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-   -   Building Comfort Eagle (1986 Gillig Phantom) (http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/building-comfort-eagle-1986-gillig-phantom-21246.html)

ComfortEagle 02-19-2018 06:54 AM

Building Comfort Eagle (1986 Gillig Phantom)
 
During the week between Xmas and New Years I flew from Maryland to Northern (Redding) California and drove this bus back to Maryland. It was a difficult drive and is documented in my intro thread. Here are a few pics I took the morning I picked up the bus.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Qq...w2142-h1606-no

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/m-...w2142-h1606-no

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/5m...w2142-h1606-no

I bought the bus from a private Christian school in NoCal, and they bought it from a Public school system. So although it's a 1986 model, it has been in continuous use as a California school bus since new, and as such has had a thorough and well documented maintenance history.

The bus itself has ~175K miles on it with a well documented engine rebuild in 2012. Current motor has ~65K miles. The bus is in pretty good shape and ran perfectly during my 2900 mile drive home.

I am currently still demo-ing the interior and trying to figure out how to reseal all those big beautiful tinted windows. And although I won't be ready to install electrics for quite a while, I have already picked up a battery pack from a 2017 Chevy Volt to provide power storage. Reconfiguring that battery and the rest of the electrical will be documented here in another thread.

I will be watching fellow Skoolie.net member Juicifer's build closely for awesome ideas and lessons learned as they specifically relate to the Gillig Phantom (no pressure Justin...) Obviously a long road ahead and more to come.

ComfortEagle 02-20-2018 03:47 AM

So, a little more about this Gillig and then on to the demo and eventual build...

These Gillig Phantom school buses were based on the Gillig Phantom transit buses and are a bit different than most other school buses. IMO these differences make them particularly well suited to a skoolie conversion.

The ride: the Phantom has a pretty long wheelbase, even for a RE bus. Also the Phantom uses a monocoque chassis vice a body on frame design. Although the long wheelbase does not help maneuvering in close quarters, the wheelbase and chassis along with a full air suspension make for a pretty decent ride quality.

The storage: the Phantom has a huge under carriage storage bay. I haven't measured but it's big.

In this pic you can see the three bay doors
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/fl...=w1366-h768-no

The rear two doors open to the large bay that passes all the way thru to the doors on the other side.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/y_...w2142-h1606-no

The front bay doors open to individual smaller bays on each side. I believe the fuel tank is in between them. I also hear that not all Phantoms have these front storage bays...
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/0X...w2142-h1606-no

FWIW, the storage bay floors are all plywood. All the plywood on this particular bus looks to be original and in excellent condition; pretty cool for 32 year old plywood.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Ze...w2142-h1606-no

The ceiling: While not unique to Phantoms, these buses also have a reasonable ceiling height. I believe the ceiling is about 6'7" in front, and tapers down a few inches in the rear?

Many of these buses came with the cool but quirky(?) Two Stroke Detroit Diesels. My bus came with a fresh but much less sporty and less sexy Caterpillar 3208 10.4L V8.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/T-...=w1200-h900-no

One small benefit of this engine configuration is that there is no additional bump out on the interior corner of the rear deck.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Mz...w2142-h1606-no

While these Gilligs are super rare here on the East Coast, they can still be found out West. In fact the school I bought this bus from has two more they will be removing from service in the next couple of years. One of them even has a manual transmission. I like manual transmissions...

Veganswandering 02-20-2018 04:42 AM

Great looking bus. What's the ceiling height?

ComfortEagle 02-20-2018 05:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Veganswandering (Post 253946)
Great looking bus. What's the ceiling height?

Thank you; I really dig the "art deco" look of the Phantoms.

Quote:

Originally Posted by ComfortEagle (Post 253943)
The ceiling: While not unique to Phantoms, these buses also have a reasonable ceiling height. I believe the ceiling is about 6'7" in front, and tapers down a few inches in the rear?


ComfortEagle 02-27-2018 03:40 PM

I haven't been able to get inside the bus lately but I figured I'd post some pics of the demo work done so far.

From what I've read here and on other skoolie related sites, demo-ing the inside of a Phantom can be easier than some other school buses.

