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Old 12-03-2018, 01:33 PM   #1
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Rat Rod Bus, Realistic?

We purchased our current 15 passenger van out of NC, from Govdeals.com for $600, with a blown engine. As luck would have it, when delivered, the engine ran fine, but there was a high-pitched squeal at speeds above 45 mph. A Google search found the cause to be a leak in the windshield gasket. Some self-leveling sealant squirted under the windshield seal cured the “blown engine!”

Sadly, our van is losing the war against the rust demons that plague this generation of Dodge Van. The roof ribs are sunk in, rather than up, giving water a place to pool and rust to set in. I now have several holes, patched over with asphalt backed window flashing tape. It has served us well for the past 4 years, however, maintenance and repairs are becoming more frequent. We decided it is time to start saving for a replacement van, or purchase a fixer-upper now, to have road-worthy by the time the current van is decommissioned. I am hesitant to invest too much in the current van, since it will never be worth very much. Once replaced, we could likely sell it for a work van for $1500-2000.

Most used 15 Passenger vans are either out of our price range or gutted for work vans. The gutted work vans are still running at the top of our price range. We are trying to stay with in a $6K budget. I’ve always wanted an old-school hotrod and figure a vintage bus could this could fulfill this desire as well as meet our practical need for a family hauler/ road trip mobile. Since it is a vintage Ford, it will likely hold its value much better than any comparably priced beater van ever will. Sooo… it’s an investment!
I saw a ’41 Ford 5 window bus online the other day, still trying to contact the seller.

- I figured most vintage busses need some new glass but since it is all flat, it shouldn’t be too expensive.

- A donor F450 off Govdeals.com, could provide the front and rear axles, offering easier availability of maintenance parts, and huge disc brakes!

- The F450 mostly seem to have Powerstrokes that have a sketchy reputation. I might be able to find one with a gas 460 V8. My little bro has a running 390 FE he’s willing to give me free, or a 12 Valve Cummins 5.9 Diesel engine for a reasonable price. I’d want to back them with either the NV4500 or ZF5.

- I definitely want to cobble together a dual AC system, scavenged from a full-size van or bus.

- I am fairly confident I can do all the work myself with my kids helping out as able. The oldest is 8 years old.

- Body work will be kept to a minimum, hammer and dolly pounding out dents best I can. All the decades or crud will be washed off and the “patina” rubbed down with some Boiled Linseed Oil to protect against further decay. A couple cans of BLO are a whole lot cheaper than painting this beast, and the “Rat-Rod” look is still all the rage too. Some guys actually pay for their cars to be hosed down with acid to artificially achieve this look. Mine will be for free!!!

- I like the idea of some more comfy, reclining seats, out of a minivan or something, but bus seats can be had FAR cheaper. Seatbelts are a must though. Not sure how to anchor them yet.

Assuming I can get a donor F450 for around $1000, and the bus for $3000, all the work performed myself, is $2000 realistic to cover the unforeseen? Will this be remotely possible to pull off? The goal is a low buck, reliable, “rat-rod-ish” bus. The only creature comfort will be AC/ heat, and radio.
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Old 12-03-2018, 02:30 PM   #2
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a Rat-rod bus would be a blast!!! I went a slight different direction and took a short skoolie bus(rust free 99/00) (6 window).. painted it candy apple red, put shiny wheels on it.. and have been updating the drivetrain / electronics / comforts as I go.. im not a camper. but i wanted a road-trip-runner..



a 40s / 50s bus on a modern drivetrain would be super cool!!!

-Christopher
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Old 12-04-2018, 12:01 AM   #3
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CadillacKid,

If it were in the budget, I'd definitely like some big shiny rims and professional Paint & Body. The "Rat-Rod" look is primarily due to budget and functionality, although I do dig it, and it is also currently popular! I have six kids with #7 on the way in May. They can't help but lean all over our van, putting their grubby hands all over the already grungy body. Evil shopping carts seek out our van in every parking lot. Despite her enormous size, and wild blue flames down the side, we have almost been hit while driving down the road numerous times! I shudder to think how much a nice paint job would cost, but mainly I'm concerned over the constant fussing over the dings, scuffs, and scratches that would quickly accumulate on the high dollar paint job.

How does your bus ride while on Road Trips? What is your cruising speed and mpg? Think I'd be better off with a bus donor or a F450/ F550 utility truck?
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Old 12-04-2018, 06:37 AM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2017
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We were sitting in our bus the other day haveing lunch when a few people came up to it and where looking at it and referred to it as a "rat rod bus". Considering we do have it painted, I did think that was out of place but the average public may not make the distinction. So thought it was a neat thing to hear them say.

