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Old 04-21-2018, 11:30 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Interior BC
Posts: 55
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Thomas
Engine: 8.3l Cummins
1998 Thomas MVP Pusher 40ft

Hello!

Myself, my partner and our two kids (<3yrs) have just bought a school bus and we wanted a place to share our story. We are based in interior BC, Canada. We have been talking about this for about 1.5 years but recently got serious and, after a few months of stalking this forum and other resources, purchased a beaut of a bus. Details below -

- Thomas 1998 MVP Saf-T-Liner
- Rear Engine ('Pusher') - Cummins 8.3l
- Allison MD3060 Transmission
- 305,xxxkm
- Air brakes
- Cost = $5,500 (CAD)
- Name is TBC

We bought it from a commercial operator in a local (2.5hrs drive, that's 'local' here!) town. We had a toss up between this and an International bull-nose with a DT446e but decided we needed more floor space for our family. We also loved the visibility (It's what the 'V' in 'MVP' stands for) out the front. It was perhaps a little more than we wanted to spend, but the bus was in great shape, within the province (didn't need any of the 'Out Of Province Inspection' BS) and it included delivery. This was a huge advantage because neither of us have an air brakes cert (needed in BC to drive it) and we don't have to worry about tags or insurance until we are further down the line.

We have it stored in a great location about 10 mins from our house. It's looking pretty good so far, the area has a commercial vibe and loads of people working on vehicles etc. There are a few hardware stores in town but they are expensive because we live in the middle of nowhere.

A bit about us - We've only lived in Canada for 18 months. My partner is a creative type and I've worked office jobs for most of the adult portion of my 30 years. Our mechanical ability is non existent. I can change a tire, that's about it. Our other hands-on experience is fairly limited, we've done plenty of DIY for residential stuff but this is by far the biggest thing we've taken on by ourselves.

We plan on exploring West Canada in the bus during vacations over the next few years but maintain the dream of going full time longer term. We have some cool and ambitious ideas for travelling, but I'll leave that for now. Either option involves a lot of off-grid boondocking for us, we like the outdoors and want to teach our kids about nature whilst having less of an impact on the environment (*cough cough*, Diesel bus).

I've read through a couple of conversion threads on here - wmkbailey & porkchopsandwiches, who both have shorter Thomas buses. They have been really helpful, though the writers are both significantly more experienced than us going into this. We've also watched a bunch of stuff on youtube. If anyone knows of any more good resources then please let us know.

We have decided to start our own thread and intend on being as thorough as possible, both to help others and so that friends/family can keep tuned as to what we are doing.

That's it. Fear not, future posts will be shorter and will involve less humility.
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:41 PM   #2
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Looks like a solid foundation. Time to get chopping.
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:50 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2017
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You have the same bus as me.

Good choice (well I would say that).
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Old 04-22-2018, 12:13 AM   #4
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And here I thought MVP stood for More Value Package. Who knew?

It would appear as if you got a pretty good bus for a decent price. The fact you got the bus for that price delivered is outstanding!

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 04-22-2018, 08:57 AM   #5
Skoolie
 
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Congratulations on your new project. Truly a great price delivered to your door. Always interested in pics and updates.

GaryC
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Old 04-22-2018, 03:53 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
You have the same bus as me.

Good choice (well I would say that).
Lovely stuff, I'm about half way through your build thread. Looks like you're a few months ahead of us, which is ideal!

Thanks for all the kind words.
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Old 04-22-2018, 04:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
And here I thought MVP stood for More Value Package. Who knew?

It would appear as if you got a pretty good bus for a decent price. The fact you got the bus for that price delivered is outstanding!

Good luck and happy trails to you!
Surely you, of all people, say that sarcastically. You should know that MPV stands for Maneuverability, Visibility, Protection.
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Old 04-22-2018, 04:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious Slug View Post
Lovely stuff, I'm about half way through your build thread. Looks like you're a few months ahead of us, which is ideal!

Thanks for all the kind words.
Tomorrow I will get the steel for deleting 10 windows. That should appear on the thread this week.
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Old 04-22-2018, 05:00 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
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First Day

So we got cracking yesterday. First thing is seats. I read loads about this before I started and there doesn't seem to be a commonly accepted best way for a one-man team. Having someone below the bus holding the nuts would have made it super quick. Angle grinder was my best choice.

