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Old 07-09-2012, 10:23 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
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Year: 1986
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: P30
Engine: Chev 350 gas-replacement
Another newbie here

Hello everyone,

I've been lurking for several months and it's time to come out of the closet...so to speak...

Title woes have kept us from getting our skookie--the seller couldn't find the title and has filled out paperwork to get a replacement title. As soon as that paper is in his hand, we will be off to get our bus.

It is a 1986 Bluebird mini bird. 18.5' nose to tail according to the seller. He has removed all but 2 of the seats and replaced the diesel with a gas engine. No wheelchair lift to deal with.

My plans are to make a road trip rig. Tent camping gets less enchanting the older I get. Cots just don't cut it, and are really uncomfortable. Time to upgrade, but then I'm also on a budget. Any trailer in decent condition is going to cost too much, anything in my cheap price range is in need of serious work. I have a lot of handy-woman skills, but I'm not keen on rebuilding rotten ceilings and floors.

I've been planning and designing for this bus, and dreaming about it, for a month now. When we stopped in to look at it, I'd forgotten a tape measure, so I have only the most basic measurements. My plan is to build the galley at the back on the driver's side, a bed/couch opposite, the toilet between the bed and the door, and a dinette made from the original seats tucked in behind the driver's seat. I'd like to get sleeping capacity for 5 people, although we'll probably only need 3 spots for most of our travels.

In the short term, I want to get it licensed as an RV, which in Oregon only needs sleeping and cooking facilities. I don't know yet how permanent the sleeping and cooking facilities need to be, so if a futon bunk and a countertop/cabinet combination is enough to get those tags, then I'm all for it. I don't want to be one of the people who work on the bus for 2 or 3 years and make it a work of art, but then when it's finally done, they say they're selling the bus for any number of reasons. My bus won't be fancy, but it will be out there on the road.

I do have some questions/concerns, so if anyone has any information or advice for me, I'd be grateful:

1. Top speed seems to be about 50 mph, even with the new engine. And to get any kind of oomph while on the test drive, I had to drop it into 2nd and floor it. I thought at one point I was going to get rammed by an 18-wheeler--this thing has NO "gun-it" capacity at all! Is this something that has a governor on the transmission, or some kind of override to prevent speeding? The thought of going 50 mph on the one-lane road to the beach gives me visions of long lines of cars behind me, with rows of flying middle fingers as I pull into the slow lane every time the road widens out.

2. The bus doesn't have air conditioning--is it difficult to retrofit using the engine? How about an air conditioner running off a generator? Could we run the generator to power an air conditioner while the bus is moving?

3. How are people fastening things to the inside of the bus? I don't plan to pull out the sheet metal ceiling, but I do want to put some cabinets up, and of course will be building bunks. I also got a pull-down bunk that I will most likely fit over the driver's seat. Do I need to bolt/screw strips of metal spanning the ribs, and then fasten cabinets to the metal? Should the metal be welded in place (a new skill for me to learn)?

4. The windows seem to be fastened on the sides with large turn-button type screws--would it be possible to pull them out and reverse them so the window opens upwards? I think that would work a lot better with the bunks I'm imagining, otherwise the mattress on the bunk will be even with the upper window when it's lowered.

5. Can anyone recommend a website or book for planning DC power needs? I've got extensive AC electrical experience, but none with 12V systems. Descriptions of inverters/converters/sine wave just leave my eyes glazed over, unless there are pictures! Can I charge 6V golf cart batteries with the alternator? I'd really like to set up a DC system that will charge from the engine if needed. Current electrical needs would be lights, water pump, microwave (if possible) and coffee maker.

6. What kind of fresh/gray/black tanks are considered the minimum? Right now I'd put a porta-potty in the bathroom, a couple of 5-gallon water cans in the kitchen (one for fresh, one for gray, never the twain shall meet!) set up an outdoor shower, and call it good for the short term. At this point the plans call for a 3x3 shower/toilet space--is this realistic? I've seen pictures of combination shower/toilet stall units--anyone have any experience with these?

7. What are people doing to lock the emergency door?

I've got a ton of other questions, but enough is enough for now....
Thanks to all for your expertise, advice and experiences...I definitely appreciate all input.

