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Author Topic: Advice needed for a newbie on owning a bus  (Read 14337 times)
Dave C
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« on: June 27, 2007, 05:22:14 PM »

Hello.
I am looking to buy a bus conversion and I am not mechanically gifted as so many of you so I must buy a finished bus. 

Is spending $50-70K fair for a clean good running 25+ year old bus?  Are buses more of a hobby rather than a regular RV whereas it might be easier to resale later? It seems the ones for sale don't sell very fast.  There must not be that many people buying at that price range which means I too will have a long wait if I wanted to sell it.  Should I look at spending the same money on a newer diesel Vectra.

Thanks to everyone for their opinions.    DAVE

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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2007, 05:29:32 PM »

Ive seen some nice bus conversions for what you have to spend.
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2007, 05:45:56 PM »

It all depends on your wallet and what your planning on doing with it as well as how long you intend on keeping it.


Bus parts cost more than medium duty truck parts (AKA Motorhome parts)  true they last longer but when you need something it cost three times as much

what is your intended use of the vehicle?

how long do you plan on keeping it?

What motivated you to look at buses vs the Sticks and Staples motorhome?


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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2007, 05:46:50 PM »

Very wise decision to buy a converted bus, there are some real deals out there.
 To ansewer your question motorhome vs bus. I bought a motor home and kept it less than 1 year! to start with the thing was all over the road, they put this huge box on a midsize frame, with little tiny tires. Just look at the tires on those things in relation to the size of the vehicle. But they do spend lots of money on fancy brass lamps.
 While we are on the frame size, lets talk about undersized brakes. They cant do that! Oh yes they do!! Wait till you try to stop 20,000 lbs of vehicle with brakes rated for 16,000 lbs. This is a pucker factor of 10. But they do put in some georgeous berber carpet.
 Had a small leak in the shower, what a mess, they put in the plumbing and then spray foam everyting in place. Try and work on something like that.
 They put in large basement storage areas, put more than a 100 lbs in one and go over a good size bump.
 I needed a window for my RV $1000 for the bus it is $150
 They will spend $1000 on glitz and $0 on safety or quality.
 Never mind the showroom for shopping go to a RV salvage yard and look at what can happen from a minor accident.
 I can go on and on but will let someone else have my soapbox.  There are downsides, like you pointed out they are not a liquid asset.
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2007, 05:58:47 PM »

Afterthought. If you must shop for an RV please join   www.rv.org   it will cost you $139. it could be the best $139 you ever spend!!!!! If I would have known about it I never would have bought the MH that I did.
                                                                 HTH Jim
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Dave C
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2007, 06:16:38 PM »

tekebird, Actually I was envious of the luxury rigs celebrities use and started looking.  My wallet is really $25K (now!) but it appears I must spend $50-70K to get a decent finished bus.  I also understand the 1000's hours people have spent doing the conversion tend to be forgotten in the sales price.  Otherwise they would all be hundreds of thousands!!! 

Originally just 3-5 years to see what RVing is all about but at this prices, I must look at it as a least 10year ownership. Reason to buy:  Just explore our great US !


jjrbus, great points regarding safety.  RV Sales folks don' t mention this. And for the liquid asset, I guess its a depreciation asset in the same mind set as owning a ski boat!  Thanks for advice.    DAVE
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2007, 06:25:01 PM »

Owning a bus isn't for the timid.  If you are a decent mechanic, have the time and place to maintain a bus...it may be for you.   These things can be very reasonable to own and they can be a nightmare.  Got to choose carefully.
Also must sort out what type of camping you want to do.  A bus isn't an off road item.  Asking for problems getting off solid ground. 
While RV chassis are underbuilt, bus conversions are overbuilt.  They work well, are quite safe, and have major storage. 
And, it's a buyer's market.   Large RVs are also in a "buyer's market" slump.
And, RV ain't exactly cheap to own either.  High end RVs are loaded with problems...some of which have no resolution short of parting with the RV.
You'll get plenty of ideas from this thread.
Good Luck,  JR


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« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2007, 06:30:10 PM »

Don;t get me wrong..the bus is the better built unit from the base chassis standpoint. but alot of people dive in not knowing what they are getting into.....and for thier actual use...unless already a busnut.....would have been better off buying the sticks and staples.

Heck there are even some bonified busnuts who have sold thier buses to get RV's....because their use was better served by that type of unit.

yes the bus windshield may be 150.00 and the RV 1000, but I am talking about more mechanical things.

