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Old 05-04-2021, 08:23 PM   #1
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Alt1 Bus conversion

Hello all.

I am now the proud owner of a 1998 Thomas Saf T liner. Below are the stats:

1998 Saf T Liner
34ft Long
Mechanical 12v 5.9l Cummins, 230HP
Allision MT643
77in interior height
Air brakes
Air ride seat
Factory A/C

I picked this bus up just a few miles from my house in Fredericksburg, VA. It was at a storage facility and left by the previous owner. The storage facility filed all the appropriate paperwork, held it at auction, and could legally sell the bus. It had sat for approximately 5 years before I made the purchase. Since the bus had sat for so long, it needed some TLC and some electrical troubleshooting. You can read up on some of what was required in my previous thread. https://www.skoolie.net/forums/f49/n...cal-35747.html

After getting her started and a little maneuvering in the storage lot, I checked lights, brakes, steering etc and she was ready to make the trip. Phrogman265 and his wife helped me get the bus to his property where the conversion will take place.

Today was day 1 of the conversion. Seats were removed with the help of a friend. I also spent a little time degreasing and cleaning the engine and engine bay. I also learned a tip to check on mechanical injection pump diesel (typically done before purchase). With the engine running, crack open the fuel line going to each injector. One by one checking for a change in sound of the motor. The helps determine the condition of each cylinder while running. Below is the link I followed.

I also found $1.12 in change in the seats. So I guess the purchase of this bus for $1200 is actually now $1,198.88.

Next step is finish removing the interior panels and flooring, window removal, A/c disassembly (will be keeping), and rear heater removal. I will be doing a 16in roof raise and reusing most of the windows.

Thanks for your interest and stay tuned!
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Old 05-04-2021, 09:20 PM   #2
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Year: 2000
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Definitely keep those windows! Very cool on you getting so much done so quickly.

Glad you have such a great location to work on it and friends to help.
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Old 05-04-2021, 09:51 PM   #3
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Quote:
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Hello all.

I am now the proud owner of a 1998 Thomas Saf T liner.
.............
Thanks for your interest and stay tuned!
Ryan, I presume? Ryan Alt Woodworks has produced some impressive pieces. I'm looking forward to following your build out. Please post pics of as you go.
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Old 05-05-2021, 09:28 AM   #4
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this is a nice bus!! would look cool to raise somwe of the windows up during your roof raise.. give it some varying lines on the outside..
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Old 05-05-2021, 09:54 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simplicity View Post
Definitely keep those windows! Very cool on you getting so much done so quickly.

Glad you have such a great location to work on it and friends to help.
Yes, very fortunate. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeMac View Post
Ryan, I presume? Ryan Alt Woodworks has produced some impressive pieces. I'm looking forward to following your build out. Please post pics of as you go.
Indeed. Thanks for the compliments. Unfortunately, the Facebook page has not been updated in a very long time. The pictures are some of my very first commissioned items. I've been fortunate to quite a lot more and really improved my skills. As a side hobby, the woodworking business is 99% by word-of-mouth and always busy.
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this is a nice bus!! would look cool to raise somwe of the windows up during your roof raise.. give it some varying lines on the outside..
Thanks. I hadnt thought of that. I could see the front 2-3 being normal height and the rear being raised up. Worth considering for sure.
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Old 05-06-2021, 09:30 PM   #6
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Day Two:

The necessary early steps are moving along as fast as I can manage.

I believe I unscrewed approximately 8,000 screws from the interior paneling. (honestly no clue, but thats what it felt like). 90% of the interior paneling is unscrewed but I could not remove everything fully due to the ac units. I have an a/c guy that Phrogman uses coming to properly discharge the AC so that it can be disassembled and saved for later. All sidewall panels are down and insulation removed. A couple windows are removed and the rest are just held in by a few screws. They should be coming out this weeked for storage. Flooring is still in and should be getting removed this weekend as well.

