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Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Jeremiah 5-13-04  

I have been reading these forums for awhile, learning about school buses. We are planning to buy a school (or church) bus for tailgating trips. Our bus will travel about 120 miles each way for home games and longer for road games. Figure on less than 6000 miles a year. I was hoping you nice folks could give me some advice on what to purchase.

1. Are there any configurations that will allow us to cruise at 70-75 MPH?

2. What are the most reliable engines out there.

3. What are the most powerful engines out there?

4. Which type of tranny will give us the best performance?

5. Gas milage is not a huge problem because we will be splitting it at least 6 ways for each trip.

6. What is the best way to go for AC? Should we just slap some RV units on top? How many?

7. I've seen some "truck type" gas engines in a few buses I've looked at. These include chevy 350's. Are these identical to the one in so many pickups, and if so, would getting a good performance rebuild help me out? What type of speed could I then expect?

8. Will a rear end ratio change help things?

Thanks for you help!
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! John 5-14-04  
Les, you got me! I guess I am one of those "cats" who tends to open up one's mouth and insert his foot before thinking too much! ;) No offense taken, by the way.

In fact, you are correct, the savings in time on short trips isn't worth the expense we are talking about to change out the rear axle or the ring and pinion gears. For some, and I include myself in this group, I want to be able to cruise at a decent highway speed while turning fewer RPMs....I have a hotrod Ford pickup with a souped-up 460 engine to play with...I sure wouldn't try doing the same fast things with an 8-ton bus!

CongRATs on finding that nice DT466 with the MT643...I think that would be my favorite rig if I could find one that didn't have so many miles on it. I came close to buying a new crate DT530 and then looking for a rig to put it the price was decent, but it turned out that I had less dollars than sense...and both were pretty short!

I really enjoy reading the opinions on this forum...and I am glad I found it. I also look at some of the Yahoo sKoolie groups, but this forum seems much more comprehensive. I love learning as much as I can, and I enjoy seeing the diverse opinions!

Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Jeremiah 5-14-04  
It's not the short trips that I'm worried about as much as the long bowl game trips.

What are the fuel tank sizes that these typically ship with?

THanks for the replies
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! George 5-17-04  
I have one I would sell you cheep. It needs a Carb. It runs real good but burns rich. 1,000 its yours. NJ here
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Les Lampman 5-14-04  
Should have been...

If you can find a "BUS" (not bust) as I typed above! Geesh...Finkle Fingers of Fate (and lousy at typing)!

Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Les Lampman 5-14-04  
Hi again,

John, I started my post before you sent yours. My response to going fast in a skoolie isn't based on the "safety" issue and beign one of those "cats". I'm approaching it from the standpoint of how much time it really saves on short trips (none really) and what it takes to alter a bus (time and money) to get it to do that. If you can find a bust that already runs that way then why not.

On that note, Jeremiah, I found this from an earlier thread regarding the DT466:

Re: IHC with a DT466 IHC Busman 3-15-04
The DT-466 is a very good engine i have a 1985International/thomas with the turbo charged 466 i get about 14 miles to a gallon its not bad for a full size schoolbus its coupled to a T-35 5 speed manual transmision. i can cruise at 70mph with it with the original rear axle and gears. it was used mostly for charter trips so it has under 200,000 miles on it.

Maybe that would do the trick for you.

Les Lampman
Whidbey Island
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! John 5-14-04  
Sounds like you are being confronted by some of the same challenges most of us who own sKoolies have....and have raised the same kinds of questions we all ask when we start out.

The maintenance on a diesel rig is VERY expensive compared to that of a gas rig, so if this is a consideration you may want to look for a gas-powered engine. Also, if you have to replace or rebuild a diesel engine you are going to sink well over $5,000.00 into the project, even if you do it all yourself, which takes considerable mechanical skills. Any gear-headed teenager should be able to rebuild a nice 366 or 427 Chevy/GMC big block V8 engine in their dad's garage. the 366 and 427 commercial/industrial engines have 4-bolt main bearing caps, a.400 inch taller cylinder block, and an extra ring pack on each piston for oil control. They can run 250,000 miles with good maintenance and proper operation.

Since you plan on running your rig so few miles every year, it is likely that a gas rig would be easier to start, run, and maintain than would a diesel rig.

There are a lot of Chevrolet/GMC rigs out there pulling any number of different coach bodies...BlueBird, Wayne, Thomas, etc. Stay clear of the Carpenter bodies, as they are known to pop rivets and rust out badly. If any of you in your group are over 6:02 in height you will want to check out the raised-roof Thomas coaches...they are a couple of inches taller inside than most other buses.

The most common engine placed in the Chevy/GMC gas rigs is the 366 cubic inch engine, which is the smallest "big block" engine made by General Motors. If you and others will be swapping driving chores you will likely want one with an AT545 Allison automatic transmission, but if you find one with the MT643 Allison jump on it, as the latter model has a lock-up torque converter in 4th (top) range.