Keeping in mind that the RV can be worked on by any car dealer basically while the bus needs special attention.

with that said.....buy what you want, what you can afford
what you can afford to upkeep

there are exceptional values out there in RV's and Buses right now.

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« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2007, 06:49:53 PM »

Are we really 7 posts into this thread and no one has yet mentioned to have any bus being considered for purchase thoroughly checked out by a knowledgeable mechanic?   Grin
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« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2007, 07:09:47 PM »

Dave,
      I support JR's arguments for a bus over most other motorhomes.  I have owned a class A motorhome before my bus and it scared me into the bus.  Brakes and stability are really scary on most motorhomes. Brakes and stability in the bus are much better but it's still no sports car, it's a big vehicle.  My fuel economy is better in the bus as well but I'm willing to drive a manual transmission.  But now for the cautions.
You say you're not mechanically gifted enough to do your own conversion, that means you'll be paying someone to fix and change anything that needs fixing or changing.  You'll no doubt pay more with a bus conversion, they are unique and few shops want the challenge of figuring out what he converter did.  Also there are many poorly done partly finished conversions on the market.  You are well advised to learn a lot about the various systems of a conversion and reject any conversion that you see bad compromises in.  You also need to understand what you want in an RV and make a very unemotional evaluation of how well each candidate meets your needs, remember changes will be expensive.  Then you need to try to find a unit that has had proper maintenance and has significant service life left.  A major overhaul of  bus engine is $10,000 minimum.  Don't be in a hurry, employ an expert to judge mechanical soundness, choose carefully.
Regards
Jerry 4107 1120
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« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2007, 07:55:40 PM »

You would have to be absolutely crazy to want to buy a bus to convert, and even crazier to buy one that is already converted by someone else...

But that's what I did! I was going to do a conversion myself, but the kids are growing up fast; I can't afford to wait for the project, even though that's what first got me interested in a bus conversion.

Only a few changes, remodel type stuff & some neglected repairs, etc.

Be careful... you will be amazed at what you will find out there for sale! Somebody elses pride & joy may be your nightmare.


Mark
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« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2007, 10:01:49 PM »

Dave - don't be surprised if you offer $25k for that $50-70K bus ......... and ..........somone takes it - it's a buyers market out there - HTH
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« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2007, 11:48:23 PM »

Dave, a bus conversion is not something to consider for resale value alone, simply because 95% of RV owners would not consider one. If you're not mechanically gifted... would you like to be? Owning a conversion, even someone else's conversion, typically means that you'll be tweaking and fixing things in order to stay on the road and be safe. Buses were designed to be driven regularly in revenue service and receive regular maintenance, which seldom translates well into RV service without some compromises.

But to put this in perspective, in the RV world, you won't touch a true bus-chassis MH for less than $500k new. An older Bluebird or Newell will set you back about what you want to spend for the bus conversion you mentioned, and will (arguably) be a safer bet when it comes to resale. And buses are a lifestyle. If you really don't love buses... and talking about oil and brakes and tires and injectors and "that 2-stroke music", take a long, hard look at some other kind of Motorhome. Preferably, a Newell or a Bluebird, unless you want it to be in the shop more than on the road.

BTW, here's something I wrote a few years back on why my family chose a bus conversion over a traditional "S&S" motorhome: http://www.thefamilybus.net/why.htm

HTH,
Brian B.
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Brian Brown
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2007, 05:31:44 AM »

I keep a hard copy of that article that Brian wrote. I am often asked Why a bus?  I then give them a reading assignment.
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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2007, 05:32:49 AM »

We bought our bus, (68 MCI 5A), for just over $33,000 and could have been quite happy with it the way it was. However since we knew we were going to be fulltiming in it immediately and since we had the money at the time we did some upgrades. Over the last 4 years we have put about $17,000 into it in the form of new tires, inverter, more solar panels, furniture , windows, etc.  I have seen a few great deals out there on buses from time to time, you just need to look around a little. Go to a rally if you can, almost always a few for sale and you get a chance to compare a lot of buses to one another. That said, if you decide not to go with a bus you might want to check out Barth motor homes at Barthmobile.com, they are a notch or two above regular sticks and staples  and can be found at similar prices. If i was gonna buy something other than a bus that is the route i would go.
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« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2007, 07:27:08 AM »

And buses are a lifestyle. If you really don't love buses... and talking about oil and brakes and tires and injectors and "that 2-stroke music", take a long, hard look at some other kind of Motorhome. Preferably, a Newell or a Bluebird, unless you want it to be in the shop more than on the road.

