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Old 11-17-2017, 03:03 PM   #1
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Gilligan Phantom (1987 Gillig Phantom School Bus Full Time Conversion)

Hello helpful Skoolie friends.

A month or so ago my wife and I came down with the well-known to this forum "school bus affliction." First we were thinking lets convert a school bus on the cheap and turn it into an Airbnb (we've run 1-2 Airbnb's for coming up on 3 years). Then we thought let's live in the school bus and Airbnb our house (more money)! Then we thought lets throw away all our hard work, employment, currently comfortable and cushy lifestyles while committing financial suicide renovating a bus and likely struggle to make a living on the road perpetually. Most people have their first born (at this time we have a 3 month old baby girl) and settle down. The opposite seems to be happening to us. We'll do at least some version of the above. We are absolutely the alternative-lifestyle chasing millennial types. You all are the hardcore jet-setting pioneers of this dream. Over the past month I have observed your ingenuity and ambition, and watched you build incredible buses. For your hard work documenting and sharing and paving the way I .

We'll be blogging about the process: gilliganphantom.com

We'll be doing videos and here is our first video picking up and driving the bus across country with the help of my friend Andrew (we took out the seats while driving 2,603 miles home!):

You can see a consistent stream of new photos: https://www.instagram.com/gilliganphantom/ (Instagram @ GilliganPhantom)

And I'll be posting updates to this thread when something significant has changed.

Here is our bus:

1987 Gillig Phantom School Bus
Detroit Diesel 6V92 with 200K miles when purchased
Allison MT647
40 foot, 84 original passengers
77 inch floor to ceiling interior height
100 gallon fuel tank
Air seat, air ride, air brakes
In service in Burton, CA until 2017
Purchased from A-Z Bus Sales for $7K (yikes, but worth it?)
What else would you like to know?
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Old 11-17-2017, 03:27 PM   #2
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Nice looking bus !!!

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Old 11-17-2017, 05:59 PM   #3
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Sweet Gillie. And I love the sound of that engine.
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Old 11-17-2017, 09:13 PM   #4
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My first step, after backing our bus into its home for the next year or so was getting him more or less level. I had a lot of ideas and what I really wanted to do was dig out underneath the wheels deep enough for about 3 inches of compacted gravel, and then place two to three railroad ties laid perpendicular to the bus, more or less flush with the dirt. The wheels would effectively be sitting on railroad ties and hopefully they wouldn't shift too much with the distributed weight and gravel. That also seemed like a lot of work, and I wondered if I could come up with an easier solution as I was eager to get to work. In the following short video is what I did:



I'm wondering a few things:

Any thoughts on my railroad tie idea?
Any thoughts on my current solution?
Any other ideas for having the buses spot level and safe?
Finally, do you think the moist ground will cause issues with rust (there is currently none)? I'm a little bit worried about the engine, but that is over dirt, not even any grass back there.
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Old 11-17-2017, 09:54 PM   #5
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You did well getting it in there in the first place.

The ground is very soft, any rain will make it more so. The only real solution is a full concrete pad. Your wood will sink, RR ties would sink although maybe not so much.

Screw jacks wouldn't sink ... well, they would a bit but they are screw jacks so they could be adjusted.

Having done what you have so far I'd leave it and just monitor the stability.

By the way ... cute baby
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Old 11-17-2017, 09:57 PM   #6
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Just a few thoughts on your adventure so far:

1. PLEASE don't use a cellphone in any way, shape or form when driving a new-to-you 96"-wide bus in busy unfamiliar freeway traffic! (Actually I don't use a cellphone at all when driving, ever, but that's just me.)

2. Whether your fuel gauge works or not, it's good practice to refuel every 500 miles, then you'll never run out. 6V92s don't self-prime.

3. Any bus with air suspension MUST be blocked before you go under it. What would happen if an airbag let go while you were under the bus? Being slowly crushed to death by a 26,000 lb weight on your chest is not a good way to die.

