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Old 10-14-2020, 06:37 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Our Sheelhouse

So we bought a bus...



After a few months of researching, looking at buses online and in person, considering alternatives (campers, RV's, etc.), we bought our first bus. To my wife's credit, it was her idea and she will be the one to handle the interior design. This won't be our first rodeo with home design, vehicles, construction, etc. We recently built our house which I did a large portion of the design, build, and overall general contracting for and my wife added her input along with interior design. I run a custom welding/fabrication shop by day and build cars/bikes/trucks/rock crawlers and anything else made of steel or wood in my free time.



That said, we felt it was totally in our "wheelhouse" to build a skoolie. This site has been a great learning resource and wealth of knowledge. So much so that I created a welding and fabrication thread to help give back to that knowledge pool (Link Here).



Build Plan: Weekender/week vacation home. We have 2 small kids and a dog that we'd like to be able to go on weekend trips or extended weekend trips to campgrounds or boondock. We won't be doing any extended off-grid trips but a couple days at a time would be ideal.

You can find pics and videos on our YouTube channel TheSheelyFamily or our IG account @TheSheelyFamily



Now on to the good stuff...the bus:



2002 AmTran RE

T444E w/ MD3060

Air suspension rear, air ride seat, air brakes

Front and rear AC and heat

200k miles

Fairfax County Public Schools Bus
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Old 10-14-2020, 06:50 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
We are mid-gut with the bus right now. The ceiling and walls are coming out next. I will also be fabricating flasher delete panels and window delete panels. Here are a couple pics:
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:46 AM   #3
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,630
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Your fabrication skills will be fun to watch in action.


I see your dog has claimed its place.
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:13 AM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Your fabrication skills will be fun to watch in action.


I see your dog has claimed its place.
The fabrication work will mainly be in the basement where I plan to build some storage as well as brackets/hangers for black/grey tanks. Nothing too complicated there. I think the design aspect will be harder than the actual construction of it all.

The dog was not a fan of a big noisy rear engine diesel at first but we have been trying to get her more comfortable with it. Anything with a soft cushioned seat helps with that haha
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Old 10-15-2020, 10:16 AM   #5
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Aug 2020
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 277
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Blue Bird All American
Engine: 8.3 Cummins
Rated Cap: 2 adults and two pigeons
Nice bus! Your daughter is adorable. Looking forward to your build. I just raised the roof on mine but came to a slowdown since I may need help getting the skins on. Between that and work now getting in the way....
I've been using my 15 year old Miller 210. I needed my bobcat to load it into the bus as the thing is super heavy. While getting my replacement gas bottle at the welding supply shop the other day, I noticed the new Miller Multimatics. Picked up a new 215 but haven't used it yet. Hoping it will work good on 120v since I need to bring the bus out to the driveway to use the 220v outlet.

Keep the pics flowing!
__________________
--Simon


Found my Bus at AAAbus in Phx!
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:26 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bus'n it View Post
Nice bus! Your daughter is adorable. Looking forward to your build. I just raised the roof on mine but came to a slowdown since I may need help getting the skins on. Between that and work now getting in the way....
I've been using my 15 year old Miller 210. I needed my bobcat to load it into the bus as the thing is super heavy. While getting my replacement gas bottle at the welding supply shop the other day, I noticed the new Miller Multimatics. Picked up a new 215 but haven't used it yet. Hoping it will work good on 120v since I need to bring the bus out to the driveway to use the 220v outlet.

Keep the pics flowing!
The 215 multimatic is a great machine. My field guys each have one on their truck. The duty cycle is not great on 120v but is decent on 220v. They’re great for DC TIG in the field on lighter gauge stainless as well. All of ours have the TIG package. We also have 1 multimatic 220 which does AC TIG as well. Awesome little machine.
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Old 10-19-2020, 09:16 AM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Got a little more done this weekend. Trying to transition out of gut mode and into build mode. I got most of the ceiling and insulation torn down. I cut around the AC units (we will be keeping them) temporarily. My plan is to get the floor patched and then add 3/4" XPS with 1/2" plywood. Then i can build some simply 2x4 supports to let the ac units drop down slightly so that I can get the ceiling paneling off and insulate. I will likely build some sort of sheet metal enclosure around the AC units instead of reinstalling the chintzy plastic shrouds.

