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Old 02-28-2008, 12:34 AM   #1
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How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

How low can you go? Here is the idea. I have a International chassis, conventional style (front engine with a nose) bus and Bluebird body. I want a loft bedroom in the back, and a living room/office under that.

I figure I can go up just under 4 feet and be under 14 feet tall. Now the question that comes up is something that I'm trying to figure out. What about lowering the floor?

The concept is that by cutting off the frame rails, and bolting them (with overlap or huge gusset plates) so that the top of the frame rail from behind the rear spring mounts to the rear bumper is even with the bottom of the frame rail going forward. The floor is cut loose from the body and stays on top of the frame rails, and additional steel support in kind of a "ladder on it's side" configuration from the floor to support the rear of the body. The skirt should hang down enough to make it LOOK decent.

I figure this should give me about 8 inches of drop, meaning that there is now 8 inches more "headroom" available under my loft, or my roof lift can be 8 inches shorter (maybe ONLY a 3 foot lift...). The trailer hitch ball (the furthest back point of the bus) is about 8 inches below the bumper - and I haven't hit that except once pulling out from a steep driveway. I figure I can change the hitch to mount between the frame rails instead of under (and put the receiver coming out through the bumper). The frame rails would act a bit like skids, or I can mount small steel caster wheels in case I DO scrape again. There are no tanks or exhaust pipes or ANYTHING under the bus behind the rear wheels.

What am I missing? While my first thought is "cut it, and weld it" but I know there is a lot of discussion on welding on frames. The frame rail is basically BIG U channel. It should not be insurmountable to make a gusset plate to mount on the inside faces - although drilling the holes will take a bit of work. The other thought is to overlap the rails, bolting the thin ends where they overlap about a foot, AND a plate on the inner "big" side, and possibly welding it too (pending what I can find out from the metalurgical crowd). The last foot (that I lose by "overlapping" the rails) can be made up by scarfing on an extra foot of steel on the ends - my fire department stretched a deuce and a half that way. The main strength of the bus, from rear axle forward is not touched - and if needed I could also run some kind of upright just in front of the joint, and triangulated bracing down both forward and back to be in tension (pulling UP on the back of the bus). This will be in concert with a roof lift - a few more pieces of steel tube will never be noticed after the insulation and interior skinning is done.

I figure I will get about 8 feet in the back to be 8 inches lower - so I can have a bit over 6 feet of headroom "down stairs" and still not lose out too much in the bedroom above it. I like to sit up and read in bed, and that is easy with 4 feet of room there.

All right, gentleman. The thought is out there..... take aim and shoot it full of holes! If I can't figure out good reasons NOT to do it, I may have to borrow "Mr. Big Cutoff Saw" and go for it this spring.

Kevin
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Old 02-28-2008, 05:42 PM   #2
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

crazy for sure.casters? might as well buy a transit bus. seems like frame welding like that would compromise it, remember welding introduces heat which changes temper. i'm no expert but i believe frame material is on the hard and brittle side of spectrum versus soft and bendable, a weld is stronger than material welded too so it will probably crack next to weld not weld itself. like i said, am no expert. anything is possible you should go for it only after brainstorming ALL POSSIBLE scenarios and don't stop sketching for reworking. i like your thinking though, good luck and let us know
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Old 02-28-2008, 05:44 PM   #3
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

most highway underpasses are 13-6. personally i would try and stay below 13. ask millicent. i've smashed my exhaust numerous times.
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Old 02-28-2008, 06:31 PM   #4
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

I did check on how HIGH.... 13'6" is legal in all states, and some states (washington is one) allow 14' clearance. Personally I would like it to be 5 feet high, weigh 4,000 pounds fully loaded, and still have 10 foot interior ceilings. Since that is not possible with current laws of physics.... I've got to be creative.

The question is one of a floor drop - and while I have seen it on the web in a house truck - never a skoolie. As for buying a transit - that is a good idea in one respect, except I already OWN a skoolie. Also, my BlueBird is mostly made up of one material - steel - and usually in straight lines. A transit bus can be steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and if you think about it - HUGE windows. I am comfortable working with metal, so I don't get the heebie jeebies thinking about doing the work to make it taller/lower/and just plain different.... but the thought of having to patch and match steel frame, with fiberglass body bits, curved aluminum skins, and those big windows and I get all flustered. It is like the woodworkers who cut off most of the bus body and build something out of wood - not because it is the best way, but because that is where their skill is.

I hear you on the weld issues - and I've heard "never weld frames" and "not a real issue once you are behind the rear axle". I am leaning towards welding gussets AND a big herking plate with big grade 8 bolts through it. I haven't done either myself - so I will be heading into new territory, but I will be sure to document it.... it it fails, might as well fail where everybody can enjoy it, right?

