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Old 11-22-2019, 05:03 PM   #1
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Bad News, Existential Crisis, Insight Please

Hey all,

Last month, I quit my terrible full time job to finally make time to convert the short but I bought in Iowa (Rust Belt, I know I know, lesson learned) almost two years ago. I brought it into the local bus maintenance shop to get the rear AC removed and get her checked out and they pointed out that on the support beam between the frame and the floor was rusted to the point of structural decay (I thought it was mostly just surface rust when I bought it and apparently was very mistaken, again- lesson learned). After getting a second opinion, general consensus is that this bus should not be driven around any sharp turns at any sort of speed for risk of the whole bed sliding off the back.

So now here I am. The bus is a 5 window E450 with a rebuilt 7.3L diesel with around 30k miles on it, something I estimate to still be worth its weight in quarters (or dimes at least). The interior is demoed and ready for construction (besides the rear AC).

Options:

-Sell the engine for what its worth and buy a whole new bus. However, I am realizing that finding a 5ish window bus with a 7.3L with no rust and a tall ceiling and a deck that sits above the wheels for ample undercarriage space and head room is incredibly difficult to find.

-Find a different bus with a shitty engine and throw the rebuilt 7.3 into it. This seems like it would be expensive since I don't feel super comfortable / have the tools necessary to swap an engine.

-Cut my bus off behind the drivers seat and replace everything above the frame with something new- either learn how to weld and build a steel frame off the chassis or buy a sweet old bus and drop it on top. This also seems really expensive and a $hit-ton of work.

Thoughts? I am this close to just buying a box truck but...

Anyone out there looking for an engine? Want a good bus frame that shouldn't be driven for a stationary ADU in your back yard?
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:06 PM   #2
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whats the support beam? if its just one beam maybe reinforce / replace that broken part?
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:13 PM   #3
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Its the piece between the main frame and the horizontal floor foundation slats. Here are some pics:

IMG_9543.jpg

IMG_9544.jpg
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:21 PM   #4
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How’s the rest of it? Is it all rusty like that? If it’s just that one structural element, I’d be inclined to unbolt the box, jack it up and replace that. If it’s all rusty like that, which is far more likely, I think I’d look for the same bus at auction that needs either an engine or transmission. You should be able to get one cheap if it’s got mechanical problems. Make sure you’re up for pulling a motor out of a cutaway- twice!

Of course you could cut away the cutaway on the first one.
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:24 PM   #5
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Guess it depends on your economic situation. If it was me, ideally, I'd look for another bus with a healthy 7.3, and keep the rebuilt engine you've got as a spare and/or for parts.

As far as finding another bus with similar specs, I'm not sure that would be too hard, especially if you were willing to go up to 6 windows also. At least if you're able to consider non-local options.
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:29 PM   #6
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Has the thickness of the metal been measured and compared to original? Are you at 75% original thickness? 50% or what value? Hard to determine structural integrity without some figures.

I know it looks rough, but I like firgures for this sort of thing.
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:31 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by jmccoola View Post
Its the piece between the main frame and the horizontal floor foundation slats. Here are some pics:

Attachment 39464

Attachment 39465
Your bus structure is different from mine (floor sits directly on the chassis rail without any additional piece like this), but the rest of your floor seems not too terrible as far as rust is concerned, so it's odd that just this piece would be structurally done for. Are you able to poke through the metal of it anywhere (if so, maybe just being underneath that is a bad idea)?
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:33 PM   #8
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Or you could start over

https://onlineauction.422sales.com/c...16/STAOR097354]
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:35 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
Your bus structure is different from mine (floor sits directly on the chassis rail without any additional piece like this), but the rest of your floor seems not too terrible as far as rust is concerned, so it's odd that just this piece would be structurally done for. Are you able to poke through the metal of it anywhere (if so, maybe just being underneath that is a bad idea)?
It could be that one piece wasnít too well protected as the rest?
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:37 PM   #10
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I don't trust mechanics. Hit that damn thing with a hammer and see how bad it crumbles. Remove all the rust and see for yourself exactly how much beam is left.