As for transmission the NV-4500 has a lot of 5th gear issues, just google that. For me I have one and 5th gear has been no end of trouble. I finally gave up and took 5th gear out. This is on a Dodge truck with Cummins.
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Old 12-04-2018, 08:00 AM   #5
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Join Date: May 2009
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Chassis: International 3800
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Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
ha! I think you mi-took me.. I think a rat rod bus is a perfect idea.. i just mentioned how I went about mine.. in the same format as a "hot-rod" style vs traditional skoolie style..



my red bus is built on a somewhat lighter duty version of the 3800 full school bus platform.. the ride quality is OK.. much better when its loaded vs empty.. i have rear air springs.. but the smaller 19.5" tires i think make for a nit rougher ride over my others busses which have the full size 11R22.5" wheels..



my axle is the same as on an F-550. (spicer S-110).. the utility truck chassis will give you the ability to find parts in a lot of places.. its got a lot of standard affair on it..



of course id look at the 7.3, but if you go 6.0 and bulletproof it you'll be fine..



the ford transmissions are frankly Junk.. so you would want to look into swapping an allison auto or a spicer stick into it. vs the ford automatics..



a couple here, tango, and ole trunt. are the ones to really talk to about building up a modern bus from an old one as both are doing or have done it.. I think ole trunr used an isuzu? tango is doing a hybrid of the original bus chassis and modern drivetrain (cummins 4BT / allison 6 speed auto)...


as for me and my cruise / MPG.. I typically cruise at 65.. my RPM is a bit low at 1550-1600 in 6th gear.. so unless im on totally flat ground I run in 5th at 1700-1800.. I really need to re-gear down to a 4.10. and go up one size tire for ride quality.. my typical MPG at 65 is 11-14 unless im in a headwind then that will drop significantly..

at 60 i can stay closer to the 14. my engine is a T-444E (which is the navistar version of the power stroke 7.3).. my engine is 9500 hours on original parts.. im getting ready to replace the injectors, up the turbo, and already have turned up the fuel on it slightly.. I dont know how that will affect my MPG's.. when its all done.. its winter in ohio so may not see those items get done till spring.. I swapped out an AT545 and installed an allison 1000.. with the AT545 I was lucky to get 9 MPG when I was really nice to it at 60...

-Christopher
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Old 12-04-2018, 09:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
As for transmission the NV-4500 has a lot of 5th gear issues, just google that. For me I have one and 5th gear has been no end of trouble. I finally gave up and took 5th gear out. This is on a Dodge truck with Cummins.
Yes, here in Corpus Christi, everyone and their mother has a big diesel 4x4 monster truck that will never see any off-roading or towing. Adding insult to injury, they want to drive it like a Ferrari! Many of the 5th gear failures I have witnessed have seen such frivolous abuse or have been frequently overloaded. I'm not sure of the weight of this '41 I'm looking at with kids and gear, whether I'll be within a safe weight range. How big is your bus Ronnie?
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Old 12-04-2018, 11:16 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
ha! I think you mi-took me.. I think a rat rod bus is a perfect idea.. i just mentioned how I went about mine.. in the same format as a "hot-rod" style vs traditional skoolie style..
Its all good. Just clarifying my motive behind preserving the “patina”. Rat-Rod as a term is overused. At one time if someone referred to your car as one, it was fighting words! Ratty, raggedy, unsafe, POS. Now days it is liberally applied to everything other than a Trailer Queen show car.
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
the utility truck chassis will give you the ability to find parts in a lot of places.. its got a lot of standard affair on it..
My thoughts exactly!
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
of course id look at the 7.3, but if you go 6.0 and bulletproof it you'll be fine. The ford transmissions are frankly Junk.. so you would want to look into swapping an allison auto or a spicer stick into it. vs the ford automatics..
I'd like to stick with the Powerstroke and Bulletproof it, but diesel parts are sooo expensive compared to gas! That's why I'm leaning towards gas. I’d rather have a manual transmission also, however my wife will need to drive it as well so… either teach her to drive stick or go with an auto. Might depend on what comes in the donor. Gotta keep the cost down! I can use the manual trans to eco-cruise… long coast to stop lights, down hills, pulse-and-go, etc., nearly doubling the mpg on my Tacoma. Not sure how to do that on an Auto.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
a couple here, tango, and ole trunt. are the ones to really talk to about building up a modern bus from an old one as both are doing or have done it.. I think ole trunr used an isuzu? tango is doing a hybrid of the original bus chassis and modern drivetrain (cummins 4BT / allison 6 speed auto)...
Thanks! I have slowly been reading up on Tango’s build. Good stuff! Can’t wait to see how the 4BT performs. Is the Isuzu a 3.9L 4BD1T or the 6cyl? I was thinking of swapping one of the 4cyl into the van a while back.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
as for me and my cruise / MPG.. I typically cruise at 65.. my RPM is a bit low at 1550-1600 in 6th gear.. so unless im on totally flat ground I run in 5th at 1700-1800.. I really need to re-gear down to a 4.10. and go up one size tire for ride quality.. my typical MPG at 65 is 11-14 unless im in a headwind then that will drop significantly..
That’s great! It’s about the same as I’m getting in my van with a Magnum 5.9, auto (not sure what OD ratio), and 4.10 rear. You think the 4.10’s will help the mpg?
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
at 60 i can stay closer to the 14. my engine is a T-444E (which is the navistar version of the power stroke 7.3).. my engine is 9500 hours on original parts.. im getting ready to replace the injectors, up the turbo, and already have turned up the fuel on it slightly.. I dont know how that will affect my MPG's.. when its all done.. its winter in ohio so may not see those items get done till spring.. I swapped out an AT545 and installed an allison 1000.. with the AT545 I was lucky to get 9 MPG when I was really nice to it at 60... -Christopher
I’ll be sure to follow your progress!
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Old 12-04-2018, 06:14 PM   #8
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,243
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
these days there is a lot to be said for gasoline engines.. one of them being the fact diesel is $1 more than gas in many areas.. not to mention modern gas engines with VVT have the ability for good low end torque and also nice high end efficiency.. not that anything on the used market is showing up with these engines yet...



