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Author Topic: Bitten by the bus bug, now what...  (Read 2696 times)
Geom
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« on: June 21, 2013, 09:41:49 AM »

Hello fellow busnuts,

I've been lurking on this site for a little while, trying to glean whatever information I can about bus conversions. I've been very impressed with the level of helpfulness, professionalism, and shared comradery on this forum.
As I was just recently granted access to login and post, I figured it was time to jump in and say hi. I apologize in advance for the incredibly long-winded post, I'm an excited new busnut and wanted to share our story  Smiley

Some while ago we decided to travel the country in an RV; that we'll live in full-time. We've been in the midst of that process; doing research and looking at our options. When we first started, we naturally gravitated to the "traditional" sticks and staples units as we were initially looking for a light travel trailer that we could pull behind my 1/2 ton truck. A single visit to an RV show is all it took to completely abandon that idea, along with many (if not all "popular") brands of RVs, as everything we saw there was complete garbage and we felt they wouldn't survive one or two seasons of light use, let alone several years of full time living. So our research continued and our attentions shifted more towards fifth-wheel trailers (along with an appropriate truck). As we continued to look, we eventually found a handful of brands that were of acceptable quality, and a few that we even sort of liked.

Fast forward a few months later when, as serendipity Wink would have it, we made some new friends that have been doing the full-time rv thing for a while; presently in a bus conversion. I must admit that I never even thought about or considered a bus as a viable option. We dismissed class As quickly in our initial research (due to their infamous safety, quality, reliability, among their many many other issues) and simply thought a bus just sounded like an old and cramped class A.

We then got an opportunity to tour our friends' GMC 4106...
Let me tell you, that was love at first sight. One second upon entering this coach and you can easily tell how solidly built this beauty was and I was amazed by the amount of comfortable usable space inside, in addition to the awesome surround views out of all of the windows. We then got a tour of the outside, the beautiful curves, the engine, the massive storage, the 'built like a tank' construction and I was in love. We were both hooked and there was no going back now.

So we have now shifted our plan completely towards a bus conversion. While we are still evaluating what works for us, and still somewhat open to brands like MCI, Provost, et al; I have been completely struck by the GMCs. I love their styling, their looks, their mechanical design philosophy and seeming simplicity, their reported reliability, and their ideal (shorter) size. So a 410X is currently the highest ranking option we're considering.

We have a few serious contenders in mind right now. There are several lovely beauties out there on the market that we are considering and I'm trying to figure out how to objectively compare them. The prices are kind of all over the place; ranging from under 10K to well over 40K. While I'm certainly not shy about getting my hands dirty, and I actually look forward to knowing everything there is to know about whatever coach we end up adopting, I don't want a perennial maintenance nightmare where I spend most of my time fixing things, rather than enjoying rv living. The recent events notwithstanding, I realize that maintenance is an ongoing event; but I don't want it to be central to the experience.

Also while we both presently drive manuals, preferentially by choice, and have done so for many years, I'm somewhat concerned about the double shifting involved in a manual tranny on these buses and how "big of a deal" that really is; especially in congested traffic.

I'm also trying to figure out the real world practical and noticeable differences between the power-plants available in these coaches; comparing a 6v71, 8v71, and even a 6v92 turbo.

I love the styling of the earlier GMCs, but am trying to visualize the usable space differences between a 4104, 4106, 4107/4108. I know that the 07/08 had the elevated floor but I can't mentally visualize what that does to the inside room, ceiling height, cargo capacity etc considering that the pilot (and copilot?) seat(s) sit lower than the rest of the coach.

And the recent events do have me thinking, do I buy a livable coach now but with a less than ideal engine, fully expecting to have to replace it, or "buy up" with a ready to roll (albeit much more expensive coach) knowing that a rebuild or other major event is quite possibly looming over the next hill.

All of this along with what to do next after we've picked the "perfect one" -inspection, transport, licensing, registering, and finding a quality primary care physician for the coach, etc.

