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Old 01-01-2016, 11:51 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2015
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Betty the Bus build thread

I've been posting on and off here for a while with a bit of this and that, and though maybe I should make a build thread.

Betty the Bus is actually/technically my daughter's bus; or is it hers but technically mine? Anyway it's her primary project but I have been involved and it's currently living at our house while she's down working in Berkeley, CA. Since it's in my driveway I figure I might as well do some things with it.

It's a Collins with a Ford E350 chassis and a nice big 7.3L diesel. Short bus, and rated for 18 passengers.

Acquisition
Up front cost was zero, as the previous owner gifted it to my daughter, which was a nice surprise. Mind you it took $1000 worth of work right off the bat (bad alternator and water pump leak), then later it was the fuel pump that went out.

It started out as a Burning Man bus that had gone for 9 years, been an art car, been many things. So it had some history, as well as some interesting features such as red fur on the inside, a big hole in the roof where the steering arrangement was so you could drive it from the roof, and a crusty black paint job. Also a ton of dust in everything.







So that patch on the roof? A piece of Plexiglas held down with some rocks :/

Home finally in Corvallis, OR after a delayed trip over the mountains from Bend due to the bad alternator.



Continued in next post...
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Old 01-02-2016, 12:22 AM   #2
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Continuing the Betty story to get caught up to the present...

Initial Cleanup
First order of business was to gut the interior of all the fur and other such trappings and get as much dust as we could out. We also put on some temporary plywood patches for big holes in the roof just to get it by for a while. Sorta waterproof, but good enough until we got things to the point where there couldn't be any leaks.

No pictures alas, but needless to say there were piles of fur and tons of wires that no longer did anything at all. Lots of the original wires remained from old bus lights and features, but they were no longer functioning

Down to Berkeley for a Lift and a Paint Job
At this point the bus went down to Berkeley where my daughter is, and she and her fiance took advantage of the facilities where they worked to do a lift of the bus. Basically it was chopped just above the windows, lifted with a forklift, then 1' long 1x1 steel posts welded in, and a new skin added on to fill the space. My daughter has a blog with some great photos and narration on the lift at the mellow fellow goes for a ride: Days 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 (oh my!) with plenty of pictures.

Back up to Oregon
Fast forward now after the lift and several trips up and down the west coast, along with a first coat of white paint, the interior metal stripped from walls and ceiling, and some foam put in to give some insulation (both sound and temperature) since the bus was heading to Burning Man again




Tackling Those Roof Holes
Earlier I mentioned there were some temp patched holes on the roof. At some point a big opening had been hacked into the roof for access, as well as a series of holes so that a steering wheel extension could be run down to the drivers area so the bus could be driven from the roof. Kind of crazy but that's what you get from an old art car.

The plywood patches weren't doing much in the rain, so it was time to take care of them a bit more properly.

First up, wire wheeling things all clean up there in preparation for some metal patches with some relatively thin stuff that was available...




Then the patches, put down with sheet metal screws and liberal (but in the end not liberal enough) amounts of caulk between...




Unfortunately, the seals weren't that great, which I found out in the first good rain. The leaks were compounded by the fact that the flat roof was somewhat dished down in the middle from years of people dancing on top of it at Burning Man. When it rained, perhaps 3/16" or so of water would pool up around the big rectangular patch, and proceed to just find any little hole there was.

%*(!~ Leaks
Roof leaks were a pain. As mentioned above it was due to not so great caulking on my part combined with a dipped roof that pooled water. The solution ended up being two fold: get up on the roof in the rain and put on lots of Henry wet patch tar up around the joints until it stopped, and put wooden posts in temporarily to push the roof up from inside.



The patches did the job but it took a lot of repeat applications, and since the rain lasted a long time I actually found a number of other smaller pinpoint leaks I also fixed. It's not pretty, and I'll probably regret that Henry wet patch some day, but it stopped the leaks.

In the end there was one final small leak that was driving me crazy near the front, and getting tired of the routine broke down and gave the bus a raincoat.

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Old 01-02-2016, 12:48 AM   #3
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Continued...

Floor Prep
The original plywood floor was still in place, and wasn't that nice of condition. Some rot here and there, especially in the back. The goal is to put down an insulated floor anyway, so the plywood had to go so that the metal beneath could be checked out and cleaned, insulation put down, and new plywood put in.

The plywood came out pretty easily, partly because it was kind of rotten, though it took the angle grinder to grind off a few rusty screws. It's always a lot easier to tear something out when you aren't going to keep it.

What remained was a floor in pretty good shape, but with enough rust (and a ton of holes) that had to be taken care of with a wire wheel.




