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Old 06-10-2020, 10:30 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: California
Posts: 24
Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
'67 Gillig: The Magic School Bus Build

Hi all,

I recently acquired a beautiful 34ft 1967 Gillig bus based around the venerable Chevy B-Series chassis, complete with a 366 engine, 5-speed transmission, and two-speed rear axle. It's a great foundation but the best part may be the story, which I'll get into more later.

For 26 years, it sat idle up the road from my parents' house. Last week, I made a deal with the previous owner, got it running, and was able to make the perilous half-mile trip from the previous owner's place to my parents'.

I have a background repairing and restoring classic cars as well as some experience maintenance heavy equipment, so this bus is right up my ally. I will have assistance with interior construction and utilities from my dad who has 40+ years of experience in construction.

Anyways, I'll share more about the bus's history and my story of fetching it later in this thread. For now, I'll kick off the build with a few pictures. As of right now, the interior has been stripped down to the floor, and the floor will be coming out this week as well. In the next two weeks, I plan to have the fuel tank cleaned and sealed (I was running it off a remote can), rebuild the carburetor, replace the u-joints and carrier bearings, and perform a full tune-up on the engine. In the next month, I will be servicing the entire brake system and replacing wheel seals.
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Old 06-10-2020, 11:09 PM   #2
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Very cool, welcome and look forward to the progress pics.
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Old 06-11-2020, 06:51 AM   #3
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Year: 1971
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Really nice bus. Your background in auto restoration will serve you well. At least it is sort of driveable. Hauled mine in on a lowboy.
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Old 06-11-2020, 12:22 PM   #4
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Beautiful bus, looking forward to following this build.

Do those windows slide down into the wall? That's fantastic.
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Old 06-11-2020, 06:52 PM   #5
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Location: Southern Maine
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Year: 1988
Coachwork: Gillig
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Wow, that bus has great lines.
Very cool looking.
Welcome to the group.
I Will be looking forward to your build updates
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Old 06-12-2020, 12:11 AM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
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Posts: 24
Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
A little backstory

As promised, a bit of history on the bus. Let's start with the previous owner, Pete. In the 1930's, Pete's father starting working for Gillig Brothers and eventually worked his way up to company president. As was natural, Pete began working at Gillig with humble beginnings, cleaning windows. By 1967, Pete had earned his spot as a salesman and sold his first bus to Curtis Creek School.


Fast-forwarding a few years, Pete left Gillig and his father sold his share of the company. Pete landed himself a position with Chrysler in Europe where he had the privileged of giving Charles de Gaulle a ride in the Chrysler turbine car.


Fast-forwarding a few decades brings us to 1992 when Curtis Creek School decided to retire its '67 Gillig bus after 34 years of faithful service. Pete, having moved to Sonora years earlier, happen to see an ad for a public auction regarding said bus. With a bit of sentimental influence, Pete bought back the first bus he sold and did what one does with a retired bus, turned it into a skoolie. It became a well-equipped camper that featured a sink, oven, shower, and toilet. The bus provided numerous enjoyable trips into the Sierra and to the coast before being parked in 1997.


In 2007, my family moved into the neighborhood, where my brother and I, as kids, attended Curtis Creek School and regularly walked past the bus, admiring its potential as a great fort. However, it wasn't until just a few months ago, my dad was doing some work up the road when he ran into Pete, who he had met in person for the first time. Because of my habit of rescuing abandoned vehicles, it was only natural that my dad inquired about the bus. After a deal was made, we retrieved the bus, which I'll detail later.


To make things more interesting, one of my brother's friends from college started working for Gillig four years ago as an electrical engineer. He is just now wrapping up his work on their new all-electric intercity transit buses. And, yes, he is also excited about this project.
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Old 06-12-2020, 06:34 AM   #7
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Chassis: International Loadstar 1700
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Considering the history are you planning more of a restoration, at least as far as drivetrain and body? This one seems like it would be a good candidate for restoration. Instead of putting in a modern engine/drivetrain.

I must say that knowing the history is really special.
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Old 06-12-2020, 10:19 AM   #8
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Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
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Engine: 366 V-8
To answer a few questions:


musigenius, the windows do slide down into the wall which makes for a nice big opening but does limit insulation options.


