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Old 06-13-2010, 09:00 AM   #1
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The Stowaway

Starting a new thread for the conversion of The Stowaway, aka the shed bus.

I originally bought this bus last may, a 1991 Thomas body Chevrolet chassis bus. This is a conventional nose, 5 speed stick shift, gasser, with a 366ci tall block chevy engine. The body and windows don't leak, and it has been a great storage bus since I bought it.

I had originally planned to do a basic weekender/bugout type conversion on this bus after my own bus was finished. However, circumstances have changed. First, my parents are now convinced of the idea of building themselves a bus conversion, and they would prefer a diesel. My mother can't operate this bus (the distance between the steering wheel and the pedals is too great), so that's another deal breaker. I've been kicking around the idea for a few weeks of trying to offer this bus up as a trade towards a diesel bus, but never got around to it.

Well, now it turns out my sister and her husband are moving from Alaska to Tennessee. They're selling almost all their belongings, and their vehicles, and flying down to virginia to visit us "for a while" before buying a vehicle and finishing their move.

History shows that a short visit from them can easily grow into a long term thing. The space for them in the house is limited, and has virtually no privacy.

Yesterday, while sitting around with my cousin and my parents having a beer, my cousin came up with the idea of doing a basic conversion on the shed bus and putting in power and a/c so that they could live in it while they're here. We kicked it around a bit, and decided that's what we're doing.

Since this won't need to be a true conversion, we're keeping it simple. First, we have to get all the junk out, and of course, that means moving it *back* into unleashed, which puts that conversion back on hold again.

Once it is empty again, we'll remove the middle row of seats that I left in as a divider. We'll park it next to the garage apartment, where the RV power cord can reach the RV hookup. We'll use the old breaker box from the old RV to wire up 2 circuits (GFCI of course), one down each side. We'll install a couple of light switches to power on/off the flourescent lights we have. We'll reuse things from the old RV as much as possible.

The floor plan is equally simple. The rear door of the bus will be treated as the front door, as the front door is not possible to open and close from the outside. I'll still keep the first row of seats. Directly behind the first row of seats will be a queen size mattress (from the old RV) sitting on the floor, with the same sheets it had when it was in the old RV.

There will be very basic curtains over all the windows, held in place with magnets. We have a lot of magnets.

We'll remove one window and put 3/4" plywood in its place, with a hole cut for a window shaker A/C unit. This will be on one side of the bus, using the power circuit for that side. The bus will have 30A 110V hookup. If it turns out one window shaker isn't enough, we'll install a second one on the other side of the bus, so it'll be on the 2nd circuit inside the bus. If push comes to shove, we can always run a 20A extension cord for the second unit, but these window shakers are about 5A to 7A draw units.

My cousin is donating some old furniture (chairs, tables, old tv, etc), which will be used to make a bit of a living space.

We'll hang a rope between the bedroom and living spaces, with a curtain hanging from the rope, to make a privacy wall.

We plan to put something on the roof to help create an air gap, and put a large tarp across the top, providing shade and cooling ventilation, to make the A/C have to work less hard. This will also be parked under a large shade tree between it and the garage apartment. We plan to have the tarp extend out past the rear of the bus enough to provide a rain shelter over the doorway.

We'll be building some steps up to the back door.

This will basically be a fixed location conversion. The expectation is that it won't be rolling down the road once it starts being lived in. However, I'm making sure any step we take is easily unhooked or undone so that it can become road ready with minimal effort.

For bathroom/shower facilities, they'll just have to go into the house. They'll have access to the dorm style fridge and the microwave that is in the pool shed, about 20-25 feet from the bus. One of the projects for this summer is to install a toilet in the back of the pool shed and turn that into a half bathroom/changing room, and of course they'd have access to that as well.

We have 9 days to get this livable.

Ok, I'm off to get started.
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Old 06-13-2010, 03:30 PM   #2
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Re: The Stowaway

Don't forget the pics!
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Old 06-13-2010, 08:15 PM   #3
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Re: The Stowaway

11 hours later... what a long hot day.

We got everything out of the bus and into the other bus. This was the 4th time much of the contents have been moved, so we figured while we were having to touch everything anyway, we'd sort into 4 categories. Those are keep, sell on ebay, sell in yardsale, and trash.

We now have a small pile of keep, a smaller pile of sell on ebay, and a large pile of sell at yardsale. Oh, and one pickup truck full of trash.

We installed 2 window shaker air conditioners. It ain't purty, but it's sure functional. It's now a comfortable 73 degrees and low humidity in there.

I found a bed headboard and laid it across the wheel hump and the rear heater, making a nice little bench to sit on in the "living room" area. We're looking for a cheap futon mattress to put on it to make it more comfortable.

Got the queen size mattress laying on the floor in the "bedroom" area. We hung 2 flourescent lighting fixtures, one in each section. We have 30A RV style power cord running in the front door, with an outlet on the end. That then splits into multiple "circuits".

One could say this is a "quicker and dirtier" conversion... We've saved the windows so they can be reinstalled if need be. The window shakers are doing a good job cooling the interior even in the hot sun. Once we get the air gap and tarp over the top, it'll be even nicer.

Still a lot to do. I took some pictures tonight after it was dark, but they came out like crap. I'm too tired to bother uploading them tonight, I'll do it tomorrow.

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Old 06-13-2010, 10:04 PM   #4
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Re: The Stowaway

In the trash went empty and destroyed boxes, packaging materials, etc. Also, the metal "pan" that was under the seats, where the seat back and seat bottoms met, all of those are now in the trash.