The seats come out without the need to get under the bus to hold any nuts. As many of you know holding nuts under a bus is no fun...ha.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Uh...w2142-h1606-no

Also, all ceiling and wall panels are held in with fasteners vice rivets. And FWIW ceiling panels are fiberglass not metal.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/w8...w2142-h1606-no

However, behind the wall panels on my bus were additional thin metal panels spot welded in place. They were easily removed with an angle grinder. Evidently not all Phantoms have these spot welded panels. I know two other Gillig owners and neither had these panels, weird.

The panels in question are the rusty ones under the windows...
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/U5...w1206-h1606-no

Here's a pic with the panels removed. Behind the panels (and in the ceiling) were pieces of fiberglass insulation. The panels over the wheel wells are different, they are clearly structural; they are much thicker and are welded in differently.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Dl...w2142-h1606-no

In addition to the driver heater/defroster, my bus has three under seat heaters. Current plan is to renovate and keep two of those three heaters in place; free heat with the motor running...
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/gN...w2142-h1606-no

The next step for me will likely be to begin removing and re-sealing all those big beautiful windows.

Robin97396 02-27-2018 05:10 PM

That is a fine looking bus. Lots of square feet, especially including the basement.

Dang thing looks new.

Juicifer 02-27-2018 07:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ComfortEagle (Post 253763)
I will be watching fellow Skoolie.net member Juicifer's build closely for awesome ideas and lessons learned as they specifically relate to the Gillig Phantom (no pressure Justin...) Obviously a long road ahead and more to come.

Wow! Okay, I've got to speed up my build so I stay nice and ahead of you!! With a helper or two for your windows it's probably a 4 day job for all side windows, maybe a little less. That being said if you can figure out a way to take your time (covered storage) you'll be able to patiently consider your options, experiment a little, and figure out what's best for you. OR(!) do what I did in my second window video coming soon, I feel fairly good about how it turned out. Only thing I'm unsure of is urethane adhesive (sikaflex 221) vs butyl tape, but I told you all about that in my thread.

Good luck and thanks for all the photos!

Robin97396 02-27-2018 07:34 PM

I used some of the Silkaflex 221. Only complaint I have is that it seemed extremely soft. Seems to have sealed well and nothing has turned loose even where I puttied it into place. After all my windows were sealed I went topside and plastered the roof hatch seems. They weren't leaking, just insurance.

Tango 02-27-2018 07:58 PM

Can't do any better than OEM Automotive Seam Sealer. Stays flexible and is paintable forever. 3M and others make some.

Juicifer 02-27-2018 08:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tango (Post 256065)
Can't do any better than OEM Automotive Seam Sealer. Stays flexible and is paintable forever. 3M and others make some.

I did buy some 3M seam sealer to try on my rubber window seals (not the right application for it at least for me). It's definitely tough stuff. Sealing metal to metal, I wonder if you'd be able to take windows out again in the future if you had or wanted to?

cadillackid 02-27-2018 08:17 PM

what about the black butyl compound? thats the sealer i always used to seal windows in my hotrods. and never had one leak.. it works well with the rubber seals on vehicle windows... it also stays flexible (and sticky!!)...

-Christopher

Twigg 02-27-2018 08:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tango (Post 256065)
Can't do any better than OEM Automotive Seam Sealer. Stays flexible and is paintable forever. 3M and others make some.

That stuff is great for re-skinning and sealing between panels. Not sure it's the best stuff for sealing windows though. Some of the automotive seam sealers are good enough, and strong enough to use without mechanical fastners, but I'm guessing the application guides don't leave much room for backyard use.

Any of the polyurethane sealants should work, Silkaflex 221 being an example. They remain flexible forever and are paintable.

Just.Don't.Use.Silicone.

Tango 02-27-2018 08:33 PM

It sticks REALLY well. To undo it, figure on a knife to cut it loose.

(I had good luck using a fisherman's fillet knife)

Iceni John 02-27-2018 09:52 PM

Good looking bus. Almost as handsome as mine! (Just kidding . . .) Gillig and Crown made the best school buses, and what I find interesting is how similar they are in concept and execution. Both companies used similar parts, even down to the aluminum extrusion along the edges of the wheel humps inside, as well as other details here and there. My radiator fan motor's hydraulic controller even has a Gillig part number! Although they were competitors, Crown had the Southern California market to themselves, while Gillig took care of the Northern half of CA. Some school districts were always Crown users and others were always Gillig die-hards, sometimes with fleets entirely of one or the other.

