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Author Topic: What to do with the bus(es)?  (Read 4869 times)
TrevorH
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« on: December 17, 2008, 05:13:26 PM »

Howdy all!  Its been awhile since I posted here.  I need some advice and guidance.  I dont know which bus to convert.  I have a 1987 102A3 with a 8v92ta 5 spd manual.  The engine was just rebuilt and runs perfect but as you all know, the best mileage I can see is 6 mpg.  The entire mechanical aspect of the bus is pretty much perfect and needs no work to start converting.  What engine/tranny combo would you recommend (within a reasonable amount of $$) and what is the best foreseeable mpg with this combo?  The other bus I have is a 1995 Bluebird conventional front skoolie with a cummins 5.9L 12v, 5 spd manual and a 2 spd rear.  The tranny works but not perfect so if I keep this bus I will be installing a NV5600.  I would need to fabricate a complete air ride suspension and build an entire body for this bus as a "skoolie" is NOT what I am after.  I know that the MCI is SUPER well built, to the point that it is overkill for me.  All that heavydutyness translates to weight.  I plan on turning this into a toyhauler/motorhome and will be doing freeway driving.  My desire is to build something that will drive 75 mpg and get 12-14 mpg.  What you all think?
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1987 MCI 102A3 8V92TA 5 spd MT
Tucson, AZ
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2008, 05:23:23 PM »

Well, it seems kind of hard to convert the MCI into a toy hauler but it would make a superior motor home by a factor of ten (at least)  There is no comparison there.

The 5.9 is pretty small for the bus and I doubt it will make 75 mph.  I have one in a Dodge pick up and it works it's heart out with a 10,000 pound trailer.

I would look for a flat front schoolie with at least an 8.3, much easier to build a toy hauler from.  I doubt very much that you will ever see 12 mpg with anything you build.  You still have to push that big brick down the road.
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TrevorH
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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2008, 06:02:45 PM »

What engine tranny combo would you all recommend for the MCI then?  What would be the best fuel economy that you all think I could achieve with such a bus/engine/tranny?
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1987 MCI 102A3 8V92TA 5 spd MT
Tucson, AZ
RJ
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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2008, 06:09:43 PM »

Trevor -

Actually, you can get 12 mpg with your MCI:  6 mpg in town and 6 mpg on the freeway.  6 + 6 = 12   Grin

(Isn't that the way politicians teach math???)


Seriously, the MCI will not make a good toy hauler conceptually similar to what you can buy at the RV store.  Minor little thing called the engine & cooling system create just a few problems. . .

OTOH, the MCI will make a great toy hauler if you pull a double-stack 25-foot cargo trailer behind you.  Just be sure the trailer has a Tuff-Tow unit on the tongue to keep tongue weights on the coach in check.

The stock 5-speed is fine, if you want to stick with a stick.  Otherwise, an HT740 or HT754 would be a good Allison automatic for you.  If your 8V is a DDEC, then you'd want either an HT748 or a B500 World.

Another option would be a Crown or Gillig skoolie with the mid-ship powerplant.  A 40-footer like the one pictured below would allow you to open the back up to get the toys inside and still have some room for living quarters.  Basement storage and equipment would be a greater challenge, but it's an idea.  Even though they're steel spring suspension, they actually ride quite well, especially loaded.  Brakes are outstanding, too - they use the big 16" truck brakes on all axles.

Personally, I wouldn't waste time or $$$ on the BlueBird - you'd still have an underpowered box on a truck chassis.

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink



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RJ Long
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TrevorH
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2008, 06:16:47 PM »

I definitely dont mind throwin gears, especially since this generally saves me a decent amount of fuel.  Whatever I build, I plan on keeping for the next 20 years.  SOO  I am gonna spend my time and money and do things right the way it should be the first time.  I would really like to get the MCI over 10 mpg, the jump from 6 to 10 is a HUGE difference.  I know that it isnt gonna be a piece of cake and thus the reason I am thinking I might have to sacrific some with a little lighter coach, such as the bird
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1987 MCI 102A3 8V92TA 5 spd MT
Tucson, AZ
John316
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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2008, 06:27:20 PM »

MCI, man.

You will be much more pleased with the result. Keep the schoolie, and convert it for really low $$$$. Then mount winches on the front and back, and use it when you go off-roading...OK OK, that is something that I want to do someday. I think that it would be really neat to have a tough bus, with the clearance.

Otherwise, the schoolie will be under powered. I have heard that they are designed to haul a load of children, not even adults.

Your biggest problem with the MCI will be the mechanics. The schoolie would be better, in that it is a lot more simple. Your MCI will take a lot more maintenance, but you will have a much better road warrior. Me, I would go with the MCI.

JMHO,

God bless,

John
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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2008, 06:32:53 PM »

I would go with the MCI, Forget the worry over MPG, Ride softly and safely in the MCI for a lot longer than most other choices.

