Tag Archives: Dilemna

The Devil You Know

When you own a bus, you own a devil. One of the things you struggle with is the devil you know vs the devil you don’t. Every bus is a devil. Sometimes it’s a mechanical devil, other times it’s an intimidating devil, and other times it’s an unobtanium devil. There is no perfect bus. Just devils.

3 years ago I was looking for a flat-nosed Skoolie. With a DT466 and a good, heavy duty automatic transmission. The plan was to strip it out and convert it over time. I was looking at a Richie Bros auction and notice that the lot before the bus I was looking at was a Motorcoach. A big, modern looking Motorcoach. Half on a whim and half realizing it was a bargain I bid on and won the Pegasus / Neoplan devil I own today.

Fast forward 3 years and I finally got around to ripping out the mini-kitchen from ValueJet and the Dinnette from Denny’s. The last of the Carpet of Iniquity, the “Cat box”, The tile on plywood shower, houdini’s plumbing, the undiscovered circuits of antiquity, the tornado shelter half-bath, the pretty-unfunctional cabinets and TV Stand along with the back drop cabinets that served no useful purpose. If I was writing a book on how NOT to convert a coach, this could have been a case study. Instead it was two giant piles of trash gone to the curb and hauled off over a couple of months courtesy of the City of Houston heavy trash program. There is no telling how much weight went out as I haven’t re-weighed the bus. I also took out one of the water tanks and some rotted out plywood. I also tore out the 20 gallon residential water heater that was leaking and on it’s last legs.

All in all the bones of the bus are in good shape. No major rust. I did get the 4 opening windows working, but the latches are a hot mess. I found a minor leak around one AC unit and the skylight…. not a huge deal. I also found that there is a water leak in the front cap somewhere. I have not had time to get up there and see what’s going on. It could be as simple as clogged drain tubes or more involved. There are usually wasps up there as if climbing 13 feet up wasn’t enough fun on it’s own.

When I originally bought the bus the idea was to re-convert it. So I’m finally getting around to that. About a year ago I decided to make a career change. I was “downsized” by a company that no longer needed someone running their IT. Um, good luck with that. I was going to restart a t-shirt company, but then Harvey happened along with some other things and that sort of sunk. I decided to become an Insurance Adjuster. It gives me an opportunity to help people, see the country, and do something productive while having free time when I’m not working. I quickly realized that this involved alot of travel and cheap hotels. You see, my hotel and meals are my expense….. Where some see adversity, I see opportunity. In this case I saw an opportunity to put my Motorcoach to work. Hotels are expensive long term, and more so when you are in a disaster area. Disasters are where people need help and that’s where we go as IA’s.

This helped me rationalize the bus as an asset, not a toy. One that could save me some money if I used it. For Hurricane Michael in 2018 I took the coach with me. I wound up being called into the office to help with claims. I lived in Mobile, Alabama for 2 months staying in a nice little Mobile Home / RV Park called Pala Verde Mobile Home and RV Park. The bus saved me a ton of money and was comfortable. I had my share of plumbing adventures, but overall it worked out. I also had a mechanical issue on arrival when the fan bearings needed rebuilding.

So I got to thinking about the bus and how most of the parts are European and difficult to get in the United States. The engine is a Detroit Diesel…. Allison Transmission. So those are easy enough to maintain. The issue is the glass. The front windshield is reportedly $5K and a 6 week lead time. It’s also the largest windshield I’ve ever seen. 9 feet across and 5 feet tall. The upper is Polycarbonate, so it’s unlikely to be damaged by rocks… but the lower one practically screams hit me to rocks. The side ones …. oh and you thought the front one was bad? lol. The Windshield is at least common to Cityliner and Spaceliner models. There might also be a split windshield option I could convert to. The side ones are huge… and the fixed ones are $2700 with a 6 week lead time. Curved at the top, trapezoidal and specific to each side. One each for your pure terror. And then there are the 4 opening windows. In Europe, they simply break the window to get out in an emergency. In the US the windows have to open. So all 13 buses imported to North America from Germany were equipped with them. The American made Neoplan buses did something else. The 4 buses built for Kennedy Space Center did something else entirely. Those are Megaliners. These windows simply aren’t available. At any price. I have no idea what the hinge mechanism is or how durable it is. This means that the window could fall out.

The windows are probably the biggest liability on the coach. Traveling alot with it, it’s just a matter of time before something happens to them. If they were flat windows it wouldn’t be a big deal. Any auto glass place can cut flat pieces and install them.

So I could pre-empt the side windows and remove them and re-do the sheet metal to square them up and make them sliding windows. It would be easy to do, but the windshield is not the same….. So the question is do I stick with the devil I know or sell it and buy a different devil?

The advantages of the current bus are:

  • 8v92TA Detroit Diesel with great access
  • No overheating issues
  • A strong Allison transmission with 60K capacity rating on a 34K vehicle.
  • Overall, very low mileage at 75K
  • 8 foot ceiling, 8 foot interior width.
  • 40 foot length overall inside and out.
  • Bonus space above the driver area
  • Bonus storage space behind the driver, between the front wheels.
  • Tons of space for a kitchen / living room.
  • Skylight for shower, space for a 3.5 foot shower

Disadvantages of the current bus:

  • Expensive windows / windshield
  • Stairs are steep
  • water tanks are not setup right
  • Generator setup is wasteful of space
  • AC setup is just wrong……. no AC in cab
  • Heater in driver area not behaving.
  • European parts – hard to get.

That’s it for now. I’ll muse about other bus models another day.