Ronnie, I would say I am doing more of a refurbishment, rather than a restoration. As tempting as it is, I will not be taking apart every piece of this bus and returning it to like-new condition. Necessary repairs will be made to make the bus safe, reliable, and able to last another 50 years. And, yes, the original drivetrain will continue to power this rig. More details on that later.


Thanks for the encouraging words everyone!


And, a few pictures that I forgot to add.
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Old 06-12-2020, 10:27 AM   #9
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Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
Floors for Stepping

With the interior of the bus stripped, I will be tearing out the rubber floor and replacing the plywood floorboards. A few issues present themselves with this project, not the least of which is that the interior of this bus was not designed for optimal use of 4x8 sheets of plywood.


Two flanged rails run down the length of the bus that support the floor; the isle in between these rails and footboards on either side. The middle is 18in while the sides are 32in, which means that a sheet of plywood is 2in short of spanning the isle and one side. Furthermore, one piece of plywood would only be good for two isle sections or one side section, with a significant amount of waste. This is an even bigger issue if I choose to invest in marine grade plywood.



So, let me know your thoughts on the dimensional issue or normal-grade vs. marine grade plywood.


Below are some pictures, which aren't great because I haven't finished tearing up the rubber covering. But they do show the support rail, which is 5in wide for those of you who are curious.
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Old 06-12-2020, 11:54 AM   #10
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I have built about 20 boats. So comments on marine plywood. The glue for marine plywood or exterior grade regular ply is either the same or just as waterproof. So no gain there.

The choice of wood, usually fir for the basic marine plywood is stable in movement and not likely to warp. Pine that is used for regular plywood tends to warp, although if screwed down that then is not an issue.

Marine ply has very little if any voids, regular ply can and does have voids.

Rot resistance is about the same unless you get pressure treated(bad idea in a bus because it rusts steel really bad) or some exotic wood.

I would not spend the extra on marine plywood for the floor. Shower stall or cabinets sure. The stability, no voids, and better surface make that worthwhile.
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Old 06-13-2020, 10:11 AM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: California
Posts: 24
Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
Made a little more progress on floors. In some places, the rubber comes up with ease, in others, its happily celebrating its 53rd wedding anniversary with the plywood and not easily parted. Hopefully I can recruit my brother to help pull the other side out. Also picked up 10 sheets of AC 5/8in plywood for the new floor. As described before, there will be a lot of waste with the floor layout of this bus but I'm sure I can use it up elsewhere.
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Old 06-15-2020, 10:12 PM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: California
Posts: 24
Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
A small observation on the Gillig: the entire thing is held together by flathead screws. I would have liked to have met the person who decided to do this and have a word with them.


Getting it all cleaned out bit-by-bit. Removing the plywood flooring has proved to be difficult, but it could be much worse. The flooring is secured by non other than flathead screws, however about 75% of them are coming out with the impact drill which is far more than I would have thought. I have taken more aggressive measures with the remaining 25%. After catching the floor on fire a few times with an angle grinder, a hole saw was used to cut through the plywood around each screw.


No big surprises once the floor came out. A bit of rust along the edge of the rear wheel tubs but nothing serious. It's now easier to envision the layout of all the under-floor utilities such as water tanks and propane tanks.


I was also able to pressure wash one side of the bus today. Once the floor is out, I'll finish pressure washing the outside, then steam clean the inside and the chassis, then pull it into the shop.
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Old 06-16-2020, 09:18 AM   #13
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Fraser Valley British Columbia
Posts: 423
Year: 2007
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: C7 Cat
Quote:
Originally Posted by paddywagon View Post
With the interior of the bus stripped, I will be tearing out the rubber floor and replacing the plywood floorboards. A few issues present themselves with this project, not the least of which is that the interior of this bus was not designed for optimal use of 4x8 sheets of plywood.


Two flanged rails run down the length of the bus that support the floor; the isle in between these rails and footboards on either side. The middle is 18in while the sides are 32in, which means that a sheet of plywood is 2in short of spanning the isle and one side. Furthermore, one piece of plywood would only be good for two isle sections or one side section, with a significant amount of waste. This is an even bigger issue if I choose to invest in marine grade plywood.




