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Old 09-27-2013, 01:53 PM   #1
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Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Hello!

I've been stalking this website for over a year getting information and ideas for a bus conversion. I've wanted to do something like this for years.

Story: I am a 19 year old college kid, in kind of an awkward phase of life right now. I don't particularly want to be in college and I'm not much of an academic, I prefer getting my hands dirty building and fixing things. I was in the UNC system at their Charlotte campus last year to study mechanical engineering with a concentration in motorsports, and I didn't like it, so I went back home to Montgomery County, MD and am attending community college, half-assing my classes to keep my parents happy / to not get kicked out. During my four years in high school I spent every second of my spare time building sets for my school's theater club, which was a great end to every drab, repetitive schoolday. I also do automotive work on the side; I restored an old Bronco for my Senior Project, nursed an old BMW 3 series back to health, and find every quick and easy automotive job I can on the side to make extra money (think brakes, oil / filter changes).

I had been "shopping" for buses since about April. I was just looking, seeing as I had about a grand to my name and was in NC with nowhere to keep it. I busted my ass this summer with a full time job and side construction and automotive repair jobs and scraped together a healthy sum. I knew from the get-go that I wanted a Thomas rear-engine bus, primarily because they are a nice platform to work off of, easier to drive, look good, and have a ton of headroom; but also because these are the buses I rode to and from elementary, middle and high school. I missed the boat on the summer, end-of-schoolyear auctions because I didn't have enough cash by then, so that left only less desirable models, the correct models that were further away than I could muster, and overpriced dealer buses. I went with the third option.



This is my bus. It is a 1999 Thomas MVP - RE, I believe 72 passenger. It has a CAT 3126 (7.2 liter) inline 6 turbodiesel engine, electroncally controlled, and an Allison MD3060 electronic 5-speed automatic trans with a lockup TC (actually 6 speed but 6th is programmed out). Mileage reads 73,XXX, and I know that is BS because the hour meter reads 13,5XX(!!!). There is no emissions equipment on this bus whatsoever, not even PCV. The breather hose goes right from the valve cover to the ground.

I bought it from Brandywine Trucks & Equipment in Southern MD. They wanted $5500. I laughed and offered them 4 grand saying that was generous. They declined. We agreed upon $4500 which was still way too much but it is what it is. I couldn't wait for next year's auctions due to time constraints. They bought the bus from GovDeals for $2650 (I found this online before the sale). So they made nearly 2 grand off me by doing nothing. The salesman was incredibly unhelpful and irritable, and a bit creepy. Don't do business with them.









I got to drive the bus around the lot, but that's it (I didn't want to take it on the roads due to licensing). My cousin who has a class B drove it from Brandywine to my Uncle's house, where it is now. He is used to driving fire trucks and was pissed that it wouldn't go faster than 65 (at 3800 rpm). I thought it was easy to drive, I backed it into a 10' wide space between 2 buses no problem. The air brakes are touchy, very easy to lock up.







The ceiling is 77.5" in the center of the bus (width-wise) and about 71" tall on either side. Plenty of room for my 6' 1" self to stand up straight, which doesn't matter because my posture is terrible and I am probably 5' 11" most days. The usable interior space (flat floor) is about 24 feet long, and 90" wide. Tons of room.

The bus itself is 34' long and about 9' 9" tall.

The plan for now is to build this out pretty nicely using as many reclaimed / used / free materials as I can, and trael the country next summer with 2-3 friends (a test of who my real friends are). My budget isn't huge, but I would like to try to build a nice interior with what I can get. I am putting in as many hours at work as I can stand to make bank for this. I have a tentative floor plan that I will post later. It needs to be done by mid-June, 2014.

I'm working on it in my spare time now, which unfortunately will be at night and when it's cold. First order of business that I will start this weekend is to remove all the decals, powerwash, sand, powerwash again and prep for paint. I want to get paint done before it gets too cold. I'm not sure what I am doing about paint yet, but I know the roof will be either white or a very light shade (reflecting heat) and I was thinking an army-type olive green for the rest, while retaining the black rub strips and bumpers.

More to come.

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Old 09-27-2013, 04:35 PM   #2
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Congrates and welcome to the site.....4 more posts and no approval needed(spam control)
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Old 09-27-2013, 05:44 PM   #3
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Thanks! Yeah I was wondering about that, mine were getting filtered.

As promised, here is one plan (that we're probably not going to use, but it is good to have ideas anyway).







We designed these before I had bought a bus. Then we realized that the .skp drawing of the bus that I downloaded had incorrect dimensions and lacked the emergency door on the drivers side that the one I purchased has. So we will be redoing the design and making a few different layouts. Constructive criticism is appreciated.

