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Old 01-07-2015, 09:06 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Year: 1978
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: SuperCoach
Engine: Detroit 6-71
Two choices on the Precipice of the Journey

Howdy Skoolies and Bus Nuts!

Living mobile, free and eco-responsibly (on a post-collegiate budget) has been a dream of mine for over a year. The bullet is due for biting. The journey is long but this month it starts. I am buying a bus. After much searching (and lurking in your forums) I have found two prime candidates. I intend to convert the bus and live in it year-round but also go cross country. I turn to your experience, wisdom and opinions on these two buses. Both are on the east cost but south of New England (buses should be ok rust wise).

*ahem, announcer's voice*
In the rrreeed corner we have the 1977 CROWN! This ol' 40ft queen-of-coach sports a Detroit 6-71 with 5 speed Tranny and clocks in at 439k mi! Yes she's seen working days and more than few cross country trips but reportedly is ready for more! Those tires are looking a little thin mind you, I wonder how she'll fair against the contender...

...In the bluuee corner! The mysterious 1996 FLATNOSE INTERNATIONAL flexes his guns, the powerful DT466 engine! Little is known about about this younger upstart bus, but I hear he's in prime running condition. WHO WILL COME OUT VICTORIOUS IN THIS BATTLE OF THE BEHEMOTHS??

Okay enough of that announcer silliness. Here are Pro's (+) and cons (-).

CROWN
+ It's a frickin Crown
+ DT 6-71 good for biodiesel so I understand but dunno if I'll go down that route. Dunno how it compares with DT466... Insight anyone?
+ $300 cheaper than the competition, including travel expenses.
+ reportedly 6.5+ ft of headroom
+probably not a pusher
+ beautiful natural curves
- shy to modify the body significantly (eg. widening backdoor for motorcycle/ramp, roof-raises or mods). She will need interior insulating (oh mercy the rivets).
- impression that width may be <8ft
- Manual. I've driven a manual a very little bit but I wouldn't call myself proficient. Driving this behemoth home 400 miles right off the bat is daunting but I'm up for it.
- 12 years older than I am and highish mileage. I wonder what aches and pains she has.
~ GVW 22000. Haven't seen GVW used much. Hoping it's not a typo of 'GVWR' from the seller. If it's not, then I don't know the GVWR. Most modern buses are rated at 2700lbs (or was it 2600), dunno about older ones.
- How much do tires cost anyways?


THE INTL.
+ no worries getting creative with the bodyworks haha. Longterm, I may become very creative with this Intl.
+ That reputable DT466 engine
+ probably not a pusher
+ Automatic Transmission (despite learning manual would be awesome)
- Unknown mileage (need to contact seller again)
- Twice as far away for pickup (but getting there's half the fun;)
(haven't interacted much with seller yet)

For now my money is on the Crown but I'm leery of that 400+k mileage. The International has potential as a platform I may radically revamp but I bet I could find more like it in the future when I have the money for more ambitious projects. So what do you guys think. How concerned should I be about those 439k mi? How hard is getting used to a bus's manual transmission? How does a DT 6-71 compare with a DT466? Is there something important that I as a newbie haven't grasped? Might the MPG of the two buses be significantly different?

I wanna say thanks for the great resources you've all posted already and I look forward to sharing this adventure with you! Here are some pics for each bus.

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Old 01-08-2015, 11:56 AM   #2
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The international is a front engine.
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Old 01-08-2015, 12:19 PM   #3
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Is the International computer controlled or mechanical?
I've come to love the front engine flat nose design. Very maneuverable and I like having the rear door.
I also don't like driving a manual in big stuff. Don't get me wrong- I love manuals and they have their merits. My car was bought brand new and I had to special order it to get the manual transmission. But for long hauls, I like the auto much better. Especially driving in congestion like Atlanta, Orlando, Miami... For stop and go, I much prefer an auto hands down.
I should point out that I'm missing half of my left quadracep from a bad accident and my left leg really gets sore driving stuff with a super heavy clutch, like a bus.
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Old 01-08-2015, 12:53 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Year: 1978
Coachwork: Crown
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Engine: Detroit 6-71
The International is from 1996 so I doubt it's all-mechanical. Why are pure mechanical engines preferred over computer controlled ones, does it have to do with maintenance/determining what's going on if something's goes wrong?

The first vehicle I tried driving was a massive double-clutch truck. I drove it into a ditch oops. Huzzuh for relatives with farms.
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Old 01-08-2015, 07:11 PM   #5
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Your two choices couldn't be more different.

