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Old 09-06-2007, 12:55 PM   #1
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Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

Hi Skoolies, I have been thinking about getting a short bus for a while now, in no small part inspired by the Jacuzzi bus when I met Jason a couple years ago and later traveled to South Padre Island.

Picked up an '89 Ford E350 7.3l with 115,000 kms on it. Has a wheelchair transport box on the back, with big door and lift. Even had a wheelchair included along with 4 bench seats. Plan is to convert to camper suitable for an extended road trip (months+).

I'm just starting out... first thing is to get the safety inspection done on it. Bought at auction, I didn't realise it was being sold unfit - I cannot just get insurance and a trip permit and drive to the shop - it has to be towed everywhere. This is a huge PITA and the first of many challenges that will come up.

It has been towed to a shop for inspection... their hoists were not beefy enough to lift it and they were unable to complete. They did say it needs new brake lines, steering box (and probably steering lines), and fuel leak in line near tranny. Towed back to my buddy's place and here we are.

Is there anyone with connections in the Barrie, Ontario area? I'm looking for mechanic assistance, parts, and / or garage to perform an inspection.

My current TODO list:

Safety Inspection
- replace brake lines
- replace ? steering box
- replace fuel line

Deal with Rust - Rust bullet looks like the best option

Convert to burn veggie oil

Add "house" electric to back - 12 VDC and maybe 120VAC. Would like to implement solar charging as well as from alternator. There is an existing panel and switch that control aisle lights and the like.

Convert interior - Add bed, change seating, storage. Complete this once WVO and electric are done to see what space they need (if any)

Paint exterior.. maybe. It is currently white with whited out lettering from it's previous purpose of driving old people around for a City of Toronto Home for the Aged.
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I am sitting here a little overwhelmed at the moment. Going to go this afternoon to buy some tools and parts. 5 ton bottle jack, axle stands, tow strap, mighty vac for bleeding and other fluid transfers, brake lines, etc etc.

Thats all for now, I'll be back with some (read: many) questions in the near future.
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Old 09-06-2007, 10:48 PM   #2
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

Hey Ron!

I really don't have any advise on where to find good help in your area, since I live in Michigan. So does this bus run at all? Kinda sounds like it needs a lot of work, maybe assess what it's going to take to get it road ready vs. cutting your losses and buying a different bus.

Anyway... I just wanted to say good luck.
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Old 09-06-2007, 10:57 PM   #3
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

welcome aboard.

my advice is to stay away from the ocean!
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Old 09-07-2007, 12:03 PM   #4
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

This bus runs real nice. Starts great, sounds good. No smoke out the exhaust, no blow by from the dipstick (which my '83 F350 had and was a common problem indicating a needed ring job). Frame and body is not very rusty - I've looked at about a dozen buses so far and they are all pretty bad - this one is actually decent. Frame is flaky rust as I see on all buses this age, but the floor is real nice. Seems a little underpowered - low acceleration - but that may be normal or poor tuning, which I will slowly work at once the basics are covered, like safety related items and rust prevention. Also I want to put gears in more suited for highway running.

Rotting steel lines is not a huge issue... I'm not surprised and was expecting to do some work like this. I've heard all kinds of great deals people get on buses but honestly this is the best deal I've come across around here for a shortie.

Regarding the ocean... yeah Jason, I learned that lesson! Although it's usually nice to spend time ocean side it's not so fun when you are stuck there. LOL That was an unforgettable adventure.

I've been reading up at Ford Truck Enthusiasts and am looking forward to getting into engine tuning a little bit. Have any of you used the glowplugs as thermocouples? That is a really neat idea. Basically you measure voltage in the mV range at the plugs and it gives you an indication of relative temperature. Read the basline reading under various conditions, then make a tuning change and compare new readings. It is used like a pyrometer / EGT reading but it faster (more responsive) and cheaper to implement. this is way in the future for me, but the geek in me is looking forward to it.

For now I'm off to make a list of parts, source them, and get to work getting this beast road-worthy. The "towing" I've had to do was not so much towing as driving while it looks like it's being towed, and it ran just fine. I have confidence this will be a long lasting vehicle once I'm done some basic work on it.

EDIT: I just noticed the oil pan needs to be replaced. there will be a little more work to do... Now to find a backyard diesel mechanic around here. shouldn't be too hard - there is a racetrack with bus races and old buses kicking around just a few hundred yards from here... have to hang out there this weekend and make some friends.
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Old 09-07-2007, 05:53 PM   #5
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

Replacing and oil pan on a E350 with a diesel. You may find it to cost a little bit there at about 1400 to 1600 if you bring it in somewhere. I say this cause unlike the Fseries you pretty much have to pull the motor out since there is not enough room underneath for the pan to clear for removal. You can replace the pan gasket but that take time too and it isn't the funnest job in the world either.

You might be able to find someone that will weld patches on the pan. I did this on a 2001 E450 and we got a extra year from that pan before it became bad again. To do this we drained the oil and refilled it with water and used a wire feed welder on it. The water was to keep the thin metal cool while welding. I will say good luck with that one.
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Old 09-07-2007, 08:40 PM   #6
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

Ugh, thanks for the info, even if I don't really want to hear it!

I won't be taking it to a regular shop at full rates to do this, that's for sure! Welding a patch may work, plus there is a guy with a large shop at home down the street who may help. He has big trucks that he works on. My brother is a diesel mechanic too, but he lives far away and is in the army now, might not be able to help for a while - he's going overseas soon and will be pretty busy before that getting ready. not something I want to try in the front yard with jacks and axle stands. heheh I'm crazy not stupid. Well that remains to be seen I guess. LOL

Does the engine need to be totally removed, or just raised a few inches? not that that is much easier... It is bad enough it needs to be addressed fairly soon - you can catch it dripping if it's watched.

Am I able to load photos into the gallery here? Is there a totally separate login required?
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Old 09-07-2007, 10:25 PM   #7
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

I'm almost sure it needs to be completely removed. I'm sure the guys over at FTE will tell you the same thing. Lots of good info over there and I pop in there myself under a different name of coarse and mostly just lurking to see whats up.
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Old 09-15-2007, 09:12 AM   #8
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Re: Finally have a bus! '89 E350 wheelchair shorty

I'd give JB Weld a shot on the oil pan.

For service, anyplace that fixes Ford trucks or motorhomes (it's the same chassis as a class C MH) can do it.

A 1989 with the non-turbo diesel will be a bit slow, but will run forever.
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