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Old 09-05-2014, 06:35 AM   #1
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Our Skoolie Journey

Hello all, long time lurker, first time poster.

A little background on me. I'm 39 and I'm getting close enough to retirement from the military that I've decided it's time to get my affairs in order. Last kid will be out of the house before I retire, so it will just be me and the wife. Future plans are to live off my retirement and snowbird for the foreseable future. I may go back to work once I've seen all I can see but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I have no desire to punch a clock in some office or construction site or worry myself into an ulcer trying to make some CEO rich. I'm perfectly happy retireing with no bills and living within my means so I can do what I want to do for a change. Home base will be in Las Vegas/Phoenix area, planning on buying a cheap house in the next year or so. I'm a carpenter/metal worker in the USAF so I carry that skillset as well as building, cars/truck/choppers and anything else with an engine during my off time. I have no fear of anything mechanical, welding, etc. Currently have several projects that steal all my time and money such as Harley's and an 03 Cobra. We HATE the cold, originally from Maine and stationed currently in Alaska (reminded us how much we hate the cold), so we will be building this for warm climates, lots of A/C and insulation. We will chase the temperate climate so no need for a woodstove etc. Planning on spending some time down in Baja, and we're looking at starting or "budget" Baja 1000 racer soon. She'll be a 1966 F100 that can finish the trip at a respectable clip. Need to cross that adventure off the bucket list.

So on to the good stuff....

I'm currently in the middle east, so I was killing my day off by surfing CL and found a "jewel". After a week of emailing, and having a buddy check it out we have closed the deal and I am the proud owner of a bus!!


This is the majority of the CL ad, funny thing is, he listed it 8 months ago for $12K, then $10K, then $9K, then $7K, then $6500. I closed the deal for $6000. Story is that it came from a northern AK village, sat in a heated garage year round (hopefully not a million hours of idling then!) Once it hit it's Yr mark for replacement it was sent to Anchorage and auctioned for $12k last summer.

1997 FLAT NOSE BLUE BIRD BUS - $ 6,500.oo or trade - TITLE IN HAND - LOW MILES, EXCELLENT CONDITION, 30 FEET LONG, 5.9 CUMMINS DIESEL, 5:38 REAR END (CLIMBS and PULLS) - AUTOMATIC TRANS - 49,000 ORIGINAL MILES - VERY CLEAN - NO RUST
- WORTH $12k IN LOWER 48 -

The bus is SUPER clean, zero rust, seats were already removed to bare floor so no surprises there. Apparently has 4 heaters in it and every block/tranny/diff/etc heater possible. I'll admit the timing wasn't the greatest because I am PCSing in July of next year so it will either go back into storage if we stay overseas or get used for a full DITTY move back to the lower 48.

Future plans are for myself and my wife to build it into a 6 month plus snowbird home, everything will be high end, granite counters, tonque and groove walls/ceiling, hardwood floors etc. All appliances will be high end , stereo, electronics, A/C etc, the end result will be a NICE studio apartment on wheels.

Build out will look like this.
From rear to front
-6' side load garage (RV has a pass side handicap door, plan is to carry 2 "adventure bikes" (BMW GS1200/800 or similar) safe and sound and hidden. With the cost of these, hanging them on a hitch is not an option.
-8' Bedroom with full queensized bed
-4' bathrooms (pass side toilet/drivers side shower) with center hallway. May change that up to an edge hall and a combined bathroom, not sure yet, all depends on space available.
-10' Kitchen/dinette (cabinets/stove/sink on one side-Refrigerator/cabinets and small "breakfast nook" on the other) leading right into the drivers compartment.
This layout may change slightly when I actually put a tape measure to things but this is what I'm planning on.

After reading for WEEKS on this site I've come up with the following.
-I'm 6'4" and a school bus is not at all comfortable so I will be doing a complete roof raise including the end caps. Looking at 18" at the moment.
-Lots of large side windows, all deep tinted
-Replacing the front door with an RV door, I really want to move it to the center of the bus so the wife can ride equal to me and not 3' behind me. (seats will swivel 180 degrees to the "living room"
-2 roof mount AC's that tie into a center duct that will run end to end on the bus. Planning on framing it out so the tonque and groove will cover it, ceiling will have sort of an M shape, planning on high end track lighting in the upper part.
-Diesel generator that ties into the bus tank, controls from inside.
-Large pass side awning
-Large "cow catcher" steel bumper so a cow or moose doesn't kill all my hard work.
-I've had a 24v CR and a 12v rotary pump cummins so I know how to squeeze a few ponies out of them. This one is going to get a pump timing advance and the pump itself turned up. Also boost/EGT gauges along with all the rest, prob use autometer ultra lites as I have always used them and like the look. Planning on sinking them into a custom hardwood dash.
-Rear end swap depending on top speed/power, prob go back to a 4.30 or similar with air ride. I'd hate to have to peel the wide off the ceiling if she's trying to sleep while I'm driving lol. (Happy wife=happy life right?)