That's the crux of the decision, right there. And even if you don't do the mechanical work, you gotta somewhat enjoy, or at least be comfortable with those who specialize in busses. They don't talk the same language as the drones at the RV dealership when dealing with service work.

If I didn't have a bus, I'd strongly consider a Wanderlodge. My other choice would be a class B+, believe it or not, for the opposite extreme of 'scootability'.

BTW, the best mental position, IMHO, is just to forget about resale. For something like you're describing, it really shouldn't enter the financial calculations. The entire world can (and will) change in 10 years. (ooops, flame-bait Wink)
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« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2007, 07:27:49 AM »

Dave, if you let us know what part of the country you're in, we may be able to steer you (sorry, couldn't help it) - to places where you can look at some conversions.  There may be a rally in your area.  

We bought a coach that had been converted, but we're updating the conversion.  Even though there's some mechanical work that I could do, I don't have a pit or lifts available, so we contract it out.  (Q - How do you pull stud-piloted rear duals?  A. - Find out if they take Visa or Mastercard).  So, I can do the stuff I enjoy, rebuilding the interior, and have someone else - who knows the tricks - reroute the exhaust from the auxiliary generator.

Why did I go into that detail?  -  Even with all that, we'll have a coach that we like, that we can be confident with - for less in total than the dollars you're talking about.  

Now, in the interests of fair disclosure, I'm a bus guy, (particluarly, a GM bus guy) over 37 years in the business.  Our coach has been in the bus business one year longer than I have - so I'm prejudiced.  If it was just the travel, my Lincoln gives a good ride, is easier to maneuver and park, and there are some darned good hotel chains - and the total cost of travel would probably be lower.  If it was just the destination - I travel extensively on business, so it'd be a good use of my frequent flyer miles - and frequent hotel points, again a lower cost.  However, with the coach, we're preserving some history, and I can return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when I was a bus driver - but on my terms.    

Good luck with your search and decisions.

Arthur    
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« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2007, 11:15:45 AM »

One of the major reasons RV's sell so much better than bus conversions is that financing is readily available on most RV's, while it is not available for most bus conversions.  Few people have the cash or equity to plunk down on it.  That has a dramatic affect on demand. It took me about 9 months to come up with the $ to buy mine, but I was ready to buy much earlier and just could not find the $.  A home equity line of credit is the best way.

All the things previously said in this post are correct about buses being better built, much safer etc.  So if you can get one, they sure are great with a lot of vey nice people in the group.
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« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2007, 07:32:14 PM »

Be careful with used Bluebirds (Wanderlodge) and Newells.   Both are super nice items, but they are both buses.  They both generally bring super high resale prices. 
IMHO, they have all the shortcomings of manufactured RVs and buses.  Bluebirds and Newells are extroadinarily difficult to repair.  Bluebird has this thing about installing accessories and wiring (hot water heaters in bedroom closets, behind a mirrored wall..behind the bed) in totally unaccessable areas.  Manuals for the RV components are not accurate.    The RV parts are installed before the interior is built...so to replace these components, major disassembly is in order..
Newell crams their huge engines into an engine room more suited for a motocycle engine (I know...harsh, but check out an S60 in a Newell).  One could take a cooler, snacks and whatever you need into the engine room of most MCIs and relax while working on the engine.  Loads of room to work.  Comparatively...same for a GM if you are woring on the LH side of the engine.  The "dark side" of a DD mounted in a GM coach is a little more problematic.
While both Bluebird and Newell are beautiful rigs....they may cost more to maintain than either a real bus or a common, mass produced  class A motorhome...such as an Itasca.   Same for most class Cs and the cute little class "B" (think Sportsmobile).   
The ease of repair, and knowing where to find that which needs repairing (because you put it there) is a big incentive to building your own.   The "local knowledge" about how your self-converted bus works, is a big plus in owning a self conversion....as long as you can do the work. 
However, there have been drop dead nice factory converted '88 to '92 Prevosts XLs on the market for for fire sale prices...I'd like to have one..but when I look, they are soo complicated.  I've not made the jump...yet.  My el-cheapo MC9 is working just fine. 
Some of the factory Prevosts that I've looked at have  switches all over the place...behind dinettes...above the sofa..  It would take a year to figure what works what.  Still...they are tempting.  Selling for 20% of original...and most have under 200K miles.   Problem is no slides...and 2 stroke DD power.  They are 102" coaches.   
I'd prefer a late 102C3.  I like MCIs...but a nice late C3 shell will bring as much as those Prevosts referenced above.   
If you want a bus conversion on a budget, buy may I recommend buying the latest (year model) home converted bus that meets a quality assurance survey.  There will be shortcomings, but resolving the shortcomings should be offset by the low market on home-grown conversions.   Buy a bus that's built using  the "KISS" method.
Before you spend time looking, think about what sort of camping you plan to  do....boonying will require a genset, and LP appliances...always on a pole and all electric is OK.  You'll likely be somewhere between..but keep in mind that running a large genset for 24 hours may cost big $$$$.  Figure close to a gallon an hour of diesel to run two ACs.   UMMMmmmm  about $75 bucks a day??   For dry camping..big windows, roof vents, solar, big battery bank, LP fridge-hot water-stove...these are some things to consider.   
Well, I prattle!  Here's a little more information to think about! 
Best, JR
BTW, let us know what you decide.  Post a pic of your new ride!  Wink


