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Old 09-20-2021, 11:03 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2021
Posts: 3
Greetings from East Texas

I've been lurking for a short while, contemplating on getting my feet wet. I've had this dream of converting a bus into a "camper bus" and have whittled that dream down from doing a coach, to doing a shuttle and finally to converting a school bus. I've decided on a transit style, rear-engined, 39 to 40 foot beast with some "basement" storage. We will not be focused on off-roading this gargantua, but probably want to experience an occasional BLM jaunt. Most of the time, though, we'll find state parks with hook-ups with utilities and dump stations. All this being said, I have approximately a year before laying out money for a bus and beginning to convert it. So I'm doing lots of research and asking questions, some of which include:

1. Which makes/models are conducive to interstate speeds (don't want to hold up traffic)?

2. I've read that engine/transmission/differential gearing affect top end? What combo is
good for that (see question 1 above)?

3. Speaking of engines, what brand/model will have a very good to excellent longevity,
have lowest repair costs when something goes awry, and produces what is considered
good mileage (taking into consideration #1 and #2 above).

Thanks loads for your insight, Michael

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Old 09-20-2021, 11:58 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2018
Location: topeka kansas
Posts: 1,047
Year: 1954
Coachwork: wayne
Chassis: old f500- new 2005 f-450
Engine: cummins 12 valve
Rated Cap: 20? five rows of 4?
this is my take on your question

I am a fan of mid 1990's or older that are mechanical injection engines. I believe they are more fault tolerant then newer engines that use electric/hydraulic injectors.

for a 40 footer I would like to see engines like cummins 8.3, dt 466, dt530 - uses the same size/space as 466 but has a bit more oomff. cat 3116. cat 3208 with turbo,

most of these engines would have had manual transmissions or an allison mt643 or allison mt653.

something like a 4.1 -4.88 rear end gear ratio.

A more modern transmission like a allison 3060 could be put behind any of these engines but it takes some work and dedication to do it. That would give you a more modern 5 or 6 speed and let you use a little lower gear like a 5.13 and still do well in terms of hills, and getting a heavy bus up a hill.

the cat 3116 and the cat 3208 or the most expensive to rebuild and I guess I would put them at the bottom of the list. cummins 8.3 and dt530 at the top of the list and the dt466 followed by maybe a dt436....

all of these engines were mechanical up to around 1995-1998 after that they all get electronics...

then there are busses like the old gmc grey hound buses with the detroit diesel two strokes like the 6-71 6v-71 and 8v-71

You can find some older like 68- 73 bluebird wanderlodges with ford 391 gasoline and chevrolet gasoline engines. I know of two in southern california that are for sale.

william
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Old 09-21-2021, 09:03 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Brazoria County, Texas
Posts: 801
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 32 Passenger
Welcome aboard Michael from a fellow Texan. I canít tell you exactly the busses I see all around Harris, Fort Bend, & Brazoria counties, but I see plenty of them around sitting at auctions, car lots and peoples properties. Donít really know how much advertising they do to sell them. What part of East Texas are you in. Try filling out more of your profile to help with location. It seems that a few folks on here have been having technical difficulties with the profiles working properly.
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Old 09-21-2021, 03:05 PM   #4
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Swansboro,NC
Posts: 1,709
Year: 86
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford B700
Engine: 8.2
Rated Cap: 60 bodies
welcome
what part of east texas?
i was born and raised in kilgore where my family still lives.
there is another member on here from atlanta.
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Old 09-21-2021, 05:47 PM   #5
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Bly Oregon
Posts: 245
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: Supercoach
Engine: Cummins 350 big cam
Rated Cap: 86 passengers?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michaela75662 View Post
I've been lurking for a short while, contemplating on getting my feet wet. I've had this dream of converting a bus into a "camper bus" and have whittled that dream down from doing a coach, to doing a shuttle and finally to converting a school bus. I've decided on a transit style, rear-engined, 39 to 40 foot beast with some "basement" storage. We will not be focused on off-roading this gargantua, but probably want to experience an occasional BLM jaunt. Most of the time, though, we'll find state parks with hook-ups with utilities and dump stations. All this being said, I have approximately a year before laying out money for a bus and beginning to convert it. So I'm doing lots of research and asking questions, some of which include:

1. Which makes/models are conducive to interstate speeds (don't want to hold up traffic)?

2. I've read that engine/transmission/differential gearing affect top end? What combo is
good for that (see question 1 above)?