Of course there are, and will be, many many more things to think about going forward, but those rank as the current top of the pile.

Any advice on things to think about, things to consider, things to look out for, or any other random passing thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance
GM
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1966 GM 4107
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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2013, 09:45:38 AM »

Welcome GOEM!

Just take a deep breath, hold your nose, and jump in... Lol

Whatever we can do to help you down the busnut road, just ask!!

Regards!
Nick-
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2013, 10:57:29 AM »

 Welcome!!, Once bitten always smitten!!  The 06 is a great choice with classic styling and straightforward construction. There will be many opinions on "the best coach", yours will be the most important.>>>Dan
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2013, 04:49:46 PM »

Welcome to the madness. Just give us your wallet now. It easier and you get less grease on you.

 Check out the 35 foot X 96" wide MCI like the 5's A,B,or C. more storage but still smaller, Safest bus still on the road today. MCI is still a company that make Buses and supplies parts as well as service on most things still. the 102 C is an excellent Bus conversion 102" wide and 40 foot long. Grin

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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2013, 05:20:17 PM »

We all have taken a different route to arrive at about the same destination, I looked for years before actually buying the MC7, from there on it was pure joy, all the grease, money, engines,
Transmissions etc.  The main point, it has been the best experience I ever had with clothes on.   
Definitely the best sand box toy for this big boy  Grin
Large HP and reliability were always 1st, it always brought me home with a smile and no surprise. My stroke and old age changed my life still but still love the whole thing and the many bus nuts still roaming some where, a biggie is the Arcadia event.
Dave M
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2013, 05:58:11 PM »

(Edited by Nick Badame)

Geom - WELCOME. So glad you have joined us here and de-lurked. Excuse whatever bad moods are bleeding over here, and know that most everyone here is welcoming, awesome and excited to have new bus folks!  Well, we are anyway.

We've given you our brain dump on buses, and I know you're following our situation closely to get a reality check. But once the bus bug bites ya.. its kinda hard to back away Smiley  

 - Cherie
« Last Edit: June 22, 2013, 08:25:04 PM by Nick Badame Refrig. Co. » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2013, 06:58:38 PM »

I know of a superb 4108 converted new by custom coach  has lass than 100k on it I think.  Interior is a bit dated (carpet and furniture materials)

it's on the salty side though but is basically a new bus with 100k
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Barn Owl
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2013, 08:09:31 PM »

Welcome,

The 4104, 4106 will allow you to go into campsites that have lower tree limbs. Depending on the interior layout you can get more useable room utilizing the drivers area than in the 4107/8. One of the 04/06 trade offs is that they have a lower bay height and wheel humps.

Depending on how you are going to use it determines how important an automatic or power steering is. Much harder to find and quite rare on the 4104.

Based on what I have seen in the past, I would think $25k would be the absolute tops for a 4106 in the best of conditions. Much above that you get into the decent 40ft bus market.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2013, 09:28:43 PM by Barn Owl » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2013, 08:33:45 PM »

Have you been inside a 4107 or 4905 yet?
I wanted a 4106, but ended up with a 4107 at a very reasonable price.
Don't be in a hurry, take your time and look at lots of different buses.

Scott
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Scott
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« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2013, 09:06:34 PM »

Coaches are very neat/cool/choose a word. and GMC's are nice.
But also are coaches with torsion suspensions <Eagle> vs air bag rides....learn the difference.
Find some of each and see if you can't at least ride in if not drive each.
And never ever believe that your newly acquired motor won't crater, even if it was overhauled yesterday/recently/just before it was stored 4years ago when aunty stopped touring with Dolly Partin...according to the P.O. Grin
And you might want to consider an automatic (Allison) transmission if you would ever consider sharing the driving duties.

LOTS to think about.

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Donald PH
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2013, 10:35:34 AM »

Thank you to everyone for the warm welcome and the useful things to keep in mind.


