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Author Topic: Tradeoffs: 35ft vs 40ft, Manual vs Automatic  (Read 8326 times)
technomadia
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« on: May 09, 2011, 08:41:35 PM »

We've been diving into our bus search, getting an idea for what we like, and trying to soak up as much knowledge as we can.

Yesterday we got to tour two awesome 4106's (thanks Barn Owl!), today we saw a Flxible Flxliner, and on Wednesday we will get to see our first MCI conversion.  Kicking all these tires has been absolutely great.  And we have been getting a lot of great leads via our "Sell Us Your Bus" form here too:
http://www.technomadia.com/sell-us-your-bus/

Checking out Barn Owl's 4106 I think has convinced us that we much prefer smaller buses, maxing out at 35 feet. And seeing the clutch-destroying driveway that he needed to get up made a vivid point of why we should really try for an automatic transmission too. 

We think we will continue to like going down those sort of tight twisty and steep back roads, at least on occasion.  And we love being able to camp in State and National Parks, and don't want to be turned away for size.


But before we rule out 40 footers and manuals entirely, I would like to more fully weigh the tradeoffs.

Other than space (35ft already provides WAY more than we are used to!), what are the advantages of going with a larger bus?  And how real are the disadvantages?  Do those of you with 40' or larger buses wish for something smaller?  Do those of you with 35' buses wish for larger?

And when it comes to manual vs automatic, what are the real tradeoffs?  How big is the fuel economy hit?  Is it really that easy to destroy a clutch doing steep driveways and little country roads? And if we find an awesome bus with a manual - how hard, costly, and time consuming is it to upgrade to an automatic?

I'm looking forward to hearing the wisdom of this group on how the best weigh these tradeoffs.

Thanks!

   - Chris // www.technomadia.com
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TomC
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2011, 08:54:18 PM »

I have an advantage with my 40ft x 102" wide transit bus.  It will out turn most 35ftr's since the turning angle on transits are tighter.  I also have an Allison automatic.  I don't care what the fuel mileage hit is, the Allison is just plainly a joy to drive (and this after 1.3 million miles of driving a truck with 13 speeds).  If you insist on getting a manual transmission and doing exploring, try for a T drive rather then a V drive.  With a V drive your restricted to just a 4 spd.  With a T drive you could go all the way up to an 18 spd if you want.  My opinion-don't get anything less then a 7 speed manual, with a 10spd being easiest.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2011, 09:25:10 PM »

I would think that the larger bus would have a better re sale value then the shorter ones.
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Dave5Cs
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2011, 10:44:53 PM »

5c 35 X 8 foot are like driving a sports car on air bags. Just  the right size especially if you go through Mexico's streets from what I have heard. Sure it would be nice to have a little bigger Bath but 6 tires cost about 1,200.00 less than 8. Love ours .

Dave Grin Shocked Cool
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2011, 03:21:06 AM »

We've never run into a problem with our manual transmission, first gear is very low and moving slowly is easy. Also, twice now I've read here where the 45 footers turn more tightly than a 35 footer, but I've not seen what their turning radius actually is. Our 35 footer has a 42 foot turning radius by da book....which isn't too shabby.
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2011, 03:27:21 AM »

  Few have a driveway as steep as mine, with a max gradient reaching nearly 23%, it will test the ability of any Bus, or any other vehicle. But clutch destroying? I let the clutch out down where its only 4%, just drop the clutch and punch it. The clutch aint slippin on the grade, its fully engaged and the Bus just goes up without any drama. The drama was sweating if it would do it before I ever did it.

  But this is with a 35 foot MC5. Now that ive made it up here, I do believe a GMC 35 footer would have made it, but they are a bit higher geared, so even at lower weight its a tradeoff and questioable, but in a million years youll likely never see a grade that steep, and never on a public road. A larger Bus would either needed lower gears, more power, or an automatic.

  Like everything else in life, in a Bus you always have to compromise one thing to have something else. 40 feet of Bus would be nice, but what do I do with that extra space? Washer/dryer? That would be nice.... And heavy. Do I need a washer and dryer? There is just the four of us, 33 feet worked well before, 35 feet without a dashboard the width of a bed will give us more room. So ask yourself what you need 40 feet and an extra cargo bay for.

  Then there is fuel economy. While some have enough money and attitude to say it doesnt matter, it matters to me and it matters to others. If for no other reason than getting father down the road and not having to spend time looking for fuel. A 40 foot MCI with an auto, figure about 5 mpg. I think thats simply the reality of pushing 40,000 pounds of Bus (a figure thats probably average for a 40 foot conversion, and before you hook on a toad) around with a transmission that sucks up 40 HP all by itself. You might get 6, but dont bet on it. But thats a decision you have to decide. I chose a 35 foot with manual transmission because they offer the best fuel economy "potential". Some claim 7-8, many others 10 ish. Probably has as much to do with the nut behind the wheel as anything, but good maintenence cant ever hurt. That it turns tighter and has two less tires dont hurt either.

