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Old 02-13-2014, 08:46 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Betsy

I just got my new to me bus a couple of weeks ago.

It's a 2001 Bluebird TC2000 Handybus.
At 10 windows around 31' it's a bit shorter than most of the transit type buses on this list but should suit me nicely.

Why a school bus? Well in all honesty I'd rather have an MC-9. There are a few problems with that though. Most of the time I will be using this bus by myself, with my wife and possibly 1 or 2 more people. A 40' bus is a bit much for that. Then there's the cost. Not necessarily purchase price but running costs. They use 12r22.5 tires that are only used by buses and therefore cost more than a standard 11r22.5 truck tire. Fuel economy, about 6mpg is all you can reasonably expect. Weight, 27000lbs empty. Ground clearance, or lack thereof. While my driveway is long enough I don't think I could get an MC-9 in it without dragging. While I have always loved the sound of a 2 stroke Detroit Diesel it is getting harder to find qualified people to work on them. Another issue is there is exactly one brand of motor oil available for them and I would most likely have to order it. Straight 40 weight with some very specific additives.

So the MC-9 is too big, too heavy, too expensive and in short too much of a pain in the butt.

My TC2000 has of course the B5.9 Cummins. Something a little different is the Allison 2000 5 speed transmission. I've got air brakes an air seat (that's useless) and oh how I wish it had air suspension. One day if I go completely off the deep end I may convert the rear to air ride but don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen. The empty bus rides surprisingly well for leaf springs. Once the weight of the conversion is in and more importantly the half ton of water it should ride really well indeed.

I am convinced Bluebird engineered this bus for thin short people. As you may gather from that remark I am neither being tall and wide. Above I mention the air seat is useless. Why would I say that? Because I have to drive with all the air let out to see out the windshield! I'm only 6'2"! I'm going to have to move the seat back quite a bit to get enough leg room as well.

Since I am tall there is only one place I can stand upright in the bus. Directly behind the doghouse. Since it is a wheelchair bus the floor is raised 5" and there are no wheelwells. The no wheelwell thing will be handy for furniture and walls, but 5" more headroom would be welcomed.

That said there are a couple of features I would change. Headroom, I would like to raise the roof 9 to 12". Something like Williams bus. I love the way he did the front slope, but being the coward at heart I am would probably skip the eyebrow windows. This is the bus I'm talking about viewtopic.php?f=9&t=464989. First I would really love to be able to stand up throughout the bus, not just one small spot behind the doghouse and in front of the raised floor. Second I would like to add more insulation so would end up taking back 4" or so of the room gained by lifting the roof in the first place.

Remember that part above about going off the deep end?

If you guys think converting the rear axle to air ride from spring is a project just wait till you get a load of this.

I would like to ditch the Allison in favor of a Super 10 manual. I love the way they shift and I miss picking my own gears. Use the clutch to start and stop and float the shifts in between. Even then half the shifts are a button move only. The gear lever stays in place. (Assuming in 3rd gear, for 4th move the button, 5th move the button and stick, 6th move the button.....) I'm thinking cable or hydraulic clutch and cable shifter. A hydraulic clutch would probably be the easiest thing. Downside is the cost. I'd have to farm it out. So the odds are it won't happen until the Allison needs a rebuild.

Either way the 5.38 gears have got to go! Tach says 2000 rpm at 55 mph which reminds me the bus came with low profile tires but was specced with 10r22.5's.

Does anybody happen to know the diameter of the 10r tires? The 255/80's are 38" in diameter.
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Old 02-14-2014, 09:57 PM   #2
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Re: Betsy

I expect the 11r tires to be cheaper as well. God knows they'll be easier to get, but I'll need to get wheels with them. Rim width listed for the 11r is an inch wider than for a 10r. Of course that will just help justify the switch to aluminum wheels As for the low profile tires on now, I'm not about to complain they are Michelins with plenty of meat left on them. I can't tell you anything about how long the low pro tires last. I've never worn any out. I think my work truck still has 2 of the original tires left. All the rest were holed. Comes with the territory for us. For that matter I never wore out the 11r's that were on my last work truck either. Pulled a screwdriver out of one.......

