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Author Topic: Brand new... and scared!  (Read 3892 times)
thejumpsuitman
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« on: September 28, 2009, 11:20:26 AM »

Hello wonderful bus people!

I am really worried about myself...  I just can't get buses off my mind!  We have had a few motorhomes in the past and have dealt with a lot of the negatives that go along with them...  Mainly water encroachment, flimsy design, weight limitations, poor power, handling, and of course, dry rot and delamination!  The seemingly unavoidable problems related to water is one of the things that got me even thinking about a bus.  But after reading some newbie horror stories, both here and elsewhere, I am wondering if a bus might be too much for me. 

I have never owned a diesel anything.  But I am a quick study and engross myself into anything I get interested in.  I am no mechanic, but I am mechanically inclined, and do many of my own repairs in general.  I recently met a wonderful gentleman locally who upgraded from a '52 PD-4103 to a newer MCI and wholeheartedly trusted his '52 to take him anywhere there were roads.  (Not sure if Gary from NC is a member here or not, but if so, Hello Gary!)  He had the bus sold, but still invited me to come and see it and ask any questions I might have.

He was selling it for $7,000, and after seeing it, it seems like the kind of thing I would be comfortable in.  What I mean is SIMPLICITY.  I seem to be drawn to the older GM buses probably for that reason and for economic reasons.  Especially the 4104 and 4106.  Also like the 4107/4903, but have heard they are hard to drive and that there may be other reasons to avoid them.(?)

I know anything could go wrong at any time, but it boils down to looking for something that would offer the best odds of trouble free operation  What are the best newbie buses out there?  I am a rabid bargain hunter, and thrive on finding a deal.  I am tenacious where that is concerned.  I have seen many older converted GM buses locally in the $5-$10k range and like the idea of finding something generally mechanically sound that just needs some upgrading.  What are the major systems to be most concerned with?  i.e. engine, transmission, brakes...

Any general advice would be greatly appreciated.  Especially on which models I might want to consider or stay away from. 

Thanks a million!
Marc
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2009, 11:39:39 AM »

Welcome to insanity Marc!  I married a guy that loves buses and now he has me addicted also.  We have talked about moving up to something larger since we full time and he mentioned doing a truck conversion and I put my foot down.  I like buses, I want a bus and, everyone here can tell you.....I will NOT be disobeyed.  Grin  Being a bus nut is rewarding, challenging, terrifying and wonderful all in one package.  If you have questions please feel free to ask or check the archives.  Expect to get a variety of answers to every question because we are all very, very opinionated. 
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2009, 12:04:39 PM »

Welcome!  i got into this 6 months ago with a fairly converted 1980 MCI MC-5C.  I specifically was only interested in a 35' bus, for parking and manueverability reasons, I only wanted a bus that was already converted to a state that was very comfortably usable, and I was only interested in a bus that was good mechanically.  I was willing to pay for all of that, and I did, and I'm still happy with my choice.

You might well make your decisions about a lot of this up front, and stay focused on the outcome.  Many focus on what I think of as the conversion journey - buying a bus, turning it into a shell, doing the mechanical restoration, raising the roof, building the interior.  I think the costs of doing that haven't come down, although the bus shells are now pretty cheap.  Others, like me, wanted the complete package up front and looked for a good, solid conversion  with a known history that could be used that weekend.  I think the value of a completed conversion has fallen dramatically in the past couple of years, so good deals are out there.  I ended up doing a hundred or so hours of rewiring and replumbing, but that was because I had a different idea of what was right than the first guy did, so I did it over.  All I've really done to the bus is adjust the brakes, clutch, and drive it, although I am about to change the oil...

The final word is these are commercial vehicles, and you should expect to learn how to maintain and look after them.  In particular learn about the air brake systems, and how to check them daily.  But so far the reward is definitely there.  And they are a great excuse to get new tools!

Brian
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thejumpsuitman
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2009, 12:13:28 PM »

Thanks Brian,

Sounds like you started from where I want to start.  I think you would take the greatest beating on the initial conversion work, and I know I don't have the funds or patience to start from scratch.  Another major appeal of a bus to me is their longevity.  The example of that to me is my new friend Gary's.  He has driven his bus to Alaska 3 times from NC!  Talk about trusting your rig!  Of course, they were meant to last 1 million+ miles, but to me, if you are forced to do some kind of major rebuild, it would seem like you lost out on that perceived benefit.  Maintenance is one thing, but an expensive overhaul is another.  That could really bust your annual budget.  Again, I know that stuff does happen, but I would want to do my best do avoid that if possible.