The Crown was the Cadillac of school buses. Most, like the one at which you are looking, had the engine mounted under the floor with the engine laying sideways. It allows for a huge rear trunk while still leaving a lot of space under the floor for storage and tankage. It was built to a 30-year life cycle. Many are still in service with well over a million miles on them.

The AmTrans at which you are looking is an FE model--front engine. It was built on a 13- to 15-year life cycle. As a consequence all of the major components are lighter duty. Frame rails are 50,000 PSI rather than the 100,000 PSI on the Crown. Engine, transmission, axles, and brakes were medium duty. The Crown has the largest brakes ever installed on a school bus. The AmTrans will most likely have 7" or maybe 9" rear brakes. The Crown will most likely have 9" brakes on the front with 12" brakes on the rear. The AmTrans will have a GVWR of most probably 26,000. The Crown, at the least, will have a 32,000 GVWR and more likely 36,000 GVWR.

Mechanical is preferred for the shade tree mechanic since anyone can work on them. Electronic is more fuel efficient but it comes at the price of electronics. If you have a problem with electronics it can get expensive quickly and may never get fixed completely.

I think the Crown's data plate was read incorrectly. The GVWR for most Crowns I have seen were 32,000 to 36,000 GVWR.

If you don't mind shifting the Crown will be your better choice hands down. The aluminum body panels will make the bus much lighter. And believe it or not, the roundedness of the body does make a difference in fuel consumption.

You will also find the Crown has higher head room. The Crown will have 78" at the center of the aisle. The AmTrans with the 9" windows will have 74".

The DT466 is one of the best engines on the road. But it came in many different HP ratings with the most common being 210 HP. With 210 HP it will cruise all day long at 55-60 MPH but you won't get much more out of it unless you change rear gears. Which will mean your RPM's will be lower at 55-60 but you still won't be able to go much faster due to lack of HP.

The DT466 is also fairly loud. It is going to take some very serious sound deadening to get the racket down to a dull roar while going down the road. That is going to be tough when the engine is sitting next to your right foot.

The Crown with the 6-71 is going to use more fuel than a newer electronically controlled bus but most of the Crowns saw 8-10 MPG while in service. Most of the 6-71's were rated at 210 without a turbor and 250 HP with a turbo. Regardless, most were geared to do 65-70 MPH and they can do that all day long.

One of the best things about the 2-cycle DD's is they will run on just about anything. Diesel #1 or #2, Kerosene, JP4, stove oil, and just about anything else that will catch on fire and is a liquid. And the 2-cycle is one of the few engines that won't mind crappy fuel.

Tires are not going to be cheap.

Our church purchased a Crown three years ago for $3,500.00 and we paid $3,600.00 for new rubber all the way around.

Whichever one you choose to purchase if you can get me the VIN's I can probably get you the build sheet for them. For sure on the AmTrans, a big maybe on the Crown.

At the end of the day the choice is all up to you.

All you have to decide is do you want to be seen in something classic that isn't seen every day or something that is so familiar that it is almost invisible.

Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 01-08-2015, 07:30 PM   #6
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HMMM my amtrans gross is 32k
And I only have 195hp from my 466 and mine does 62-65 all day.
Can you get my build sheet? 1HVBCNSN7NH433159
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Old 01-08-2015, 11:27 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: MA USA
Posts: 17
Year: 1978
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: SuperCoach
Engine: Detroit 6-71
Cowlitzcoach that was wonderful! That had many details I did not yet know. Many thanks =)

I don't have the VIN for the Intl. but I got the Crown's today; been talking to the local insurance agency, they requested it too. It's 38968 (so short!)

At this point I'm set on the Crown and the Intl. is a backup in-case it gets snatched by next week (paws off anyone, I call dibs =p ). Sure bigbus stickshift is daunting... but it's exciting too.
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Old 01-09-2015, 05:43 AM   #8
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good luck with that, SB. sure wish i had been able to start with a crown!! shhhh. dont tell my half finished international said that, she may get pissed. lol
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Old 01-09-2015, 05:44 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
Your two choices couldn't be more different.

The Crown was the Cadillac of school buses. Most, like the one at which you are looking, had the engine mounted under the floor with the engine laying sideways. It allows for a huge rear trunk while still leaving a lot of space under the floor for storage and tankage. It was built to a 30-year life cycle. Many are still in service with well over a million miles on them.

