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Old 04-17-2018, 02:26 PM   #1
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Bunk bus build

Got this short bus for a smoking deal. its an E450 7.3 Diesel. 161k miles. rust free Which was shocking for a bus from NJ. $800 bucks and I could not pass it up. It only needs an Injector drive module. My plan is to build bunk beds along the walls for 6 people. I am going to make the top bunks fold down to make couches for seating while underway. It will be a long "build in progress" as i dont have a ton of funds I want to eventually add house batteries with a solar set up on the roof, but for now it will just be a place to sleep on various road trips. I attached a few 3d models of what i am basically planning to do. The only problem i have with the bus is that it has 4.56 gears which do not bode well for highway economy. I am going to change them eventually.
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Old 04-17-2018, 05:03 PM   #2
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4.56 gears were pretty much the only rear gearing available on that chassis in order to get the GVWR. 4.10's or less are just too fast for that engine and still get a GVWR of over 12,000 lbs.

You will discover that even with a 12,000 lbs.+ GVWR that you have very little payload capacity as it is. Trying to get the RPM's down for traveling on the highway will mean that any sort of bump in the road and the transmission will be shifting out of OD. Any sort of serious upgrade will require dropping out of drive into the lower gears.

It isn't just a function of weight either. The frontal area really slows a rig down. I operated three cut-away buses with the same 4.56 gears, 7.3L engine, and E4OD transmission. One of the three was more aerodynamic than the other two. Consistently, regardless of who was driving, the aerodynamic bus got 1-2 MPG better and was able to hold speed on hills a little bit longer.

I suppose you could chip the engine to overcome the gearing but then you run the risk of overheating and blowing up the transmission. Putting in a DieselSite built E4OD transmission will solve a lot of the transmission issues but that is a lot of $$$ if you don't have to change a transmission. I wish this company had been in business when I had been in business. Over a three year period I put seven E4OD transmissions into three buses. The longest one ran was 42,000 miles. The lowest one ran was under 12,000 miles. I think one of their transmissions would go the distance! Legendary E4OD Heavy Duty Diesel Transmission
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Old 04-17-2018, 07:12 PM   #3
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Thanks for the good info. I own 2 7.3 trucks so I am familiar with the engine and trans. I plan on adding a tuner even if I don't change gearing. I am also going to add gauges for trans temp, oil temp, egt, and boost. I know those gauges are extremely useful for the trucks engine health so I imagine they are that much more useful in the van setup. I also plan on adding a huge trans cooler to help keep temps down. I am going to use it for probably 85% highway and I really want as many mpgs as possible.
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Old 04-18-2018, 04:30 PM   #4
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Be aware that there is a LOT of aftermarket support for F-series trucks and virtually zero aftermarket support for E-series vans/cut-away chassis.

Part of the lack of support is there is virtually no room under the dog house to change much of anything from what the factory put under there.

The other problem is you are going to have overheating issues is you try to turn the engine HP up. There just isn't a good way in which to move more air through the radiator and engine compartment.
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Old 04-19-2018, 10:17 AM   #5
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Yes I am aware of that. I have been following a few people van builds on the truck forums and have gotten tons of helpful info. also f anyone is curious about what a short bus is registered as in NJ... Its a class 8 passenger vehicle. i still have to figure out if the insurance company will uphold their quick quote from the weekend.
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Old 04-19-2018, 10:21 AM   #6
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Location: New Jersey
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Year: 2004
Coachwork: Corbeil
Chassis: Ford
Engine: Ford PowerStroke Diesel 6.0
Rated Cap: GVWR 11,500
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Originally Posted by E450Shorty View Post
Yes I am aware of that. I have been following a few people van builds on the truck forums and have gotten tons of helpful info. also f anyone is curious about what a short bus is registered as in NJ... Its a class 8 passenger vehicle. i still have to figure out if the insurance company will uphold their quick quote from the weekend.
Hey! Nice to see another Jersey skoolie! What part of the state are you in? My wife and I are in the Morristown area.
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Old 04-19-2018, 10:28 AM   #7
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I am in Morris county Rockaway area. I started working on removing the School bus stuff yesterday and got frustrated by rusty fasteners. ill do a bunch of work this week and post up some pictures.
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Old 04-23-2018, 07:05 AM   #8
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Made some progress this weekend. got the motor running but the 3 injectors are sticking so I have to deal with that. I discovered the air box had a crack in it so it has been sucking unfiltered air for a while. I hope not too long. I discovered the turbo needs a new compressor wheel but i was going to rebuild it anyway to freshen up the seals. I got all the seats out and most of the bus stuff off. I also did the "hutch mod" in the fuel tank because the screens were clogged solid. After we did that the motor started to run smoother. Has anyone had any luck moving these floor mounted heaters?
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Old 04-23-2018, 08:54 PM   #9
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Year: 1995
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Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
For my floor mounted heater in my e350, the two coolant lines underneath had cut off valves. I turned them off, cut the hose with a bucket underneath to collect the coolant, and then pulled the heater off the floor.