We had considered the MCIs earlier on, but had decided we want no more than 35' in length and no tag axle.
The MCI 5s were the only ones to fit the bill, and from what I'd read a lot of them have potential rust issues, as they were built with steel vs the aluminum in the GMCs.

The only bus we've seen in real life is a 4106.
We've seen lots and lots and lots Smiley of pictures of other models though.
Thanks for the additional info on other models.
I love the look of the 4104s but we have begrudgingly removed them from the running due to lack of auto tranny and lower ceiling height.
But the ones that are done right are nothing short of gorgeous  Undecided

We have a couple of 4107s and a 4106 in the running right now as the top contenders.
The prices for each are quite a bit apart so trying to figure out where the price differential is. From the research so far the cheaper ones don't necessarily seem that much worse off than some of the more expensive ones and some of the really expensive ones are nice, but I'm not sure how they're 50% more (price-wise) nicer. Plus from the posts so far, no matter what condition the engine is/was, I should consider a complete engine failure a very real possibility.
So ...

I completely understand the '$#!t happens' motto, but that doesn't make the comparison easier.
If I was buying a car, a car with 30k should in theory last longer than one with 300k miles; but that doesn't seem to necessarily hold true for buses?

Anyway, thanks all for the replies. Back to more research Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2013, 12:09:22 PM »

Bus prices obviously do not necessarily represent the true value of the bus. There are 4106s for sale out there that have been there since I bought my bus in '06. The outrageous prices are to blame.
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« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2013, 12:29:31 PM »

Exactly Barn Owl! And our being this new to the whole bus thing it's hard to decipher out true value from just <whatever> pricing. There are really no objective pricing models that I've found.

One thing we're trying to keep in mind is getting one from a seller who is actually a busnut vs someone who is just a "motivated" seller. I think the former is more likely to take pride in ownership and make sure all the maintenance is on par, but that pride also comes with its own issues too, unfortunately. 
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« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2013, 12:42:28 PM »

When we were on our bus hunt two years ago, we also found prices all over the map. In reality, a bus is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and what someone is willing to sell it for. And we found that just because someone is asking $x, doesn't mean that's what they're willing to accept.

If you find one laid out and equipped close to how you eventually want it, that has value to you. If you have to rip a lot out to get it to where you want, well - that decreases value to you.  Also how much access to information about the history played a role in the value of a bus to us - we were a lot more willing to pay more if we had a direct line of communication with the person who converted and maintained the mechanicals, than the bus we ended up with who's last loving owner passed away in the mid-90s.

Each bus out there is very unique. Just because you saw our 4106, doesn't mean all 4106s will compare. We saw such a variety in quality, setup, etc. We've seen some superfabulous ones that make us drool with envy, and some that raised our eyebrows. Heck, just look at the difference between Barnowl's and his dad's.. .same model, but two totally different (and awesome) coaches.
 
Everything is a trade-off. This one has a great quality layout, but manual tranny and non-original swoopy windows. This one has a classic look, but needs new tires.  Etc. etc. etc.  

The best recommendation we got in our search was to look at as many buses as humanly possible - regardless if you think it will work or not. We had buses on our radar that looked perfect online and in theory, but when we saw them in person broke our hearts. And we had buses that looked lackluster in their ads that blew our socks off. Heck, we almost didn't go look at Zephyr because her ad was so non-descript.

The knowledge you amass by really learning the differences in build quality, mechanics, etc. is priceless. Take your time and don't get horny for the first bus you see (also great advice we received.) Check for bus rallies that might be happening that you can make (Michael Hargis runs Missouri Festival Park down in Dixon, which hosts bus gatherings on occasion - and he's a fabulous fellow bus dude).

 - Cherie
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« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2013, 01:15:32 PM »

GEOM,
The MCI 5's have no more rust than any of the others especially the iggles ( eagle second owner gets a perfect bus because the 1st conversion they all strip them down and rebuild them, Just kidding guys) but that all can be fixed if needed. 5's have an aluminum bottom and steel yes but its Stainless steel to the belt line and then aluminum siding above that. the roof has some steel structure as do most buses and the skin on top is Aluminum. So study, study,study.
GM are good choices also as well as Eagles. There are 35 foot eagles which are rare but they are out there also with big bays.