Oh goody, to keep the trans from frying I have to try and blow the engine up.

Yeah I know the 5.9 will quite happily rev to over 3000, but the truck driver in me looks at 2000 rpm as something to be tolerated for short periods only. Even the work truck is geared for 1700 @ 55.. That's an 8.3 with 6 speed Allison and 5.29 gears. Tops out at 73 mph and 2400.

The only part of the roof raise I am afraid of is doing it myself.

I can't weld.

I can cut the posts and lift it up but re-attaching is another matter. That said I live in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Can't imagine it will be too hard to find a qualified mobile welder...... Metal supplier is easy. I already have one of those 4 blocks from work who is perfectly willing to sell retail. That counts, I found most weren't set up to collect sales tax.

Brings up another thing. Skinning. never tried that before and have no idea if I can manage that without screwing it up. I am not a fan of the oil can look. I think I can manage frp easier than steel, but steel will blend in better.

Something definitely on the list is a new door. The air operated doors are fine as long as there is air in the system. They close surprisingly tight. They just don't stay that way once the system bleeds down. I'll have to have a welder make a frame, but maybe a door would be a good first skinning project. I just can't use Sikaflex to attach it. That stuff is very strong and very unforgiving.

I will not be moving the door to the center. There's no where to put one. This bus is SHORT, 185" wheelbase the fuel tank is behind the front tire and takes up most of the room between the axles. Besides I like the door where it is. I already have a door that's in the way for my purposes. The wheelchair lift is right behind the front axle above the fuel tank. As for raising the roof so I have 82" before the roof curves-never going to happen. I'm pushing things at 12" My bus is already very close to 10'6" and I am not going over 12' and would rather stay under 11'8" at the highest point We didn't invent the low bridge, that was New Jersey, but we'd take credit for it if you let us.

Besides what good is a door sill 4' above ground? Then I have to have some kind of heavy awkward staircase that has to be able to retract and extend from inside the bus. Rv stairs are cheap crap. They will not cut it.

As for converting the rear to air yes it would be easy enough to source a cut off rear assembly. Solve the gear ratio issue too. But I'd rather sink the money into a manual conversion. As it is I figure that would cost almost as much as the bus did. That is IF I could find someone to put it together for a grand. I expect the air ride for at or under $2500 total. The transmission realistically somewhere near or above $4k seems about right. The used transmission is going to be in the $1300 range by itself. Then a rebuilt clutch and a custom shift and clutch linkages, mounts and putting it all together, drive shaft may need to be shortened or lengthened also.......

I know about leaf spring to air ride conversions. I have the only dually in this area with no leaf springs. It's on a 4 link and air bags.
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Old 02-15-2014, 10:17 AM   #3
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Re: Betsy

I have both kinds of doors on my bookmobile: The main entrance has stairs carved out of the interior space and the driver door is a climb-up opening. I have to say that I would not want to climb up that way every time I had to get into or out of the vehicle. On the passenger side, even the lowest stair is about 18 inches off the ground (depending on the terrain) and some people who have been inside have already complained that itís too high for an initial step. Itís fine for me, but I intend to fabricate a temporary step that flips out of the interior for my dogs and whomever may come to visit.
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Old 02-16-2014, 01:26 AM   #4
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Re: Betsy

Yah...it's easy when yer all legs.
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Old 02-16-2014, 06:33 PM   #5
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Re: Betsy

I'm not giving up 16 square feet of floor space by keeping the original entry door location. The only thing I'd put in that area with or without the steps is the copilots feet. I plan to mount the copilot seat on a track so when it is all the way back the cushion is even with the edge of the step well. Then drop hinged step well cover in place and slide seat forward. If I did what you suggest for an entry door I loose 3" of cabinets in a bus that only has 24' of useable space to start with.

As for millions of semi trucks being that way, well yes but did you notice that none of them were in the US?

Conventional type semis, even those with wider cabs all have the cab narrower than the overall width of the vehicle. In other words, you don't climb straight up to get in. There is a very slight angle to your climb. The top step extends out from the side of the cab, then the bottom step extends out beyond the width of the top step. This makes a huge difference.