I also spend a bit more time cleaning up the engine/trans. There is a leak somewhere for me to find once everything is fully cleaned. I ordered the Killer Dowel Pin parts + gasket. Hat channel will be on order shortly.

Only picture is from mid day.
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Old 05-06-2021, 10:15 PM   #7
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Okay, I'm really starting to not like you so much. WTF! You fix a bus, buy it for cheap, gut it in essentially a couple of days and will be frickin' done with the full conversion by what, July???

Amazing progress. Looks great!
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:33 PM   #8
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Okay, I'm really starting to not like you so much. WTF! You fix a bus, buy it for cheap, gut it in essentially a couple of days and will be frickin' done with the full conversion by what, July???

Amazing progress. Looks great!
Ha, thanks Steve. Full conversion by July would be awesome! I dont think I can work THAT fast. The plan is for the roof raise to be complete in June and hopefully all the wiring and spray foam before the end of July. Optimistically!
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:34 PM   #9
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Day Three:

My brother came to visit and so I grabbed him up to come work on the bus. Picking up from the previous days work, we carried on with the demo.

All windows were removed and stored for reuse. A couple of broken screws heads during removal, but nothing too bad beyond that. No broke glass or damaged frames. Whatever I dont use will be offered up to Phrogman for his bus.

The big project today was to pull up the floor. I ended up using a circular saw to do a cut about 90% through the plywood and rubber, and then use two large (40" +) prybars in tandem with my brother. After the first square patch in the center was removed, the rest came up pretty easy. Easy for floor removal that is... Still tough work, but it went much smoother than I had anticipated.

Overall, the floors are in great shape. There are spots below both emergency roof hatches that have some rust and a few corners near the wheel wells. However, I didnt see any holes from rust. When I get to finishing the floors I'll take a closer look at make repairs as needed, but overall very pleased with the current condition.

A/C units were dropped from their ceiling mounts in preparation for our buddy to come with his A/C equipment. Im hoping he can come by this week so that I can move the units completely. I will be keeping one unit, the other will be going to Phrogman.

The final ceiling panels were removed now that the A/C units are down.

It looks like I'm about 90% done with the interior demo. The only thing left is the rubber over the engine compartment and wheelwells, rear heater and hoses, and a few ceiling insulation panels.
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Old 05-08-2021, 08:47 PM   #10
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Not bad for a few weeks work.

What!?

Ugh. Oh.

Three days is really fantastic! You are well on your way to (a stroke? ha!) completing, as scheduled. Not bad rust, at all. How many of you? Just a bunch of yourself?
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Old 05-08-2021, 11:36 PM   #11
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Wow! Look at the size of those window frames. You're going to really be able to put something nice in there.
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Old 05-12-2021, 07:37 PM   #12
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Not bad for a few weeks work.

What!?

Ugh. Oh.

Three days is really fantastic! You are well on your way to (a stroke? ha!) completing, as scheduled. Not bad rust, at all. How many of you? Just a bunch of yourself?
Ha. Thanks. I've had the help of only one additional person each day. Demo is the easy part. Hopefully the fabrication/assembly stage goes pretty smooth as well.
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Old 05-12-2021, 07:45 PM   #13
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Day four (kind of):

Nothing to big today. A buddy came by after work to recover the R134 from the A/c. Honestly, there wasnt much in there, but we pulled out what was left.

I didnt realize (but it makes complete sense) that there were two independent compressors run by the motor. Since I only plan to re use one of the A/c units for up front, the other one can easily be removed since it is driven by its own belt and nothing else. Looks like Phrogman will have a complete A/c setup to use for his build. Lucky guy!

On another note, I ran into a couple of hiccups at the DMV. A few extra bits of paperwork and a short waiting period before the title is in my name. I dont foresee any major issues, but work on the bus will mostly halt until its all sorted.

