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Old 06-24-2018, 01:48 PM   #81
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Old 06-24-2018, 03:10 PM   #82
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I have a Thomas SafeTLiner Cat 3126B Allison MD3060 auto transmission. I canít stress just how big a waste of money the Thomas is, even more the 3126 is total JUNK. Mine ran hot and destroyed the engine after 250 miles. Buyer beware!!!!
So you have less than 250 miles of experience in a Thomas and had a bad experience, does these mean ALL Thomas buses are crap? I think not. How many miles did that junk see before it fell into your hands?
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Old 06-24-2018, 03:31 PM   #83
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Seems like "Don't overheat your bus" is rule #2 or at least in the top 3. I don't think you can blame Thomas for that!
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Old 06-24-2018, 04:44 PM   #84
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God bless that free spirit that wants to jump into the whacky world of skoolies. I feel the overwhelming urge to share this STRONG opinion here. But this comes with one massive caveat: I have not yet done a skoolie myself. But I have spent my entire career doing project oriented work, and Iíve delved into enough info to know that the challenges of skoolie conversions are probably worse than for any other project that a typical guy on the street might get involved in. My guess would be that unless you have an incredible depth of experience in a construction related feild, and/or have a deep pool of resources that will be doing the work, that you may well be sitting with an unfinished bus by the time March of next year rolls around. Of course I could be totally wrong. I would just really invite you to sit back and do some serious contemplation about what you real skills are. There are a number of replies in this thread where people have been questioning the time line over and over. And those are from people who have actually built skoolies. If youíre serious about being on the road by the end of October for $30K, it seems like an already (or nearly) completed conversion would be the only way to go. Someone had included a really nice MCI, which you pointed out didnít have the right layout. It would be FAR easier to modify a fully functional conversion than to do your own build out. Of course whatever direction you follow, I wish you the very best. I just hope you can really hear what people have been saying here. Great luck either way!!
Glenn,
I really appreciate the honest opinion. I contemplate this all the time. It is consuming me. Yes, I have waves of doubt that wash over my head and crash my dreams on the rocks. But, the water subsides and I am still standing.
I have no extensive skills in anything. I am a Jack not a Master.
I am NOT an engineer, architect, designer, mechanic, carpenter, framer, plumber or electrician.
I HAVE engineered sophisticated electronic imaging systems (for DARPA no less). I have done CAD work or at least modified designs of others. I worked in an auto shop in my early 20's and was a motor head (why did I ever sell that 69 camaro!), I have framed walls, installed cabinets, floors, plumbing and electrical in homes I've owned and the one I built.

So, I have a little experience in most of the things involved. I am not trying to argue the point with you as much as rationalize to myself (I see one of those self doubt swells in the distance).
I know the difference between a cordless drill and a driver. I have wrenched enough to always be missing the 1/2", 9/16", 10mm and 14mm sockets and wrenches. BTW- I prefer metric measurement to standard. Am I alone in this? I was born and raised in America so its not that. But come on is 1/8 1/4 5/16 1/2 7/8 etc really better then 10, 11, 12, 13, 14? Isnt 10 base so much easier and less complicated. Anyone else on board with this?

But, I think I can do it.
I have to do it. But, like the trip my family is going on, there is no hard and fast. If October becomes November or Christmas, so be it.

I am so grateful for skoolie.net and all the awesome helpful people on here. If there wasn't all this historical knowledge and vibrant community, then I dont think I would even have the guts to contemplate this idea.

So, will it come out perfect? Probably not. But hopefully the problems will be like the ones that happen when you build a house. You know the things that bug the heck out of you but no one else notices until you point them out.

Maybe Ill video the whole process and we can all get a good laugh out of the adventure. Oh its for sure that I will electrocute myself several times and most likely have fluids shooting out of somewhere they aint supposed to be.
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Old 06-24-2018, 04:49 PM   #85
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I agree!!!
with my 45 yrs in design and building, I have been challenged. I have kept a log that shows over 850 hours already in my bus conversion. Carpentry, painting, plumbing, and wiring 90% done... just now starting to install the solar panels.

This may sound incredible, but it is much easier to build a house. Buses have very few right angles and forget "level" Buy a 12" and 24" square.

My bus conversion takes:
Huge motivation and tenacity
Huge creativity / problem solving
Experience with EVERY tool we can buy
Moderate skill in mechanics, carpentry, welding, auto wiring, plumbing, painting, insulating, heating, cooling, etc.
Practical knowledge of proper use of building materials, screws, glues, caulks, sealants
and
Way more time and money than imagined

We will never get our money (forget the labor) out on resale.
But it is a portable home for $12k.
XR,
Thanks also for the insight. Wish you were nearby so I could buy you a beer and Tom Sawyer you into helping with the bus.

