Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 10-18-2017, 12:01 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 126
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
Big 'Bird

Well, we're taking delivery of bus soon so I figured I'd start a conversion thread

About Us:
We're a family of 5 (3 boys, 11, 9 and 3), with a dog and two cats from Phoenix, AZ. We ended up staying in Phoenix about 10 years longer than we thought we would, and are ready to get out of the heat. I'm an Electrical Engineer, and my better half is a Bio-Chemist turned Midwife. By next summer we hope to be selling our house and setting out for a year on the road.

The Bus:
After a whole lot of reading and hunting we found our dream bus at local dealer. It's a 40' 1997 Blue Bird All American Rear Engine activity bus from a small high school up north. Several things really caught our attention on this one. It's got an up-spec'd 300 HP / 800 Ftlb Cummins 8.3L 12v mechanical engine attached to an Allison MD3060 transmission and 5.38 rear end that will march right up past 75mph if you ask it to. The district that owned it didn't have the budget for new buses until a bond passed last fall, so it seems like they had put a lot of work into keeping their buses in good shape. Lot's of newer parts on the engine including the injection pump, and radiator / hydraulic fan, seems to run really nice. Being an Arizona bus we've not been able to find any significant rust on it anywhere. Even the seat bolts came out clean. The full pass through under storage bins were a big bonus. And as silly as it sounds it's probably the tinted transit windows that put it over the top for us. Planning to leave them all in currently.

The Plan:
We're still working on the details, but our intentions are to focus on building a solid platform for extended off grid camping in a variety of conditions. The interior may end up a bit utilitarian, but hopefully the combination of what should be (knock on wood) a strong reliable bus with all the major systems in place will give us something to start with and we can work on the aesthetics over time ;) Overall we're hoping to find a balanced floorplan that keeps things as open as possible, and maximizes usable space.

Right now we're not planing to remove any of the interior beyond the seats and luggage racks which are being removed as we speak. We generally hope to be avoiding extreme climates, and can always come back and reconsider that decision down the road. Hopefully the full solar over the top along wth extendable shades off the sides and all those openable windows will help keep it from roasting.

I'm planning on a big solar array up top, probably in the 3-4kW range, connected to a large 48V battery built out of a Nissan Leaf lithium battery I have in the garage from another project. Should end up somewhere between 15 and 20kWh of storage capacity. Planning to run a 120/240V inverter/charger in order to be able to run high SEER 240V mini-split heat pumps. Backup heat will either be a propane or diesel furnace, or I'm looking at ways to run the existing hydronic heaters off a propane tankless water heater. Residential fridge around 10cuft, likely an RV combo washer/dryer, and still debating between a propane cooktop or electric induction. In general I'd like to avoid propane inside if possible. We'll likely be towing a Prius on a dolly, which will double as our emergency generator to recharge when the solar isn't cutting it. Also looking at options for charging off the engine so we can run the ACs while driving without running down the batteries.

Hoping for at least 150 gallons of fresh / grey water capacity mounted underneath. Planning a stock tank tub with hand held shower that can be used inside or outside through the side emergency door. Nature's Head composting toilet most likely, so not planning on a black water tank. Haven't really found a better option than propane tankless for the water heater, which is the main thing keeping propane in the equation at all. Looking at a recirculation loop for the hot water to reduce wasted water. Recirculation loop may double as the heat exchanger fresh side if we go the hydronic heating route.

It will be interesting to see how things play out vs. our initial plans

The Pics:

















Rob
miscrms is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2017, 12:08 AM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
Rusty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Midwest
Posts: 1,716
Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000
Engine: 5.9L Cummins
Rated Cap: '00
Welcome !

Sweeet Ride ! If this was Pawn Stars, I'd offer tree fiddy for it.

Insulate it. You won't go back and do it later.

Sounds like you've been reading-up. Be flexible, would be my advice.
__________________
What I do when nothing is on tv... : My Nemesis
Rusty is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2017, 07:26 AM   #3
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 7,542
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International S3800
Engine: DT360
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
sure sounds like you are planning on some possibly heavy duty weather conditions.. with 2 AC units and an auxilliary furnace..

keep 1 of your engine driven A/C's for the road.. get rid of one .. INSULATE.. if for no other reason than cold metal becomes wet metal when its cool weather and you are cooking / showering, etc.. it will take you a extra week or so in your build to tear down the interior panels, get it foamed and put it back together.. in the grand scheme of things it may make the differece between roasting on the road vs being comfortable.. or wet drippy metal when you get caught in that unexpected cold spell on a mountain somewhere...
-Christopher
cadillackid is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2017, 07:36 AM   #4
Almost There
 
