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Old 02-19-2018, 07:54 AM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Southern Maryland
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Year: 1986
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Phantom
Engine: Cat 3208/Allison MT643
Rated Cap: It's a big one...
Building Comfort Eagle (1986 Gillig Phantom)

During the week between Xmas and New Years I flew from Maryland to Northern (Redding) California and drove this bus back to Maryland. It was a difficult drive and is documented in my intro thread. Here are a few pics I took the morning I picked up the bus.







I bought the bus from a private Christian school in NoCal, and they bought it from a Public school system. So although it's a 1986 model, it has been in continuous use as a California school bus since new, and as such has had a thorough and well documented maintenance history.

The bus itself has ~175K miles on it with a well documented engine rebuild in 2012. Current motor has ~65K miles. The bus is in pretty good shape and ran perfectly during my 2900 mile drive home.

I am currently still demo-ing the interior and trying to figure out how to reseal all those big beautiful tinted windows. And although I won't be ready to install electrics for quite a while, I have already picked up a battery pack from a 2017 Chevy Volt to provide power storage. Reconfiguring that battery and the rest of the electrical will be documented here in another thread.

I will be watching fellow Skoolie.net member Juicifer's build closely for awesome ideas and lessons learned as they specifically relate to the Gillig Phantom (no pressure Justin...) Obviously a long road ahead and more to come.
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Old 02-20-2018, 04:47 AM   #2
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Year: 1986
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Phantom
Engine: Cat 3208/Allison MT643
Rated Cap: It's a big one...
So, a little more about this Gillig and then on to the demo and eventual build...

These Gillig Phantom school buses were based on the Gillig Phantom transit buses and are a bit different than most other school buses. IMO these differences make them particularly well suited to a skoolie conversion.

The ride: the Phantom has a pretty long wheelbase, even for a RE bus. Also the Phantom uses a monocoque chassis vice a body on frame design. Although the long wheelbase does not help maneuvering in close quarters, the wheelbase and chassis along with a full air suspension make for a pretty decent ride quality.

The storage: the Phantom has a huge under carriage storage bay. I haven't measured but it's big.

In this pic you can see the three bay doors


The rear two doors open to the large bay that passes all the way thru to the doors on the other side.


The front bay doors open to individual smaller bays on each side. I believe the fuel tank is in between them. I also hear that not all Phantoms have these front storage bays...


FWIW, the storage bay floors are all plywood. All the plywood on this particular bus looks to be original and in excellent condition; pretty cool for 32 year old plywood.


The ceiling: While not unique to Phantoms, these buses also have a reasonable ceiling height. I believe the ceiling is about 6'7" in front, and tapers down a few inches in the rear?

Many of these buses came with the cool but quirky(?) Two Stroke Detroit Diesels. My bus came with a fresh but much less sporty and less sexy Caterpillar 3208 10.4L V8.


One small benefit of this engine configuration is that there is no additional bump out on the interior corner of the rear deck.


While these Gilligs are super rare here on the East Coast, they can still be found out West. In fact the school I bought this bus from has two more they will be removing from service in the next couple of years. One of them even has a manual transmission. I like manual transmissions...
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Old 02-20-2018, 05:42 AM   #3
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Great looking bus. What's the ceiling height?
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Old 02-20-2018, 06:31 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Veganswandering View Post
Great looking bus. What's the ceiling height?
Thank you; I really dig the "art deco" look of the Phantoms.

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Originally Posted by ComfortEagle View Post
The ceiling: While not unique to Phantoms, these buses also have a reasonable ceiling height. I believe the ceiling is about 6'7" in front, and tapers down a few inches in the rear?
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Old 02-27-2018, 04:40 PM   #5
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Chassis: Phantom
Engine: Cat 3208/Allison MT643
Rated Cap: It's a big one...
I haven't been able to get inside the bus lately but I figured I'd post some pics of the demo work done so far.

From what I've read here and on other skoolie related sites, demo-ing the inside of a Phantom can be easier than some other school buses.

The seats come out without the need to get under the bus to hold any nuts. As many of you know holding nuts under a bus is no fun...ha.


Also, all ceiling and wall panels are held in with fasteners vice rivets. And FWIW ceiling panels are fiberglass not metal.


However, behind the wall panels on my bus were additional thin metal panels spot welded in place. They were easily removed with an angle grinder. Evidently not all Phantoms have these spot welded panels. I know two other Gillig owners and neither had these panels, weird.

The panels in question are the rusty ones under the windows...


Here's a pic with the panels removed. Behind the panels (and in the ceiling) were pieces of fiberglass insulation. The panels over the wheel wells are different, they are clearly structural; they are much thicker and are welded in differently.


In addition to the driver heater/defroster, my bus has three under seat heaters. Current plan is to renovate and keep two of those three heaters in place; free heat with the motor running...


The next step for me will likely be to begin removing and re-sealing all those big beautiful windows.
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Old 02-27-2018, 06:10 PM   #6
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That is a fine looking bus. Lots of square feet, especially including the basement.

Dang thing looks new.
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Old 02-27-2018, 08:04 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ComfortEagle View Post
I will be watching fellow Skoolie.net member Juicifer's build closely for awesome ideas and lessons learned as they specifically relate to the Gillig Phantom (no pressure Justin...) Obviously a long road ahead and more to come.
Wow! Okay, I've got to speed up my build so I stay nice and ahead of you!! With a helper or two for your windows it's probably a 4 day job for all side windows, maybe a little less. That being said if you can figure out a way to take your time (covered storage) you'll be able to patiently consider your options, experiment a little, and figure out what's best for you. OR(!) do what I did in my second window video coming soon, I feel fairly good about how it turned out. Only thing I'm unsure of is urethane adhesive (sikaflex 221) vs butyl tape, but I told you all about that in my thread.

Good luck and thanks for all the photos!
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Old 02-27-2018, 08:34 PM   #8
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I used some of the Silkaflex 221. Only complaint I have is that it seemed extremely soft. Seems to have sealed well and nothing has turned loose even where I puttied it into place. After all my windows were sealed I went topside and plastered the roof hatch seems. They weren't leaking, just insurance.
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Old 02-27-2018, 08:58 PM   #9
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Can't do any better than OEM Automotive Seam Sealer. Stays flexible and is paintable forever. 3M and others make some.
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:10 PM   #10
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Can't do any better than OEM Automotive Seam Sealer. Stays flexible and is paintable forever. 3M and others make some.
I did buy some 3M seam sealer to try on my rubber window seals (not the right application for it at least for me). It's definitely tough stuff. Sealing metal to metal, I wonder if you'd be able to take windows out again in the future if you had or wanted to?
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