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Old 12-30-2010, 05:46 PM   #1
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My new B700 Thomas

I've been working on a Bluebird Minibird for a while now, but I've come to the conclusion that it's just a bit too small for what I want to do. So about a week ago, I drove to Wisconsin from Idaho to pick up my new bus. It's a 1996 Ford B700 with a Thomas body. The trip out to Wisconsin in my Crown Vic wasn't bad, but the return trip wasn't so nice. Before I even got out of Wisconsin, the bus blew a brake line in a truck stop. We ended up staying overnight in the bus in our sleeping bags until the next morning when we could get it into a shop. Once in the shop, it only took a couple of hours to get it fixed.

Somewhere about Cheyenne WY, we ran into a gnarly snowstorm. For a few hundred miles there were trucks and cars off the road everywhere. Speed was under 40 mph. We finally got out of the snow driving just east of Ogden UT. Here's just a few of the accidents we saw on that stretch. Nasty...





Once we got to Ogden, the rest of the trip was easy. Here's a couple of pics of the bus with my Crown Vic right after loading up the dolly at a truck stop. It's a long bus rated at 72 passengers. Most of the buses I've seen like it are 66 passenger.



I've had the bus home for about a week now, and so far I've removed about half the seats, the big fisheye mirrors, the stop sign assembly on the side, and the bar that flips out on the front bumper. I've eliminated about half the wiring mess with unneeded switches and equipment. I've also installed my new JVC stereo system in the stock location, but it's not going to be there for long. It's in an incredibly stupid place down next to the side of the seat. The speakers are just temporarily installed too. Their location will change once I start working on the interior.




So that's it for now. More to come as stuff gets done.

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Old 12-30-2010, 06:07 PM   #2
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Congrats on the new bus. I'll be that feels incredibly huge in there compared to the MicroBird! It looks like a similar first trip that I made with the Silver Snail from Ohio to Kansas! What a mess!

How did your bus do with the pass from Cheyenne to Laramie? I'm just curious. I was just out in Laramie last week and I can't bring myself to try my bus over the pass into Cheyenne. Mine isn't a turbo, and I'm pretty sure that's 90% of the problem. So wondering how it went for you with your 5.9L.

Good luck. I wish I could afford a short right now...I'd love to have one for moving around town...grr.

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Old 12-30-2010, 06:26 PM   #3
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Good luck! It's going to be a ton of fun. Before you get too far along I might suggest you rethink getting rid of the convex mirrors up front. You won't miss them until you need them...which is just about all the time!
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Old 12-31-2010, 09:27 AM   #4
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_experience03
Good luck! It's going to be a ton of fun. Before you get too far along I might suggest you rethink getting rid of the convex mirrors up front. You won't miss them until you need them...which is just about all the time!
Agreed...I didn't have them on my B-700 (removed before I got it), and didn't realize how nice they were to have until I drove a truck that had them. Had I kept the B700, I would have put a set back on. All conventional MD/HD trucks should have them.

Quick check: with you sitting in the driver's seat, have someone stand in front of the bus and walk away from it until you see their feet. Get out and see how far away they are...you will be STUNNED at the size of that blind spot! It's something like 20-25' on my work truck, and that's a 2007 Freightliner M2, which has a substantial slope to the hood...it will be considerably more with the Ford's higher, flatter hood.
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Old 12-31-2010, 10:15 AM   #5
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Great pics of the road trip and a cautionary tale about the road - the bus is always a handfull - long trips on the road always an adventure.
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Old 12-31-2010, 10:23 AM   #6
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Grats on the new bus and OMG are you nuts!? lol I want my bus but I'm too dang wimpy to go driving the northern states in the mid of winter Let me guess, you did Black River truck stop? You must have driven right past my house
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Old 01-05-2011, 06:24 AM   #7
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
Originally Posted by NewSkewlHauler
Congrats on the new bus. I'll be that feels incredibly huge in there compared to the MicroBird!

How did your bus do with the pass from Cheyenne to Laramie?
Mine was a Minibird so not quite as small as a Micro, but indeed, the new bus feels quite big! I've driven medium duty trucks a bit, but this thing is the longest by far at nearly 40 feet long.

There were a couple of passes that I slowed down to about 35 or 40 to climb, but I made it up them ok. I'm sure the turbo deserves some thanks there!

