New party bus biz starting up
Hi I'm Jake and I'm from WI. I've been around school buses in one way or another for over 10 years. I was a driver for a large company for about 5 years, but as a young single guy it just wasn't paying the bills so I had to give it up. I took my CDL training from the bus company and got a job driving a concrete mixer for a great company with good pay and full bennies!
About 5 years ago, I took a part time job driving a party bus on weekends and found that I really enjoy it! It was a small company with 2 converted 1996 Blue Bird TC2000's with the 5.9 Cummins that ironically came from the same company I drove school bus for. They were painted white, rearranged the seats, carpeted, colored lights, phone chargers, and a booming sound system. Our clients really loved it because it's more affordable than a limo and could hold more people. Unfortunately due to an insurance snafu and other uncontrollable circumstances, we had to go out of business. It's messy and complicated so I won't get into it. I want to keep doing it, so after some careful thinking, I decided to start my own party bus company!
I've been searching for a few weeks for a bus. The owner of the previous party bus offered to sell it to me. But in my experience from driving it, I don't have much faith it will last long. It's old, underpowered, leaks too much oil, and a bunch of other small things. I'm trying to start fresh. And I kind of have an affinity for a conventional bus from back when I drove school bus. So I've been looking for an International Blue Bird as I know from experience they are solid vehicles. I'm not saying other styles are bad, but that combo is my preference.
The first one I looked at was at a school district 40 miles away that was up for sealed bid. 1997 IH Blue Bird with a T444E and a 5 speed manual. I was not able to start it up because they took the batteries out and I would have to supply my own to drive it off the property. Condition was average for a 22 year old bus, but would need some body work. Taking all that into consideration, I bid low at $1250. I found out two weeks later I was outbid and lost. Which is okay because I learned from this site that the T444E is pretty underpowered for a full size bus and I should try to find one with a DT466 if I'm gonna go the conventional route.
I took a ride out to where my old school bus company has their buses for sale just to see what they have available. I know from when I worked there they phased out most of the conventional style buses and only bought TC2000's and All Americans for a number of years until recently when they started buying the propane Visions. Well low and behold, they had one lone hold out sitting out there for sale! It must be one of the last conventional buses they bought before they switched to the transit style. Like the first one I looked at, it is a 1997 IH Blue Bird, but with the DT466 mechanical, and only 113,000 miles! I'm sure someone's gonna say its gotta be the DT466E since it's a 97, but after doing some research I guess they did exist into 1997, although very rare and may have just been leftover stock before they switched to the electronic version. I got in contact with someone at the company to get more details. Mileage is accurate. Only 20,000 mi on a rebuilt transmission, fresh brake job, newer batteries, and tires have about 90% tread left. It's ready to roll. Some rust underneath as is normal for WI, but no signs of serious rot. The body is nearly perfect. They were asking $3000, but I talked them down to $2500 after explaining I worked there in the past. Somehow the guy remembers me after all these years and hundreds of drivers lol. I'm gonna take it for a test drive next week and have my mechanic buddy check it over. Hopefully I'll be taking it home!
I'm excited to start converting it into the ultimate party on wheels. I'm not looking forward to figuring out insurance (it's not cheap) and all the legal stuff out but I'll make it work. I will keep you guys updated.