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Old 02-25-2014, 10:34 PM   #1
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Toy Hauler Pre-Project

New member, first post, lots of questions.

So I am in heavy research mode and for sale mode making way in the garage (or at least in the driveway) to park a school bus. I haven't bought anything yet and as I said am in "heavy design & research mode". Since I was a kid (sounds weird on so many levels) I have always wanted to do a school bus conversion. Parents had a motorhome and we took it everywhere and it got the wheels turning early in life. Now later in life I think I found the end that would justify the means.

I am looking for a Front Engine bus, either a flat nose or a dog nose in the 33 to 40 footer range. I intend to cut the back off so I can park a jeep on the back and convert the front into a camper. Nothing super extravagant, small kitchen and shower/toilet/bathroom area and sleep maybe 2-4 adults. Currently we camp when we go and it would be nice to have someplace warm to get out of the elements and clean up without freezing your tookus off in a small tent. From what I have learned thus far, I need to have at least a toilet and sleeping bed to re-class it as a motorhome here in Michigan. I have a basic floor plan and I think I can accomplish all that in under 40 feet. I like the idea of a flat nose, but as it is going to see a fair amount of highway miles, a dog nose may have a tiny aerodynamic edge and run a little quieter with the engine farther forward. Additionally I think I need to push the rear axle rearward to better balance the weight of the Jeep and to reduce the rear overhang. I think I would rather go with a longer wheelbase which will likely increase my turning radius, but improve drivability. Part of pushing the axle out is converting it to four wheel drive. A lot of the destinations are on dirt roads or have less than paved parking lots. I can't imagine how many jeeps it takes to pull a stuck school bus and am not anxious to find out, so having a front drive axle is probably a necessity more than a want. To help with storage inside, I will likely raise the roof, it seems like 2 feet is the norm, however not sure how much I will need to lift the vehicle to accomodate a diff up front. Will likely be adding underbody storage for clean and dirty water storage as well as equipment and generic stuff. So questions fast and furious:

1. Most of the front axles seem to be solid bent I-Beam Model A Hot Rod style axles. Is this driven by a lack of clearance to the oil pan? Is there room for a straight solid axle and differential or am I looking at lifting the frame a ton to make it fit?

2. Has anyone converted their bus into a 4X4 and if so what Transfer Case did you use for the conversion? Not looking to take it mudding or jumping cars like Big Foot, so tire and rim choice will likely stay the same, could even down-size if it makes sense.

3. What rear axle is generally under these buses and how easy is it to find new Ring & Pinion kits to re gear? Has anyone swapped them out for 1-Tons out of a truck or other vehicle which I could match a front and rear axle and bolt pattern? If so, which vehicles make good donors, I am going to guess an F-350 Dually would be a good start, just not sure it would have the strength I need. I am a Dana person myself, just not sure a D-60 would be heavy duty enough.

4. I like the idea of the 5.9 cummins with a turbo just cause parts I think would be easy to locate, but I am flexible on the Engine/Transmission to find something reliable with decent power that can get out of it's own way with the potential to pull a trailer behind with a second vehicle. It sounds like there aren't many fans of the D545 transmission and the T466 and D643 would be better. I prefer an Automatic, but could live with a stick-shift if it would be better.

5. As part of the cmaper conversion, I like the idea of in floor heat. I was thinking of a divertor valve that I could swap between using the Floor Circuit and the radiator for engine cooling and being able to use either or both based on the season and how much cooling wasreally required. As part of the Raised Roof, I imagine an overhead Heater/AC Unit so when we are parked (shore poer or generator) we still have the comforts of home.

I feel somewhat at home amongst some of the crazy conversions everyone has done. I am still reading and admiring some of the previous builds and answering a lot of questions and research, but any help narrowing the search engine down to more relevant threads would be awesome. Thanks again in advance for all the cheers and jeers.
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Old 02-26-2014, 05:55 AM   #2
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

Welcome.

I share many of the same tastes.

Budget?

Go read my Haul All build thread. Many of your answers are in the pictures, and text.

I hope you have at least $20 000 saved up. Big 4x4 = big $$$$.

Pirate 4x4 is where you need to ask the 4x4 questions, but questions would get you torn apart over there. In a day or so I will answer the rest of your questions. That will give you a chance to browse the build threads here on skoolie.net for info.

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Old 02-26-2014, 08:51 AM   #3
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

Been there. Done that. I just went through your thread Monday as a matter of fact. Sorry about your divorce, but it sounds like your in a better place now. Your pics were extremely helpful, especially the early on ones giving insight into how they are constructed. Been browsing pirate, will have to do more digging there, much to my surprise I didn't find a lot of builds there with my first couple searches, but will look again

Budget? That's funny, as if these things ever come in on budget. Been watching prices and looks like I can find a sub 200,000 mile vehicle in the appropriate length for under $5,000 give or take. Truck axles can vary greatly, but junkyards usually yield a lot. Interior appointments will vary, but I am extremely handy, so labor will be free and I have gullible friends that work for beer and pizza. Even if we hit $20k, I think it would still be cheaper than a hoity toity Prevost....
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Old 02-26-2014, 11:47 AM   #4
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerveja
1. Most of the front axles seem to be solid bent I-Beam Model A Hot Rod style axles. Is this driven by a lack of clearance to the oil pan? Is there room for a straight solid axle and differential or am I looking at lifting the frame a ton to make it fit?