Marc
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2009, 01:34:08 PM »

Marc,
   Not so much one model/brand to steer clear of as much as condition-condition-condition. The different brands have different designs, not that one is better, just that they are different. This means trade-offs.  There are buses with T-drive and angle drive drive trains, torsilastic and air bag suspension, as well as differnet frame designs. They have advantages and disadvantages. If you find a bus you are interested in, pay a BUS mechanic to check it out for you. This will be the best money your bus.  Jack
PS: Welcome to the insanity.  
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2009, 02:19:12 PM »

Hi Marc,   Welcome to the wonderful world of Bussing. lol I like you have owned several what some call S&S (sticks and stables) two years ago I sold my last coach that was a 2004 and all the bells and whistles , told my wife Am done and thats it. That lasted about 3 months lol started looking around and found the next best thing to HOT Rods . Went and looked it over and made the deal. Now I have been told I got a pretty good deal and so far I would agree. I have never owned anything with a Detroit before so it has been a real eye openner to say the least. And the things I have found that I changed were more of an upgrade then a need. I guess what Iam trying to say is learn all you can from the best. And there are quite a few on this board and others. But like Jack and others have said time and time again Get someone who can  look beyond the bling and give you a realistic view . Good luck and welcome to the nut house lol
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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2009, 02:37:02 PM »

Marc,welcome a good bus can be a lot of fun a bad one can be a nightmare so try and get it right the first time.
I disagree with some that call this a hobby it it far from it is more like a job.
When you buy remember buses are like a wife you take it for better or worse the only difference is the wife being easier to get rid of. LOL



good luck
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2009, 03:42:30 PM »

Hi Marc, We share the same name, even spelled the same. I got the bus bug 12 years ago. I had a 54 4104 for 4 years. Loved that bus ,especially the sound of that 6-71. Needed more room so I got a 82 mci 9. I did the whole conversion in my spare time. Now it is less expensive to buy turn -key. I would do it all over again. I took ours from florida to wyoming in 06 without any problems at all. Would do it all over again. The bus bug is incurable. Do your homework and enjoy. Marc
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2009, 06:09:44 PM »

Marc, Take your time and do your research on what you want to do with your bus, fulltime, boondock or just go camping and have fun. Try to find a good base, meaning, good sound mechanicals, including engine, tranny, brakes and a solid foundation. Once you have your budget in mind go to some rallies, meet some folk and talk buses. There are almost always a few for sale, you never know, you might find "The One".

Look around in your area, I assume NC is where you live. Have a true bus mechanic give it the once over and give you an honest report on his findings.

Have fun and welcome to our severe addiction!

PS...put as much info in your profile and signature you are comfortable with like location etc.

Paul
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2009, 06:25:18 PM »

Hello Marc , A Bus or some call them a Coach, are the best! Yes you are doing the right thing.Do your homework.Look at more than one THINK how you want to use it. The bus market is a buyers market now.You win bigtime. Everyone here and a few other BBS will really help.Also look at many first hand.You will start to know what you like.Ask any question or use the 'search' function as your homework here. Everyone is Very helpful.WELCOME to the bus nut house!! Grin Grin Shocked Cool Cheesy :)GFC
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2009, 07:10:57 PM »

Wow,  thanks to everyone here who is so positive and helpful.  It is interesting that this bus fixation is being called a form of insanity or a disease in such a tongue-in-cheek fashion...  LOL.  I totally understand what is meant, though.  It must be one of those things that is difficult to justify quantitatively, but from the intangible standpoint of general satisfaction, and enjoyment, it's is all worth it.

From the standpoint of affordability and general personal interest, I am being drawn to the older GM models.  In fact, I had to run an errand about 30 miles away tonight and of all things, saw what looked like a 4104 or 4106 sitting in a fenced in storage lot.  It was a full-seated bus with Alabama plates on it.  Not for sale or anything, just interesting to have seen one now that I am interested.  Of course, I have probably passed by thousands of old buses without ever taking notice in the past.

