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Old 04-26-2014, 08:25 AM   #201
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
Good news, everyone!



Turns out I CAN get 6th gear enabled in my bus. According to my calculations, right now in 5th I hit the rev limiter at 66 mph (2400 rpm). With 6th enabled, I will be at about 2000 rpm at 66, and will have a new theoretical top speed of 77 mph (I will never test this). I just have to take it to an allison tech and give them this, and they will take care of it.

If anyone has this same trans (MD3000 or 3060) and wants info on how to do this, PM me.

This is amazing

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Old 04-26-2014, 11:15 AM   #202
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

I would love to set mine up to cruise 70 mph all day long, I don't think thats unsafe as long as your thinking & looking ahead, I ran tractor trailers all day at that speed out on the open interstate & it can be done safely
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Old 04-26-2014, 03:37 PM   #203
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Sounds like a plan to me!
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Old 04-26-2014, 10:19 PM   #204
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Its great to see your motor running again. So the injector swap went well.
How long did it take to get them all swapped and get it back together?
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Old 04-30-2014, 02:52 AM   #205
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

HEaded to memphis on Thursday! The bus isn't done but it is livable. All furnishings are done and so is the 120 volt AC. I have a 2 pole 3 way switch for input AC source selection, grid power plug, 1kw inverter, fridge, microwave, ceiling lights, accent lights, and charge controller / parallax power supply hooked up and ready to go. No battery bank yet but it will happen eventually. Seats are in with seat belts and stereo / CB is hooked up. Tomorrow I am taking it to get weighed / rid myself of some scrap metal and just to drive and make sure it feels solid.
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Old 04-30-2014, 09:07 AM   #206
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Way to go porkchop. I'm still insulating the bus.

Just got the floor finished. I added the last inch and screwed the sub floor down. Now time to put the 1" strips on the walls and ceiling so I can spray foam the rest. I will be out two weekends this month so I hope to be finished with insulation by end of May. Then I can think about furniture.

Oh when do you plan to get the trans re-programed. I looking forward to see if it was worth it.
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Old 04-30-2014, 08:35 PM   #207
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

HEY!! What's going on here?! I'm hearing about all this progress, and yet there are no pictures!! The pics, guys, where's the pics?!
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:28 PM   #208
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Sorry for the long delay in updates, I have been way way way too busy to do this for the last 10 days or so.

So I started / finished up the 120 volt electrical:







Wired in speakers I ended up not using:



And built a non-NEC approved but functional and safe cover for this 3-pole 2-throw switch:





This is how I switch between inverter power source and grid power source (and future gen power source). This switch was off West Marine, and was like $130. It shuts off one source before it engages the other source so they can all be on when you switch, and it switches so quickly that it doesn't really interrupt the power more than a brief flicker.

Here is the electrical all wired up:



1000 watt inverter to run fridge and phone chargers etc while driving, worked like a charm. I don't have the 2 gauge leads to it in the picture, I did those really quickly at 3 am and they don't look as good so I dont want to show you guys

Metal c-channel wire cover things put back up:





Front bus panel back up sloppily:



These accent lights were a great idea. $16 for 3 meters and they run off 12 volts:







And many more colors than that.

It poured and poured for 4 days straight right before we left for Memphis (5/1) and a lake formed where I was keeping my bus, so I had to make a bridge over annoying waters:



Stopped at a truck stop, this thing looks tiny compared to 18 wheelers:



Mismatched headlight, one halogen and one HID; one of the HIDs burned out cause the OEM Thomas connector shorted out:



Sleeping arrangement: my hammock mounts were used by 2 people, for 4 nights. They loved it.





At the campsite in Memphis, TN; across the street from Elvis' Graceland mansion:



Sittin pretty.



Enormous bus next to us, they had 5 a/c units on the top. They didn't come out much.



The music fest was unbelievably incredible.



Health food bar, we later cooked vegetables in the bacon grease:





Elvis' mansion:



His plane:



Beale street: Facade of an old building held up with girders, very very cool place:



Sunset on the Mississippi River:





Sunrise on the Appalachian mountains while driving to Asheville on I-40 East. We left Memphis 11pm Sunday and got to Asheville 9 am Monday.