I also removed a couple windows to test out my process for removing the wall paneling since these AmTran buses are spot welded under the sill of the window. While I had the windows out I measured on of the standard sized windows (25.25" wide and 28.75" tall gives a little room for error). I will be fabricating window delete panels for the back 1/2 of the bus to give some privacy and insulation for the bedroom/bunk/bathroom.

Attached are some pics of the window removal, wall panel removal, and window delete panel design process. All sheet metal for my bus will be cut on a CNC plasma table and bent with a 5 axis CNC press brake.

The window delete panels will likely need to be tweaked to ensure tight fitment and the ability to be installed easily since there is a small rain lip on the inner sill of the opening. I will probably have to notch/trim the side flanges slightly to accommodate this.
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Old 10-19-2020, 09:39 AM   #8
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 14,154
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Quote:
Originally Posted by RamRod4 View Post
Got a little more done this weekend. Trying to transition out of gut mode and into build mode. I got most of the ceiling and insulation torn down. I cut around the AC units (we will be keeping them) temporarily. My plan is to get the floor patched and then add 3/4" XPS with 1/2" plywood. Then i can build some simply 2x4 supports to let the ac units drop down slightly so that I can get the ceiling paneling off and insulate. I will likely build some sort of sheet metal enclosure around the AC units instead of reinstalling the chintzy plastic shrouds.

I also removed a couple windows to test out my process for removing the wall paneling since these AmTran buses are spot welded under the sill of the window. While I had the windows out I measured on of the standard sized windows (25.25" wide and 28.75" tall gives a little room for error). I will be fabricating window delete panels for the back 1/2 of the bus to give some privacy and insulation for the bedroom/bunk/bathroom.

Attached are some pics of the window removal, wall panel removal, and window delete panel design process. All sheet metal for my bus will be cut on a CNC plasma table and bent with a 5 axis CNC press brake.

The window delete panels will likely need to be tweaked to ensure tight fitment and the ability to be installed easily since there is a small rain lip on the inner sill of the opening. I will probably have to notch/trim the side flanges slightly to accommodate this.



you can easily build your own ducting for your A/C units.. just make sure iof they are Trans / AIR units that the crappy plastic shrouds werent also the drain pans.. if they are carrier units you have no worries.. remember air likes smooth curves to follow so when you build ducting curve the inside of the pipes for the air to follow rather than hard square corners..



clean the coils good as they are likely atrociously nasty.. I fix a lot of bus air conditioners by simply cleaning them up..



metal isnt the best material for ducts / shrouds unless you insulate it as it gets cold enough youll have condensation running down the outside of it.. ive got my units blowing so cold that even the thicker plastic ducting zi used can get wet in really humid weather..



I love those amtran RE busses with the 444E.. unless that has the AT545 trans, (edit I just read it has a 3060) that 444 can be pumped up so the bus will Haul ass pretty good..
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Old 10-19-2020, 10:13 AM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
you can easily build your own ducting for your A/C units.. just make sure iof they are Trans / AIR units that the crappy plastic shrouds werent also the drain pans.. if they are carrier units you have no worries.. remember air likes smooth curves to follow so when you build ducting curve the inside of the pipes for the air to follow rather than hard square corners..



clean the coils good as they are likely atrociously nasty.. I fix a lot of bus air conditioners by simply cleaning them up..



metal isnt the best material for ducts / shrouds unless you insulate it as it gets cold enough youll have condensation running down the outside of it.. ive got my units blowing so cold that even the thicker plastic ducting zi used can get wet in really humid weather..



I love those amtran RE busses with the 444E.. unless that has the AT545 trans, (edit I just read it has a 3060) that 444 can be pumped up so the bus will Haul ass pretty good..

Thanks Christopher. My company fabricates all of the duct work for our sister company that is a mechanical contractor and we do a lot of industrial ventilation and duct collection so, unfortunately, I'm fairly schooled in duct haha. We have duct specific design software as well so it shouldn't be too bad. These are the carrier/MCC units so the shrouds are just plastic covers with directional vents. I'm keeping them to use as patterns to replicate in sheet metal. I know you're a stickler for keep the road AC and I totally agree. Specifically looked for a bus with road AC.

