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Old 04-14-2009, 09:40 AM   #1
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baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

It's been almost a year since I bought my bus, and I'm sad to say no progress has been made on the conversion front. Life has intruded on the budget, and things are unfortunately delayed.

However, I've finally come up with a name for the bus after much thought and dissatisfaction with all the ideas I kept coming up with. Yep, it is named 'unleashed'.

And, in order to prompt me to actually make some progress, I'm starting this thread to follow the progress.

Currently unleashed is being used as a temporary storage shed. That will change early this summer when the weather starts to cooperate again.

I've got a lot of plans that I've been refining in my head for this conversion. I'm definitely planning a roof raise this summer. Most of the rest of the planning and work have been postponed pending the roof raise.

My bus is currently 10' in height, and I plan to raise it to 13' in height. The extra 36" of headroom inside will hopefully let me install a loft bedroom/reading nook above the cockpit area.

Behind the cockpit area, I plan to have a raised living area for the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. The main bedroom in the rear I plan to not have raised. I figure by making the raised area 18" to 24" up from the "real" floor, I gain extra storage space and space to put tanks between the two floors. Having the extra storage kept low will help keep the center of gravity down. I've not seen where anyone else has done this before, so maybe I'm crazy.

I plan to have a side aisle from the front living space to the bedroom rather than a center aisle. It will obviously be a center aisle from the cockpit to the main living space though.

I'm planning on having under-floor radiant hydronic heating. I'm still looking for a webasto diesel fired boiler for the system. I'll use that for my hot water as well. I also plan to have a heat exchanger between the engine and the heating/hot water system.

For A/C, I plan to have a split air system with the compressor in the basement area underneath the real floor. I also plan to have the battery bank live there.

I'm working on refactoring my life to be less energy demanding. I used to plan to have a full 50A 220V service, but as time has gone by and I've done research I've decided that the better answer was to reduce my power requirements.

I bought a bunch of bistable flip flop switches. These pull current only for a few seconds when the button is pushed, and change the circuit from off to on or on to off and then draw no current keeping it that way. Like a relay with no power load. These originally came out of drink machines or pinball type arcade games, and consist of 2 double throw switches with a selenoid that does the actual flipping. I plan to use them instead of real switches everywhere, and use a single momentary push button to toggle things on and off. This approach makes it easy to have multiple switches for a single item without having a lot of current carrying long run wires.

There are other ideas running around in my head, and I don't know which of them will find expression in unleashed.

I'll update this thread as more ideas come along, and more importantly, as progress is made.

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Old 04-14-2009, 11:20 PM   #2
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

Good luck now that your energies are being 'unleashed.' I like your thoughts on center of gravity, heating, and electric. Personally, I don't want extreme height so I don't worry about low hanging branches and wires, but the great thing about skoolies is that the design doesn't have to please anyone but you.
Someone said "Making good decisions comes from experience, experience comes from bad decisions." I say there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their mistakes, those who learn from the mistakes of others, and those who never learn.
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Old 04-15-2009, 11:32 AM   #3
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

I plan to live in my bus full time once it is ready. I hope to travel the country with it, including up to alaska.

Due to the fact that it will be my sole residence, I want as many cubic feet available to me as I can get. That's the primary motivation to raise the roof.

I do plan to tow with the bus as well. I'm not entirely sure yet just what I'll be towing though. I've been thinking of trying to get an enclosed trailer and keep a car inside.

One reason for reducing my energy needs is to save money. Basically, I haven't yet solved the problem of how I'll be earning money while living on the road, so I need to keep my operating expenses as low as I can.

I figure my driving time will primarily be short trips from wherever I'm tired of to the next new place then park for a while and enjoy the new place. By short, I mean less than 300 miles. So my primary focus is on livability of the conversion. No need to win any races.

Low branches and wires are a minor concern, but as 13'6" is legal in all 50 states, I hope that won't be too much of a problem.

For a generator, I've been leaning towards a pair of the hondas or yamahas. I'd love to add solar and perhaps even wind power as well. However, those are currently low priorities. I plan to pre-wire for such features to be added later.

Thanks for the encouragement guys!
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Old 04-16-2009, 12:35 AM   #4
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

i will tell you this from experience you can spend tooo much time building and not enough using....EASY! that goes for hot rods too...right Smity Keep on buildin Baadpuppy..Timbuk
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Old 04-18-2009, 03:07 PM   #5
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

Seems my bus is going to the birds... literally!

I had to move the bus around the yard so we could cut grass and clean up gumballs (the "fruit" of the sweet gum tree which has a tendency to twist ankles and grow anywhere).

When I bought the bus, the previous owner had stripped the bus and prepped it for paint. So, in order to drive it home, we had to put it back together enough to drive safely and legally. We didn't bother putting the 8-way lights in the holes because they weren't needed.

As you can imagine, this resulted in some fun driving time when I drove through a rough rainstorm and it rained inside the cabin.

Anyway, this spring some birds decided to nest in the rear "school bus" window compartment. They have 4 eggs. So, I guess I won't be raising the roof before they have a chance to hatch and grow old enough to be evicted.

Of course, there's still the stuff being stored in the bus. My uncle passed away last month and some of his belongings are stored in the bus until they can be sold. There's some neat things, like a Princo precision barometer that isn't even manufactured anymore due to the use of mercury.

Anyway, I think what I might do to prep for the roof raise is start pulling down the upper wire chase so I can identify which circuits need to be re-routed.

