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Old 11-25-2009, 08:43 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: British Columbia
Posts: 24
Year: 1970
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: International Harvester
Engine: 304 International V8
1970 International Superior

My bus is a 1970 Superior on an International Loadstar 1600 chassis. It measures about 21 feet long overall which i think qualifies it for short-bus status. Power is provided by the venerable 304 V8 gas engine, and is put to the single ratio rear end by what is technically a four speed manual transmission, though first is too low for general use. The fastest it's gone on the highway is about 45 mph, and that's pushing the revs up pretty high. It goes without saying then that it was never intended for long distance travel or highway use of any kind. Regardless of this the bus came to Vancouver Island, British Columbia from Swan River, Manitoba, over thousands of miles of highway sometime in the 1980's. At this time it had already been converted into and registered as a motorhome.

I came across the bus in the fall of 2006 sitting in a swampy lot with an assortment of mobile homes, old cars and derelict boats. At this time it was not running and the original conversion job had been largely demolished. The owner at the time was hoping to quickly refurbish the interior and move in, but he was starting to realize the scope of such a project and was fairly easily persuaded to trade for a 19 foot 1970's era travel trailer that I had been given a few months before. The insurance tag on the plate showed that it had not been insured for the road since 1997.

Before trying to move the bus i stripped out what was left of the interior. This was accomplished mostly using a shovel. The original 3/4in plywood subfloor, which was covered in red linoleum, had gone bad years before. Instead of removing the rotten ply, which would have necessitated the total rebuild of the interior, the former owner had simply covered it up with another layer of 1/4in ply and more linoleum. This served only to trap massive amounts of moisture in the subfloor. By the time i removed it, all the wood on the floor had basically disintegrated into mush. To my dismay i found that the soaked wood had, predictably, nearly destroyed the metal floor underneath. When i was done the bus was quite empty, even the metal interior paneling had been previously removed. The only interior fittings still in place were the drivers seat, the electrical panel and the heater enclosure.

Once the bus was emptied, the focus turned to firing the engine. This was accomplished with some difficulty. After replacing the battery, draining the tanks and flushing the fuel system with some fresh gas, the motor would not fire. I pulled the distributor cap and removed the points. Sure enough they were burnt quite badly. With replacements out of reach for the day i sanded the contacts back to shiny metal and re-installed them with fingers crossed. Before trying to start the bus again i also pulled out the MSD Blaster coil which i believed was responsible for frying the points and replaced it with the stock one. This quick fix seemed to work and with a bit of encouragement applied directly to the starter by the back of a large axe, the engine finally fired up. With the bus running I checked everything over, and found a few more issues. The exhaust system, though in fair shape, was poorly put together and had a series of leaks. I also found that the vacuum assist hydraulic brakes were inoperable and the vacuum system itself was leaking badly. Despite these problems the rest of the drivetrain seemed to be in good shape and the bus rolled back and forth a few feet for the first time in years.

I decided that except for the brakes, the bus was drivable and set about finding someone to repair the problem. I didn't feel that my limited skills were enough to safely accomplish the task. I found a local mechanic just down the road who had a bus parked beside his tiny shop. I figured this must be the guy for the job. He came over to the lot where the bus was parked and after a quick demonstration of the lack of braking action he offered to fix the problem for fifty bucks, which i paid to him on the spot. I was just happy that i'd be able to drive the bus to the autobody shop i was lucky enough to have use of for a time.

A few days went past before the mechanic found the time to get out to do the job. I watched as he topped up the fluid reservior pushed the brake pedal as he bled the wheel cylinders all the way around. He claimed that the vacuum leak was 'normal' and simply regulated the negative pressure of the system. He quickly wrapped up the job by pushing down the pedal a couple of times and claimed the problem was solved. He then rushed off to get back to work on an engine swap he had underway at his shop.

I had to roll the bus out right away as the land owner was getting agitated about the delays in getting the bus going, but as i started to head down the short lane to the road i found the brakes were still completely ineffective. I was forced to call a tow truck and at a cost of $90 had the bus towed to the autobody shop, which was 25 miles away by highway, but only 10 miles on gravel via a steep twisting industrial haul road. You can guess which route the towtruck driver chose. It was a nail biting trip as the bus was towed backwards and off center, which resulted in her spending much of the time on one front wheel, including while going across a one lane bridge with no guardrails. Not an experience i'd care to repeat. Fortunately the tow did no damage and was soon concluded.