The AmTrans at which you are looking is an FE model--front engine. It was built on a 13- to 15-year life cycle. As a consequence all of the major components are lighter duty. Frame rails are 50,000 PSI rather than the 100,000 PSI on the Crown. Engine, transmission, axles, and brakes were medium duty. The Crown has the largest brakes ever installed on a school bus. The AmTrans will most likely have 7" or maybe 9" rear brakes. The Crown will most likely have 9" brakes on the front with 12" brakes on the rear. The AmTrans will have a GVWR of most probably 26,000. The Crown, at the least, will have a 32,000 GVWR and more likely 36,000 GVWR.

Mechanical is preferred for the shade tree mechanic since anyone can work on them. Electronic is more fuel efficient but it comes at the price of electronics. If you have a problem with electronics it can get expensive quickly and may never get fixed completely.

I think the Crown's data plate was read incorrectly. The GVWR for most Crowns I have seen were 32,000 to 36,000 GVWR.

If you don't mind shifting the Crown will be your better choice hands down. The aluminum body panels will make the bus much lighter. And believe it or not, the roundedness of the body does make a difference in fuel consumption.

You will also find the Crown has higher head room. The Crown will have 78" at the center of the aisle. The AmTrans with the 9" windows will have 74".

The DT466 is one of the best engines on the road. But it came in many different HP ratings with the most common being 210 HP. With 210 HP it will cruise all day long at 55-60 MPH but you won't get much more out of it unless you change rear gears. Which will mean your RPM's will be lower at 55-60 but you still won't be able to go much faster due to lack of HP.

The DT466 is also fairly loud. It is going to take some very serious sound deadening to get the racket down to a dull roar while going down the road. That is going to be tough when the engine is sitting next to your right foot.

The Crown with the 6-71 is going to use more fuel than a newer electronically controlled bus but most of the Crowns saw 8-10 MPG while in service. Most of the 6-71's were rated at 210 without a turbor and 250 HP with a turbo. Regardless, most were geared to do 65-70 MPH and they can do that all day long.

One of the best things about the 2-cycle DD's is they will run on just about anything. Diesel #1 or #2, Kerosene, JP4, stove oil, and just about anything else that will catch on fire and is a liquid. And the 2-cycle is one of the few engines that won't mind crappy fuel.

Tires are not going to be cheap.

Our church purchased a Crown three years ago for $3,500.00 and we paid $3,600.00 for new rubber all the way around.

Whichever one you choose to purchase if you can get me the VIN's I can probably get you the build sheet for them. For sure on the AmTrans, a big maybe on the Crown.

At the end of the day the choice is all up to you.

All you have to decide is do you want to be seen in something classic that isn't seen every day or something that is so familiar that it is almost invisible.

Good luck and happy trails.
I'm pretty sure most transit style full length buses have gross ratings over 30k.
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Old 01-10-2015, 06:13 PM   #10
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If the number for the Crown is correct it was dejivered new to Safeways in CA in 1980
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Old 01-10-2015, 07:21 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
If the number for the Crown is correct it was dejivered new to Safeways in CA in 1980
Did you ever get a chance to look into that build sheet?
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Old 01-10-2015, 11:24 PM   #12
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What specifically do you want to know?
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Old 01-11-2015, 05:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
What specifically do you want to know?
I finally found my engine rating sicker on the side of the block. It had come undone and was resting under the fuel pump. So now I know my HP rating.
I'm DYING to know more about the bus though. The axle ratio- I think its in the high 4's. But nothing has the axle ratio listed.
I'm not even sure of the fuel capacity. I think its 65 gal.
If you could look up my build sheet, Id be super GRATEFUL!
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Old 01-14-2015, 11:59 AM   #14
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Year: 1978
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: SuperCoach
Engine: Detroit 6-71
Hmm then there's a discrepancy between the seller and the documentation. *shrug* I'll figure this one out in person.

This week I've been setting up what I think I'll need to bring the bus back from Virginia to MA. I'm a click away from buying insurance (Progressive). The crown is already registered as an motorhome (yay no CDL) so that should help at the RMV (even though the bus is mostly already gutted of its living appliances by the seller).

From reading these forums (and the DMV website) I found that I need the following:
-Insurance, to drive around
-Bill of Sales, to show I bought it
-Title and/or Registration

I've read of people on here who rode home w/o plates and that MA doesn't give out temp plates. In my scenario where the bus is already Registered as an RV, does this apply? Should I just show up at an RMV with the above docs and the bus and say "here you go, update your systems, I own this now"? In its current empty state I don'd think it would pass an "RV Inspection." Should I hold off until I've added those features back in?

