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Old 02-08-2024, 08:30 PM   #1
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Red face Thoughts on this build? $11k? New to the lifestyle, 2003 E450 Shorty

Hey guys! I am a single 25 year old guy wanting a change in life ASAP. I want to leave my state and look for a new place to settle down. I have pretty good savings, and I was planning to convert a Bus myself.

I also own a home that I would be renting out to a few friends of mine.

But I found this 2003 Ford e-450 only 45 minutes away from me. To me, it looks like a good deal. I don't think I could purchase a bus locally, and convert to this extent within 3 months for much less than $11,000.

I am reading that the 2003 Ford 7.3 engine might be risky? I am pretty handy with engine repair - so I'm not too too scared of that. Should I be?

My ultimate goal would be to live in the Bus, move around from state to state (Staying for a month or two in each place). While hauling my F150 truck, with my motorcycle loaded in the rear of the truck. This bus is a Dually, so I imagine while it might be slow, it should be able to tow?

Thanks for all advice and input! Below is the Description of the listing and photos.

Short skoolie camper. Purchased Jan 2022 partially converted and used for motorcycle shows. All in was $18k, but selling for $11k since it will need TLC/tow as itís been sitting for over a yr, unused most of that time. Selling as is! Possible airbnb or park on land for visitors/family.

260k miles, 4" turbo-back exhaust, 16,000 lb trailer hitch, 7 pin wiring, and brake controller & front hitch.

Inside: stripped & spray foamed, cedar woodwork. full kitchen, propane stove, fridge, shower, composting toilet, memory foam bed, tankless hot water heater, forced air diesel furnace, carbon monoxide sensor, 400 watts solar, 4 golf cart batteries, ac unit, smart tv, maxxair fan, 30 amp shore power, multiple usb plugs, and outlets.

Cons:
Must tow! Front door lock needs replacement.
I might swap battery, put some gas in, change oil to see if itíll start. If so, the price will be $16k as current price reflects tow cost + possible repairs.
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Old 02-08-2024, 08:44 PM   #2
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Central Tx.
Posts: 1,835
Year: 1999
Chassis: Amtran / International
Engine: DT466E HT 250HP - Md3060
Looks like a nice unit but I wouldn't spend a dime until I knew WHY it won't start. At the very minimum you should see if you could pull any codes from the ECU to see if there is anything really bad there.

Worst case scenario, motor is blown and needs rebuild-replaced. How much would that cost?
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Old 02-08-2024, 08:54 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by ewo1 View Post
Looks like a nice unit but I wouldn't spend a dime until I knew WHY it won't start. At the very minimum you should see if you could pull any codes from the ECU to see if there is anything really bad there.

Worst case scenario, motor is blown and needs rebuild-replaced. How much would that cost?
Thanks! Yes I'll do a few inspections, including hooking up my code scanner, and putting in a fresh battery. Is there anything else major I should Look for? Being pre built, I know its a gamble on the build quality, but I can repair most things as they break down.

This just feels like a great starting point for someone totally new to this lifestyle.
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Old 02-08-2024, 09:05 PM   #4
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Central Tx.
Posts: 1,835
Year: 1999
Chassis: Amtran / International
Engine: DT466E HT 250HP - Md3060
well If you are experienced in building and fixing things I guess you would be the best judge of the insides.

Let's say there is sub-par work - electrical-plumbing...without pics to help point things out to you....????

He dropped the price 7 grand for a reason!

Also, until it starts, the transmission status remains unknown!
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Old 02-09-2024, 07:48 AM   #5
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Join Date: Mar 2022
Location: CSRA Georgia
Posts: 357
Year: 1994
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Ford B-700
Engine: 12V 5.9
The guess I'd have is the problem would be related to the 4" exhaust. Might have a power tune that hurt either the engine or trans pretty bad. More likely the trans than the engine as the stock trans is the weak point behind a tuned 7.3.

Car-part.com - use that for used engine prices, and call Jasper for a quote on a rebuilt trans. Labor swap on a trans should be no more than $750, since its a van chassis the engine swap labor may be $1500 or more.

I bought a 'blown up' 7.3 F-250 that actually just needed two batteries and a 12V fuel pump.

Take 2 new batteries with you for the inspection, and a couple cans of brake cleaner. Brake cleaner is easier on the engine than ether. Maybe also a crank position sensor as that's the common cause for 7.3 no-start.

You can't negotiate down from what the owner 'has in it'. That's fine when it was running. You are now negotiating against a non-runner with an unknown cost to return it to reliable service vs buying something else and converting.

An example of auction prices - https://www.allsurplus.com/asset/18873/3934

This is a live auction https://www.govdeals.com/asset/36/18777

So a similar runner can be had for $4k. Say it needs belts/hoses/tires for another $2k. Can you get an interior together for $12k to match the running price?

Skoolie comparables are very difficult but the golf cart FLA batteries in your listing are good for 1/2 the rated amp hours before they run flat as compared to lithium. While better than nothing, you will not be able to use A/C without shore or generator power.

You'd want to think about your use case considering climate, shore power availability, how many days of boondocking water/waste/generator fuel and compare that to the rig you're looking at.

I understand you're in a time crunch but don't let that rush you into buying something that's mechanically unsound or that requires an eventual refit/redesign of systems as you've paid a premium for work that you have to pay again to redo.