Specific question... One thing I do remember my new friend Gary saying was that he had a hard time shifting a "Buffalo" bus that he test drove.  He mentioned something about a hydraulic clutch?  Anyone familiar with that or know why it is difficult to shift? 

Marc
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« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2009, 09:13:44 PM »

I think that the GM buses are a good way to go. The 4104 and the 4106s are extremely inexpensive compared to the other manufactures. I would not convert one from scratch, the low resale will cause too much of a loss if you sell it. If you are on the buying end of an already converted GM then you will probably get into this craziness at about the lowest cost possible. I love camping in the old, but very beautiful, state parks that are in my area. The lower height and 35’ length makes that easier, and in some cases, it's the largest size possible or allowed (Like much of California I found out).

I took my old ugly GM4106, with an old wornout wheezy detroit (lots of starter fluid), and did 8500 miles of bus torture (many 10% grades and seven >10K ft mountain passes in the middle of nowhere) and did not get stranded.

Learn to use the search function and you will find a wealth of information on the GM buses. When I am searching I like to right click on the post summery from a search so I can open it in a new window. It makes it easier for me because sometimes the search page expires and you have to start over.
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2009, 09:28:21 PM »

Marc -

The Buffalo GMCs (4107, 4108, 4903, 4905) have what are known as "wet clutches."

They are not hard to shift, they just shift differently from a coach that has a dry clutch.  As long as you can adapt to their quirks, you won't have a problem.

Do you want a stick or automatic?  Very rare to find a GMC with an OEM automatic, most that have them have been retrofitted.

Majority of GMCs are stick shifts, which can be an interesting challenge at Oh Dark Thirty when you're trying to wiggle into a campsite w/o irritating the neighbors much. 

Automatics are simply "stab & steer", comparatively.

You might find this interesting:

http://www.busnut.com/bbs/messages/12262/16204.html?1167073154

The venerable 4104 is the epitome of the Aesop Fable "The Tortoise & the Hare".  Can barely get out of it's own way when accelerating, but will run the fuel tank dry sitting on the governor at 65 mph.  Has to be rowed along with the shift lever a lot, but will make better time overall than the crew-cab Ford dually pulling a fifth-wheel.

4106s are affectionately known as the "sportscar of buses" because of their great stock power-to-weight ratio and nimble handling.  The chassis is basically a massaged 04, altho no exterior body panels interchange.  Early (61 - 62.5) had some engine bulkhead cracking problems, but the factory corrected that problem mid-62.  But definitely something that MUST be thoroughly checked when looking at a potential suspect prospect.

If you're more interested in 35-foot models, there are some very nice MC-5s available also, so don't overlook those.  (An MC-5C with a 6V92TA hooked to an HT-740 Allison is a real hot rod, btw)  Some say there's better part availability with the MCIs, so that's a thought to ponder.

Welcome to the insanity - the next tour leaves from Gate 1B, please have your ticket available. . .

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2009, 10:58:22 PM »

I think that the GM buses are a good way to go. The 4104 and the 4106s are extremely inexpensive compared to the other manufactures. I would not convert one from scratch, the low resale will cause too much of a loss if you sell it. If you are on the buying end of an already converted GM then you will probably get into this craziness at about the lowest cost possible.

Barnowl, you are speaking my language!  I suspected this was the case based on my browsing.  It would seem some interior upgrading would not be nearly as expensive as the initial preparations to convert a bus.  Dollar for dollar, sounds like reliability is cheaper with an old GM.

Marc
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2009, 11:03:11 PM »

Marc -

The Buffalo GMCs (4107, 4108, 4903, 4905) have what are known as "wet clutches."

They are not hard to shift, they just shift differently from a coach that has a dry clutch.  As long as you can adapt to their quirks, you won't have a problem...



The venerable 4104 is the epitome of the Aesop Fable "The Tortoise & the Hare".  Can barely get out of it's own way when accelerating, but will run the fuel tank dry sitting on the governor at 65 mph.  Has to be rowed along with the shift lever a lot, but will make better time overall than the crew-cab Ford dually pulling a fifth-wheel.



