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Old 02-24-2009, 12:56 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Greetings everyone! I've frequented this site for quite a while now. I've finally been able to purchase a school bus for my very own live-aboard conversion. I'm intending to have an onboard ceramic shop, and I'll maybe specialize in making ceramic instruments.

Here's the link off of Ebay:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayI ... 0288323294

I'll be picking it up this Saturday!

I'm so nervous, I've never driven anything that big before!
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Old 02-24-2009, 11:30 AM   #2
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Thanks! I would transfer, but I'm already settled in. Are there any good sites or anything you know of where I can go to learn about the throttle, choke, and various other aspects of diesel engines? I've only ever worked with gassers, and I'm hauling my bus about 500 miles this weekend!
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Old 02-25-2009, 02:45 AM   #3
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

I've been doing some research on my Bus. I know it has an Allison 545 transmission, and the engine is a DT360 diesel. It's a 72 passenger bus. It's most likely a Navistar International Vista. It has a hitch on the back, and from the looks of it the radio is still installed. It was supposedly manufactured in 1990, but the tags say 1989. The engine was overhauled 50,000 miles ago, and the odometer reades 160k.

Body
One of the more distinctive aspects of the Thomas Vista was its body. The body design placed the engine half inside the bus and half outside the bus. This allowed the driver more visibility, gave the bus a tighter turning radius and allowed for greater seating capacity while still being cheaper than a transit school bus.

Chassis
Vistas made before 1992 were built on either GMC or a Chevrolet chassis, but the chevrolet was rare.

Engine
Vistas on Navistar International 3600 chassises made before 1994 came with Navistar International DT360 or 7.3 L engines.

Flaws
Despite its wide acceptance in school districts, the Vista was also heavily criticized. The part of the engine that was inside the bus was shielded by a thin metal casing. As a result, a lot of the engine's heat would end up going inside the bus. Diesel engines are not known for being quiet, and a lot of the engines noise also wound up inside the bus. Vistas were also plagued by suspension problems. Because a good portion of the engine was behind the front wheels, this reduced the effectiveness of the bus's suspension. The front wheels in a conventional style school bus are placed in front of the driver. However, because the Vista's engine is partially inside the bus, there was less weight in front of the wheels, making for a bumpy ride.

___

Alright. I'm still trying to find out what kind of chassis I have. I'm trying to find out as much as I can before bringing that bad boy home.

I have a lot of scrap wood, a CB radio, a futon, and a dream.

There's a ceramic studio close by that has expressed interest in donating an old electric kiln to me, assuring me that I could easily convert it to propane, and they've offered to help in the construction of a high fire kiln, which I intend to place on the rear outside of the bus. It will utilize lightweight space age ceramic fibers that cause the tempature to be volcanic hot on the inside of the kiln, and cool to the touch on the outside, so it should work perfectly for my application.

I'm also planning on putting a rack/deck on top. I'm curious about grafting another vehicle on top, although the legal height is only 14' high. I guess I'll have to do some measuring and see what I come up with as far as height. How would I find out about weight limits for the top of my bus?

Naturally, I'll be converting it over to WVO with a two tank onboard filtration system. Right now I'm planning on implementing a switch-over system so I can have the option of flushing with diesel just before shutting her down. The thought was that the engine would heat up the oil until it could use it properly, and then it would be manually be switched over to run off of the veggie oil using a Y coupler valve. Any thoughts on this?

I was thinking about placing a water tank on the roof, since that would allow for the free flow of gravity, but I'm not sure if that would affect driving, or if it would cause any new problems. My biggest concern is the shower. Me and my friend are both used to taking really long showers that use a lot of water. That can be changed, but I would still like to have a huge water tank. Perhaps I could have one that's for drinking, and the other that's just "clean" water to use for bathing and things of that nature? Also, I've heard that you can use graywater to flush your toilet...do you need to install a pump for that, or how does it work?

I'm looking at putting a huge propane tank, a veggie tank (or two), a graywtaer, blackwater, and freshwater(?) tank underneath the bus, in addition to the diesel fuel tank already mounted there. On the inside of the bus, or if height permits, the roof, will have the cermic chop and living quarters. There will also be a marine battery bank inside, and a periscope. Not to mention the astronomy equipment. I'm planning on building it in such a way that it's completely serviceable if something should break inside (like plumbing) and every possible inch of space is utliizable.

First comes the removal of the seats, then the floor and side panels... ugh... Did I mention this bus will be done by May? I'm hoping to get everything donated to me, as much as is possible anyways. Well, if it's not done by May, then I'll be living in it anyways...

