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Old 04-22-2020, 11:43 PM   #1
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Is the potential (hidden) rust worth it???

Hello Everyone,
Fairly new here and this is my first post. I'm really enjoying reading through the forums, so many great topics, ideas and knowledge through personal experiences!
My wife and I have had tiny home (THOW) thoughts and potential plans for over the past year. We've always enjoyed seeing Skoolies but never seriously considered it for us plus our very soon to be 2 year old wild child son bc of the lack of space. However, our minds have recently opened up to the many perks of a skoolie over a THOW.

About 3 weeks ago we decided to go all in and make living in a skoolie a part of our future plans. I've spent the last few weeks searching and researching buses; the good, the bad, the ugly and most importantly the available! There are way more options and configurations than I could have imagined. Buses have become more beautiful than I ever remember!

SO, this leads me to my post tonight. I think we have found the bus that checks all of our boxes ; price, size and engine. We are planning to make a 9 hr drive this saturday to pick up a bus near Cincinnati.

2001 IC RE 3000, a 40'er, DT466E with automatic Allison, 90 passenger, air brakes, full of under carriage luggage compartments, 120k miles and under 10k hrs, side door exit, tires are decent and the price was right in our under 4k$ budget. I've seen recent videos of it starting, running, driving and braking. I'm feeling very good about this potential purchase plus I will have a school bus fleet mechanic on site to look it over with me.
However, after speaking with the very upfront owner, I asked for pics of any visible rust. He has sent numerous under carriage, engine compartment, and a little body rust photos. Mostly surface rust down below that will need a bit (LOT) of attention, uder side of the entry steps looks like they were patched with bondo previously, and there is a small hole in the back corner of the engine bay above the bumper. I've seen rust on the floors by the pedals and am nervous of what I'll find under the flooring.

We're planning on doing most of this repair and build on our own and now with the vid19 have a mostly open schedule. I'm already prepping myself to pick up a welder and figure it out for this project, plus whatever else I may need to learn and tackle. I'm ready to get this project underway I just hope I'm not jumping the gun.

My question to my soon to be skoolie peers is, does this seem worth it with all the potential rust headaches and extra time involved!?


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Old 04-22-2020, 11:52 PM   #2
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It's going to be pretty badly rusted. Visible rust around the pedals is not good at all. Any rust you see on the outside will have begun inside the bus and worked its way out, so your back corner will have considerable damage. Your wheel wells are sure to have significant rust damage as well. Being a Cincy bus there's really no way it couldn't be rusty.

Rust will give you a lot of extra work to do (check out my build thread for some examples), and there's already so much work to be done on a skoolie. Your best bet is to get a bus from a place where they don't use salt on the roads.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:01 AM   #3
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Thanks for the advice. I actually was reading/skimming through your build thread recently. You've put in a lot of GREAT work repairing and patching the rear end and floors on yours. Does this mean you have regrets on your Rusty 87??
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:12 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by 1SkoolieNoob View Post
Thanks for the advice. I actually was reading/skimming through your build thread recently. You've put in a lot of GREAT work repairing and patching the rear end and floors on yours. Does this mean you have regrets on your Rusty 87??
Thank you for the kind words.

I don't regret this experience at all, but as a practical matter it was an extremely poor choice of starter bus. I could probably right now go buy a rust-free bus somewhere, gut it and reset the windows in a week, and be farther along the skoolie timeline with that bus than I am with Rusty 87 after more than a year.

This bus you're looking at is almost certainly not as bad as mine (nobody's has ever turned out to be that bad even when they look worse than mine on the outside) so most likely it wouldn't require anything as drastic as my floor rebuild. But I only think it would be a good idea if you cannot travel to get a bus anywhere else (it's a great bus across the board other than the rust situation).

Can you show me some of the other bus pics? I've gotten pretty good at spotting the telltales of rust.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:54 AM   #5
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Rusted Photos

Glad to hear no regrets with Rusty 87. Seeing your thread has given me a bit of motivation that anything is possible. Here are the photos I'm working with. I appreciate your input and feedback.



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Old 04-23-2020, 01:19 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by 1SkoolieNoob View Post
Glad to hear no regrets with Rusty 87. Seeing your thread has given me a bit of motivation that anything is possible. Here are the photos I'm working with. I appreciate your input and feedback.

Anything is possible...even a bus held together by rust, as Musigenesiscanattest to.


The picture of the rear corner is indeed nasty. That will take a lot of repair which will involve the rear panel outside, the rear corner, a big part of the floor and a lot of the back wall.


The back of the stairs is not a bondo repair, that is rust flaking off. However, a stairwell repair would not be a bad as the read corner.


The shot from the front looking along the rails. I am thinking those are the supports for the under-floor storage (basement). Those *should* be relaively simple to remove and replace with new metal.


The floor under the pedals is probably a bit messy. However, if you have to work on the stairs, adding repairs to the floor in front would not be much of an add-on depending on the supports underneath. Or ... you might have a lot to rebuild there.


I did not see any shots of the wheel wells, but I would bet they will need repairs.


One shot of the cross member looks like it has some scaling happening. Those are thick steel so they may be okay. Just knock off the scale, scrape and wire brush, apply a rust reforming product (many threads on this sort of thing), seal with primer and paint with heavy duty paint like POR-15.


What will you add, Musigenesis?
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:19 AM   #7
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Not to rain on your parade, but unless I could get it cheap and was prepared to cut the entire floor out and start fresh by replacing it all, I'd keep looking. I've seen buses before with less visible rust that the owner wound up doing exactly that. I may be a bit pessimistic here, but there is a very real possibility of (a lot) more rust hiding that you can't see. Rust around the pedals is not reassuring, as Native mentioned.

