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Old 09-25-2018, 08:04 AM   #1
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7.3/4R100 vs. 6.5/4L80E... your choice?

And the contenders are:

2003 Ford E350 Shuttle Bus - 7.3 Diesel / 4R100 - 169K Miles

2000 GMC Savana Cutaway Bus - GMC 6.5L / 4L80E - 57K

Both are in good shape with no driving issues or odd noises. Which would you choose and why? Thanks!
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Old 09-25-2018, 08:44 AM   #2
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ha! im a huge fan of the 7.3. but not the 4R100 trans...

im a huge fan of the 4L80E trans but not the 6.5.


I think the 7.3 is the way to go as it has a lot of aftermarket and community support behind it... makes decent power, parts are everywhere for it..



-Christopher
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Old 09-25-2018, 11:46 AM   #3
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Thanks, Christopher!
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Old 09-25-2018, 11:56 AM   #4
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The correct answer is a Ford body, a Cummins engine, and an Allison transmission.

But nobody builds that in a light duty truck.
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Old 09-25-2018, 12:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cycle61 View Post
The correct answer is a Ford body, a Cummins engine, and an Allison transmission.

But nobody builds that in a light duty truck.
Thanks. Not that I'm in a position to do so at the moment, but could some creative engine/trans swapping create what you describe for a short skoolie?
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Old 09-25-2018, 06:51 PM   #6
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Anything is possible with enough time and money. Of the two you posted, I'd prefer the 7.3, they're solid workhorse engines.
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Old 09-26-2018, 07:15 AM   #7
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Thanks for the input! The 7.3L is a fiberglass shuttle bus, which I'm noticing lots of folks avoid. Is that just because metal bus bodies are easier to work with/modify (welding, etc.)?
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Old 09-26-2018, 08:24 AM   #8
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Shuttle buses don't have the standards as a traditional bus to stand up to... but either can make a great platform.


As far as the two you listed... both are solid if maintained well. The 6.5 has its issues. If you go with it, find out if it has has the harmonic balancer replaced. If it hasn't in the last 75k miles, replace it. Otherwise, it's a work horse.


The 7.3 platform is solid but the 4r100 isn't the strongest trans. I'd suggest a BIG cooler (Longs TruCool 40k or similar) ans possibly a shift kit from Transgo.


Either are fairly solid though.
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Old 09-26-2018, 09:08 AM   #9
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Thanks, Mr4btTahoe. I also read a ton about "bullet-proofing" both of these engines. Is that necessary off the bat, or only if issues start? It will be driven quite often and I'm big on preventative maintenance, if the budget allows! Thanks.
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Old 09-26-2018, 10:40 AM   #10
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Neither of those engines should require any form of bullet proofing. These aren't 6.0/6.4s


The only things to look out for on the 6.5 are the balancer and the PMD should be relocated. Otherwise, not much fails on them. The balancer is a big deal though as it has been linked to crank failure.


The 7.3 only has a few common issues such as glow plug system problems and valve cover harnesses. If its got over 200k, it is probably due for injectors which aren't cheap.


Either are pretty rock solid platforms... but they are work horses.. not power houses. Don't plan on turning the power up much on either and they'll last.
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Old 09-26-2018, 10:42 AM   #11
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Based on the mileage you listed... either should be great. Just make sure which ever one you choose has been maintained (preferably with records)
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Old 09-26-2018, 01:36 PM   #12
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Thanks. The 6.5L has a spotless Carfax slip and came from a private $chool, but nothing on the 7.3... just the seller's word that it was used to bus patients back and forth from clinics. My cynical radar is on with the 7.3. Should it be, or am I just overthinking it?
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Old 09-26-2018, 01:45 PM   #13
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If the 7.3 is the one you are leaning towards, go take a close look at it.


First I'd see how it cold starts (and make sure the engine is cold to the touch). If it starts easy and doesn't billow smoke... thats a good sign. Check tire and brake condition then take it for a spin. Check fluids and such. Check trans fluid as well for brown/black color or burnt smell. If the fluid is red/clean... Id say it's ok.


Just do your part to look things over in either case. Low mileage doesn't mean low hours... so the low mileage unit could have a lot of idle time, etc.. that you don't know about.