one of the reasons I got out of the hot-rod / class-car scenbe was because of the pretentiousness.. OMG you have a speck of dirt on your car go home.. type stuff..



Rat rods are Absolutely fab because they are a themb-your-nose at that crowd.. and i love it.. people with great mechanical abilities can build a fun and fast and loud car. and not have to make it mirror-friendly...



the Bus crowd is MUCH more relaxed than the car crowd.. im not into converting busses into RVs. im into the Mechanicals and the "rest-o-mod". going to events with other bus people is amazingly relaxing as no one cares if you have a speck of dust, a bus full of seats or a beautiful home... everyone just has fun together.. the way it USED to be in the car cruise-in scene.. and hopefully what rat-rods bring back to that scene..
-Christopher
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Old 12-04-2018, 06:33 PM   #9
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Virginia
Posts: 749
Year: 1971
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Chassis: International Loadstar 1700
Engine: 345 international V-8
Quote:
Originally Posted by TABrinn View Post
Yes, here in Corpus Christi, everyone and their mother has a big diesel 4x4 monster truck that will never see any off-roading or towing. Adding insult to injury, they want to drive it like a Ferrari! Many of the 5th gear failures I have witnessed have seen such frivolous abuse or have been frequently overloaded. I'm not sure of the weight of this '41 I'm looking at with kids and gear, whether I'll be within a safe weight range. How big is your bus Ronnie?

My bus is 34 feet long, and if it had school bus windows would be an "11 window" bus. Running weight is just under 18,000lbs.

On the NV-4500, the best info I could find on it is that it is rated for 15,000 gross vehicle weight. When towing I do not use 5th gear, I tow up to a gross combined weight of 26,000lbs with my Dodge.

If you use the NV-4500 behind the 7.3 I do think it will live better, two more cylinders and a slightly higher rpm will not rattle the tranny as much. I am running 2000rpms at 70 mph with a 3.50 rear on the truck. a 4.10 rear would be better for the tranny I think anyway.

If you do not know already the NV-4500 has 4 gears inside the main case and 5th is outside the main case in the tail housing. so there is only a nut behind 5th gear holding in place, and because of the bevel on the gears it is being pushed against the nut when under load. so nut vibrates off, 5th gear slides back till it hits the speedo gear and just floats there doing nothing, no harm, no good either.
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Old 12-09-2018, 11:04 AM   #10
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There is a guy a couple towns up from me with a 1948 Ford F5 bus (don't remember body manufacturer) who cut it down to a 5 window from 9 and mounted it on a late 80s or early 90s F350 chassis. Converted the inside to a "conversion van/ camper style" interior and does just fine. Has the 6.9IDI and stock automatic behind it.
Another guy has a 4 window late 40s/ early 50s Chevy bus that he put on an 80s 1 Ton frame. Dont know any other info as I was unable to talk with him much. Looked good though.
One day when I finish my other projects and my Chief of Finances allows it I'll pick up a vintage bus n drop on a newer chassis.
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