I've been hanging around here for a couple years now. I've been thinking, reading, learning, fretting - and watching more videos about skoolies and skoolie life than I care to admit. I've made decisions about what I THINK I want to buy and I'm close to making a purchase. I want to run through my thought process here and see what those of you with experience in the life have to say. I've been here long enough to know some of you can get pretty salty and I don't care. If you feel the need to call me an idiot have at it, by necessity I've had to make assumptions about stuff until I can learn about it first hand and maybe some (or all) my assumptions are wrong.
Who am I:
I'm retired. I'm alone. I have sufficient retirement income that I can buy and build then live full time on the road. Will I like the lifestyle, don't know, won't know till I try it. Looking at it from my perspective (no experience) I don't see me in a campground. The last thing I want is to be right beside someone else's rig.
What I think I should buy:
I THINK I'll be pulling a trailer, up to 24', max. weight 10,000 lb. or less. This fact has me leaning toward a short bus. I also would like be able to drop the trailer somewhere to spend time exploring some of the easier of the desert areas of the west so ground clearance is a factor but I KNOW I won't be doing any serious off road stuff, that said I know I have to be prepared to dig myself out so no pushers.
Initially I don't see me doing a build. I want to be out of my present situation before winter and I have to liquidate my life. It might be that I'll have to keep my house through the winter because of the 'Pandemic' but I still want to be out of my area by winter. Saying that, initially I intend to remove the seats from whatever bus I might buy, pick and choose furniture and items from my home and arrange and anchor them in the bus to give me a livable space for some period of time. No point in discussing the issue of standing room since I'm 6'6" and none of the buses, with a drivetrain I'd consider, have that kind of headroom. If I do this, like the lifestyle and like the bus I'll consider a roof raise down the road - get it, 'down the road'.
2004 conventional Thomas 6 window on an FS65 chassis, 23K GVW, 224K miles, has the maintenance records. I've seen this one in person already and it has the maintenance records. It has a CAT 3126 and an Eaton-Fuller 5 spd. manual, lift, 2 A/Cs. No rust, dents, tires are new enough that I could run them for a few years. I've test driven this bus and it seems solid. One problem, I believe it has a 4.89 rear end ratio so I'm turning about 2200 rpm to get around 53 mph which ain't gonna cut it . If this bus had a better ratio I'd already own it. I've been researching the mechanicals of this bus and I believe I might be able to find a used carrier with a better ratio.
2005 flat nose Thomas 9 window with 180K miles, 30K GVW. It has a CAT C7, AD2000, lift, 2 A/Cs. I haven't looked at this one yet but the attraction to me is it's overall length is 28.5' with most of that behind the driver's seat so it would have more living space than the FS65 chassis in about the same length. Being front engine, rear drive it would work for towing though wouldn't be as good in the outback as the FS65 chassis.
So what's the deal?:
The guy wants too much for them. Given that I can drive to the location from my state and I have a friend local to the area who will let me use his 800 acre farm as a base to park the bus on tiill I can get the Vermont paper work done even the too high price doesn't completely deter me. Being my friend's farm is within a half hour's drive of the seller I could leave it there, do an initial service then do the 7 hour drive home without worrying about the HEUI blowing up before I can upgrade it.
I've spent a lot of time researching the mechanical components of the buses I'm considering. I've found manuals (owner's, maintenance and service) for the 3126; the Eaton-Fuller manual trannys and the Allison 1000/2000 series trannys. The downside is I need to get under them to verify the diffs, and trannys.
I've also put together an Excel spreadsheet with calculators for gradeability and startability to help me figure out what ratio I might switch to if I were to upgrade the FS65 chassis. It's a fun exercise but it'd be a lot better if I had the knowledge and experience that can confirm what I THINK I've learned.
Anyway, I've gone long, sorry, but I've had a lot of fun doing all this research.
BTW, my neighbor is a mobile heavy equipment mechanic for the state I live in and I've had a number of discussions with him about the various mechanical components of the buses I'm considering. It was in discussion with him that I decided swapping the diff. carrier in the FS65 is easily doable in my, or his, driveway.