Either case, you need to do your part and look them over well. Pick the one that best suits your needs.
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Old 09-26-2018, 02:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr4btTahoe View Post
If the 7.3 is the one you are leaning towards, go take a close look at it.

First I'd see how it cold starts (and make sure the engine is cold to the touch). If it starts easy and doesn't billow smoke... thats a good sign. Check tire and brake condition then take it for a spin. Check fluids and such. Check trans fluid as well for brown/black color or burnt smell. If the fluid is red/clean... Id say it's ok.

Just do your part to look things over in either case. Low mileage doesn't mean low hours... so the low mileage unit could have a lot of idle time, etc.. that you don't know about.

Either case, you need to do your part and look them over well. Pick the one that best suits your needs.
Right. I didn't insist on cold starts when I drove them, but I know I should have. They both ran great at idle, low speeds, and ~55mph. The 7.3 had no tags, so highway driving was out. I didn't see any fluid issues on either of them. Thanks again.
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Old 10-06-2018, 04:18 PM   #15
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Personally I would stay away from any plastic bus. I know there are some that visit this forum that have successfully converted a plastic bus. But the facts are that the marriage between the chassis and the body is never a happy marriage and can end up in a very ugly divorce. The joint between the windshield header and the bus body is a problem area with every plastic bus when the body has seen more than 250K miles or more than ten years.

As far as power packages are concerned, I would stay a very long way away from any G-series chassis with the 6.5L diesel engine. It is an okay engine that is pretty durable. But there is virtually no after market support for any of the parts and zero parts support from the factory in the G-series chassis. There is some after market support for the C/K-series but none for the G-series. And unfortunately the unsupported parts that are G-series specific are wear parts.

The 4R100 is a better transmission than the older E4OD. The upside is there are some after market vendors who have figured out the problems the factory never addressed and the rebuilds are actually pretty good transmissions. The basic problem with the E4OD and 4R100 is that there is no physical way in which you can pass the oil through the transmission fast enough to keep it from getting cooked. You could have a cooler the size of a semi-truck to cool the oil and have it going into the transmission at less than 100* but before it can get through to the other side it will get way too hot.

If I was looking to purchase a Type 'A' size bus I would look for a newer GM G-series with a 6.0L/6L80 power package. It will get virtually the same fuel mileage as a 7.3L or 6.5L diesel, it will pull hills with loads almost as well as the 7.3L and better than the 6.5L, and it will be much easier and less expensive to fix if something should go wrong.
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Old 10-06-2018, 10:49 PM   #16
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I’d say 7.3 all the way.

And I say it even more with the GM van only having 57k on the clock. I wouldn’t trust to drive it if the previous owner didn’t
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Old 10-08-2018, 09:57 AM   #17
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I have a 2001 Chevy Express g3500 cutaway with 6.5L turbo diesel. I didn't realize it has a fiberglass body until I started gutting it. I am a newbie. I do agree with all the comments. I like my shuttle. It is the right size, has enough power. It seems like it is easier to find parts for the other one. I have spent a lot of time ordering parts and returning them because they aren't the correct parts. My local GMC/Chevy dealer has access to ordering the correct parts but at a higher cost. And I am learning about how diesel engines work. Mine has a high ceiling (6 ft 6 in) and that is nice. Mine does not have an emergency exit door, just an emergency exit window in the back. Overall, I like my Chevy. Oh, I have researched to find that the Savannah is essentially the same as mine.
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Old 10-08-2018, 11:16 AM   #18
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Don't forget to crawl under these vehicle to inspect the the no so shiny parts. First check the frames and on a GM van of that age I'd bee looking at brake lines.
I'm guessing that GM van at 20 years old just because it has a 6.5. If that is correct less than 3K miles a year? Sitting parked is not good for Hyd brake systems.
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Old 10-10-2018, 04:32 PM   #19
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The first thing I did after I purchased my shuttle was get all 6 brake lines replaced. Then new tires. Now new starter. My shuttle was not just sitting. It was used as a food truck for a group of farms to feed farm workers. So, it was driven almost every day until the owner decided to sell (about a month before I bought it). It feels like I am replacing everything.
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