Dave5Cs
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« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2013, 06:32:15 PM »

GEOM
WELCOME!  I was in your shoes 16 months ago.  We ended up with a 4104.  I opted for a bus with a new motor and suspension components, but needed new interior.  I was lucky  to find one that previous owners had documented well, so I got receipts for all mechanical work done from late 80's on.  DD has about 15,000 miles on it.  It's nice to have more than just somebody's word.  It had been converted in the 80's and was awful.  I gutted it (including the floor) and went from there.  I too wanted 35' and single axle.  There is way more involved than I had imagined, but this is the perfect forum to get you through.  Check out my blog if you want a little insight to the process.  Take your time choosing - it's like getting married, but without the sex.
Gordie
http://this-old-bus.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2013, 06:33:08 PM »

Nothing wrong with the MCI5. Dave could better give you the pros and cons. I know it can be a challenge to get a turbo and an auto in one, but there are examples out there. The bottom line with the 5 is that there are so few of them out there compared to the GM 35' buses. When 35' buses ruled, GM was in it's heyday. Also, just because a manufacture is still making buses doesn't mean they are still supporting it. No different than auto or motorcycle manufactures. When the unique NOS parts are gone, then you are swimming with everyone else.
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« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2013, 08:38:41 PM »

Yep Barn Owl thats true, so if he wants something that everyone has hey go for it, but if you want something really unique I consider the 5.  On the MCIbustalk.com Board there are a lot of 5'sA,B,C, 9, 102 A,B,C, even a few J 4500. I am just kidding with you.  Shocked Grin Roll Eyes

The Bus has to be your decision and they all have their goods and bads which you can find out here and on all the other boards. But when you get one you know especially after this week if you have been reading that you have somewhere to go and ask questions and get answers, and that is a little piece of mind.

Dave5Cs
« Last Edit: June 22, 2013, 08:43:32 PM by Dave5Cs » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2013, 08:42:45 PM »

There are some nice 35 ft Prevost out there also the ones Mr.Fore @ ForeTravel converted in the late 70's are a nice unit they pop up for sale and there were other converters of the 35 ft Prevost also and Prevost still supports the 35 footer so don't limit yourself to MCI,GM and Eagle 

The Eagle is by far the easiest to convert it and the Prevost have no well wheels just flat floors I like the the 4106 best of any GM bus but it has it share of problems also with corrosion from 50 years and 2 million + miles of salt,rain and snow 

They have paid their dues but it is sad to see so many going to the scrap yards as now days that is where one brings the most cash
« Last Edit: June 22, 2013, 08:55:40 PM by luvrbus » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2013, 08:49:05 PM »

Geom, if you post your location you might find that there are other people near you that would show you their brand of bus.
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« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2013, 08:50:30 PM »

http://nicecutrvs.blogspot.com/2007/02/beautiful-1979-prevost-35ft-conversion.html

 Grin Shocked

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« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2013, 08:53:37 PM »

Heck, you might even get someone to let you drive it. You notice how I said "might" Lol

Wow Dave, that's a good looking bus!
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« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2013, 09:00:36 PM »

Thank you Dave Mr Fore converted 4 or 5 of those I saw them at the factory one time in Texas you should see the cabinets they looks like furniture and not from China
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« Reply #23 on: June 22, 2013, 10:46:22 PM »

Oooh that Provost is pretty! Wish there were more pics on that site...

While we're certainly keeping our options open, at this point, I want to reduce the seemingly rapidly building analysis paralysis we're in, and narrow down our options.
I feel pretty comfortable with the GMs as there are a lot of them available and all will be 35' and as @Barn Owl posted, GM was in its heyday when 35' was the standard.

