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Old 04-12-2017, 02:53 PM   #1
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PigPen

Welcome to the PigPen build thread!



My wife and I have been promising a build thread for months now and decided to finally get around to starting it now that the weather is getting nice and we're working on it more.

PigPen is a 2003 Ford E-450 with the 7.3L Powerstroke and ~210,000. We spent the better part of a year looking for a bus before finally pulling the trigger.

Originally, we were looking for the biggest bus we could buy. We technically won an auction on a beautiful 84 passenger, rear-engine bus in Seattle with the 8.3L Cummins and Allison's world tranny, but we realized we didn't have the space to park it right now and had to pay to get out of the contract.

After that, we realized we'd need to get our feet wet with a short bus.

We're very happy with that decision.

At first, we were looking for any short bus that was in good shape, but the more we learned, the more we wanted the biggest one we could find so that we could still fit everything we want inside. We obviously have to make some sacrifices, but the challenges are part of the fun...

Anyway...

We won PigPen in an auction. We're based near Pittsburgh, PA, but wanted to get a bus that was located outside of the salt belt. We came very close to buying one in North Carolina that was a little on the expensive side and then were ready to fly to Arizona to buy what we thought was the perfect bus...

But then we had a very fortunate stroke of luck. I was browsing Public Surplus and GovDeals and the bus soon to be known as PigPen caught my eye.

It had everything on our list...

-E450
-7.3L Powerstroke
-6 windows
-high ceilings
-reasonable mileage

There was just one problem...

The ONLY description was, and I quote verbatim...

"Will start w/ boost"

I tried contacting the bus garage of the school district selling it to get more information, but they were men of few words.

All my experience buying vehicles told me to steer clear of this, yet the price was so good I had to bid just once...

We won our bus for $1200! (before taxes and fees)

And as it turned out, there were NO problems. It's about as rust-free as you can imagine (except the extremely thin sheet metal for the floor). Everything ran as expected. They were only selling because they were required by local or state ordinance to retire the bus.

Best of all, the starting problems boiled down to two problems: the batteries had sat for a year after initially being retired... and the starter was missing a bolt and not fully connected!

Our journey home was exciting but uneventful. We opted to push our luck with the old batteries once it was started, and they managed to hold a charge even after stopping overnight in a hotel.
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Old 04-12-2017, 03:01 PM   #2
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Remember how I said that there were no problems?

That was before we got our hands on it.

The biggest reason that we haven't posted anything yet is because last summer we basically only had time to fix a never ending string of self-inflicted problems.

For example...

I lost the keys. I was told that the bus had a transponder, and went through a long and convoluted process trying to find someone that could help me. At the end of it all, there was no transponder and I found a guy who got it fixed with new keys for extremely cheap. But it took ages.

Then my dad accidently hooked the batteries up in reverse. There had been a small short, so I kept them disconnected. The long story is in another thread I started last year, but the short story is the alternator fried.

It took a while to figure out that was the only problem, and the batteries haven't worked the same since then even though they test as being fine at three local autoparts stores.

Finally, the only diesel shop in our area took over a month to finish the inspection. They kept pushing it back to make room for more important clients, but the wait was frustrating.

So here we are...
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Old 04-12-2017, 03:09 PM   #3
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Over the winter, we've managed to get the bus mostly gutted. We couldn't find a home for the lift, even though it was in perfect condition. We left it on the bus because we figured it would be easier, but it's presence definitely slowed our progress.

(I finally sold it this week for $150. It was worth more, but I'm glad to have it gone.)

Since it was a handicap bus, there was an L-track system throughout. There were two tracks on each side, one high and one low, for the seatbelts. They were held on every few inches with stainless steel rivets, and those suckers did not want to leave the bus.

I believe there is another thread about that, but it took a month of individually grinding each head before we actually got it all off. I think my skin still has metal shards embedded in it. Each one took about 5-10 minutes to actually get disconnected, and there were several hundred altogether... All in all, over 20 hours spent just grinding rivets. Fun!

