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Old 02-14-2015, 05:37 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Getting on the Bus

Hi all. I'm new here. I've perused the forums for a while. I think deciding to join is for me symbolic of committing to a major lifestyle decision. I'm not certain now when the desire started in on me to have a permanent but movable home, but as best I recall it was shortly after I started college - which now seems like a lifetime ago. I started college at the age of 44 (with a GED from 1983), graduated from community college in the spring of 2013, and should graduate university with my bachelor's next year. By then I plan to have my new home completed.

I poured over a number of ideas, and researched the tiny house movement - though mostly from a psychology perspective - and finally decided that a school bus is the best choice for me. (I am a double major in anthropology and psychology - hence the research interest in the tiny house movement.)

So...I will be living more or less full time in the bus. If career plans go as I hope, I will be at times living outside the U.S., which is one reason a bus is a good choice for me - in that I have a free storage option if I am not living in it for a period of time. Grant it, lots of students dream of a career that allows them to travel the world....but then they get married, have kids...I've been married (more than my share lol), am single, have been for years and plan to stay that way; my one child is 25, in college himself, and completely independent; I have no aging parents to take care of (as my mother passed away several years ago); so I am truly in the perfect position to live that dream.

I have a wealth of experience with the various aspects of building, and the forums here have been a big help on mechanical things I need to know (before purchase). I also have peeps with general mechanical know how.

One thing these forums were a big help to me on was figuring out spacial issues...figuring out how big of a bus I need; knowing inside dimensions from which to figure that out and to begin making a floor plan. I was able to determine that I really need an 84 passenger bus.

I have completed a kitchen floor plan. One reason I determined that bus conversion was a good choice for me, is that I patently HATE the typical RV or travel trailer kitchens - which are either lined up on one wall or are like a hallway. In one apartment I lived in, I loved the kitchen layout above any other I have ever had. It was very tiny but had loads of storage space, and the best part was you could reach everything in it within a step or two...it was pretty much square. The only bad thing was a severe lack of counter space. So my aim in bus kitchen design was to take the best aspects of that kitchen and add some counter space. And, one other thing I wanted was a stove-top open to and facing the living room - which is something I had on the farm years ago. An eye level oven - like I had in that apartment and on the farm - was also a must. I've spent about as much time and thought on the kitchen layout as I have choice of bus, and that's hilarious because I don't even like to cook.

After some initial research I was pretty set on a flat front rear engine Bluebird. I like the look of the flat front buses. Also, I do not want any engine access panels inside my living space. I've not been able to confirm, but assume, there are no interior access panels when the engine is in the rear. I don't foresee engine cooling being a determining factor since I don't intend to travel in it other than to move it - perhaps only once or twice a year at most, and possibly only every two or three years.

However, near me I am finding almost exclusively dog nose buses. Those I have seen so far are too short for me. I remember that there is a limit to entire bus length. So is there such a thing as an 84 passenger dog nose? I just don't remember what I have previously read on this.

Also, most of those I am finding for sale are by bus sellers - not dealers, but just people who have acquired several they are reselling. I would like to find out what their source is and cut out the middle man. Ideally I would like to buy one coming directly from service in a school district. But I haven't had any luck as of yet finding out where those are sold. I assume some sort of auction. I didn't find anything of that nature listed in the forums, just a list of dealers in different states/areas. I tried a Google search and couldn't find anything.

