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Old 04-06-2020, 10:41 AM   #1
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Engine: RE Cummins 8.3
Question Which is more valuable: a Rear Engine motor or a Cummins Engine?

My husband and I have been shopping for a school bus for a couple of months now (scouring online auctions, private sellers, social media marketplaces, etc.). Our ideal bus is 35-37 ft long, with a 6'4" or 6'5" ceiling height (my husband is 6'2"), rear Cummins engine, pre-2007, and little rust. We have found that this kind of bus (a rear Engine Cummins) is a unicorn, and whenever something like it does come up for sale, it is far out of our price range. So, we know they exist. We see them. But, we can't afford them. We are finding that we can either find a front engine Cummins, or a rear engine Cat motor. We are currently full time vanlifers, and our van has been all over the country, struggling up hills. We noticed when test driving a front engine 5.9 Cummins 24 valve bus that it, too, struggled up hills, very similar to the way the van does.

We know having a pusher would help with this, and we would prefer that. But, we also know that we want a Cummins engine, being more affordable to work on in the long run, and so reliable (we would also prefer a 12 valve Cummins, but are open to other Cummins engines, as well). We don't know which option we should prioritize.

So, those of you who either own a rear engine Cat bus or a front engine Cummins bus: Which do you recommend we prioritize? It seems unlikely we will be able to have a rear engine Cummins in our price range. So, have you found that it is more valuable in the long run to have a Cummins engine (up front) or a rear engine bus (Cat)? Thank you!!! =)

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Old 04-06-2020, 11:17 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: MO
Posts: 50
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Blue bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: 8.3L Cummins 6CTA
Rated Cap: 84
I have a 1991 40' BB All American RE with the 8.3 Cummins (I believe '91 was the last year Cummins made these 6CTA's that are all mechanical before the started switching to electrical injectors and such). Found mine on govdeals.com in Sacramento and won it for just over 4,200. Worth every penny, even the 1,000 it cost to drive it back to Missouri.

Found that Sacramento is far enough from the ocean that the air isn't salty and they receive minimal snow so there is very little rust on it. I was lucky and found mine just a week into my search.

Course these busses will cost more than other run of the mill ones, but there's always a price for premium..

They're there, just have to keep searching...

Maybe wait for that $2,400 check from the Gov't and see if you can expand your price range a bit
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:35 AM   #3
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Wow! It's so neat that you were able to find a '91 rear engine Cummins! What a gem! And at such a great price! We've never seen one go for that cheap! We would prefer to have an old one like that, without the electrical injectors, as well! Thanks for the encouragement! =) Yes, the check from the government is going right into our bus fund! =D
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:42 AM   #4
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2002 Bluebird All American RE with Cummins 8.3 and Allison MD-3060 and 170k mile. $3450 at auction in Oregon. No rust....

However, I do think that interest is growing and supply is not. The frequency of really good deals is diminishing.

I searched the auction sites daily , for 18 months and bid on at least a dozen buses before I was successful.

Have patience and don't settle for a bus that doesn't check all of most your boxes on your want list.

Good luck with your search.
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:43 AM   #5
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A couple things. It doesn't matter if it's mounted fe or re, a 5.9 cummins is going to struggle just the same.

So unless the re buses that you're looking at are the larger 8.3 cummins, you won't be gaining anything over the 5.9 bus you test drove that struggled.

What kind of budget do you have? Saying things are out of your price range is kind of vague and I don't know if what your wanting is realistic without a specific dollar amount.

Buses from dealers have a hefty mark up vs those from auction sites. Maybe that's why everything is out of your price range.

What brand engine you have doesn't matter to the hill. It's all about HP and displacement. Rear gearing plays a big part too. Some districts will saccrifice top speed for better acceleration. Those buses are typically found in mountainous areas.

What brand you should go for really depends on how well it was maintained throughout it's life. IMO a 5.9/8.3 cummins is better then a 3126/c7 cat because of parts availability and they seem to take neglect a little better in my experience. But if you find a well maintained cat engined bus, I wouldn't avoid it just because of the cat engine.

Also keep in mind international offered their dt466 engine in RE buses too
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:14 PM   #6
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The pre 2004 DT-466's have a very good reputation. I would buy one without hesitation.

As far as the 5.9 Cummins goes, we have members here with that motor in mid to full size buses and 5/6 speed overdrive transmission. They are happy with the combination. I don't have the patience. I'll stick with my 8.3. Not knocking the 5.9. I have them too. My daily driver has a 5.9 & 6 speed. I love it. That said, the truck weighed less than 8k lbs empty. My bus weighes nearly 3x that (empty).

The transmission does make a huge difference. The smaller power plants really shine when you give them more gears. Avoid the AT-545. Look instead for 2000 series or MD-3060 transmissions.,
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
The pre 2004 DT-466's have a very good reputation. I would buy one without hesitation.