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_experience03
Before you get too far along I might suggest you rethink getting rid of the convex mirrors up front. You won't miss them until you need them...which is just about all the time!
Hmm... I'm going to try it without them, but maybe I'll keep them around just in case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seeria
Grats on the new bus and OMG are you nuts!? Let me guess, you did Black River truck stop? You must have driven right past my house
People have questioned my sanity more than once. My entire family thinks I'm a little crazy wanting to live and travel around in a bus and the lengths that I'll go to getting what I'm looking for. Personally, I think they're crazy for wanting to be tied down to living in one spot and having to rent a truck to move 3 tons of crap half way across the country every year or two. But I guess to each his own.

The name of that truck stop sounds vaguely familiar. If I would have known you were there, I might have been beating on your door looking for a room!

Thanks for the kind words everyone! I didn't get very far on the smaller bus before I realized it was too small, but I'm looking forward to building this one.
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Old 01-05-2011, 09:10 AM   #8
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

No room to sleep here but a night of parking would have workd! We're off hwy 54 past Wisconsin Rapids, route leads right to BR truck stop which is pretty much the only central one that has full service everything for truckers.

We want more pics!
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:23 PM   #9
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

The weather has been cold and nasty here, so I haven't gotten much done lately. It's not fun to be under the bus in the cold and wind holding a wrench on seats bolt nuts! The last couple of days it has warmed up a bit though, so I've finished getting all the seats unbolted. Now I just have to get them hauled off. A few friends and family members have said they want some seats, and I'm happy to let them have them, but I just wish they would get over here and get them so I can get them out of the bus! I can't do much when the back half of the bus is piled high with seats. I guess if they don't come get them by tomorrow night, they're getting hauled off.



So far, I've decided to keep only 2 seats so someone can ride with me for now, and they might be used for temporary dinette seating until the real thing gets built.



Last night, I got the channel removed that protects the hoses that run to the rear heaters. I still have to remove the heaters and the hoses, but at least I can get to them now. I also removed the big duct that sends heat back to the first few seats.



I can't believe the heating system on this bus. There are 4 separate heaters in this bus that control 6 different components of the heating system. Last night I was studying the heater that sits right by the entrance door, and I think I will be removing it. Right now, it controls the defrost function (among other functions) but I think that I can re-route air from the driver's side heater for the defrost. That will open up room in the door area for a passenger seat, since I plan on moving the entrance to the bus back in front of the rear tire.

This is the mid-rear heater. It's a single fan unit while the far-rear heater is a double fan. Once progress is to the point of framing, I plan on installing the smaller heater in the bedroom area and the larger heater under the dinette or kitchen cabinet to heat the living/kitchen area. I plan on having propane or possibly wood heat when all is said and done, but it's nice to be able to warm the bus from the engine when it's running. No sense in letting those BTUs go to waste.



That's it for this update. I'll probably get more done tonight. Hopefully...
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Old 01-16-2011, 04:21 PM   #10
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

On our bus, the "front heater by the door provides all the heat for the driver and defrosters. When I pulled the cover off the heater (and removed the hoses for replacement) All I found was 1 "radiator" and a couple of squirrel cage type blowers. We are keeping the front heater (and the rear). The front heater will be our OTR heater.
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:07 PM   #11
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

There's plenty of room up there for a nav-seat with or without the bi-ford door and stock heaters. This is what I did:

I too had plans to relocate my bi-fold door, but I'm really rethinking it now due to how slick this turned out.

Good luck with your bus!
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:18 PM   #12
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty
... Drivers defrost comes from main heater (next to drivers seat).

Smitty
I don't think so. I have the whole dash pulled out along with the heater duct hoses (mouse nest in the hoses, trashed all of them) The front heater radiator has 4 fans running off of it. I've tracked and removed all front heater stuff. Only one radiator ducted to the front windshield (left and right), one hose runs under the dash instruments over to the side and into a little box (I pulled that too and painted it) that acts as a small plenum to divert the air to the floor, the driver (at about seat level) and on the driver's side window.
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:36 PM   #13
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Kinda funny the different way heaters are done in different vehicles. On my bus, the channel above the dash for the defrost is one continuous channel. The heater unit on the passenger side has a single blower wheel serving two functions, while the heater on the driver's side has two wheels. One of those wheels on the driver's side is for defrost and one on the passenger side is for defrost despite it being a single channel. I guess the idea was that two blowers blowing against each other would force more volume of air out the defrost slots. That just doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

So besides the defrost function, the other function of the passenger side heater is to blow heat into the entrance area. Since the door will no longer be there after the roof raise, the passenger side heater is going to be pretty much useless. I'd rather have a seat there and maybe build a console with drink holders etc, that will sorta match the heater assembly on the driver's side. The blower on the driver's side (that now blows air down the duct for the first 4 sets of seats) could be ducted under the dash over to the passenger side. Or I could just enclose the heater core and blower from the passenger side heater inside the aforementioned console and blow it right into the passenger side floor.

