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Old 04-08-2018, 12:08 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Codename:Crystal Bat - 2002 Thomas Minotour (5 Window) - Ford 7.3 Diesel

Codename:Crystal Bat (Mostly I just needed something to call it, and I happened to be watching The Dark Crystal when I posted this.)

It's a 2002 Thomas Minotour body on a Ford 7.3l Diesel chassis.

We drove it home a couple weeks ago and parked it in the driveway. It runs strong, but needs a little work - one of the glow plugs (or possibly just the wiring harness) needs to be replaced, possibly one of the injectors as well. We're stuck in that chicken-and-egg position of "can't get it insured until it's built out, can't drive it to the mechanic unless it's insured." But it ran strong on the drive home, and we feel good about moving forward. Replacing the injectors on a 7.3 looks to be pretty straight forward, if the many videos are to be believed.

These photos are more or less the Before pics. We didn't snap any before we threw a little yellow paint over the Scho (Making it the 'ol Bus for purposes of getting it home), or before I moved one of the fisheye mirrors out of the way.

We're going for a fairly minimal, light build out. The Crystal Bat is being designed assuming we won't be in it for more than a week at a time, or far from services, or using it in sub-zero weather.

In We Go!
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Old 04-09-2018, 02:20 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Crystal Bat Design Principles & Buildout Philosophy

Before I start posting teardown/buildout updates, I wanted to articulate some of the guiding principles that are behind the decisions we're making as we go along. I don't know if that'll be helpful for anyone but me, but I wanted to capture it anyway. We welcome feedback, especially if it looks like "While you're doing this, you should", "You're really going to regret", "You should know:", or "If I had it to do again, I would save you this woe:"

The Crystal Bat is being designed as a long-haul, short term stay RV. It will primarily be used for simple camping near services, attending music festivals/Burning Man, and interstate road trips, sleeping 2 typically, with 1-2 multi-purpose guest berths (storage that converts to a sleeping tube, a couch that's big enough to sleep on, etc).

We're approaching this knowing that our first build will be a learning process. We're not intentionally building-to-replace, but I expect that after we take it on a couple journeys, we'll want to tear it out and reconfigure everything.

For house power, we want to go light - a small house power bank plus a small solar install on the roof. We intend to rely heavily on standard USB-recharging devices, with some 12v lighting and audio. That basically means the car stereo will be switchable to house power, and there will be some basic internal lighting, but we'll rely on phones, tablets, and rechargeable batteries for anything else.

House water will also run on the small side. We'll use a composting toilet, to avoid the need for handling blackwater. We'll rely on passive solar for hot water, setting up an external shower if we need one. This will limit the house water to hand washing and rinsing dishes. I'm on the fence about under-bus clean and grey water tanks versus using a pair of removable. The jury is out.

House propane will be in the 11 gallon range, running a fridge and the stove. We think that should be enough to cover cooking and the refrigerator for a week.

We want a roof rack, for stargazing, solar, and storage (in that order). This is the part we're least confident about handling. Everything I've seen here says we'll be drilling through the ribs and through-bolting, which makes me a little squirrely. But working backwards from the roof rack, the goal is to design it such that we can slot in standard conduit-fitting canopy, so we can do cheap and easy shade next to the bus.

Our intention is to configure storage areas and furniture positioning such that we can maximize allocation of a popular sized rugged storage bin. We generally transport a lot of gear for festivals, and we're helping someone move cross-country this summer, so we're particularly interested in designing a space that's easy to load and unload, and that we portion out easily (e.g. "The Crystal Bat safely has room for a driver and 3 passengers, 3 conduit bundles, and 24 Bins"). We'll rig it for light towing, for when we want to bring motorcycles, attach a cargo tray, or a bike rack.

With how much time we spend in dusty places, I'm hoping we can finish a build that looks nice and is fairly open, but that strips down easily to allow for thorough cleaning.