Edit: had to fix pictures
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Old 09-27-2013, 07:35 PM   #4
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Wow another Montgomery county school bus. There is two others here on the forum. Me and ThePimentals their post is Credit Score 1000 Bus. Welcome to the fun.

We have 8894, 8904 and now 8924

By the way is this who I think it is?
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Old 09-27-2013, 07:56 PM   #5
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
Wow another Montgomery county school bus. There is two others here on the forum. Me and ThePimentals their post is Credit Score 1000 Bus. Welcome to the fun.

We have 8894, 8904 and now 8924

By the way is this who I think it is?
Yeah it is. Your bus is in much better shape mechanically, I think. However, this one starts and runs perfectly and blows no smoke so I can't complain.

Funny story though. We get the bus to my Uncle's house Wednesday night...it ran great the whole way up. We leave it in the driveway while we figure out where we will put it, and I shut off the engine (no good to let diesels idle at low idle for more than 5 minutes). We find a place, and...the engine won't start! Cranks but no fire. I tried cranking it for like a minute total. We have to get it out of the driveway, so I release the parking brake, and let it roll down the hill, and make a sharp right turn with no power steering. Got it exactly where we wanted it. I put the brakes back on, we talk for 10 minutes, and I crank it one last time for 10 seconds and it fires right up and revs freely with no issues. So it looks like I have some fueling issues to fix.

I was there the next day installing a HID floodlight and it started up after half a second of cranking. Go figure.

I think a new fuel filter / tank drain / new fuel / new water separator is in the near future.

I forgot to mention, these Montgomery County buses all have Webasto diesel-fueled coolant heaters in them that use an electric pump to pump coolant through the heaters and engine, to aid in cold starts. They can be run independently of the engine, so this makes for a convenient heat source, as well as a domestic hot water source with a little bit of engineering.
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Old 09-27-2013, 08:21 PM   #6
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
I forgot to mention, these Montgomery County buses all have Webasto diesel-fueled coolant heaters in them that use an electric pump to pump coolant through the heaters and engine, to aid in cold starts. They can be run independently of the engine, so this makes for a convenient heat source, as well as a domestic hot water source with a little bit of engineering.
Did you get the repair manual for the webasto I sent you?

I plan to use mine to do in-floor radiant heat and forced air, since we do not have enough floor space to heat with in-floor only .
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Old 09-27-2013, 10:29 PM   #7
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
I forgot to mention, these Montgomery County buses all have Webasto diesel-fueled coolant heaters in them that use an electric pump to pump coolant through the heaters and engine, to aid in cold starts. They can be run independently of the engine, so this makes for a convenient heat source, as well as a domestic hot water source with a little bit of engineering.
Did you get the repair manual for the webasto I sent you?

I plan to use mine to do in-floor radiant heat and forced air, since we do not have enough floor space to heat with in-floor only .
Yes I did. Thank you for that, I printed it and put it in a binder. Now to find MVP wiring diagrams / service manual, 3126 service manual and MD3060 service manual.

I like the radiant heat idea. We have radiant heat in our kitchen (rest of the house is hot water baseboards, theres no wall space in the kitchen) and it does a decent job of heating the room on its own. Personally I will probably do forced air. It would be easy enough to just make a fan-coil unit out of a trans oil cooler or small automotive radiator and just put a fan behind it, and it would put out a ton of heat. Trouble would be rigging a thermostat to shut off the whole system / turn it back on accordingly. One of the many things I have to engineer.

Also I need to figure out how to make domestic hot water work with this heater. Something tells me it will involve a water to water heat exchanger.
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Old 09-29-2013, 08:41 PM   #8
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Well, today concluded a long weekend of craping. And scraping. And more f****** scraping. Those vinyl(?) letters / numbers are permanently attached with witchcraft.



Here is about how it looked at the beginning of the day.



When you scrape the black lettering off, the vinyl comes off ok but it almost always leaves this nasty adhesive behind. The adhesive has to be removed with acetone and more scraping.



Here is after cleaning / scraping with acetone. Note how the paint looked in 1999 vs how it does now. It is remarkably resilient paint though, it took effort to scratch it with the razor blade.



I didn't get a "before" picture, but there was some pretty gnarly rust on the rear emergency exit window (the short wide one that would be absolutely useless in an emergency). It seems like a poor weatherstripping design allows water to sit in the sill and that just rotted it away over the years. I went at it with a wire wheel on a die grinder for about 30 minutes and painted it with "rust converter" spray paint. Actually, I soaked it in paint, not a light "spray."

This is the only real spot of rust on the bus I have found so far, and hopefully it will be the only one that needs such attention.





As bad as the rust was, none of it ate through.