White line fever:



All-essential hula doll:

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Old 05-07-2014, 01:54 PM   #209
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

So all in all we all had an amazing time. The drive was just under 2,000 miles round trip. We left DC where we live, and I drove straight to Memphis, 18 hours, on maybe 2 hours of sleep. Not safe, but I was AMPED about how we were actually doing this. We got in around 3 am Friday morning and parked, hooked up to power, got drunk and went to sleep. The 12 volt 55 amp power supply / charger in my circuit panel powered the 12 volt lights while plugged in. Electrical worked great. We slept 7 of us in it for 4 nights and 5 of us in it for one night, and it actually wasn't uncomfortable. We kept the roof vents popped with my fan contraptions on and it was comfortable except mid-day when the sun was overhead.

Mechanically, we had no "breakdown" issues. Nothing that required an immediate stop. However, about an hour into the trip, the engine developed a HUGE exhaust leak at the manifold. I haven't investigated yet but it looks like it just blew out one of the gaskets somehow. So that made for a very loud annoying TICKTICKTICK that varied with engine RPM and load the whole way, and I was probably down on power some because not all the gases were getting into the turbo. I have to remove the manifold, turbo and a few other things to do this, but it shouldn't be too bad.

The engine also ran HOT. Normal temp for this motor is 195 degrees. The issue wasn't when sitting in traffic, low speeds etc but rather high speed high load conditions such as pedal to the metal up a long hill on the interstate, it would climb to about 210-220 degrees. If it got close to passing 220 degrees I would pull over and let it cool (engine on at high idle) but I only had to do that twice. I am not sure if the exhaust leak had anything to do with this somehow? It never overheated before that. But nothing failed and no hoses blew so hopefully not too much damage was done.

The fan belt was in gnarly condition before we left. We didn't have time to change it (hard to do on these) but I brought a spare. It didn't break. I wasn't careful about measuring fuel consumption, since we rarely filled it up all the way, but the one time I could calculate it, I got 10.5 mpg. That is with 5 people and all their crap on board, likely down on boost from the exhaust leak, on steep uphills and downhills the whole way. At this point I do not have 6th gear unlocked, so the whole drive was with the motor taching out at 2400 rpm.

We used one quart of oil the whole trip, so that leads me to believe that my injector seal repair did the trick. Oh and we didn't get pulled over once which was amazing. I attribute that to my outside paint scheme. The pneumatic door actuator stopped holding closed adequately, so we used a ratchet strap to hold it closed the whole way. The steering is VERY loose, dangerously so, and the ride is real rough on rough pavement.

Notes and observations:

-The swivel bucket seat mounts were a great idea. They held up well and got used extensively, one guy slept in one of the chairs every night.
-Having more closet space and organization while driving with 7 people is a must.
-TIE DOWNS AND CABINET LATCHES. I had the fridge and a few other things strapped down well but the microwave broke loose over bumps and the cabinets flung open. We duct-taped everything shut.
-I really don't think I am going to build a bathroom / black tank in this. It really isn't necessary. Lots of extra work for little reward. I am 19, I can crap in the woods. Truck stop bathrooms are usually clean. I think the existing "bathroom" area will become a big closet and I will ditch the underneath storage plan because it is a ton of work and money for metal. Still debating on a shower but I definitely would like to have a gray / fresh tank to run the kitchen sink.
-I need a battery bank that is separate from the starting batteries so I can leave the inverter on when the engine is off for 30 min to an hour for stops.
-Fuel is expensive
-I would like to look into biodiesel but am worried about waste oil supply. I accidentally filled up the bus with B20 on the trip and it ran no differently.
-I need shocks and tie rod ends.
-I need 6th gear
-Teenagers / young adults are very adaptable. We were together almost the entire time, living in tiny quarters and running on no sleep and we didn't ever get pissed at each other. Everyone had a really good time.
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:12 PM   #210
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Glad to hear you had a good time and no major breakdowns! I recommend you consider making a little 5 gallon bucket kitty litter toilet like I did. Very little effort, but very convenient. Just toss the bag liner in the trash when it starts to fill up. If you cover up well with the litter there is very little odor, especially if you have it in a little bathroom with a window that can be opened a crack. I think they make little toilet seats with lids that are designed to fit on a 5 gal bucket, if you want to go the super easy route.