Cheers!
TA
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Old 07-10-2012, 10:17 AM   #2
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Oregon/Philippines
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Re: Another newbie here

in oregon, the dmv doesn't even look inside the rig to see if ya converted it or not, nor do they go out and measure the length for the plate costs, they just put down whatever you tell them, so measure the length, and dont worry about the insides. i have taken two of mine over to dallas, ore for plates, and 1 of a friends. if you have a trailer that is home built, they just look to see if any vin number is on it near the hitch.

where was the bus used in service? 50 mph is too slow for top speed even if like in portland...
you also need to post engine mfg, wheel size, etc . in some instances in a bus that small, they just take a 1 ton rear axle, which there are hundreds of good ones in the yards in oregon, as that ratio would need changed.
you can add a genset, and other stuff.

if you are in the willamette valley or close and want rv stuff cheap or free, pm me.
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Old 07-10-2012, 12:06 PM   #3
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Re: Another newbie here

We live fulltime in our bus. We don't move much. We stay in RV parks, campgrounds & mobile home parks. So my take is slightly different than some of the others who simply take weekend trips. When we travel, we shoot for 150 to 200 miles per day. Longer distance only to find a place to park overnight. We generally stay 2 to 3 nights in parking lots and 1 night in a cheap campground.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Amour
1. Top speed seems to be about 50 mph, even with the new engine. And to get any kind of oomph while on the test drive, I had to drop it into 2nd and floor it. I thought at one point I was going to get rammed by an 18-wheeler--this thing has NO "gun-it" capacity at all! Is this something that has a governor on the transmission, or some kind of override to prevent speeding? The thought of going 50 mph on the one-lane road to the beach gives me visions of long lines of cars behind me, with rows of flying middle fingers as I pull into the slow lane every time the road widens out.
Our bus runs slow (but good on fuel). We have discovered that while WE thought we would be holding folks up, in practice we were running with the slower Semis and passed a few. This was on the interstates. We also prefer traveling on the primary and secondary highways (blue highways on your maps) along with a growing number of truckers. If we are traveling below posted speed limits, we will pull over for a long line. In hills, we have discovered the passing lane (3rd lane added to uphill sections) works just fine and we do not need to pull over.

Quote:
2. How about an air conditioner running off a generator? Could we run the generator to power an air conditioner while the bus is moving?
Yes. All the RV's you see on the road are running their AC Air conditioners off generators. Those things on the roof (and in the basements) are not 12vDC.

Quote:
3. How are people fastening things to the inside of the bus?
various methods of bolts & screws. Our full size 12 cf upright freezer and the 4 cf dorm fridge is strapped down to eye bolts that go thru the floor. The 30" gas range is chained to the chair flange attached to the sidewalls that runs the length of the bus $ poster bed frame is attached to the floor with "L" brackets screwed thru the metal floor deck. Walls, etc are screwed to metal with screws.

Quote:
4. The windows seem to be fastened on the sides with large turn-button type screws--would it be possible to pull them out and reverse them so the window opens upwards? I think that would work a lot better with the bunks I'm imagining, otherwise the mattress on the bunk will be even with the upper window when it's lowered.
You need about 24 to 30 inches on your bunk bed (top of mattress to ceiling). Otherwise there will be bruised heads. Figure on being able to sit upright.

Quote:
5. Can anyone recommend a website or book for planning DC power needs?
Here's a few. they are pretty basic.

#1 section you should read... Copy and save the Poop sheets.
http://www.phrannie.org/phredex.html

http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm
http://www.dasplace.net/RVWiring/wiring.html
[url]http://www.dasplace.net/BatteryPower/Battery.html/[url]
http://www.rv-dreams.com/rv-electrical.html
http://www.smithae.com/rv.html
http://www.rvforum.net/joomla/index....ms-and-hookups

http://rvbasics.com/ more than just electrical scroll down & look to the right hand side of the page

Quote:
Can I charge 6V golf cart batteries with the alternator? I'd really like to set up a DC system that will charge from the engine if needed. Current electrical needs would be lights, water pump, microwave (if possible) and coffee maker.
Should be able to. But you need a "smart charger" to charge batteries while hooked up to shore power. You do not want to have to crank the engine up to recharge the battery bank. Read the Poop sheets

On a side note:Because we are putting out batteries in the existing battery bay (other bay gets the electrical/cable hookups) we have to use a 12v deep cycle marine battery. The golf cart batteries are too tall. I know a lot of folks put the 12v DC batteries down but we put one (Wal-Mart EverStart Marine Deep Cycle) in the Class C back in 2006 with a old dumb charger and it's still going strong. The Class C has been used fulltime since 2006. You need to check to see if you can fit the taller 6v golf cart batteries in the space you are wanting to put them.

