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Old 07-18-2011, 04:52 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Year: 1999
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1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Well after reading for quite some time I decided to take the plunge and looked around for a bus to convert.
Being here in Hawaii is a real eye opener; the DMW and powers to be are very very anti "RV"..
I found a bus for $1,000.00 and had to put tires on it; WOW 225/70R/19.50 are not cheap.
Registration is costing $700.00 per year.
I did eventually figured out the merry go round system here and went to the DOT and got a permit under HRS 286-207 part 9. Means it will only be used for personal ( hauling family ) use and never for commercial use. I now don't have to deal with the DOT " commercial " safety inspection. BUT still have to pay the commercial registration.. Told you they hate "RV's" here.
The bus is built like a tank with steel roll cage in it and skin is Aluminum NOT fiberglass. Floor is 3/4" water resistant treated wood and insulation; rock solid and no squeaks. The bus has TWO AC units - front and Rear separate. It has Two AC compressors mounted to the engine.
The engine is a 1999 Chevy 7.4 liter or 454CID Big Block fuel injected with a 4L80E trans. Four wheel disk brakes and more..
The AC needs a charge and I am thinking of using Propane to test it ( propane is listed under refrigerant # R290 ); yes I will have a hose and multiple fire extinguishers present during the testing.. Reason is 134A prices have gotten in the stupid range - 300.00 and more for a 30lb jug. System tests out okay and if any leaks and fix them; THEN I'll evac and recharge with 134A..
The other issue is the bus doors; they use an electric linear actuator. After trouble shooting it the polarity is not reversing allowing the doors to open; they will close from the open when I use a jump pack to run the motor directly; but again the polarity won't reverse. I looked for a relay and found ALLOT of then in a box under the passenger window across from the drivers seat in line with the dog house cover. I originally thought the box was a heater due to the large wire grill across the top; nope when I pulled the cover off it looked like something from the space shuttle; 50-60 relays; same for LED's and more on a PC board. I found a remote relay item that I can use a key fob to open and close the doors by remote control. I sent an e mail to the bus manufacturer; yet to get a response. I don't get one soon I will have to pull the dash apart to get the door control switch out and hook a buzz box to leads to figure out the door control circuit and make my own circuit.
I will be getting a camera and start to take and upload pictures as to what is going on. I have included links to a video and web page describing the exact same bus I have.
http://www.arcolabus.com/commercialbuse ... /escortfe/
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:22 PM   #2
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

that is really different! very neat! wonder what that would cost to get shipped to the mainland though..
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:39 PM   #3
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

I installed my own linear accuator -I just use a regular 2way switch (press left opens-press right closes-neutral in the middle). I'm sure you can run the power from the switch to a relay for each direction.
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:33 PM   #4
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

hey thanks for the great responses. Just stopped by for a heads up.
WOW take about getting things positioned and setup - like a military action with all the "logistics" involved.
I also forgot to mention I took this critter on the highway. OMG - at 2600 rpm's it cruising at 65mph and I took it to 90mph for a short burst. RPM'S were at 4600.
One poster mentioned shipping to the mainland - I don't know at this time, BUT there is a company called PASHA Hawaii that is based here with a really cool transport ship. I thought when I retire of shipping this to the mainland. But of course I expect the bus to go kicking and screaming onto the boat.. WHAT leave HAWAII?
I am working on a floor plan now and my friends thought I was nuts when I told then the bed platform is going to be 3-3.5 feet high; told then the space is going to be used for storage. I figured the "bedroom" takes almost 1/3 of the buses floor area and why not be efficient. I am also debating on using a 7 cubic foot freeze chest type and used a temp control to run it as a refer?
I have ordered items - ALLOT of an online auction web site sellers I have learned are a real pain in the butt. One refused to honor the auction and doubled the shipping; then all of a sudden claimed a hand saw fell and broke? THE BATHTUB.. Asked for a picture and they refused. Grrr. So I am thinking of either finding a stainless steel sink - large single one to make as a shower pan and use FRB as the sides.
I am also thinking if possible the mount the "sink" into the bus floor if there is room underneath and save some head room - I'm 6-2". As for power. I have a 7000 watt genset and I can get 8D batteries for 130.00 new. I thought about 4 of them? Hooked in parallel it should give me a reserve of 1600amps and cranking if I need it at 6000 amps.
I am looking around for a RV AC to DC converter with battery charger.
I am figuring on making most of everything run on a 12v circuit due to inverters using ALLOT of AMPS when running. Computer no problem; there are dc to dc power supplies for them.
The LCD TV I am considering opening up and hooking my meter to the output and see what the voltage is and running a kilawatt on it to see what the draw is. Then finding a regulated dc to dc voltage regulator and wire that in after the ac power supply?
I have read and seen allot of ways of wiring and I am considering using heavy grade color coded contractors 10 gauge extension cords? Orange 110v/green12v. etc..
Anything I can't run on 12v I'll use an inverter for that item.
Bus interior lighting will be LED, again to save power and they will last a long time.
I am thinking out loud and making a big list. I am trying to avoid mistakes that ill cost money and time and I am going to "steal" great ideas from you posters here on this fantastic web site.
Aloha and have a great day or night.
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Old 07-20-2011, 12:06 AM   #5
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

