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Author Topic: Transit bus experts  (Read 6779 times)
Adarian
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« on: February 02, 2010, 07:33:51 AM »

Looking at two different transit buses, one is Gillig Phantom(1997) and the other a NOVA LFS(1998).
The Gillig has Detroit S-50 engine and the Nova a Detroit S-40 engine, both have allison b400r transmissions. The Gillig has the high floor and the Nova is a low floor model.

Any thoughts on ride, driveability and maint, issues.
Any thoughts on engine preference?

I need a transit bus because I need the front and rear doors.
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1978 Gillig 636D
CAT 3208 Allison MT 643
NLAAF Fitness Bus
Fair Oaks Ca
TomC
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2010, 08:06:43 AM »

I have an 1977 AMGeneral 10240B transit that is a high floor with 8V-71TATAIC and V730.  Many times I wished I had used the Gillig Phantom since it has flat slab sides and is also a high floor with the Series 50 (just about the most fuel efficient engine made).

On my transit, since it is a high floor, I had 22" of under floor space to install many components.  Installed underneath (after laboriously making brackets to hang from the frame supports) from the front behind the front axle is a storage area that is 99" wide x 22" tall x 66" long-surprising what you can get into that.  Then the 130gal fuel tank that is offset with enough room on the left side for a 20 gal frame mounted propane tank.  Then the 85 gal gray tank that goes nearly the entire width of the bus with enough space on the right side for two deep cycle 8D batteries.  Running down the middle is the 45 gal black tank with the starting batteries next to it.  In front next to the driver's seat is the 10kw Powertech Diesel generator (I have three 13,500btu/hr roof top A/C's), that I had to create that space.  The radiator for the generator is under the driver's seat along with the blower for cooling the gen compartment.  The 130 gal water tank along with two water pumps, two 10gal elec water heaters, and the hot and cold water manifold valves are under my rear bed.

As you can see, you can pack in just about as much on a high floor transit as with a normal highway bus. The only thing you'll be missing is one of the high cargo compartments that a highway bus has that could possibly store bicycles.  But considering that there is only 4 steps into a transit, and that transits are the most rugged bus made, the low price you can get a decent transit (under $5,000) can make it worth while.  Good Luck, TomC
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Tom & Donna Christman. '77 AMGeneral 10240B; 8V-71TATAIC V730.
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2010, 09:09:53 AM »

Personally, I would stay away from the Detroit Series 40.  It is actually an International DT466.  The DT466 is really a medium duty engine and not a heavy duty engine like the Series 50 or 60.

Why are you replacing your bus?
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2010, 09:28:32 AM »

Adarian -

Be aware that the low-floor model Nova will have far less usable space inside, due to much larger wheel wells up front, and a step-up area to the rear of the back door.  More headroom in the front, less in the rear.

Gillig is a flat floor front-to-rear, except for wheel wells, which are much smaller.

IIRC, the Detroit S-40 is actually an International engine (DT-466? TomC, help me out here!).

The S-50 is similar to the S-60, but a four cylinder rather than a six.  Vibrates quite a bit at idle, but smooths out once it hits 1000 rpm.  Would be well worth getting new motor mounts from Gillig to help subdue the beast.

BTW, if you're familiar with the Bay Area, Gillig's plant is right alongside the access to the San Mateo Bridge coming off the Nimitz (880) freeway in Hayward, so it's relatively close to you.  I've been thru the plant during construction of the coaches we were purchasing from Gillig, and it's an interesting process!

The Gillig also uses, for the most part, regular off-the-shelf HD truck parts, so most everything can be purchased locally.  Obviously body panels, etc. are theirs.

The Gilligs are built like tanks.  They use two massive frame rails that run the entire length of the coach undercarriage.  At the transit property I worked at, we had one t-bone a Jeep Grand Cherokee at 30 mph, and the only damage to the bus was a broken headlamp on the passenger side.  Jeep, of course, was totaled (probably because the bus "punted" the Jeep into a traffic signal light pole).