I took a few pictures today. They can be seen here.

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Old 04-18-2009, 10:08 PM   #6
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

I just got my bus and have just gotten started stripping the interior. I have found most of my ideas and the steps to accomplish them here on this forum. I know I will never get the money i am investing back in my wallet, but i will get it back in the form of sanity! I work in the city every day driving a transit bus and everyone thinks I'm nuts for buying my Blue Bird. They just don't know! except for the two other drivers who have done the same thing I am doing now. They just smile and nod their heads.

I try to do something bus related every day, whether it is sharing the stupid things I have done with it here, along with the things I had to do to make it right again. or even just looking over plans.

Radiant heat in floor sounds nice, but I am afraid I will have a leak, so am staying with good insulating and gas/elec heating. I already have a pretty good solar set up out of a fifth wheel I salvaged, so am going to wire that in when I get to that stage.

Good luck and keep posting your progress! It encourages others...a lot
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Old 04-19-2009, 04:58 PM   #7
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

well, today I dug deeper into the electrical system.

Above the windshield there is a switch box. It swings down, and behind it is the main body power selenoid. There is also the 8-way controller back there.

Electrical archeology is always fun. From what I saw today, I must conclude that the bus was purchased before strobe lights were a requirement, and the strobe was wired in several years after it was on the road. It also appears that the bus barn wired in a 2-way radio in the 800MHz range (judging by the antenna), probably a motorola trunking system. The air horns were added after purchase.

Several of the wiring harness connectors are making poor contact. One of them is partially melted. I believe it is the one that originally provided power to the 8-way lights. Turns out there is a lot of wiring in there that isn't needed anymore, and all I have to do is isolate the circuits and then start trimming (carefully!).

My goal is to get all of the overhead electrical down closer to the drivers seat. I also want to make it so that you can operate body electrical without chassis electrical. I want to be able to operate the parking lights, air horn, and strobe without the damned all purpose nothing is wrong buzzer buzzing. Speaking of the strobe, is it legal to operate that on the roads without being a real schoolbus?

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Old 04-25-2009, 06:21 PM   #8
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

Well, today I finished getting the overhead control panel removed. I labeled each wire that I pulled from a switch, and I labeled all the connectors with a letter so I would make sure A went to A etc, even though they were all keyed differently. I just wanted to be absolutely sure I got them back correctly.

I disconnected the heavy gauge wire from the main fuse panel that fed the solenoid for the body circuits. It makes me less uncomfortable working in the tight space knowing I won't accidentally short that sucker to ground.

The entire wiring harness is now removed from the overhead forward section, and is currently hanging down behind the driver's seat. There is only 1 hot wire in the whole bundle, and I haven't tracked down what is feeding it yet.

I removed the wiring chase cover down the drivers side and some of it on the passenger side. Unfortunately, there is a lot of "stuff" being stored in the bus, so I can't get to all of them yet.

I discovered little birds are living in the empty space above the door. Do all school buses have a dead space there? I've been surprised at how much dead space I keep finding.

It is nice to finally be seeing some progress.

Some pics of the roof raising prep work can be found at: I'll be updating that gallery as I go along with the prep work.

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Old 04-26-2009, 08:30 PM   #9
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

today was at least as hot as yesterday. ugh.

Yesterday evening I decided to not risk having birds flying around the interior of the bus, so I taped off 2 of the 4 flasher holes in the front and but a piece of pink foam insulation in the sign window area to block the other two from the interior of the vehicle. The mother bird can still get in and out to feed her chicks. And listening to them cheeping, I think she needs to get hustling.

I worked on the wiring harnesses some more today. I cut the wires for the radio and speakers out completely. When I finish my conversion, that old crappy radio won't be there nor will those old crappy speakers. So, one thing off the list. Additionally, I removed one harness that was only associated with the 8-way flashers. I cut the electrical tape off of all 30+ feet of the wiring running thru the wire chase above the driver side windows. The ones associated with the 8-ways have been pulled to the back. I identified the rest of them, and cleaned them up. Turns out that harness has the following 6 wires: tail, stop, left, right, reverse, clearance. Someone must not have realized how to turn on the clearance lights because they had tied tail to clearance so the clearance lights came on with the running lights.

I took out most of the speakers and overhead interior lights today. Left a few because I couldn't get to them for the stuff being stored in my bus. I pulled off the rest of the passenger side wire chase cover except for one bit which has two screws with stripped heads. My T-20 torx bit is also getting a bit stripped. I'll have to pick some up this week.

I pulled the front panel off to get access to additional radio wiring and pulled and cut out all of that as well. Just have about 6 feet worth of speaker wire left in an area that is currently not accessible.

Even with all the circuit butchery that I've done, the bus still cranks up and moves. All the normal lights work too except the clearance lights, which are currently completely disconnected.

I took more pictures today and added them to the ones from yesterday. They can be found at starting on page 2.

I'm running out of things to do for roof raise prep while stuff is stored inside the bus. So, I have to figure out other things I can do to the bus without disturbing the contents or the birds and without interfering with the future roof raising.

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Old 04-27-2009, 02:29 PM   #10
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Re: baadpuppy's bus... unleashed

hey wish you good luck and lots of sunshine on your Roof raising project.
I looked through all your pictures and was wondering what the deal was with the motorhome, did you plan to rebuild that or just salvage for parts? What was wrong with it to begin with? I know in some of the pictures you mentionend water damage. So was this a very cheap buy of a motorhome that was drowned out, flooded or what?
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