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Old 07-08-2018, 07:42 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Washington State
Posts: 28
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, 08:04 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 323
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
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, 08:41 PM   #3
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Engine: 350 Block
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, 09:01 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Asheville, NC
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
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, 09:28 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, 09:57 PM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Greeneville Tn
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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, 10:24 PM   #7
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Join Date: Jun 2015
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
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Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
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, 08:58 PM   #8
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I love the look of it! Go!
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Old 07-11-2018, 06:56 AM   #9
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Asheville, NC
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Year: 1999
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Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
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, 08:03 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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Old 07-16-2018, 08:12 PM   #11
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Pictures here
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Old 07-16-2018, 08:33 PM   #12
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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
Looks great! Glad you you knew a thing or two about working on engines. If that happened to me I probably just would have shot it and put it out of its misery. How long is it behind the driver seat?
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Old 07-16-2018, 11:13 PM   #13
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Sounds like a bit of an adventure getting it home, but you seem to have a good grip on the to-do list.

For its age, it looks pretty clean overall.
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Old 07-17-2018, 12:47 AM   #14
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Year: 1973
Engine: 350 Block
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillbee View Post
Looks great! Glad you you knew a thing or two about working on engines. If that happened to me I probably just would have shot it and put it out of its misery. How long is it behind the driver seat?


I'm very lucky to have a mechanically inclined father who went with me. I did a lot of the hands on work but knowledge is the real power and I have a ton to learn yet.
It's only about 10 feet to work with. Pretty tall headroom wise. I haven't actually measured the middle yet but the sides are nearly 6 feet before the roof starts to curve and nearly 5 feet up on the sides from the top of the wheel wells.
I need to start on that floor plan.
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Old 07-21-2018, 05:46 PM   #15
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Well diesel vs gas- um maintenance will always be higher on a gas engine. I have an eclectic fleet of trucks-fire trucks to dumpster,flatbeds, school bus. Maintenance is easier filters, fluids and ummmm thatís about it. 500,000 miles on several of my diesel engines(before the crazy new computer changes). So other things- that is an old bus- mechanics are terrible about fixing their own stuff. Iíd run away and go to a school auction- buy a recently pulled from service bus and have fun. My 97 Antron 14 passenger handicap lift 175hp Diesel engine auto trans 140,000 miles was under $5000. Small busses are available and should be picked up $1500- $4000 range
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Old 07-21-2018, 09:32 PM   #16
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Location: Washington State
Posts: 28
Year: 1973
Engine: 350 Block
Licensing, registration, quadrojet carb

Well I got the license plates. Only took a few dol trips and an appraisal. The lady who finally got them to me almost registered it as a two-door hard-top. But she just moved out here from Florida so then the manager came over and registered it as a motorhome; even though I was honest that it wasn't converted yet.
So that's neat.

I had to have it appraised by a dealership since they couldn't find it in their NADA system. I called a few dealerships and no one would/could help and no one had any suggestions for me. Lucked out when I called a used car place right in Seattle proper and the gal who helped me was not only willing but excited about the project.
She gave me basically a sheet of paper stating the make model year vin etc.

The other issue was needing a weight slip. The last time I went in, the gal brought up the weight 3 different times. The first two asks I showed her a picture of a sticker on the dash showing GVWR front and back. (There was a plate in the bus with the vehicle weight blank; I kept this to myself.) She kept trying to look it up and eventually her boss just said "its doesn't really matter". So that was that and my hoop jumping was done.

I've finished getting the floor out and I'm ready to start grinding it once I have a day free. I got the carberator off and fully apart and am cleaning it tonight and rebuilding tomorrow.

So far I've learned a few things:
I really have no clue what I'm doing.
Things will take twice as long without have all the tools I need ahead of time.
I need to stop kicking myself for taking more time to accomplish tasks.


I keep getting distracted by all the projects this project contains.
Needless to say I wear a huge grin every day because I got my bus on my brain.
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Old 07-21-2018, 09:41 PM   #17
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Chassis: GMC or Chevrolet, I hope
Engine: gasser probably
cute looking bus
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Old 07-22-2018, 11:26 AM   #18
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Washington State
Posts: 28
Year: 1973
Engine: 350 Block
Rivet removal by hand.

It's such a small bus and I have so many other things to spend money on, so I decided to try to remove the rivets with tools I already have. So I drill out the middle then use a small hand chisel and a hammer to bang off the heads. A very noisy job. But two hours figuring out technique and hammering away and I got 3 panels off with one roof panel nearly ready to come off.
Then a neighbor came by to let me know they could hear the banging inside their house. What else should I expect using a hammer on a giant tin can....

I plan to start whacking as soon as I get home from work today so maybe I'll get more done then yesterday before quiet hours.
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Old 07-22-2018, 11:42 AM   #19
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Engine: Cummins ISC (8.3)
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Looking good Orangetoes!

Where are you in Washington?
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Old 07-23-2018, 03:36 AM   #20
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I have seen a LOT of those Type 'B' buses on GM/Workhorse P-30 chassis. The fact you have the 19.5" wheels instead of the 16" wheels means you have the heavier duty version with four wheel discs instead of front disc/rear drums the lighter duty versions had. IMHO you can never have too much braking ability.

I have also NEVER seen another P-30 chassis bus with a stick shift. I have seen a lot of bread trucks and delivery vans with a stick shift but never a bus.

As long as you don't put too much weight into your conversion you should be okay in regards to weight.

The question the folks at the vehicle licensing office were asking in regards to weight was what does it weigh empty. The empty weight is how they determine which classification your vehicle will be in which will determine how much you will have to pay for the weight assessment on the license. The heavier you are the more expensive your license becomes.

For your purposes it would not be a bad idea to get the bus weighed when it is as empty as possible and have your licensing paperwork amended. Unless the number they used was even less.

Knowing how much the empty bus weighs will also give you an idea as to how much stuff you will be able to cram into your bus.

If your bus has the independent 'A'-arm front suspension you would do well to get a set of air bags that fit inside the front coil springs.

In the back getting a set of Air Lift auxiliary air springs will help the back end from drooping and improve the side to side leaning those buses can do when the suspension gets old and tired.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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