We had chatted via PM about the 6th gear unlock and I'm in contact with the "Allison master" and will be going that route soon. 6.17 gears with the T444E is a must and the 6th gear should really help it run well at 65 once I get the speed governor removed. Working a deal out with the Allison master for a TCM reprogram and a nexiq clone package.

I've been looking into throwing a little more sauce at the T444e. what's your experience with these engines and adding hp? It seems like there's not many options. Mine was spec'd as the 210/215hp model . Apparently Fairfax County Public Schools like the T444E/MD3060 combo as I've read that this combo was usually only provided by special request from the customer.
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Old 10-19-2020, 10:52 AM   #10
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 14,154
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
put an EGT gauge on it and run the computer up to 250.. thats what I did with mine and it hauls good but my EGT can get up there if I run an agressive allison upshift program.. the factory 3060 program is somewhat upsshift-happy but by 02 the ECM had a better handle on sending the data to the allison to help its adaptive learn pick up better..



I have a set of bigger sticks and a turbo wheel for mine. that id planned to install this year.. well being a 140 lb guy in ohio who hates winter.. and november is near i have a feeling i wont be putting those sticks in till spring in that bus.. but alas i figure i can get 300 at the flywheel ...



the only reason i mention the metal ducts is the fact Bus A/C units are designed to blow much colder air than building A/C. the dewpoint inside a bus often exceeds the duct temperature of your air conditioner.. so condensation is something to think about.. carrier runs an impressive amount of liquid past the TxV in esp the EM-1s, but ive also notice it in the EM-3,4 as well.. they borderline over saturate the evaporator all the time. and rely on the extra high airflow from the blowers and quick reaction of block-type TxVs to not freeze the coil.. when you get one balanced perfectly you can watch a slight layer of frost form on the suction line, then disappear then form.. repeat as the TxV is dialed perfect.. (super cool you are into duct design.. I did systems and controls design for a good while.. back when digital was just taking over pneumatics.. i had a lot of fun doin it.. just the $$ was better in software / hardware development and VoIP so I jumped careers)...
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Old 10-19-2020, 12:19 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
put an EGT gauge on it and run the computer up to 250.. thats what I did with mine and it hauls good but my EGT can get up there if I run an agressive allison upshift program.. the factory 3060 program is somewhat upsshift-happy but by 02 the ECM had a better handle on sending the data to the allison to help its adaptive learn pick up better..



I have a set of bigger sticks and a turbo wheel for mine. that id planned to install this year.. well being a 140 lb guy in ohio who hates winter.. and november is near i have a feeling i wont be putting those sticks in till spring in that bus.. but alas i figure i can get 300 at the flywheel ...



the only reason i mention the metal ducts is the fact Bus A/C units are designed to blow much colder air than building A/C. the dewpoint inside a bus often exceeds the duct temperature of your air conditioner.. so condensation is something to think about.. carrier runs an impressive amount of liquid past the TxV in esp the EM-1s, but ive also notice it in the EM-3,4 as well.. they borderline over saturate the evaporator all the time. and rely on the extra high airflow from the blowers and quick reaction of block-type TxVs to not freeze the coil.. when you get one balanced perfectly you can watch a slight layer of frost form on the suction line, then disappear then form.. repeat as the TxV is dialed perfect.. (super cool you are into duct design.. I did systems and controls design for a good while.. back when digital was just taking over pneumatics.. i had a lot of fun doin it.. just the $$ was better in software / hardware development and VoIP so I jumped careers)...
I was looking at the wicked wheels for the 38 series turbo. Need to verify thatís whatís on my bus. Iím curious how much the nexiq letís you dabble. I have HP Tuners and and VCDS for Volkswagen so Iíve played around with this stuff before.

Good info on this ac units as well. Iíll keep learning what I can about their nuances.

