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Old 09-09-2017, 01:01 AM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 50
'97 Thomas RE conversion

I bought this bus a couple of years ago, pulled the seats and it sat for 2 years. I finally got around to getting back to work on it. It's a 37' 1997 Thomas RE with a Cummins 5.9 and a Allison 643. It has 140,000 miles, no rust, 80% tires all around. It was mainly the activities bus, so it doesn't have a lot of stop and go miles. Because it's a RE, it has a huge basement.

I am a professional cabinet maker and custom woodworker with my own shop. I have three sons in their 30's. The older two have been building custom Sprinter van conversions for over 10 yrs and have their own shop. They take a empty van and add seats, beds, upholstered wall and ceiling panels, led lighting, diesel furnaces, solar, high and low voltage, kitchen, toilets, showers, etc. My youngest works in IT and builds gaming computers. My wife is a pretty good seamstress. My point is; we have the skills.

So, back to the bus. I despise bus windows. They're ugly and they leak. The plan is to remove them, reframe the openings to accomodate 9 RV windows I salvaged from a rotting 30 ft trailer. I also snagged a 10 gallon water heater, furnace and elec panel.

My plan for skinning the window area comes from the custom trailer and rv industries. I havn't seen anyone try it on a skoolie, though. I will be using exterior FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic). The product I'm using is .075" thick, comes in 4x8 or 4x10 sheets. It can be scuffed a bit with sandpaper , primed and painted. It is used on the exterior of commercial buildings. It can be cut with a carbide blade on a circular saw. Normally, a trowel on frp adhesive is used to stick it to the wall. We're taking another technique from the custom trailer industry. Instead of adhesives and fasteners, we'll be using 3M VHB tape. It is amazing stuff. It's used to stick aluminum skins on custom trailers, glass and metal panels on commercial buildings, and dozens of other uses. My boys have used this process reparing RV's and trailers. I have high confidence that this is going to work very well.

This will seem sacrilegious to many of you. I am not removing the floor...OMG!! We crawled under the entire bus and didn't find any serious rust. Absolutely no evidence of rot from below and there were no soft spots in the floor. I will add a vapor barrier and just overlay the floor with 3/4" T &G OSB floor decking screwed directly to the existing floor. No glue, just screws. And...we're not removing the ceiling panels. I pulled one panel and the 2" fiberglass insulation was pristine. There is no evidence of leaks or staining. It has the perforated noise reducing ceiling panels. I added 1x3 pine strips front to back screwed right through the perforated ceiling and I'll fill that space with insulation and attach the 1/4" plywood ceiling panels to the furring strips.

This post is already too long. There will be many more updates with some more of my crazy ideas.

DT Rutledge is offline   Reply With Quote

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