Did I miss anything? Something that I am naive about or should prep for? I pickup the Crown this weekend with a friend. *EXCITED!*
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Old 01-14-2015, 12:07 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SquidBat View Post
Hmm then there's a discrepancy between the seller and the documentation. *shrug* I'll figure this one out in person.

This week I've been setting up what I think I'll need to bring the bus back from Virginia to MA. I'm a click away from buying insurance (Progressive). The crown is already registered as an motorhome (yay no CDL) so that should help at the RMV (even though the bus is mostly already gutted of its living appliances by the seller).

From reading these forums (and the DMV website) I found that I need the following:
-Insurance, to drive around
-Bill of Sales, to show I bought it
-Title and/or Registration

I've read of people on here who rode home w/o plates and that MA doesn't give out temp plates. In my scenario where the bus is already Registered as an RV, does this apply? Should I just show up at an RMV with the above docs and the bus and say "here you go, update your systems, I own this now"? In its current empty state I don'd think it would pass an "RV Inspection." Should I hold off until I've added those features back in?

Did I miss anything? Something that I am naive about or should prep for? I pickup the Crown this weekend with a friend. *EXCITED!*
I'd deal with an actual agent. Progressive are known for cancelling after a week or two. I drove mine without tags, but had ins, bos, and title.
What kind of discrepancy are you talking about?
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Old 01-14-2015, 12:53 PM   #16
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Before I spent any more $$$ I would make sure I had legal title to the bus.

There have been more than a few horror stories of people spending untold hours and $$$ on a project only to find that the title was in question and the new owner was never able to title and register it in their name.

In other words, all of their hard work and $$$ was to no avail.

In order to get more info on your bus it will require paying Pacific Bus Museum to have one of their curators to copy and send the info directly to you. They have everything on your bus including the line setting ticket and progressive reports from the production line.

Most Crowns had 100 gallon fuel tanks. There should be a tag on the tank that will tell how large the tank is. I have never seen a Crown with a tank that held only 65 gallons.

If there is no tag on the rear end telling you what ratio you have I would guess you most likely have 3.90 gears. 3.90 gears should give you about 70 MPH at 2100 RPM's.

There are calculators online that can determine your ratio by combining tire diameter and engine speed to determine ratio.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:50 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
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Coachwork: Crown
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I'd deal with an actual agent. Progressive are known for cancelling after a week or two.
If they cancel do they refund? I guess it could be in their policy to cancel anytime but isn't that counter productive to their business? This has probably been ranted about plenty of times, I dunno what I'm talking about. So long as I get the bus back and I don't get swindled out of hundreds of dollars I'll be ok, for now. How would an agent help?

Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I drove mine without tags, but had ins, bos, and title.
There's a DMV not far from where I'm picking da bus. MA RMV suggested I get temporary Virginia plates. We'll see how things go down, worst to worst I'll drive w/o plates.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
What kind of discrepancy are you talking about?
One about dates that the seller resolved for me: "According to the manufacturers plate it was built in 1978 titled in 79 and delivered in 80".

Finally, forgot to say: thanks for looking up the VIN Cowlitz!
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Old 01-15-2015, 06:21 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SquidBat View Post
If they cancel do they refund? I guess it could be in their policy to cancel anytime but isn't that counter productive to their business? This has probably been ranted about plenty of times, I dunno what I'm talking about. So long as I get the bus back and I don't get swindled out of hundreds of dollars I'll be ok, for now. How would an agent help?


There's a DMV not far from where I'm picking da bus. MA RMV suggested I get temporary Virginia plates. We'll see how things go down, worst to worst I'll drive w/o plates.


One about dates that the seller resolved for me: "According to the manufacturers plate it was built in 1978 titled in 79 and delivered in 80".

Finally, forgot to say: thanks for looking up the VIN Cowlitz!
Progressive are notorious for cancelling those online policies for bus conversions after a short while. When I spoke to Progressive directly they informed me they don't touch conversion buses any more. I went through a local agent and insured it as a commercial coach for private use. It is a commercial vehicle policy. If they cancel, yeah you'll get a refund.
Not trying to bad vibe you or anything. I lost a bus because of this whole insurance thing. Still a bit bitter about it.
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