End of the day today, I removed the stop sign and yellow cross bar in addition to the decal / reflector strip removal / light rust work. I guess I got a lot done this weekend, considering half a dozen people stopped by and I had to BS around with them and re-explain all my ideas and reasoning to try to justify this project. I still have to remove the adhesive on a few of the areas but after that I am ready to sand the paint (just to rough it up) and then prime.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:37 AM   #9
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Yesterday, I started and finished removing the seats. It did not take long at all. I had nobody helping me. At first I thought I would be clever and use an air chisel to pop the heads off the bolts on the floor and then just push them through, but this didn't work very well. So I just cut the tubing with my angle grinder. The other side is just bolted to a sill on the wall which I unbolted.



Here it is nearly finished.



Everything but the drivers seat is out.



That halogen light pair / stand was a great buy. $35 at harbor freight. Rag on HF all you want, I'm a teenager with little $ and I take what I can get. Unfortunately, the place I am working (next to my uncles garage) is about 800 feet away from his house and he ran a single 20 amp circuit to the garage with 12 ga. wire the whole way, and the voltage drop is tremendous. I can't run my compressor on the circuit, and if I turn both halogens on, the metal halide garage light will go out. So I had to bring a generator to run the lights and compressor, and any other high-draw tools I am using which kind of sucks, but whatever.



This is kind of a cool shot I think.



Las montaņas!



To the scrapyard.

I feel bad about just tossing these seats but I needed to get them gone and I feel like the market for seats isn't big / people want them for free so whatever.

Today I am going to try to remove the part of the seats that are still bolted to the floor by notching the bolt head and then chiseling it off, hopefully that works because nobody seems to want to help me (awesome right?).

To be continued...
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:58 AM   #10
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Welcome to this madness!
If you have your large bed in the back positioned sideways, the unlucky person to the back that has to pee in the middle of the night will step on you. Get camping cots and try them out in different places before you start building walls. I mounted our beds in the back and mounted them to E-track so they could be adjustable, bunked,
or removed for hauling etc.
Tracy
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:49 PM   #11
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
Today I am going to try to remove the part of the seats that are still bolted to the floor by notching the bolt head and then chiseling it off, hopefully that works because nobody seems to want to help me (awesome right?).

To be continued...
I curious on how this goes. I removed my seats at the leg too and still have to remove the "foot". I have the same issue, no help.
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Old 10-03-2013, 01:01 PM   #12
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Nice work!! Those sure are good lookin buses, can't wait to see the progress on this one as well.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:12 PM   #13
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Holy bandwidth, Batman! Those photos are HUGE! My monitor is over 2500 pixels wide and I need to widen my browser to full screen to see the whole image.

You might want to make those smaller to help the "less fortunate" among us. Most people recommend 800 pixels on the longest side for internet sharing.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:59 PM   #14
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfiedogs
Welcome to this madness!
If you have your large bed in the back positioned sideways, the unlucky person to the back that has to pee in the middle of the night will step on you. Get camping cots and try them out in different places before you start building walls. I mounted our beds in the back and mounted them to E-track so they could be adjustable, bunked,
or removed for hauling etc.
Tracy
That is a good point. The plans I posted we probably aren't going to use. At some point I will mock up the floor plan with painters tape (perimeters) at least and maybe with cardboard fab ups.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PDBreske
Holy bandwidth, Batman! Those photos are HUGE! My monitor is over 2500 pixels wide and I need to widen my browser to full screen to see the whole image.

You might want to make those smaller to help the "less fortunate" among us. Most people recommend 800 pixels on the longest side for internet sharing.
Yeah sorry...damn iPhones take huge pictures. This next batch I resized to 1024x768. I just zoomed out on my browser.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmkbailey
Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches
Today I am going to try to remove the part of the seats that are still bolted to the floor by notching the bolt head and then chiseling it off, hopefully that works because nobody seems to want to help me (awesome right?).

To be continued...
I curious on how this goes. I removed my seats at the leg too and still have to remove the "foot". I have the same issue, no help.
Here's how it went...I started with these just like you did...



where I cut the leg off and this bit still remained.



I notched the heads with my trusty angle grinder (4.5" Hitachi electric one...I have put this $30 tool through so much BS and it still works flawlessly) and made sure I got through the larger flange part at the bottom of the head of the bolt. I then used an air hammer I bought at Harbor Freight for $14 (http://www.harborfreight.com/medium-...sel-69866.html) and "BAPPED" the rest of the bolt head off. I then "BAPPED" the bracket up and "BAPPED" the rest of the bolt down where most of them fell onto the ground. These air hammers are really useful and can be run (albeit intermittently) even with a small compressor. My 21 gallon Ingersoll Rand was running intermittently using it, though that is on a generator where the voltage isnt quite what wall current is.



