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Old 05-27-2017, 12:37 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24
03 Chevy - AK Shortbus

Hey all,

Wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and my bus "Martin" to the skoolie network! Martin is a 2003 Chevy short bus with a 6.5l GMC diesel engine. I was stoked to find a diesel bus as he gets around 16mpg on the highway (will be even higher when I put a chip in!)

I got my bus in New Jersey sight unseen from a Gov surplus auction for $1,000! With help from family living in the area I flew to NJ from Washington, picked up the bus and got a temp plate from the NJ DMV.

I then began the 3,000 mile journey back to Washington through the I-90 corridor, travelling through Chicago, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho along the way. I had to be back at work after a 3 day weekend so this whole drive had to fit in a pretty tight timeframe! All went well, minus being pretty hagard after driving 3,000 miles in 3 days. I was so happy to find out that the bus ran strong with rust being the biggest issue I'll have to address (East Coast bud - to be expected).

After a few more weeks at my winter job in Washington, Martin and I drove to Alaska where I'll be working for the next 6-7 months. The drive went smoothly, going up through highway 1 into BC and eventually joining up with the Alaskan highway around Fort St. John. We made it to Southeast Alaska in 4 days and with only 1 snowstorm along the roads. Drive was in March - my posting is a bit delayed ;)

Now that we've made it up here I'll settle in to my summer work and work on converting the bus on my weekends.

More updates to come as I make progress.
Attached Images
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Old 05-27-2017, 01:07 PM   #2
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You're certainly putting some miles on Martin. The Alcan sounds like a fun trip. The drive back from NJ, not so much. Glad to hear things went well on both trips.
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Old 05-27-2017, 02:04 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
You're certainly putting some miles on Martin. The Alcan sounds like a fun trip. The drive back from NJ, not so much. Glad to hear things went well on both trips.
Thanks Robin! It was quite the journey to get it westward and then to the North. With 127,000 miles on the bus when I picked it up I have a feeling this diesel will see me through many miles in the coming years.
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Old 05-27-2017, 09:48 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24
Got a bed platform installed in the back and put some reflectix foil insulation in the back windows by the bed. Really cut down on draft and made it a whole lot warmer in there!

I also forgot to mention earlier that the bus came with all the seats out except 1 bench. Real happy not to have to deal with removal/disposal!
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Old 05-28-2017, 12:03 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24


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Old 06-10-2017, 05:11 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24
Everything must go!

Well, even though I moved in temporarily and built a bed platform, I used my weekend to get everything out and into storage before gutting the floor and walls.

I often travel to the mountains/snowy places so getting the cheap bus insulation out and putting some higher R-value foam board in there was a must. Luckily its summer in Alaska (which is actually pretty warm) so no need to worry about freezing for now.

As of this update I have all the wall and ceiling panels off in the "back" living space, front cab will come later. I used some Phospho and a spray bottle to treat the floor for rust after grinding away some of the worst spots. All in all I'm considering myself quite lucky as the floor only has a few spots of rust.

This step will be great as the Phospho turns rust into carbide and will offer a lasting fix alongside the rustoleum paint I'll be putting down in a few hours.

More updates to come as I move into framing and flooring the bus.

Cheers,

Charlie
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg Bus Flooring 2.jpg (96.1 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Flooring.jpg (80.8 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Floor Stripped.jpg (74.3 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Wall Stripped.jpg (90.4 KB, 6 views)
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Old 06-10-2017, 07:18 PM   #7
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Billings, MT
Posts: 1,103
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: HDX
Engine: Cat C7
Rated Cap: 84 passenger
I've already survived two Montana winters in mine, but I have a lot more cubic footage to heat. My best suggestion? Get some German Federbett comforters and plenty of blankets. http://betten-anne.de They ship to the states, usually within a week of your ordering them. Prices are in Euros, so if you use PayPal, it's a no-sweat conversion.
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Old 06-10-2017, 11:54 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
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Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptSquid View Post
I've already survived two Montana winters in mine, but I have a lot more cubic footage to heat. My best suggestion? Get some German Federbett comforters and plenty of blankets. http://betten-anne.de They ship to the states, usually within a week of your ordering them. Prices are in Euros, so if you use PayPal, it's a no-sweat conversion.
Those blankets look pretty nice, my girlfriend bought me some Pendleton blankets (super cozy and warm). Since its summer I have coughed up the money for a heating unit (prioritizing other purchases) but I plan to get a diesel heater and store near the back of the bus in a spot I'm building at the end of the bed. Since the bus runs on diesel I figure I'll always have some fuel nearby

Where do you winter in MT? I used to live in Big Sky (pre-bus) and it get's wicked cold in December. Kudos for making it work, I'm striving to get this thing as ready as it can be for next winter!
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Old 06-11-2017, 06:33 AM   #9
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Join Date: May 2009
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forget blankets and bundling up.. put in a H*LL of a furnace and stay nice N warm!
seems alot of have success with wood stoves boilingthem out of their bus in cold winters.., in alaska theres like endless firewood isnt there?
-Christopher
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Old 06-11-2017, 10:11 AM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Alaska and roaming the lower 48
Posts: 13
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Express 3500
Engine: 6.5L GMC Diesel
Rated Cap: 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
forget blankets and bundling up.. put in a H*LL of a furnace and stay nice N warm!
seems alot of have success with wood stoves boilingthem out of their bus in cold winters.., in alaska theres like endless firewood isnt there?
-Christopher
I'm going with diesel heater since the bus is fueled by diesel. I thought about wood stoves, and as you say a lot of Alaskans heat their homes with wood stove primary backed up by a toyo diesel (toyo to keep your home at 50 deg. while you're away in the winter). There are two reasons I'm opting against the wood stove for the bus:

1) The stove itself is typically heavy and eats up precious space in this small bus.

2) The wood fuel needed isn't available everywhere, and requires lugging around lots of firewood (extra fuel source that is only good for 1 thing whereas diesel will work for the bus and the heater).

I've also talked with a few people around my neck of Alaska who have converted skoolies who have told me its hard to finess the heat level of a woodstove in such a tiny space. Like you said you typically get burned outta there!
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