Congrats on leaving the terrible job.
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
Your bus structure is different from mine (floor sits directly on the chassis rail without any additional piece like this), but the rest of your floor seems not too terrible as far as rust is concerned, so it's odd that just this piece would be structurally done for. Are you able to poke through the metal of it anywhere (if so, maybe just being underneath that is a bad idea)?
I was thinking the same as this. My floor sits right on the chassis. I don't know how much of that piece you need to replace but maybe put Jack's under the floor so it doesn't drop as you cut and repair?
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:39 PM   #12
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Is that 30k mile verified? Seems strange it is falling apart with so few miles. Typically bus speedos or dashes break early in their life, not sure about E-buses. I'd make sure before you try and sell that motor with only 30k on it.
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:43 PM   #13
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It could be that one piece wasnít too well protected as the rest?
My expertise is solely with my own experiment in rust remediation, but all the damage there started from the inside (from leaks in the windows) around the wheel well and went downwards. The rust on my chassis rails and cross-members around the rear axle is not critical but everything above it (in the body) was completely rusted through.

I don't see how something in between the chassis rail and the bottom of the floor could be structurally shot without there being any significant damage above it (although there does seem to be one piece running in the same direction that is completely covered with rust, so maybe it's something like a track for seats that leaked?
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Old 11-22-2019, 05:45 PM   #14
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I'd sell the whole thing and be rid of the headaches.
If you play your cards right you can still break even.
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Old 11-22-2019, 10:49 PM   #15
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Is that 30k mile verified? Seems strange it is falling apart with so few miles. Typically bus speedos or dashes break early in their life, not sure about E-buses. I'd make sure before you try and sell that motor with only 30k on it.
30k ON THE REBUILT ENGINE
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:02 PM   #16
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Jmccola,

I'm also skeptical the body's gonna fall off the frame...

Can you take the bus to an automotive welder best would be a truck repair place that does mods like installing dump bodies and hydraulic lifts...

See what they say about repairing it -- and the cost.

I also agree with probing the rust and knocking the worst off to see what's really going on.

I need more and better pix but it looks like a piece of sub frame lies on top of the main frame so in essence it's just a giant spacer?
I see a body mount aft of the rust in the first pic. And that body mount looks fine.
I'd loosen all the body bolts, cut the rotten piece of metal out and replace it with a piece of redwood beam. Lower the body back down and drill a few Ĺ" holes through the floor, wood beam, and frame. Grade 5 bolts.
*DO NOT use pressure treated wood -- the chemistry will make the metal it touches rust out fast!

For the naysayers -- how do you think a wooden deck works on a flatbed -- or a wooden bridge...
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Old 11-24-2019, 02:26 PM   #17
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I don't trust mechanics. Hit that damn thing with a hammer and see how bad it crumbles. Remove all the rust and see for yourself exactly how much beam is left.

Congrats on leaving the terrible job.
I haven't been down there with a hammer yet but I will stop over where it is parked today to do a bit more intensive investigation (and hopefully get some more pictures).

I had thought about replacing the damaged piece with new steel but I had not even considered redwood!! I need to look into that more for sure. I think my hesitancy is in regards to if it is work dealing with the other rust and anything else that comes up (which really looks like surface rust all around) and going through the trouble of a chop and lift. That seems like it might be pretty dang expensive as it is a little outside of my skill / tool set.

I have attached the picture of the work that was done on the engine from a mechanic- the engine still seems like it runs great! I think some lines need to be replaced and I definitely need to replace most of the rubber components as they are worn.

16-05-31.pdf

Thanks y'all for your insight and input! I will post more when I get over to the bus and do some more perusing.
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Old 11-24-2019, 02:28 PM   #18
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I'd sell the whole thing and be rid of the headaches.
If you play your cards right you can still break even.
How much do engines like this usually go for? If I went this route, I would want to sell the whole thing as is so I am not left with an engineless bus that I need to tow to a scrap yard?
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Old 11-24-2019, 02:35 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
My expertise is solely with my own experiment in rust remediation, but all the damage there started from the inside (from leaks in the windows) around the wheel well and went downwards. The rust on my chassis rails and cross-members around the rear axle is not critical but everything above it (in the body) was completely rusted through.

I don't see how something in between the chassis rail and the bottom of the floor could be structurally shot without there being any significant damage above it (although there does seem to be one piece running in the same direction that is completely covered with rust, so maybe it's something like a track for seats that leaked?
Yeah it seems weird that the frame itself only has super minor rust but the spacer beam that the bed sits on is so super duper rusty. I think your hypothesis must have something going for it- the floor is pretty dang rusty too but not as rusty as the beam. So again, it seems weird that the piece in the middle of it all would be the rustiest. Heres a old shot of one of the rustiest parts of the the floor- it doesn't look significant enough to cause 10x as much rust underneath it.
IMG_9326.jpg
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Old 11-24-2019, 02:40 PM   #20
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30k ON THE REBUILT ENGINE
How many on the bus?
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