But I think I got this. Lets see, the screws are the turny things, the glue is the sticky stuff and the caulk is the stuff that hurts my finger after 50' of base mold and somehow gets all over everything. LOL

Did you ever post your log? Would be interesting to a lot of folks to see what it actually might take to accomplish some of the steps involved.
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Old 06-24-2018, 04:51 PM   #86
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You can do it. And all of this honest advice is true and probably helpful, but I think most ambitious projects would never happen if we saw the way ahead too clearly.

I think we have pretty similar skill levels, and I achieved a reasonable level of success. Not sure I would have done it if I hadnít been a bit hardheadedly optimistic.

My timeline was a year and I was able to just barely make it. But my budget roughly doubled.

Your $30k estimate is reasonable, depending on expectations and how you plan to source materials. Try to do it for less though, or you will go over your estimate IMO. There are a lot of little things that are hard to anticipate. They add up.
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Old 06-24-2018, 04:57 PM   #87
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Ok, I'll chime in. First, you absolutely can buy a bus now and have it ready to hit the road by October. I bought a bus once and after taking the seats out and painting it I spent one day "converting" it and then took my family on a summer break trip from TN to CA and back. My (now grown) children look back on that trip as the most fun thing we've ever done as a family. And I agree that it really was fun. For me one of the reasons was we just had a great kick back attitude enjoying the funkiness of a school bus. Sometimes if you get caught up in having to have things just so (other than making sure everything's in great mechanical shape) you lose some of the joy IMO.

So first I would decide what I want as a vehicle. I've owned a box truck (and made a pass through) and wouldn't do it again. I've owned an Eagle bus and would give that one you looked at some real consideration. I think a school bus is pretty ideal also.

Do you want nice comfy smooth traveling? The Eagle, even though it looked like it was pretty messy has already had a LOT of work done to it and is the closest to a "clean slate" of all the buses you've looked at. If you could get him close to $10k it would almost be a steal and I would VERY seriously consider it. Raised roof, water and waste tanks in, and RV windows skinned in is pretty serious work. No rust is awesome. The Cummins engine is not stock so I'm curious about the story on that. Big engine for sure and probably not the best MPG. Looks clean.
There's a book called "The Bus Converter's Bible" by Dave Galey that will basically hold your hand as you build if you wanted to go with the Eagle. It was published 20 years ago but it has a lot of indepth info. He was a retired engineer so it's got charts like the holding strength of screws in different types of wood, etc.
Oh, I would also ask about the torsion suspension if it still has adjustment left. If it's a high mileage chassis it may not have much adjustment left. From the pictures however the bus looks like it's sitting nice and high.
An Eagle has a very smooth ride that you won't get in a skoolie. It's also not as maneuverable.

Ok, it's getting late and I'm blowing a lot of hot air. More hot air: I'm a bus contractor and drive a school bus for a living so I've driven just about everything there is out there.

Except a Crown. If you can find a nice Crown bus I would really think about that.

Otherwise, I say get a rear engined bus that's 40' long. You'll enjoy the extra space and they're just about as maneuverable as a shorty. It will go just as well on the back roads as any other school bus. Yes, you may be limited at some campgrounds but really? There's a lot of places to camp.

I'm partial to International, then BB All American, then Thomas. This auction is ending Monday: https://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?f...2&acctid=11331
There's a thread on here with someone in that area bidding on it so I don't know if you would feel right about bidding against him. The reserve is $3000. It looks like a good bus (no rust) and the engine issue they're speaking of sounds like it's not a big deal. Looks like it has air ride front and back and is set up for highway traveling. If it goes for close to that price it will be a great deal.

Otherwise, I would go with the https://lasvegas.craigslist.org/cto/...621293289.html
Find out the hours on the Hobbs meter (it's on the dash below the tach). With that mileage hopefully the hours are a little less than 5000. If it's way over that it means the bus was very much a stop and go bus. But with that big engine and sounds like it's geared for the highway it may have fairly low hours.
It's BS about going 90 mph. If 6th gear is unlocked you can get it above 75 but there's absolutely no reason for that. You can find out if it's unlocked by starting the bus and looking at the readout at the top of the gear shifter. If it shows "5" it's not unlocked. Also, 240k is fairly high mileage for a bus. However, if it was going up grades at the speeds they're saying the engine still has plenty of life left. Find out the school district they bought it from and try to talk to somebody in the bus barn.
Even though it's pretty high, since you sound like you're in a hurry I would make him a firm offer up to 7k. Who knows, he might bite at 5k. He probably bought it for 2500 at auction so he would be making money.

