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Old 03-21-2017, 06:47 PM   #1
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We found our bus!! What do you think it is worth?

Hey there everyone!

For many months I have been lurking, researching and bugging everyone here on the forums. I want to say thank you to everyone that has chimed in on Our Most Excellent Adventure planning! It is with all of your assistance that we have come to the point where we are ready to buy a bus.

But ... we have decided to take a different path than doing a full conversion right now. As I have posted in other threads, we have been looking hard at the idea of purchasing a Blue Bird Wonderlodge rather than doing a conversion. Our desire to be free and on the road as soon as possible has outweighed our desire to take on another project right after leaving the last one (The American Dream).

I have been scouring the web looking for possible candidates, and we have found a few that fit our budget and desired level of care. I have talked to most of the owners and many of them are well maintained and ready to roll. Then along came this amazing man who saw my post on the Wanderlodge site and said that he had our bus! And man was he ever right! I drive up this weekend to take it for a spin. We will purchase sometime in the next three weeks when our house closes.

It is a 1980 35' Forward Control twin bunk Wanderlodge. It has 180K miles on the odometer. Cat 3208 NA with an Allison 643 transmission. I have had two very long conversations with the owner, who has owned the bus for 6 years and is a former firefighting equipment diesel mechanic (25 years). He also has a lot of history in racing high performance go-carts and driving big rigs. He has spent 6 years addressing every mechanical component of the bus. I will list all of the things below, but needless to say, it is an amazing bus! It needs a new paint job, but it really is not bad at all. As the owner said - it is a 50/50 - it looks great from 50 feet away or at 50 MPH.

Here are the details about the bus that I have gathered from my convos with the owner:

1980 35' Forward Control twin bunk Wanderlodge
  • Caterpillar 3208 NA
  • Allison MT643 Transmission
  • Air Brakes
  • Air Ride Suspension
  • Perkins 12.5KW Generator
  • 150 Gallon Fuel
  • Factory safe
  • Musical Horn
  • Gets 11 MPG at 55 MPH / 9 if pulling a toad
Changes / Repairs / Upgrades in last 6 years
  • All new tires 6000 miles ago
  • Halogen headlights
  • All LED lighting interior and exterior
  • All plumbing replaced with pex
  • New aux transmission filter/cooler
  • Air throttle / Kickdown installed
  • King Cruise Control
  • Mechanical Water temp gauge
  • New Air pressure gauge
  • New Exhaust temp gauge
  • New pre-heater for Perkins generator
  • New Volvo tractor seats
  • New spare on the roof
  • Large Aluminum storage box on roof
  • ROOF CRANE!! (for getting spare down)
  • All roof treadplate screws replaced and resealed this year
  • New main awning and spring
  • 3 Regularly serviced King-Air roof units (he said they will make the bus a meat locker in 105 degree weather)
  • Install of new sump for fuel tank
  • Install of Air dryer for air system
  • All new brake system
  • All new steel sleeve coolant lines
  • All new air suspension bags
  • Valves were adjusted 6000 miles ago
  • New durlen drag wheels on the back
  • New stove - original to the year and never used
  • New smart charger for batteries
  • Pan / Tilt rear camera with 50W Kree LED light (uses a joystick)
  • Sideview camera
  • New CB radio with brand new tuned antenna
  • Custom installed train horn

I only have photos of the exterior right now, but I will get the interiors up as soon as I have them.

Please let me know what you think. I am not going to disclose the price at this time because I am curious what the skoolie folks here think a bird like this is worth.











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Old 03-21-2017, 07:11 PM   #2
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I'll chime in. I looked at a few Wanderlodge's prior to fully commiting to converting the bus I already have. I picked up some ideas that I'm going to use 😀

Looks like you have an awesome machine. If this was sitting and not fixed up I would be hard pressed to pay $5K. In great mechanical, new tires, no rust with the 3208 NA, if you paid $20K I don't you were hurt. Honestly, if you paid more it would still be good. Less is always better though.

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Old 03-21-2017, 07:37 PM   #3
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What an awesome bluebird! I love those wanderlodges.
Congratulations! Keep us posted.

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Old 03-21-2017, 08:02 PM   #4
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Nice. I've also seen them go for between $3k and $20k. It sounds like that guy put that cat diesel in there. Didn't those have huge gas engines originally?

Shortly after I bought this bus a guy sold a Wanderlodge about 20 miles away for $3500. Timing is everything.
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Old 03-21-2017, 08:04 PM   #5
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Nice. I've also seen them go for between $3k and $20k. It sounds like that guy put that cat diesel in there. Didn't those have huge gas engines originally?