Quote:
6. What kind of fresh/gray/black tanks are considered the minimum? Right now I'd put a porta-potty in the bathroom, a couple of 5-gallon water cans in the kitchen (one for fresh, one for gray, never the twain shall meet!) set up an outdoor shower, and call it good for the short term. At this point the plans call for a 3x3 shower/toilet space--is this realistic? I've seen pictures of combination shower/toilet stall units--anyone have any experience with these?
I hated our all in one shower/WC unit in the Class C. It always seems the floor is wet and when you go in to use the loo, you end up with a muddy floor. My daughter is single living in the Class C and she still hates the all-in-one shower/WC. The only folks I have heard say they liked the all-in-one was folks who never dealt with one. We have a 25 gal black tank with the sink plumbed in (currently on full hookups but I have a "blue boy" waste water tote that is 32 gallons. We will not have a black tank larger than the blue boy. We have two grey tanks, total of about 77 gallons. Fresh tank is 36 gallons & I need to buy another fresh tank(total of 72 gallons). Once installed, we will run our water thru our dual filters (sediment & a 0.5 micron water filter) into our fresh tank that will be fitted with a float shut off valve. We will do this because our filters really drop the water pressure. So we will always be pumping water from the onboard fresh tank. We are a little paranoid about water quality. Ran into too much bad water (from nasty tasting to guardia cysts). We've also experienced temporary water disruption several times a year... always inconvenient.

Quote:
7. What are people doing to lock the emergency door?
You can do a search of the forums but the surface mount deadbolts seem to work best. Look in the various threads to see how they are mounted.
http://www.homedepot.com/Tools-Hardw...&storeId=10051
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Old 07-11-2012, 03:52 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 49
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: P30
Engine: Chev 350 gas-replacement
Re: Another newbie here

Chev49,

Per the seller, the engine is a 350 motor (will get more details when we pick up the bus) and a turbo 400 automatic transmission. The bus came from the Vancouver school district.

I appreciate your offer and will definitely contact you once we get the bus and start the conversion.


Lorna,

Thanks for the links--I've read dozens if not hundreds of your posts on the board and appreciate the experience and knowledge that you share with everyone.

I've noted your input on the combo toilet/shower. It may be that we will go with an outdoor shower setup. I saw a half-size pop up canopy at the farmer's market this last weekend, which would work perfectly for a shower/dressing room. Alas, they costs as much as a 10x10. I need to drag out the broken pop-up frames I have and start tinkering with them.

Cheers,
TA
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Old 07-11-2012, 06:31 PM   #5
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Roswell, NM
Posts: 3,587
Year: 1986
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: 40 ft All American FE
Engine: 8.2LTA Fuel Pincher DD V8
Rated Cap: 89
Re: Another newbie here

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Amour
...
I've noted your input on the combo toilet/shower. It may be that we will go with an outdoor shower setup. I saw a half-size pop up canopy at the farmer's market this last weekend, which would work perfectly for a shower/dressing room. Alas, they costs as much as a 10x10. I need to drag out the broken pop-up frames I have and start tinkering with them...

Ye Gads! why is a tiny strip of nylon with some shock corded tent posts so expensive! And you don't have a dry enclosed spot to get undressed/dressed! I would take a few sticks of PVC and glue up a couple of those $1 shower curtain liners from Dollar Tree or tarps.


Just thinking.......
IF I needed an outside shower (I don't, we stay in campgrounds with showers if we couldn't use our own), I would build one out of PVC pipes. I would not glue up the pipes (glue pipe fitting to one side & pin loose side of fitting in place with a long nail or wire tent stake tied to the frame so as not to lose it) or I would only glue up sections so I could take it apart into flat sections. I would secure a tarp to the PVC frame with ball bungies. I would make a hinged door . Maybe a smaller version of the Playhouse at PVC Plans. See how it's laid out on the grass all flat? Make it just the size you need and glue up panels to where you pin it together OR build panels & ball bungie the rectangular panels together. Build it yourself and you can always just build the shower section then build a dressing area to attach later. Place a piece of tarp on the ground under the PVC shelter and lay a shower mat (non slip)in the shower area to keep the mud down.