And lastly (if you got the Mesquite bus) I would take the seats out and not worry about stripping it any further. With no rust that will give you a head start. Make a list of what you HAVE to have in the conversion. Then, throw some air beds, a cooler and odds and ends and go camping somewhere a couple hours away. Redo your list and go camping again. Then make your final list and get to work. That way you can get comfortable driving the bus and you'll really know what's important.
In other words, you can make your October deadline but your bus is not going to be fancy dancy. Nothing wrong with that. For me, all I need is a mini-split heat pump and a comfy bed and a table to eat my take out food on. Well, a shower and toilet and kitchen would be nice to. Maybe for you it's a generator and a nice sound system and a cozy couch.
Good grief. It's late.
Rick
Boojie,
Thank you for the in depth reply. I wont knowingly "steal" someones bus.
I agree with the 90mph thing. I have seen threads about that and all I can think is "why would I even want to go that fast in a bus full of carpentry". If I can maintain 55-65 most of the time I am happy (without burning trannys up). So, I looked at that Amtram and fell in love..... and then the succuBUS turned on me. I will do a separate post on that now. Take a look and let me know what you think.
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Old 06-24-2018, 04:58 PM   #88
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I'm not going to tell you you can get a bus for a lot less money by going to a school district auction. You already know that. My choice, far and away, would be the Blue Bird with the 8. 3 L Cummins and the MD 3060 trans. Yes, higher miles, but not too many by a long ways. The six speed, double overdrive trans and engine combo is the thing. The only reason we don't have that exact bus, is we realized we need something smaller. But you need something big. A highway motorcoach style will be impossible to boondocking with, due to ground clearance issues. A rust free '03 Bluebird (one I was in love with) went for $11,000 from the Oregon school district. Heated mirrors, air ride seat, on-spot tire chains, 84 passenger. The only thing I don't like about Bluebirds is all the dang rivets.
ya rivets
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Old 06-24-2018, 05:09 PM   #89
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We have a bus for sale. Ended up buying smaller and dont need this is just to big;) bought fro. Awesome dealer in AZ it's 2000 INTL 300 bus 92,684 miles new tires and a spare! All seats out .rear engine 466. Allison trans. 8,000 $Oh I. 563 949 9928 durango co will deliver depending
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Old 06-24-2018, 05:14 PM   #90
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:17 PM   #91
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AmTram DT530 Allison MD 3060 Inspected Bad News?

I finally got an in person look at that AmTram RE 40' job. I am in love with this bus. There is no rust at all. Seems in decent shape all around. Tires have decent tread and If I am reading date correct steers are 2016 rears 2014 but no cracking or signs of rot. The pass through storage is HEAVEN. I think I could put a mini split, water tank, waste tank and still have storage room. Plus they would all be inside so to speak. I drove it a couple miles and it drove straight, pulled nice, didn't feel any hesitation or hiccups or strange transmission hunting. The entire interior was phillips screws, no rivets anywhere. Yo, XR NO RIVETS. Every bolt on this thing is not only rust free but many are still shiny. It looks like even the seat bolts will come out easy peasy.

Then the lights came up and she didn't look like she did in the bar. When I got back from the drive, first thing I noticed when getting outside was a faint smell of brake/clutch. Very faint but I smelled it. I walked around and checked the wheels looking inside and feeling if any were hot. I bent down to look at the torque converter and then I saw it.....A tiny black puddle under the engine. This was parked in a new spot so oops. I got down under the bus and sure enough it was drip dropping black gold. Not a constant flow but if I watched for a minute I would see a drop. They were forming on the torque converter cover and dripping down where there is a little hole at the bottom. Looking back at the engine oil pan I understood where the thick old oil residue came from. This had been dripping a while. NOTE- the bus idled for about 15 minutes before I drove off. I specifically checked under the pan looked at the floor to see if it was leaking and it was not. It only leaked after it was driven. I examined the oil. Black and not much smell. I am assuming engine oil. I have no diesel experience but in cars there is always a different smell to tranny and gear oil while motor oil seems to have the least odor. I am think rear main seal on the engine? This one has the DT530 and MD 3060 with access on side doors. Does not look like a fun job splitting them and I would definitely not take this on myself. Any ballpark on shop cost?
Then I stepped back and had another look at the bus in whole. I noticed something weird on the roofline curve in the back section of the drivers side. There was a scallop pattern in between the supports. A droop in between each one. Oh no. I imagined an accordion. Did this bus get crunched? What would cause that? I found a dent above the bumper in the back, a crack in the pain on the drivers side rear upright and some rub marks above the lights at the very top. Could be from something hitting the top but I dont know. See the pictures I tried to document as best I could. What do you think it is?
Finally, in my beloved pass through storage area. All the welds that look like they are holding the body to the frame or cross members had this white powder on them. It seemed almost like the white gunk that can build up on batteries but I touched it and it was more powder like and didnt give me that acid taste in my teeth. Any idea what this is? I looked it up and it could be residue of phosphoric acid that was not properly neutralized after weld cleaning, but does that mean it has been crystalizing since 2000? Could it mean newer welds or something happened?