Iíll be closing the loop closer to the engine in the near future, as I need that precious space underneath, but this was good enough for now.
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Old 05-02-2018, 03:02 PM   #10
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That's a great price for a bus. What about the tires? and how much do you expect to pay to get the injector drive module fixed? Was it from a dealer or auction. I have 2 brothers in NJ and can having them help me with hunting if we know where to look. Any ideas?
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Old 05-02-2018, 03:08 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by MovinOn View Post
That's a great price for a bus. What about the tires? and how much do you expect to pay to get the injector drive module fixed? Was it from a dealer or auction. I have 2 brothers in NJ and can having them help me with hunting if we know where to look. Any ideas?
the tires are in excellent shape less than 3 years old. I was able to source a used IDM from a local yard for 50 bucks that seems to have cured the issue. but now its not getting enough fuel pressure so i need to put a fuel pump in it but those are easily available online. I bought it from a private seller in NY that i found on facebook. for a while i was looking at the listings on first students website. they answer emails quickly and are reasonably priced for the older short buses.
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Old 06-05-2018, 09:49 AM   #12
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well i have been really busy lately trying to get other projects done... but this weekend i had time to rebuild the turbo and design a new intake that will go down the back of the engine and take air from a box that is under the bus. I will post pictures and a parts list when I'm done if anyone wants it for their own ford based 7.3 bus.
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Old 07-02-2018, 01:47 PM   #13
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"if anyone is curious about what a short bus is registered as in NJ... Its a class 8 passenger vehicle" ... Just wondering what you were able to do about insurance for the cut-away bus... I live in NJ and had to pony up over 2k a year for insurance on my 2005 cut-away with handicap lift. I could only find progressive to insure it. What did you end up finding and using? Thanks
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Old 07-02-2018, 04:36 PM   #14
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I haven't actually put insurance on it yet. It doesn't drive yet... I use njm and they have me a quote but I haven't initiated it yet.
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Old 07-02-2018, 04:55 PM   #15
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Interesting... i got a "quick quote" from a number of places... but when I got down the the brass tacks in discussion with them, all backed out except for progressive (which is apparently partnered with my auto USAA insurance) - currently quoted over 2k a year for the insurance... let me know if you find better... would be very interested in getting a more favorable policy.
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Old 07-02-2018, 08:00 PM   #16
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Will do. My current plans do not include an RV conversion. So I may be able to sneak around with that fact. But we will see.
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Old 08-31-2018, 10:18 AM   #17
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Well after a few months of saturdays. I finally was able to free the rusted in place up pipe bolt. i decided to celebrate with a beer or two instead of putting the up pipes back on and running it. Next week i will post up pictures of my intake design that really frees up the engine bay and hopefully helps keep engine bay temps down. hopefully i am in the final stages of getting it back up and running then i will move on to the interior.
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Old 09-10-2018, 07:55 AM   #18
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After putting the exhaust back together and charging the batteries the engine refused to idle properly. I ran a few tests using forscan and found that there are a few injectors that were not firing properly. After some research i found that the UVCH was most likely bad.
I started by removing the driver side valve cover as it is easier... harness looks perfect, so i move to the passenger side, took me a few hours to get that valve cover off. Nearly impossible to fit my hand/ arm into the area to reach the bolts. that harness looked ok but was a little loose so i am hoping that was the issue. But in the process of reinstalling, i broke the plastic clip that holds the connector together So off to the dealer to order new parts. Side note, the inside of this engine is amazingly clean, thank you fleet maintenance.
In the mean time i decided to rip up the original flooring. I found almost no rust. This old NJ bus is still shocking me... I dont believe it has ever seen snow. I wire wheeled some slight surface rust and gave it a good coat of Rustoleum. Hopefully the new floor will go in tonight or tomorrow. Pictures attached in no specific order.
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Old 09-13-2018, 12:34 PM   #19
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spent a lot more time messing around with the engine and running tests. The UVCH replacement did not fix my issue so the conclusion is that i need injectors. which i was kind of expecting... I am going to be sending them out to rosewood diesel to get rebuilt and slightly upgraded with bigger nozzles for just a slight bump in power... and yes i have installed gauges to keep an eye on the important stuff like EGT, trans temp and engine boost. So the bus is down for the count for a while now until i get my self together to send the injectors out. I will continue to work on the interior and see where that leads me.
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Old 09-25-2018, 07:12 PM   #20
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Location: Biggest Little City
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Year: 2003
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Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
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I recently picked up a 03 E450 w the 7.3 in it, so will be following along for inspiration.
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