So, let me know your thoughts on the dimensional issue or normal-grade vs. marine grade plywood.


Below are some pictures, which aren't great because I haven't finished tearing up the rubber covering. But they do show the support rail, which is 5in wide for those of you who are curious.
We have a custom plywood shop not far from Vancouver that I have used to source marine ply in the past and they had 5'x10' sheets of ply.
Something to look for in your area?
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Old 06-16-2020, 09:21 AM   #14
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Location: Fraser Valley British Columbia
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Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner
Engine: C7 Cat
Sorry! Just see that you bought plywood.
Great looking bus.
Cheers
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Old 06-17-2020, 04:00 PM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: Marana Az the town
Posts: 61
Year: 77
Coachwork: Gillig
Engine: 855 Cummins big cam
Rated Cap: single axle
I have a '77 Gillig and the interior, right down to the color, is identical to yours. Because my big Cummins 855 diesel engine is underneath mine has the huge trunk in back.
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Old 06-17-2020, 09:38 PM   #16
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Wow! I am impressed and a little jealous. You seem to have a plan of action that is very doable for you and your Dad. Take care and Have Fun!
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Old 06-28-2020, 02:41 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: California
Posts: 24
Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
On the hunt for parts

Progress has been slow but steady. I finished removing the floor and pressure-washed/steam-cleaned the entire inside and outside of the but. This was a big deal because the inside was really rank. There were piles of rat crap all over the place and urine on most surfaces. Now, it is sanitary and doesn't have a bad smell and I can go inside without a mask and gloves. It just seems like a big hurtle to be over since I'd like to eventually call this bus my home. Right now, I'd love to get the new floor back immediately but that will wait until all the chassis mechanical work is finished and all the under-floor utilities are installed.


So, we push forward with mechanical work which will be assisted by the new reproduction Chevrolet service manuals I just got. The gas tank is currently out getting flushed and sealed while recently I finished rebuilding the carburetor. I've been busy making a parts list but, identifying the correct replacements is proving challenging. I've spent a least a hour and a half looking for the block stamp on the Chevy 366 motor to no avail. Without an id number or date code, it is difficult to identify the correct year of motor and get the appropriate parts. Also ongoing will be refurbishing the electrical system, which also suffered a blow from the rats. Question: what happens to a rat when it eats copper wire? Does it taste good? Can it actually go through a digestive system? Does it improve their wifi signal?
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Old 06-28-2020, 10:04 PM   #18
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Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
The carb will look funny when you first reinstall it in the engine .... being so shiny and all!


Great work. I am thinking that the wood floors are a blessing. You can so easily get to the frame and running gear and refurbish it all underneath.
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Old 06-28-2020, 10:22 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: California
Posts: 24
Year: 1967
Coachwork: Gillig
Chassis: Chevrolet B-Series
Engine: 366 V-8
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The carb will look funny when you first reinstall it in the engine .... being so shiny and all!


Great work. I am thinking that the wood floors are a blessing. You can so easily get to the frame and running gear and refurbish it all underneath.

Hopefully the rest of the engine will be a little cleaned up by the time the carb goes back on. I plan on powder-coating the air cleaner and valve covers since those items get taken off and put back on regularly.


The wood floors have definitely been a welcome feature. Easily removed and replaced.
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Old 06-29-2020, 08:57 AM   #20
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Engine: 6.6L LMM Duramax
Quote:
Originally Posted by paddywagon View Post


I've spent a least a hour and a half looking for the block stamp on the Chevy 366 motor to no avail. Without an id number or date code, it is difficult to identify the correct year of motor and get the appropriate parts.
Have you look on the passenger side of the engine right in front of the head? I believe the suffix code should be there and it is stamped on a boss that sticks out on the block (that is if like sbc). There should also be a casting number on the rear of the engine (where it angles down, driver side if I remember correctly) where the bellhousing of the transmission bolts up. I may be wrong on this style of engine. I will have to dig out my old Chevy code books and make sure. If I find out something different I'll reply back. I'm only 37 yrs old and I have memory like my father does... Lol
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