2. Has anyone converted their bus into a 4X4 and if so what Transfer Case did you use for the conversion? Not looking to take it mudding or jumping cars like Big Foot, so tire and rim choice will likely stay the same, could even down-size if it makes sense.

3. What rear axle is generally under these buses and how easy is it to find new Ring & Pinion kits to re gear? Has anyone swapped them out for 1-Tons out of a truck or other vehicle which I could match a front and rear axle and bolt pattern? If so, which vehicles make good donors, I am going to guess an F-350 Dually would be a good start, just not sure it would have the strength I need. I am a Dana person myself, just not sure a D-60 would be heavy duty enough.

4. I like the idea of the 5.9 cummins with a turbo just cause parts I think would be easy to locate, but I am flexible on the Engine/Transmission to find something reliable with decent power that can get out of it's own way with the potential to pull a trailer behind with a second vehicle. It sounds like there aren't many fans of the D545 transmission and the T466 and D643 would be better. I prefer an Automatic, but could live with a stick-shift if it would be better.

5. As part of the cmaper conversion, I like the idea of in floor heat. I was thinking of a divertor valve that I could swap between using the Floor Circuit and the radiator for engine cooling and being able to use either or both based on the season and how much cooling wasreally required. As part of the Raised Roof, I imagine an overhead Heater/AC Unit so when we are parked (shore poer or generator) we still have the comforts of home.

I feel somewhat at home amongst some of the crazy conversions everyone has done. I am still reading and admiring some of the previous builds and answering a lot of questions and research, but any help narrowing the search engine down to more relevant threads would be awesome. Thanks again in advance for all the cheers and jeers.
Ummm...you're talking about a full size bus here, right? We are way beyond 1 ton axles, my friend. My bus has a 19k axle in the rear and a 10k I beam in front. These are commercial frames and commercial axles. Yes, you could convert one, but if you are looking at 1 tons, you have some research ahead of you ;) Bottom line, my advice is that if you need a 4 wheel drive bus, buy a 4 wheel drive bus. Look in Colorado, Montana, and Idaho. If you are hell bent on converting one, start looking for 4 wheel drive buses and researching what components they use. I would say the dropped I-beam fronts are for engine clearance.<---incorrect
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Old 02-26-2014, 01:19 PM   #5
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

I don't think straight or drop axle make a difference as far as engine clearance. Both are the same under the engine. I think the drop is more for getting the bus closer to the ground. It's for the "children". Jake is right about use of 1 ton trucks for parts. A 40 foot bus is the same as a medium duty truck. My front axle is rated at 13,200#.

Sounds like a fun project. Good luck.
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Old 02-26-2014, 01:45 PM   #6
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal
I don't think straight or drop axle make a difference as far as engine clearance. Both are the same under the engine. I think the drop is more for getting the bus closer to the ground. It's for the "children". Jake is right about use of 1 ton trucks for parts. A 40 foot bus is the same as a medium duty truck. My front axle is rated at 13,200#.

Sounds like a fun project. Good luck.
That's a good point, my springs do attach after the drop, so clearance to the oil pan would be the same either way. Durrrr.....
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Old 02-26-2014, 02:03 PM   #7
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

Pics of oil pan clearances for both dog nose and flat nose are in my build thread.

I have to get back out to work, so I will leave this here to get the wheels turning in the right direction. 3 ton 4x4's also came from the factory using the rockwell f106 front axle. They were used for power line trucks, ect.
http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/general- ... axles.html
http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/general- ... axles.html
http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/general- ... -tech.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonmt View Post
Late 70's F600 with F106's will look like this:



http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/general- ... -tech.html
Quote:
Originally Posted by steve gerstner View Post
The 106 rockwell fronts came in two GVW, 7,500 lbs. and 9,000 lbs. The 7,500 used 1.75 x 19 spline inner axles, the 9,000 used 1.75 x 34 spline inner axles. The military used 1.625 x 16 spline. The most common 106 ratio's 5.80, 5.83, 6.20, 6.80, 7.20 the 6.20 gear is in big demand by the sledpullers. I have four of the 7,500 lbs. uints at this time, the stub axle on this is the same spline as the 14 bolt axle. The DT. lockers are available for this uint. steve differential eng. inc.




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Old 02-26-2014, 02:35 PM   #8
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

There you go, that's good info for a front axle

T-case would also most likely be a Rockwell or similar. Definitely not going to throw a divorced 205 in there and expect it to be happy
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Old 02-26-2014, 06:54 PM   #9
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

Thanks all for the advice. Doing some quick searches and seeing what's available. I too was concerned that a 1-Ton or a sxity would be way too small so it's good to get a sanity check. Didn't see a lot of diversity in the Divorced T-Case family and again the 205 seems small. It's more a summer vehicle and the T-Case is more "just in case" than daily driver, so it's use will be fairly limited. Never even thought of shopping out a 4X4 bus, didn't think such a beast existed. Did some searching out west this afternoon and found a few, wasn't looking to drive cross country to grab one, but not opposed either if it makes sense.

Again thanks for all the advice, looking forward to expanding my education.....
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Old 02-26-2014, 07:03 PM   #10
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Re: Toy Hauler Pre-Project

I love fabricating and have personally done axle swaps, etc... With something as big as a bus, though, I would try my best to just buy what I needed in the first place. I am guessing you will be ahead both time and money. At any rate, enjoy the journey!
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