The 35' size is pretty firm for us. We want easier accessibility to more campgrounds and the (understandably limited) ability to take it more places.
In looking around, most of the Provosts and MCIs available are at 40'+. While definitely tempting, they're out of the running.
If anyone has a line on a good 35' one currently for sale, however, we'd gladly consider it.

@Gordie, nice blog on your 4104! Looks like a fun project. I'd love to do a complete conversion, but I've resigned myself to the fact that I have at best remedial carpentry skills and I think it would end up being a multi-year project and we're wanting to hit the road by next spring Smiley

@Cherie, good advice on seeing as many buses as possible. The buses we're looking at are all over the country so with limited time and $$$ we'll need to be very selective on the candidates. But I agree looking at a bunch of them is really the best way to get a clear picture of the landscape.

We would love to attend a rally or other gathering event. The timing doesn't seem good for any that are around us here.

We are in the Kansas City area and would love to know of other busnuts that are close.

I would love to see as many of these babies (regardless of make or model) as possible before pulling the trigger and we'd be willing to drive a days drive or so to check some out! Smiley

Thanks all again for the good info, helping considerably!
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« Reply #24 on: June 22, 2013, 10:56:28 PM »

http://alaskaslist.com/1/posts/10_Transportation/127_Motorhomes/299412_1972_GM_Tour_Bus.html

I'm not sure if Alaska is out of the picture for you? But the link I posted is a really nice GM shell and comes with lots of extra parts. I believe all the information to be true and I would drive it any ware. The price is right at 5k too.
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« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2013, 06:27:42 AM »

The Eagles have a rally Aug 15-17 at Lake Afton in Goddard Ks drop in take a peep at some beautiful buses and I am sure Lee will be there in a model 15-35 ft 
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« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2013, 04:08:27 PM »

Clifford didn't know Prevost made a 35. Wow wish I new that 3 years ago. day Late and dollar short again.
I just found that one on internet after you talked about it as luck will have it. That is a beautiful 35.

Dave5Cs
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« Reply #27 on: June 23, 2013, 04:54:10 PM »

Welcome: This fall in Nashville area there is a get together. A first name would be nice to address you by. I might have missed it.  Did not have any problem getting in most places with a 40ft coach.  Now have a 45ft but was surprised to find out the model I have (xle) has same turning radius as my last 40 ft Xl--- so if that was a consideration you might check that point out.  In the final end the bus you choose is the one that makes you feel rite! Everyone is different--That  is what is great about our community!  Best wishes ..Bob
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« Reply #28 on: June 23, 2013, 05:12:16 PM »

Call your local EMS (911) service, have them give you Epi 1:1000 IM!  Then follow that up with 50 mg Benadryl PO. That should take care of the itch and bus reaction!  Save yourself from the madness!

Once you show the signs and symptoms you are a carrier for life!!!!! Grin

Grant
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« Reply #29 on: June 23, 2013, 05:47:26 PM »

I have to laugh along with the rest of the posters here, for me, I went with the MC7 for over 20 years, loved every part of it, but after the stroke, things started slowing. Eventually to the point where I am no longer able to crawl around/under and do all the normal things that are normal with a bus, so I made a big mistake, bought a Winneabago, View, Loved the Mercedes part, but the Winny part was not good after the MC7, neede more space, so I traded the View on the Foretravel 2001, 36' U320, it was nearly new, that was about 6 years ago, I have spent no money on repairs, only routine serviceing, upgrades, such as new TV's, electric blinds, full body paint job, ceramic floor, new LED lights everywhere, new style tail gate,(made easy for this old man), etc, etc..
The beauty is it is modern, modern running gear, electronic Cummins ISM500 Allison 4000R (Retarder), disk brakes, 10kw Power Tech Diesel genset, all great stuff.  Easy to use as the pickup that I tow behind it.
Just a thought.. Price 6 years ago $200K then add the upgrades
Total happy.
Dave M
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« Reply #30 on: June 23, 2013, 08:56:06 PM »

Grant that's funny Somebody must work for Sac Met. Wink

Dave5Cs
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Mex-Busnut
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« Reply #31 on: June 24, 2013, 07:58:45 AM »

You might also want to consider other excellent 35-foot candidates from Flxible (pictured in order): the Flxliner., VL100 and Hilevel.

