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Old 04-29-2020, 01:31 PM   #1
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Communist State of New Jersey
Posts: 964
Year: 2004
Coachwork: IC
Chassis: CE200
Engine: T444e
Rated Cap: 27,500
Getting close to buying

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.

The build:
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'.

The candidates:
1.
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.

2.
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.

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Old 04-29-2020, 02:11 PM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 23,673
Year: 1999
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Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
I'd go for the one with the manual trans.
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Old 04-29-2020, 02:27 PM   #3
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Ha! I'd go for the one with the automatic trans.
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Old 04-29-2020, 03:04 PM   #4
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I second ECCB on the manual transmission. These automatic trans are not built for towing 10k. Even a 2000 or MD3060 would be a gamble towing that much. If top speed is really that much of an issue, you can always upgrade the 5-speed to a 10-speed and / or regear or swap the rear axle.
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Old 04-29-2020, 03:18 PM   #5
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Join Date: Aug 2019
Location: Moved to Zealand!
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Chassis: Freightliner FS-65
Engine: 7.2L Cat 3126 turbo diesel
Rated Cap: 71 passenger 30,000 gvwr
That's a lot of trailer to be pulling all the time if you're living "on the road..."

Do you LIKE using a manual tranny?

Are you saying: regardless of any bus you get a roof raise will be the future if you keep the bus?
if so -- a low roof bus should be cheaper -- no reason to pay for a high-roof if you're gonna chop it anyway...
On the other hand, I'd rather have to only stoop a little bit then stoop a lot -- YOUR knees will dictate the relevance of that...

Most likely a rockwell/meteor axle -- very easy to change the ratio.
*If you get the 5sp you can consider going wild and getting a two sp rear axle. This will give you some options but will cost a pretty penny or three...

There ain't no bus small enough I wanna "dig out" getting stuck in the desert...
If you even think this is an issue invest in a pair of "sand ladders". You'll thank me latter!
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Old 04-29-2020, 04:14 PM   #6
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Join Date: Feb 2019
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Chassis: CE200
Engine: T444e
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
I second ECCB on the manual transmission. These automatic trans are not built for towing 10k. Even a 2000 or MD3060 would be a gamble towing that much. If top speed is really that much of an issue, you can always upgrade the 5-speed to a 10-speed and / or regear or swap the rear axle.
I've been playing with my calculators and various ratios, both diff. and tranny and swapping to a lower ratio diff. with the 1:1 5th gear gets you about as much as you could get by swapping out to a 6 speed with a .74 overdrive and keeping the 4.89 which is what I THINK the bus has and it would be considerably cheaper and easier to do the diff.

I've thought about something like a 10 speed and while the thought of having that to play with is . . . appealing I doubt I could pull it off before fall.

Thanks for your point about towing with the auto, if the bus has the 2500 as I suspect (I won't know unless/until I crawl under it) it has a 31,000 weight rating. The bus has a GVW of 30K and an empty weight of 18K. I'll have to give that all some thought. While I said the max. weight I'd have in a trailer would be 10K it's more likely that I'd most often be carrying less than 8K.
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Old 04-29-2020, 04:39 PM   #7
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Communist State of New Jersey
Posts: 964
Year: 2004
Coachwork: IC
Chassis: CE200
Engine: T444e
Rated Cap: 27,500
Quote:
Originally Posted by banman View Post
That's a lot of trailer to be pulling all the time if you're living "on the road..."

Do you LIKE using a manual tranny?

Are you saying: regardless of any bus you get a roof raise will be the future if you keep the bus?
if so -- a low roof bus should be cheaper -- no reason to pay for a high-roof if you're gonna chop it anyway...
On the other hand, I'd rather have to only stoop a little bit then stoop a lot -- YOUR knees will dictate the relevance of that...

Most likely a rockwell/meteor axle -- very easy to change the ratio.
*If you get the 5sp you can consider going wild and getting a two sp rear axle. This will give you some options but will cost a pretty penny or three...

There ain't no bus small enough I wanna "dig out" getting stuck in the desert...
If you even think this is an issue invest in a pair of "sand ladders". You'll thank me latter!
Thanks for the points you made. Yes, I enjoy manual transmissions. I wouldn't consider it a hardship to buy one. I'm also very easy on my equipment so whichever I end up with, if it's in good condition when I get it I'd probably be able to keep it alive for as long as I need it - but you just never know.

Regarding the roof, I'm saying I'm not likely to buy a bus just because it has a roof at least 78" high which is the minimum I'd need to be able to stand up straight. It's more important that I find one with a chassis equipped with what I consider desirable mechanicals. There are a number of buses with 78" high ceilings that I've passed on because they have drivetrains that I won't consider. If I get tired of having hair pulled out by the roof seams then I'll start considering a solution whether that's a new 'better' vehicle or a roof raise. BTW, is there a make/brand of school bus that would have a roof high enough that I could build it (insulated floor) and still have at least 78" of head room? I assume there isn't.

I agree about not wanting to dig out any bus so if I actually started doing that kind of travel I'd probably invest in a healthy winch and a land anchor for starters. I'm not really interested in playing in the mountains but rummaging around on desert back roads is appealing stupid as it might sound. I recently watched a video of the owners of Life is a Joy when they were stuck in a national forest . . . NOT a good time and I'd be alone if it happened, even less fun.
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Old 04-29-2020, 05:18 PM   #8
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 23,673
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Change the rear end out in that manual bus and you'll have it licked.
something like 4.44.
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Old 04-29-2020, 06:01 PM   #9
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Communist State of New Jersey
Posts: 964
Year: 2004
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Chassis: CE200
Engine: T444e
Rated Cap: 27,500
Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Change the rear end out in that manual bus and you'll have it licked.
something like 4.44.
I forgot to mention that the flat nose has air brakes and the FS65 has hydraulic. When I mentioned that to my mechanic friend he immediately said to go with the air brake bus. I also just found specs saying that the flat nose has 78" ceilings while the FS65 has less than that (I had to bend over to walk in it).

EastCoast I was actually thinking 3.73 or even 3.58 but I'm still trying to figure this out. I'm basing it on the results of running the various axle rations available for the Meritor-Rockwell axle that this bus appears to have through my gradeability/startability calculator. I also found a web based calculator that shows rpm/speed runs through the gears with various tranny and axle ratios with various rpm max. settings. With the old seat of the pants calculator I decided I couldn't live with the current ratio of the FS65 based bus so I I either figure out what ratio to go to or skip that bus.

I found the following blurb in a spec. document for the CAT 3126 I found on the web. I figure some of you might find it interesting. I wish I could get my hands on that Truck Performance Analysis program.
Attached Thumbnails
3126Gearing.JPG  
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