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Old 06-07-2008, 10:33 PM   #1
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A bus named Taj

I live in a bus - a rather rough conversion of a 35 foot conventional bluebird. Well, today starts another conversion. Again, a 35 footer, but this one (named "Taj" by the previous owner) is a rear engine transit style Carpenter. The price was good (cheaper than scrap) and the bus condition definitely reflects the price. Still.... since I am going to gut, cut, lift, and modify the entire body, that might not be so bad as originally thought. And, did I mention it was cheap?

The specs....
1975 Carpenter RE
National Bus chassis
Ford 534 v-8, setup for propane all it's life (about 450,000 miles on the odometer)
Allison automatic.
35 feet long (12 windows)
Air bags for a rear suspension (leaf front) - it was lowriding with a droopy butt when I first saw it, but it stood right up once the pressure built. Smooth ride for a skoolie, too!

Condition currently - poor, with a partial conversion attempted. Most guages not working, but engine, brakes, and transmission seem to be working fine. I have to drive it about 300 miles home.... I will keep my fingers crossed all the way!

The plan is to get it home, viciously strip it down, lift the roof about 18 inches, and using scrounged and bartered and cheap materials (much already collected) build a nice little home with occasional rolling capability. Hardwood flooring, natural wood paneling, radiant floor heating that connects to an outside the bus wood boiler, self contained with full plumbing and kitchen.

The unusual touches:
I plan on removing the front door, and making the front of the bus become the living room. Driver's seat to be replaced with a cushy seat that swivels and can be my reading chair, and a couch will take up some of the space where the stairwell used to be.

With the rear engine, it pretty much requires the bed to be in the back. It is pretty high to the deck over the engine - so I will probably need a stepladder or some such. Perhaps a built in set of drawers underneath, and a king sized bed - since I have to climb up and over to get in bed, I might as well go big!

I will start up a conversion page and pictures once I get home (please... make it "when" and not "if"). I am also curious as to what performance I will see with the huge Ford Superduty 534 cubic inch engine - especially the range I will have on propane power. On the plus side.... it had been sitting for about a year - and other than a rat running around inside (hopefully not chewing up wires) it was just a matter of a new battery and it fired right up - no gummed up carburetor!

Kevin

p.s. interesting.... unknown to the lady who had bought this bus and named her "Taj" with dreams to convert it that never were realized..... The name "Taj" means "Crown"..... and Carpenter later in life bought the rights to the Crown name (before folding - probably due to not using the original Crown build quality).
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Old 06-08-2008, 09:56 PM   #2
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Re: A bus named Taj

your hands are full now kevin hope the trip goes well i like the floor heat idea that moter is a monster! and no land tax a main bus and a guest bus what a great idea timbuk
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Old 06-09-2008, 02:03 AM   #3
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Re: A bus named Taj

Made the run from Woodinville (via an overnight at my in-laws in Monroe) over the mountains back to Spokane. Other than it dieing about 3 miles out of North Bend going up the passes because a wire to the propane cut off switch broke (there is a REASON I traveled with a fairly full tool kit, including various bits of spare wire) it was an uneventful trip.

The only pain was finding stations that could/would fill the 60 gallon propane tank that powers the machine, and the 2.65 mpg I got. I ran between 55 and 60 mph - 3200 rpm is 60 mph and that is what most of the references on the web say is the max for that motor. I read one that said 3400, but I'll stick to the lower number just to be safe.

The beastie is home now, parked about 100 feet down the drive from the other bus..... I hope to get into it for a major stripping and cleaning in a few weeks. I'll have to get some pictures setup on it.

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Old 06-09-2008, 10:26 PM   #4
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Re: A bus named Taj

That 2.65 mpg sounds like a real problem....and I though I had it bad at 5-6 mph in my diesel...
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Old 06-10-2008, 08:36 AM   #5
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Re: A bus named Taj

Actualy, if you calculate it as dollars/mile it's probably pretty damn close to what you're getting.

