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Old 04-17-2019, 06:24 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2019
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New!! Prospecting skoolies!!

Hey yall!

Names justin. Looking at getting myself into a skoolie project.

Going to look at an 11 window vista this weekend. 1997 T444e/at545. 75,000 miles. The one imaged.

Interested in converting it into a small camper with a dovetailed flat bed. To tow my mud truck around. I would also like to pull my trailer with another jeep or tow a 30' camper. Similar to one pictured.

Would the vista be suitable? Or will I be better off with another engine tranny combo?
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Old 04-17-2019, 06:28 PM   #2
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If you plan on any towing I would avoid the AT545 like the plague. It has no locking torque converter, so it's always working off the fluid. Extreme duty will over heat it. It won't help slow you down on down grades. I would verify that mileage, it is common for buses to have issues and the dashes replaced. Your bus should have closer to 210K. If it's correct mileage that's 2 holy grails this week. Go to the UserCP in the upper left and fill out your profile so can better assist in answering your questions.
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:13 PM   #3
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Well I dont have much to put into about me, as I dont have a bus yet. Working on it. However. I am down in south Florida. Really the only buses I see are at545 equipped. Occassionaly see an md3060. But they ask a pretty penny for them. 6k+

As far as the vista mileage. I was told the bus was a back up bus from a private school. So could be accurate.
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:18 PM   #4
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I have to agree with Marc.

If you are carrying any sort of load I would avoid the 545 and look for buses with the MD3060, MT643 or 2000 series.
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:18 PM   #5
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I'm not a fan of the Vistas. They ride rough as heck.
Not Thomas' best effort.
I've driven one and man was the ride jarring. It was a 35 footer.
That's a low headroom budget model with the lowest-spec drivetrain and its a full size bus. Look for something more substantial even if you have to travel to obtain it.
My 2 cents.
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:51 PM   #6
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If you're going to be towing with it, I'd look for one with a full-size dognose as well, just for better cooling / not trying to stuff the engine partially inside the bus.

You can pay the premium for a bus with a 3060, or you can pay for the rebuild of the AT545. Either way, your wallet will get lighter.
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Old 04-17-2019, 08:03 PM   #7
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So full nose it will be. Avoiding the at545.

Future bus will definitely be used for towing.
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Old 04-17-2019, 10:08 PM   #8
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half of the buses I have found recently are in or around FL.

Do some research, and set a reasonable search radius and you will end up with a nice bus.

Good luck.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:55 AM   #9
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Fl is not a great place to look for a bus. Low spec stuff for top dollar here.

Our schools are among the poorest in the nation and our buses reflect that.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:56 AM   #10
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I have been noticing that. Are there any particular states that have a better selection for buses, minimal rust?
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justinredt91 View Post
I have been noticing that. Are there any particular states that have a better selection for buses, minimal rust?
I mostly avoid FL and the Carolinas. Of course there are the usual areas to avoid like the entire midwest and New England.

Just personal choice/opinion... but Fl and parts of the southeast just seem to be crappy buses. BUT you never know where an awesome bus will pop up. Just be ready to buy when that happens and make sure you know a killer bus when you find one.
I used to avoid GA buses but I found a gem of a bus with LOW miles and its nice and clean. Paid $1625 on Public Surplus.

Look in the southeast but watch for rust or any signs of neglect.
Texas, NM, and AZ have great buses. I got a nice one from Colorado once.
Oregon and Washington are great but its FAR.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:06 AM   #12
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Our bus came from Chesapeake City, VA. Very clean, no rust. Like EastCoastCB said, it takes a lot of looking and waiting for the right one for you to pop up.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:19 AM   #13
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EastCoastCB know his stuff, and as a resident of FL he has the proof. There are a lot of buses in FL but not too many that are desirable. If you are towing, buy it right the first time. Do you intend on climbing mountain passes? Florida's highest point is 345ft. Think of where you will be driving and how many pounds you will tow. Obviously you can't make your plan work with a rear engine, so you have that narrowed down for you. Many folks spend a long time in the search for their bus. Some travel across the country to get it. I was lucky and found one close by, but the search took 7 months!
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:05 PM   #14
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Well, one day id like to tow up to north Carolina to hit some offroad parks with the trucks.

Im thinking a flat nose may be my best bet to get what I really want.

To tow 1 vehicle on a flatbed converted portion (jeep grand Cherokee)(4500#s) and have enough room to build the camper area. Enough oomph to tow a Jeep wrangler on a trailer.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:53 PM   #15
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I have a Vista. At this point I love it despite the flaws and often defend it (where it can be defended).

However, for this combination even I'd recommend against it. Even if the actual mileage was 75k (likely not, swapping out faulty dashboards and changing mileage read is all too common) I'd be cautious.

If you're gonna tow anything, the AT545 Slip-O-Matic is not going to be friendly to you in your travels.
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Old 04-18-2019, 03:03 PM   #16
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I have found a few flat nose FE with mt643's up north. Kentucky area. But are already pending sales.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:04 AM   #17
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Update. I found a bus I like. Its 2003/4 blue bird 40' flat nose FE. Advertised with 14x,000 miles. 3126 cat engine. With a md3060. Interior has been stripped already. There is a rusty floor, but does not appear to be to bad. There is a rusty panel on the body that appears to have been replaced previously. And is rusty again. I'm waiting for the seller to respond with frame pics. Asking 4500$. However, it's a 21 hour drive away. How does one go about getting it back to Florida. Can I get a paper tag from a title agency?
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:08 AM   #18
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This is the bus
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:10 AM   #19
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FL won't ever give me a tag for out of state purchases. I just drive em home without one. Some states will give you a tag but not all. Texas let me print out a paper temp tag for a bus I bought online there.
For that kind of money I'd try to avoid any rust.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:45 AM   #20
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was gona try to beat the price down to 2500$. its about 600$ in diesel to drive it home.
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