I'd like to take a moment just to talk about angle grinders. Up until yesterday my formative experience with these tools was back at college when the clubs used to have dancers on stage called 'Grinder Girls' who would grind away at their metallic lingerie. My experience yesterday was distinctly less sexy.

Got all the seats out but I ran out of discs. I used 11 cheap cut-off discs on the seat legs and on removing 6 of the base plates, where the seat attaches to the floor. The discs are over $3 a pop here in town so I've ordered 50 on Amazon for $40. Before and after pics from day 1 below. We are leaving in the front two rows for the time being, we want to re-use them so I'll need to take them out properly.
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Old 04-28-2018, 01:12 AM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Interior BC
Posts: 55
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Thomas
Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Managed a half day today, the big pack of cut off discs arrived and I got out all the seat base plates. Things are slow going at the moment, just not finding the time to get 'er done. Next step is to use an impact driver to get rid of all of the internal screws holding the ceiling panels and flooring in place. Plenty of demo to be done. Lovely, lovely unskilled demo.
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Old 04-28-2018, 02:46 PM   #11
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Great rig!!

Are you planning on a roof-raise and/or slide-outs?

Cheers,

thjakits
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Old 05-04-2018, 10:29 PM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
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Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Quote:
Originally Posted by thjakits View Post
Great rig!!

Are you planning on a roof-raise and/or slide-outs?

Cheers,

thjakits
Slide outs are not really our thing, too complicated for us simpletons.

We've talked a lot about raising the roof. I'm just over 6ft which is about the same as the original ceiling height. We're going to lose 1.5" in the rigid board, plus a bit in cladding over steel, so it's going to get a bit neck-achy in there without it.

However much I love what wmkbailey did, please see my previous post about us being effective idiots. This means getting someone else in. We've been told by a local Skoolie Owner ('Skoolie Nut'? 'Skoolie Enthusiast'? What do we call people like us?!) that it's expensive around here. We'll do a bit more research but we're also happy to accept that we'll be spending a lot of our time outdoors when we use the bus, so head height isn't as big a deal.

I justified being cheap very nicely there, thanks.
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Old 05-04-2018, 10:37 PM   #13
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Join Date: Sep 2017
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Engine: Cummins 6CTA8.3 Mechanical MD3060
Rated Cap: 46 Coach Seats, 40 foot
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious Slug View Post
Slide outs are not really our thing, too complicated for us simpletons.

We've talked a lot about raising the roof. I'm just over 6ft which is about the same as the original ceiling height. We're going to lose 1.5" in the rigid board, plus a bit in cladding over steel, so it's going to get a bit neck-achy in there without it.

However much I love what wmkbailey did, please see my previous post about us being effective idiots. This means getting someone else in. We've been told by a local Skoolie Owner ('Skoolie Nut'? 'Skoolie Enthusiast'? What do we call people like us?!) that it's expensive around here. We'll do a bit more research but we're also happy to accept that we'll be spending a lot of our time outdoors when we use the bus, so head height isn't as big a deal.

I justified being cheap very nicely there, thanks.
Generally speaking, raising the roof of a Thomas is a little more tricky than other makes because the sides have a 6 degree inward slope from the lower window-line.

The flip side is that an awful lot (but not all) of the MVPs came from the factory with the high-ceiling option, so a raise isn't the pressing concern it might be for many others ... unless you are well over 6' tall of course.
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Old 05-04-2018, 11:48 PM   #14
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Location: Palmer, AK
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We're at the same stage you are...just starting. Monkeys and all. I may have passed you a week ago on the way home with our beauty. Looking forward to following your project!
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Old 05-05-2018, 07:50 PM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Interior BC
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Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
Generally speaking, raising the roof of a Thomas is a little more tricky than other makes because the sides have a 6 degree inward slope from the lower window-line.

The flip side is that an awful lot (but not all) of the MVPs came from the factory with the high-ceiling option, so a raise isn't the pressing concern it might be for many others ... unless you are well over 6' tall of course.
Without any huge spoilers (I'm still half way through your build thread), have you done one?