Your bus looks great out in it's natural habitat! Party on dude!
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:33 PM   #211
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Good for you! This ain't easy, and taking on a project of this scope and depth will give you a way better education than college. Not to mention that you now own your own home, and if you don't like the neighborhood, you can move on down the road! Awesome! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 05-07-2014, 06:51 PM   #212
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Nice trip! I'm making notes to help me figure out if the AmTran or the MVP is the better buy. My MVP at work (school bus) drives exceptionally well. It's VERY tempting to wait until it goes to auction...
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Old 05-07-2014, 10:55 PM   #213
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Great story-one you'll remember a lifetime-thanks for sharing!
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Old 05-08-2014, 09:39 AM   #214
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
The engine also ran HOT. Normal temp for this motor is 195 degrees. The issue wasn't when sitting in traffic, low speeds etc but rather high speed high load conditions such as pedal to the metal up a long hill on the interstate, it would climb to about 210-220 degrees. If it got close to passing 220 degrees I would pull over and let it cool (engine on at high idle) but I only had to do that twice. I am not sure if the exhaust leak had anything to do with this somehow? It never overheated before that. But nothing failed and no hoses blew so hopefully not too much damage was done.
I was worried about my temp too. Last 4th of July I drove it in 90 degree heat, but my temp went from 200 - 210. I asked the Maintenance Manager and he said that is the normal temp range for the new Cat 3026's. Every time I hit 210 I could hear the fan kick in and watch the temp drop back to 200. So he said I was good to go. Could you hear the fan kick in, it is audible even at road speeds. Maybe the clutch is not engaging.

I'm also lucky that my steering is very tight, a pleasure to drive.

Glad you had fun with the bus. I hope to take another trip in June.
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Old 05-08-2014, 10:32 AM   #215
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

My bus at work never goes above 165*, I suspect they changed the thermostat when the replaced the oil pump last year. My bus has never overheated, or come close to it. Just FYI....
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Old 05-08-2014, 01:44 PM   #216
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diesel Dan
Glad to hear you had a good time and no major breakdowns! I recommend you consider making a little 5 gallon bucket kitty litter toilet like I did. Very little effort, but very convenient. Just toss the bag liner in the trash when it starts to fill up. If you cover up well with the litter there is very little odor, especially if you have it in a little bathroom with a window that can be opened a crack. I think they make little toilet seats with lids that are designed to fit on a 5 gal bucket, if you want to go the super easy route.

Your bus looks great out in it's natural habitat! Party on dude!
Thanks! IT was a BLAST. I like the idea of the bucket crapper and I know it would work fine but people are weird about that kind of thing. Good to know you have a big sh!tbag you can throw out the window if you have someone tailgating you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracetheawesomebus
Good for you! This ain't easy, and taking on a project of this scope and depth will give you a way better education than college. Not to mention that you now own your own home, and if you don't like the neighborhood, you can move on down the road! Awesome! Thanks for sharing!
Yeah you learn a lot about why things are the way they are in building this and traveling. Memphis definitely wasn't the best neighborhood in some places but the park we stayed at was fine. We didn't have any locks on the doors (no time to put them on) so that was a concern.

Quote:
Originally Posted by M1031
Nice trip! I'm making notes to help me figure out if the AmTran or the MVP is the better buy. My MVP at work (school bus) drives exceptionally well. It's VERY tempting to wait until it goes to auction...
I have no experience with AmTran but I do like the Thomas a lot. The rear engine is definitely a plus while driving. The fact that it is a CAT kind of sucks but when it runs it runs well, decent power, no smoke ever and barely any smell. The 6 speed trans is also a bonus as is the enormous windshield, it is like a picture window. Amtrans look like they'd have more ground clearance.



Good point about the trans. The only cooler it has is the radiator one, I really ought to put an external cooler inline with it too, is there any reason not to do this? I do need to add a trans temp and boost gauge, maybe exhaust gas temp too. The trans is a reman from 2009 so it should have plenty of life left in it but soon I will change the fluid with Mobil1 Delvac or transsynd or whatever.