 
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« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2007, 08:49:25 PM »

Thanks to all for the many thoughtful detailed replys.  You guys are the best.  Now I really want to get a bus just to join the club!  Especially for the safety factor.

Funny thing regarding a buyers market.  Not everyone bites at a low offer.  I'm getting the feeling some of the guys that have $50k+ buses aren't interested in selling if they don't get their price.  (Maybe I look like daddy warbucks  damn) ha  But I also don't blame them I would too!

I live near Sacramento.  Any upcoming westcoast rallies?   
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« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2007, 09:48:29 PM »


I live near Sacramento.  Any upcoming west coast rallies?   



Roseville?  Davis?  Woodland?  Yuba City/Marysville?  Elk Grove?  Rio Linda (for you Rush fans. . .  Cheesy  )  Suggest you edit your profile to add city/state to either post signatures or profile itself - can be VERY helpful to others trying to help you when a situation arises - like suggesting local facilities for parts, repairs, etc.

Biggest on the west coast is coming up in a couple of weeks in OR.  Here's the info link:

http://www.busnusa.com/

Should be over 150 coaches there - well worth the trip if you can make it.  Non-owners are welcomed and encouraged to attend!!

Would be going myself, but that's the weekend all the grandkids are coming to visit from Canada. . .  haven't seen them in over a year, so family takes priority.

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink
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« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2007, 10:04:26 PM »

We will be there for the 4th year. If you come up stop by and say hi and we will show you our bus.
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« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2007, 06:54:19 AM »

Dave C, I live in Citrus Heights (six miles from Rio Linda! Wink Wink ) and I can show you my bus and you can get an idea of what roughly 25K+ has gotten me! I got an MCI 9 shell and have been working on my conversion for almost 2 years.

Of course, the upcoming rally in Oregon will be the largest on the right coast and a great opportunity to check out hundreds of buses.

Let me know.

Grant
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« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2007, 01:36:29 PM »

Buy a decent bus. Mike has/had a Series 50 set up that should be very reasonable to keep on the road. Fuel is getting to be a major issue in RV travel and that 50 could literally free up thousands of dollars for other uses as well as be one of the strongest resale factors 10 years down the road that I can think of. Buy for mileage, my 1989 Model 20 only had 400,000 miles and its almost like a new bus underneath.
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« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2007, 01:53:39 PM »

All great comments from those know, However the only addition I may add is what length bus do you need, With a 40' or 45' you may limit yourself from National Parks etc,
This may not be a problem for you, however my storage building could only take a 35' at this time. I purchased the newest 35' MCI made a '79. I guess there were a few '80's. Luke talked me out of the 3500 series made in Mexico. Not sure that was wise, but I am wonderfully happy with the '79 Saudi conversion, but still look at the 3500's. Much easier around town and without the tags I am much lighter.
With your gang the 40' might be required. I just have Me & Mrs.

Good Luck some thing to ponder.

Gary P
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« Reply #25 on: June 29, 2007, 02:23:12 PM »

Someone much wiser than me stated that it would be better to keep your trap shut and let the world think you're a darned fool as against opening it and convincing them....but I'll let you decide......

Like Ed H we first decided what size (length) bus we wanted and started reading this and the other Bus board. I'd decided that 35' would be just big enough for us and too small for grandchildren. Too, by buying an older bus all the depreciation would be gone and it would be neat if the conversion were at least started and the layout made sense.

Being basically 'handy' seemed an asset but somehow age didn't get into the equation. It wasn't long before we decided that the P/O (precious owner) must have wanted a 'bus camper' as against a Motor Home since everything seemed to have been built by itinerant gypsies or out of work handy men without much thought to Codes or anything like that.