If you're more interested in 35-foot models, there are some very nice MC-5s available also, so don't overlook those.  (An MC-5C with a 6V92TA hooked to an HT-740 Allison is a real hot rod, btw)  Some say there's better part availability with the MCIs, so that's a thought to ponder.

Good stuff.  Thanks.  And you have reinforced my ideas on the old GMs.  I will look into the MC-5's as well.  Haven't come across nearly as many of those.  Also loved the article on shifting.  Thanks.

Marc
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2009, 05:41:14 AM »

Hi Marc,

What part of NC are you from? I live in Forest City between Charlotte and Asheville. There are serveral of us here locally with Eagles and GMCs and we will be glad to help.

Tom Hamrick
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2009, 06:20:21 AM »

Marc,

Welcome to the board! I'm from NC as well, Marion. Good time to purchase, lots of deals out there!

Brandon
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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2009, 07:47:26 AM »

Hi Marc,

What part of NC are you from? I live in Forest City between Charlotte and Asheville. There are serveral of us here locally with Eagles and GMCs and we will be glad to help.

Tom Hamrick
1984 Eagle 10S

Hi Tom,

Forest city is a great town!  I always make a point to take the bypass through town when I'm on 74 in that area.  I am in Matthews, outside Charlotte.  Thanks for the generous offer.  I will certainly seek wise counsel when the time comes.

Marc
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2009, 10:06:55 AM »

Sounds good Marc. Send me a Private Message from this board if you are coming through and want to stop.

Hi Brandon. I actually work in Marion, small world. Hope you can plan to come to Kyles Non-Rally in a couple of weeks. It is not far from you and you can meet a lot of nice folks.

Marc, This rally is not too far from you either. Get to see lots of buses cause we all like to show them off!!

Tom Hamrick
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« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2009, 05:34:52 AM »

Tom and Marc,
We are all sorta close neighbors, good to know!

Wish I could make the non-rally, just got back from California 2 weeks ago and gotta head back next Sat. Have fun down there!

Brandon
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« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2009, 02:41:18 PM »


NJT5047  is in your neck of the woods and will gladly talk bus with you.  He is coming to the Non-rally at Palmetto Cove,  you should come in your sacrificial motor home.   You would learn a lot and be much more confident(and full) when you leave.   Send him an IM.

Also subscribe to the mag, it will be the highlight of your month.


Good luck and welcome to the madness
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« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2009, 08:00:22 PM »


NJT5047  is in your neck of the woods and will gladly talk bus with you.  He is coming to the Non-rally at Palmetto Cove,  you should come in your sacrificial motor home.   You would learn a lot and be much more confident(and full) when you leave.   Send him an IM.

Also subscribe to the mag, it will be the highlight of your month.

Good luck and welcome to the madness

YO! Jon! This is like deja-vu all over again!   Wink
Marc, I just did a rant on the 'skils' thread on this subject?   Same? 
Marc, you are less than 15 minutes from me.   Feel free to call me about any time.   I'm near the Monroe airport.  Southern Indian Trail.
704 650 0235
If you are serious about a bus conversion, you really oughta find a way to get over to Palmetto Cove next weekend.   Looks like a really good turnout for Kyle's Palmetto Cove Non-Rally.   
Another option for wannabees is Jack Conrad's  'Mother of All Bus Rallies' in Arcadia, Fla, the week between Christmas and New Year's.   Hundreds of buses to look at.   Pretty good drive from here. 
We enjoyed Arcadia a couple of years ago....spousal component usually has that week full up.  Hard to get away at that time.  Whatta change in weather!   Grin Grin   Left here in the low 20s...arrived in Arcadia and the temp was low 70s...sunset...Very nice!  Cool
Look forward to hearing from you!  We're leaving next Wed AM for Palmetto Cove.   I'll be in and out in the meantime.

JR


 
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« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2009, 03:41:05 AM »

Hi JR,

Yeah, practically neighbors.  I may just give you a call.  Thanks for the offer.  I may try to get to Palmetto Cove.  Maybe I can make a day trip out of it, or borrow Dad's motorhome... but my old Sportscoach is in need of repairs at this time, so it won't be going anywhere too soon.  