RGB LEDs are a must. No reason not to, they're like $45 total for what I did. It was surreal driving it there, I never thought it would happen. The day before I was considering just taking my car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
The engine also ran HOT. Normal temp for this motor is 195 degrees. The issue wasn't when sitting in traffic, low speeds etc but rather high speed high load conditions such as pedal to the metal up a long hill on the interstate, it would climb to about 210-220 degrees. If it got close to passing 220 degrees I would pull over and let it cool (engine on at high idle) but I only had to do that twice. I am not sure if the exhaust leak had anything to do with this somehow? It never overheated before that. But nothing failed and no hoses blew so hopefully not too much damage was done.
I was worried about my temp too. Last 4th of July I drove it in 90 degree heat, but my temp went from 200 - 210. I asked the Maintenance Manager and he said that is the normal temp range for the new Cat 3026's. Every time I hit 210 I could hear the fan kick in and watch the temp drop back to 200. So he said I was good to go. Could you hear the fan kick in, it is audible even at road speeds. Maybe the clutch is not engaging.

I'm also lucky that my steering is very tight, a pleasure to drive.

Glad you had fun with the bus. I hope to take another trip in June.
I was reading the 3126 engines tend to run hot, and these buses are not designed for constant highway use (no oil cooler, bad fan placement, etc). But it was way over hot. I didn't ever hear the fan get any louder than it was so the clutch may be bad. I was also reading it has 2 thermostats, and if one fails it will run at NOT under moderate loads but if one is stuck shut it will overheat on high loads cause it can't handle the extra heat. So I will investigate that, change the coolant, put in the heater, clean out the rad fins, change the hoses change the thermostats and belts (not in that order, lol). Maybe cut out the rear engine cover and put in a grate where the fan blows because theres not many places for the air to go?

Quote:
Originally Posted by M1031
My bus at work never goes above 165*, I suspect they changed the thermostat when the replaced the oil pump last year. My bus has never overheated, or come close to it. Just FYI....
These are supposed to run at 195 but yeah there is something wrong with it, likely a bad thermostat.
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Old 05-08-2014, 03:10 PM   #217
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
Quote:
Originally Posted by M1031
Nice trip! I'm making notes to help me figure out if the AmTran or the MVP is the better buy. My MVP at work (school bus) drives exceptionally well. It's VERY tempting to wait until it goes to auction...
I have no experience with AmTran but I do like the Thomas a lot. The rear engine is definitely a plus while driving. The fact that it is a CAT kind of sucks but when it runs it runs well, decent power, no smoke ever and barely any smell. The 6 speed trans is also a bonus as is the enormous windshield, it is like a picture window. Amtrans look like they'd have more ground clearance.

RGB LEDs are a must. No reason not to, they're like $45 total for what I did.
My AmTran handled the haul back from Maine beautifully, governed about 65, but its getting there that's half the adventure. Rear engine's are a definite for quiet rides. The two buses I drove up to Ft Drum for annual training were both FEs (A Thomas, I think, and a 00 BB that couldn't get out of its own way up I-81), and engine noise hour after hour was a killer. And the nice thing about the RGBs is you can have them on so your passengers can read, write, whatever but you're not blowing your nightvision
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:10 PM   #218
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

So how is it have that sixth gear? Any better MPG? Does it drive better at highway speeds? I need a report so I can decide if I want to do it to mine.
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:01 PM   #219
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Alright no updates for a while. I have been busy working and chilling out. I don't know what to do with my spare time anymore! I think I'll buy another bus

So I changed the fuel filters. The water seperator bowl has a heater in it which doesn't connect to anything, no plugs to be found that could possibly go to it. It starts fine in 25 degrees so I guess it is alright.



New filters. CAT was $15 and Parker / Racor was like $30 or 35.



These buses were hired for my sister's prom night. There were like 86 kids or something. The orange bus was a heap, but the one in back was nice. The orange bus had an air leak on one of the bags and he got stuck on our street for a little while cause the brakes wouldn't disengage. They paid $65 a person for these buses, I seriously am considering a CDL and buying some more (nicer) buses and making bank off things like that, haha.



I should be taking more pictures, but this is all I have. I am starting to take pieces off to fix my exhaust leak. After talking to a diesel tech, he believes that the exhaust leak could have been causing my overheating, because not enough gases get into the turbo > the turbo isn't putting out enough boost > the engine is overfueling for the amount of air going in >runs hot. I thought this was a long shot since the ECU uses a boost gauge and an intake air temp sensor, and the thing wasn't smoking at all (excess of fuel would have led to black smoke) but it is still possible. I have to take off the air intake / filter tubing to the turbo, the alternator, (it is in the way) and a few misc hoses to get to the exhaust manifold easier.



