Join Date: Nov 2013
Rated Cap: 73
BUBB 1990 Thomas, 72 passenger
Been working on it for 4 months now, some notes on my progress.
1990, International/thomas 3800, 72 seats, 7.3 diesel, Conventional,
Removed all the seats, used vice grips on one side of the bolt so I could loosen it from the other side, was easier than griding them off for me. Removed everything from the floor down to the metal, sanded then painted with rustoleum, the few deeper rust spots got POR15, get POR15 in the half pint size because once you open it it drys fast, if you do want to reuse it the next day you need to put wax paper over the opening before you close the lid or it is permanently unopenable.
Put down a half inch of 40psi styrofoam board for floor insulation, the 40psi resists flattening/squishing much better than the normal 15psi pink board insulation found at home depot, put 3/4 inch of plywood on top of that, 4-6 tek metal screws per piece of plywood to attach it to the floor, dont use regular wood screws since they break easy, the tek screws are much stronger and they are self tapping,
I put one inch thick pink home depot insulation board on the walls, floor to ceiling, I then used large sheets of 24ga galvanized metal (prepainted white) as the walls, screwed them into the vertical supports. I placed 4mil plastic down first.
I did not remove the windows before I covered them from the outside or inside, I used a combination of (one inch) and (half inch and quarter inch) pink board insulation to make the outside of the windows flat against the vertical supports, I then used self tapping screws to cover the windows with 29ga galvanized metal, I should have used 24ga metal on this, may have to replace it later since the 29ga is paper thin and flexes too easy,
I did not remove the preexisting screws/rivets from around the windows/supports on the outside of the bus before I screwed the metal on, to prevent these screws/rivets from protruding through the 29ga sheets I first got some one inch wide x quarter inch thick pvc trim and glued/taped them to the bus around the windows so I could screw through the metal and into/through the pvc trim, this raised the metal above the rivets, this is why I used a variety of thicknesses of insulation so I could match them to the thickness needed to keep the 29ga metal flat and not bulging in or out, 29ga bends and folds way to easy which is why 24ga is the thinnest you would want to use IMHO. I layed them down in a tile fashon form the rear to the front. I did not secure the top of the sheets since they fit in tight on the top just sliding them under the rain gutter.
I put two new 850cca batteries in for the starter, I also added three deep cycles in for some extra power, I always thought having two large batteries was overkill for diesels until it got below 50 degrees and I saw how much harder it is to start a diesel. Be sure to use 1/0 or better cable all the way from the starter to all the batteries so you can actually use all the power in them. If you use smaller cable or small/thin connectors all the amps will not be available to start the engine. Always use gloves and eye/face protection.
I installed 4 seats (middle/rear)from a dodge caravan behind the drivers seat (4 seats which equals 5 seatbelts), you have to step over them to get into the back of the bus, bus has the front door and a rear door, the seats and seatbelts are all bolted to the metal floor.
I installed a 36in wide shelf and another 30in side shelf behind the passenger seats for storage and as a headache rack, It leaves a 18in side space to pass through, infront of the drivers side shelf is where I put 2 of the deep cycle batteries, the third deep cycle is in the underside box with the starter batteries with the isolator, the 2 inside deep cycles are on the floor and belted down behind the passenger seats, the inverter is just above the batteries bolted on that shelf, I will put a fuse box beside the inverter to power the small devices like lights, is a blue sea 2029 box with 12 fuses,
I raised the lowest shelf on all the shelving units to 7in above the ground so I can scoot plastic tubs under them.
The floor under the drivers/passenger seats has one inch thick pink board insulation, I added two inches of board insulation to the wall behind the pedals for engine noise dampening, screwed it behind 24ga galvanized sheeting. I prefer the galvanized sheeting when possible for fire retardent purposes.
A master kill switch is installed on the dash, I used a combination of 3/0 and 5/0 gauge wiring for the inverter/kill switch/isolator/batteries, it was a major pain fitting and bending the wire but efficiency was my goal and I got a really good deal on the wire at a store, it was 30 and 40 cents per foot,
Most any isolator you get will cut half a volt off of your alternators charging ability which means the batteries may not ever get to full charge, I will be adding a solar panel on the roof to keep the batteries fully charged. You need about 5-7 watts of charging capacity for each battery just to keep them topped off, if the battery is low it will take a week or more to charge it up so use it only for keeping it topped off.
I made a triple bunk bed for my children, I used two 5ft tall metal shelves from walmart, they are 36in wide, 5ft tall, 18in deep, I put them about 40in apart (for a 6.5ft long by 3ft wide bed) and put three 2x4's between them for each bed to hold up the half inch plywood, the shelves are bolted through the plywood floor to the metal floor with angle brackets, I put a 18 inch long 2x12 on top of the shelves to bolt the top of the beds/shelving unit to the ceiling, the 2x12's are screwed in both to the shelf and the ceiling with metal brackets. The master bed is made in the same way but it has 2 beds instead of 3. We value walking and storage space over a regular size bed. The shelves were $50 each at the depot so they probably cost as much as making the bunks with wood and bolts.
The 8 way (red/yellow) blinking lights on the top front/back of the bus are weldon 1020's and 7 inch in diameter with 8 screw holes, I found out that the weldon 1010 reverse light is the same identical fixture, I used the weldon 1010 clear lenses to replace the yellow/red lenses so I now have some nice front/back area lights, in texas you cannot have red or yellow lights showing from the front of a non emergency vehicle, I had a mechanic change them from blinking lights to just an on/off switch.
