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Old 07-29-2020, 10:49 PM   #1
Almost There
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: St. Louis
Posts: 91
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas 4-Window
Chassis: 2003 Ford E350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 6
Reckless - 2003 Thomas 4-window (E350 cutaway chassis)

TL/DR: We bought a bus. It's cool.

The long version:

I guess it's time for me to start a build thread.

Backstory: As long as I can remember, my youngest daughter (now 1 has been enthralled with "van life". She has wanted to convert a van/ambulance/short bus for years... She's been planning this build through her entire high school career. With COVID putting the kibosh on her summer vacation plans, she decided to put her (my?) graduation trip money into a bus instead. After looking across the country and following every dang auction site out there, when a shuttle bus popped up on FB Marketplace at a bus dealer just 20 minutes from my house. We checked it out and found it was NOT the one for us, but after a quick look around the lot, we found the perfect one! The next day we were driving our "new" bus home!

Year: 2003
Body:Thomas 4-window with wheel chair lift & side-door
Chassis: Ford E350 cutaway
GVWR: 11,500 lbs (dual rear wheels)
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke diesel
Transmission: It has one?
Miles: 140,000
Price: $3,200 (plus $700 for the Illinois tax man and commercial "weight plates")

She runs great and sounds strong. Scoots down the highway at 75mph without a problem. Everything inside seems to work. Dash A/C, monster rear A/C over the back door, under-seat heater box, wheel chair lift...

It's a St. Louis / southern Illinois bus, so it's certainly seen a few ugly winters. Despite that, this thing looks to be in remarkably good shape overall. No rust on the bus body, and very minimal rust underneath. The only real sign of cancer was on the rocker under the driver door.

If I had it to do all over again... Same bus, but skip the weight plate registration. I could have got by with a temp-tag to get it home, and that would have saved us a couple hundred dollars. We'll have to re-title/register it anyway when the conversion is far enough along to officially call it an RV. Live and learn.

Now I just need to figure out how to post pictures in here...
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Old 07-29-2020, 11:19 PM   #2
Almost There
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: St. Louis
Posts: 91
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas 4-Window
Chassis: 2003 Ford E350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 6
Sitting in the driveway

We got the bus home and parked her in the driveway (we have a small farm out in the country). To prove she was serious (and get away from everyone else stuck at home because of COVID), my daughter immediately ripped out the seats, ran an extension cord, set up an inflatable mattress, and moved out there! She lived in that thing for six full weeks - in a completely unconverted bus - before heading off to her Aunt's place for a little summer break. By the time she got back (early July), it was just too hot to stay out there without an A/C unit, so she moved in the house and started plotting out the conversion.

Here's the "home" she shared with two of her dogs for the spring.
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Old 07-29-2020, 11:40 PM   #3
Almost There
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: St. Louis
Posts: 91
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas 4-Window
Chassis: 2003 Ford E350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 6
Prepping for paint...

So it turns out that we are extreme procrastinators. Aside from yanking the seats, we've done NOTHING on this bus since we bought it, and her goal is to take it off to college with her when she goes IN FOUR WEEKS!

Four weeks... To have a road-worthy, converted, livable skoolie. The good news is she is required to stay in the dorms on campus and have a food hall dining plan, so we can probably cut a few corners to get her by until she comes home at Christmas. Maybe she doesn't get a shower to start with. Maybe she's using 5 gallon water jugs instead of plumbed tanks. If anyone's got suggestions on where we can cut corners - and where we surely shouldn't - I'm all ears.

We spent a couple days gutting the bus (cleanout, remove brackets, walls, floors, stripper pole, etc.), but got stuck on removing some of the inside panels, windows (we got one out before changing our mind) and the heater.
Seeing three days of clear weather in the forecast, we decided to switch focus to exterior paint. We'll come back to interior demolition in a future post.

Prepping for paint...
1) Krud Kutter and a scraper to get all the stickers and as much of the glue off as we could.
2) Sand off the rest of the glue.
3) Sand everything else.
4) Go back for more sand paper. Pro-tip: Just buy the 50-pack the first go 'round. Keep sanding.
5) Spray everything with TSP, and let it sit for a while.
6) Rinse with pressure washer.
7) Sand some more. Maybe too much.

More TSP.
9) Another pressure washer rinse and scrub with a push broom.
10) Let it dry
11) Start taping.
12) Yell at everyone because nobody can tape right.
13) Realize that I can't tape properly, either.
14) Back to Menard's for more tape. Get the wide roll this time.
15) Losing daylight. Panic to find the big tarps because now everything is taped, but there's a fresh report of an overnight storm. So much for that third day of good weather. Awesome.
16) Tarp bus.
17 Finally go to bed.
1 Wake up to sunny skies. No overnight rain. *@#&^$(*&#^$!!! Now it's supposed to rain all afternoon and evening instead. Guess we're painting tomorrow...
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:52 AM   #4
Bus Geek
musigenesis's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 3,572
Year: 2003
Coachwork: International
Chassis: CE 300
Engine: DT466e
Rated Cap: 65C-43A
Originally Posted by FatBoySTL View Post
Four weeks... To have a road-worthy, converted, livable skoolie.
Ha ha, that's going to be a challenge, for sure. She's obviously committed to the lifestyle. This should be a fun build to watch.
Rusty 87 build thread
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