I would shy away from any bus with a small block Chevy/GMC 350 cid engine...the stroke on these engines is 3.48 inches in length...definitely not made for torque production, and your rig is going to weigh at least 16,000 pounds you will need as much torque as you can get!

You can look around forever for a rear axle to swap in your rig, but it is also gonna be used, and in unknown condition. The best way to go is to change the ring and pinion gears and replace the bearings when you have the pumpkin opened up. You will then have the equivolent of a new rear axle. Depending on the engine size and torque, I wouldn't go much lower than a 4.10 ratio in a sKoolie or you will find yourself lugging the engine on a few of the steeper hills, much less how it will labor in the mountains.

Good luck to you, buddy....ignore all those cats who warn you off of going that fast in a are in more danger from travelling 55 and having an 18-wheeler blow your doors off when it passes you going 90!

Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Les Lampman 5-14-04  
Why to you want to run a school bus at 70-75 mph? Would you run a Vega at 120? :-) You're traveling 120 miles, if you increase your speed from 60 to 70 you'll only get there a few minutes earlier; I know, about 20 minutes theoretically but it's very hard to maintain 70 as an average. In reality you'd have a heck of a time getting your full 10mph higher speed on a continual basis (I spent years driving "big rigs" where this is constantly proved over and over). I doubt you'd find more than 10 minutes difference in the whole trip and if you get into some heavy game traffic probably less than that. Remember the bus can't manuever like a car; its quite heavy, won't accelerate like a car and jump into the outside lane to pass slower traffic.

My advice (worth what you pay!) is to relax and enjoy the trip with your friends; get in the slow lane, choose a comfortable speed and you'll be there before you run out of things to talk about. :-) Not only that, you'll put less wear and tear on the motor, tranny and your (and your passengers) nerves.

I went with a bus that has a DT466 diesel engine and Allison MT643 tranny based on the recommendations I got here. I've been extremely pleased. Lots of power, seemingly long life and there's nothing like the convenience of an automatic in town and on the freeway in stop-n-go traffic (manuals are probably better on fuel).

Sounds like a gas engine would work just fine for you but I'm not familar with them (except in my personal vehicles).

RV A/C units require 110-volt power so if you install a couple of them you'll also need to figure out how to provide that. Getting power through an inverter won't work in practice due to the massive battery bank that would require; a genset is really the best option. You could proably get a 5KW contractors model for not too much and put in on a "porch" out back (or install a trailer hitch and use one of those rack that slide into a hitch receiver). At least that may be the least expensive way to go if not the most aesthetic. A shorty bus could probably get away with one roof air unit if the windows were tinted (and maybe with Cool Seal on the roof); a full-size (65/66 pax bus) would probably need two.

That's not answers to all your questions but I hope some of the info helps.

Have fun and good luck.

Les Lampman
Whidbey Island
Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Billie Delgadillo 8-12-17  
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Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! ColsHub 6-4-04  
Are you looking to replace the kiddie seats in your schoolbus with something nicer? I have 10 double seats from a tour bus that are in near perfect condition. I put 6 in my bus and they're great. Most recline too. I'll be putting them on ebay next month but we can deal here instead.

Paul J
Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Carmela Amiet 8-2-17  
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Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! John the busboy 6-9-04  
My bus will go 70 and then some. But it is not much fun driving that fast. You really have to stay focused on the road ahead and those gauges. It also goes through the diesel real fast.

More fun to go about 60. The bus has a 4.11 drive axle BTW.

John the busboy
z's 2 v's 4 email
Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! Sonia Rubeo 8-1-17  
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Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! jay 7-8-08  
I have a 1988 international/thomas body short school bus. I would like to change out the rear end to make it go faster. Does anyone have any information on this?
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! F.M. Taylor 1-20-06  
My B700 429 propane powered rig will go 70 MPH easy on the flat. Its not a pain to handle or anything like that and the ride is ok. But why? The sucker is 40ft long and can drive over anything! take your time and try not to smash too many of those little sports cars.
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! jay 7-8-08  
I also have a 1988 International/thomas body short bus. I would like to make it go faster and I think the best way is by changing out the rear end. Does anyone have any information on this?
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! jay 7-9-04  
I just purchased a 1988 IHC short bus. I also want to increase the speed. Driving it home at 55 did seem dangerous, 18 wheelers would fly up behind me and swerve to the other lane. I plan to use it for going to football games as well. Some of the games are 400-500 miles away going 70 verses 55 will make a significant difference I feel. I saw someone recommended changing the gears in the rear end. About how much would this cost and where do I get them?
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! IHC Busman 6-10-04  
Usually the buses will have a single 65 gallon fuel tank.good luck
happy busing
IHC Busman
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! david 6-10-04  
How about a detailed description of the $1000 ride you're selling. I'm in NY and need a cheap bus soon. thanks, david
Re: Want Highway Speed in a School Bus! ron 9-18-05  
Ya i got a 79 f350 with a 460 and i know it would do a 100 no problem and pull that trailer easy
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