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Old 12-31-2016, 06:10 PM   #1
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Alaska Bus Conversion

Greetings from the Final Frontier (Anchorage, Alaska)!

My wife and I are purchasing a 1998 Bluebird All American with a front end diesel engine. Currently configured as a 48 seater and I estimate that it's 45' in length. We're very new to this and looking forward to learning a lot. I've been lurking on this forum for the past week trying to glean as much knowledge as I can stepping into this.

Does anyone have a decent VIN decoder for me to use? Trying to find some better spec listings for our bus than what I've been able to ascertain through Google searches.

Excited for this process. Going to be learning a lot!
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Old 12-31-2016, 07:40 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Robotwrestler View Post
...Does anyone have a decent VIN decoder for me to use? ...
I use this one for quick and dirty lookups. Other decoders TRY to squeeze out more info but I haven't seen much success in getting any more from them than this one gives:

Automotive Belts & Hose Vin Decoder | Gates Corporation

Glad you're with us! And I think school bus length is 40' max by law, so it's likely that's your length.
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Old 12-31-2016, 07:58 PM   #3
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Hey Robotwrestler- Nice bus. I have (2) 35 passenger (1/2 busses- Bluebird bodies, one with a Chevy 366 the other with a DT 466e). My son and I are heading to Alaska this summer (just booked flight) yesterday. Unfortunately, we will not be taking our Freebyrd bus) as the trip is too long from NH. We are renting an RV tho and will be staying for 2 weeks. This is a great site. Good luck and maybe we'll see your bus in Alaska this summer!

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Old 12-31-2016, 08:56 PM   #4
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Welcome aboard! my wife and I are new to this as well. we bought a 1998 Ford B700. will begin conversion second week of January! Best Wishes!
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Old 12-31-2016, 09:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dapplecreek View Post
I use this one for quick and dirty lookups. Other decoders TRY to squeeze out more info but I haven't seen much success in getting any more from them than this one gives:

Automotive Belts & Hose Vin Decoder | Gates Corporation

Glad you're with us! And I think school bus length is 40' max by law, so it's likely that's your length.
Thank you for the help. I have a lot to learn. I haven't physically measured it out yet.
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Old 01-01-2017, 04:55 AM   #6
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I think you will discover the bus is only 40' long. School buses are limited to 40' maximum. As a consequence, even in the commercial versions none of the school bus based buses are longer than 40'.

A 1998 Blue Bird is going to have one of three engines--Cummins ISB, Cummins ISC, or Cat 3126/C7. The ISB is going to be a little small in that bus, the ISC will be a great engine, the Cat engines are good but can get very expensive to repair.

It will have either an Allison MT643 or MD3060. If you are lucky it will have the MD3060 and since your bus was never a school bus it may actually have all six gears enabled.

Axles, brakes, and rear end gearing is so variable that I can't even begin to guess what you might have.

If you do end up purchasing that bus there is some things you need to know about Type 'D' FE buses.
  • They are nose heavy. If you notice, the total weight of the engine and transmission are in front of the front axle.
  • Because they are nose heavy they can become a handful when the road gets slippery--a lot of oversteer and no traction.
  • Because they are nose heavy you need to plan your conversion so that anything heavy goes behind the rear axle. Empty you will most likely discover there is twice as much weight on the front axle as there is on the rear axle.
  • Because the engine is in the dog house right next to you it is going to be loud and hot. You can put more insulation on it to reduce the heat and noise but when it is inches from your right foot you can only reduce the heat and noise so much.
  • Because the engine is in the dog house working on it is a royal PITA! Changing service items like filters can be an exercise in gymnastics and contortion. Changing wear items like fan belts can become a full day job.
The only caveat I would have is make sure there is no rust in the bus.

Good luck and happy trails!
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Old 01-01-2017, 05:19 AM   #7
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This is probably the best vin decoder for bluebird buses. Part of the blue bird bus website.
https://cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php/Blue...er_Explanation

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Old 01-01-2017, 10:46 AM   #8
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Nice looking bus! Welcome to the best place on the net. Don't hesitate to ask questions. There is more skoolie knowledge here than anywhere else and everyone is glad to
help.
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Old 01-01-2017, 12:09 PM   #9
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Thank you, cowlitzcoach, that is all helpful information. The engine wain't as loud as I was expecting, which was nice. We took it for a drive in the snow and it didn't slip at all (has new tires), but I also didn't take it over 25MPH.

We're hoping to start the conversion process in 3-4 months after it warms up a little. We pick the bus up next week!
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Old 01-03-2017, 11:24 PM   #10
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Welcome! Definitely insulating? Ha ha

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Old 01-04-2017, 11:07 AM   #11
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Welcome! Definitely insulating? Ha ha

-Thomas
Haha, yeah, just a little bit!
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:49 PM   #12
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Heat options

It's been a whirlwind of a summer. My wife is a photographer that had a lot of weekend gigs this year that I helped with, and I work a 40hr job, so we haven't had nearly enough time to work on the bus as we'd like. The seats are now out, we have re-routed the coolant lines, and are going to pull the floors and walls on Saturday and hopefully lay down the rust coating, if we have time.