Cabover semis are much more difficult to get into, where the climb is straight up. In fact I don't think I could do it any more.

I know at some point I would like my mother to see the inside of the bus too and I KNOW there's no way she could make the climb without regular steps.

About your rivet idea, please explain further. My plan to raise the roof was to cut the window posts at the halfway point lift then insert square tube into the channel, weld said tube to the channel then add a duplicate section of channel to fill in the gap. Would your method fivit the tube in or would you use a slightly smaller channel instead of tube? I would very much like to know how this turns out.


And to those guys with the long legged gals, well that's another reason why I have to keep steps. Not keeping them would really piss off my 5'2" wife........

Buying the bus at all pissed her off enough. I don't need to add fuel to that particular fire.........
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Old 02-18-2014, 08:38 PM   #6
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Re: Betsy

The new part is the red right?

The more I think about it the more I see the logic to your rivet idea. After all the whole thing is riveted together from the factory to start with. Great illustration too.

Roof raise in March?
At this point I'm looking at so much &&*#$% snow I've given up certain concepts.
Things like warmth, spring, trees with leaves on them. Grass between my house and the street instead of snow......
You get the idea.

If I'm lucky I'll finally be able to get the few seats I have in it out in March.
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Old 02-19-2014, 12:24 PM   #7
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Re: Betsy

Just to add to the confusion --- Long ago, when I raised my 40' BBAA I took it up 19". Based on input from a Bird tech, I staggered the cuts to avoid creating a weak line, then cut 19" sections out of full factory replacement bows to fill the gap (Blue bird does not make or believe in "repair sections"...their roof ribs are all one piece unlike most others which are bolted or welded together). For reinforcement, I added (as I recall) 1-1/4" square tubing. It fit perfectly inside the factory channels and I used one piece sections that ran from below the floor all the way up to the roof curve. Both the extensions and the reinforcement were all welded full length. The Bird tech advised welding over riveting for the same reason Ol' Trunt just mentioned.
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Old 02-20-2014, 01:33 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Re: Betsy

I'm still not willing to do any welding myself. While I can handle a cutting torch acceptably, taking 2 pieces of metal and uniting them with heat is not going to work out well. One high school class 24 years ago does not a qualified welder make.
Know your abilities.
Know your limitations too.
Still perfectly willing to search out a qualified welder. Really should not be difficult in a suburb of Chicago. There's only 3 million or so people here. I'm sure I can find one good welder in the bunch.

I am not convinced this is the best way to go.

That said most roof raises I am used to were done on a bus with square tube for framework instead of stamped channel. If anything I am leaning to tube welded into the channel with additional channel to fill in the space.

I'm still concerned with adding a new section of sheet metal to the roof. The idea again with my roof raise is to keep the factory front roof cap and raise from behind the front door back. This would require a larger piece of sheet metal to span the distance from the roof cap to the rib because it would also have to allow for the additional height.
Good thing cardboards cheap huh?
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:04 PM   #9
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Re: Betsy

Quote:
Tango, What you did by welding tango was weaken your entire support rib by melting part of it at its most critical spot. They are like a truck frame, you should not be welding anywhere near the folds or corners as they are the strength in that member. Also you can't find any tubing the right size, that is the same thickness as the support ribs (12 gauge). When a hobby welder like you starts welding different thickness and alloy metals together, it leaves a ton of margin for error. The worst is most hobby welders may think they have a good weld, when in fact it's just ready to break. Non experienced eyes should not be trying something with so many variables. If a rivet don't install properly, we see it right away, and fix it.

Last thing Tango, your imaginary BlueBird tech was a brother to the boiler tech that Roach had out at his house. The one that went to school, and did everything little Johnny was supposed to do. However he lacked common sense, just like his brother the boiler tech.
First off , you were correct in that I should have said "TO" the floor, not "below. But hey, it's been 20 years. How long you been building buses bud? And I do consider myself a "hobby welder" because I have too much respect for people who are indeed much more proficient than I. But there again...I've been "Hobby Welding" for a living for about 20 years...and you?