Anyway, I'll post a bunch more pictures from the last year, but I've about had it with being on the computer for now. I'll be back with more later, and plenty of questions!
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Old 04-12-2017, 03:13 PM   #4
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Old 04-12-2017, 03:20 PM   #5
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Actually...

First question for the thread:

As I mentioned before, the only rust on the bus is the sheet metal that was under the plywood floor. I've already decided that it's all coming up, but I need help with what should go back down.

A friend of mine that has been helping is convinced that the metal is too thin to be structural, and therefore is serving no purpose beyond a water barrier. He thinks that I could get away with using something else as that barrier, but I'm inclined to just get metal.

So two things... does anyone ever not replace the metal? I've never seen this.

And what type and thickness of metal would be best?

Here are some pictures of the rusty floor (the holes weren't there until I created them while prying up the plywood).





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Old 04-12-2017, 03:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PigPen View Post
Welcome to the PigPen build thread!



My wife and I have been promising a build thread for months now and decided to finally get around to starting it now that the weather is getting nice and we're working on it more.

PigPen is a 2003 Ford E-450 with the 7.3L Powerstroke and ~210,000. We spent the better part of a year looking for a bus before finally pulling the trigger.

Originally, we were looking for the biggest bus we could buy. We technically won an auction on a beautiful 84 passenger, rear-engine bus in Seattle with the 8.3L Cummins and Allison's world tranny, but we realized we didn't have the space to park it right now and had to pay to get out of the contract.

After that, we realized we'd need to get our feet wet with a short bus.

We're very happy with that decision.

At first, we were looking for any short bus that was in good shape, but the more we learned, the more we wanted the biggest one we could find so that we could still fit everything we want inside. We obviously have to make some sacrifices, but the challenges are part of the fun...

Anyway...

We won PigPen in an auction. We're based near Pittsburgh, PA, but wanted to get a bus that was located outside of the salt belt. We came very close to buying one in North Carolina that was a little on the expensive side and then were ready to fly to Arizona to buy what we thought was the perfect bus...

But then we had a very fortunate stroke of luck. I was browsing Public Surplus and GovDeals and the bus soon to be known as PigPen caught my eye.

It had everything on our list...

-E450
-7.3L Powerstroke
-6 windows
-high ceilings
-reasonable mileage

There was just one problem...

The ONLY description was, and I quote verbatim...

"Will start w/ boost"

I tried contacting the bus garage of the school district selling it to get more information, but they were men of few words.

All my experience buying vehicles told me to steer clear of this, yet the price was so good I had to bid just once...

We won our bus for $1200! (before taxes and fees)

And as it turned out, there were NO problems. It's about as rust-free as you can imagine (except the extremely thin sheet metal for the floor). Everything ran as expected. They were only selling because they were required by local or state ordinance to retire the bus.

Best of all, the starting problems boiled down to two problems: the batteries had sat for a year after initially being retired... and the starter was missing a bolt and not fully connected!

Our journey home was exciting but uneventful. We opted to push our luck with the old batteries once it was started, and they managed to hold a charge even after stopping overnight in a hotel.
I love bus retrieval stories!

I'm glad you took the plunge, and the chance, and got the auction bus. Its so worth it, especially compared to dealer and CL prices! WAY TO GO!!!!
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Old 04-12-2017, 10:10 PM   #7
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Thanks! It was a crazy adventure, that's for sure. It was in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, and there were two people I had to deal with at the bus garage. Both went by Kenny.

They weren't incentivized to sell the buses, they just weren't allowed to use them and wanted to get them off their lot. So they put the least amount of effort possible into selling them.

There was another bus they were about to list at the time that was full sized and entirely mechanical (pretty sure a dt466). They had let it sit for nearly a decade without using it and people put bets on whether it would still run. Only Kenny (I don't know which one) believed it would still go, and he went over it and did the fluids and what not. Fired up immediately and ran perfectly. They sold it for next to nothing as well.
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Old 04-12-2017, 10:22 PM   #8
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About the name...