As far as the 5.9 Cummins goes, we have members here with that motor in mid to full size buses and 5/6 speed overdrive transmission. They are happy with the combination. I don't have the patience. I'll stick with my 8.3. Not knocking the 5.9. I have them too. My daily driver has a 5.9 & 6 speed. I love it. That said, the truck weighed less than 8k lbs empty. My bus weighes nearly 3x that (empty).

The transmission does make a huge difference. The smaller power plants really shine when you give them more gears. Avoid the AT-545. Look instead for 2000 series or MD-3060 transmissions.,
Second this... Transmissions are not to be overlooked. The MT-643 is good from my research compared to the AT-545, it has a 4th gear lock. The MD-3060 is what I'll upgrade to if my 643 goes out..
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:33 PM   #8
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Thank you for all of your quick responses and advice! You guys are super helpful! And you have left some great tips for us!

I realize now that I didn't describe our ideal bus thoroughly enough! We also have always looked for the Allison 3060 Transmission, and would prefer a Cummins 8.3. And it would be lovely to find one that is well-maintained and with low miles from the early 90's, with less electrical complication in the engine.

So, the IDEAL, perfect bus for us would be an early 90's Saf-T Liner with a 6'5" ceiling height, 36 feet long, Rear Enginge Cummins 8.3 with an Allison 3060 Transmission and little to no rust and closer to the Eastern side of the country. But, we can compromise on some of these things, like the year, or an inch less for the ceiling, Front Engine, location, length by a foot less or a foot or 2 more, etc.

And we currently have saved $2850. But, as we look, we keep saving little by little! And as soon as the check from the government comes in, we will have a total of $5250. =D

We mostly look at Blue Bird All Americans (tallest at 6'4" or so), and Thomas Saf-T liners (tallest at 6'5" or almost 6'6" sometimes), because we have found that they have the tallest ceiling heights in certain lines of their buses. And we ask every seller for the exact ceiling height measurement, because it varies so much. Lol. We don't want to do a roof raise.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post
A couple things. It doesn't matter if it's mounted fe or re, a 5.9 cummins is going to struggle just the same.

So unless the re buses that you're looking at are the larger 8.3 cummins, you won't be gaining anything over the 5.9 bus you test drove that struggled.

What kind of budget do you have? Saying things are out of your price range is kind of vague and I don't know if what your wanting is realistic without a specific dollar amount.

Buses from dealers have a hefty mark up vs those from auction sites. Maybe that's why everything is out of your price range.

What brand engine you have doesn't matter to the hill. It's all about HP and displacement. Rear gearing plays a big part too. Some districts will saccrifice top speed for better acceleration. Those buses are typically found in mountainous areas.

What brand you should go for really depends on how well it was maintained throughout it's life. IMO a 5.9/8.3 cummins is better then a 3126/c7 cat because of parts availability and they seem to take neglect a little better in my experience. But if you find a well maintained cat engined bus, I wouldn't avoid it just because of the cat engine.

Also keep in mind international offered their dt466 engine in RE buses too
a parent bore like the 3126 is always going to be a bit tougher than a wet sleeve engine. more tolerant to temp spikes. no orings or seals to worry about.
The 5.9 muke bus would do 70+ all day. that 5.9 certainly wasnt underpowered.
I'd rate the 8.3 cummins as the king of normal school bus engines. but a 5.9 with a 2000 or 3060 sure can get the job done quite well.
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:32 PM   #10
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With your husbands height of 6'2"
I would rethink the avoidance of a roof-raise -- Doing a 6" raise shouldn't be too tough -- this would open up more buses to look at...
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:37 PM   #11
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With your husbands height of 6'2"
I would rethink the avoidance of a roof-raise -- Doing a 6" raise shouldn't be too tough -- this would open up more buses to look at...
Just DON'T do it with a Thomas!
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:42 PM   #12
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Just DON'T do it with a Thomas!

Oh! Interesting! Why not with a Thomas?
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:50 PM   #13
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Oh! Interesting! Why not with a Thomas?
From the bottom of the windows on up they slant inward 6 degrees. makes for a lot more headaches making it look good when you raise it. Its REAL hard to make a Thomas roof raise look like anything that could have been factory.
Bluebird and IC/Amtran/Ward and most other brands have the standard straight sides.
I raised the roof on one of my buses. It was fairly easy. Had it been a Thomas I'd have just sold it and bought one that was more suited to the ideas I had.
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:59 PM   #14
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Very interesting! Thanks for the insight! =)
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Old 04-06-2020, 04:12 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Just DON'T do it with a Thomas!
Quote:
Originally Posted by shelbyfricke View Post
Oh! Interesting! Why not with a Thomas?
ECCB's not wrong...
Ignore my special paint but here's what he's talking about... the tilt starts in just above the height of the tail lights.
Tail lights.jpg

To raise a Thomas and still look 'right' you'd need to raise it from below the window line. Probably harder to do...
I'm only 5'10" and the roof is 6'5" so I never thought about it...

