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Old 07-14-2019, 11:27 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Moto Bus Build

So I'm almost a year into my conversion and figured I'd start sharing my progress so far. Progress has been slow, but that's ok we've gotten plenty of use out of the moto bus so far, racked up about 6,000 miles!!

It started last year, we needed a moto hauler to get my son and I to the races and back. I looked at a box truck, a regular van, sprinters but I wasn't jazzed on any of those options. Then I found this forum and saw the conversion projects and got hooked on the idea of a short bus or shuttle bus. Found my platform in So Cal and dropped in:



Specs
Chassis: 2003 Ford E450 SuperDuty
Model: Thomas Built Buses Minotour DRW 051MS
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel

Overall the chassis/interior and engine/drivetrain were in pretty good shape. Tires were worn and needed to be replace quickly. I was really sketched out driving it home as the fronts were pretty worn and it had been sitting a bit. So kept the speeds low and took my time. Put new rubber on the front and found a decent used set for the rear.

Had a fun time insuring and registering it, only 3 trips to the DMV . There are quite a few good posts on here about registration and insurance. For the time being I kept registration as commercial vehicle and got a limited commercial policy for personal use. Intent is to change to RV registration in the future, but this was the quickest way to get title in my name and make it legal to drive.

As this was a handicap accesible unit with side door and lift most of the seats were already removed. Getting the remaining seats out wasn't too bad:



Most of the bolts came out easy but had to grind a few stubborn ones:



I left one seat in as the passenger seat:



With the seats out we loaded up the bikes and got on the road. Here's a pic of our first night in the moto bus:

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Old 07-14-2019, 12:38 PM   #2
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 448
Year: 1990
Coachwork: Thomas 4 window w/lift
Chassis: G30
Engine: 350 Chevy
Rated Cap: 10K
Looks good, and wasting no time in getting it back out on the open road again!
Are you using the W/C door to load the bikes? (looks like the lift is MIA?) If so, any mods to it to make it work?
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:04 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
peteg59 - yep, we load bikes in through the side wheelchair door. That's what really sold me on the concept of the short bus. With bikes in sideways it saves tons of "living" space.

Forgot to mention that I removed the lift. Thought about keeping it, but in the end I would have had to modify it, it took up 6" of width on the interior and was pretty slow/cumbersome to load two bikes. So now we just use a 9' long folding ramp, which works quite well.
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Old 07-14-2019, 06:51 PM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Ashtabula, Ohio
Posts: 1,135
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: International
Engine: T444E 7.3L
Thank you for sharing!
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Old 07-15-2019, 11:59 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
After a successful first weekend camping I got lots of ideas on what I wanted to do for the conversion. This was my original plan:



I've made some tweaks along the way, but the basic concept is bikes in the back and party up front!! Next I needed a place to work on it during the winter and happened to score this heated garage



Having a legit working space has made this project really enjoyable. With a full time job and family of 6, this has become my quiet space
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:32 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
With a rough plan in mind and a shop space secured, i started in on the demo phase. First project was to remove all the interior metal panels, luckily they were screwed in, not riveted.



A bucket of screws later and the roof panels were off.



I did strip out a few stubborn screws. Used the angle grinder with a cutting blade to just cut the head off, then once the panel was removed locking pliers made quick work of the rest.



Next was the removal of the side panels. Read somewhere on this forum that the side panels are one piece construction wrapped from the outside sheeting to the inside, so per advice on that thread I used an angle grinder to cut 1" below the top rail and 1" above the floor and the side panels came right off.



These two projects took me a few weeks to complete. Additionally I removed the rear A/C, hit my head on that thing one too many times and since it was going to be in the garage and would only work with engine running, it had limited use for me.

During this time the temps started to drop and I discovered that cold starts were an issue. Found out that the block heater was toasted, so had that replaced. I also had the transmission serviced and had my mechanic do a once over. He ran buzz test and glo plugs were ok, advised cold start was likely due to sticking injectors. He recommended an oil additive to see if that would clean them up a bit, before doing any major work.

This had me a bit nervous to hit the road, seeing as I would need to plug in for 45-60mins before she would start, but with two small generators, I figured I would just have to remember to plug in an hour before I wanted to leave. This got me through last winter, but something I definitely need to take care of before this winter.
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Old 07-17-2019, 03:24 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
We had a race coming up in AZ so it was a perfect opportunity to test out the floorplan. I screwed up a moving blanket to act as the garage wall divider and jerry rigged some foam board insulation to the sides walls to test what it would be like to delete some of the windows.



Good news was two bikes plus all our gear fit nicely in the garage:



I was definitely nervous setting out on a trip this big. Right away we found out that the cab heater wasn't working and the stock radio was garbage which made for less than ideal driving conditions. Luckily we brought blankets and a blue tooth speaker.



The configuration worked really well. I would need to figure out how to lock the rear doors from the outside, decided to keep one more window on the passenger side. On our way back through Vegas we got treated to a snow storm.



Our little skoolie did really well and made the 1,400 mi round trip without major issue.
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Old 07-17-2019, 03:38 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Headlights were the next big upgrade. Found these 5x7 LEDs on Amazon for $85 and decided to give em a try. They are direct plug and play, literally took me 15mins to swap out. So happy with this purchase:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1



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Old 07-17-2019, 05:29 PM   #9
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,656
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
these lights look like the ticket!.. I have the craptastic ones with the 3 rows of LEDs on my DEV bus and I hate them.. these look like the lights i need.. im ordering a set
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Old 07-18-2019, 04:26 PM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 21
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
cadillackid - no complaints from me so far, these lights are very bright compared to the tired old halogens. The top of the pattern has a very distinct cut off line too.
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