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Question about RTS buses (found 1 for sale in Canada)


kjurkic
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Hi all

I have a line on a 1993 or 1994 RTS bus I am considering for an M/H conversion.

As I understand it, the RTS series was never sold new in Canada, but apparently a small batch were imported and used as airport shuttles in Vancouver.

It is my understanding that this generation of RTS is all stainless and the chassis is pretty much indestructible. Also the DD 50 series and Allison VR731 are supposed to be long-lived and (relatively) inexpensive for upkeep. I do understand that due to the modular construction, that these are not as easy to convert as a body-on-frame design.

I am hoping that someone here who is familiar with when these were in airport service can provide some input. I know it was about 2 decades ago.

My other question would be how well they ride on very rough roads? My wife and I are considering this for some backroad touring, many of which will not be paved.

thanks in advance

Ken

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As I understand it, the RTS series was never sold new in Canada, but apparently a small batch were imported and used as airport shuttles in Vancouver.

If, in fact, this is one of the ex-YVR Airporter buses, then it was actually sold new in Canada. In fact, that order was the only RTS order sold by TMC to a Canadian operator.

FWIW, the 08 series of RTS buses were never all that popular with operators, and didn't have the greatest build quality. While most of the coach is shared with other RTS designs, any parts needed for the front module will be much more difficult to source than the "conventional" narrow-door RTS.

It is my understanding that this generation of RTS is all stainless and the chassis is pretty much indestructible. Also the DD 50 series and Allison VR731 are supposed to be long-lived and (relatively) inexpensive for upkeep. I do understand that due to the modular construction, that these are not as easy to convert as a body-on-frame design.

Every RTS, from the first ones built by GMC in '77 through the last ones built by Millennium some 30 years later, used stainless frames. I don't know why the modular construction would impede from you converting the coach any more than any other transit bus of the era. You will, however, probably have some work cut out for you when it comes to building substructure for the likes of water tanks, etc - but that's likely to be the case with any bus that wasn't originally built with underfloor storage bins.

My other question would be how well they ride on very rough roads? My wife and I are considering this for some backroad touring, many of which will not be paved.

Probably not the greatest, though "very rough roads" is pretty vague. While these were built to endure city streets and their lack of maintenance, they weren't designed nor built for your vision of beating around fire roads and the like.

My suspicion is a more modern, purpose-built motorhome chassis would be a better fit for you. Might not be the answer you're looking for, but I'd give it serious consideration before jumping into converting an RTS.

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RTS_04: Thanks for the input.

Over in the conversion forums, they really like to point out how any proper bus chassis is superior to "stick and staple" motorhomes built on medium duty chassis; I do know from personal experience that the Ford SD550 chassis is garbage for rough road service, at least in long wheelbase form. Way too much flexion.

I have considered a Bluebird or Thomas schoolie conversion, but also having experienced these on bad roads, would prefer someting that can iron out the bumps better.

Also not looking at rock-crawling - the roads I have in mind are in regular service and do see maintenance; but they are gravel and do get pot-holes and washboards. I have driven paved city streets almost as bad.

Seller claims to have documents for low-mileage rebuild on the D50, and I know that is a major benefit if true.

If you don't mind further educating me in regards to the front module, are you talking about things like windshield, mirrors and other body parts, or front steering/suspension, or the cockpit kit?

I have a fair bit of mechanical experience (recently a LOT with the F550 and a B600 shorty school bus) so I am not unrealistic about the work involved (which is why I ask the experts ;) first)

If the RTS is a non starter, what about a 1999 New Flyer D40? - I have not done any research on these, but there is a batch coming up for sale this summer.

Not sure about vendor though - uses same webpage and images as he had for a batch in 2013....

I know a transit is not the best platform due to lack of understorage, but some of the places I would like to go may have height/clearance issues. I would rearely be travelling freeways, so seldom over 90kph/55mph

cheers

Ken

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School buses are decent for off road from what ive heard, the shuttles at Denali Natl Park in alaska are all school buses.

Seems like the Crown School buses were built better than the rest though, some have served 30+ years

The old GMC buses were pretty common for motorhome conversions, but i believe the Fishbowl transit had monocoque construction.

DD S50's are not that reliable , i think it was balance issues.

Its bigger brother, the S60 is GREAT, but are only in motor coaches.

Other wise the cummins are good, so are cats, but the C8.3 Cummins are not that powerful.

Or, the Series 71 and 92 Detroits are practically bulletproof.

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DD

School buses are decent for off road from what ive heard, the shuttles at Denali Natl Park in alaska are all school buses.

Seems like the Crown School buses were built better than the rest though, some have served 30+ years

The old GMC buses were pretty common for motorhome conversions, but i believe the Fishbowl transit had monocoque construction.

DD S50's are not that reliable , i think it was balance issues.

Its bigger brother, the S60 is GREAT, but are only in motor coaches.

Other wise the cummins are good, so are cats, but the C8.3 Cummins are not that powerful.

Or, the Series 71 and 92 Detroits are practically bulletproof.

Yeah, been reading a lot about the pros and cons of various engine series -

I know the old 2-stroke Detroits are very tough and tolerant of neglect/abuse. Have talked with a couple of small fleet operators and gotten positive feedback on the Cummins as well, though they also noted it was underpowered.

What I have been able to gather is that the DD 50 series was sorted by '94, and if the unit is a newer rebuild, that other than a shakey idle it should be long-lived.