In the meantime, layout and roof raise planning is in the works. I didnt notice after removing the windows that every hat channel rib is reinforced and doubled up with square tubing. Again, makes complete sense considering every other rib was removed for the larger windows. However, that puts a slightly differant stance on raising the roof. Phrogrman and I have a couple ideas that we're leaning towards, but if anyone has specific experience with a raise like this I'd be all ears.

Until next time...
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Old 06-27-2021, 07:40 PM   #14
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Ok guys. I'm back after a short break.

Quick update on the title/DMV issues. Since the bus was bought from a storage facility and they did not have a title, I knew there was some paperwork that was required. Prior to purchasing the bus I made sure I knew what was required on my end to retitle in Virginia. The storage facility has sold multiple vehicles in the past and was also aware of what was required for them to legally sell a vehicle. They had all their documentation needed and provided it to me with no issue. Due to Covid, I had to make an appointment. Despite having all of the required documents, wait time, certified letter to the prior owner, etc. (all according to the Virginia Statute for "abandoned vehicles") The only way the DMV can issue a title is with an Abandoned Vehicle Process number. Which can only be done online. News to me and news to the storage facility. So I to go through the process online that the storage facility had already done to legally sell it. Thankfully, it was only a $25 fee to complete the process. However, I had to wait 31 days before I could title it.

Long story short, I have another appointment at the DMV and I should have no issues on that visist.

Since I had to wait the 31 days, I didnt do any work on the bus until the process was completed. So here is the update from a couple of days ago.


I had a friend come by to give me a hand. We were able to knock out a lot of the little disassembly items on my list prior to the roof raise. We started by pulling all the A/C hoses and electrical from the two inside units, the under bus units and all the way back to the compressors. For those of you that have done that before, you know how nasty it can be! We were completely covered from crawling under the bus all afternoon. As said before, one complete setup will be given to Phrogman, and I will keep the second.

We also did work in the engine compartment. The main compressor clutch is seized and I will be replacing it. The alternator was directly above and needed to be removed to gain access to the A/c hoses on the back side of the compressor. The alternator came out pretty easy but we ran into problems with the compressor. The lines on the compressor came off no problem, but the four mounting bolts did not. Three of the four bolts were so corroded that the heads snapped off. The fourth one came out clean. So that will take some more work in the near future.

We also pulled the driver seat, rear heater and hoses, and remaining plywood bits from the floor. I then went and ground down all the nails that didnt pull up with the floor removal. So now everything is nice a clean and ready to raise the roof.

Lastly, I've got the hat channel for the roof raise and the solid rivets are on order. The tentative plan is to cut, raise the roof, and weld in all supports on July 5th. A week or two later we will mark and drill all the hat channels, reskin, cut windows, and work on the front and rear roof sections. Ive got a small group of friends that are excited to participate.
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Old 07-10-2021, 10:27 PM   #15
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First of two updates.

Day 5:

July 4th weekend we had some great weather to work on the bus. Two friends came to assist and I dont think they knew what they were getting into. We decided to pull on the rivets on the roofline just above the drip edge to accept the new sheet steel after the roof raise. Thats tough work! between three handheld grinders, mini sledge and drift/punch we got them all done. The rear emergency hatch, rear windows, and rear end cap rivets were all removed to prepare for the raise.

I keep an eye out for used rv seats, furniture, and appliances just in case something useful comes up for a good price. Eventually, I got a good score on a set of captains chairs and rear bench from a 1995 GMC conversion van. They were WAY cheaper than any "RV Seats" that people were trying to sell. I picked them up for $100 a seat, which I thought was a pretty awesome deal. Phrogman will be using the bench seat and I will use both captains chairs. They are in absolutely pristine condition for their age and are incredibly comfortable.

After a long days work, the bust was tarped back up and awaits the roof raise.



Also: A trip to the DMV was successful and I am officially the owner of this bus. Title, registration and insurance are all in my name and ready to go.
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Old 07-10-2021, 10:55 PM   #16
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Day 6. Roof Raise:


Another great weather day today for the bus. I solicited a large group of friends with pizza, beer and cookies and ended up with about 7 helpers to get the raise going.

