Thanks for the input, guys. I decided to go ahead and rip the interior panels out of my bus – mainly because it would eat at me not knowing what was under them.
Those huge (1/4”) Carpenter rivets that I was complaining about turned out to be a plus from a removal standpoint. For one thing, there were only about 400 of them holding the interior in.
The best method I found to remove them was a three-step process:
- Drive out the hard center pin with a suitable drift (3/16” in my case). I could often knock them out with a single blow if they had no rust (rusty ones went a lot easier if hit with WD-40 ahead of time).[/*:m:82c6f]
- Drill out the center of the rivet with a drill sized the same as the rivet diameter (a good bit would cut through the mild-steel rivet body like butter). I tried to stop short of going all the way through – usually the rivet head would start to tremble or spin just before giving way completely, and that would be my cue to stop.[/*:m:82c6f]
- Stick a punch into the hollow rivet heads and snap them off (I would put this off until I was ready to remove the whole panel).[/*:m:82c6f]
I think overall this went about as fast as grinding would have, but was a lot more fun. It also preserved the sheets in pristine condition – I could reuse most of the roof panels, for instance – but I think I will find another use for them.
Now that I’ve done it, I think stripping the interior was the right decision: While the walls and roof were insulated with fiberglass bats, it was a rather shoddy job – I think I will be able to double the R-value of the space with better insulation and attention to detail. There were leaks and rusted areas hiding in there that badly needed attention. Also, this bus has one of those Carpenter-built bodies from the Indiana plant – there are a lot of welds that need attention (their reputation hadn’t prepared me for the reality: it looks like the welding was done by school-kids – while the bus was bouncing down an un-paved road).