Oh, one last thing... My bus will be named Pura Vida. I chose the name after recently living in Costa Rica for three months, on a study abroad.
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Old 02-14-2015, 06:21 PM   #2
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They make some pretty darn long dog nose buses. I like them myself.
One thing to consider if you do come across a great deal on a front engine flat nose bus is that you can wall it off right behind the drivers seat.
I'm not married to any one style of bus. I think the size is most crucial. But on that I was even a tad flexible. I say just figure out what is reasonable to spend and start watching for really nice buses that are good deals to buy.
Gov Deals is the site where I bought my bus. There is also Public Surplus.
I liked going that route as I cut out the middleman and bought it right from the school. My bus cost me a cool 2285 out the door. With a new battery and a FULL tank of diesel.
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Old 02-14-2015, 08:00 PM   #3
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Thanks, I checked both out just now and there is nothing in my region listed. I'll check back from time to time. I'm in the SW corner of Missouri, so also close to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
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Old 02-14-2015, 08:59 PM   #4
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When I was looking for a bus in Texas, I just called a few of the local school districts and asked for the number to the bus barn. I called and asked them how they disposed of retired buses, they all used different (mostly local to them) auction services. From there I just watched those auction houses announcements online, some of them handled schools I hadn't called as well. So I would say give your local schools a call and ask. Everyone I spoke to was very helpful, I didn't get bit once!
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Old 02-14-2015, 09:44 PM   #5
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Lots of GOOD buses in Arkansas. My bus was built there.
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Old 02-14-2015, 11:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
I've not been able to confirm, but assume, there are no interior access panels when the engine is in the rear
There are but, at least in a BlueBird not needed for any normal maintenance. Pretty much anything can be done without opening them up. Just build things so you can get at them.
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Old 02-15-2015, 06:08 AM   #7
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Here is a NICE one.
http://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?fa...=1&acctid=7364
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Old 02-21-2015, 01:42 PM   #8
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Nice, maybe, but California is out of my travel range.
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Old 02-21-2015, 01:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malkieri View Post
When I was looking for a bus in Texas, I just called a few of the local school districts and asked for the number to the bus barn. I called and asked them how they disposed of retired buses, they all used different (mostly local to them) auction services. From there I just watched those auction houses announcements online, some of them handled schools I hadn't called as well. So I would say give your local schools a call and ask. Everyone I spoke to was very helpful, I didn't get bit once!
That's a good idea and I actually know a guy in the bus barn in our (very small) town. I don't think the school runs ones big enough for me, but probably all the schools here use the same services. There aren't that many auctions in the area. Also, I go to college in Springfield (Mo) - which has several schools -and their bus barn used to be near my university, but they moved while I was in Costa Rica. I'll have to find out where they are now and drop by.

I realized recently also that I was making a mistake by using "school bus" as my search term, as that doesn't give me listings of church buses or passenger buses, which is how some people list them when they have been used for other purposes.
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Old 02-21-2015, 05:36 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by somewhereinusa View Post
There are but, at least in a BlueBird not needed for any normal maintenance. Pretty much anything can be done without opening them up. Just build things so you can get at them.
Why might one ever have to use the access panels?

What year is your Bluebird? I was looking at your web page...I like how the steps in yours go straight up.
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Old 02-22-2015, 07:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Why might one ever have to use the access panels?
Probably only in the event of some major engine or transmission repair. It's not a good idea to make them completely inaccessible.

Quote:
What year is your Bluebird? I was looking at your web page...I like how the steps in yours go straight up.
Mine is a 91. You're most likely to find straight steps in a rear engine bus.
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Old 02-22-2015, 08:04 AM   #12
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My steps don't curve like some. I kinda wish they did. Mine is a front engine 88 Bluebird.
I got it from a guy that was selling it for a church. He was their mechanic and previously worked for the schools as their mechanic. The bus was used by GA schools originally.
To your other point, I am leery of buying from a school district. Once a bus has x miles, they know they will be letting it go to auction soon so the last year is not a big one on upkeep. Some are used as parts buses until they get enough together to send to auction. Just be cautious and not presumptuous. I worked for a district that was not always thinking right.
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Old 02-22-2015, 08:11 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by HolyBus View Post
My steps don't curve like some. I kinda wish they did. Mine is a front engine 88 Bluebird.
I got it from a guy that was selling it for a church. He was their mechanic and previously worked for the schools as their mechanic. The bus was used by GA schools originally.
To your other point, I am leery of buying from a school district. Once a bus has x miles, they know they will be letting it go to auction soon so the last year is not a big one on upkeep. Some are used as parts buses until they get enough together to send to auction. Just be cautious and not presumptuous. I worked for a district that was not always thinking right.
I would ONLY buy from a school district.
For what individuals and dealers try to charge, I could buy two or three buses direct from the source.
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Old 02-22-2015, 08:28 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I would ONLY buy from a school district.
For what individuals and dealers try to charge, I could buy two or three buses direct from the source.
I don't have room for 2-3 parts buses. I just wanted one good bus.
No offense and I am not looking to get into a spat over it. I just know the district I worked for. They sat on old buses that they let go until they had enough to auction. They used old parts to get them running for auction time. Some that were just up in miles were used for parts to keep others usable. Its sad but budget and careless people will do what they do.
Just look over the bus, listen to it, try the buttons, wipers, lights, brakes, etc. Same as you would for a used car but bigger. I didn't pay too much for mine and got a good one. It needed wipers and a rear brake cylinder is leaking now but I drive it hard around town and as much as I can.
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Old 02-22-2015, 08:33 AM   #15
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Sounds like you worked for a FLORIDA school district!
No offense taken. We all have different opinions.
I can't believe that folks think that FL buses are so great. They sell for double what they should here, and out schools are some of the most under-funded in the nation.

