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Old 09-29-2014, 03:10 AM   #1
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Year: 1986
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Project "Freedom"

Well, it's not actually our bus's name (yet) but it's at least the idea behind why I bought a bus, (to be free of high rent, city traffic and free to travel without leaving home behind!) - and have been lurking on this site for a little while and getting lots of great info!

Hi, I am Austin and my girlfriend Jillian and I have decided to join the madness and build a bus-home!

around the beginning of the year, we moved into an expensive apartment... thinking it was an ok idea at the time, but that wore out quickly... I had been toying around the idea of getting an RV of some sort, or custom building my own. I was not sure what kind of vehicle I wanted to use- maybe a box truck, maybe a van, or a bus.. or even a flat bed to build a "tinyhome" on the back of. but my struggle in deciding was size, price, structure of the shell, engine type (wanted it to be diesel) I kept looking at vehicle auctions, looking at car and truck lots when I drove around, even looked at some pre built motorhomes and trailers. the other thing, is that I like to build stuff so for me the pre-made motorhome idea was not that tempting. besides they are mostly all made of cheap particle board and plastic fake wood skins anyway! The decision came to be the bus when I saw some really nice conversion pics online while looking at "rv conversions" and the coolest ones were done with busses! so, I searched craigslist for a bus in my price range, with the specific engine types I was looking for (inline 6 turbo diesel) one happened to come up in Spokane of all places (other side of the state from me!) but it seemed like a decent deal. It was probably a little overpriced for what I got, but to be said- it did drive all the way home and then some, and all I had to do was (jump start it because he had a little car battery that was low in the tray) and fill it with fuel. no problems so far! it was also already licensed as a motorhome, so that part was easy, although I am not sure how he managed that one considering it still had the crossing arm, stop sign, upper lights and all the seats (but it did have a stripper pole and a card table!)

as of now I have done quite a bit of work on it, but I will start the photos and story from the beginning

Here are a couple of shots of Jillian and I on our way home (half way) after buying the bus







oh, and first thing to do when we got home- was sweep out the garbage! (yeah, the guy we bought it from was not really detail oriented when it came to selling his vehicle. beer bottle caps, cheetos, cig butts, and other nasty things lurked under those seats. oh well, its all getting ripped out and refinished and refreshed!)



to be continued...
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Old 09-29-2014, 01:07 PM   #2
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Re: Project "Freedom"

So, like I said the guy who sold it to us had a little dinky car battery for the main starter battery, and it was an old dead one to be even better... it got us home, as long as we did not shut the bus off for too long- he fortunately did include an old, but decent 8D battery! he was just being lazy and did not want to install it for us. oh well. so that had to be done right away- since I needed to move it to a better parking spot, since it was street parked at our apartment, and could not be left there for too long.



much better!



once I got the battery in there, changed the black and bug infested air filter, I loaded up what I needed from my apartment and prepared for the drive down to where my work has been sending me (about 135 miles south of where I live) where I had arranged with a friend to park in there yard while I worked at the shipyard next door. pretty sweet since I had lots of time after work to just concentrate on the bus, and I usually only went home on the weekends.
I loaded up the motorcycle and drove the bus down early in the morning. got to work and later in the day cleared a spot in my friend's side yard (had to move an old boat with a flat trailer tire over a few feet) and parked the bus.



after removing the motorcycle, of course- which I was going to use to get back home, since the bus does not (yet) have a tow hitch- even though my car already has a toad-mode towbar installed.

Another nice part about being right next door to my work, is that I could collect all the free wood scraps and toss them in the bus for later use- things like crates, pallets, 2x4s and 4x4s they just toss out (its a shipyard, so they get some good heavy duty lumber when things get shipped in)

My first order of business on the bus was to strip the interior. After reading many threads on this forum, I figured I would have to scrape up the rubber on the floor and repair any rust and paint before throwing the wood down. so, out come the seats!! (thanks to the help of one of my friend's kids who were very eager to learn some handyman stuff and probably were excited to use power tools too)











turns out there was a bit of surface rust. fortunately no holes, but some bad spots... I attacked them with the angle grinder using a flapper disc and a wire wheel for some of the edges.

