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!