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Old 01-21-2020, 10:41 AM   #1
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
'99 Blue Bird Retirement Project - Bus #1

Since this will be my build journal, It needs to start with the back story.

As I approach retirement with my State of Nevada job, we decided it was time to slowly step into the RV world. Since we still have our last child home, we don't want to go at it fulltime yet. In August of '19 we purchased a new pop-up camper. The plan was to use this for a few years as we experience camping and life on the road in small increments to determine exactly what RV path we want, and if this lifestyle is even what we really want to spend retired life doing. August was probably not the best time of year to purchase. With winter coming on and school starting back up, we have only used the trailer a few times, and now it sits under a tarp waiting for freezing temps to go away. In the mean time, my oldest son comes up with this brilliant plan to buy an old school bus to convert into a motor home. He is my one child that is always 1000% gung-ho at the beginning of every project, but runs out of motivation very shortly into each project. (Can you say adult child with severe ADHD?)

His plan was a roof raise since he is 6'4". I could just see this bus with the top cut off laying in the back yard never to be completed, right next to the three Suburbans and two trucks he has started to project on and never will finish! Sometimes his inherited (from me) horse trading works out in my benefit. This time he traded a minivan for a '99 rear engine Blue Bird All American with the 8.3 Cummins and the Allison MD 3060. Someone else had started the project, so it came completely gutted, and with fairly new tires on it. He drove it about 200 miles home and it ran quite well. Fortunately for the future of the bus, he picked it up in the middle of winter, so he was reluctant to start on the roof raise until warmer weather hit. It only took about a month for the novel idea of a Skoolie was replaced with his wife's desire to buy a house and remodel that instead of living in a bus. Then he realized he would need a truck to haul all the building materials. Here's where I enter the future picture of the bus. He offered, practically begged, me to take the bus off his hands since he couldn't find a buyer for it. He really didn't try very hard, I think he could have signed up on this site and had it sold pretty fast, he was only asking $3500 for it. But his lack of patience has cost him mucho $$$ throughout his life. (I still haven't told him about the International A100 Golden Jubilee that he sold to me for a quick $500 when he was 16. I turned around and sold it for $2000 after a little advertising he was to impatient to do!) I have numerous stories like this where I have profited because of his lack of patience. Even after showing him how to make money being patient, he still can't seem to wait for the bigger pay off. He does well on his trades, but he could do so much better if he would settle down a bit and wait. I guess I should feel bad profiting off of his impatience, but he does pretty well anyway, so I don't feel too bad. 2019 saw him $24,000 richer with his wheeling and dealing, so he still doesn't do too bad.

So now here we are. He wants to trade the bus for my '94 F150. I really did NOT want a school bus living in my yard! After he pestered me for almost a month, I reluctantly decided to see what the sellers market looked like for a school bus. Little did I know there is this whole sub-culture of Skoolies driving around the country. I quickly realized if I advertised this thing right, I could probably have it sold in a few weeks at a substantial profit over what my truck was worth. Then I made the mistake of searching 'Skoolie' on youtube. I spent a weekend sick on the couch watching hours worth of skoolie videos, which led me to finding this web site. After a few weeks of researching school bus conversion, I took the bus for a ride down the highway. I was hooked, bitten by the Skoolie bug! I have even managed to convince my wife that this is going to be a fun adventure we can have together. My only regret is that if I had waited until this spring to buy the pop-up camper like my wife wanted to do, we would have had that money to put into the bus. However, I think we will still get plenty of use out of the trailer since I'm in the process of remodeling my house, and finishing my career, I think I will be about 2 years on the bus project before it's ready for the road.

Now, on to my plans for my Skoolie. I have a '88 Southwind motor home in the back 40 that I picked up for a cheap song after it had a grease fire that pretty well ruined the interior. This will be the major donor for all the RV needs for the bus. I plan to go the RV route rather than the more common off-grid set up of the skoolie. The main things I will pull off the Rv to use will be the fresh water, grey, and black tanks, 2 roof A/C units, 5000 watt Onan generator, 3 burner range top, several of the windows, and the swivel seat pedestals. I'm not sure what was used as an inverter, or house battery charger, so I don't know if I will use that, or come up with something different. I'm planning on going with 50A shore power so I can run both A/C units, microwave, and fridge. I plan on a full sized 110V fridge, those 3 way fridges are way too small and expensive. I am also very anti RV bathroom. We will devote a decent size portion of the floor plan to the bathroom. I'm really quite excited to get going on the conversion. I have lots of questions that I'm confident this awesome community has the answers to. I really look forward to learning and sharing my experience here. I'm very open to suggestions throughout my build. I'm not one who needs to make my own mistakes to learn, I have no problem learning from yours, so please, if you see me heading for a big one, feel free to tell me to quit being an idiot and do it the right way!
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Old 01-21-2020, 11:51 AM   #2
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 295
So the two trucks.