I started painting areas that I had sanded, since I would be returning each day to do a bit more and it could dry overnight and then I had a dry clean spot to stand while I painted/sanded the others. Also, since I was parked in a friend's yard, I did say that I would keep my messes contained inside the bus, (other than the seats, which I tossed under the back edge until I took them to the scrap yard) so it made it a little difficult working inside with my stash of tools, lumber, and other various things I was squirreling away for use. the plan was to paint and plywood the rear first, and work my way forward, moving my piles of keep-stuff onto the finished parts as I worked my way forward.















oh, and you may have seen a stainless stove in one of the pics- I found on craigslist a nice Dickinson marine diesel-powered stove! I figured since the bus already runs on diesel, it would be easier to just use the same fuel source and install a secondary tank (for WVO, extra diesel, or something of that nature) but I liked that idea better than using propane or a really high powered electric stove. The idea of a wood burning unit was tempting, but the thoght of "where do we put all the fire wood when we travel" would have been harder to deal with compared to a liquid burning stove. Besides, I work on boats, a couple of my friends have/live on boats and they love these diesel burning stoves- and finding one for less than $400 on craigslist was awesome. I told the guy selling it that I was using it in a bus conversion and he liked the story so much that he lowered the price without me even asking! (from $400 down to $340! sweet!) I will still need to get the fuel piping, a little 12v fan, and the chimney stuff...



to be continued....
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Old 09-29-2014, 02:03 PM   #3
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Re: Project "Freedom"

very cool stove!



and Welcome
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Old 09-29-2014, 04:14 PM   #4
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Re: Project "Freedom"

Great score on the stove for sure!! Being a marine mechanic myself (for a while in the Pacific NW). What a find.
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Old 09-30-2014, 01:29 AM   #5
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Re: Project "Freedom"

Yes, I just hope that the stove functions as well as it looks! I have yet to test it out....


so, of course building a bus costs money. so off to the stores I go!

picked up a bunch of things- oil change stuff, filters, some LED turn signals and brake lights, and other various stuff to help get things going.
Oh, and they had a refrigerator that was the "right size" and pretty low energy useage that I liked on sale, so I got that too..




one of the weekends, Jillian and I decided I would stay down south after work and she would drive down with the dogs and we would "camp out" in the bus for that night, and spend the next night camping at Beacon Rock state park... the dogs and Jillian enjoyed the bus, even though we were sleeping on a piece of plywood and a sleeping pad...



another part of the project, is that I wanted to rebuild the front bumper- first part to fix it because its a bit bent out of shape, and secondly, to add a reciever hitch so that I can install my motorcycle carrier! (carry the bike in the front so I can tow the car in the back) so... here I go! (hope this works!)
remove the old bumper....


piece stuff together 'till it looks strong... lol


test fit....

cut up parts of the old bumper and re-skin the new framework...


annnnnnnnd paint.


Its also nice that I have a friend who works at a sheet metal fab shop, so I had him cut some metal for me, so that I can install some new LED brake/turn signals...


Then, cut out the old holes...


attach the plates and prime them...


running light and hazards check, good!



so. all this took between the beginning of June when we got the bus, and then the next photo was the beginning of September. at the end of August I was notified by my work that they were going to be sending me on a few cruise ships, (for work, while out at sea) so of course this meant I would not be working anywhere near my bus. Which also meant that all my tools and things which were in the bus, were not really anywhere near where I would be for quite some time. so it was time to relocate the bus! I still had to do the transmission fluid and filter change (already did the oil and filter change) and of course, get my motorcycle loaded up by myself so I could drive the bus to my mom's house (not too far from where I live, but at least she has an "RV" parking spot on the side of her house, and a garage/yard for my tools, wood, ect. )
rapid service! pack it up!


all the wood loaded up, I think there is still room for a motorcycle in there?


backed up to a hill, seemed like the easiest and safest way to load a bike on my own. (I did not want to test out the front bumper carrier yet, as I have not load tested it and would rather not run over my new bike)


yep, it fits!


and 88 miles north on the freeway, during a rainstorm, I arrived to my mom's house!

peek-a-boo, said the bus.



now, to get this thing painted before the end of this already-late summer!
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Old 09-30-2014, 01:57 AM   #6
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Re: Project "Freedom"

one of the probelms with parking it at my moms house, is that she has HOA... which is one of the dumbest things in the world of home "ownership"... but anyway, it's registered as an RV and it's parked in a gravel RV spot.. so I don't see how anyone could legitmately complain about it. but, to be nice to the community, I figured I should just make it look more like an RV than a school bus, so - time to paint!!



I had a few more days off before the next ship-out day... and the weather is supposed to be nice, sunny and hot. good for painting

top down. superclean, scrub, rinse and dry.

eew. I don't know if the guy before me ever washed it!


once the whole top was washed, I painted. that way it was done and out of the way...


also, I blocked out the front lights with some flimsy plywood, also painted... for now. I would like to make some round metal patches to cover and glue them shut properly... but this will hold for now.


after the top was done, then we moved onto the sides! Also, Jillian could help out since mother's house is a lot closer to our apartment so its easier for us to go there together.