What's the original height with the high-ceiling option? We looked at an International and a Bluebird at the same time when we were looking to buy. The International had similar head height, the Bluebird was a good 1.5" higher which was a huge selling point.
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Old 05-05-2018, 07:53 PM   #16
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
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Posts: 55
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Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Quote:
Originally Posted by tugboater View Post
We're at the same stage you are...just starting. Monkeys and all. I may have passed you a week ago on the way home with our beauty. Looking forward to following your project!
I'm afraid that you'll probably overtake us in the process fairly quickly, so it may be me following you! Alaska is on our list so you may well see us in the future. Alaska's pretty small, right?!
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Old 05-05-2018, 09:45 PM   #17
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Join Date: Sep 2017
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Engine: Cummins 6CTA8.3 Mechanical MD3060
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious Slug View Post
Without any huge spoilers (I'm still half way through your build thread), have you done one?

What's the original height with the high-ceiling option? We looked at an International and a Bluebird at the same time when we were looking to buy. The International had similar head height, the Bluebird was a good 1.5" higher which was a huge selling point.
No.

I decided on the Thomas with the high ceiling because I didn't want to lit the roof.

Mine is 78" in the center.
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Old 05-05-2018, 10:34 PM   #18
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Right, so I've put a couple of days worth of post-kids-bedtime hours and then managed to rope in a friend for a full day. We've made some progress so I wanted to update.

I got all the seat mounts out using the technique that porkchopsandwiches recommended - using an angle grinder to make a cross through the mounts and the bolts. It was time-consuming and fume-creating but effective. I also enlisted a buddy to get the front seats (that we might want to re-use) out without damage. My overall advice would be to get help and have someone underneath the bus, it would have been significantly easier a job.

Next up, the ceiling, floor and all the metal trim around the outsides and covering the heaters. Ceiling was easy enough, 99% of the screws came out with minimal fuss. The floor, however, was problematic. I ended up using the angle grinder on most of the screws. The same friend helped me pry up the plywood, which took a couple of hours but was extremely satisfying.

It feels good to have gotten the vast majority of demo out of the way. We have a bit of rust but it's mostly contained to the wheel arches and the worst doesn't go through. Which is great news.

Next steps - Deleting the heaters and re-routing the coolant hoses. I looked in the panel marked 'Heater Shut Off' and there was no valve, just a bunch of hose. I've found two valves in the line and I'm going to play it safe and close both before doing anything. Anyone any advice about this bit? It's the first slightly mechanical hurdle that we've come across, so I'm a little nervy.

There are also a bunch of screws/nail heads/bolts in the floor which will need pulling/grinding out. And there's brushing the surface rust and converting/priming.

However, I'm out of town for the next couple of weeks so it's planning time!
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Old 05-09-2018, 11:12 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Interior BC
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Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Confession - Solar is one of the bits of this project which scares the sh*t out of me. I've read HandyBob and Jack Mayer's blogs, which are interesting and useful but I'm a visual learner. Thus, I'm planning on getting around this fear by just buying a kit, installing it and seeing how I get on.

We're on a budget but we agreed that solar is something that is 1) Important to us and 2) Very confusing. Thus spending a little more on a kit to simplify things is the way to go.

I've been looking at a 400W Mono system from Renogy from Amazon, which is about $1100 delivered.

There is also one supplier I can collect from relatively local, they do a bigger (but Poly) 480W system for slightly less.

Both have PVM charge controllers so I'll be looking at upgrading that fairly quickly to an MPPT.

Actually, I've just seen that they do a 560W Mono system with an MPPT charge controller for $150 more. With the extra wattage and the better charge controller, this one might be the one. BUT, despite what it says on the title of the listing the panels are actually 24v (Voc of just under 40v). So that's more research. Woo.

Probably looking at 4 x 6v lead acid batteries linked in parallel and series. Or however you say that ((2x6v)x2). We shouldn't need loads of capacity, we won't have AC (if we do then we'll use a generator, potentially with DC output to emergency charge house batteries) and we'll be running most other stuff on gas.

If anyone has any input then that would be appreciated, especially if there's any good Canadian solar suppliers out there. But don't talk all techy at me, think about how you'd explain it to a talking dog. Otherwise I'll just revert to diversion and start googling unrelated things. Speaking of which, did you know the collective noun for a group of butterflies is a 'Kaleidoscope'.
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Old 05-10-2018, 12:16 AM   #20
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Northern Arizona Wind and Solar can do a custom kit. I'm not sure the price, but that site is great and their customer service has been amazing so far. They also have pre-made kits.

I have piecemealed my system together so far but they have answered every question I ask within about 24 hours. There is also a learning section that has a ton of useful information.
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