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Old 05-28-2014, 12:02 AM   #1
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Big Bertha

My fiance and I are converting a bus. We're going to live in it full time. She's been into tiny houses for a while, and originally we wanted to build a tiny house. We decided that we hate loans, and apartments, so we were stumped for a while. A youtube channel featuring lots of innovative tiny living spaces led us to a couple with a skoolie, and then one day she asked me, "will you live in a bus with me?"

And, of course, I was like "hell yeah."

So we bought this


...in April and have been working on it since.

I have tons of pictures stockpiled on facebook. I will work to post them here when I can.


So it's a 1996 TC/2000, 6CT 8.3L, Allison MT643. This was the second bus we looked at, and for $2800 I was, well, excited. The first bus was a Thomas MVP with a 6B that looked like it had been sitting for years. Someone had stolen the cables running to the starter, the doors had INCHES of gaps where they wouldn't close, huge dents in the skin, mold on the seats.... they wanted $4300. Thanks but no thanks. When we looked at the blue bird, it seemed too good to be true.



For being almost 20 years old, it only showed 10. Clean inside, clean outside. Clean engine bay. Ran smooth, tracked straight, body was straight, all the doors shut and sealed, newer tires in the rear, decent tires up front. The dealer had just received the bus the day before we showed up.



There was really nothing to complain about, except that it wasn't equipped with vandal locks, but by that point we were reaching for reasons not to like it. Couldn't end up finding any, so we bought it.



It looked so clean back then! If we only knew what lie ahead...



To be continued...

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Old 05-28-2014, 12:20 PM   #2
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Re: Big Bertha

Welcome to the Madness! --- Great find...love them Birds and that one has some bells & whistles. Sweet engine in the rear, terrific tranny and...all those underbelly pods. Sweet. Best of luck on the buildout and keep the pix coming.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:40 PM   #3
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Re: Big Bertha

Congratulations on the great find. You will quickly learn both the joys and frustrations on school bus conversions. You think you have a plan and move forward, only to find that you hadn't thought about an issue that must be decided before you can proceed. Oh but wait, you can't make that decision because there are five underlying decisions that have to be made!!!! The great ideas and experiences on this web site will help you navigate the minefields and not make the same mistakes as others. People are wonderful on this site sharing both their great ideas and their opppppppppppppps!!!

Welcome and keep the pictures coming.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:51 PM   #4
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Re: Big Bertha

Welcome, and congratulations! Y'all got a great deal on a great bus!
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Old 05-28-2014, 06:04 PM   #5
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Re: Big Bertha

GREAT deal!!!!! BTW, who was the dealer???? I'm saving up for my bus, but THAT is a STEAL!!!!!

Just curious....

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Old 05-28-2014, 06:11 PM   #6
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Re: Big Bertha

Welcome. Great bus, Ive been looking for a similar one. Looks like your gonna need alot of Ospho for that floor.
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Old 05-28-2014, 06:54 PM   #7
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Re: Big Bertha

Nice bus, all that belly storage should come in handy.
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:02 PM   #8
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Re: Big Bertha

Quote:
Originally Posted by big_bertha
and then one day she asked me, "will you live in a bus with me?"

And, of course, I was like "hell yeah."
LOL sounds like she's one to "Ride The River With " as they used to say

Welcome to the madness
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:07 PM   #9
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Re: Big Bertha

So we had just left the dealership who had the Thomas for sale for $4300, and it was getting late. I had seen Bryson's website a couple days before and judging by the look, had guessed that their buses would be out of our price range. She was on the phone with them, explaining how we basically wanted a fair condition rear-engine 8.3/allison combo 40 footer for under $6k. They said they had ONE meeting our requirements, so we dropped in right before they closed, and they actually stayed late to give us a test ride and show us around. The bus had been on the lot for one day and had come straight from a school district with a reputation for excellent maintenance. We were REALLY nervous that the guy was going to want almost 10k for the bus. I mean we had almost just been naggled into buying an absolutely decrepit thomas for 5k. The guy had to run in to ask (his boss I guess) what the selling price was, and he came back out and said "2800". My wife and I exchanged nervous glances and said "...you mean 28,000, right?"