BOOJIE- The Dash has 239k on the odo and 13,684 on the hours. I think I may have to pass on this one but it is my favorite by far of all I have seen. What do you think?

Here are the pics.
AAHHHHH the basement!!!


SCREWS YOU RIVETS


DRY DRY DRY NO RUST ANYWHERE



Is this the TIRE DATE CODE?
1/09/2014


3/08/2014


STEER TIRES 10/2016??


White powder on welds. Phosphoric acid or The Cartel?


SCALLOPED roof. This was hard to see in the bright sun and harder to photograph but you can see them if you zoom in.


Rear Dent

REAR CRACK

PAINT RUB


Are these stainless? Is it even possible they look like this after 18 years?


THE LEAK



This was on the ground just minutes after I stopped the bus. No leak on ground before we drove and had the bus idling for 10-15 minutes.


I think I need to pass on this one even if it was auction priced. I really love this bus in so many ways, but her bad stuff aint gonna get better just by marrying her. What do you guys think? Am I right to be concerned or are these all relatively common/easyish fixes?

Thanks again to everyone.
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:32 PM   #92
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But, I think I can do it.
I have to do it. But, like the trip my family is going on, there is no hard and fast. If October becomes November or Christmas, so be it.

I am so grateful for skoolie.net and all the awesome helpful people on here. If there wasn't all this historical knowledge and vibrant community, then I dont think I would even have the guts to contemplate this idea.

So, will it come out perfect? Probably not. But hopefully the problems will be like the ones that happen when you build a house. You know the things that bug the heck out of you but no one else notices until you point them out.



Dude, you can totally do this.....and your 30K budget is totally reasonable. I have similar skills/experience to yours.....handyman skills, basically....and our bus is coming along nicely. Much better than I'd anticipated, and much easier too. We've been at it for 8 months, working on the weekends, and we're probably 80-90% done. The more you look at other people's build threads, the more it all starts to make sense. You'll figure it out.
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:32 PM   #93
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A log to unpack there.

First off, they all leak. Every single one. Hell, a CAT motor doesn't pass its inspection if it doesn't drip oil. The area you photographed does suggest a rear main seal, which is pretty common. Rear mains tend to only leak when you're running, so don't expect it to drip out all your oil while you're parked. My short bus loses about a gallon of oil every 5000 miles, and I'm happy with that. If you're holding out for an oil tight bus you're never buying a bus!

I'll let someone else comment on the white around the welds, I have no idea what that's about. It almost looks like it was welded after it was painted.

The under carriage storage is really awesome, it's a good engine/trans combination. Newer tires, mostly looks sharp!
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:34 PM   #94
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Pending the oil leak, if you like it, I'd be tempted to jump on it.

I don't /think/ the white powder by the rust is a bad sign. If you look at some of the pictures it looks like the floor was galvanized, and I'd guess that powder is a result of the welding reacting with the galvanizing compound.

I'd want a second opinion on it, someone will chime in.

The dent and paint rub on the back are non-issues. You'll be painting it anyways. It's a bus, it's big. It's gonna hit things now and then.
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:35 PM   #95
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You can do it. And all of this honest advice is true and probably helpful, but I think most ambitious projects would never happen if we saw the way ahead too clearly.

I think we have pretty similar skill levels, and I achieved a reasonable level of success. Not sure I would have done it if I hadnít been a bit hardheadedly optimistic.

My timeline was a year and I was able to just barely make it. But my budget roughly doubled.

Your $30k estimate is reasonable, depending on expectations and how you plan to source materials. Try to do it for less though, or you will go over your estimate IMO. There are a lot of little things that are hard to anticipate. They add up.
David you are being modest, your bus is awesome. I showed my wife and first thing she said is we are stealing that skylight deal. The wife always wants more light.