Several had never used a grinder but were eager to learn and were down to do some hard work. Well, I think they got it. We started with a few rivets we missed from the week prior and then moved on to the front cap and rear cap. The front cap to first hat channel roof panel was quite a bit more difficult to remove than expected. Lots of sealant and lots of rivets, but it eventually got cut and removed with a "Victory" toss from the top of the bus.

While that was going on, a couple of the guys worked on the pesky AC compressor that was corroded solid to the motor mount. An O/A Torch was brought out and after an extremely thorough beating with a sledge, it actually broke into pieces. After that, the broken studs (although bent and mangled) threaded right out like it was nothing. A new SANDEN 4666 will be on order shortly.

We then welded in the threaded rod guides as other members have suggested. Cut the hat channels and inner support channel and then two inches above and below to allow an overlap of the new hat channel extension pieces. The inner square tube was welding in place and then ground smooth to accept the hat channel extensions.

After 8 pizzas, two dozen cookies, 64 beers, and a full days worth of work, the bus was raised 14.5 inches tarped back up and awaiting its next work day.

Stay tuned!
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:52 AM   #17
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Amazing job. It's taken me 1 day of thought and 2 of head scratching just to mount an RV ladder.
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:35 AM   #18
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Nice job, I am not sure I understand why you did not use a continuous length square tube inside the hat channel. What is the advantage of cutting it in two sections besides saving some material.

Good luck,
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Old 07-11-2021, 11:14 AM   #19
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Amazing job. It's taken me 1 day of thought and 2 of head scratching just to mount an RV ladder.
Thanks! I'm just pushing hard on the early big stuff while the weather is nice and the friends are willing. Things will slow up for sure.

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Nice job, I am not sure I understand why you did not use a continuous length square tube inside the hat channel. What is the advantage of cutting it in two sections besides saving some material.

Good luck,
Johan
Thanks. Since my bus had the RV windows from the start, there were half as many hat channels as a typical school bus. So each of the hat channels had an inner "U" channel that ran the full length up to the roof. So I decided to spice in and follow a similar inner structure as was done from the factor. The picture below shows the inner "U" channel installed from the factory after I cut all the way through, and then removed the upper and lower 2 inches of the hat channel for the overlap.
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Old 08-29-2021, 01:08 PM   #20
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Catching up the thread with work over the past month.

Work has been extremely busy. Several very long days, terrible weather, and miserable heat/humidity. The last week of July gave us two beautiful back-to-back weather days where the majority of the reskinning happened.

Work day 7:

Picking up where we left off on the roof raise, all of the hat channel extensions were welded in place. The threaded rods used for the raise were cut out and then the hat channel extensions were added in their place. Flap disks were used to smooth out the appropriate sections and then all the verticle supports were primed. Shortly after, I measured, center punched, marked and drilled for the rivet holes. Thankfully, I had fewer holes to drill in the areas where the windows will be reinstalled. This is to prevent overlaping of rivets on the sides where the window seals.

I have a pretty unique plan for the forward transition section that I havent seen anyone else do yet. I'll post more details on that later in the thread. However, the entry into the bus will remain close to the original interior height (77 inches). Therefore, a steel crossmemeber was welded in place from the left to right side. You can see it in the pictures and it may look strange now, but it should make sense once the exterior transition section is in place.

We set up somewhat of an assembly line to prime panels all at once. They dried pretty quickly out in the sun and we got a few up in place on the bus. I planned the roof raise the height to facilitate using a full 48 x 96 and 48 x 120 panels under the drip edge and tuck into the rub rail for a clean look and easier install. We used two cinch straps hooked to the opposite side drip edge to hoist up the panel to fit it into place. This technique worked extremely well and after we got the system down we had the panels up and down in very short order.

We leveled the panels, clamped them in place, and then drilled holes to allow clecos to hold them. We got one whole side hung before daylight was out.
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