TL/DR: This is maybe a $2,500 bus as it sits. You'll be disappointed with its house power. Similar unconverted buses sell for $4000, and would allow you to convert as you go, customized to your needs.

You might consider a shorter full-sized Skoolie as well. They're similarly priced at auction. The E-350 chassis runs into being overweight while the larger buses rarely do even with large water tanks and heavy batteries.
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Old 02-09-2024, 10:26 AM   #6
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Join Date: Dec 2023
Location: North Georgia
Posts: 84
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Thomas (Thomas Vista)
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: DT360
Rated Cap: 60
Inside looks pretty well done, I'm no Skoolie expert BUT I do have some knowledge of the 7.3L

Pros

Pretty reliable and robust (The engine itself not supporting electronics)
Factory Intercooler
Electric Lift Pump
Split Shot Injectors (Quieter than 1994-1997 models)

Cons

Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP) Issues
Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and Injector Drive Module (IDM) Failures
Powdered-Metal Connecting Rods (2001-2003) Not Suited for Big Horsepower
41R00 Automatic Transmissions Can’t Handle Additional Horsepower (not sure what trans is mounted but assuming its the 41R00)

Thats the big one's I've seen or heard of over the years, hope this helps narrow down your issues or shows you places to pay attention to. Good luck friend!
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Old 02-09-2024, 07:17 PM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 1,410
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
Quote:
Originally Posted by La Camioneta View Post
The guess I'd have is the problem would be related to the 4" exhaust. Might have a power tune that hurt either the engine or trans pretty bad. More likely the trans than the engine as the stock trans is the weak point behind a tuned 7.3.

Car-part.com - use that for used engine prices, and call Jasper for a quote on a rebuilt trans. Labor swap on a trans should be no more than $750, since its a van chassis the engine swap labor may be $1500 or more.

I bought a 'blown up' 7.3 F-250 that actually just needed two batteries and a 12V fuel pump.

Take 2 new batteries with you for the inspection, and a couple cans of brake cleaner. Brake cleaner is easier on the engine than ether. Maybe also a crank position sensor as that's the common cause for 7.3 no-start.

You can't negotiate down from what the owner 'has in it'. That's fine when it was running. You are now negotiating against a non-runner with an unknown cost to return it to reliable service vs buying something else and converting.

An example of auction prices - https://www.allsurplus.com/asset/18873/3934

This is a live auction https://www.govdeals.com/asset/36/18777

So a similar runner can be had for $4k. Say it needs belts/hoses/tires for another $2k. Can you get an interior together for $12k to match the running price?

Skoolie comparables are very difficult but the golf cart FLA batteries in your listing are good for 1/2 the rated amp hours before they run flat as compared to lithium. While better than nothing, you will not be able to use A/C without shore or generator power.

You'd want to think about your use case considering climate, shore power availability, how many days of boondocking water/waste/generator fuel and compare that to the rig you're looking at.

I understand you're in a time crunch but don't let that rush you into buying something that's mechanically unsound or that requires an eventual refit/redesign of systems as you've paid a premium for work that you have to pay again to redo.

TL/DR: This is maybe a $2,500 bus as it sits. You'll be disappointed with its house power. Similar unconverted buses sell for $4000, and would allow you to convert as you go, customized to your needs.

You might consider a shorter full-sized Skoolie as well. They're similarly priced at auction. The E-350 chassis runs into being overweight while the larger buses rarely do even with large water tanks and heavy batteries.
Well said. I've made the observation that a non-running bus is worth its scrap value plus whatever components have been installed for the conversion, and not much more.

My thoughts: If a seller is unwilling to get the bus running, that might be a red flag. Why wouldn't a seller want to have it running, to get the best price?

Hey, there may be legitimate reasons, but even with that deep discount it may not be the deal you think it might be.

Another way to approach it is to assume market value for the bus plus conversion (this is a value you place on it as if it were working, based on the interior plan and workmanship you see during the inspection), less the cost of a new engine swap performed by others.

If you're completely new to skoolies, I recommend pass unless/until you have enough experience with these vehicles and conversion to take on a project bus.

Or, get a van and live cheaply while you get experience living on the road; then step up into a skoolie, project or purchase.
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Old 02-10-2024, 09:12 AM   #8
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Join Date: Jun 2023
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 795
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malevolence4845 View Post
Pros

Pretty reliable and robust (The engine itself not supporting electronics)
Factory Intercooler
Electric Lift Pump
Split Shot Injectors (Quieter than 1994-1997 models)
I rather enjoy my loud ass 7.3 T444E 1994 model engine.

It's louder than most Heavy Duty Semi's passing me by.
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Old 02-11-2024, 12:01 AM   #9
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Join Date: Nov 2021
Posts: 64
Year: 1995
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466NGD
Bus

The 7.3 is a great engine some say maybe the best truck engine ever.. I wouldn't buy a Van Chassis They're just a PITA to work on !
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Old 02-11-2024, 01:51 PM   #10
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 18,627
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
11K and you cant drive it away? that means I would be driving away (without buying it)..



the 7.3 is pretty venerable engine.. (they can break like any other but generally pretty stout).. the 4R100 isnt my choiuce of transmissions for towing a heavy F150 with a bike in the bed.. you can have them built pretty stout,(for a price) But stock and a tuned engine is a recipe for a busted transmission..
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