As for weakening the steel?...cutting it in two weakens it. Properly rejoining it is the issue. Can improper welding lead to a poor quality joint? Yes indeed. So can improper riveting. Or gluing, or any other technique. But all other things being equal, my "Hobby" welds have several hundred of times more surface area than any dozen or so rivets. And if you add in simply removing the galvanizing in the weld area and pre-heating the metal I can guarantee a superior joint. Brittle, easily fractured welds are typically the result of grossly overheating or improper annealing. Heating the surrounding steel aids in retaining heat and preventing this from being an issue.

As for the "imaginary Blue Bird tech"...he was a chap who was just down the road from me when I lived just outside Douglassville, Georgia. He was retired but had been in engineering at the Fort Valley plant most of his professional life. He was a real sour puss, almost as rude as you and like the rest of the Bird company really took a dim view of ANY modifications whatsoever to their designs. But thanks to that well seasoned old curmudgeon I did learn a couple of things about bus structures that I incorporated and am happy to pass along. Such as...

1. Under no circumstances ever cut through any portion of either the front or rear caps. If you want to modify the height, leave them intact and build around them. They are highly engineered structures designed to provide the majority of the rigidity to the structure and provide significant crash resistance. In short...don't mess with them. And since, unlike you, I am not a qualified structural engineer with years of practical experience...I listened to someone who was...including...

2. If you insist on raising the roof, make every effort possible to get back to the original BB concept of monolithic roof ribs...i.e., "one-piece". Noting that BB did not make an adequately extended rib at that time, his "unofficial" solution was to simply over engineer the hell out of the modified ribs by inserting sections of square tube into each cut rib from bottom to top then applying as much continuous welding bead as could be reached on every rib. Make them as "one-piece" as possible. Given that this was back about the time I was just beginning to "Hobby Weld", I asked about riveting the three elements together. His reply was "absolutely not"..."weld it". Why?...the very nature of the design. (As best I can recall...forgive an old fart)...The vertical ribs need to absorb all the rotational forces that are constantly trying to torque these big, hollow cracker boxes out of shape. That is precisely why BB went to the single piece ribs. Not only does it provide superior roll-over integrity but it works in conjunction with both the inner & outer skins to create a much stronger shell. If there are any flex points in the ribs such as those found in many other bus and RV structures they are far more prone to failure at these points and the whole structure is compromised. These include 3-piece ribs that have bolted or riveted together as well as...yes, welded joints. Bolts & rivets tend to loosen under these forces and once they do are subject to greater movement leading to failure either of the fasteners or fatiguing the surrounding metal. The big problem with welding separate rib components together is simply the nature of the weld required...a butt joint in relatively thin metal. That makes for a super-critical weld. If the weld were flawless, it would hold up fine. But that left too much riding on "perfection" for the Bird folks, so they simply went with the one-piece rib. In my case, his idea was to make the "new" ribs as monolithic as possible by "melting" them that way. As for finding tubing that is 12guage...no need to, and I never claimed to try and match the square tube to the rib. What I did match,was the homemade rib repair sections. They were all cut from full-sized Blue Bird replacement ribs...hows that for a good match? The (I believe) 11gauge square tube went inside the new & existing rib sections and yes...it fit about as perfectly as metal fits metal.

I suppose I could go on, but what's the point?

I can certainly understand... a.)...someone being cautious about raising a bus roof....or...b.) trying to arm themselves with as much information and experience as possible on the subject. What I don't understand is why untested "opinions" should qualify as skill or expertise and be presented as the one and only "right" way. I simply post my personal experiences for what they are and hope that others will do the same. My thoughts on these topics should be taken as nothing more than fodder for further thinking. That's one of the things that makes this forum so valuable...shared knowledge nearly always improves on itself. But not always. Given that there is no such thing as one right way to do virtually any task, my simple advice to any newbies, whether as regards buses, welding or life, is...listen a lot, filter a lot, then make your own decisions.

As for "Common Sense"? I"m afraid it's just a myth. Evidently it is as rare as "Common Courtesy". I really do wish they were both more common. If they were, I wouldn't be wasting my time on bullshit like this.
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Old 02-20-2014, 08:26 PM   #10
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Re: Betsy

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