Any heavy truck mechanics who have repaired frames want to chime in? I just downloaded a few more models of buses for Google Sketchup.... the artist's conception drawings will hopefully get more interesting.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:25 PM   #5
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

I think you could do it and I wouldn't worry about the welding given that you're re-engineering things, but damn if that doesn't seem like a whole lot of work. I agree with the previous post about getting a transit bus. Yes, I know you give up some of the benefits of a skoolie, but you also gain some. It's all trade-offs. I can stand up with lots of headroom in a transit bus yet it's no taller than a school bus. I'm 6'5". The other option is to look at maybe doing a tire swap. Lowre your ride height and the roof can go up. I think that a swap to 19.5's with the proper gearing change in the style of a TC1000 might be a lot easier to tackle. Just some food for thought. If you have your heart set on doing it this way by ALL means do it...and take pictures!
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:41 PM   #6
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

Everything about skoolies is work. If you are comfortable working with steel, then by all means go for it. I love to see all the different creative stuff people do. Just everyone telling me I'm nuts would make me do it. Do it! Take pictures! A challenge is a good thing. You might be lucky enough to hate every minute of it and love the results.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:32 PM   #7
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas


Kevin, I think Adamanderr means a "city" transit bus -- unibody with very low floor.

As for your idea...GO FOR IT! I wouldn't weld it. I would bolt it with 1/2" or so plates. Wouldn't even need to overlap the rails -- let the plates do the overlapping.

Of course, you may want to overlap just for the ease of alignment. But you can line them up in any position by clamping to an extra piece of steel. You could even incorporate an extra piece of steel and get MORE than 8" drop.

At the very rear, you could taper the frame upward for clearance -- the reverse of my "beavertail" taper.
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:03 AM   #8
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

I caught the reference to a city bus - but one thing that biases me against them is that they usually are setup with a two speed automatic (at least the ones old enough to be in my price range). I did measuring, and my frame rails are actually 10 inches in height (depth?). So if I were to drop it only the amount of the rail height, making the top of the rail in back be as high as the bottom of the rail in front it would put the frame rails 18 inches from the ground.

A point of reference - like many other buses I've seen, there are a pair of mondo tough hooks for connecting a chain to, for pulling a bus backwards out of a ditch, or for tiedown during shipping of the chassis. Those are the lowest point of the bus currently in the back - and they are at 19 inches.

So here is the thought - if I wanted to, I could lower the rear and have plenty of headroom. I was thinking a pair of steel plates that kind of looked like the side of a stair in profile - the notch being where the step down would be, and the other end on an angle.

As I was crawling around trying not to get soaked in melting snow - I found the last foot of the frame rails.... are but welded on - as if the bus chassis was made longer to fit the body. Not much strain back there, anyways - so it COULD be done.

Of course - my wife thinks I should put the living room in the back, the bedroom all the way up front, and make the rear door the entry (especially if the entry is lower) by making the back emergency exit door taller. Then, we would not have to lift so high for the rest of the bus (to make room for good floor insulation) and it would not be so prone to crosswinds.

Back to the computer simulations again. Every three days, I see a new way to do it. I hope to have exhausted the conceptualization by spring so I can start cutting and welding!
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:46 PM   #9
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas


Quote:
...there are a pair of mondo tough hooks for connecting a chain to, for pulling a bus backwards...
And they are usually bent all to heck from scraping on the ground!
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Old 02-29-2008, 04:01 PM   #10
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Re: How LOW can you go? Floor drop ideas

How about just droping the floor between the frame rails in the rear and building out the interior on the existing bus floor, you would need to fab up some creative floor joists/crossmembers to support the body behind the rear end but that would probably be less work and their is no worry about compromising the structure of the frame. you would gain the 10 inch frame height plus the thickness of the floor & crossmembers, the rear ride height would be affected only by the height of the new droped crossmembers.
Another option would be to, cut the framerails, off add a seious crossmember assembly and move the frame to the just inside the body sheetmetal and then drop the floor.
Take the time to go crawl around under some semi trailers, vans use the sides and floor as the frame except for a lightweight assembly to mount the suspension, most flatbeds use center rails with a tall center section and narrow ends, tag trailers typically use 2 center framerails and 2 side rails welded to a substansial crossmember in the front and then then tongue is welded to the front of the cross member. beverage body's(think beer trucks) typically have a narrow tall frame in the center and lightweight structure on the perimiter to facilitate compartments that are low to the ground, car haulers use a perimiter frame with minimal cross members except where they attach the suspension.
Be creative their are lots of options,I would be hesitant to give up rear ground clearance with all the overhang that a skoolie has.

reference Elliots remark about the bent towhooks
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