I painted the floor and ceiling white, I wanted to keep it white so I have to use less power to get the same brightness for my lighting, the drivers windows and the first set of side passenger windows in the front of the bus are not covered, the rear door window and the windows beside it are not covered, the last set of side windows in the rear of the bus are not covered, all the rest of the windows down the middle of the bus are covered, it makes the bus a little dark even during the day but it also makes it cooler (we live in TX), even at noon when the temp is 100 I cannot feel the heat coming through the walls or ceiling, before covering the walls I could feel the heat through the walls (they had no insulation), the ceiling was evidently insulated at the factory, I did not remove any rivet/panel from the walls or windows before I covered them with insulation and the sheet metal. I put down 4 mil plastic on the floor and walls before the insulation was placed.
I painted the outside of the bus is brown, 3/4th rustoleum leather brown mixed with 1/4th rustoleum gloss white. Several coats with no primer on the prexisting yellow, ,
1. wash/rinse outside twice with degreacer.
2. Sand with 400 grit, then wash with just a little degreaser after each sanding job,
3. paint with high densisty roller, dont press down too hard, dont paint it too thick,
4. let dry overnight, sand again with 600 grit
5. let dry overnight, paint then sand with 800 grit.
For the non painted galvanized metal you wash with degreaser, then rub down with ammonia, then wash with degreaser, then sand as above, then prime with rustoleum primer, then paint as listed above. Always make sure you wash with degreaser before you sand.
I dont have access to running water at the bus so I used a 5 gallon bug sprayer for water, surprisingly the sprayer with a 12in hand brush allows you to rince the bus, about 3 gallons per side of bus. Is a 38ft long conventional bus.
Bus empty weight 17000, gvwr is 29000, it has 11r22.5 tires, the tires are G load rated which are overrated for the bus, this is nice since I dont have to worry about overloading the tires,
Boondocking is our goal,
I will be putting in a few 55gal barrels inside the bus for water, I eventually will want a ~15gallon black tank that is wide and flat on the roof for keeping the water hot (warmer). I have some of the barrel mounts done, I used 6in long 3/8in grade 8 bolts, using 2 bolts per barrel, I will be using normal cargo ratcheting straps for the barrels, 2 straps per barrel, each strap is rated to break at 3000lbs, its rated usage strength is 1000lbs. The bolts will go through a 2x4 on the inside of the bus all the way through one of the rub bars on the outside. I am using 3000lb chain on the bolts. I cut the chain so it has just two links, one link has a bolt through it and the other will have the strap hooked into it.
Will be puttin on a full length roof rack, have already sources the parts, will use 2x2 square tube at 11ga for the vertical and horizontal supports, the vertical supports will be 40in long and bolted into each bus wall/frame support with two 3/8in grade 8 bolts, the platform cross beams will also be 2in square tube 11ga, each crossbeam segment (2 verticals with 1 horizontal) will hold at least 1500lbs safely when not driving and 400lbs safely when driving, it could make it very top heavy so I'm not sure how much I will feel safe putting up there when driving. It will be used for light stuff storage and as a patio.
I will use an 80 watt panel to keep all 5 bus batteries topped off, in addition to that...
I will be adding (hopefully) 1200 watts of solar panels to the roof, with an additional ~800ah of deep cycle batteries inside the bus (beside the driver, vented to outside), more power than we will ever really need but just enough to run a 5000 btu window AC unit (on solar only without batteries hopefully), the AC unit lists as using 4.5 amps but my killawatt shows just 3.5 amps draw when cooling on high.
So its 5 amps (easier math than using 4.5) alternating current draw will equal 50amps direct current draw when running, the 1200 watts will put out ~60 amps at the panels, hopefully I can make it efficient enough to work.
I have already run the air conditioner unit for a few minutes on the three deep cycles already installed, which means we now have air conditioning when the bus is running, I would never try to run the air conditioner on just 3 deep cycles for any period of time without the engine running.
I want to install the air conditioner unit installed above the windshield, will cut a hole and fit it in, the measurements work just fine, I think it will look less getto up there,
I got two 15ft long LED light strips, hope they work well with running them on the walls just below the curve.
I plan to make a bumper platform, 7ft wide x 4ft long, I plan on using two 2x2 hitch receiver tubes, just the tubes about 18 inches long, I want to cut two 3x3 inch holes in the rear bumper right next to the frame pieces, then bolting the two receiver tubes to the frame pieces, I can then use two standard 2x2 inch bumper hitch inserts that are 5ft long, I will have 4ft of the tubes stick out behind the bus, from there I can build a platform as long as it does not block the lights or license plate.
I think it will be too heavy to ever remove in one piece but I think that by just using bolts instead of welding it can still be removed or reinstalled in less than an hour.
It's gvwr is 29000 lbs, which is above the texas limit of 26000 lbs so I need a Class B non-cdl drivers license, have talked to many cops and they all disagree but the regulations are pretty clear, just one written test and a simple driving test,
You cannot drive a bus titled as a school bus for your class B non-cdl test, you either need to rent a class A RV or wait until your bus has the correct title.
I have retitled it from school bus to reconstructed MH (mobile home) which is the tx laws description of an RV, just had to take a few inside/outside pictures to the local tax assessor collector, I now have regular plates, is much cheaper to do the yearly registration when it is a RV,
The law is also clear that if it is titled as a school bus or private bus I would need a class B CDL drivers license. GMAC (now national general is the only insurance company what would insure it, 300 per year.
I have talked to over a dozen employees at several drivers license offices and two tax assessor offices and they are all ignorant of all these regulations, totally ignorant, you will want to bring all the documents, bring a copy of all the regulations or they will just tell you crap.