He said no, $2800. The next day we came back to give them money and sign the papers, and he subtracted the fees from the selling price so we paid an even 2800. I really think someone made a mistake. Either they really didn't want that bus sitting on their lot, or they thought they wouldn't find any other buyer, I'm not sure. We thought it was too good to be true then, and we still do. We're waiting to find the skeletons. None so far! That bus was the only one of its kind on the lot, though, the rest being much newer and nicer. I doubt they sell many buses for under 10k.

~~~

Getting acquainted



























Let me know if that is too many pictures. I remember reading that you guys are picture addicts though. So I post everything. Well, almost everything. Gotta run... update soon!
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:14 PM   #10
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Re: Big Bertha

You have sanders!

One important Cummins fact. Go to Napa and get the strips for checking the nitrites, etc. Very important for engine longevity. While you're at it, get an oil sample done on the engine: http://www.blackstone-labs.com/

With both those done, you can get a great glimpse of what the engine is like and what, if anything is needed.

Just my lowly input.....
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:32 PM   #11
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Re: Big Bertha

You guys have one SWEET find!
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Old 05-31-2014, 09:23 PM   #12
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Re: Big Bertha

Quote:
Originally Posted by opus
You have sanders!

One important Cummins fact. Go to Napa and get the strips for checking the nitrites, etc. Very important for engine longevity. While you're at it, get an oil sample done on the engine: http://www.blackstone-labs.com/

With both those done, you can get a great glimpse of what the engine is like and what, if anything is needed.

Just my lowly input.....
This is great info. I'll look into doing both of these. I asked for service records when I bought her, which they gave me copies of, but they only go back to '99. I'm going to take another look at them when I get home.
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Old 05-31-2014, 11:21 PM   #13
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Re: Big Bertha

Ya...great find on the bus --- Even greater is the find on a woman who wants to live with you in a bus! How excellent is that!?
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Old 06-02-2014, 09:53 AM   #14
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Re: Big Bertha

Wow nice bus, what wait, there are women that will live in these with us.

That is not what my mother is telling me.
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:06 AM   #15
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Re: Big Bertha

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
Wow nice bus, what wait, there are women that will live in these with us.

That is not what my mother is telling me.
That's why you need to stop listening to your mother.
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Old 06-02-2014, 03:46 PM   #16
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Re: Big Bertha

Do the coolant strips first. That will tell you what your coolant is like and how much additive you need or dont need. Additive is in the filters in different increments. There is a shut off valve at the base of the filter as well. Give it a try but dont force it. If it doesnt move you surely dont want to make it move and risk breaking it. You can hot swap the filters without too much of a mess.

Wix filter would be something like WF-2073, 2074, etc up to 2077 I think the latter is the one with no additive.
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Old 06-03-2014, 09:20 PM   #17
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Re: Big Bertha

Just a quick update.

When we sliced through the seat legs, water poured out.






My glasses kept fogging! F%#&!











After the seats were out, got to work grinding the bolt heads off the feet and popping them off.

















Looking pretty haggard.



The vinyl flooring was so waterlogged in most places it just lifted right off at the slightest tug.



Being from 1996, there was a VHS surveillance system installed. Cool!









So at the end of the day we had all the seats out and most of the vinyl up.



We're in western Washington. It rains. Kids track in all the water, the water seeps through cracks and inbetween bolts and gets underneath the plywood where it stays. I have to admit, though, I wasn't ready for the amount of filth we encountered. Yikes.

More later!
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Old 06-03-2014, 09:34 PM   #18
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Re: Big Bertha

Be sure you dont permanently cover that center fuel tank access hole.
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Old 06-03-2014, 10:19 PM   #19
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Re: Big Bertha

On my Thomas, the rubber is glued straight to the steel and was a bear to get up. But we do not have soggy plywood to contend with.
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Old 06-03-2014, 10:30 PM   #20
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Re: Big Bertha

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
On my Thomas, the rubber is glued straight to the steel and was a bear to get up. But we do not have soggy plywood to contend with.
I really don't understand why bluebird wanted to put plywood down. The steel was welded in sections from front to back, and the welds were filled in with sealant. I guess when you have to replace them every 10 years or whatever, they don't really care if the plywood gets soggy.

Of course I'm a huge hypocrite because I'm putting a plywood subfloor right back in...
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