Any and all feedback that would prevent me from spending my hard earned dollars on a bad choice is greatly appreciated.

thanks

Ken

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Hi Ken, I'm no expert compared to others here so you can take what I say with a grain of salt as I don't have all the technical and mechanical knowledge about buses the way some on this forum do. I just wanted to chime in from experience as a retired transit driver and owner of several diesel pusher motorhomes in the past.

The reason I'd be hesitant on using a 40-foot RTS for "off-highway" use is their extra-long wheelbase. From my recollection, they have a 299" wheelbase. I believe that's the longest wheelbase of any 40' transit bus. Experts, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Having such a long wheelbase could make the coach very difficult to maneuver in tighter places that you may experience in "off highway" situations, more so than any other 40' coach. Also because of the long wheelbase, the breakover angle may affect situations on those roads where the possibility of high centering might exist. Even the approach and departure angles may come into play if traversing roads with large potholes, dips, ruts, etc.

A 35' RTS may be a better choice in your situation if you can find one. Even a 35' RTS, I believe, has a 239" wheelbase which is relatively long for a shorter coach but still would be easier to maneuver on "off highway" roads. The transit agency I worked for had several reasons for not ordering RTS's and one of them was the long wheelbase as our jurisdiction has many hills with routes that prohibit using even shorter wheelbase 40-footers because of the dips, etc. that the coach could get high centered on. The wheelchair lift on the back door was one of the other main reasons.

The reason I mention coach length and wheelbase is something all bus drivers know and you may also is that there is a HUGE difference in maneuverability when comparing a 35' coach to a 40' coach. That five feet (or corresponding shorter wheelbase) makes an unbelievable difference in making turns and maneuvering in and out of tight spots. A 40-footer is more stable and comfortable to drive but can become unwieldy in a tight situation. Shorter coaches can be more squirrelly but not always. As a transit operator, I've driven coaches from 19' to 61' and the 40-foot coach is definitely the most difficult to drive. Everybody says to me "man, those articulated coaches must really be difficult to drive!" ...but actually, they're the easiest to drive because they bend. A 40-foot coach does not bend around corners.

My first DP motorhome was 40-feet and I also had one that was 42' with a tag-axle for a short time. However, I eventually ended up with the one which became my favorite, a 35-foot 2007 Itasca Meridian (it was actually 34' 9" but was close to 35' with hitch and ladder). I liked it because I could take it on some gravel roads with ruts and dips and it was very easy to maneuver in and out of tight spots, never bottomed out (it slightly scraped the hitch once coming out of a rut, however), and successfully got me though a 20-mile long unpaved road covered with snow and ice one winter. It was built on a Freightliner chassis that I felt was quite rugged and it had very good ground clearance. I liked it too because many of the national and state park campgrounds have a 35' limitation with some of their access roads also requiring a shorter vehicle.

An Itasca Meridian (or a Winnebago Journey - same coach, different badge) in the 2001-2007 range will have basement AC so there's no AC unit on top of the coach. It also has a lower profile to begin with. Therefore, it has a lower total height than any diesel pusher motorhome I know of (it will be under 12'). Mine had an upgrade to a CAT C7 but some models had a Cummins ISB. Mine had two slideouts I mention this motorhome as something you might want to look at as it sounds as if it would serve your purpose well and I agree with the comments of RTS_04 that perhaps a motorhome would be better suited for your needs rather than a bus conversion ...? If interested, click here for the '06 or here for the '07 brochure that have more information. They are now well under the 100k price range, probably in the 50-75k range (or even less) for the 2004-2007 models after some negotiation.

If you just have to do a bus conversion, again, you might want to look for something with a shorter wheelbase. One bus that I personally had actually thought about converting once is a GM PD 4104 as I prefer having something with a manual transmission. I know many who have converted a PD 4104 or a PD 4106. Another bus I would personally consider is a GM 35' "buffalo" (PD-4107) that makes an interesting conversion and I've talked to several who have or had one. Again, it can also be had with a manual ...so you can tell that my dream is to convert a 35' OTR coach with a manual tranny for use as a motorhome.

So just some food for thought. Please keep us posted on what you eventually do and how it goes.

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If you don't mind further educating me in regards to the front module, are you talking about things like windshield, mirrors and other body parts, or front steering/suspension, or the cockpit kit?

cheers

Ken

The RTS body structure was built in 5' modules, which allowed the manufacturer to build 35' and 40' buses by simply altering the number of intermediate modules placed between the modules that carried suspension parts.

In any case, the "front module" is just that -- the very front module. While this bus is an RTS Series 08 and was billed as being wildly different from an RTS Series 06, in reality, it's that front structure that's different. That said, it is VERY different -- different door design, different interior design, different electrical panels/ wiring, different window glass, different cockpit, etc. Even more confusing, it's also different from the first iteration of the Series 08 (a more rounded form; google Chicago's for a feel of their appearance) and it's different (but slightly similar) to Nova's WFD module design.

My concern with this design for you is that parts for this module might be more difficult to come by simply because, compared to the standard RTS front module, fewer were produced with this module.

In any case, I don't think this is going to iron out the roads any better than a F550, nor do I think it is remotely maneuverable enough for your needs. Your prerogative if you want to try it, but I don't think you'll be satisfied in the least.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi again all

Sorry for taking so long to respond to all the heplful feedback

Haven't pulled the trigger on the RTS as the info about the 08 series and hard-to-get parts could turn project into "In Way Over My Head"

The note about the wheelbase is also something that concerns me even if we were staying on pavement.

cheers

Ken

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