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Author Topic: Bus conversions and money  (Read 4258 times)
Ednj
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2006, 06:06:16 PM »

belfert

The money sounds about right.
The age not to far off.
I too thought the same. I bought a bus with visions of converting to a motor home way before I had a computer.
$8000.00 for a shell, $20,000.00 & 6 months to finish, Ya that was the plan.
After I really got into it, replacing rusted steel and the like my plan changed to just keeping it roadworthy.
I don’t have a shop that the bus will fit in, I don’t have a solid place I can jack the bus up and remove tires and the like, so I know where your coming from.
I’ve been working on this bus for 4 years now ( I know I’m doing it right). If I knew then what I know now I would have never bought this bus.
My plan was to have my conversion ready to use next year (8weeks away). But I bought new tires (back to keeping it road worthy) Then I started going to bus rallies (with the bus) WOW so much fun using the bus, meeting people with the same interest, typing on the computer, writing this post.
Anyhow I started temping in systems just so I could use it and now I find myself having to redo stuff so that it’s permanent.
Don’t get me wrong it’s great meeting bus nuts, and using the bus but I feel if I would have stuck to the plan of next year, I wouldn’t have created more work for myself.
Take your time, do it your way, throw away the computer.
Ed-9-Nj
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MCI-9
Sussex county, Delaware.
See my picture's at= http://groups.yahoo.com/group/busshellconverters/
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NJT5047
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2006, 06:11:43 PM »

There's a lesson in this thead for newbies...the lesson is: stay away from exotica like Dinas, Neoplans, Setras, Mann and anything else that isn't labled with MCI, Prevost, GM, or Eagle.  And, some of these "mainstream" buses aren't worth the cost to burn them either.  
Just have to have an idea of what is repairable, and then an idea of what repairs are necessary when buying a coach.
Obviously, Dinas, Neoplans (witness Sean Welsh's Neoplan), and other "alernative" brand buses can be made into great motorcoaches, but they require "out of the mainstream" solutions....and big $$$$$$$$$ for rare parts.  
Most of us have more than a little mechanical skill.  Only a rich man could own a bus and pay someone else to maintain it.
Brian could have bought an MCI 102D3, S60 and B500 for less than what the Dina cost.   The MCI may not have been in better condition, but repairing it would be less than half the pain and cost.  H3-4?s can be bought for under 60K now.
Owning a bus isn't for everyone.  Best to rationally consider what these things cost to maintain and convert...and how much of it you can do yourself.   Preferably before wading in with the alligators.
My dos centavos, JR    



 
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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2006, 06:15:33 PM »

Brian, your missing out on a ton of left coast experience. I have had my coach (4106) for nine years now and use it alot. Still not done done, but close, Ive a total of 20K in it. Brakes, tires, airbags, Sheppard steering, new engine and Allison trans, rear axle gears, all interior appointments, 12.5KW Perkins diesel Generator, stainless tanks, 66.5 gal. propane tank new combo fridg. two 42K furnaces two 15kbtu airs. I need to finish the bedroom and paint the exterior but I dont let the looks bother me when Im out camping with friends and other busnuts cause I know they understand.   Back to the point, I travel all over the western part of the country and have a ball, Im from Utah so I go to the rallys that I like and can afford, the big problem is I own a bussiness and have to scedule my time carefully.  All above work done by me with exception of carpet laying.  Take your time and do what you can, scrounge like crazy, go to events that you can learn from, AND HAVE FUN.  ( A 65 year old aviation mechanic>>>Dan
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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2006, 06:24:21 PM »

Hey claimjumper when it comes time for carpet, make a trip to florida and i'll be glad to do it for you! The cronies are on you though! Wink

Ace
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David Anderson
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« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2006, 06:44:17 PM »

Very good discussion.

I too had an unexpected expense of brakes and front end work on my Eagle 10 to the tune of $9900.  $5K in eagle parts alone from Jefferson Truck for the front end.  All this had to be done because there is absolutely no compromise for safety.  The main focus I made when I jumped into this hobby 6 years ago was that all my other toys and hobbies were suspended and this was the only activity I spent my money on.  I too went over my budget.  It took me 3 years to complete, but I'm really proud of what I have and it most likely will be the only RV I ever own and will be in the family for years if not decades.   That wouldn't be true if I owned a Winny or other glued up cracker box on wheels.   They just wouldn't stay together that long. 

Since you are only 34 that puts you at a financial disadvantage.  You are in the middle of your expensive living years trying to accumulate wealth, therefore, the "toy money" for you project generally is in short supply.   Like the others said, get it in running condition as you are able, and take it camping even if on short trips.  Your kids will love it just as much as it's finished.  The wife however, may not.  Please her as best you can because if she dislikes the project it will fail.  You have to have her blessing in this or it will not succeed.   