But, hypothetically, if I was doing a roof raise, and I was keeping all or most of the original bus windows I'd wanna do the raise from below the window line anyway so the windows are at a more "appropriate height" for modesty and ventilation...
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Old 04-06-2020, 04:33 PM   #16
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That makes sense! Thank you!
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Old 04-11-2020, 07:47 PM   #17
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Just sold my 2000 Amtram RE with a DT466HT (250hp/800lbs toque) and MD3060 Trans. That bus could move and climb hills. The Pre-Egr DT466 engine are solid, very simple to work on and gobbs of parts are available just don't disregard that engine.
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:02 AM   #18
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The supply of pre 2004 buses is drying up fast, imo. Get ready for the flood of C7s and Maxxforces when things return to normal from this covid epidemic.

15 years is a very common age requirement for a lot of school districts and we're just crossing that point.

On that point, I was prepared to buy a 5.9 cummins/MD3060 Bluebird AARE in Iowa last summer when one with an 8.3 ISC and high roof popped up in Colorado. I was on a plane 1.5 days later and drove it all the way back to Wisconsin. The extra power is SO SO worth it! Almost zero rust as well (it was in Wyoming from 2001 to 2012, then in Colorado until i bought it).

Be ready to travel. Pushers aren't super common on the eastern half of the country and when they do pop up they're usually rusted out. Also high roof option isn't as common either. States like NM, AZ, OR, WA and CA (sometimes) are good places to look. Check facebook marketplace, that may be your only option right now since there's little activity on the auction sites.
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Old 04-12-2020, 06:18 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by WIbluebird View Post
The supply of pre 2004 buses is drying up fast, imo. Get ready for the flood of C7s and Maxxforces when things return to normal from this covid epidemic.

15 years is a very common age requirement for a lot of school districts and we're just crossing that point.

On that point, I was prepared to buy a 5.9 cummins/MD3060 Bluebird AARE in Iowa last summer when one with an 8.3 ISC and high roof popped up in Colorado. I was on a plane 1.5 days later and drove it all the way back to Wisconsin. The extra power is SO SO worth it! Almost zero rust as well (it was in Wyoming from 2001 to 2012, then in Colorado until i bought it).

Be ready to travel. Pushers aren't super common on the eastern half of the country and when they do pop up they're usually rusted out. Also high roof option isn't as common either. States like NM, AZ, OR, WA and CA (sometimes) are good places to look. Check facebook marketplace, that may be your only option right now since there's little activity on the auction sites.
Maryland and Florida both have a lot of RE buses. But neither are famous for taking great care of buses. The good ones are as you say- out west.

We're such a tiny percentage of bus buyers that finding a 2003 and earlier bus really shouldn't be a problem. You're right though. They used to have a much larger selection of good buses ten years ago.
If maxxforce and emissions stuff is all folks can get I'd probably recommend against getting into the "hobby". If fleets and service shops have a hard time with this equipment I can't imagine it will go well for YouTubers and TinyHouse folks.
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Old 04-12-2020, 08:13 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shelbyfricke View Post
Thank you for all of your quick responses and advice! You guys are super helpful! And you have left some great tips for us!

I realize now that I didn't describe our ideal bus thoroughly enough! We also have always looked for the Allison 3060 Transmission, and would prefer a Cummins 8.3. And it would be lovely to find one that is well-maintained and with low miles from the early 90's, with less electrical complication in the engine.

So, the IDEAL, perfect bus for us would be an early 90's Saf-T Liner with a 6'5" ceiling height, 36 feet long, Rear Enginge Cummins 8.3 with an Allison 3060 Transmission and little to no rust and closer to the Eastern side of the country. But, we can compromise on some of these things, like the year, or an inch less for the ceiling, Front Engine, location, length by a foot less or a foot or 2 more, etc.

And we currently have saved $2850. But, as we look, we keep saving little by little! And as soon as the check from the government comes in, we will have a total of $5250. =D

We mostly look at Blue Bird All Americans (tallest at 6'4" or so), and Thomas Saf-T liners (tallest at 6'5" or almost 6'6" sometimes), because we have found that they have the tallest ceiling heights in certain lines of their buses. And we ask every seller for the exact ceiling height measurement, because it varies so much. Lol. We don't want to do a roof raise.
I have a 1993 All American with the 8.3 Cummins and the 643 transmission that i just got about a month ago. I am unsure about what I am going to do with it but may sell. It does have a oil leak on the front of the engine that needs repairs. If you would be interested, I could get you the measurements of overall and interior. The tag says its a 84 passenger and it has ac and exterior storage compartments.
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