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Old 07-08-2018, 06:42 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Washington State
Posts: 8
Year: 1973
Engine: 350 Block
Am I making an Awesome mistake or just a regular one

I am days to weeks from buying a bus (depending how this upcoming thursday goes) and months from hitting the road full time, or at least 95% of the time. This sounds more unrealistic typed out than in my head but I'm going to make it happen. It'll be just myself and my two outdoor cats so a shorty should work out.

I've been lurking for a while now, mentally and financially preparing myself to start my conversion. I went to a music festival last August and rode out there in a glittery - partially converted school bus called 'Sparkles', which is exactly when I began my obsession with this goal. Full disclosure:, every step of the way will be a learning process for me but ultimately part of why I want to do this is to learn a ton of stuff and feel like I accomplished something Im still doubting I can do.

I've found a very neat looking bus that's a reasonable distance away, fits all my dealbreakers and is within my bus budget. I'm making the drive to go see it in person 4 days from now and I figure all my questions will be answered.
The seller is being somewhat dodgy on giving me details but I think it's because he know's what a cool thing he has... Says his buddy was using the bus as a mobile mechanic shop which to me means it's likely in as good of driving condition as he states. I'll be taking a mechanic with me though.

It's a 1973 GMC 350 engine, gasoline with 4 speed manual transmission.

The manual transmission is a hugely cool point for me and the 350 Engine should be simple enough for an amateur like myself to fumble around with.

I haven't been able to find a single conversion with a bus that looks like this one though. Should I be concerned or excited about this?

Anyway I'm planning to document everything as I go and in case this thread dies after this post, thanks to everyone on this site for the invaluable information.

Attached are the photos from the CL ad

Thoughts and opinions are truly desired and appreciated.
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Old 07-08-2018, 07:04 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Looks nice in the photos.

However, the P30 stepvan does not have much headroom; 73" IIRC. Also, the gasser is going to suck down some fuel on longer trips.

If you are OK with that size of vehicle, I would look for a Ford E-type ambulance or smaller shuttle bus with the 7.3L Powerstroke diesel. They can be had for about the same money.

Here is another possibility in your neck of the woods. This is going up much higher in price but it has a lot of stuff already in it that you would have to buy otherwise. Engine is the 7.3L IDI, the predecessor of the Powerstrocke. Reliable but not as powerful.
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Old 07-08-2018, 07:41 PM   #3
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Hey thanks for the reply!
I'm actually avoiding Diesel for a couple main reasons. Mainly there's nearly no way I'd be able to do any work on it myself and over the long term this is a goal of mine. And secondly I don't plan to drive it cross country on any kind of regular basis. It'll be mostly idle for 4 to 8 months at a time and gasoline engines handle this way better. I don't want to have to call a mechanic out to get it started every time I want to move....

So you think it's a step van? I ran through that possibility while trying to figure out what it is but I don't see how/why they would put all that money into converting it (adding windows and changing the door and adding a school bus rear...)?
EDIT: It sure looks like a carpenter cadet. Thanks for the lead!

I'm definitely not looking for an ambulance or solid walled van. The windows are a big appeal to me.
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Old 07-08-2018, 08:01 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orangetoes View Post
Hey thanks for the reply!
I'm actually avoiding Diesel for a couple main reasons. Mainly there's nearly no way I'd be able to do any work on it myself and over the long term this is a goal of mine. And secondly I don't plan to drive it cross country on any kind of regular basis. It'll be mostly idle for 4 to 8 months at a time and gasoline engines handle this way better. I don't want to have to call a mechanic out to get it started every time I want to move....

So you think it's a step van? I ran through that possibility while trying to figure out what it is but I don't see how/why they would put all that money into converting it (adding windows and changing the door and adding a school bus rear...)?
EDIT: It sure looks like a carpenter cadet. Thanks for the lead!

I'm definitely not looking for an ambulance or solid walled van. The windows are a big appeal to me.
Yes, you need to travel a lot of miles to recoup the higher price and more expensive maintenance of a diesel. But I like the smell of diesel exhaust in the morning

Carpenter Cadet it is. Learn something everyday on this site.
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Old 07-08-2018, 08:28 PM   #5
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I was/is considering that style bus for a conversion (starting in 2019.)
Here's the thread with all the links and things I could find on Skoolie.net


http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f27/p3...one-22569.html


The short version is that they're designed on lighter-duty step van chassis, so they can't carry a ton of extra weight. On the other hand, it's a shortie, and if you're not living in it, it should be okay. (A similar thing can be said about the cutaway van-based buses.)