My question I want to pose to you is about heating options. Still on the fence about which direction I want to go here. We will be living in Alaska year round in the bus (Anchorage area) where the temps routinely stay under 20 degrees for several months. Which heat source will be the most consistent while using the least amount of power? I'm leaning towards electric furnace with forced air through the front and back. We're also discussing building an arctic wall towards the front of the bus to close off the front and minimize the heat escaping through the windows. I'm leaning away from propane because I've heard the condensation can be horrendous.

Also, we're on Instagram now if you want to follow along!
https://www.instagram.com/themuirbus/
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Old 09-07-2017, 05:39 PM   #13
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I live in Montana and have wintered twice in Brunhilde. I use Wave 8 and Wave 6 heaters. No problem with condensation because the roof vent makes it all go away. It does get a bit frosty, but not that bad. The idea of an arctic wall is nice, though. I have 1" double-faced rigid foam on the sides and two panels for the door. I sleep under a German Federbett and Balonbett. 5 minutes under those and you're toasty warm.
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Old 09-07-2017, 07:39 PM   #14
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I live in Montana and have wintered twice in Brunhilde. I use Wave 8 and Wave 6 heaters. No problem with condensation because the roof vent makes it all go away. It does get a bit frosty, but not that bad. The idea of an arctic wall is nice, though. I have 1" double-faced rigid foam on the sides and two panels for the door.
My bus doesn't have roof vents (or even emergency hatches) currently. Did you create an exhaust system for the heater?
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Old 09-07-2017, 08:08 PM   #15
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Nope. I bought an 03 Thomas HDX. It has two E-hatches and a roof vent. Plus, the door doesn't quite seal at the bottom. The roof vent looks like a blowhole for a whale.
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Old 09-07-2017, 08:38 PM   #16
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One of our goals is to drive to Alaska with our skoolie. We visited there last year (via plane) and just want to go back. So much beauty...to much to see in the one week we were there.
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Old 09-08-2017, 10:14 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robotwrestler View Post
It's been a whirlwind of a summer. My wife is a photographer that had a lot of weekend gigs this year that I helped with, and I work a 40hr job, so we haven't had nearly enough time to work on the bus as we'd like. The seats are now out, we have re-routed the coolant lines, and are going to pull the floors and walls on Saturday and hopefully lay down the rust coating, if we have time.

My question I want to pose to you is about heating options. Still on the fence about which direction I want to go here. We will be living in Alaska year round in the bus (Anchorage area) where the temps routinely stay under 20 degrees for several months. Which heat source will be the most consistent while using the least amount of power? I'm leaning towards electric furnace with forced air through the front and back. We're also discussing building an arctic wall towards the front of the bus to close off the front and minimize the heat escaping through the windows. I'm leaning away from propane because I've heard the condensation can be horrendous.

Also, we're on Instagram now if you want to follow along!
https://www.instagram.com/themuirbus/
an get free wood if you get permit... well, supposed to get permit. also coal on the beach like at kasilof which is toward homer of course. I bought a wood/coal furnace which ran pretty much full blast in the -10, below temps. the only thing furnace needs is power for the fan... or make your own n fan as u will need that. i would suggest mucho insulation, even foam boards on outside covered up n starting below ground level. n u have to keep the plumbing warm....
you c
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:23 PM   #18
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Friends of yours? https://louisville.craigslist.org/rv...279042924.html

Just joking, I know everyone in Alaska doesn't know everyone else. I just noticed it has an AK plate on the front.

Too bad it has a 3126 front engine or it'd be nice to have an already started conversion bus from somewhere with a bit less rust than us. I swear it's like an organism around here, just swirling around in the air waiting to attack ferrous objects. But I digress.

Good to know some people can survive the cold winters in a bus. My wife has been quite vocal about her concerns of overwintering in Montana in such a contraption. I'm thinking insulation + woodburner = toasty warm.
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Old 09-09-2017, 03:09 PM   #19
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I use the Wave 8 heater and a German Federbett/Ballonbett.
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Old 09-10-2017, 03:59 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by INanMT-Bus View Post
Friends of yours? https://louisville.craigslist.org/rv...279042924.html

Just joking, I know everyone in Alaska doesn't know everyone else. I just noticed it has an AK plate on the front.

Too bad it has a 3126 front engine or it'd be nice to have an already started conversion bus from somewhere with a bit less rust than us. I swear it's like an organism around here, just swirling around in the air waiting to attack ferrous objects. But I digress.

Good to know some people can survive the cold winters in a bus. My wife has been quite vocal about her concerns of overwintering in Montana in such a contraption. I'm thinking insulation + woodburner = toasty warm.
3126 is ok engine if you treat it right..if not, like several bus companies, might have water problem... RE is better, however, just get a RV Door with frame and put it in front of rear wheels on passenger side, n ash can the FE front door, n maybe put generator where the steps are, is what i always do.
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