The bus is going to sit in the storage area until I return in Jan 15, then we are moving straight into the roof lift. After alot of reading, I'm going to use the 2 pieces af angle iron with the all thread in between on a window post. Basically a homeade screw jack. The benefit of my current station is I have a buddy who is a civ electrican that's "into" campers and cool **** so I know he will be down to help me get the wiring prep'd once the lift is done. I also have another civ that used to be a custom furniture maker and loved the "odd" project so the finished dash/doors/cabinets are not a problem. Only issue is I need to verify where I'm going first because I can't build the interior out if I'm going to haul all my household goods in it. Trailer position will be taken up with an enclosed trailer with my Cobra inside.

Pics to follow tonight as I can't access photobucket from work.
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Old 09-06-2014, 01:10 AM   #2
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

Here she is in all her glory!





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Old 09-06-2014, 11:15 AM   #3
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

Welcome to the Mayhem! --- And thank you for your service. Looks like a mighty sweet find. I have a soft spot for Birds having raised the roof 19" on a 40 foot All American many years ago. In that regard, I will once again pass on some info that came from a retired Blue Bird engineer I consulted with while living briefly in Georgia.

If you must do a roof raise, don't cut through either end cap. Leave them intact and build up from them instead. According to this cantankerous old codger, the caps are highly engineered to contribute greatly to the overall structural integrity of the entire unit. Some here will no doubt say it is fine, but I went with that recommendation. The new roof line can either ramp up (Buffalo style) or be blended in straight easily. I continued my roof line straight and used the space created between the old & new roofs for A/C in the rear and storage in the front.

The other thing he pressed me on was to stagger the cuts on the roof ribs to avoid a "weak line". Again, no big deal but seemed to make sense and certainly didn't cost anymore so I did it. The finished bus was very sound.

Whatever else you do, make sure to run some bracing across from side-to-side both above and below your cut line before you chop anything loose. There is quite a bit of tension working on all the body members and unless held in place, once cut free they will torque themselves way out of shape. Getting them to realign properly can be a real nightmare.

Anyhow, just a couple of thoughts. Once again, welcome aboard and please do keep the pix coming.
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Old 09-06-2014, 12:29 PM   #4
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Engine: 8.3 Cummins
Re: Our Skoolie Journey

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango
Welcome to the Mayhem! --- And thank you for your service. Looks like a mighty sweet find. I have a soft spot for Birds having raised the roof 19" on a 40 foot All American many years ago. In that regard, I will once again pass on some info that came from a retired Blue Bird engineer I consulted with while living briefly in Georgia.

If you must do a roof raise, don't cut through either end cap. Leave them intact and build up from them instead. According to this cantankerous old codger, the caps are highly engineered to contribute greatly to the overall structural integrity of the entire unit. Some here will no doubt say it is fine, but I went with that recommendation. The new roof line can either ramp up (Buffalo style) or be blended in straight easily. I continued my roof line straight and used the space created between the old & new roofs for A/C in the rear and storage in the front.

The other thing he pressed me on was to stagger the cuts on the roof ribs to avoid a "weak line". Again, no big deal but seemed to make sense and certainly didn't cost anymore so I did it. The finished bus was very sound.

Whatever else you do, make sure to run some bracing across from side-to-side both above and below your cut line before you chop anything loose. There is quite a bit of tension working on all the body members and unless held in place, once cut free they will torque themselves way out of shape. Getting them to realign properly can be a real nightmare.

Anyhow, just a couple of thoughts. Once again, welcome aboard and please do keep the pix coming.
When I did my raise I just used cargo straps, worked just fine in fact I pulled them snug enough it pulled in slightly
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Old 09-06-2014, 12:57 PM   #5
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

I've read that about the end caps and I don't honestly see how it matters, the caps are just riveted on above the windshield with no structural purpose besides keeping the rain out. As best I can figure after all the pics I've looked at the strength comes from the internal formed struts and the entire structure being welded/riveted together. I've seen it done both ways and I have no doubt that either will protect you more than a standard RV. I don't plan on putting it on it's roof anyway!!!

Good call on the straps, I wouldn't have thought of that til the PONG happened!
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Old 09-06-2014, 01:10 PM   #6
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponyracer
I've read that about the end caps and I don't honestly see how it matters, the caps are just riveted on above the windshield with no structural purpose besides keeping the rain out. As best I can figure after all the pics I've looked at the strength comes from the internal formed struts and the entire structure being welded/riveted together. I've seen it done both ways and I have no doubt that either will protect you more than a standard RV. I don't plan on putting it on it's roof anyway!!!