Here's another PVC shower shelter (no pics)

But I'm frugal! The prices of shower enclosures really irked me. Those "structures" don't look like they would last very long. I'm also a DIY kinda person.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:03 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
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Year: 1986
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: P30
Engine: Chev 350 gas-replacement
Re: Another newbie here

Quote:
But I'm frugal! The prices of shower enclosures really irked me. Those "structures" don't look like they would last very long. I'm also a DIY kinda person
I'll come right out and say it--I'm a cheapskate!

I've thought about the PVC shower, and am currently working on a shower kit that includes an enclosure, insulated cooler (to keep the hot water hot) showerhead, battery powered pump, tin tub, water can for gray water, curtains, etc etc. Total cost about $50, the majority of which was the pump.

If you want to scream about prices, you should look at some of the self contained showers available on the web--$300 and up, including a propane heater unit with battery powered pump. Nice, but very expensive. I could almost justify spending that much if we were full-timing. For road trips and camping--ummmmm no.
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:34 PM   #7
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Re: Another newbie here

If you're using 6v batteries in a 12v system you need to use them in pairs. Two 6v batteries cabled in series (positive to negative) in effect make one big 12v battery which can be charged by your 12v alternator quite nicely. If you need more capacity than two 6v batts. can supply you can add another pair of 6v batts. (cabled together in series) and cable the two pairs together in parallel (positive to positive, negative to negative). (Confused yet?)

Ideally, you purchase all your batteries at the same time and from the same lot. If one battery has less capacity than another it will tend to draw down the stronger battery or batteries.
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Old 07-11-2012, 11:15 PM   #8
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Re: Another newbie here

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Amour
... If you want to scream about prices, you should look at some of the self contained showers available on the web--$300 and up,..
Can't scream about prices when you are too stunned to speak! I have seen those prices before.

I'm not cheap, I'm frugal. It's the Scots in me!
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:13 PM   #9
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Re: Another newbie here

You will want to disconnect your pairs of 6-volt batteries from your starting batteries when your engine is off. If you don't, you will undoubtedly sooner or later run down your starting batteries and be stuck. If they are tied together, the stronger batteries will run down trying to re-charge the weaker ones, and any appliances turned on will draw off of both banks, depending on the wire resistance.

The simplest way to join the battery banks for charging or disconnect them for parking would be a marine-type heavy-duty shut-off switch. Turn it on after the bus is running to charge the 'house' (golf cart) batteries, and turn it off when you shut the engine down. Some people will never forget to turn the switch off after use, and some will eventually forget to check it and get stranded.

The next simplest way to charge the house batteries is with a heavy-duty relay (think: looks like a starter solenoid). Wire the relay coil to turn on the battery-to-battery connection whenever the key is in "Engine Accessory" (hot with the wipers and heater but not with only the entertainment system). That is pretty much set-and-forget. Add an on/off switch to interrupt the relay control line and you will be able to disconnect the house battery charging when the chassis needs all the alternator output it can get, like driving in a blizzard with the headlights, 4-ways, wipers, and heaters all on full. Add a push-button to momentarily power the relay control lead and you will be capable of giving yourself a jump start if the chassis battery appears weak while cranking.

Some people install an RV diode isolator in series with the alternator output, which is also pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it installation. The isolator splits the current into two outputs, one to each battery bank, directing the charging to the weaker bank or both together. But the isolator will drop some of the alternator voltage and turn some of the current into heat. Alternators with external regulators may turn up the voltage output to compensate, depending on the sensing point. Alternators with internal regulators (as I would suspect you might have) won't, and there will be some reduction in charging.

But you really can't "set and forget" DC wiring completely, since the golf cart batteries are "hydrates" which are not "maintenance free," but need to have the water checked from time to time. And regular cleaning of battery terminals is always a good thing, and multiplies with extra batteries. One corroded jumper and you could be running on part of a power system.

I hope all this does not give you an EGO (eyes glazed over) problem.
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:32 PM   #10
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Re: Another newbie here

Redbear. Thanks for the clear and accurate discussion of dc circuits. Your post certaintly did not gice me an EGO problem and I will be stealing your idea for the "self jump" set up Thanks, Jack
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