  
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robertglines1
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2011, 04:28:10 AM »

Sounds like you have already decided on your life style for this portion of your life. A 35 ft with a auto  would prob be easiest for a new to the adventure person(busnut) In a ideal world a 4 stroke modern engine would also be in the mix.(boy that will stirr the pot) Nothing wrong with the  6 &8v's but getting harder to find people to work on them.(good people)If you understand them and can work on them please disreguard that part.Electronics engines can be a challange as well but is what is the norm today. You have decided on size for now. May want more as your family size changes or you aquire more hobbies or treasures. We travel in a 45ft with 3 slides now with a toad. I'm older and stay several months most places at a time with mostly full hookups- plus several week long tractor shows a year with partial hook ups. Best thing when all said and done I would be like to meet you and share stories and beverages of your choice.  Do it your way!
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Bob@Judy  98 XLE prevost with 3 slides --Home done---last one! SW INdiana
oldmansax
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2011, 04:51:45 AM »

Disclaimer: I have TWO 40' footers!!! One manual & one auto

Having had my MCI (the manual) for several years & full timed in it two and a half, I have never wanted to get somewhere I could not go because of either the length or the transmission. The closest I have ever come to damaging the clutch was in my own shop yard where I had dumped 100,000 pounds of road millings on the drive & then it rained a month. Backing the bus into the normal spot left 11" ruts ( I measured them).

As far as length, on both my buses I can drop the air from the tags, thus shortening the effective turning radius by about 5 feet. It makes a world of difference.

Is the auto easier to drive?  Definitely! Do I like it! Surely! Would that make difference to me in purchasing a bus? Some, but not much. If I was younger & figured to have more than just a few years left to enjoy this hobby, I would buy the most sturdy & versatile  bus I could find for a foundation, build it to suit me, and keep it forever.

My fantasy bus would be a stainless sided MCI, with a 350 Cummins/auto transplant. Plenty of power, no electronics, and still get 7-9 MPG.

TOM
« Last Edit: May 10, 2011, 03:20:05 PM by oldmansax » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2011, 05:07:43 AM »

I went with a MC-5C largely due to the compact dimensions - height, width and  length.  I just wasn't attracted to the larger buses visually or aesthetically, and I really didn't like the raised roof type look - just my feel.  Now I love looking at them but still don't yearn for one.  Part of the attraction was absolutely the fact that I could get a single rear axle bus into my driveway, while a longer bus wouldn't have fit - ditto on the height.  I had 6" clearance after I put the roof AC on.  As far as interior accommodation and cargo space, the 35 foot size fits two people well but I would never suggest more, so if you have children or house guests regularly I would not recommend 35 feet.  40 feet would make two bedrooms quite possible, a bunk room for 4 and a main cabin for two is what I would see as possible.

Brian
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Joe Camper
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2011, 05:40:20 AM »

I am suprised no one addressed the biggest current factor to get a lighter smaller bus over a 40.

FUEL MIALAGE
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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2011, 05:58:04 AM »

I have no idea what you want in a bus or price range but I can put you in touch with a guy that has a one owner 35 ft  Prevost converted by ForeTravel (1 of 5) very nice conversion  located in Texas low mileage well cared for always garaged and maintain by Prevost and he knows the market is down but he wants to sell  because of his age

good luck   
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2011, 06:03:04 AM »

  That is the other side of the coin, living in a coach as a home, or for long periods of time and parked. In those situations, size, weight, and fuel economy become less critical than space, comfort, ammenities, etc..

  If traveling is the primary use, think smaller and more efficient, more manuverable, if parked, think more comfort. I dont plan on living in mine, or parking long term, im thinking more of traveling, cruising. IOW, decide on the lifestyle and let that help select the Bus.

  Just an FYI, and if your considering building your own from scratch, there are litterally dozens of older MC9's for sale around the country any given week, many of which have a 7 speed stick that offers ultra low first and overdrive. And while an 8V71 could be considered underpowered to some, with that transmission, and driven conservatively, 8 mpg would not be unrealistic, and there isnt a grade anywhere you couldnt climb. Not a bad package overall in a 40 footer, and what I was searching for when this -5 popped up.
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Joe Camper
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2011, 06:05:01 AM »

I would like to take a look at that 35ft Prevo.
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technomadia
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2011, 06:07:06 AM »

Hi all.. thanks very much for all the experience sharing!

Just a point of reference for those offering advice regarding creating room for possible future family expansion, Chris and I are firmly childfree by choice (do not have children, do not want children and physically can't have any) - so this is not a concern for us.  We do have a cat, and sometimes it would be nice to lock her in her own room.  

Now.. expanding hobbies and infrequent guests - always a possibility Smiley  But at this point, all of the 35' buses we've seen offer far more storage space than we could utilize.

For the past 3 years we've lived full time in a 17' travel trailer with 80 sq ft of living space, and before that at 16' trailer with 45' sq ft of space. We are definitely used to and appreciate well designed tiny mobile house living, and live a bit on the minimalist side in terms of ownership of 'stuff'.  We are keeping a 40' bus as a possibility and are not firmly decided on any bus stuff at this point...   but so far, 35' is what we keep being drawn to.

Thanks,
 - Cherie
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« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2011, 06:57:18 AM »

If you are thinking about going off the beaten path, I would not rule out a school bus.  They will have better ground clearance, better approach and departure angles, better low speed gearing, and generally easier maintenance because they are basically a truck.  They will generally have much more flexibility as far as changing drive train options.

Crowns and Gilligs are the creme but Thomas and Blue Bird build some pretty good buses.
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