As for the budget, I was trying to be realistic. I figured if everything was perfect and I got it at auction price, it could be done for about $15k. So I doubled that to come up with a max. I dont want to spend that much and it might be a big stretch, but I use it as a high water mark. The closer to $15k I am the better I did.

I think I can do it. Honestly, Im the pig headed fool that actually gets motivation from people saying I cant do something. Hasn't always served me well, but sometimes I build that bus because that bus is a defining moment, and when a defining moment comes along, you define the moment ... or the moment defines you.

Ya usually I put 8 in the water but if that bus gets finished we wont remember those.
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:43 PM   #96
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Dude, you can totally do this.....and your 30K budget is totally reasonable. I have similar skills/experience to yours.....handyman skills, basically....and our bus is coming along nicely. Much better than I'd anticipated, and much easier too. We've been at it for 8 months, working on the weekends, and we're probably 80-90% done. The more you look at other people's build threads, the more it all starts to make sense. You'll figure it out.
Drew
Thanks for the encouragement. I think it will be fine with all the info here. I looked at buying one already done, but I am hesitant. Almost all of them are backyard builds (like we want to do). Nothing wrong with that, but from my experience these kind of projects dont have an operators or repair manual. We get them to work how we can get them to work. The plan rarely goes as envisioned and we turn here and there to make it work. Not saying that my build quality and skill are better than anyones (probably not as good as most). But, if I build it I will know where all the glitches, switches and bodies are buried. That translates to a lot of piece of mind on the road and less "why the hell did they connect this to that" rants when issues arise. I am still looking at completed units, but I really want to do it myself.
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:47 PM   #97
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A log to unpack there.

First off, they all leak. Every single one. Hell, a CAT motor doesn't pass its inspection if it doesn't drip oil. The area you photographed does suggest a rear main seal, which is pretty common. Rear mains tend to only leak when you're running, so don't expect it to drip out all your oil while you're parked. My short bus loses about a gallon of oil every 5000 miles, and I'm happy with that. If you're holding out for an oil tight bus you're never buying a bus!

I'll let someone else comment on the white around the welds, I have no idea what that's about. It almost looks like it was welded after it was painted.

The under carriage storage is really awesome, it's a good engine/trans combination. Newer tires, mostly looks sharp!
Thanks, I just dont want to get Brokedown (pun intended and apologized for). Im fine adding oil and I do not expect no leaks. I was concerned that the leak was drip drip though. With these engines can you run on a worn seal for long? Do they get steadily worse or can they give and get real bad real quick? Just trying to figure if it is something to address before hitting the road or later. I mean can you drive indifinitly on the bad seal as long as you add oil?
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:49 PM   #98
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But, if I build it I will know where all the glitches, switches and bodies are buried. That translates to a lot of piece of mind on the road and less "why the hell did they connect this to that" rants when issues arise.

That was my thinking as well. We had tossed around the idea of buying someone else's conversion and decided to pay someone to do the grunt work (interior demo) and painting, then we had a blank canvas to work with. I didn't want to get so burned out doing the demo that I gave up before the fun started! We had designed the interior ahead of time but we made changes as we went along. It's been a fun project and we're really enjoying figuring out new solutions to problems that arise.....and like you said, if something breaks we'll know how to fix it!
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:52 PM   #99
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Pending the oil leak, if you like it, I'd be tempted to jump on it.

I don't /think/ the white powder by the rust is a bad sign. If you look at some of the pictures it looks like the floor was galvanized, and I'd guess that powder is a result of the welding reacting with the galvanizing compound.

I'd want a second opinion on it, someone will chime in.

The dent and paint rub on the back are non-issues. You'll be painting it anyways. It's a bus, it's big. It's gonna hit things now and then.
Mark,
Thanks, I really want a bus like this. Im not so worried about the dent or the paint rub alone. The only reason I even took notice of them is because of the scalloping on the roof line. I dont know if you guys can really see it in the picture but it was alarming to me. I haven't seen another bus do this. Imagine if is was folding like an accordion in between each window at the part where the white paint starts. Zoom in you can see the rounded droops I guess is another word. Anyway, that made me think it had been backed into something or something happened. I am just worried about structural integrity. Has anyone ever seen this on a bus? Am I worried over nothing?
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Old 06-24-2018, 06:57 PM   #100
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Fayetteville Arkansas
Posts: 419
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: GMC G3500 Vandura
Engine: V-8 5.7L Gas
Use your concerns as leverage for lowering the price. I don't remember if you said what the price was but I would stay under six preferably five or less. It seems to have everything you want. Take it to a mechanic to ease your mind first.
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