Chevy square bodies by any chance??
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Old 01-21-2020, 12:31 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Yes, one was a '79 camper special, 4 door, 2 wheel drive dually. He cut the frame to make it a short box. Actually did a pretty good job that far, but then lost steam for that project. He finally sold that truck a few months ago after it sat for a few years while he collected more junk. The other one is, I think, a '82 standard cab 3/4 ton 4x4 without a title. I think he finally gave that to his brother so it is now on the mend. His brother is a much more focused and driven person. With him buying a house and moving a few towns over, I told him all his junk has to go, or I'm hauling all of it to the dump.
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:05 PM   #4
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 295
Well if either one are available.
I need a couple of good bodies
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Old 01-25-2020, 09:01 PM   #5
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
I spent some time out back with the donor motor home this afternoon. I got the grey and black tanks pulled out. Pulled the A/C wiring out of the roof enough to hook each unit up to power to see if they still work after sitting for 12 years. No sense in carefully removing them if they don't work. I also did some measuring and floor planning on the bus. Remodeling the house and building the bus at the same time is going to be quite the challenge!

I was originally going to install the roof A/C units in the emergency hatches, but the hole is 2'X2' and the A/C units take a much smaller hole. Since I plan on adding a couple fans, I think I'll just cut new holes for the A/C and make the emergency hatches into sky lights.

The generator I have is a 6500 watt Onan. It looks like there are two separate 110V lines coming off of it. If so, I'll tie each leg into the 50A set up and just be aware that when running off generator power, I'll be limited to about 30 mps on each side, rather than 50. I plan on mounting the generator behind the wall panel towards the front of the bus, between the storage bay and the front wheel on the drivers side. That way I can run it while I'm sleeping and it won't be right under the bed room.
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Old 01-26-2020, 01:11 AM   #6
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,524
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
With regards to the 2'x2' emergency hatches ... you can build an insert that reduces it down to 14"x14" for the air conditioner. This is what we did for our build.
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Old 03-06-2020, 09:41 AM   #7
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Last weekend the bus got some much needed time. I pulled a couple miles (it sure felt like it) of wiring out that was from old camera system, and what looks like some sort of aftermarket security system. I also discovered the outside electrical panel under the driver window has no power. The main wire coming in to power that panel goes inside under the dash somewhere, but I ran out of time and daylight trying to find where.

I also did some more reclaiming on the Motor Home. I pulled all the 110V wiring out and ended up with what I think will be enough to wire my bus 2 times over.

I think I might mount the generator in the engine bay on the passengers side, there seems to be plenty of room there. I am also thinking of using the inside section above the engine bay as a utility area. I can remove the windows and cover the holes with vents and filters so things can breathe. I should be able to mount the outdoor unit for the rear mini split in there, along with my propane on-demand water heater.
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File Type: jpg IMG_1847.jpg (336.4 KB, 37 views)
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Old 04-27-2020, 03:57 PM   #8
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
I have been able to spend time the past two weekends doing a little on the bus. We recently decided to move the bus up to the top of the priority list in anticipation of our 3000+ mile summer road trip. That was going to be in the Escalade and tent trailer, but a very cold night camping in the trailer a few weeks ago changed our focus. Now I have about 3 months to get the conversion done enough to use for that trip.

I have pulled miles of wire out that I'm pretty sure isn't necessary because the bus still starts and runs well. I removed the 3 heaters and hoses with minimal coolant loss, maybe a 1/2 gallon spilled on the ground and only 1/2 dozen drops on the interior. I was expecting more out of that circuit, I only retrieved about 3 gallons. To my surprise and great joy, the coolant coming out was pristine, beautiful green. Not a single bit of nasty, rusty looking goop, which indicates to me the engine block to be well taken care of.

I spent some time getting the donor seats mounted. I mounted the passenger seat right next to the driver on a swivel pedestal from the donor motor home. The seats are from a Nissan truck. With seats mounted, I got the wife to go for a ride down the road with me to see if she thinks she will be satisfied with that arrangement for 2 weeks of riding. I don't think the seat impressed her, which is a good thing because that closes the debate on getting some nice comfortable captains chairs for the trip.

I also worked a little on the generator mounts and placement. Deciding where to put that and keep the fuel tank close but separate and still easily accessible for filling was a bit of a challenge. I also decided to put the water heater on the passengers side between the basement and the fuel filler. I wanted to keep that in a location that wasn't too disruptive of sheet metal because I want to eventually replace it with a tankless heater. I figure when I do that, I'll make a door to cover the hole and have another exterior storage box for small items like fueling gloves.