What is propane bringing per gallon these days?
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Old 06-10-2008, 10:18 AM   #6
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Re: A bus named Taj

Propane runs (at least at the places I filled) from $2.78 to $3.09 a gallon. So figure it just over a dollar a mile ($1.03 - $1.15/mile). At 5-6 per gallon on diesel (with diesel running around 4.75 here) you are looking at $0.79 to $0.95 per mile.

My other bus - which only gets 3.25/gallon fully loaded (also propane) would be at .85 to 1.05/mile..... still not something I would want to take a long trip in!

BTW.... you veggie burning, "I got my fuel free from the chinese restaurant" people? I hate you all.... in a nice envious way!

Kevin
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Old 06-10-2008, 03:12 PM   #7
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Re: A bus named Taj

on my trip last fall to burningman @ 8mpg and diesel about 300/gallon that worked out to about 37cents/mile.

i always estimated it cost around 50 cents/mile to drive the bus when we were trying to figure fuel costs.

now i have a 5-6 mpg bus.....

next i think i want a 12 mpg bus!
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Old 06-23-2008, 12:05 AM   #8
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Re: A bus named Taj


Kevin: Were you looking for this info around here somewhere -- how to tell which tranny you have? Here ya go:
http://www.skoolie.net/forum/viewtop...p=12668#p12668
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Old 07-20-2008, 01:46 AM   #9
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Re: A bus named Taj

Still haven't figured out what tranny. Other buses from Carpenter from the same vintage use an MT42.... I figure if I get under it and try and find the tags it would be better. I've been too busy for that right now.

I started disassembly last weekend. One of my eleven year old cousins helped (his twin brother was not interested and stayed in the air conditioned hotel with his grandparents and video game). We ripped out the old hippy camper bits, and then started on the walls. Now I have all the windows out, the last two seats that were left in are STILL in (but I bought some more grinder disks today). The metal strips that act as moulding where the roof meets the walls are off, and I've started removing the aluminum inner walls.

On this Carpenter, the aluminum inside walls have 3 rivets every second or third window post "rib" - not like my later model Bluebird that has a rivet every 4 inches. The windows on this bus are/were one piece of glass - and it slides down BETWEEN the outer and inner wall. No insulation in there - and with the windows on the replacement schedule, no reason not to really insulate well. So - inner walls go out, leaving a 1.5 inch space between ribs. I will brush off some of the rust, paint, and then add foam board, furring on the "ribs" (or "hat channel" as some folk call the metal that forms the beams that support the roof). This should give me at least 2.5 inches of foam between the outer wall and the inner woodwork. I will have to figure out how I want to do moisture barrier so if anything gets in, it can eventually get out.

The "hat channel' is just a fraction under 1.5 deep, and just a fraction over 2" wide. I figure a piece of 1.5 x 2 inch rectangular tube will be perfect in one dimension, allowing the sheet metal skin to fit over the lower body material - I'll either rivet it on, or drill little holes in the outer piece and tack weld the inside of the hole every few inches from the outside - any rain will run over the overlap, and not have much chance to go UP and inside. As for the slight gap on the side to side measurement, I think that I can both cheat it narrower with a few judicious hammer taps, and/or just weld it closed. I'll be using a lot of overlap for strength, and also triangulating between several of the window openings that will be solid walls when I am done. Plus sheet metal.... it will be tougher when I'm done than before.

One general impression as I am deconstructing this bus, is that a '75 Carpenter is built WAY less sturdy than an '83 Bluebird. Number and size of rivets holding on the body sections, for example. I will be able to take a lot of this bus apart by grinding off rivets quite quickly. One thing that IS pretty well built is the roof. Lots of rivets (no screws) so instead of pulling the inner ceiling, insulating and then doing woodwork..... I will make sure to add a few extra inches to the roof raise, and just attach my furring and insulation to the inner section of the roof. I won't notice the missing space in that dimension since I am already going up.

I have been recording thoughts and such currently on my google apps pages, at http://sites.google.com/a/mulekickranch ... ew-bus-taj - although once I get a little more organized I will get more pictures and keep this thread updated too.

Kevin
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