Just sayin.
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« Last Edit: June 24, 2013, 08:00:28 AM by Mex-Busnut » Logged

Dr. Steve, San Juan del Río, Querétaro, Mexico, North America, Planet Earth, Milky Way.
1981 Dina Olímpico (Flxible Flxliner clone), 6V92TA Detroit Diesel
Rockwell model RM135A 9-speed manual tranny.
Jake brakes
100 miles North West of Mexico City, Mexico. 6,800 feet altitude.
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« Reply #32 on: June 24, 2013, 08:11:36 AM »

Here are three nice 35-foot Flxibles for sale:

http://www.sellabus.com/rosique_vl.html

http://www.sellabus.com/frasier.html

http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/carsforsale/flxible/vl100/1572641.html?refer=blog

In today's market, you could probably get one of these for a lot less, if you offer.
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Dr. Steve, San Juan del Río, Querétaro, Mexico, North America, Planet Earth, Milky Way.
1981 Dina Olímpico (Flxible Flxliner clone), 6V92TA Detroit Diesel
Rockwell model RM135A 9-speed manual tranny.
Jake brakes
100 miles North West of Mexico City, Mexico. 6,800 feet altitude.
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1966 PD4107




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« Reply #33 on: June 24, 2013, 08:18:38 AM »

Here are three nice 35-foot Flxibles for sale:

http://www.sellabus.com/rosique_vl.html

http://www.sellabus.com/frasier.html

http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/carsforsale/flxible/vl100/1572641.html?refer=blog

In today's market, you could probably get one of these for a lot less, if you offer.



Thanks for sharing those Mex-Busnut!! Those are gorgous and I will definitely check them out!
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1966 GM 4107
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Dave5Cs
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1979 MCI MC5Cs 6V-71 HT-740 Allison, Roseville, CA




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« Reply #34 on: June 25, 2013, 06:14:08 PM »

That first one is the Blankenship's bus. It is a pretty clean unit. Although it has been for sale for 3 years. They put a new 6V92TA in it as IIRC. It is in Granite Bay about 20 minutes from me. Don't know the address if it is not sold. We were looking at that when we bought ours. Inside is a little dated as I remember. Nice inside and out.

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Geom
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« Reply #35 on: June 25, 2013, 06:20:45 PM »

That first one is the Blankenship's bus. It is a pretty clean unit. Although it has been for sale for 3 years. They put a new 6V92TA in it as IIRC. It is in Granite Bay about 20 minutes from me. Don't know the address if it is not sold. We were looking at that when we bought ours. Inside is a little dated as I remember. Nice inside and out.

Dave5Cs

Yeah it's definitely a nice looking unit. Agreed the inside is a bit dated, but most of that, I think, I removable furniture.

How easy are flxible parts to find?
Looking at online info, it looks like only a couple hundred of these models were made, so I'd be concerned about replacement parts.

That last one (the green one) is also quite striking.
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1966 GM 4107
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V730
Barn Owl
Roanoke, VA
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« Reply #36 on: June 25, 2013, 06:22:32 PM »

Ebay link: 1959 GMC 4104
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L. Christley - W3EYE Amateur Extra
Blue Ridge Mountains, S.W. Virginia
It’s the education gained, and the ability to apply, and share, what we learn.
Have fun, be great, that way you have Great Fun!
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« Reply #37 on: June 25, 2013, 06:34:18 PM »

Thanks for posting Barn Owl, that's a good looking bus with a lot of potential.

I'd guess a paint job would be ~$8K?
Not sure what his reserve is on that, but I'd guess at least 10K.
Tempting...

I love the look and styling of the 4104s, but lack of auto tranny (or even the option thereof) is alas a show stopper.
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1966 GM 4107
6v92 Turbo
V730
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