David

Here we are just a couple of days before taking her out on our first snow skiing trip, ere I mean a couple of years before.

You think I could stay a few days at Tiger Run Resort in Breckenride CO with her?   We wouldn't need 50 amp service.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 07:19:48 PM by David Anderson » Logged
Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
1989, MCI 102C3, 8V92T, HT740, 06' conversion FMCA# F-27317-S "Wife- 1969 Italian/German Style"
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« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2006, 07:12:40 PM »

Well, I can confess. I had the unique pleasure of growing up in the bus world. Having helped my dad convert 3 different

PD4104's.  From age 9 to about 23, I was involved with everything. I'll never forget, The first time my dad let me drive one of the 4104's

I was 18 yrs old and very much anticipated that day for a long time. I drove it from NJ to Virginia. Man my dad was nervous...

Needless to say, It's etched in me. It took until I was 39 yrs old to purchace my very own bus. But when I did, I knew it would be an MCI.

Most all the reasons are listed above. What I also knew was the foresight of what to expect when owning a bus. Thanks DAD!

Having my dad involved with my purchace was a god sent... Just knowing that I did my homework 2 years before the actual Buy, gives me

piece of mind knowing that I own a sound late model bus with very little needs, makes me feel lucky.

You can sure bet I wouldn't sink well over $100,00 grand into a Piece of S*it bus.

Moral of the story...... Do your homework FIRST.... Ask lots of Questions...... Don't stray too far from the box.......  Listen to your inner voices.....

Good Luck
Nick-
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 07:14:45 PM by Nick Badame Refrig. Co. » Logged

Whatever it takes!-GITIT DONE! 
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bruceknee
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« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2006, 03:32:25 AM »

What would be a better choice? A bus with a 6 V92 that you could use or a bus with a 60 series that you can't use. Dinas are nice looking busses, I ride on them when I'm on vacation in Mexico but I'm glad that I have an MCI.
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DavidInWilmNC
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« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2006, 05:42:14 AM »


"Nick, I wouldn't miss my bus at Arcadia since it is basically a steel tent right now. 

A steel tent is EXACTLY what I have at the moment.  Ace can vouch for that, as he backed it into a site at Timmonsville for me.  It's not exactly a tent; it has a few upgrades from most canvas tents:  OTR heat and air, roof-top heat pump, decent tires, really good brakes, skinned windows (still need to shave the rivets), used cabinets for the temporary kitchen, two nice captains chairs from a junk yard ($100 complete), a bed (the only part that's mostly complete), and a generator that wouldn't start (but runs fine now).  I'm sure I'm not remembering all the costs, but I think I might have $12-13,000 in mine including the bus itself.  Is it a newer Dina?  Hell no, it's a '78 MC-8.  Does it have a 4-stroke turbo diesel engine?  No, it's an 8v-71.  Does it have a nice Allison Automatic transmission?  I wish!  It's got a Spicer 4-speed manual (Ace can tell you about that clutch, too).  I've probably spent another $1500-2000 on tools on top of the other costs.

I'm also young, in terms of bus conversion ownership (40).  Sure, I'd like to have a much nicer, newer shell to work with.  I'd also like to have my bus 'finished' after 17 months.  What I wouldn't trade all my wishes for is the stress, anxiety, and resentment of buying something to convert that's out of my means in terms of skills, finances, and time.  I've got a pop-up camper that I use at least once a month.  You know, I'd still rather take my bus with it's interior looking like a shell MCI hasn't completed yet.  It's fun, but mainly it's just  cool.  It's cool 'cause it's my bus. 

I took a risk buying this bus; after all, it's 28 years old, had a bit of rust (and still has some), and is not like anything I've ever worked on before.  I don't have a covered place to work on it, so I'm at the mercy of weather, too.  I live at the coast in NC and, like Ace, Jack, and others, have hurricanes to deal with.  When it's nasty outside, I work on the inside.  If I can't motivate to work on it, I go sit in it.  It's good to visualize how it'll come together, ways to save some money, and just because I like my bus. 

If there's one point that a potential bus owner/ converter should get from this post, it's this:  Read these forums, listen to those who've actually OWNED a bus, remember that 'finished' is relative (you'll always have something you'll want to change), buy something standard (Prevost, MCI, RTS, etc), make sure you have the money, time, energy, and skills to do the work or have the means to pay for it all to be done for you.  I imagine my bus will have cost me a bit less than $20,000 when I'm 'finished' with it, and probably a bit more when I'm really 'finished' with it.  Mainly, though, one must have realsitic expectations. 