Since the clutch slipped like a Rottweiler on an ice rink (and we live in the mountains) my first investment was in a new clutch and Jake Brakes for the DD 8-71. Scratch $5K. Still we felt the old girl ('68 MC5A) held promise.  Since the bus had set up for a number of years we had to clean up the waste of some non-rent paying occupants (mice) which entailed tearing out everything near and dear to their little hearts.  At this point I would offer some advice.  Even though you don't know how to build a dog house...learn woodworking!  It's cheaper than hiring it done and a lot more rewarding!

Over a year and many bucks later we're full timing in our treasure and quite happy.  If I can just get that last cabinet I built to fit right.......

If you need a list of things to do right..I'm not your guy.  But I sure can recommend getting in and finding out what a joy it is to tool down the highway in the finest and safest machine ever built and rub elbows with the best darned folks you'd ever wish to meet.

BusNuts are in a special category for sure!

Bob

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« Reply #26 on: June 29, 2007, 06:09:39 PM »

All great comments from those know, However the only addition I may add is what length bus do you need, With a 40' or 45' you may limit yourself from National Parks etc,
This may not be a problem for you, however my storage building could only take a 35' at this time. I purchased the newest 35' MCI made a '79. I guess there were a few '80's. Luke talked me out of the 3500 series made in Mexico. Not sure that was wise, but I am wonderfully happy with the '79 Saudi conversion, but still look at the 3500's. Much easier around town and without the tags I am much lighter.
With your gang the 40' might be required. I just have Me & Mrs.

Good Luck some thing to ponder.

Gary P

Be careful with a 45' coach...get into issues in some states with CDL requirement.  Lots of parks won't allow a 45' coach. 
35 or 40 is the ticket. 
45s have  ton of room, and they'll be expensive. 
Your call! Wink
Best, JR



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« Reply #27 on: June 29, 2007, 06:40:35 PM »

Of course, the upcoming rally in Oregon will be the largest on the right coast and a great opportunity to check out hundreds of buses.
Grant
Citrus Heights

Doesn't he mean wrong coast ? ? Let me know.  LOL! BK  Grin
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Busted Knuckle aka Bryce Gaston
KY Lakeside Travel's Busted Knuckle Garage
Huntingdon, TN 12 minutes N of I-40 @ exit 108
www.kylakesidetravel.net

Grin Keep SMILING it makes people wonder what yer up to! Grin (at least thats what momma always told me! Grin)
belfert
Guest

« Reply #28 on: June 29, 2007, 06:47:12 PM »

Be careful with a 45' coach...get into issues in some states with CDL requirement.  Lots of parks won't allow a 45' coach. 
35 or 40 is the ticket. 
45s have  ton of room, and they'll be expensive. 

Dinas are 43 feet long.  They are also a lot less expensive than other 40 or 45 footers with Series 60 engines.  That being said, they are still a lot more expensive than an MCI MC9 or 102A3.  Amazingly enough, the price I paid for my Dina was only about $5,000 more than 102C3s with two strokes I could find 15 months ago.

The Dina is Mexican made and some of the parts are hard to find or expensive.  MCI is the parts source for Dina as they sold the Dina in the USA.  A three axle brake job (pads and drums) and wheel bearings with labor was just over $8,000 with parts over half the cost.

I would be torn about doing another Dina.  I like the torsion suspension, but an MCI or Prevost would be easier to get serviced and find parts for.  I still paid way less for my shell even after repairs than a comporable Prevost or MCI with the same drivetrain.

I pretty much always boondock so length doesn't bother me.  It is unclear if out of state buses/RVs over 40' in California require a special license or not.  I do know there are designated roads/routes for over 40' buses/RVs.  I don't plan on going to California any time soon personally.  
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Cary and Don
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« Reply #29 on: June 30, 2007, 11:46:14 PM »

Hi,

You are real close to us.  We live in Foresthill, just outside Auburn.  We have a GMC 4107 that we bought started and we finished from the walls out.  We have just started converting a Neoplan from a coach. If you would like to see some pictures or actually see inside an engine compartment, we would love to show you ours.  We looked at rvs first and decided on the bus for all the reasons mentioned.  And then there is the cool factor.  Our 4107 turns heads everywhere we go. Send us an email, paper1@hughes.net if you would like any information or pictures.

Don and Cary
GMC4107
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1973 05 Eagle
Neoplan AN340
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