AFAIK, your bus does have a full frame - it's visible in your photo of the bellybin. Crown welded the body to the frame to make a one-piece integral structure of great strength and rigidity; did Gillig do the same? Integral is not the same as monocoque, how the GM buses of the 1950s and 1960s were built like an aircraft with a load-bearing skin.

John

Kubla 02-27-2018 10:29 PM

I want one of those with a manual transmission, no money right now but one can dream

ComfortEagle 02-27-2018 10:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Iceni John (Post 256103)
Good looking bus. Almost as handsome as mine! (Just kidding . . .) Gillig and Crown made the best school buses...

AFAIK, your bus does have a full frame - it's visible in your photo of the bellybin. Crown welded the body to the frame to make a one-piece integral structure of great strength and rigidity; did Gillig do the same? Integral is not the same as monocoque, how the GM buses of the 1950s and 1960s were built like an aircraft with a load-bearing skin.

John

Thanks John, I really like this bus. As for the frame, the "ever-reliable" Wikipedia says:

"Using much of the mass-transit Phantom as a donor platform, Gillig produced the Phantom school bus in a rear-engine configuration (the mass-transit platform forced the abandoment of the mid-engine layout). While the layout itself was similar to the long-running Transit Coach predecessor, the chassis design was completely new from the ground up. In a design layout largely untried in the school bus industry (aside from the*Crown Supercoach), the Phantom adopted a monocque (unibody) chassis in place of a separate frame."

Sent from my XT1710-02 using Tapatalk

Iceni John 02-27-2018 11:46 PM

I'm thinking that Gillig welded the body to the frame just like Crown did, to produce an integral structure. The body is not load-bearing per se, but it shares some of the load with the frame that is still the primary structural element. I think that Wikipedia is confused between integral, unibody and monocoque, three very different things. If your bus has a frame there will be two frame rails about 9" high and 3" wide running the full length, usually with a dropped section at the rear for the engine cradle (sometimes also with a removable sub-frame), and with stacked frame rails above the front axle to lower its suspension mounting brackets to match the dropped-center axle. And if it hasn't, I'm wrong! Whatever you have, it's way better than bolting a rudimentary metal box to the top of a truck frame with a few U-bolts - ever see what happens when some school buses are in bad accidents and their bodies separate from the frame? Yikes.

John

ComfortEagle 02-27-2018 11:47 PM

In his build thread Juicifer asked about my plans for various systems so rather than pollute his thread with my plans I figured I would post them here.

Most of the following is still quite notional:
1) HVAC - I am leaning towards a mini-split setup very similar to this setup. This is a great build and I will be watching to see how the mini-split works out for them.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvdIe0AkXV8&t=628s.

2) Heat - I will be installing a 4K Dwarf Stove. The mini-split also is a heater, and I will be retaining 2 of the 3 bus heaters. It is important that the bus be All Weather Capable (AWC); I will likely store a few small propane heaters down below for emergency heat. So for heat there will be a mix of wood, propane, electric, and existing engine driven.

3)Electrical - I will continue to document that in my battery thread. The goal is to have enough solar and enough battery power to rarely need a generator. >18kWh of battery (48V system) should go a long way toward that end once I get the BMS sorted out.

4) Water system - I am still fleshing it out. Natures Head, no black water. 100 gallon fresh water in a closet or under the bed. I had been leaning towards an instant on propane water heater, but I need to do more research.

Below is a crude-ish working model of the proposed layout. I am not very good with Sketchup so please go easy on me...
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/41...w2878-h1364-no

ComfortEagle 02-28-2018 02:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kubla (Post 256115)
I want one of those with a manual transmission, no money right now but one can dream

I bought my bus from Forest Lake Christian School near Redding, CA. They have two more Gillig Phantoms still in service; they are planning to retire them both in the next two to three years and one of them has this:
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/LX...F=w536-h893-no

ComfortEagle 03-05-2018 05:01 PM

After hearing what a pain it was for Justin, I was contemplating leaving the green rubber floor, and just putting the subfloor over it.

However, I had a little time to spend in the bus today, so I figured I would clean it up inside and maybe remove the metal trim rails on the floor. One thing led to another and I just started pulling it up...

Not a bad start but still a lot more to go. I will feel better when it's out.

All I used was a flat pry bar. For the next round I may try some heat.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/ld...w1206-h1606-no

The lighting is bad here but I got center section up to where the shop vac is sitting. No stopping now...
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/H6...w2142-h1606-no


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