With the bus safely at the shop, the pressure was off and things began to proceed more slowly. The deteriorated floor was high pressure washed then completely freed of rust with hammer and chisel. Then i thoroughly sanded and primed all the remaining metal with a thick mix of leftover rust paints. while the worst of the holes were patched with new metal. Soon though, I was forced to move into the bus for the first time in the midst of a wet and cold winter. The drivers seat and console were stripped out and I laid carpet and underlay and hung blankets on the walls in a quick attempt to help keep warm, jammed in a sofa and an electric space heater, then filled the remaining space with the rest of my junk. Within a week the bus had morphed into a fairly livable unit, though there were no kitchen or washroom facilities, and i continued to live on board for three months. The weather was frequently below freezing during this time and there was alot of rain and a bit of snow. Despite this i was reasonably dry and comfortable and only sometimes regretted trading off my fully equipped travel trailer. In early spring i rented a room in a nearby house and moved out of the bus.

Soon after the bus was moved to a new location (another body shop) once again under tow, although in the right direction this time. While there I recoated the floor and replated the corroded rear inner fenders with galvanized metal. I then primed all of the exposed metal from the windows down with red oxide primer. Soon afterwards i managed to rent a shop big enough to actually put the bus in and had it towed there. While at this location i installed some cedar plank flooring and fixed the brakes. I found that the problem with the brakes had been corrosion in the master cylinder which had caused the rubbers to shred and lose their seal. I bought new complete master cylinder assembly and bolted it up. Then with the help of a friend I thoroughly bled the brake system and discovered that the wheel cylinders and brake shoes were quite fresh.

The bus's stay at this shop lasted until early fall, when the property was put up for sale. At this time i also moved back into the bus, again using it mostly as a bedroom, though without as much junk onboard this time. my range was extended and i parked at a nice lakefront site next to a rustic cabin which I had use of for the winter. While there i installed red cedar vertical 1x4's planed to match the width of the interior framing. These extend to the top of the horizontal frame above the windows and are securely held by drill point metal screws, (as is the wood floor) and serve as the tie in for the wall paneling, as well as being part of the window trim.

In the spring i moved the bus to yet another site and she undertook her longest trip yet, almost 35 miles. I got passed by everything on the road, but she made it safely and the ancient tires even started to round out pretty good by the end of it. The best part was that she only burned about ten bucks worth of fuel.

Since then a couple of more interesting moves have happened including a drive back across the bridge that she was towed backwards across. The wall paneling on the door side has been installed and a large rear wheelwell box installed, with room for tool storage. There's a basic kitchenette in place and some wiring. I am yet to properly get into finishing it up but i have plans to get it to completion by the summer of 2012.
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Old 11-25-2009, 12:53 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Location: San Francisco, CA
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Year: 1992
Coachwork: SturdiVan
Chassis: Ford E-350
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Re: 1970 International Superior

Sounds like one hell of a project, reminds me of this one bus I almost picked up for $100 a while back. Got any pictures?
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Old 11-25-2009, 03:35 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: British Columbia
Posts: 24
Year: 1970
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: International Harvester
Engine: 304 International V8
Re: 1970 International Superior

When we bled the brakes tons of gross goopy stuff came through the bleeders. It took a few jugs of fluid before it came totally clear. The brakes will have to see some new parts im sure, the secondary bleeder on the front left is 'vice grip only' at this point, and you're right, who knows what debris is still in the system. Guess thats what happens from sitting 9 years in a field. The brake lines themselves appear to be really solid, but they will absolutely be changed out, along with the wheel cylinders, when i do the inevitable full chassis overhaul. I have a bunch of pictures but i haven't found a way of getting them online that appeals to my horrific connection speed.
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Old 11-25-2009, 11:56 PM   #4
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Re: 1970 International Superior

DOT3 brake fluid attracts and absorbs moisture due to it's chemical makeup, I'm with smitty on changing to DOT5 brakefluid, it's synthetic and doesn't attract moisture, downside is it's expensive and posibly may not be compatable with the rubber parts in your original brake system, also, the steel brakelines can rust thru from the insideout. the easiest thing to do is replace all of the brakelines and wheel cylinders and change it over to synthetic brakefluid. my past experience with brake systems is that if you only repair the weak link you will chase the next weaklink untill you have gon completely thru the system with the biggest challenge being your sense of humor and positive attitude.
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:02 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: British Columbia
Posts: 24
Year: 1970
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: International Harvester
Engine: 304 International V8
Bus Umbrella

How to get a few extra weeks out of an ancient tarp. Shredded and threadbare, it needed a slope to repel water. It actually took a pretty good storm to finish it off.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:20 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 32
Year: 1977
Coachwork: International Harvester
Chassis: Loadstar
Engine: V8, Ex-US-Air-Force Bus
Re: 1970 International Superior

This sounds like quite the project. It's nice to see how things have come allong so far!