Yes, I am roller painting and brush painting. I am not too concerned with the fine details, I figure it will either "buff out" later on, or it will look fine from 20 feet away. either way, it's a quick and cheap way of getting it done besides, if you have ever seen how they do it on commercial boats (including cruise ships, tug boats, state ferries) they just slop on the paint nice and thick, right over the old crap. seems to work well there, don't see why it's too much different on my land yacht!





more and more painted... each day a little more done!




we also finally decided on the "details" of the paint job... red white and blue! (although, the blue is more of a sky blue not flag blue- it would have looked TOO much like a postal bus haha)

and some stripes on the hood, too!


and, I had to fix these... they were nasty!


now that the outside is done (for now, it still needs lots of touch-ups) it's time to block out the windows, insulate and "frame" the walls, and skin them with the thin plywood, to prepare for the cabinets and appliances...



...
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Old 09-30-2014, 06:57 PM   #7
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Re: Project "Freedom"

Love the paint job. I have that same stove on my fish boat, pumps out mega heat, might be a good option for hot water if you grab one of their hot water coils. Good luck.
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Old 09-30-2014, 09:39 PM   #8
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Re: Project "Freedom"

WOW! --- Welcome...and great post guys. At the rate you are going it'll be a house on wheels in no time.
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Old 10-01-2014, 02:40 AM   #9
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Re: Project "Freedom"

well. now that the outside is "mostly done" it is time to attack the inside!

.... I just need to clean up and make some room to work...



I suppose if I removed a bit of this wood it would help!



I suppose if I remove the truck box it would help, too... and, I could build a wood rack!




ta-daa!


So I was orignally thinking of removing all the inner panels and the fiberglass insulation that was factory to the bus, but after trying to drill out some of the rivits (which I was able to do but did not like) I decided it would be too much work, and I figured that if I left it all in there it would be fine and probably slightly more structually sound this way. so instead of removing the existing paneling, I will just add to it. using liquid nails, I glued on some strips of wood that I cut to size from my scrap pile- once it's cured I can then place the sheets of 1" insulfoam in the gaps and then attach some thin plywood paneling over the top of it all...



the dogs approve (of the carpet scrap piece I rolled out for them)


all the way back....


add the wood panels...


and done!

The next step, is to "delete" the windows... now, I had considered the options on welding in plate, or riviting in sheets onto the outside, or maybe even fiberglassing... but the easiest and least invasive-to-structure that I could think of, was to just make a metal plate that was the same dimentions as all the windows, back it with insulfoam, and sheet the inner side with plywood and secure it with the same window screws. a solid window blank! My friend who works at the metal fab shop made me a bunch of blanks, decent price... now to paint them and install.

it was late in the evening when I took the pic- but here are the first 2 I put in. one of them was a tad tight so it bowed out just a hair. but I will just silicone the crap out of the edges later, as long as it doesn't leak I will not mind the appearance of slight bowing...


here are 3 on the other side- over the wheel well area (which will be the battery/electrical/storage closet stuff)


this is the plates backed by the insulfoam... still need the plywood and 2x4 securing block..


and with the plywood and securing blocks



all the windows recieved a 2x4 block- this will not just be for a nice appearance, but it allowed me to use longer screws and keep all the windows and window block out plates the same- AND I lined up the top edge of all of them with enough room to support another 2x4 on it's side, which will be the back of the overhead bin framework, which I am still pondering... (but I will have overhead bins in all available spaces, I am just pondering how to build them effectively)



oh, and I added one plate with a vent cut out, for the back side of the refrigerator. my fridge does not have the big cooling coils like the old fridges that I am used to seeing- it did not have them on the underside either? weird.. well, either way it must give off some heat somehow, so this is for the vent. it's a 110vAC standard house fridge, so no propane or fuels to worry about.








annnnd now I am caught up with the story! the last few pics on this post were taken today, so now the thread is "real time"

tomorrow- last day I work on the bus or post anything for at least 2 weeks.. this weekend I will be packing up for another work trip. (so I won't be working on the bus at all, and I will have no contact with the world ashore)
I am hoping to get the framework started for the pantry/fridge area- which is the first 2 window bays behind the front door starboard side... and if I have time, the wheel well closets- port side has bathroom attached to the forward edge by the E-door...

oh, and the doggies want more treats. always.



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Old 10-01-2014, 05:40 AM   #10
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Re: Project "Freedom"

love the "expo subi"
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