We'll be adding some external Oooooh and Ahhhhh, but that will be as time permits.
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Old 04-09-2018, 02:31 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Week 1 Update

We didn't get to spend much time this weekend working, but we managed to get a few hours in. We've got the seats and associated hardware out, the stop sign off, the fisheye mirrors off, removed all the Zonar RFID tags, and removed the front bumper gate hardware.

We picked up some paint supplies, and started cleanup. We removed two letters of the lettering by hand before I found out about the eraser discs. I think one just was delivered to the front porch.

I've gotten to know the underside of the bus fairly intimately, and I'm reminded this morning that I'm not in my 20s any longer.

I've started a punch list of things to followup on as we complete individual tasks. I have wiring to chase and cap, holes to plug, and I still need to demystify the relay box in the driver's compartment. But it's in a state now where if we did nothing else other than remove the front red lights and put a coat of primer over the yellow, we'd be externally street legal.

The seller indicated he wanted 4 of the seats, and we're asked him which ones. He owes us a window frame anyway, one of them was knocked out by a tree limb in a storm the day we went to pick it up.

All in all, it's immensely satisfying to have the seats out. It feels like we're 80% done. But we know we're barely even started.
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Old 04-13-2018, 09:17 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Heading into the weekend, prepping the exterior for a coat of primer, and working on ripping up some of the floor.


Whoever it was that recommended the eraser disc for removing the lettering, THANK YOU! Best money I've spent so far.


Pictures and updates as we get further on.
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Old 04-14-2018, 08:56 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Got the back heater removed, though it can't be driven until I construct a more stable bypass. We also had a window that was smashed when we picked the bus up. We picked up the replacement last night and got that installed today as well.


All the main lettering has been erased, and we're in the process of taping everything off for painting.


Took the angle grinder to a few lingering bits of bumper hardware, and started ripping off the rubber flooring.


We've again gone back and forth on tearing out the plywood. Today we're leaning toward pulling it all out. We're here already, we might as well.


Pictures after we wrap up tomorrow.
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Old 05-02-2018, 02:36 PM   #6
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Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 10
Year: 2007
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: GMC Savana
Nice bus,
Any pictures using the eraser disc and what and where to get one?
Hope you include lots of pictures!!!!!
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Old 05-04-2018, 02:26 AM   #7
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: NorCal
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Year: 1995
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Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joyful View Post
We also had a window that was smashed when we picked the bus up. We picked up the replacement last night and got that installed today as well.
I have the same issue. Did you just go to an auto glass shop? Or something more specialized?
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Old 05-04-2018, 05:53 AM   #8
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Location: Brunswick, GA
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Year: 1999
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MovinOn View Post
Nice bus,
Any pictures using the eraser disc and what and where to get one?
Hope you include lots of pictures!!!!!
https://www.amazon.com/AES-Industrie...heel+for+drill

Lots of variants available.
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Old 05-04-2018, 06:07 AM   #9
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Yup. An invaluable tool. I got a couple for $8 each!!
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Roll Your Own Build Thread
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Old 05-18-2018, 11:09 PM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
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Year: 2002
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Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
I have the same issue. Did you just go to an auto glass shop? Or something more specialized?

I'm not sure, actually. The window broke before we went to view the bus, and the seller had the glass replaced for us.
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Old 05-18-2018, 11:57 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Long overdue update.

It's been a little slow going on the Crystal Bat, with not a lot of available time.


We ended up tearing the flooring out after all. We went back and forth on it a lot, but in the end, we were there, and we figured it would be better to know for sure what it looked like under there. As it turned out, the rust was super minimal, and we probably could have skipped it. But better safe than sorry.



We ripped up the flooring from the rear door up to the stairwell. Given the bus will spend a fair amount of time in dusty environments, we decided to leave the rubber flooring intact at the entryway.


All the same, we cleaned it up, coated it with ospho, hit it with a coat of rust-preventing paint, and sealed up all the holes - epoxy and pennies for the seat bolt holes, silicon caulk for the nail holes.