Iím not a full blown duct guy but I know enough to get me in trouble. Iím a mechanical engineer by trade but a self proclaimed fabricator that runs a shop. We just happen to deal a lot in ventilation and piping with our sister company being right next door. You sound way more tech savvy than me but a nice digital dash thats tablet based is very enticing to me. Might have to take myself to school on that as well haha.
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Old 10-27-2020, 01:19 PM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Flasher delete panels are programmed and cut. Going to test fit them and hopefully install them as well. Plan is to use panhead self tapping sheetmetal screws and silicone to seal it.
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Old 10-27-2020, 07:13 PM   #13
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 668
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by RamRod4 View Post
Ö.build cars/bikes/trucks/rock crawlers and anything else made of steel or wood in my free time.
I have dabbled in that a little myself. I sold my crawler years ago due to non-use, but recently I have been missing it, so it may be time to build another one. Maybe after the bus is finished.
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Old 10-28-2020, 12:50 AM   #14
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,630
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
There is a lot of action going on in those axles.
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Old 10-28-2020, 09:51 AM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackE View Post
I have dabbled in that a little myself. I sold my crawler years ago due to non-use, but recently I have been missing it, so it may be time to build another one. Maybe after the bus is finished.
Haha I've been getting the itch again too. I do have a samurai in the shop right now with a doubler and some other goodies. Might pull this behind the bus if I can get enough power out of the T444E. I'd like to build a family style rig at some point. Likely a 3rd gen 4Runner on tons. My old YJ buggy was a little too raw for my kids to ride in and they were too young. Here's some pics:
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Old 10-28-2020, 11:33 AM   #16
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 668
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
There is a lot of action going on in those axles.
About a 1/4 mile up that trail I had the left front stuffed all the way up in the fender, and the back tire probably another 8" lower. From the drivers seat, it looked like it was perpendicular to the front axle. I was sure wishing for 4 wheel steering on that ride, but it was probably more fun this way!
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Old 10-28-2020, 11:46 AM   #17
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 668
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by RamRod4 View Post
Haha I've been getting the itch again too. I do have a samurai in the shop right now with a doubler and some other goodies. Might pull this behind the bus if I can get enough power out of the T444E. I'd like to build a family style rig at some point. Likely a 3rd gen 4Runner on tons. My old YJ buggy was a little too raw for my kids to ride in and they were too young. Here's some pics:
That rig looks like some fun! You're cheating with coilovers there, I still had leaf springs on the front and rear of my Scout. I had a harness built that hung from the top roll bar for my youngest to wear in case he got bounced out on the trail. He loved to stand up while running the trails. He was about 4 at the time, he wasn't quite brave enough then for the crazy crawlin' trails. He's 14 now and wants to build his own crawler. I have a 1st gen 4runner sitting in the back field I could do something with. I also have another model 80 Scout body and frame waiting for something to happen to it. I'll probably go with the Scout, it just has more cool guy factor going for it.

I had the rear spring attached to a piece of channel that pivoted giving me a good 24" of drop on the rear. I only stretched it far enough to pull the driveline out of the slip joint once. You can kinda see the set up in this pic.
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Old 10-28-2020, 12:14 PM   #18
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 102
Year: 1999
Chassis: Ford E450
Quote:
Originally Posted by RamRod4 View Post
Flasher delete panels are programmed and cut. Going to test fit them and hopefully install them as well. Plan is to use panhead self tapping sheetmetal screws and silicone to seal it.
I recommend anything other than silicone caulking. Big Stretch is one brand, readily available at hardware stores. Modern equivalent of Butyl tape.
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Old 10-28-2020, 01:01 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rucker View Post
I recommend anything other than silicone caulking. Big Stretch is one brand, readily available at hardware stores. Modern equivalent of Butyl tape.
I ended up using. Lexel elastic caulk. Hopefully that works.

Edit: I checked and Big Stretch is made by the same company as Lexel. Lexel will stretch to 400% joint size and Big Stretch will do 500%. Both considerably more than standard silicone. The Lexel is clear though and can be applied to basically anything even if it is wet. Thanks for the recommendation. I think we're on the same page. Lexel might also be very useful for sealing windows due to the elasticity and the fact that its clear (they claim 19x clearer than silicone caulk).

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Lexel-10-5-...-Caulk/4714985
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Old 10-28-2020, 06:21 PM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Central PA
Posts: 38
Year: 2002
Coachwork: AmTran
Chassis: International/IC Bus
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 78
Here’s the finished pics of the flasher delete panels. I think I could’ve gone with a few less screws but I was trying to match the look of the rest of the body panel rivets. Threw a quick coat of primer and black paint over it just until we get to painting the exterior. For those interested, planning on a charcoal/gunmetal lower with a white upper half starting at the bottom of the windows.
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