There are three things that came together. One is a personal, inside joke. The second is the song Convoy, one of our favorite on the road songs. One of our friends plans to get a bus and call it Rubber Duck. If you know the song, you'll know why. The third, which we didn't think of until later (I believe it was a comment by EastCoastCB, actually) is that PigPen was the nickname of one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead. We're big fans, including our daughter. As an infant, the only way we could get her to sleep for months was by playing Ripple.
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Old 04-17-2017, 11:29 AM   #9
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I've got another question for you guys... and I'm going to bump the first one.


First question for the thread:

As I mentioned before, the only rust on the bus is the sheet metal that was under the plywood floor. I've already decided that it's all coming up, but I need help with what should go back down.

A friend of mine that has been helping is convinced that the metal is too thin to be structural, and therefore is serving no purpose beyond a water barrier. He thinks that I could get away with using something else as that barrier, but I'm inclined to just get metal.

So two things... does anyone ever not replace the metal? I've never seen this.

And what type and thickness of metal would be best?

Second question:

The heater in the back is connected to the engine with two very long rubber hoses. Is there a shutoff for these or will they drain the coolant when cut? This seems like it will be a good time to do a coolant flush, because I still need to do that.

If there is no shutoff, I'll need to reconnect the hoses. Anyone have experience or advice regarding the best way to do this? Also, I was thinking of reconnecting them at the back of the bus to leave the lines long to increase how much the coolant cools downs. Does this make sense or should I connect them closer to the engine?
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Old 04-17-2017, 12:39 PM   #10
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There should be a ball valve in the engine compartment that will shut off coolant flow to only one side of the two coolant hoses leading to the rear heater. Closing that valve will help slow down coolant flow while you're looping the hoses, but you should try to be capable of holding at least three gallons of coolant. I looped the hoses in the rear of the bus just as you're talking about and they're still there just fine.

You'll have to judge the age and quality of your hoses to decide if it's worth the risk of letting them continue to hold coolant at pressure. I don't intend to put my rear heater back in so eventually the hoses will be removed from the coolant system by looping or eliminating them near the engine block.
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Old 04-17-2017, 02:20 PM   #11
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Interesting, I was looking for something like that but couldn't find anything. I'll have to go look again.

Anyone have opinions on the gauge of metal to use to replace the floor? I've seen at least 4 different sizes used in different threads here. Seems like 16-18 is pretty common. We'd like to use the thinnest possible without causing problems down the road.

Does the metal serve any purpose other than protecting the insulation and flooring from road debris? The stuff currently on the bus is about as thin as you can get.
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Old 04-17-2017, 02:43 PM   #12
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That floor metal isn't under a lot of stress because it's layed out flat. A lot of people are simply using sheet metal they have on hand.

I believe you're correct. The flooring is primarily just a barrier to protect the inside from water intrusion.
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Old 04-17-2017, 04:50 PM   #13
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RE: heater.. in a cutaway bus like yours, it may just be tied into the Van's Heating system. someplace under the hood you should find a couple T fittings where you see existing rubber heater hoses.. most times these are under the hood...

if you never want heat in the back.. (and it will get chilly back there on the road in cold weather driving), then you can remove the T's going to the rear heater hoses and use an inline splice, or replace the existing ford heater hoses wit ha single piece and eliminate it altogether and just have your dash board heat..

the A/C (if you have it) will be the same... or it may just have dashboard A/C and thats it.. nothing to work on if it doesnt have A/C or dash only.

if you remove the heater, I definitely wouldnt leave the hoses underneath the bus... its just another place for a Leak to occur.. ..coolant leaks in any vehicle are bad, but esp bad in a diesel because of the low temperature that determines Over-heat..

the 7.3 is considered Overheated at 235-240 and will de-rate and shut down.. whereas most gas vehicles you can get away with 260 and not destroy anything..

