lower clearances mean low-offroad capabilities. The non-powered rear axle means I can get stuck between two relatively small mounds because my drive wheels can get suspended in mid air while the tag and steer wheels take the weight of the bus.



Most transit-style coaches are this way (shallow approach and departure angles, smaller clearances, tag axle). Most school bus-style buses aren't. RE really doesn't have much to do with it....
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:53 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by blessed-adventurers View Post
the MCI's from the 1980's seem most available and affordable

Just FYI - quite a few of those buses were/are powered by 2-stroke diesels. Even though those engines are really "bullet-proof", the mechanics that "cut their teeth" working on them are a "dying breed". If you are going to work on your own engine, then that's OK. If you aren't (or you need help), finding mechanics who know about them is going to become increasingly harder as time goes on. This fact alone is what pushed my wife and I to opt for a newer coach with a 4-stroke diesel.


I'm not saying not to buy one of those. I am saying to weigh this factor in with the rest when making a decision.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:02 AM   #7
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I've owned both--MCI and skoolie. I kept the skoolie because it was easier to store and maintain. I don't intentionally go off roading anymore so that wasn't an issue.

The old DD 2 stroke diesels are about my favorite engine but they are being phased out in favor of cleaner running 4 strokes. Both parts and mechanics to install them are getting tougher to find. Still, the older MCI coaches are a dream to drive.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:29 AM   #8
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I've owned both--MCI and skoolie. I kept the skoolie because it was easier to store and maintain. I don't intentionally go off roading anymore so that wasn't an issue.

The old DD 2 stroke diesels are about my favorite engine but they are being phased out in favor of cleaner running 4 strokes. Both parts and mechanics to install them are getting tougher to find. Still, the older MCI coaches are a dream to drive.
Jack
I think the DD two strokes somehow get into your blood.

I can give you all sorts of reasons why a modern, four stroke, I6 is superior to the old two strokes. But....... I still want one.....
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:22 PM   #9
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I think the DD two strokes somehow get into your blood.

I can give you all sorts of reasons why a modern, four stroke, I6 is superior to the old two strokes. But....... I still want one.....

Its the way it sounds....
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:06 PM   #10
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what would be involved in removing the tag axle?
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:20 PM   #11
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what would be involved in removing the tag axle?
The tag axle is there to support the weight of the coach. I you remove it you chance overloading the drive axle.

I put 250k+ miles on my Eagle and never had a problem with it. I am not sure I understand why you would want to remove it?
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:23 PM   #12
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Thank you all that have replied to my post, any information helps in this beginning stage of our journey to convert a bus into a tiny home on wheels.

I do have a question that I can't find much information about: Are the internal dimensions of a coach bigger than that of a standard school bus?
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:23 PM   #13
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what would be involved in removing the tag axle?




Um, yea, probably not a good idea for any number of reasons.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:26 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blessed-adventurers View Post
Thank you all that have replied to my post, any information helps in this beginning stage of our journey to convert a bus into a tiny home on wheels.

I do have a question that I can't find much information about: Are the internal dimensions of a coach bigger than that of a standard school bus?

Yes. A school bus is required to be 96" (8') or less wide on the outside. A coach can be up to 102" wide (8.5') on the outside.



I have 96" width on the inside of my coach.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blessed-adventurers View Post
Thank you all that have replied to my post, any information helps in this beginning stage of our journey to convert a bus into a tiny home on wheels.

I do have a question that I can't find much information about: Are the internal dimensions of a coach bigger than that of a standard school bus?
Compared to my A3RE, my Eagle had an additional 3' of usable length. The MCI's that I have looked at have similar space.

However, You will find later models that are 45' instead of 40'. That gives you yet another 5'
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:29 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
The tag axle is there to support the weight of the coach. I you remove it you chance overloading the drive axle.

I put 250k+ miles on my Eagle and never had a problem with it. I am not sure I understand why you would want to remove it?
my conversion will be used almost exclusively for winter travel - some of the roads I go on are steep and unplowed, to say nothing about many of them being rough - a tag axle would be a definite handicap - perhaps being able to hydraulically lift the tag when necessary might be an option
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:39 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
Compared to my A3RE, my Eagle had an additional 3' of usable length. The MCI's that I have looked at have similar space.

However, You will find later models that are 45' instead of 40'. That gives you yet another 5'

Whoops, I only focused on width in my post. What I found was this:


Legally, school buses have to be 96" wide or less, 42' long or less. Most school buses I've seen are generally 96" wide, but are 38' or less (generally showing up around 36').


OTR coaches are almost universally 102" wide (some of the older coaches, including antiques are no more than 96" wide). Today's coaches are generally 35', 40', or 45' long - 45' being the largest length that all states legally allow (however, some states allow up to 65' long).


You can get a sense for how long a coach is by the number of seats. 45' coaches generally seat 52+ (55-57 if there isn't a lavatory). 40' coaches seat in the mid-to-high 40s. 35' coaches are anywhere from 25 to 40 depending on how they are set up ("executive day coach" or ferrying college students from campus to campus). For example, my 45' coach came with 57 passenger seats - 14 rows of 4 + 1 jumpseat way in the back).


With all the seats out of my coach, I have just over 300 sq.ft. of floor.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:46 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleddgracer View Post
my conversion will be used almost exclusively for winter travel - some of the roads I go on are steep and unplowed, to say nothing about many of them being rough - a tag axle would be a definite handicap - perhaps being able to hydraulically lift the tag when necessary might be an option

I'd be very reluctant to try this with a full-sized coach - those buses just don't have the off-road capabilities. Maybe one of the shorter ones will (35' or 40' - the ones with two axles instead of three). But their suspensions just aren't designed to handle that kind of punishment - at least not for very long.


Maybe look at something like a Unimog or a decommissioned military vehicle of that size?
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:03 PM   #19
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that's something I hadn't thought to look at
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:18 PM   #20
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That's what we're here for! A community of people are much greater that the "sum of the parts." The different areas of experience and training each of us bring can elicit ideas that individually we might never think of. I've been very blessed to have others here to learn from as well as to "bounce ideas off of". I'm simply trying to return the favor. Lord knows I know very little....
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