The comfort level on long drives IS a factor. The MCI will go and go and go and not wear you out on long runs. Get a nice trailer with the right tow setup and you will be glad you went with the MCI....

Or repower the MCI with a Big Cummins and World 6-speed automatic.... Better power and better mileage in that setup.

Just my Opinion if I had a brain..... I drive an MCI myself...
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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2008, 07:09:39 PM »

Trevor
You say that you have a 102A3 that has a perfectly good solid drive line and you are thinking about spending money to re-power it for more fuel mileage?  I would give that some more thought.
Consider that you would spend upwards of what? 15K? (maybe 20K with gearing and or tranny change) to re-power for the extra mileage. Stop and figure how much fuel you can buy for that money if you put it into the bank, or how nice a start you would have on your conversion.

I would not hesitate to do the MCI and I would leave the drive line alone, do a nice conversion, buy a nice trailer for the toys and travel in style while having fun. But like they say, do it your way, its your dime.
Jim
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4106 - 8-71/730
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« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2008, 09:08:53 PM »

ok guys along the lines of skoolie and mci. Well i have a 4905 with a good motor etc. But i have wondered about a skoolie with a hood and tires in front of the driver.  This has a better driving feel for me but i just dont know about the rest of the ride. Hope your answer helps us both.
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« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2008, 09:17:52 PM »

I've driven skoolies, and they just don't compare to my 4903.  With so many intercity shells available, I wouldn't ever CONSIDER converting a school bus into anything except dog food cans.

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TrevorH
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« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2008, 09:31:36 PM »

Well, I just got home from driving the skoolie 1200 miles.  Def does not compare to the ride of the MCI as it sits.  However I build custom truck suspensions for a living and can build an air ride setup for the bus relatively easily (I have about 110 semi rolling lobe air bags).  The advantage I see with the skoolie is the ability for me to take the entire body off and replace with one that I build.  This would allow me to build it to the size and with the functions that I need (toyhauler).  All while not having to worry as much about the structural integrity since it will be resting on a F-800 frame.

The cummins 5.9L while being small in comparison to most of the engines that go in our buses can be built to a reliable 400 hp and 800-900 ft lbs trq.  All while weighing much less.

Another advantage I see with the skoolie is aerodynamics.  While it looses the space of a flat nose, it makes up alot in the way of being much less of a "brick".  I can also build the skoolie to weigh far less than the MCI and thus take less fuel and power to move it.

With so many possibilites I find myself lost as to what to do.  At some point I am going to get fed up and either jump into one or give up on the idea entirely.  I am tired of buying/selling buses as I decide to go a different route (this is my second skoolie and I have 2 buses currently while I decide which one to sell).
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1987 MCI 102A3 8V92TA 5 spd MT
Tucson, AZ
JohnEd
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« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2008, 10:51:17 PM »

Trevor,

The best results I have heard of was a Cummins M11 that got 12+ MPG.  One of the things that Knut did was to install an oversize radiator and install a superefficient fan and then run the fan at a much reduced speed.  That made possible by the rad upsize and fan install. 

The 4106 with a stick gets 14 or so from what I am told.

You may want to talk to Don Fairchild as he has a 8V92 and I have heard he gets 8 mpg at a 70 mph cruise.  He is a two stroke guru and knows tricks in both driving and mech upgrades.  Contact him or maybe Songman.

John
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« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2008, 11:18:09 PM »

I would keep the MCI with the 8V-92 and install 80 injectors that will still give you 400hp, and good mileage.
Also, you should reconsider the schoolie.  Many insurance companies will not insure a schoolie for motorhome use, and if you rebuild the rear end will no doubt have a hard time insuring that also.  I am converting my Kenworth 3 axle truck into a motorhome.  I will have a professional body builder build my 32ft x 102 wide x 108'' tall van that is fully approved by all FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) and already know that Progressive will insure it based on that fact.  If I had built the box, all bets would be off.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2008, 07:48:45 AM »

Trevor, here is what I think you should do. Give me the MCI as a Christmas present. Convert the schoolie because you are in love with it. I'll convert the MCI and we'll all be happy for Christmas.

Now what I really think, is you would be nut's to do the schoolie when you have such a sweet MCI with a perfectly good engine and tran's in it. Man there are guys on here that would trade their first born for what you have with that MCI. But then that's why they call this busNUT"S I guess, so if you do decide to go with the schoolie I want first dibs on the MCI ok, LOL.

WVaNative
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« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2008, 08:57:35 AM »

Trevor,

As RJ said, the best possible choice for what you want to do would be a Crown.  Mid engine so you can do what you want with the back of the bus, best fuel economy of any bus I know of, and far better built than any other schoolie except maybe the Gillig.

