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Old 01-09-2014, 12:48 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Adventure Bus - Build Log

Hey Skoolie, my name is Matt. I'm a 19 year old college student and I live in Maine.

I am a very avid outdoorsman and I'm also big into the automotive world (cars & bikes). For the last few years I've wanted to convert a bus but never could come up with a model or a plan that would really suit me. I've visited this forum before and saw some of the conversions that people were doing and admired bits and pieces of them...but there was never a design that really caught me and made me say "That right there, I want to build one of those."

That is of course until a few days ago when I found this website: http://www.hankboughtabus.com/

I don't know if any of you guys have seen that website but it's basically a site that an architecture student made to show off his conversion and travels. I REALLY like his design and there's a few improvements I think I'd make but it seems like a pretty good template for what I want to do with my conversion. So now my search begins to find a bus of my own to convert. For the past few months I've entertained the idea of purchasing a VW Eurovan or finding a Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter and converting it over so that I'd have something I could pack my various toys into and take on the road with me to wherever I'm headed. I came to realize that a decent example of either of these vehicles starts around $10,000 and only goes up from there. For $4,000 I can find a bus with less miles that has been fleet maintained and go from there. So I think that's what I'm going to do!

Fortunately for me, I'm pretty crafty with my hands. Right now I've got a 2003 Honda CBR600RR sitting in my basement that I'm going over and tuning up over the winter, a 1998 Subaru Forester that's sitting in my driveway without an interior and is waiting for spring to come so I can trailer it to my friends race shop to install a roll cage to compete in the 24 Hours of Lemons race series, and I also happen to know a bit about carpentry. For the last ~30 years my dads company has built Post & Beam homes and I've picked up a few skills over the years, plus we've got wood shop in the back of our garage. So I am fairly well prepared, especially for being 19.

I'm finishing up the draftings of my floor plans (on paper, I may model it in a 3D program later if I feel like it) and I've got a paint design as well. I've got it almost entirely planned out except for a few minor details which I am looking for a bit of help on.

First of all, I'm not very experienced with Diesel...I've tossed around the idea of doing a Subaru Turbo Diesel swap into my daily driver but it really was just that...and idea. What are some things to look out for with diesels when purchasing?

Secondly, on the same topic almost...what kind of things throw up red flags with buses? I do live in New England so obviously rust is something to watch out for but what other things should I be looking at? Specifically what kind of stuff under the hood (or wherever the engine is located) should I be looking out for?

Third, heat and electricity. I ski...a lot. I'll most likely end up using this bus to take on Mountain Bike and Ski trips as well as a home base at big car events and while at the racetrack. Are you guys using electric heat or something else? I've thought about a small woodstove as well. As for power generation and consumption... I know people are using banks of batteries. What kind of consumption are people going through? I'd like to have a TV and some sort of gaming system (xbox?) on board for entertainment, as well as some speakers and outlets to charge laptops and phones. Lights would of course be nice too. Do people prefer diesel or propane generators (or another type I'm not thinking of)?

Bus design, automatic vs. manual, flat front vs. non-flat front? Whats better for MPGs, reliability and floorspace?

I'm sure I have more questions that will be popping up soon but I'm no stranger to build logs so I'll be sure to update frequently. I'm hoping to purchase the bus in the next month or two. With a project like this I'm pretty aggressive so as long as I don't run into financial hurdles I'd like to have it done by the summer (pretty quick, I know). Here's to hoping that happens! Thanks in advance for any tips/pointers you can throw my way!
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:07 PM   #2
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Update 1/16/14!

I've been searching around and talking with some friends about this project and a few of us have decided we want to fast-track this and finish the project before courses being at the end of this summer. This means we have approximately 30 weeks to buy a bus, strip it, and build it. But we're all in college and have another (slightly) more important project that we have to finish first. We've got the racecar stored on my property right now and we need to have the racecar fully finished for the 10th of May for our first of three races this season. Before we can race it we have to move it to Rhode Island so we can use my friends shop and install the roll cage, then it has to come back up to Maine and get the motor/transmission pulled and rebuilt and upgrade the brakes and suspension. We also have to find a second donor car for spare parts (which we'll most likely also have to rebuild the motor/transmission on that car as well). On top of that we need to "theme" the car for the race series. I have a feeling we'll be running down to the wire for May 10th with just the racecar build. We'll probably also have to overhaul the car after the first race, should be fun!