This all sounds so complicated, but if you actually saw it, it's really not.

NewSkewl, your folding seat setup turn out pretty slick. If I weren't set on moving the door, I would probably go that route. If you have seen SportyRick's gallery, you'll see what I'm going to be doing.

Dr Lulu, I really couldn't tell much difference driving with the bib than without. The temp was always fairly low, but of course, it was very cold on the trip home. It might make some difference in how much heat the heaters put out though. As far as towing the Crown Vic, I really couldn't even tell it was back there. In fact so much so, that I caught myself continually looking back to make sure it was still there!

Lorna, all these buses must have different heater systems in them, probably depending on what was available to the manufacturer at the time. My system doesn't really sound like anyone else's system so far.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:02 PM   #14
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

I was just out in the bus looking at the front heating system again, and the way it's done just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Here's how it breaks down.

Driver's side: There are two separate blower motors and wheels. One wheel pushes air for the driver's floor heat and also is ducted to the rear for the first 4 seats or so. The other wheel pushes air for the defrost, but the defrost channel goes all the way over to the passenger side and down into the passenger side heater enclosure.

Passenger side: There is one blower motor but it has dual wheels on it. One wheel pushes air for the entrance heat, and the other pushes air into the defrost hose.

What this means is that each side is pushing air into the defrost channel. If it were separate channels for driver and passenger side, I could see the logic here, but the channel is ONE channel the entire width of the dash. This means that the two blowers are working against each other. Maybe the theory was that this would force more air out the defrost slots, but it doesn't sound like a good idea to me. If you are going to use two motors pushing air like that, then there should be a separation of the two channels. But that's not the case.

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Old 01-16-2011, 09:07 PM   #15
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

I noticed that you towed your Crown Vic backwards on a dolly. Is this an approved method? It sure beats having to disconnect the driveshaft. We are taking a trip to Missouri and then down to the gulf in Alabama in a couple of months and would like to tow my 2WD Astro van. I am trying to decide between tow bar, dolly, or trailer. I don't have a problem crawling under the van to disconnect the shaft but if I could get away without doing so..... I am assuming the steering wheel was locked while towing? Does anyone see anything wrong with towing this way (backwards)? I would rather not use a trailer just because I don't think my DT360 would like it much. Although extra brakes would be a plus if a trailer was used. Where in Wisconsin did you buy your bus?
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:13 PM   #16
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
Lorna, all these buses must have different heater systems in them, probably depending on what was available to the manufacturer at the time. My system doesn't really sound like anyone else's system so far
From what I recall, mine (also a Ford-chassis Thomas, though a 1984) was the same as yours in front except I recall the duct on the floor behind the driver was shorter. Other than removing that (it was in the way and really beat-up to begin with), I kept the dash heater system 100% factory. I only had one rear heater (which I kept), though that was more than adequate.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:20 PM   #17
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErrabundusBus
I noticed that you towed your Crown Vic backwards on a dolly. Is this an approved method? It sure beats having to disconnect the driveshaft. We are taking a trip to Missouri and then down to the gulf in Alabama in a couple of months and would like to tow my 2WD Astro van. I am trying to decide between tow bar, dolly, or trailer. I don't have a problem crawling under the van to disconnect the shaft but if I could get away without doing so..... I am assuming the steering wheel was locked while towing? Does anyone see anything wrong with towing this way (backwards)? I would rather not use a trailer just because I don't think my DT360 would like it much. Although extra brakes would be a plus if a trailer was used. Where in Wisconsin did you buy your bus?
I used to drive tow trucks so I'm pretty familiar with how stuff has to be towed. There's nothing wrong with towing a vehicle backwards. With an automatic rear wheel drive, you either have to tow it with the rear wheels off the ground or disconnect the driveshaft at the rear axle. Of course towing backwards, the steering wheel has to be locked to make it track straight, whether it is from the internal column locking mechanism or by using ratchet straps from the steering wheel to something such as the seat mounts. One strap will not work though. It has to be two, each with tension to it's own side.