the floors - to me I would put metal back down... esp in a cutaway style bus.. while it may not be officially structural, a lot of parts of busses work together to become the whole structure..

id yank the floor and Ospho and paint or undercoat the exposed ribs, then coat and install new sheetmetal, then your chosen insulation, subfloor, and finish on top of that.
-Christopher
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:37 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
RE: heater.. in a cutaway bus like yours, it may just be tied into the Van's Heating system. someplace under the hood you should find a couple T fittings where you see existing rubber heater hoses.. most times these are under the hood...

if you never want heat in the back.. (and it will get chilly back there on the road in cold weather driving), then you can remove the T's going to the rear heater hoses and use an inline splice, or replace the existing ford heater hoses wit ha single piece and eliminate it altogether and just have your dash board heat..

the A/C (if you have it) will be the same... or it may just have dashboard A/C and thats it.. nothing to work on if it doesnt have A/C or dash only.

if you remove the heater, I definitely wouldnt leave the hoses underneath the bus... its just another place for a Leak to occur.. ..coolant leaks in any vehicle are bad, but esp bad in a diesel because of the low temperature that determines Over-heat..

the 7.3 is considered Overheated at 235-240 and will de-rate and shut down.. whereas most gas vehicles you can get away with 260 and not destroy anything..

the floors - to me I would put metal back down... esp in a cutaway style bus.. while it may not be officially structural, a lot of parts of busses work together to become the whole structure..

id yank the floor and Ospho and paint or undercoat the exposed ribs, then coat and install new sheetmetal, then your chosen insulation, subfloor, and finish on top of that.
-Christopher
Good point. This is exactly why I ask questions even when I think I have an answer. My original thought was that the longer hose would help ever so slightly with overheating because of the longer time spent away from the engine... but avoiding unnecessary coolant loss through leaks seems wiser.

And for the record, we have dash air but nothing else at the moment.

Thanks for the input on the floor as well. Any opinion on thickness for the metal? I'm currently leaning towards 18 gauge.
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:38 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
That floor metal isn't under a lot of stress because it's layed out flat. A lot of people are simply using sheet metal they have on hand.

I believe you're correct. The flooring is primarily just a barrier to protect the inside from water intrusion.
I wish I had sheet metal on hand, but I don't right now. I can't find anyone local with reasonable prices either. I'll probably have to order through a friend's work.
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Old 04-18-2017, 11:13 PM   #16
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Anyone know where to find a 'hood' for the air filter assembly?

Need to replace it because it cracked and chipped (letting air bypass the filters) but can't seem to find one no matter how much googling I do.
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Old 04-19-2017, 12:20 AM   #17
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The local truck parts junk yard would probably have something.
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Old 04-19-2017, 09:17 AM   #18
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****...

I finally found what I'm looking for.

BRAND NEW OEM AIR CLEANER 1996-2003 FORD E350 E450 E550 ESD 7.3L #3C2Z-9600-A

$450 seems unreasonably high.

Robin, I'm definitely calling around to the junk yards now.
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Old 04-19-2017, 09:27 AM   #19
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If that's the only replacement I end up finding, I think I'm going to find a different way to solve this problem.

I have some extra room to work with because both batteries are in the battery box (in the e450 that means I've gained valuable real estate easily accessed under the hood.

This would fit well...

Riffraff Diesel 6637 Ford 7.3L Powerstroke Intake Filter Kit

Although now I'm getting worried about how much dirt got sucked up there before I noticed the filter was able to be bypassed. Dirt can kill the engine and/or turbo...

Is there any way to check and/or clean dirt out?
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Old 04-19-2017, 10:40 AM   #20
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Unless you live on a dusty gravel road there shouldn't be a lot of junk getting sucked into your engine. Most airborn particals simply blow through the exhaust system.
If you can't get a top cover that fits, consider getting an entire air filter cannister off of another junk yard truck that you can adapt to your bus. It may even improve your air flow.
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