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Old 06-30-2020, 12:20 PM   #1
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1989 Bluebird...Is it to old?

I had a 2008 Thomas lined up, but the seller is dragging his feet. While waiting I have continued to look around. I found a 1989 Bluebird TC2000. 190k Miles. Not much rust. Not sure on the Transmission yet (still waiting for an answer). Is this a good idea? The bus is 30 years old, what are some of the challenges of having such an old bus? I'd get it in working order for $1500.
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Old 06-30-2020, 12:39 PM   #2
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It'll have a mechanical 5.9 Cummins which are really solid and easy to work on. On a bus that old it's hard to rely on the odometer being 100% accurate so it may have more or less actual mileage.



Expect to get an AT545 on that bus (small chance it has an MT643 but the early TC2000s were extremely bare bones buses).
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Old 06-30-2020, 01:47 PM   #3
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The transmission is the only thing I was worried about. I wasn't sure how common the 545s were in the 80s/90s. Thanks for the info!
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Old 06-30-2020, 02:34 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by VinDaddy10 View Post
I had a 2008 Thomas lined up, but the seller is dragging his feet. While waiting I have continued to look around. I found a 1989 Bluebird TC2000. 190k Miles. Not much rust. Not sure on the Transmission yet (still waiting for an answer). Is this a good idea? The bus is 30 years old, what are some of the challenges of having such an old bus? I'd get it in working order for $1500.
I'd pay more for an 89 that any 08'.
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Old 06-30-2020, 03:17 PM   #5
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The AT transmissions were pretty common then.

Honestly, what prospective skoolies need to realize is that with any bus you buy, it's going to be work. Most buses have had their usable lifetime spent hauling kids, so when we finally get them, they're all going to need some form of tlc to a varying degree.

There are only 2 reasons I would fear an older bus. The first is rust issues and the second is finding someone capable of working on it.

With that said, newer buses will likely have higher hp engines, and 6 speed automatic transmissions vs older ones. But that feature also seems to make them more complicated, so pick your poison.
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Old 06-30-2020, 05:27 PM   #6
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If it is a cummins, and likely so, the 12 valve cummins 5.9 is a nice engine with a lot of aftermarket support. I would not fear the age on the engine. Trans as already said is likely the AT545. Ok but not great for a lot of highway miles, or high speed. How you plan to use it really makes a difference.
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Old 06-30-2020, 06:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinDaddy10 View Post
I had a 2008 Thomas lined up, but the seller is dragging his feet. While waiting I have continued to look around. I found a 1989 Bluebird TC2000. 190k Miles. Not much rust. Not sure on the Transmission yet (still waiting for an answer). Is this a good idea? The bus is 30 years old, what are some of the challenges of having such an old bus? I'd get it in working order for $1500.
The mileage is likely suspect. The gauge could have been replaced one or more times. Unless, it came with good maintenance documentation, I would not trust it.

I would verify the engine and transmission information as there have been many that don't know for sure what they have. For example, the VIN shows a certain engine but could have been repowered with something else.

Age can be a factor when parts and/or expertise are scarce. Although, this is not as much of an issue with parts on a common engine and trans. However, expertise is harder to come by on older engines like my DD 6-71.
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Old 06-30-2020, 08:09 PM   #8
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My 1954 is old

Everything should still be available for yours.

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Old 06-30-2020, 11:21 PM   #9
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When you get tired of people telling you it's probably a 545, you can take your transmission serial number to the website below and find out what kind of transmission is in there.

I don't know about '89s but for my '95 getting the serial number was a very clean job even on a rainy day because the transmission number is on a metal plate with a bunch of other numbers inside the bus, near the main door above the windshield.

It will take just a few minutes and then you will know what transmission is in there.

I had people tell me I shouldn't trust the guy I bought the bus from because it "probably" was a 545. I was very happy when I found this Allison site and didn't have to listen to that negativity anymore.

https://www.allisontransmission.com/...ission-results
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Old 07-01-2020, 12:32 AM   #10
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I use to build Allison 540's before the 545's came out back in 1980. These transmission conversations are making me feel really old!
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Old 07-01-2020, 05:45 AM   #11
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When you get tired of people telling you it's probably a 545, you can take your transmission serial number to the website below and find out what kind of transmission is in there.