As I mentioned to you in the thread about the Gillig in OR, make sure the Phantom you're looking at has four air bags on the rear suspension.  If it only has two, you'll have a bucking bronco ride in the driver's seat, even if it's an air-ride model Recaro, National, or USSC.  You could pull the rear suspension and install a four-bag style, but the cost would be far more than what you'll be able to buy the bus for, so it's not economically viable.  Lots of worker's comp back injury claims for the two-air bag rear suspension models, fyi.

Any transit bus is not going to have the ride that the highway models do, as the design criteria is different.  However, the four-rear-air bag Gillig isn't bad, and, with the adjustable steering column, once you find the most ergonomically comfortable seating position, they're actually quite comfortable.

As Tom mentioned, the high-floor Gillig will also have room underneath for RV components, something you won't have at all with the Low-Floor Nova.

Most transit buses are geared more for city acceleration than freeway speed - acceleration being a relevant term.  (Saw a license plate frame on a diesel pusher RV a couple of days ago that said "0 to 60 in fifteen minutes" - which is about right, LOL.)  Anyway, changing out the pumpkin on the Gillig for a highway ratio is fairly easy, as they use Rockwell/Meritor axles, which have lots of ratios available.  TomC can help you with figuring out which ratio would be best with the S-50/B400r engine/trans to give you a top speed of 75 vs the current (probably) 55 mph, as he works with that type of thing on a daily basis.

Have you gone over to RTD's maintenance yard and talked w/ one of the shop foremen?  They'd be a good resource, as I believe they're running both models in the fleet.  I think they even have some Gillig LFs, too.

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink

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RJ Long
PD4106-2784 No More
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Fresno CA
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2010, 09:49:24 AM »

I always thought the DT466 is a six cyl engine and, from what my school superintendent buddy tells me, it is one of the best small diesels made for school buses.

I know they are used a lot in medium trucks and I've heard nothing but good about them.
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Adarian
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2010, 11:04:04 AM »

Personally, I would stay away from the Detroit Series 40.  It is actually an International DT466.  The DT466 is really a medium duty engine and not a heavy duty engine like the Series 50 or 60.

Why are you replacing your bus?

It was hit in the rear while parked in storage. So I am looking at my options right now.
I see that a lot of fleets are being upgraded, so I was looking getting a 95 to 99 model year for under 5k then that might be easier than fixing the damage.
I already have the water tanks, generator, shower, sink and cabinets for a conversion.


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1978 Gillig 636D
CAT 3208 Allison MT 643
NLAAF Fitness Bus
Fair Oaks Ca
TomC
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2010, 01:02:19 PM »

Series 40 is the International DT466.  An excellent medium duty engine, but restricted to about 330hp and 950lb/ft torque.  Compared to the Series 50 which can be turned up to 350hp and 1150lb/ft torque.  About the only drawback to the Series 50 is the fore mentioned vibration at idle-which can be relieved by having fresh motor mounts that are appropriate for the Series 50 (meaning very soft).  Also, the Series 50 uses twin counter rotating balancing shafts below the crankshaft that are powered off the oil pump drive.  These should be replaced about every 100,000 miles since the gears on the shafts are not exactly heavy duty.  Otherwise, an excellent engine.  Good Luck, TomC
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Tom & Donna Christman. '77 AMGeneral 10240B; 8V-71TATAIC V730.
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2010, 01:14:43 PM »

Most DT466 engines I see are rated well less than 330HP and 950 ft lbs.  My opinion is they aren't very well suited for pushing a 40 foot bus around on the highway.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2010, 03:26:05 PM »

Most DT466 engines I see are rated well less than 330HP and 950 ft lbs.  My opinion is they aren't very well suited for pushing a 40 foot bus around on the highway.