Shortly after I bought this bus a guy sold a Wanderlodge about 20 miles away for $3500. Timing is everything.
I haven't seen a lot of them, but the ones I've seen popping up the last year of so haven't been terribly expensive.
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Old 03-21-2017, 08:19 PM   #6
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The cheap ones are the one to be careful with. Exp the ones with the 6v92 and 8v92. The rear Engine ones I looked at were nice. But they needed about $15K worth of work. The avg price for a good condition RE version is about 30K and up. Except one that went for auction on truck paper. It was a 1998 (I think) with a Detroit 60 series and the original owner babied it. That thing sold for $36k 😵. The new owner showed up, new batteries, tires and drove from Georgia to Texas no problem and everything worked. Sadly, that was out of my price range and I didn't learn about the prior history of that coach until after the auction was over. Oh well, wasnt meant to be. Lol. All in all, I'm looking forward to taking this schoolie into some national/state parks. That would do so well with a 40' long 13' high and low ground clearance bus like that.

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Old 03-22-2017, 12:00 AM   #7
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Thank you everyone for the responses - I won't hold everyone in suspense here - he is asking $15K.

Given the maintenance and improvements - oh and I forgot, he has a spare for about 50 different parts of the bus - relays, valves, hoses, alternator, filters, extra fuel injectors (both the engine and the genny), turbo unit for the genny if I want to install it, extra joystick controlled light (to be installed), two spare air suspension bags, extra halogen headlights, etc. I almost feel guilty for buying it at that price. I am thinking of offering him $20K because I think with all the extras, it is worth every penny. I believe in paying it forward and I am not sure he understands what he has, lol. We had $30k budgeted, but that was with dumping $10k into the bus. I don't think we will have to drop more than $1000 tops and that is for interior changes we want to make. Of course we have an emergency fund for anything major, but that is on top of our budget.

I will be there Friday afternoon. Will be sure to post an update once I have been to see the bus.

Let me know if there is anything you all can think of that I should specifically check related to engine or transmission.

He has a ton of aftermarket cooling installed on the engine. I am going to grab an oil sample to send off and have tested since I have time to do that.
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Old 03-22-2017, 02:58 AM   #8
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The 3208NA is an okay engine. It was the engine of choice for Blue Bird in all of the All Americans and Wanderlodges for about ten years.

Starting in about 1975 the diesel option was made available. The early engine choices were the Detroit Diesel 4-cycle 8.2L Fuel Pincher, the Cummins 555, and the Cat 3208. Of the three engines only the Cat seemed to stand up to the job and became the only choice up until the 3208 was replaced by the 3116/3126. The Cummins 6BT and 6CT then became optional as well.

The biggest problem with the 3208 in school bus service is the engine never really got up to operating temperature. The pistons were cast in an oval shape so that when they warmed up to operating temperature they would round out. But because in school bus use they would be shut off before they really got warmed up they tended to wear the cylinders in an oval shape. Which is why most older 3208's in school buses are hard to start and smoke like a house on fire. When the engines are cold the oval cylinder walls are not conducive to creating good compression. Poor compression equals hard starting and lots of smoke.

In an application like a Wanderlodge the problem of not getting up to operating temperature on a regular basis should not have been an issue. They all tend to start hard and smoke like crazy when they are cold. But a good engine will stop smoking pretty quickly.

Normal NA hp spe'c's is going to be in the 210 HP neighborhood. Adding a turbo would not be a good idea unless you rebuilt the engine to work with a turbo. The turbo motors had different stuff inside to be able to use the boost. Putting boost to an older engine would be a good way to push the bottom out of the engine.

The MT643 is a great transmission. If it has been cared for properly it should be good for 500K+ miles. Shift it from forward to neutral to reverse and then reverse to neutral to forward several times. Each time it shifts into gear it should do so immediately without any hesitation. It should shift into gear with a good clunk. If it hesitates or doesn't clunk you may have a pump or clutch pack getting ready to give up the ghost. Installed, a good rebuilt MT643 will cost $5K-7K.

I would not offer more than the asking price if he is asking $15K. It really is not worth much more than that the way it sits. If it had a newer $10K paint job it might be worth more. But with an old and shabby paint job it just isn't worth more. Even with all of the updates and spares. It is almost 40-years old after all and the age is starting to show.

Good luck and I hope it works out for you.
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Old 03-22-2017, 06:36 AM   #9
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I swear ive seen that bus before... just looks familiar from a wanderlodge of seen around in central ohio..

the only things that concern me are old appliances like roof air units, etc.. if one dies, plan on replacing it, they are not easily repairable.. (the old ones anyway)..

a forum member here, Kubla has a wanderlodge, maybe he can chime in on this one as he seems super knowledgeable about them..

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Old 03-22-2017, 06:56 AM   #10
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You know... We have a sub forum on coach conversions, why not a sub on wanderlodges? I know that they have dedicated boards for them, but so do coaches.