3. Speaking of engines, what brand/model will have a very good to excellent longevity,
have lowest repair costs when something goes awry, and produces what is considered
good mileage (taking into consideration #1 and #2 above).

Thanks loads for your insight, Michael

You haven't stated what your proposed budget is. That can make a difference.


I went the Crown route. They are not computerized, but old school mechanical diesel powered. They come with 6 cylinder inline diesel engines, some with manual trans, 5 speed or 10 speed or Alison automatics. Most younger folks don't know how to operate a clutch and manual trans. Crowns tend to be expensive but they are built like a tank, using off the shelf components common to over the road trucks. The Detroit 6-71 engines are common. Those come in turbo or non turbo versions. The other brand of engine used is a Cummins diesel. Older Crowns used small cam versions and some of the later ones came with the big cam versions. I have two Crowns that I refer to as the "old Crown" and the "new Crown". My "new Crown has a Cummins big cam 400 with an Alison HT740 trans (auto 4 speed). I also changed the gearing to increase the highway speed. (from 4.10 to 3.42) It can cruise at 70 to 75 mph. I should mention that both my Crowns are mid engine and the engine lays on it side under the floor.



The new Crown is 40 ft long tandem axle with air ride suspension in the rear. It does drive nice though.


All the stuff being said the placement of your various rooms like kitchen, bathroom, etc. must take into account all of the things already under the floor. Both of my Crowns have a large trunk at the rear, under the floor.


Most of the Crowns stayed on the west coast, being made in Los Angeles and later Chino. Crown went away in 1991.


I haven't worked on or converted any other makes of buses but I believe there are a number of other makes that are very suitable and reliable.


I would avoid purchasing any bus that was used where they salt the roads. All vehicles used on salted roads will corrode. If you buy your bus from the "rust belt" you will likely need to repair rust damage.



One last point: School buses made later than the late 70s are made to stricter Federal Motor Vehicle Standards (FMVS) than cars, trucks, transit, tour buses. This means if you ever get in a wreck (hopefully never) your chances are better.


Yes I am a Crown geek, what can I say.


I forgot, the last few years of production, Crown produced a rear engine bus that has some differences.
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Old 09-21-2021, 10:14 PM   #6
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Join Date: Aug 2021
Posts: 3
Hey! I live in Kilgore, on Regent St. (actually on East North right now but moving to Regent the middle of Oct. I'm originally from Louisiana but moved here in '88. My wife has lived here all her life and may know your parents. Small World!
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Old 09-21-2021, 10:43 PM   #7
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Brazoria County, Texas
Posts: 801
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 32 Passenger
I spent almost all of my summers in Jacksonville until I got married. Even went to school there for awhile. Always loved East Texas.
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Old 09-21-2021, 10:58 PM   #8
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Near Flagstaff AZ
Posts: 1,090
Quote:
Originally Posted by flattracker View Post
I went the Crown route.
The second best bus in the land...right behind Gillig.

Just kidding, FT. I think you know that, since we have 3 Crowns and one of those is slated to become our retirement RV home.

But seriously, to the OP, the Crowns are great buses and I'm a big fan of the mechanical stuff as well. No electronic control modules to fail due to an EMP or coronal mass ejection or just plain random pixies. And, also seriously, Gilligs are great too. If you're looking for a more vintage mechanical bus, with a manual transmission, we've got a Gillig school bus which is stripped and ready for conversion that we're going to list soon.
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Old 10-06-2021, 11:51 PM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Location: Baja often, Oregon frequently
Posts: 176
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Our hot little hands...
Chassis: Ford CF8000 ExpeditionVehicle
Engine: Cummins 505ci mechanical
You seem like you have a good head on your shoulders.
.
Would you consider apprenticing along as somebody converts their rig?
This way, you gain an invaluable -- and irreplaceable -- hands-on experience.
.
Would you agree hands-on real-world is far more valuable than theory?
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