So I don't see us getting started on the adventure bus (besides maybe purchasing a bus) anytime before mid-May. That leaves us with about 15 weeks to strip out the old, make the final design decisions, and build the new bus interior. But because of the use of our bus we're not leaving the exterior alone. Of course we'll be painting the bus but we've also go to install the roof cargo system (more on that below). It's going to be a pretty hectic summer but hopefully worth it. We hope to be able to use the bus in some fashion for the last race of the season in October and then we'll be taking the bus west that winter.

EDIT: Made some changes to the plan and added a bit

So once we get time to start on the bus we're going to be pretty strapped for time and we'll probably have a lot of work to do! So here's the plan, the reason I'm writing it out is so that any of you guys with more experience might be able to suggest a better way or some tips & tricks.

We're of course going to start by stripping out everything inside the bus, all the seats, flooring, insulation, windows, etc...it's all got to go! Once we get the interior gutted out we're going to do what another member of this forum (wmkbailey) did and raise up part of our buses roof. We're going to raise the roof by a foot and a half or so. We are going to install a window in the raise as well. We'll start the raise at right about where the door is and end it about 10 feet from the rear of the bus. I haven't decided what to do about the door itself...we might replace it with an RV door or leave it as is. School bus doors have never been very good at keeping crazy people or the cold out so I think we might just end up replacing it!

Moving to the tail of the bus...where the raised roof stops we will be installing a "deck" to hold certain cargo items and to hang out on when there's no cargo up there. The main use of the deck will be to hold two snowmobiles. The roof of a bus isn't designed to support that much weight (at least I don't think it is) so I will weld in four main load distribution plates (similar to what you see used in racecars with rollcages) and four metal tubes going through the roof to the deck frame. There will of course be supports and it will be modeled in solidworks and tested for loading. Obviously getting two 600lb machines 11 feet in the air is not an easy task. You would need a mighty big ramp if you were going to ride them up...so I'm just going to lift them up! Using one of these cranes (designed for the back of pickup trucks): http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/ ... _200579191

You may notice it says some crap about only being able to lift so high. I'll fix that with the use of a longer winch with an electric motor good for lifting 2000 lbs (plenty to lift a single sled at a time): http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/ ... _200381900 That style of crane comes apart at the base so the crane won't be sticking up and hitting bridges and stuff (no promises on the roof or snowmobiles but I think minimum interstate height is 16 feet). The crane swivels 360 degrees so once the sleds are lifted to the height of the roof I can just swivel them around and into place to get strapped down! When the deck isn't being used to hold sleds or other cargo it'll be used as a deck. There will be removable roof rails that can be installed when you want to go hang out and enjoy a view from on top of the bus!

Back inside we go! The interior is going to be done right the first time (I hope!). Because this bus will get used as much (if not more) in the winter as it will in the summer it needs to be insulated well. To start the insulation process a good layer of POR-15 will go on the floor and up the first few inches of the walls. The next layer will be a polyethylene barrier, I'll use this stuff on every wall of the bus to keep out as much moisture as possible. On top of the poly layer will be a framework of 2x4s. Between all the 2x4s will be 1.5 inch rigid foam insulation. On top of all this will be 3/4'' plywood, a layer of underlayment paper and finally a nice wooden floor. I'm estimating that with all of this installed there will be about 3-3.5'' of added flooring height. Up front around the engine I'll use something called Peel & Seal which is used in the automotive world as a cheap dynamat alternative. I might also wrap the wheel wells and surrounding area in an attempt to keep road noise to a minimum.

The walls will be similarly constructed. Since I'll be removing all the original windows and only adding in new RV windows there's hopefully going to be much better air seal. I probably won't coat the walls in POR-15 (unless a section looks like it might need it). I'll use rigid insulation again for the walls and ceiling. I haven't decided what I'm going to use on the walls. I wanted to originally go with some sort of wood but I'm not so sure anymore...

I haven't really finalized the floorplan so I don't want to write about that yet. But I know the storage room will be at the back and the drivers seat will be in the front. The storage room will have two fold down bunks (one on either side) which will make the bus able to sleep up to 7 people!

I'll hopefully have the floorplan done this weekend!

Things I still need to figure out are...