4. To level your bus side-to-side you only need to valve each rear wheel's air suspension separately, then as long as it holds pressure for a while you have a built-in self-leveling feature. Adding one valve for the front suspension will also allow you to level it front-to-back. Just don't valve each front wheel separately, or you may rack the bus and pop out a windshield.

5. I trust you know about the care and feeding of Detroit 2-strokes? Do not use anything except CF-2 straight 40-weight oil in it (Delo 100, Delvac 1240, Shell Rotella T1, Conoco Phillips 76 T5X are a few that work well in Detroit 92s), and use the proper coolant to prevent cavitation erosion of the liners. Delo 400 is not CF-2 rated, nor are the other Rotellas, and never use multi-weight oil in a 2-stroke.

6. And as I've said here many times before, never lug the engine. When climbing 6% grades I manually downshift to 3rd gear and maintain 1900 to 2000 RPM on a 3/4 throttle, keeping about 18 PSI boost. Lugging will kill Detroit 2-strokes!

You've got a good bus, but it needs to be treated differently than your typical generic school bus. Be good to it, and it will more than repay you with many years of dependable service. Have fun!

John
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Old 11-18-2017, 04:41 PM   #7
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Thanks Twigg! Lots more of baby Nova to come in future videos. I'll monitor for now like you've mentioned, and plan to add 4 screw jacks as you've advised.
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Old 11-18-2017, 04:54 PM   #8
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Iceni John,

1. I knew I would get scolded eventually! Really I have to agree, no excuses for that sort of behavior but I do want you to know that we were driving 5 mph (it looks a little faster because that truck passes on the right) and if you watch my eyes in the video I may have looked at my phone screen once. I was scanning traffic constantly. Just acted on an impulse when my wife facetimed me. I'm just glad nobody has yelled at me yet for skateboarding in the bus while doing 60 down the highway

2. We had gone 450 miles! I'll stick to 400 and under in the future, won't even bother fixing the gauge. It'll lead to more awareness.

3. Oh crap I did not even know/think about that and I do sincerely appreciate your stern words. I suppose when I get those screw jacks I'll be safe, right? Just for the record, assuming my airbags are empty, it is more or less safe for me to crawl underneath, right?

4. I will look into what you've described and learn a little bit more about it. I was told to drain all of my air valves (there are four) daily (it also says so on the side of the bus). Is this not true? Can I leave my air bags full of air for extended periods?

5. and 6. Yes! In a previous post you told me all about Delo 100 40W and how not to lugg the engine so that's exactly what I did. If I saw RPM's begin to drop while climbing I set it back to 3rd gear.

Thanks for your advice and your help!
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Old 11-18-2017, 05:06 PM   #9
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Just did little reading and I'm starting to think I misunderstood "drain daily." Was I simply supposed to crack the valves and drain until I felt no moisture, just air? If that's the case we could've had a locked door at night and gotten on the road so much quicker in the mornings. Oops?!
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:02 PM   #10
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Join Date: Jun 2016
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Posts: 651
Year: 1990
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Chassis: Crown Supercoach II (rear engine)
Engine: Detroit 6V92TAC, DDEC 2, Jake brake, Allison HT740
Rated Cap: 37,400 lbs GVWR
Quote:
Originally Posted by Juicifer View Post
Just did little reading and I'm starting to think I misunderstood "drain daily." Was I simply supposed to crack the valves and drain until I felt no moisture, just air? If that's the case we could've had a locked door at night and gotten on the road so much quicker in the mornings. Oops?!
It merely means to open each tank's drain valve until no more water comes out. You don't have to let out all the air! If your air dryer is working well you won't accumulate much condensation in the tanks, but if the dessicant cartridge needs to be replaced or if it's just a really humid day then you will have slightly more water to drain out.

Remember that the various warnings and notices are relevant if the bus were being used every day, such as in typical school bus service. For most of us convertees we can use our discretion about such matters. (However, a complete walk-around and pre-trip inspection and a full DOT airbrake test should always be done before every trip. Airbrake valves can stick or fail due to lack of use.)

John
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