Here it is after got all of them out. It took me about 3 hours and I went through about 10 cheap cut off wheels. ABSOLUTELY have a respirator and a fan on when doing this. Even with both of those I still blew my nose and it was black. This stuff is terrible for you. However, I dare say it was easier to do it this way than to do it with someone underneath with vice grips, because you can only get to about 1/2 of the bolts easily from underneath. My friends are dicks and wouldn't help so I had to do it this way.



It is really exciting to see this space all open. Next things to do are sand / prime the exterior, remove the windows and reseal the outsides, and re-insulate the roof and walls, then remove the rubber flooring. Then wire brush and rustproof the floor. Plenty of things to keep me busy...

Does anyone have any recommendations on what paint to use?
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Old 10-04-2013, 12:04 AM   #15
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

As a side note, pickup trucks are really useful.





I got $120 for the steel from the seats. I didn't want to deal with selling them to someone so I ripped off the cloth and foam, threw it out and scrapped the steel.
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Old 10-04-2013, 11:54 AM   #16
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Cardboard fabups,
Your setbuilding days are gonna help you more than you think. Man, 19, wish I had done this at that age, lets see, cheap dorm, changeable views and not to mention locations. Your gonna enjoy that bus.
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Old 10-04-2013, 01:26 PM   #17
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches

where I cut the leg off and this bit still remained.



Does anyone have any recommendations on what paint to use?
Are most of the seat bolts on buses rusted to the floor? We used two socket wrenches and two people and got ours out pretty fast but it seems like a lot of people cut them.

And use rustoleum! it's cheap!

Good work, looks like you're buzzing right along!
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Old 10-04-2013, 03:02 PM   #18
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

A lot of people cut them because they don't have help or some are hard to access. I used a wrench and socket on mine. I think I enlisted a kid, lol... And x2 for rustoleum. I wire-wheeled all rusted areas, spayed with rust converter, primed with "rusty metal" (red oxide) primer, and then painted with their "industrial" paint.
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Old 10-04-2013, 04:11 PM   #19
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newfiedogs
Cardboard fabups,
Your setbuilding days are gonna help you more than you think. Man, 19, wish I had done this at that age, lets see, cheap dorm, changeable views and not to mention locations. Your gonna enjoy that bus.
Tracy
Yeah, I have wanted to do this for several years. I always thought it sounded like a cool idea. It's really awesome standing in the now empty space and envisioning all it could be. Also, after this is "finished" (who am I kidding, I will always be changing or fixing something) I will have a place I can call home that can be moved. It could be short term or long term housing. I could pay like $100 a month for rent to keep it on someones property vs $800+ for a house / apartment. AND it is an asset that can be sold for some amount of money, AND I enjoy working on it. Win-win-win-win.

Quote:
Originally Posted by inkblots84
Are most of the seat bolts on buses rusted to the floor? We used two socket wrenches and two people and got ours out pretty fast but it seems like a lot of people cut them.

And use rustoleum! it's cheap!

Good work, looks like you're buzzing right along!
They aren't rusted to the floor, persay. I just don't have anyone to help me at the moment. My friends are either lazy bums who smoke weed and play video games all day, or they are out of state at college.

Is there a way of getting additional colors of rustoleum? I don't want to rattle-can it, and the gallon containers only come in like 8 different colors. I wanted to do an army green color for the body, but I haven't been able to find anything like that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JakeC
A lot of people cut them because they don't have help or some are hard to access. I used a wrench and socket on mine. I think I enlisted a kid, lol... And x2 for rustoleum. I wire-wheeled all rusted areas, spayed with rust converter, primed with "rusty metal" (red oxide) primer, and then painted with their "industrial" paint.
Sir, this is EXACTLY what I am planning on doing. I haven't taken up the rubber floor yet but I have taken a few chunks out and it appears to be rusty where the bolts went through.

How do you guys deal with the bolt holes? I was thinking of JB welding / gluing 16 ga. steel on the inside side of the bus over the holes. I don't want to weld because there is rubber undercoating on the bus that will catch fire if I weld, and I will have to wire brush and recoat the charred bits. I thought gluing metal would be ok. Or even just sealing it since the lack of structure over the tiny hole is a non-issue.

Thanks!
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Old 10-04-2013, 05:11 PM   #20
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Re: Smells Like Teen Spirit: Conversion of 1999 Thomas MVP

Personally, I opted to spot weld the dozens of holes in my floor. It is amazing how even the tiniest hole can deliver so danged much water over time. And since everything else winds up on top of the floor, I wanted it watertight as possible for as long as possible. It was a pain, but better one now than later in my book. Course, that's just me talkin'.
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