Most of what was in the bus was a bunch of cardboard boxes I've been collecting for doing furniture layout and mockup without having to manhandle real furniture, and the items my father brought home after his twin passed away last year. His brother saved everything. He also saved the packaging. So a crimp tool, the receipt, the package, and the tiny instruction booklet would be in a box. Only the crimp tool is useful, the rest went into the trash.

Some of the more valuable items are in the ebay pile. He had some really nice test equipment, security camera stuff, color security monitors, a nice brass compass/sextant combination, a princo barometer (with real mercury, $700+ when bought brand new, still in the original box, never used), etc.

The less valuable items (ancient bearcat scanner, excessive sets of tools, old test gear, etc) are going for the yard sale.

Whatever is left over from the yard sale next weekend is likely to go to the local food bank (which is really a thrift store).

It was over 90 degrees today, and we were inside a metal bus most of the day. Fortunately, there was a good breeze and we were in the shade. After we moved the bus to its current location, we no longer had the breeze, and it made a huge difference. That motivated us to hurry up and install those A/C units. lol

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Old 06-14-2010, 11:03 AM   #5
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Re: The Stowaway

Ok, some pictures as promised.

I know it isn't much to look at. Still quite a bit left to do.

The window shakers are holding the temperature around 72/73 (what they're set to) even though it is about 86 outside.

Still need curtains, and to plug all the little holes in the floor. Also gotta build some steps. Additionally, the mattress orientation/location is inconvenient. However, we don't want to do too much customizing until my sister and her husband get here, so they'll have input into it.

We also need to work out just how we'll put the tarp over the top.

more later,
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Old 06-14-2010, 01:51 PM   #6
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Re: The Stowaway

We few, we Band of Brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.
- William Shakespeare ("King Henry V")
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Old 06-14-2010, 01:55 PM   #7
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Re: The Stowaway

Originally Posted by mightybus
I sure don't want to be perceived as an idiot but this is what I did to tarp the roof of my bus. I got a used fitted forty ft long cotton bale trailer tarp, it even has screens on the side for 10$. It is exactly eight ft. wide, 40 ft long and hangs down on the sides about 5 ft., all sides sown nicely even in the corners, similar to a kleenex box. Fits the bus perfectly. I got 1 gallon water bottles, the ones you buy at the store for .59 cents. I drank the water. I attached sticky on one side velcro strips to areas on the top of the bus, attached the other velcro side to individual empty water bottles about thirty used. I then attached empty water bottles with cap put back on, to top of roof. I then rested the tarp on top of it all. The hold off of about 9 inch's does the trick. It's mighty hot down here in texmess, but the inside of the bus is oh so cool. I have an extra tarp if you need one and can figure out how to get it. I'm not much good at mailing things. Your choice of white or green the sewn to the side screen part is black or white. P.S. My movable walls work really good if you want to try something like that too. I will probably delete this post after a time because I don't want to muck up your thread.

We want pictures.
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Old 06-19-2010, 07:07 PM   #8
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Re: The Stowaway

Well, it's been quite the week.

The bus is almost ready to be lived in. Well, if you don't mind a lack of privacy, you could live in it now.

Today, Dad and I got the steps (free loan from friends) attached to the bus and sturdied up. What a difference it makes having real steps.

Earlier this week I finished the electrical. We punted from the grandiose plans, and stuck with the K.I.S.S. principle. A single 30A RV cord comes into a double duplex outlet box, and connects to 2 20A outlets. A pair of 12 gauge extension cords plug into that and run to the 2 A/C window shaker units. there is a 3 way splitter on the end of each, and that feeds into light circuits (extension cords and power strips). 1 light circuit is directly plugged into the double duplex box. You can see that a bit better in the pictures.

I appreciate the ideas for where to locate a tarp, but I already have a 20' x 40' tarp, as well as a 16' by 20' tarp, so I don't need more. What we did for maintaining an air gap was to use some PVC conduit (left over from a previous project) and make hoops over the top of the bus, screwing the ends into the rub rails. Imagine a conestoga wagon, and you get the general idea. We did 3 hoops.

Over the past week, the window shakers have been holding a nice steady temperature (73 degrees, the set point on the units), and we've debated whether to put the tarp over it or not. We get a lot of wind, and sometimes it is severe, and we are worried the tarp will get away. On the other hand, it can't help but lead to energy savings. We decided to hold off on installing the tarp until the occupants get here. That gives us 2 more sets of hands to help, and if they decide they don't want it, we won't even bother.

There're still some items inside the bus that need to be removed and stored elsewhere. I suspect we'll get that done tomorrow. If not, the occupants can help do that too.

We haven't run the RG6 for the satellite tv signal yet, but that'll be trivial. They don't have a TV yet, so no rush on that. I suspect they'll buy one sometime next week, and we can get that cable pulled.

There is a DECT cordless phone system installed in the main house, with 10 extensions, each capable of acting in an intercom capacity. They operate in the 1900 MHz band, and work really well all over the yard. One of the extensions is now located inside The Stowaway.

There is wifi connectivity bleeding over to the bus from my apartment. They'll be able to share the internet connection with the rest of us.

There are no curtains yet. We have a ton of rare earth magnets that we'll be using to hang the curtains. The plan is to get some cheap sheets from the goodwill, and cut them into curtains. There are also no sheets on the bed yet, but we should take care of that tomorrow or monday. They just need to be washed and put on the mattress.

The occupants arrive late monday night.

Here are the latest pictures.

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