Towing a rear wheel drive on a tow dolly backwards isn't a big deal. But if given the choice, I would opt for a trailer. You can back up a trailer if you get in a tight spot. You can't back a dolly. Maybe for a few feet if you are careful, but over that will cause jack-knifing of the car on the dolly especially with the amount of rear overhang as the typical bus has. If you get in a situation where you have no choice but to back up, you're probably going to have to unload the dolly.

Towing with the tow-bar is similiar to towing with a dolly except that you DO have to disconnect the driveshaft on an automatic rear wheel drive. (If it were an auto front wheel drive, you have no choice - either dolly or trailer.) NO backing if you are using a tow bar though. With the rear swing on the bus, something will have to give, and it will most likely be the bumper on your towed vehicle or damage to it's steering components. If you have to back, the toad will have to be disconnected.

I bought the bus in Winneconne WI, NW of Oshkosh.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:26 PM   #18
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarlaxle
From what I recall, mine (also a Ford-chassis Thomas, though a 1984) was the same as yours in front except I recall the duct on the floor behind the driver was shorter. Other than removing that (it was in the way and really beat-up to begin with), I kept the dash heater system 100% factory. I only had one rear heater (which I kept), though that was more than adequate.
To be honest, one heater in the rear would probably be plenty. I might end up keeping only one also. I'll just see how it goes and how lazy I am when I get to that point.

If it weren't for wanting a co-pilot seat and wanting to move the door, I probably wouldn't even mess with the passenger side heater either. But the way it sits, the co-pilot won't have much leg room in front of the seat.
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Old 01-16-2011, 11:40 PM   #19
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Quote:
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not to be a shite it works for sure but thought Id add a little to the post
LOL No offense taken here. One can never have enough knowledge and every little bit of info is useful.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:44 PM   #20
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Re: My new B700 Thomas

Speaking of towing stuff, here's a little story that happened on the way back from getting my bus. I was towing my Crown Vic on the dolly of course.

I don't remember where this happened, but we got off the freeway to get fuel in this little town. Roads and parking lots were icy but plowed. Non-plowed areas had about 18 inches of snow. I pulled into this little gas station behind this minivan. The minivan looked as though it was going to pull right through the pump area to park so I pulled in behind. Suddenly the minivan stopped at the pump so I had to swing the bus to the right and was going to park there for a couple of minutes before filling up. The problem is that there was a big snow berm on my right about 6 feet away from the bus, and when I started to move forward again, because of it being slightly downhill on my right, the bus slid sideways into this berm. I tried rocking the bus to get it unstuck but after a minute it was becoming clear the rocking wasn't going to work. The bus was now sitting at a bad angle, leaning to the right, with the tail end downhill and the dolly cramped to the left. Crap...

So I got out and started unloading the Crown Vic off the dolly while my mom went up to the service station to borrow a shovel. The dolly was cramped to the left while also leaning to the right, so I scuffed the rear bumper of the car on the dolly's fender while unloading. Then I unhooked the dolly from the bus and dragged it about 50 feet away to flat ground. So while I was digging the right rear bus tire out of the snow berm, the station's clerk came out and asked how I planned on getting it out. I told her she might be better off not watching that part!

From my experience in towing and accident recovery work, I knew that the bus was going to want to slide sideways down the hill toward the road once it got moving backwards. I could only try to maintain enough momentum to limit the amount of slide and hopefully avoid the flagpole that was there. In explaining this to the clerk, you should have seen the look of horror on her face at the thought of me intentionally sliding a 25,000 lb bus backwards and sideways down this snowy hill! My mom was just standing there laughing. I think she knew I could pull it off, but at the same time she knew it was kind of a scary proposition.

Anyway, it worked, although it slid sideways a bit more than I was hoping for. I missed the flagpole by about 4 feet and by the time I got done sliding sideways and had enough traction, the the tail end of the bus was about halfway out into the street. From there, I just backed out fully into the street and pulled back into the lot and started hooking the dolly back up.

My mom is 73 years old. But she is the type of woman who is adventurous and who can probably outwork many men 30 years younger than she, despite having to go through chemotherapy after a cancer surgery last year. She actually offered to help me dig the back of the bus out of the snow berm. Of course I told her no way, that she didn't need to be doing crap like that, so she started cleaning up tow straps, wood blocks and various tools that were laying around. My mom may not be able to physically do some of the things that need done in situations like this one, but there aren't many other people I would rather have around on trips like this. If only I could meet a woman my age who possessed those same qualities!

This is my mom standing in front of the bus after we got through loading the Crown Vic on the dolly.

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