I agree they hardly push my F250  around :
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68 5303 Fishbowl 40' x 102"
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2010, 04:18:09 PM »

Paso one, Thats not what you have in your F250, is it? DT466 should be a straight 6?  Tom Y
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Tom Yaegle
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2010, 04:24:12 PM »

I was told the diesel engine in our 92' Ford F350 dually was manufactured by International, but it is not a DT466.  It is a V-8 configuration, 7.3L displacement. The last 2 ambulances the Fire Department assigned to my station were International chassis with DT 466 engines. They were inline 6 configuration.  Jack
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Growing Older Is Mandatory, Growing Up Is Optional
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2010, 07:50:36 PM »

 DT466 and the 7.3 are completely different engines. The 7.3 is an electronic V8 that uses HEUI injection and is also known as the DT444E. the 466 is a inline 6 much larger in physical size that the 444 it is found only in medium duty applications and uses a Bosch P series pump similar to that used on the Cummins 6bt newer DT466E use the HEUI injector system, but that is mostly where the similarities end.

My  mistake I thought the DT 466 was the Ford 7.3 Powerchoke engine.  But according to the above they are not. Smiley
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68 5303 Fishbowl 40' x 102"
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Tim Strommen
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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2010, 12:49:13 AM »

Looking at two different transit buses, one is Gillig Phantom(1997) and the other a NOVA LFS(1998).
The Gillig has Detroit S-50 engine and the Nova a Detroit S-40 engine, both have allison b400r transmissions. The Gillig has the high floor and the Nova is a low floor model.

Any thoughts on ride, driveability and maint, issues...

I have a Gillig Phantom 40' x 102" (1984).  Only 22" from the bottom of the side skirts to the floor - doesn't make for much under-floor storage - raise the floor 1-foot over the frame rails though, and there's a ton of space, and the wheelwells essentially disapear (16" wheel wells from the top of the frame rail - with creative floor-planning you can bury this in the floor or under cabinets/beds...).

"T-Drive" drivetrain, makes it easy to find spares and modifications in the scrap heap (just about any class 8 truck with the appropraite track width can be used for parts).

Heard mixed reveiws on Series 50 engines, but the b400 trans is as solid as a piece of granite - hard to break (unless you really try to).

I personally try to avoid DDEC/ATEC electronics, but that is a personal preference.  Gillig just killed the Phantom line this year, it's not on their website anymore - so if you were looking for a "current" model well it won't be.  The parts are still available, but as previously stated it'll cost you more than it's worth - as an example - I paid $1,572 for my Phantom from Lane County Transit in Oregon in 2003, replacement fiberglass for the front is $1,500, replacement fiberglass for the back left half is $1,500, replacement fiberglass for the back right half is $1,500, replacement fiberglass for the center rear cover (over the air conditioner or heater, depending on your options) is $1,500...

I think Nova Bus was just on a "How It's Made"; Stainless steel frame with sides glued on - the frame is impressive, the glue - not so much.  Gillig is mild steel which is galvanized and heavily painted with Zinc - I feel that galvanized Mild steel is easier to work with than stainless (it's certainly cheaper), but your milage may vary.  Keep in mind the only thing between you and the road on these is a 3/4" piece of Birch marine plywood.  If a bus is coming out of service, it may need the whole floor replaced due to rot (mine had a few square feet that were just crumbling - with some good stomping I was able to punch all the way through...) - and on low floors the wood is much closer to the wheel splash with being lower to the ground (especially if it was driven in a wet location like Oregon).

One other point on the Low Floor modes - they usually have custom drive trains and axles to get the axle below the frame - if this is in bad shape it makes the bus worthless (it's almost as much as a new bus for two new axles...).

Hope this helps,

-Tim
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Fremont, CA
1984 Gillig Phantom 40/102
DD 6V92TA (MUI, 275HP) - Allison HT740
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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2010, 07:51:56 AM »

I'm glad to hear from another that has the Gillig Phantom and that it also has 22" of under floor space.  As from my previous post, you will be able to get everything underneath that you need-as long as it is a 40ft'r.  You loose the space for storage with a 35ft'r.  Good Luck, TomC
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Tom & Donna Christman. '77 AMGeneral 10240B; 8V-71TATAIC V730.
Adarian
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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2010, 09:47:01 AM »

Thanks for all of the information.

Will keep you posted on what happens.
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1978 Gillig 636D
CAT 3208 Allison MT 643
NLAAF Fitness Bus
Fair Oaks Ca
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