I like the cedar flooring idea. I'm thinking about using cedar floor if I can affort it. Since you've experienced installing a cedar plank floor, what kind of advice might you have for someone whose looking into buying some to install. Did you have any negatives out of installing this? How thick is the wood, and do you think it was a good choice? What do you think about sealing the cracks between the planks to keep liguid and dirt from getting into your floor?

I'm excited to see how things come allong for you in your project

Turtle
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Old 12-16-2009, 05:25 AM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: British Columbia
Posts: 24
Year: 1970
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: International Harvester
Engine: 304 International V8
Re: 1970 International Superior

I got really lucky with the cedar. There's quite a few types, this stuff happens to be Western Red Cedar. It came from a local mill just down the road from where i was working. Fifty bucks got me as much as i could load in my truck so cost wasn't an issue. I used the nicest looking stuff for the floor. The planks varied in width from four and a half to eight inches or so, and are about three quarters of an inch thick, all rough cut.

I laid the planks out directly on the metal floor without fastening them, and tried to 'bookmatch' them to get a symmetrical flooring pattern, not that it will probably matter, there will be stuff built over most of it. I didn't want any plywood in the floor of my bus. I really think plywood subfloors are to be avoided. They're prone to rot. I glued the cedar to the floor with bedding compound and screwed it down with lots of drill head metal screws. It's really important to pre drill through the planks, and countersink the screw heads. I encountered some problems when i tried to put screws through thicker steel, so i kept the screw locations on the plated areas, and away from the frames. It sucked the planks down great and they came out fairly flush. Because they were all rough cut and sized i had to do plenty of hand planing and orbital sanding to get the planks completely even and free of blade marks. Red Cedar is really soft so it contoured around the knots and edges and it's kind of wavy and rippled if you look close.
I haven't yet filled the cracks, but i intend to do this with some black acrylic sealer. I think it's a good idea to leave up to an eighth inch or so gap between the planks for expansion and flex. I had a few tight spots i had to cut out with a blade to get good spacing. Im going to finish it with mineral or linseed oil i think, though i haven't done this yet either.
I think cedar is a great option for flooring if you don't want it to have to be perfect to look good. It's got a really warm colour and feel. It resists rot so it should last a good long time. It's too soft to repel scratches but then again most wood is. Because of it's relatively low density it provides some insulation value too. In retrospect it might have been nice to lay the wood on top of pink SM foam, but then it would probably have to be a floating floor and not screwed down. I prefer a whole bunch of screws. Im doing yellow cedar on the walls, to give a bit of contrast.
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Old 12-16-2009, 10:17 AM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: British Columbia
Posts: 24
Year: 1970
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: International Harvester
Engine: 304 International V8
Re: 1970 International Superior

Yes, I have to agree that plywood isn't all bad, i was thinking very locally. Here in BC it stands true, though, most plywood will only last a few years in close contact with metal. Moisture sneaks into the endgrain and wicks underneath the surface. I've gone through at least a dozen old skoolies with mushy floors, and i've seen much body damage caused by soggy plywood. I imagine this would be mitigated by rigid foam, but i think even this should be bedded well onto the metal. It's a fact that condensation will form on the cold side of pink foamboard if it against a yet colder surface. I'm hoping that the bedding compound i've used under the cedar will prevent any moisture from getting trapped there. There shouldn't be any airspace between the wood and the metal to allow that to happen.
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Old 12-16-2009, 12:26 PM   #9
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Re: 1970 International Superior

*awaits a comment from our resident Red Rosin Paper guy* =D
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:10 PM   #10
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Year: 1977
Coachwork: International Harvester
Chassis: Loadstar
Engine: V8, Ex-US-Air-Force Bus
Re: 1970 International Superior

The floor looks lovely! What a nice feel! I like the idea of the yellow cedar for the walls!
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