David
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belfert
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« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2006, 05:58:22 AM »

There's a lesson in this thead for newbies...the lesson is: stay away from exotica like Dinas, Neoplans, Setras, Mann and anything else that isn't labled with MCI, Prevost, GM, or Eagle.  And, some of these "mainstream" buses aren't worth the cost to burn them either.  
Just have to have an idea of what is repairable, and then an idea of what repairs are necessary when buying a coach.
Obviously, Dinas, Neoplans (witness Sean Welsh's Neoplan), and other "alernative" brand buses can be made into great motorcoaches, but they require "out of the mainstream" solutions....and big $$$$$$$$$ for rare parts.  
Most of us have more than a little mechanical skill.  Only a rich man could own a bus and pay someone else to maintain it.
Brian could have bought an MCI 102D3, S60 and B500 for less than what the Dina cost.   The MCI may not have been in better condition, but repairing it would be less than half the pain and cost.  H3-4?s can be bought for under 60K now.
Owning a bus isn't for everyone.  Best to rationally consider what these things cost to maintain and convert...and how much of it you can do yourself.   Preferably before wading in with the

I paid $36,500 for my Dina with S60 and B500.  Are D3s really going for that price?  I've never seen a D3 or DL3 with S60 and B500 with a listed price for less than $60,000 to $70,000. 

Would I buy another Dina, maybe, maybe not.  Dinas are generally far less expensive for a bus with a S60 and a B500.

I was not aware at purchase time how hard parts would be to get.  I should have done more research on that.  I expected items like brake pads and drums to be readily available, but they are not even though Dina used the same parts suppliers as any heavy truck maker in the USA.

If I were ever to do another bus, it would probably an MCI or Prevost as Dinas will be pretty old by the time I would do another one and MCIs and Prevosts with S60 will be in ready supply I expect.

Brian Elfert
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belfert
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« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2006, 06:02:30 AM »

What would be a better choice? A bus with a 6 V92 that you could use or a bus with a 60 series that you can't use. Dinas are nice looking busses, I ride on them when I'm on vacation in Mexico but I'm glad that I have an MCI.

If I had a bus with a 6V92, the conversion process would be no further along than it is today.  I would have spent a bit less money, but that wouldn't help get the conversion done.

My S60 runs just fine right now.  I just got back from 1,600 trouble free miles to BK's rally and back.  I did have to stop every few hours on the way down to top off the oil, but I knew that would be the case before I left.

Brian Elfert
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DavidInWilmNC
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« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2006, 06:25:41 AM »

What would be a better choice? A bus with a 6 V92 that you could use or a bus with a 60 series that you can't use. Dinas are nice looking busses, I ride on them when I'm on vacation in Mexico but I'm glad that I have an MCI.

If I had a bus with a 6V92, the conversion process would be no further along than it is today.  I would have spent a bit less money, but that wouldn't help get the conversion done.

My S60 runs just fine right now.  I just got back from 1,600 trouble free miles to BK's rally and back.  I did have to stop every few hours on the way down to top off the oil, but I knew that would be the case before I left.

Brian Elfert

That's true, Brian, but you titled this thread "Bus conversions and money", so the point of the money and the fact that you wanted an S60 (and chose the bus you did to get one) is relavent.  It's all about trade-offs.  Just think... the difference between what you have in your Dina and what I have in my MC-8 would buy a lot of labor to speed the conversion up.  From your questions about the oil repair, it seemed like a time consuming issue to me.

On another note, how many converters who've had bad luck and lots of unforseen issues with their buses had good inspections prior to purchase? 

David
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belfert
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« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2006, 06:55:55 AM »


You stated below that you bought a shell for $36,500 and to date you have nearly $75,000. There's a difference of $38,500 and you still don't have a bathroom or cabinets? Even if you tore everything that was already in it out, it wouldn't cost you that much to re-do it!

Just what in the hell did you spend $29,500 on minus the $9000.00 for brakes and bearings?

I was wrong.  I have spent $73,000 to date on my conversion.  This includes money for my initial trip to see the bus and money for the trip to get the bus and bring it home.