But, as most everyone else has said, keep the MCI.  Just do the numbers.  The difference between 6 MPG and your dream of 12 MPG is about $3300 per 10,000 miles at $4.00/gal.  You would have to drive an awful lot to justify that expense and by the time you have driven far enough, the schoolie will be junk and the MCI still rolling.
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« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2008, 09:12:18 AM »

To me it sounds like you are in love with the schoolie because of the ability to convert it into a toy hauler. You are obviously planning a extravigant conversion. Therefore it sounds to me like you won't be happy unless you have the toy hauler. Look at what YOU want as an end result. The MCI isn't a good choice for a toy hauler but would be something I think most of us would give up in order to drive the MCI with a trailer. If a trailer isn't something you'll be happy with try the schoolie. Obviously your wheels are spinning in your head as like the rest of us, only with a little different end result in mind, that's what makes us knuts!!

Have Fun!
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« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2008, 11:09:08 AM »

Building one like TomC sounds like what you really want. The MCI won't do, the skoolie is closer. Why not build what you want and have your cake and eat it too. Sounds like you have the knowledge to do it.

We have an Eagle so what do I know anyway! Wink

Have Fun and Be Safe in all you do!

Paul
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« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2008, 11:18:08 AM »

Building what TomC is would be my perfect outcome but I have to do everything myself as this is the only way I will ever afford it.  I figured the bus frame would be a close counterpart to stretching a standard semi except without the headache of stretch the driveline and frame....
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1987 MCI 102A3 8V92TA 5 spd MT
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« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2008, 09:08:00 AM »

Trevor,

I think I found you a bus that will get well over 12 MPG
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« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2008, 09:11:19 AM »

Just don't go down any steep grades or apply the brakes too heavy!
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Have Fun!!
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« Reply #20 on: December 19, 2008, 01:56:26 PM »

Building what TomC is would be my perfect outcome but I have to do everything myself as this is the only way I will ever afford it.  I figured the bus frame would be a close counterpart to stretching a standard semi except without the headache of stretch the driveline and frame....


Trevor,
As a poor ol' country boy who started with nothing and still has most of it left I can help here!  Stretching a frame is not hard nor expensive! Unless you want to be hard headed and picky!
We used to build HEAVY DUTY WRECKERS! And I mean HEAVY DUTY, so they had to be done right to keep them from folding in half!
What ya do is you get an idea of how long ya want the frame to be stretched! OK now keep in mind here your building a toy hauler here not a wrecker so we can do several things here that will make it easier, more convenient now & later, save you time, weight, headaches now & later, and most importantly $ now and later!
OK first thing ya gotta do is get the desired truck! All right your building a toy hauler and camper out of it, so you don't need a twin screw! (single axle will work fine!) Once you have the truck and you have an idea how long ya want it, then ya go to the truck wrecking yards and start looking at their driveshaft piles. Trust me if it's much of a wrecking yard they will have one to dig thru. OK now find a drive line about the length of your  desired stretch. Now it doesn't have to be exact because your not building it for NASA so it's not rocket science that you can build the hauler to fit the new length of the truck!
OK let me stop here and back up a minute. On the length of the frame it doesn't have to stop right at the end of the axles like a wrecker does because your not going to be lifting or hauling huge loads. So here is a way to save on how far to stretch it. Also if you buy a twin screw take the front drive axle out and sell or trade it for other things you'll need, then you can move the rear drive axle forward to the front ones mounting holes (or you could drill new ones which can be done but extra time, & hassle!).
Now when you have the drive line of choice gathered up, you use Jack stands to support the front half of the truck in front of where your going to cut it! And the drives if tandem will support the back. If you bought a single axle use a HEAVY duty floor jack to support the back part. Then use a plasma cutter, or sawzall, or torch and cut away! (I like plasma or sawzall's for clean cuts!)
Then once the cut is made you bolt the drive line together, level the frame and measure the gap. Once ya know the gap go back to a wrecking yard and get a section of frame off a similar truck the right length. Once you have the new frame pieces you support it in place and tack weld it. then cut some flat plates (we call 'em fish plates) to weld on it on the inside of the frame. Now weld the fish plates on where half is in front and half is behind the weld. Then come back outside the frame and fill the gaps which welds the frame and the fish plates at the same time.  The rest is easy stuff like splicing air lines and wiring!
FWIW Grin  BK  Grin
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« Reply #21 on: December 19, 2008, 02:13:13 PM »

Some years ago there was an Eagle bus in BCM that had a huge lift up rear cap and ramps that stored a car above the engine compartment.  Anybody remember who that was.  Very nicely engineered as I recall.
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« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2008, 09:30:13 PM »

Yes I just saw that artical this week while reading an old issue, and it was pretty cool looking.

WVaNative
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Dean Hamilton Villa Grove, IL East Central IL. Near Champaign
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« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2008, 06:35:17 AM »

It's very common here to convert coaches to carry race cars etc, but I guess that's because we have more bus models to choose from and many of them are mid-engined, body-on-frame types which make such conversions fairly straightforward.

The other idea you could think about would be a horsebox - a modern coachbuilt horsebox with living accomondation in the front and horses in the back is just toyhauler for a different sort of toy!

Jeremy

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