I don't know about '89s but for my '95 getting the serial number was a very clean job even on a rainy day because the transmission number is on a metal plate with a bunch of other numbers inside the bus, near the main door above the windshield.

It will take just a few minutes and then you will know what transmission is in there.

I had people tell me I shouldn't trust the guy I bought the bus from because it "probably" was a 545. I was very happy when I found this Allison site and didn't have to listen to that negativity anymore.

https://www.allisontransmission.com/...ission-results
Speaking for myself I do not mean any negitivity by saying it is likely the AT 545. Just a real possibility.

Another way to find out is to simply look on the side of the trans, at the data tag, it will say right on it what model trans it is.

By the way my bus is a 1971. So far I have found every part I have needed. Most routine maintenance stuff is easy to get, other stuff can take a bit of searching.
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Old 07-01-2020, 09:23 AM   #12
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I don't know about '89s but for my '95 getting the serial number was a very clean job even on a rainy day because the transmission number is on a metal plate with a bunch of other numbers inside the bus, near the main door above the windshield.
I believe that's a blue bird thing and it only shows what the bus came with.

Being 30 years old, anything is possible. It's best to look at the data plate on the side of the transmission.

I know for a fact that it's easier to remove an engine and trans as an assembly in a transit style fe then it is to remove just the engine. With the assembly removed, you can then split it on the shop floor and replace the unit that you want to. That's the way we do it in the shop.

With that said, a person with a blown engine might just swap the entire assembly vs just an engine. We did that several years ago because it was cheaper to buy a running bus and swap the two power assemblies then it was to replace the engine in the one that was blown up.
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Old 07-01-2020, 09:27 AM   #13
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The $1500. price seems fair. To run a 30 year old vehicle takes some dedication and repair money. Usually schools retire buses at 15yrs due to projected maintenance costs.

On benefit is 1989 had a lot less emissions and other complicated nonsense to break and try to replace.

I would do some research on if you can still get parts or interchange parts on the 1989. It can get hard to get parts for stuff older then 15years. Sometimes popular models will keep being produced or get modified for a while to where you can still find parts.

It is a gamble $1500. bus can easily cost lots more then that in parts, repairs and headaches.
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Old 07-01-2020, 11:30 AM   #14
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In my opinion, the biggest advantage to an 89, and my 95 too, is that they are completely non-computerized and have simpler wiring systems, especially for warning buzzers and things like that. Leaving an emergency door or hatch open will set off a very irritating buzzer, but the bus will still start. And it will still start after all the sending units for the buzzers were disconnected. I have never had a problem starting my bus.

And just because a bus is older doesn't necessarily mean it was used a lot. My 95 was the property of the Auburn WA school district until 2019. It was a spare for many years, I assume that's because it's very easy to start. I also assume drivers didn't care much for it because it probably smelled pretty bad inside when it was wet. There were 3 windows on the curbside that leaked quite badly, so a big section of the plywood flooring was completely rotten. The galvanized floor under that part was very rusty, but that's really the only rust on the bus.

I am a little surprised that no one on this thread has mentioned tires. Just because a tire looks good on the outside does not mean you can keep using it until it doesn't look good anymore. I strongly suggest that you look on the web and figure out how to read tire date codes. As I understand it, there is no actual prohibition of using outdated tires on school bus conversions, so you can get by with a few years, especially on the rear, much less so on the front. But you need to know the date, because if they are pretty old, you may have to replace them immediately.
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Old 07-01-2020, 01:14 PM   #15
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I am finishing a 1988 Bluebird on an IH S1800 chassie this summer, and I kinda thought it was oldish until I looked at my pick-up. It is a 1980 model. Now I think the bus is pretty new. Of course I will carry a full set of tools.
And new rubber all around.
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Old 07-01-2020, 03:03 PM   #16
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Older vehicles have been a part of my life for over 50 years. I always carry tools, and I would much rather tinker and repair than make payments involving interest. Plus older vehicles are simpler, that's the big attraction now.
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