Good call on the straps, I wouldn't have thought of that til the PONG happened!
My thought on the end caps {mine anyway) was fabricating in very front would have been a major pain in my a$$, plus the cockpit area is going to have a wall( with entry door to cabin area) separating them so the front didn't need to be raised
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Old 09-06-2014, 02:28 PM   #7
r_w
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

Nice!

I have been thinking about the copilot seat. I think you can build a "trap door" floor that hinges forward (and angled) to rest by the windshield when you need the stairs. Add a handrail to the underside and it should look good up or down. Put the passenger seat on the longest slides you can find, potentially at an angle, so she isn't 5 feet to your side, either. Just one of my daydreams, worth what you paid for it.

If you want a new door, moving it back may be easier than fitting it into the existing hole, regardless of your layout.

As for the bike garage, just watch the max weight on the lift. A 1200 may be pushing it. That is also a good place for a guest bedroom if you set it up like a toy hauler with fold down bunks.
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Old 09-07-2014, 02:02 AM   #8
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

For the roof raise I'm planning on punching out all the rivets above the windshield and raising the entire endcap, front and back, then just adding a section back in. Also I'll be removing the front lights while I'm at it. I'll be leaving them in the rear and wiring them into the brake lights and blinkers.

As far as the garage and the lift, get this.

There is no lift, just the door. To protect the huge investment there will be one entrance. planning on a 10' ramp on the outside of the bus. Directly below the handicap door I'm going to design and build a simple hinge system similar to those found on the rear of trailers that have the fold up ramps. Basically a frame behind the skin that ties to the bus frame then 2ea 3/8 thick "ears" come through the body. Those have a hole punched in them prob 1 1/2 diam and a round bar slides through the hole from ear to ear. On that bar rides a simple round "hinge", (think of 2 pieces of pipe, the larger one just slips over the smaller one). The ramp will be welded to the larger pipe. The Ramp will be 2 5' sections hinged in the middle, think of the pics you've seen of the tanks that lay down bridges to cross rivers. Ramp will be 4' wide, 1x2 rect tubing with expanded metal or similar. The next question is how in the hell am I going to fold it up? A 2000 pound ATV winch mounted just inside the roof in the very back corner. Cut a small rectangular slot for a pulley wheel so it guides the cable and clears the side of the bus when fully open. Wireless remote, so when you want to deploy the ramp, flip a switch on the drivers panel that energizes the circuit, go remove the padlocks that lock the ramp in the up position, push the power out buttom on the winch remote, as gravity takes over, the outer ramp will want to unfold as the pick point for the ramp will be just on the bus side of the hinge on the ramp. All I'll have to do is guide, lift the outer section of ramp the last few feet. May also go 12' on the ramp depending on how severe the angle is. In the center there will be 2 fold down support legs as well as positive stops that prevent the ramp from over extending. I might get crazy and break out the spool gun or the tig and do it in alluminum if I'm feeling rich. Only issue I see is the winch failing or someone spooling the winch in to far and destroying the guide wheel/pick point.

Thoughts?

LOL See this is the kind of things I think of when I'm trying to get to sleep at night.....
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Old 09-07-2014, 02:06 AM   #9
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Engine: 5.9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 44
Re: Our Skoolie Journey

Quote:
Originally Posted by r_w
Nice!

I have been thinking about the copilot seat. I think you can build a "trap door" floor that hinges forward (and angled) to rest by the windshield when you need the stairs. Add a handrail to the underside and it should look good up or down. Put the passenger seat on the longest slides you can find, potentially at an angle, so she isn't 5 feet to your side, either. Just one of my daydreams, worth what you paid for it.

If you want a new door, moving it back may be easier than fitting it into the existing hole, regardless of your layout.

As for the bike garage, just watch the max weight on the lift. A 1200 may be pushing it. That is also a good place for a guest bedroom if you set it up like a toy hauler with fold down bunks.

I was thinking about something similar, pull a pin and a "floor" slides over the stairs and the co pilot seat comes with it. That will be the back up plan if I dont have the room to move the door mid ships. I found the SAME bus without the handicap door in our junk yard over here, so I'm about to go measure it so I can decide on cabinet depth, door placement etc. More to follow!!
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Old 09-07-2014, 05:42 AM   #10
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Re: Our Skoolie Journey

welcome ponyracer! crossing baja at high speed in an old ford truck is gonna make ya look like charles bronson! hope ya make your retirement in good health. you deserve it. thanks for your service.
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