Major expenses:

Airfare/hotel/rental car to inspect bus: $512
Airfare/fuel/hotel to get bus home: $1528 (It took several days longer than planned to get home so more hotels.)
Oil change/inspection/misc at Detroit dealer: $560
Check out overheating on way home: $226
tanks and RV range: $520
Brakes/wheel bearings/exhaust: $9100
Water heater/furnace/propane tank: $994
Microwave: $139
Sales tax and registration: $2655
two 15k rooftop A/C: $1098
Bathroom vent fan: $105
LED side markers: $112 (Special marker lights cost a lot.  Should have stuck with regular instead of LED.)
11 gallons coolant: $103
Vanner Equalizer: $315
Replacement escape hatch: $89
Bulb-tite rivets: $242
Marine wire: $144
Steel: $133
Custom hitch: $457
Onan generator: $2850
Parts/manuals for Onan: $141
Shipping for windows: $374
Peninsula Windows: $2310
Menards plywood/misc: $758
custom bunk mattress: $190 (Knox foam couldn't make any cheaper with cover.  Tried another foam mattress that was 1/2 price, but terrible.)
Fantastic vent: $138
Eight 6 volt batteries: $540
Powertech generator: $6016 (This was a stupid decision.  I didn't have time to do vibration isolation and soundproofing on Onan.  Big waste when bus wasn't ready for first trip.)
custom bunk mattress: $218
Stuff for 12/24 volt power: $366
RV ultraleather sofa: $1031
Proheat diesel heater: $382
More bunk mattresses: $808
Alignment: $188
New mirrors: $320
New bearings for steering: $356 (installed)
New driver's seat: $335

Did I make some stupid purchasing decisions?  Absolutely!  I still have the Onan generator I originally bought to get rid of along with a few other things.  The Powertech generator was only bought due to being out of time to get the Onan working properly and not vibrating the bus apart.  We ended up not going on the big trip planned for end of September, so would have had plenty of time to work on the Onan.

I wasn't keeping close enough track of my spending as my Sept 27th deadline approached and I ended up spending more money than I planned on.  There are some things I would have postponed or skipped had I realized how much I had spent.

I researched to death pretty much every single item I bought.  I wanted to be sure I was getting the best price on everything.  My self imposed deadline of Sept 27th meant I bought some stuff in haste and didn't look around enough for used.  For instance, I saw some inexpensive used A/C units on BNO a few days after I bought mine new.  I would have waited longer on buying them if not for my deadline.

Brian Elfert
« Last Edit: November 02, 2006, 04:52:47 PM by belfert » Logged
belfert
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« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2006, 07:05:52 AM »

That's true, Brian, but you titled this thread "Bus conversions and money", so the point of the money and the fact that you wanted an S60 (and chose the bus you did to get one) is relavent.  It's all about trade-offs.  Just think... the difference between what you have in your Dina and what I have in my MC-8 would buy a lot of labor to speed the conversion up.  From your questions about the oil repair, it seemed like a time consuming issue to me.

On another note, how many converters who've had bad luck and lots of unforseen issues with their buses had good inspections prior to purchase? 

I agonized over which shell and engine to get for several months.  The main reason I paid extra for the Series 60 was I thought the engine would last a lot longer.  A 102A3 with 6V92 was only $15,000, but I guess I paid too much attention to horror stories about V92 series engines failing often and didn't want to be buying a new engine right away.

You're right, if I had a GOOD inspection done, I wouldn't have bought the Dina without a major price reduction.  I couldn't find a bus garage within 150 miles of the selling dealer, so I had the bus inspected at the Detroit dealer.  The Detroit dealer mainly checked the engine and tranny and didn't mention the brake linings and drums were bad.  They also didn't find the cracked exhaust pipe, but did adjust one of the front brakes so it sorta worked.

Brian Elfert
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H3Jim
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« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2006, 07:19:40 AM »

You should be easier on yourself.  Sure you could have done it better (we all could), but you cuold have done a lot worse too.  You've done a huge amount of research and work in a short time, and some of it has really paid off.  With a bus conversion, there is so much to do, to know, its a real challange for one person to do it at all.  I would say that while some of your decisions might be suboptimal, they still moved you forward.

Just look and appreciate at all you have accomplished.  I think thats one reason so many of us offered you our suport when you were having doubts.

You'll have an awesome bus when its done!
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« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2006, 07:30:12 AM »

Brian: I don't think you deserve all the criticism  you have been getting. Your readily admit that some things were bought in haste and may have cost more than if you had waited. The really bad mistakes don't add up to more than two or three thousand dollars and this is insignificant on a $100,000 conversion.  I really admire anyone who does a high line conversion without any mistakes along the way.

I don't think the people who do a sleeping bag/portapotty conversion are in a position to criticize the people who do high line conversions and the people with high line conversions must accept that not everyone can afford, or even want a high line conversion. It all comes down to the 'do it your way' with the one exception that regardless of the make or age of the bus, the running gear must be maintained to the same high standard of safety.
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