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Old 03-22-2017, 06:57 AM   #11
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I swear ive seen that bus before... just looks familiar from a wanderlodge of seen around in central ohio..

the only things that concern me are old appliances like roof air units, etc.. if one dies, plan on replacing it, they are not easily repairable.. (the old ones anyway)..

a forum member here, Kubla has a wanderlodge, maybe he can chime in on this one as he seems super knowledgeable about them..

-Christopher
Yeah Kubla could tell ya all about em!
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Old 03-22-2017, 07:38 AM   #12
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Yeah Kubla could tell ya all about em!
I just saw that one has an Ohio plate on it.. maybe Kubla selling his? I was thinking he said he has a diesel in his? or maybe he had the 454..

I never even knew they had diesels.. ever..

-Christopher
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Old 03-22-2017, 07:46 AM   #13
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I just saw that one has an Ohio plate on it.. maybe Kubla selling his? I was thinking he said he has a diesel in his? or maybe he had the 454..

I never even knew they had diesels.. ever..

-Christopher
I think his IS a diesel.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:10 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
The 3208NA is an okay engine. It was the engine of choice for Blue Bird in all of the All Americans and Wanderlodges for about ten years.

Starting in about 1975 the diesel option was made available. The early engine choices were the Detroit Diesel 4-cycle 8.2L Fuel Pincher, the Cummins 555, and the Cat 3208. Of the three engines only the Cat seemed to stand up to the job and became the only choice up until the 3208 was replaced by the 3116/3126. The Cummins 6BT and 6CT then became optional as well.

The biggest problem with the 3208 in school bus service is the engine never really got up to operating temperature. The pistons were cast in an oval shape so that when they warmed up to operating temperature they would round out. But because in school bus use they would be shut off before they really got warmed up they tended to wear the cylinders in an oval shape. Which is why most older 3208's in school buses are hard to start and smoke like a house on fire. When the engines are cold the oval cylinder walls are not conducive to creating good compression. Poor compression equals hard starting and lots of smoke.

In an application like a Wanderlodge the problem of not getting up to operating temperature on a regular basis should not have been an issue. They all tend to start hard and smoke like crazy when they are cold. But a good engine will stop smoking pretty quickly.

Normal NA hp spe'c's is going to be in the 210 HP neighborhood. Adding a turbo would not be a good idea unless you rebuilt the engine to work with a turbo. The turbo motors had different stuff inside to be able to use the boost. Putting boost to an older engine would be a good way to push the bottom out of the engine.

The MT643 is a great transmission. If it has been cared for properly it should be good for 500K+ miles. Shift it from forward to neutral to reverse and then reverse to neutral to forward several times. Each time it shifts into gear it should do so immediately without any hesitation. It should shift into gear with a good clunk. If it hesitates or doesn't clunk you may have a pump or clutch pack getting ready to give up the ghost. Installed, a good rebuilt MT643 will cost $5K-7K.

I would not offer more than the asking price if he is asking $15K. It really is not worth much more than that the way it sits. If it had a newer $10K paint job it might be worth more. But with an old and shabby paint job it just isn't worth more. Even with all of the updates and spares. It is almost 40-years old after all and the age is starting to show.

Good luck and I hope it works out for you.
This is great information! Thank you! I was not aware of the oval piston design. This is good to know.

The gentleman who has this bird has indicated that he has gone over the engine very thoroughly and has checked things like engine compression (both the bus motor and the genny). I tend to believe him as he is a pretty serious diesel mechanic. I also have his entire repair history on one of the Wanderlodge forums, LOL. Every issue he has addressed in the last 6 years is detailed out in conversation.

So hopefully we are pulling the trigger on something worthwhile. We are holding back enough funds from the house sale to address a transmission rebuild and engine rebuild, should either of them be needed in the future.

He did indicate in our conversation that traditionally the 3208 is a throwaway motor, but that he is confident in this engine being good as he has worked on many of them on firehouse equipment. Apparently it is pretty easy to tell if one is bad or not. All of the secondary cooling equipment (transmission cooler - which apparently also helps cool the engine as well in some way) was installed specifically to overcome the biggest issue for 3208 engines, which is overheating. He said once a 3208 overheats, it is toast, and very easy to identify.

Of course, I am trusting all of this from him, but I think I feel like he is a good dude who understands the importance of this being a solid vehicle for our family. I am not sure if I noted this before, but he was not looking to sell, but happened to see our post and decided to offer the bus to us.
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Old 03-22-2017, 11:31 AM   #15
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A Wanderlodge sure would be nice for your family. I'd vote for avoiding all this build work and skinned knuckles.

And yes, this guy sure sounds like a decent man.
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