Johnny Mullet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Ohio
Posts: 75
That is a sweet bus!
Johnny Mullet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2017, 07:40 AM   #5
Bus Geek
 
EastCoastCB's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 11,626
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
Bus needs this somewhere-
__________________
.
Roll Your Own Build Thread
EastCoastCB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2017, 10:31 AM   #6
Bus Geek
 
Tango's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 6,037
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
Welcome! Great score. Those windows are way better than the typical, drippy skoolie units and it looks to have a ton of underbelly storage already in place. Should make for a sweet build.
Tango is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2017, 02:22 AM   #7
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 126
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
Still a work in progress, but here's where we're at on the layout so far. Already thinking about swapping the "wet" and "dry" sides so we can use the handheld shower out the side exit door for outdoor showering.





I'm not very good with sketchup, so I've mostly been downloading and modifying existing models that are roughly what we're looking for. The kitchen will likely be Ikea, so it's built from models of those components, but not really laid out to make sense yet. The dinette will likely be built from bus benches and have seat belts to double as riding seats for the kids when driving. I spent way too much time turning an existing Blue Bird FE model into a rear engine, getting it roughly to scale, swapping out the windows, lowering the skirt and sectioning it so you could turn off various walls to see the interior. Maybe it will come in handy when we get to thinking about paint jobs, but was kind a waste of time. Looks kind of cool though



I'll try to post the base model back up to the sketchup warehouse soon in case anyone wants to mess with it. Always just a few more things to clean up....
miscrms is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2017, 07:06 AM   #8
Bus Crazy
 
Rusty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Midwest
Posts: 1,716
Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000
Engine: 5.9L Cummins
Rated Cap: '00
Quote:
Originally Posted by miscrms View Post
Still a work in progress, but here's where we're at on the layout so far. Already thinking about swapping the "wet" and "dry" sides so we can use the handheld shower out the side exit door for outdoor showering.


I'll try to post the base model back up to the sketchup warehouse soon in case anyone wants to mess with it. Always just a few more things to clean up....
Looking good ! The only thing I would consider is RV parks usually have their water/sewer hook-ups on the Driver's side, so you may want to keep that in mind when designing.

hookup.jpg

That sure looks like a lot of space-

dims-bedford-dinette.jpg

us_bed_sizes (2).jpg
__________________
What I do when nothing is on tv... : My Nemesis
Rusty is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2017, 08:23 AM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 126
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
I hadnít thought about the hookups being on the drivers side, thatís handy thanks! The rear bed is sized as a king loft, with room for four 75x30 bunks.



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
miscrms is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-26-2017, 08:04 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 126
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: AARE 3903
Engine: Cummins 8.3L 12v
Rated Cap: 78
Picking up the bus tomorrow! Roof ACs removed, luggage racks and inside units are gone as well.





In general trying to cover our bases with multiple strategies around common issues.

- Secured commercial for private use liability insurance through Progressive Commercial. In general was very easy, and not too expensive. $367 for 6 months, paying monthly. This will get us legal at least until we convert the title to motorhome.

- Passed my CDL written exams, now have CDL learners permit. Hopefully will never need to get a CDL, but will have the option.

- RV Storage space rented about 7 miles from home. Plan is to work on it in our driveway generally on weekends, have it parked in storage during the week to avoid the 72 hour code enforcement limit.

We'll have temporary plates on it from the dealer, so our current plan is to try and complete a minimal "temporary conversion" ASAP so we can get it retitled before having to register it commercial. Commercial registration will be the fallback, but it's more expensive.

AZ is one of those complete 4 of 6 items for a conversion type of states. The list of required items is:
1) "A cooking facility with an on-board fuel source"
2) "A gas or electric refrigerator"
3) "A toilet with exterior evacuation"
4) "A heating or air conditioning system with an on-board power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine"
5) "A potable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection"
6) "A 110-125V electric power supply"

We bought this all in one kitchenette unit off Craigslist for $100, which includes a refrigerator, sink and cook top on a single 115V 15A circuit.



My plan is to put in an RV manual pump faucet, 5 gallon grey water jug under the drain, and a 5 gallon fresh water jug for supply with a hose run to the outside for fill. Also shown are an old pair of Trojan 12V deep cycles and a UPS which will be the "onboard fuel supply" and cover the shore power connection. That should cover items 1, 2, 5, and 6. The biggest risk is whether the inspector buys that these items are "permanently installed and designed to be removed only for purposes of repair or replacement" as per the standard.

We'll find out soon....

Rob
miscrms is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Virginia Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:56 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.