You already are stealing a few of mine! I use an orange ext. cord to run to an external plug under the bus. Cut the ends (or in my case one end-the male plugs a power strip-then inverter) + wired it in to the waterproof external outlet. Good grade wire-and good insulation.
And I have led lights all through the bus-they draw next to nothing.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:41 AM   #6
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Bullwacker

I have a bus very similar to yours. Mine is a 1998 Escort FE that I bought 2 years ago. Mine is a former paratransit bus that had the wheelchair lift removed when I bought it. I bought it on ebay for $3000 with fairly new paint and newer tires. I left mine registered commercial since I use mine for my business (I converted it into a mobile woodshop and offer woodworking classes for children). My California registration is $452 per year and now I have to have a biennial smog inspection. I also have the dual A/C's and mine were not working when I bought the bus. I ended up spending another $3000 to rebuild both A/C's (both compressors, two lines and all four fans on the condensor for the rear A/C). I just wish I could find the service manual so I could do some work on the electrical system.
Anyway as you work on your bus I would be happy to share any info that I learn and hope you would want to do the same.

Oh by the way I intentionally bought a gas engine since any diesel bus commericially registered build prior to 2009 has to be retrofitted with a particulate filter that costs anywhere from $12-20,000

Stephan Willner
www.willieswoodshop.com
Galt, CA
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Old 07-22-2011, 05:17 AM   #7
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Thanks Penguin will do that most definitely.
I also went with the gas engine about the same reasons as you do; but parts for this engine are all over compared to a diesel; I like diesel BUT they cost way way more to fix.
I still Have not gotten a response back from ElDorado and will be making a call to them?
I am learning already I can not even start building any cabinets until I have ALL the appliances there to measure them.
The biggest thing that has brought almost everything to a screeching halt is dealing with sellers on an online auction - WOW... I send money ALLOT of money and their "free" shipping is not really free despite my carefully checking their auction information. So now I am trying to get $1,000.00 back from multiple sellers. I have now decided to Make the shower pan out of fiberglass and will have to make the positive mold for it. More routing and sanding to come just to lay a jell coat and glass mat.. Once the base is made I'll make the surround out of FRB and seal it.
I have looked for a drivers mirror but can't find one so guess I'll have to go to a glass supplier and get some and make it.
AC is acting like a Frankenstein and debating either pull the whole thing out and use the condenser box on the drivers side to hold my 4 8D batteries.
I am looking for sliding windows for this critter? It gets really hot inside. The roof is well insulated but the windows let it all in.
The bus is built on a Chevy P30 frame and I am wondering will a trailer hitch for this van fit on the bus?
I've got the stove top - 3 burner, Two 23 gallon tanks - gray water and poop tank in. 4.5 cubic GE reefer, 30 gallon fresh water tank and .9 cubic microwave
Anyone have items they want to sell let me know and I am interested.
Our better halves; they do the most interesting things
While we were removing the seats I showed her very carefully what was to be done on how to put the box end of the wrench on the bolt head and where to brace it against the seat leg AND make sure your fingers were not between them. So I got back under the bus, put the air wrench on the bolt and yelled you ready; she replied yes; I said okay firing air wrench. Brrriiiipppp SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM..... From inside of the bus from her. So I fly out from under it, my head makes contact with an immovable part of the bus, I am seeing stars and wobbling around and ask what? what?... She cries the wrench is eating her dress??? I look at her with watering eyes and saw she had done the EXACT opposite from what I had shown her to do with the wrench. It had spun around and wound up her dress like you wring out a towel. Now I had to take her out to dinner after buying her a new dress. I wonder??
I am compiling pictures and getting them in order and will start posting them in a few weeks.
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Old 07-22-2011, 11:46 AM   #8
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

lol yes, the better half usually gets the better half wrong. at least you didnt do serious harm! (to either person lol)
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:35 PM   #9
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

ElDorado answered the phone.
I was able to get wiring diagrams if anyone needs them in pdf format.
I would just post it here and don't know how?
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Old 07-28-2011, 11:30 PM   #10
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

You have had more luck communicating with El Dorado than I have. If you would could you email the electrical diagram .pdf's to swillner@sbcglobal.net

Thanks

Stephan Willner
"Penguin"
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