Power, specifically how much I'll need and where it'll come from

Heat, it's a toss up between propane and a woodstove. Propane seems more logical because you can run a generator, refrigerator, hot water heater, stove, and of course regular heat all off of one fuel source and there's no need to carry wood and take up space with the large woodstove. On the other hand running all those appliances off of propane could get expensive, especially the heat when it gets down to -30F outside!

How to start the bus in the cold. Since it's going to be used for winter outings quite a bit I need a way to get the motor going in the morning when it could be -30F outside...I think that means I'll need a block heater but they draw quite a bit of power from my understanding. Is there a way around that?

That's all for now, I've got to get some sleep!
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Old 01-16-2014, 06:26 PM   #3
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Sounds like you all have your hands full. Gotta love the energy and optimism of young people (I'm 53). I got tired just reading what you all have planned. I do remember those days though and wish I had them back. All I can say is, "go cat go!!" What are you doing writing posts here!!
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:20 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Quote:
Originally Posted by sojourner
Sounds like you all have your hands full. Gotta love the energy and optimism of young people (I'm 53). I got tired just reading what you all have planned. I do remember those days though and wish I had them back. All I can say is, "go cat go!!" What are you doing writing posts here!!
I'm saving my money!

We've got a few different routes. We've debated raising the roof like another member did on here because one of the guys in our group is a pretty big guy (like 6'3''?). It would also provide some airflow shielding to the storage platform in the back.

Right now the biggest question in my head is if we want to keep the bus windows or delete them and add in RV style ones. I think we'll try to find a crashed RV and pull the generator and some other parts from that. We could possibly get windows (depending on the type of crash) and if we raise up the roof that'll most likely have to happen. Less windows = better insulation but it also gets rid of the panoramic views you get from the bus windows.

Decisions decisions...about to update my last post with the rest of the "plans"
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:34 PM   #5
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Pull the motor and trans on your subby now, and get started on the rebuild.. A shell is very light and can be pushed easily.. This should buy you some time, but remember what can go wrong will.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:11 PM   #6
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gsragtop
Pull the motor and trans on your subby now, and get started on the rebuild.. A shell is very light and can be pushed easily.. This should buy you some time, but remember what can go wrong will.
I would pull it now (I might in two months or so) but I've got to do a tune up on my motorcycle (valve adjustment) and some other little things to it for spring. I also have college courses and a job to contend with. As if that weren't enough...the car is currently covered in snow and probably stuck behind a snowbank until the snow starts to melt. We'll have five guys up here as soon as we can get the car out of its spot which is more than enough to pull the motor and tear it down for a rebuild. That means we'll probably split the guys up and half work on the car and the other half work on the bus
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Old 01-17-2014, 12:07 PM   #7
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Where and how do you plan to instal that crane/winch thingy?
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Old 01-17-2014, 12:12 PM   #8
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt
Where and how do you plan to instal that crane/winch thingy?
The plan is to install it on top of the cargo deck on the back of the bus. I'll have to do a bit of research and make sure that the load can be supported by the bus chassis that far back but I think it should be okay if the load is fairly distributed between four maine supports (probably 2'' tubing) with eight anchors (two for each support post) and welded into distribution plates.
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Old 01-18-2014, 06:19 AM   #9
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Good luck,
If you see the guys racing the old Isuzu trooper in the "real mans" 24hr race tell them I said "what's up?...now get off your azz and race"

Oh and have fun with the build a deadline is cool....it can f*** up friendships and feelings, so remember this:

No matter what you do with the bus ALWAYS keep it mobile....don't rip out the wiring and let it sit when building cabinets

Make sure you and your buds can pile in and take her for a spin when tensions get high...that is good medicine
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Old 01-18-2014, 11:37 AM   #10
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Re: Adventure Bus - Build Log

Quote:
Originally Posted by That Guy in Maine
How to start the bus in the cold. Since it's going to be used for winter outings quite a bit I need a way to get the motor going in the morning when it could be -30F outside...I think that means I'll need a block heater but they draw quite a bit of power from my understanding. Is there a way around that?
If you purchase a bus from a cold enough climate you shouldn't have any troubles with cold starting the engine. Look for a bus with glow plugs or heated air intake to make it at all possible. Also be sure to have enough good, charged batteries, since cold batteries have less available power than when they're warm. I have a single, new 990CCA battery in my bus and it struggles when the temperature is below -20C (-4F). I'll likely be adding another shortly.
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