One thing that might make it a bit less problematic is the underbody storage you mention. Hopefully these have kept the rust at bay and it has not entered the floor structure. If that's the case, then maybe you can get away with just cutting out and rebuilding the underbody storage without compromising structural integrity. I wouldn't bet on it though. I would have a REAL good look around the engine compartment to see what it looks like in there. Badly rusted engine and transmission mount bosses could be a real problem.

Now, if you happen to be a skilled welder and fabricator (or be able to pull a favor from someone who is), roll with it. To offer a positive note here, some of this appears as though it may simply be skid plates rusted. I wouldn't bet on it, though, and no way to know without seeing it in-person.

Personally, I would keep looking. I'm not saying it can't be saved, or that you shouldn't. But that sucker looks like a LOT of work.

I would draw a line on a US map along the northern borders of VA, TN, AK, OK, NM, and AZ. And concentrate on potentials SOUTH of that line. ;) CA can be a good source of buses, particularly because they're scrambling to dump their older non-CARB-compliant ones, and are auctioning them off to out-of-state sellers only.

Just keep in mind that buses from anywhere around the mountain areas of CA (Donner, Lake Tahoe, etc.), may have the same rust problems. Donner gets about 3 to 5 feet of snow in the winter. This is something I know about, I've crossed Donner with a loaded 18-wheeler.
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Old 04-23-2020, 06:50 AM   #8
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What will you add, Musigenesis?
This bus looks really, really bad as far as rust is concerned (and we haven't seen the wheel wells at all which are likely to be the worst area). I think it's in the same class as my bus, which means it's fixable but will require massive extra effort.

OP, nothing but respect if you go ahead with this of course, but you're looking at a lot of extra rust remediation work. I would definitely say to pass this bus up.
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Old 04-23-2020, 06:58 AM   #9
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Heh, I noticed the piece of rub rail attached to the underside of the step here. My bus has a similar piece on the underside of my bottom-most step. I don't think these pieces are original from the factory, but maybe they are? I'm going to salvage my piece because it has two endcaps on it and I can use it to repair my rub rail in a different spot.
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Old 04-23-2020, 07:53 AM   #10
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Heh, I noticed the piece of rub rail attached to the underside of the step here. My bus has a similar piece on the underside of my bottom-most step. I don't think these pieces are original from the factory, but maybe they are? I'm going to salvage my piece because it has two endcaps on it and I can use it to repair my rub rail in a different spot.
I think its standard reinforcement on body parts. I've seen it on stairs and under battery boxes.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:11 AM   #11
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TX?

I've found tons of busses out of TX and PHX... just as cheap with no rust.

I'd think long and hard about starting in on a project of this scale with something that need remediation right out of the gate..

Just my 2 pennies


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Old 04-23-2020, 09:15 AM   #12
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I've found tons of busses out of TX and PHX... just as cheap with no rust.

I'd think long and hard about starting in on a project of this scale with something that need remediation right out of the gate..

Just my 2 pennies


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Old 04-23-2020, 09:20 AM   #13
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I've found tons of busses out of TX and PHX... just as cheap with no rust.

I'd think long and hard about starting in on a project of this scale with something that need remediation right out of the gate..

Just my 2 pennies


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Its way easier to drive across the county... twice... than it is to fix a lot of rust.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:21 AM   #14
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I've heard flights are super cheap these days too... spend an extra 1000 and save 1000 hrs of work...
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:22 AM   #15
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I think its standard reinforcement on body parts. I've seen it on stairs and under battery boxes.
That makes sense since it's surprisingly beefy stuff. It also seems to have much greater corrosion resistance in addition to being made out of thicker metal than the rest of the body.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:24 AM   #16
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I've heard flights are super cheap these days too... spend an extra 1000 and save 1000 hrs of work...
They're cheap for a good reason, though. The current situation might be the only time when buying a rusty local bus makes any sense, but even then OP's bus is probably too rusty.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:29 AM   #17
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That makes sense since it's surprisingly beefy stuff. It also seems to have much greater corrosion resistance in addition to being made out of thicker metal than the rest of the body.
they're galvanized, most likely. I'll go out to the yard in a bit and snap a pic of a galvanised bus rib next to a piece that's been sitting with it untreated in the elements. BIG difference.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:35 AM   #18
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I can sure see the temptation but I'd strongly recommend that you keep looking. Besides the major rust shown in the pics there will be heavy rust on the various bits and pieces that hold everything together which will make normal service repairs a PITA. Things like hose clamps, air brake cylinders, air tank drain fittings (to say nothing of the air tank itself), fuel lines, etc are apt to be very fragile.

I went back and reviewed the pictures and I'd say the only good left in that bus is good-by.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:37 AM   #19
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Glad to hear no regrets with Rusty 87. Seeing your thread has given me a bit of motivation that anything is possible. Here are the photos I'm working with. I appreciate your input and feedback.



Attachment 43650
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Attachment 43652

Attachment 43653
Attachment 43654
Attachment 43655

Attachment 43656
Attachment 43657
Attachment 43658
Yeah- don't buy that. That's swiss cheese in bus form.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:20 PM   #20
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Thank you everyone for the great feedback!



This has been a difficult decision. Some ideas were put into my head to consider how long are we planning on living in this bus and how long does it need to last? If I don't treat the rust 100% now what would be the repercussions? Or how long until then? I entertained the thought of that, only briefly. I'm not afraid of putting in the sweat to get this back in good shape. However at this current point we won't have the necessary time to give this the proper attention it needs.



I'm going with the majority on this and going to keep looking further south. I need a solid foundation for my Fam so we can get this conversion started! Not the delay of the rust repair. Shout out from KCMO, I'll share what we end up going with!
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