The turbo seems to have a lot of shaft play but I have heard that it is normal on trucks. It isn't blowing smoke so nothing is broken yet and when it spools up it sounds smooth. It is a wastegated turbo, BorgWarner I believe. If it ever goes, a replacement is $500-1000, (aftermarket rebuilt) which isn't exactly free but it isn't as bad as you'd think.

Upon further investigation, there is a broken exhaust bolt on the port where the gasket failed. It appears to have been broken for a while. Does anyone have any advice for extracting broken bolts from the head? I have used screw / bolt extractors with mixed results, and this is one I really really do not want to eff up. I have had the best luck with the square screw extractors that look like this. However I have broken one of these before, and it is very heard (read: impossible) to drill these out if they break because the metal is so hard.



Another possibility is dremeling it out and using a helicoil or something but I would really rather not do that.

Quote:
My AmTran handled the haul back from Maine beautifully, governed about 65, but its getting there that's half the adventure. Rear engine's are a definite for quiet rides. The two buses I drove up to Ft Drum for annual training were both FEs (A Thomas, I think, and a 00 BB that couldn't get out of its own way up I-81), and engine noise hour after hour was a killer. And the nice thing about the RGBs is you can have them on so your passengers can read, write, whatever but you're not blowing your nightvision
My thoughts exactly. I had them set to blue on a lower brightness while driving at night which caused no glare issues and put out a lot of light without being distracting. We slept with it red at night, just like a 1940s naval ship I slept on in elementary school (not sure if they still use that today or not). I think they do that to keep your night vision while still having enough light to see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
So how is it have that sixth gear? Any better MPG? Does it drive better at highway speeds? I need a report so I can decide if I want to do it to mine.
I didn't get a chance to get that done before I left. I literally finished electrical (inverter wiring) at 2 am the day we left for Memphis. My cousin who has been in Afghanistan for a year or so is coming back soon, and he believes he has the correct Allison software and connectors to take care of the software flash. If that ends up working out that would save me like $300 and I will call you up and see if he will do yours for a case of beer or something. I cruised in 5th the whole way and while it is unpleasant thinking about that engine taching out the whole way, it only used a quart of oil the whole way (2,000 miles) on very hilly roads. There was a stretch of I-40 near Asheville where the going gets reeeal rough and steep and trucks are limited to 35 (for good reason). I used the trucker "stab braking" technique in order to avoid overheating my brakes on the downhills. It made me nervous as hell but we made that stretch just fine. My friend was looking at an altimeter on his phone and we dropped like 1000 ft of altitude in 5 minutes of driving. Upon going back home, I was on 495 near DC and traffic to the left of me was stopped while traffic on the right was doing 50 or so, and a woman in the standstill traffic pulled out in front of me about 20-30 feet ahead of me while I was doing about 50, and I hit the brakes as hard as I could, fully expecting to hit her. This dumbass didn't even floor it or look in her mirror and would probably have been killed had I even blinked before she did that. Luckily, the brakes in the bus are very very VERY good and stopped us with room to spare even in such close quarters. Stuff went flying though.

I didn' pay close attention to MPGs but the one or two times I calculated it, it was between 10 and 11.5 mpg. That is without 6th gear and without full boost pressure. I am willing to bet I could crack 13 mpg once I get this taken care of, anyone care to wager?

So after the mechanical stuff is in order I will begin plumbing, hopefully finish that quickly, and put some sort of flexible shelving system in the space where the crapper was going to go. Finish up trim, make it look nicer, and put up actual curtain rods because the temporary magnetic ones we got are not ideal. I am also looking for another job because mine pays pretty poorly, is mind-numbingly boring and has no room for moving up. Also I should really go back to college.
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:55 PM   #220
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas Built
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Thanks. I usually use this stuff PB Blaster to loosen rusty bolts. I have hosed them all down several times in the last week and it should help.

I love cobalt bits but I did break several of them on this project since they are so brittle. I may have some the right size but it would probably be easier to just buy a new one.
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