You seem fine with the gas and the manual, its awesome that it's not yellow, and that front end looks great (points for style.)

Based on what you want to do with it, I'd go look.
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Old 07-08-2018, 08:57 PM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Greeneville Tn
Posts: 9
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue bird
Chassis: Mini bird
Engine: 5.7 chevy
Rated Cap: 24 passenger
I am converting a p30 bus too. Mine is a little bigger looks like,but it’s a 1999 blue bird mini bird. My conversion is a little different than anyone else in this forum though. Mine is a food truck. Still in process hoping to open in September. It has the Chevy 350 but it’s an automatic. It does have a low roof line and I need to raise a section of it for the hood vent But I think it’s awesome!
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Old 07-08-2018, 09:24 PM   #7
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A unique thing about the P30/Carpenter is the location of the door which gives you a fully functional passenger seat.
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Old 07-10-2018, 07:58 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Year: 1994
I love the look of it! Go!
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Old 07-11-2018, 05:56 AM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alpine44 View Post
A unique thing about the P30/Carpenter is the location of the door which gives you a fully functional passenger seat.
After looking at a couple more photos, I don't think that it has a 'copilot' seat.
Anyways it's a different, interesting design.
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Old 07-16-2018, 07:03 PM   #10
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Year: 1973
Engine: 350 Block
Well I went for it. Talked the guy down a couple hundred from his asking price.
The bad I can think of right now:

Some windows down lock up tightly
Needs new disc brakes
Sway bar bushings gone and one bracket missing
No muffler or exhaust pipe
No air filter
Needs new wipers
Engine leaking somewhere
Needs a new turn signal arm

I'm sure there will be more as I go along.
Started ripping out the flooring and the metal actually looks pretty good. Just a tad bit of surface rust so far so that's awsome.

Went to get it registered today (in Washington) and they say they need a department of revenue declaration of buyer/seller form and a scale weight slip. Since the seller wasn't very responsive I've been working on finding a way around this today. Made several calls and finally found a used car place willing to do an appraisal based on photos of the bus. Woo hoo! Once I get that letterhead document I'll try again with just a photo of the gvwr sticker in the bus.

I'm very excited to be starting this process.

So once we left the sellers house we were cruising just fine. As soon as we hit the higher speed roads (after ~3 miles of dirt road and ~15 miles back roads) the bus starts lurching and then acting like it has no power.
So we pull into the nearest brewery (~30 min drive from point of purchase) and let the engine cool while we enjoy a nice brew. By this time it's already 9pm with our 4.5 hr drive and ~2 hr Inspection and retest drive.
At the sellers house we were worried the head gasket was leaking because from near the pedals there was a trickle of brake fluid. But after that test drive the whole way home it never happened again.

Tabs on the bus are from 2013 so I think it had just been sitting for a while. Anyway we finish our brew and have about 30 minutes to find the fuel filter and also get to an AutoZone to buy and new one. That was a fun race in the dark, haha. Barely made it. AutoZone was actually closed but I pleaded through the window and convinced the guy to sell me the stupid $3 fuel filter.

Got that in and then the carb was leaking fuel badly. So thus began a 4 hour disassembly and reassembly of the carb. Rochester quadrojet for those interested.
Sure wish I had brought my headlight.
Ended up losing a tiny screw but still made it work. Turns out the air filter the guy had on it was crap and didn't even have a filter in it haha. So that was off for the drive home.
A little after 2am we got it all back, turn her over and rip out of there as fast as a mighty slow slug.
It actually ran great the whole 5 hours to get home. Noticed at our brief pit stops the engine leaks but it didnt slow us down. Dumped a quart of oil in around half way and only had to fill up once since the fuel gauge doesn't work.
It gets about 10mpg.

I was loopy with excitement and adrenaline nearly the whole ride. Very glad I brought ear muffs since there was no muffler.
Anyway here's some photos
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