I realize 3 months isn't very much time, but I do well with a deadline under pressure. Having 3 & 4 day weekends and the bus sitting on my property is a huge plus too.

(I can't add pics from my work computer, so I'll update with them in a day or two.)
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Old 05-03-2020, 09:31 AM   #9
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Pics from last weekend.

Why the heck this forum decides to post some pics sideways and some normal is beyond me.
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Old 05-03-2020, 09:50 AM   #10
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
This weekend was spent more in the planning stage. One day was spent breaking the Covid law and going a few towns over for supplies, to include a stop at Harbor Freight for some blast media so I can attack the floor.

I also decided to put the whole project into the slow cooker instead of a fast built. While working I bumped my head on the roof a few too many times and decided to do a roof raise. I have 460 days until I retire, so the new goal is completion by retirement day. I think I'll also shift to more of a long term living build than just the RV plan I had.

For bus work this weekend, I ended up starting the door project. I have temporary fixed the bifold to solid, and kept the closer in place above the door. The plan is for when I skin the roof raise I'll skin over the door and put one of my RV windows in the upper section.
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Old 05-03-2020, 03:05 PM   #11
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,524
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Just curious how well the door works and seals using your temporary solidification of your bifold door.
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Old 05-04-2020, 12:37 PM   #12
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
At this point, it seals well enough to keep the critters out, that's it. I didn't even plan on messing with the door for a while, but I was walking out of the bus with my screw gun in hand and wanted to see what was behind one of the door seals. One thing led to another, and the door became the project of the day. If I can get the 'power' door opener to relax, I think it will be exactly what I was hoping for. I'll remove the glass and weld the two pieces solid. I also plan on skinning the lower portion and adding one of the RV windows I have to the top section. I may move one of the smaller windows from the top down to the bottom so I have that blind spot covered.
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Old 05-09-2020, 10:22 PM   #13
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
VanderLock system - Safety Lock No Start

After doing all the things I read about with the interlock no start safety system, cut wire-start, cut wire-start, cut wire-start, I did really well, yesterday. Went out this morning and it wouldn't start. I know I'm not the first guy to have this same problem. Research, research, research - no answer to my problem. I did find one good hint to bypass the whole system, but not the actual answer.

SO HERE IT IS!!!

1999 BLUE BIRD TC RE. Can't vouch for any other year, but for the '99 here you go.

Behind the drivers wiper door is a panel housing 10 relays and the flasher for the turn signals. What I read from PNW-Steve was info he received from a Blue Bird technician. Find the VanderLock relay and remove it. Jumper pin 30 and 87a. Problem solved. My problem is, there is no map telling me what relays are what. I used the age old process of elimination. Standing in front, looking at the box, my relay was the bottom rely in the left column. Hopefully this will help someone else without pulling their hair out.
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Old 05-09-2020, 10:30 PM   #14
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
I got all the exterior lights off that I want gone, now I have a pile of extras if anybody wants this stuff.
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Old 05-09-2020, 11:21 PM   #15
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
While looking for a wiring diagram I wasnít able to find, I did find some cool stuff on Blue Birds web site. I thought I had an All American. I guess itís a TCRE. Not sure what the differences are.
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Old 05-10-2020, 02:25 PM   #16
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,524
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Oh no! Now you must change your profile! My dear, such tragedy!
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Old 05-10-2020, 05:27 PM   #17
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Oh no! Now you must change your profile! My dear, such tragedy!
I keep trying, every time I hit save changes it tells me I need to sign in and it wonít save.
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Old 05-10-2020, 11:26 PM   #18
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,524
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackE View Post
I keep trying, every time I hit save changes it tells me I need to sign in and it wonít save.
Try this: Log off, then back in and select the "keep me logged in" box checked.


Then try again.


If this fails, send a note to an admin, such as JanetH.
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Old 05-17-2020, 12:19 AM   #19
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Spent some good time the last three days on the bus. My son and I went to work on the stickers with a couple eraser wheels. Everyone says your bus will eventually pick its own name. I was planning on calling it The Grey Buffalo. When I looked out the window the next morning, there it was. Granite. Weíll see if it sticks, or if The Grey Buffalo will suit it better.
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Old 05-17-2020, 12:34 AM   #20
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 632
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
I spent at least 8 hours in the last 3 days working on building the rack for my generator and drilling holes in the frame to mount it and the trailer hitch. I got the rack built and am now waiting for my son to blast it so I can get it painted before I mount it. Forgot to get a pic of the rack, but I did get a few of the hitch. Drilling horizontally through 1/2 inch hardened steel Is very time consuming and not a lot of fun. The vertical holes were fairly easy using my reverse drill press!!
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