I've only ever worked on cars and pickups, but never a Diesel. I do have a lot of experience with carpentry, and I've worked with insulation, plumbing, jerry-rigging, improvising, scrounging, painting, and elecrical systems. I've never worked with propane though, so that's something I'll be asking a lot of questions about.

I work with a a lot of charitable organizations here in Decatur, Illinois and as a result I know a lot of homeless people. I'm also located in the middle of them all, and I know that my bus will be tempting to them. Is there a way to easily lock it up? It seems silly that busses don't really lock. I would hate to have a reason to not want to volunteer my time helping them anymore.

Any comments so far?
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The absence of the presence of skoolies on American roads is an unfortunate predicament for all peoples, its one which I intend to change by doing my part in promoting skoolie awareness!

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Old 02-25-2009, 06:17 PM   #4
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Thanks Smitty! I didn't think about there being a difference in vibrations at differing points on the bus.

So I've sort of run into a problem. The buss is 500 miles away, and I don't have a school bus license. The lady at the DMV told me that I could use a class B CDL if I removed the seats, but I don't have one of those. I'm trying really hard to find someone willing to drive for me, and we'll see how that works out, but do you guys have any ideas? I just have a regular drivers license.

I would send the title to Tennessse to have Vanguy67 register it as a motorhome for me, but that would take a couple of weeks, and I have two days. yikes.

Worst comes to worse i may just drive it back illegally, but the risks are way too high... Any thoughts?
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Old 02-25-2009, 09:20 PM   #5
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Ummm, is the seller planning to put the alternator back on before you take delivery? Might be kinda tough to drive it very far without one. Look at the pic of the passengers' side of the engine - see the loose belt and empty brackets? I think the alternator is supposed to occupy that space. I'm sure I'll be corrected at least once if I'm wrong.

Oh, and I agree with jimmyaustintx - I believe I'd just throw some plates on it and go. How many times have you seen school buses pulled over by the police? If I did happen to get stopped, I'd play very friendly and very stupid.
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Old 02-26-2009, 01:24 AM   #6
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Zamfir, thanks for pointing that out. The seller said he replaced the alternator, so that's good to go. What concerns me is the tags say 1989 but the dealer says it's a 1990, and is very firm about that. I'm gonna feel a little awkward making sure the title is actually for THAT bus.

I really like the idea of just throwing some plates on it and going. I'm concerned that something may happen though. If I had experience driving a rig that big I wouldn't feel as bad about it, but I've never driven anything bigger than a mini-van before. I haven't been able to find very much information on driving a school bus. I think I just have to remember it's a big heavy vehicle that makes wide turns and has tail swing, and remember to stop at all railroad tracks, and then I'm ok, but I'm uneasy about it.

I have some people looking around for me here, so we'll see what turns up.
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Old 02-26-2009, 01:33 AM   #7
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

What plates would you just "throw" on it? I would not advise putting plates that do not belong on it for the sake of driving it home. Thats gonna get you in trouble. It takes it from being "stupid" and driving it without the right license to an act of deception... the one is a lot easier to get away with, the other will get the book thrown at you.

-Ray
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Old 02-26-2009, 11:21 AM   #8
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gypsy_Kid
... What concerns me is the tags say 1989 but the dealer says it's a 1990, and is very firm about that. I'm gonna feel a little awkward making sure the title is actually for THAT bus.
I'd say that's fairly common. Mine says it's a 1999 on the title, but the data plate says it was manufactured in 2000. If DMV gives you any grief on the discrepancy you should just point out to them (in a nice way) that the bus manufacturer takes possession of a chassis and has to build the body on it. The bus has to be titled by the year of the chassis but the data plate shows the year of the completed vehicle.
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Old 02-26-2009, 03:25 PM   #9
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Thanks, that makes me feel better. I feel less ignorant now. hehe.

So... apparently school busses don't have 30 days free insurane upon new aquisition like cars do?

So I'm looking at hopefully buying it (without being able to look it over) and getting the title shipped to me overnight, and then I can send that to Vanguy67 to register for me in Tennesee as a motorhome. Then I can have it overnighted back to me and find an insurance provider. After that, I can go pick it up legally. I'm really tempted to just drive it home as is, but not having the proper license is bad enough without the addition of it being uninsured.

Well, that's that I guess. I'll let you guys now how it works out.
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Old 03-02-2009, 01:59 PM   #10
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Re: Gypsy Ceramic Shop Bus

Safely home!

So, me and my girlfriend found someone to help us get the school bus last Saturday (a couple days ago). On the way back from Minnesota we accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up going through downtown Chicago! I remember reading somewhere on this site that they have really low bridges there, well, that's true.

So yeah. The conversion process will start soon! I'll post pictures as soon as I can!
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