Why would we get into a "spat" though??
Differences of opinion don't HAVE to turn negative just because its the internet!

And yeah- I DO have room for LOTS of parts buses!
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Old 02-22-2015, 01:52 PM   #16
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Well, I can't afford to buy three buses. lol I can't afford to pay dealer mark-up either. No, "afford" isn't even right. I *don't have* the money. That's why I have to cut out any middle men and buy from a source - be that the school, through the auction house, or at the church down the road.

I'm doing this out of the living allowance portion of my student loans. Loans I'll still be paying off out of my Social Security when I retire at 90. Loans that currently allow me to live on about $11,000 per year (after tuition). If I'd thought of this sooner, and had a way to do it, I would have less loan debt racked up at this point (from paying rent) but I'm a senior now and so living cheaper will allow me to better pay off those loans. Currently I'm living rent free in exchange for remodeling work, and that's the only reason I have *any* money for a bus project.
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Old 02-22-2015, 01:56 PM   #17
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I think I need to ask a bus mechanic about this access panel thing. My plan is to put my bedroom in the back. While that doesn't mean I would have to make the panels inaccessible...the possibility of having to ever have mechanical work done through my bedroom is NOT appealing, to put it mildly.
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Old 02-22-2015, 08:52 PM   #18
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Yep no way of getting around the fact that a bus is gonna have an engine.
Talk to a mechanic. There also may be some youtube videos that may show something helpful.
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Old 02-22-2015, 11:34 PM   #19
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Here are photos from the rear of a model year 2000 Blue Bird with a rear Cummins 8.3L engine with the access door into the cabin visible. The rear bench concealed it on the inside. This one isn't a skoolie, but I assume the school bodies would be similar.


As I understand it, this engine is designed for in-frame rebuilding which would include replacing the cylinder liners (replace the bore instead of machining it). They're about the size of a #10 food can, aka coffee can to some. Certainly the access would be invaluable for that job. I've replaced one fuel injector line back in that area and had no need to open the access. Haven't done a valve adjustment yet, and although it might be easier for the back few cylinders, I think there'll be room to get the valve cover off and do the job without opening that access. Other engines (I'm thinking the 5.9L) may not be designed for in-frame service and it's anybody's guess whether those bodies would still have the access door.

I think you'll do fine to assume that it's remotely possible, but quite unlikely, that this access door would be needed during your ownership. If the work to be done were that major you'd be living in a hotel while it was done. Or you might just sell it for scrap and get another bus.

The State of Utah is considering legislation that would result in districts here retiring about 170 year 2002-and-older buses over the next few years. If Utah isn't too far for you to travel, you could tune in to that process and learn where and when their inventory will go. Far and away the majority of school buses here are flat-nose.
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Old 02-22-2015, 11:35 PM   #20
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I may find that I am better off to put up with the hump and hatch in the front though. I'm still figuring this out.
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