Arcadia sounds intriguing.  I love that town, was there this spring.  We had a great time going to all the antique stores.  Of all things, I bought a working Coca-Cola vending machine there at the Habitat for Humanity thrift store for $75.  Couldn't turn down that deal!  I have a very close friend who lives in Wauchula about 25 miles north of Arcadia.  He still has the Coke machine and thought I was nuts for buying it, LOL.  What a beautiful area that is, especially in the springtime.  The wife and I are actually seriously considering moving to central Florida, particularly the Winter-Haven Lakeland area.  Whenever I go to Florida I never want to leave.

Marc
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« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2009, 05:42:30 AM »

 just another opion---- if you build it yourself you know the guy to see if something goes wrong. Set a budget. Now add twenty percent for the unexpected. A time back in the magazine there was a worksheet that listed the parts of a conversion and you could plug in the cost to help you make the decision. I have done three and have sold each for more than I had invested. You know the basics from your past camping experience,trust in yourself.    I have recently put slides in my 89 prevost was not that hard.  Set back digest and make the decision to fit yourself...  welcome..... good luck!!!
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« Reply #24 on: October 01, 2009, 10:27:11 AM »

We also came from a stick and staple life. We have had our bus 2 years this thanksgiving and have no regrets about making the jump. I agree with everyone here. Just make sure your  getting a bus that is mechanically sound. When we first started looking for a bus, there were none locally. I had never even seen a bus up close, let alone have any idea what I was looking for before I bought. After looking for a few months, I found an early 90's Prevost just 6 miles from my home. It was a seated coach and was still on the road. They were asking $7000 for it and were eager to get it out of their lot as they were having issues with the city. When I first saw it fell in love. It was the first bus I had seen up closes and I was blinded. The fact that it needed all new tires, new batteries, a radiator and many air leaks repaired didn't even matter to me. As I said i was blinded. I was going to own a Prevost ! After a few more trips to see it and getting a halfhearted nod from the wife, we got our cash and were ready to make an offer. I happened to mention it to a mechanic friend and he offered to go for a ride with me. When we got there, the owner grabbed a can of either, opened a door and sprayed it into the air cleaner "to save the batteries and make it start easier". He explained that he hasn't had an air cleaner in the canister for a few years 'cause its easier to start this way. My buddy then slid under the back to look things over and hopped up as quick as he had layed down and said he was ready to leave. He dragged me out of there kicking and screaming. When we got in the car, he told me that all the rubber bushings on the suspension were GONE and there was so much rust, he couldn't believe it hadn't fallen apart. Talk about dodging the bullet. We eventually hooked up with busforsale.com. They turned out to be good honest folks and after spending time both on the phone and at their shop, got us into a real nice ex-NJT MC9. It has been great except for the things Ive broken due to my hard head, but with help from here, I was able to make the repairs. Our bus is about 1/4 converted and we try to use it all the time. We jumped into this bus thing way over our heads and would do it again in a heartbeat. We've been to Jack"s rally and lived out of our minivan for a weekend amongst the busses and got and eduction I couldn't have paid for. Its a great group of folks here with years of knowledge and its been a great addiction for us so far.
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« Reply #25 on: October 02, 2009, 10:41:26 AM »

Marc,

That 4103 would have been a great starter coach.  It is simple even by GM standards, no airbags, radius rods, etc.  And, it was evidently very well cared for.  However, 03s are rare as there were only about 1500 built.  You should have little problem finding a nice 4104, '06 or even one of the 4107/08s.

== Seaton
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« Reply #26 on: October 04, 2009, 06:39:05 PM »

Marc,
Pay JR a visit - he's serious.  I lived within 3 miles of him for +/- 25 years and did not know him until I passed by his barn and saw the nose of his MCI and stopped in.  We have helped each other a lot since then and attend rallies together.

We lived on Gold Mine Rd in Wesley Chapel for 27 years and 3 years ago because of grand childern moved to Buies Creek, NC.

There is LOTS of good advice here on this board and lots of folk who R willing to help.

Looking forward to meeting U.

gene
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Work like you don't need the money; Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching.
What a journey in NC.
Gene - 05 Eagle

I-95 at Dunn, 12 miles W. on US 421. Some tools and know-how. Coffee on-we'll talk buses. Bus troubles – can & will assist as far as cable-toe will permit.
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