Flooring Stripped, minimal rust - https://www.instagram.com/p/BiANWQPh4wM/


Ospho'd - https://www.instagram.com/p/BiANePYBtGn/


Expoxied - https://www.instagram.com/p/BiYF34clcF2/


Caulked - https://www.instagram.com/p/BiYUJ38l_WR/


As for the holes where the rear heater hoses came thru, there was a sheet metal kick panel between the front passenger-side bench and the padded barrier. We cut a piece from that, epoxied it over the hose holes, and sealed the outside with caulk.We'll be sealing the holes from the bottom as well.


I poked around under the bus, looking to see if I work out where to cut the hatch for replacing the fuel screens on the tank. Based on the condition of the fittings I can see, it looks like they were done in the not-too-distant past. Given it's a once-every-100,000 miles repair, we decided to skip it, especially given it looked like there might be a cross-member in the way.



We've got the flooring plywood leaning against the garage, ready to install. And we scored some free pergo-style flooring that was used in a stage production. Pretty excited about that!


We pulled a bit of ceiling panel and wall panel, to check and see if there was any insulation at all and what kind of condition it was in. We liked what we saw and called it good enough for our purposes. The ceiling got a great coat of sky blue, with some clouds and such.



Sky Ceiling - https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi09NUDhSts/


We've got a couple coats of paint on the outside, a nice deep purple. It's covered enough that we can drive and register it, but it's not finished yet. We've decided to put off the finish so we can work on the build out.


A Very Purple Bus - https://www.instagram.com/p/Bif1L1LFyJD/


We still have some mechanical loose ends to tie up - the rear heater bypass needs to be finalized, and I need to cap or pull out the wiring for the stop arm and the rear heater. If I get those done, at least we can drive it. I still need deal with an issue in the glow plug harness and one of the injectors before it'll pass a smog test.


But, we've passed through the tear-out and prep phase, and we're ready to start putting some bits back in.


If you're the Instagram type, you can follow along at https://www.instagram.com/thereandbusagain/
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Old 05-19-2018, 12:02 AM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Quote:
Originally Posted by MovinOn View Post
Nice bus,
Any pictures using the eraser disc and what and where to get one?
Hope you include lots of pictures!!!!!

We used this one: https://www.amazon.com/Remover-Stick...ds=eraser+disc


This might be the only action shot: https://www.instagram.com/p/BiAKy0FBsf5/


Expect lots of rubber and decal debris. We preferred the shop-vac to the hose for cleanup.
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Old 05-20-2018, 11:33 AM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2018
Location: Huntington Beach CA
Posts: 40
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas
Engine: Ford 7.3
Hello,
I just got my bus and will be starting the conversion.
I was curious as to why you decided to take the rear heater out, I was thinking I would build my bed over it and just not use it.
Thanks
Fred
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Old 05-21-2018, 03:44 AM   #14
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Blaine MN
Posts: 3
Year: 1994
Chassis: Ford E350
Engine: 7.3 Diesel IDI
Rated Cap: 4 window Shorty
Why Am I not seeing any pictures? Sounds like a very similar build to what we will be doing!
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Old 05-24-2018, 10:45 PM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredinbelize View Post
Hello,
I just got my bus and will be starting the conversion.
I was curious as to why you decided to take the rear heater out, I was thinking I would build my bed over it and just not use it.
Thanks
Fred

Two main reasons:


First, one of the design decisions was, we aren't building for prolonged stays in cold environments. It's a short term stay, long hauler.



Second, we're maximizing for storage, and it was a bulky component placed in a prime storage area.


The two together made it an easy call to pull the heater rather than build around it. But if your design constraints or needs are different, do what works for you!
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Old 05-24-2018, 10:46 PM   #16
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 17
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Minotour
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3l Diesel
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustangmatt View Post
Why Am I not seeing any pictures? Sounds like a very similar build to what we will be doing!

Because I'm being suuuuper lazy about it. Click the Instagram links and the pics should be there.
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