Found this interesting remnant of the old van format, which seems like it would be a good spot for a little secret compartment in the future. It's the foot well where the side door would be on a van.



Holes in the floor got caulked and covered with a little metal divots, then a few coats of brown Rustoleum brushed on.

Collins, Really?
I did find this interesting "kludge" of a construction on the bus in the process of working on the floor. Around where the fuel comes in was a god awful bunch of old caulk, that I figured I'd peel off and replace.

Ends up it was covering up some strips of metal just tack welded down that were covering up an ugly set of cuts around where the fuel lines go down to the tank.




So, uh, I replaced it with my own kludge as follows...


It didn't seem to be any kind of structural patch at all - just something to cover the hole, and at least my version sealed it.

I should point out that I don't have a welding setup or access, so that's limiting how some of the repairs are being done. Welding would have been a lot nicer way to approach this and it's definitely how I'd have wanted to do it, but sometimes you do what you can with what you've got.
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Old 01-02-2016, 01:01 AM   #4
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I hope you didn't use silicone to seal up the roof patches. Silicone doesn't have a very long life expectancy when exposed to heat and light.

Butyl tape would have been a much better choice if you did use silicone.

EternaBond tape would have been a much better choice for sealing up all of the seams on the roof.

Once it stops raining and drys out (I know in western OR that is an iffy proposition) you may want to go over all of the seams with EternaBond. It works great and lives a long time when exposed to heat and light. EternaBond

It looks like you are going to have a pretty nice little rig when you have it all buttoned up.

I would suggest you take it to a scale and weight it. Those single rear wheel buses had very little weight carrying capacity.

You may want to look into getting a set of dual rear wheels for it. The axles, brakes, springs, and bearings are pretty much identical between the SRW and DRW versions of the E-350.

Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 01-04-2016, 02:30 AM   #5
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BTW I used a butyl caulk so am fairly confident in it. Long term though the bus needs some proper roof treatment, but for now I wanted to just get it well enough to last a few seasons.

Interesting idea for the dual rear wheels, hadn't though thought of that. And we haven't weighted it yet that I know of.
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Old 01-04-2016, 03:23 AM   #6
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Floor Work
A round of work on the floor the last few days. Previously I'd taken out most of the plywood in the back where most of the water had gotten in in the past, specifically around the side back door and around some windows. Previous pictures showed the cleanup, though I forgot to mention I'd treated the metal after wire wheel cleanup with Ospho.

Here's a sequence with the front of the bus being cleared out. The four things that look like handles are attachment points for a Previa van seat we put in for the trip to Burning Man.

Also, you can see the amount of the lift in the first pic pretty well where the shiny new metal is.




[img][/img]


Curiosities
Here's the old step for if it was a passenger van. Thinking that this would be a good place for a secret storage locker or something. The boxy part with round holes I'm assuming was added later as a place to bolt down seats, and can go.


And at top you can see some of the plates that have been welded down to the floor. I always assumed they were for reinforcement for seats, and you can see that the bottom one has holes for the old seats, but the top one has no holes.



Starting with the Back Floor
Here's a 3 shot sequence of putting in the flooring in the back. The basic plan is to put down primed 1x2 strips with construction adhesive and sheet metal screws every foot or so. Then insulation (using old pieces that were in the walls) in the between space, and lastly 1/2" ply screwed down to the wooden strips.





Feels (and looks) good to have even a bit of subfloor down! After the Ospho dries and some paint goes on the front, it will be time to continue on the flooring to the front. But that's for another post...

One Last Burning Man Pic
Here's my daughter and her fiance with the bus in our camp.



Nasty dust storms early on that just caused all kinds of havoc and got dust into everything. We didn't sleep in the bus but used it as storage and a kitchen, while we camped in hexayurts that are behind the bus.
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:05 AM   #7
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This is confusing, my bus is also named Betty the Bus.

Nice ride. What are the ultimate plans for your bus? Bed/toilet/shower?
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:25 AM   #8
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How about "burning betty"?
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Old 01-04-2016, 01:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
How about "burning betty"?
Hehe I like that - must consult with owner

RE: plans

Originally it was to be as complete as possible, but right now we're just taking it stages. First will be bed, basic kitchen, and other such basic things. Toilet perhaps in the future? Just taking it one step at a time for now, with the goal basically being a fun conversion for shorter getaways and not necessarily full time habitation.
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Old 01-11-2016, 05:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austin1989us View Post
This is confusing, my bus is also named Betty the Bus.

Nice ride. What are the ultimate plans for your bus? Bed/toilet/shower?
I also know someone else with a Betty the Bus, but's a blue one. https://www.facebook.com/BettietheBlueBus/?fref=ts
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