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Old 10-26-2011, 09:50 PM   #1
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The Camel Conversion Project

This thread will be dedicated to the further conversion of a 1995 International 3800 with a Farber bookmobile body. (I have a gallery on my web site dedicated to this conversion. All my pictures can be found in that gallery.)

I purchased the bus in October 2011 and drove it home to Ocala, FL from Tennessee. It had about 150,000 miles on the odometer and I added another 660 miles bringing it home. EDIT to add: I averaged 10.4 MPG on the drive to Florida driving about 50-55 MPH. The front tires are badly worn and, I suspect, out of balance, so I couldn't really drive any faster.

Vehicle specifications:
• 1995 International 3800 chassis with a bookmobile body by Farber Specialty Vehicles
• 7.6L Navistar (IH) DT466 engine 195HP/2400RPM
• MT643 Allison 4spd automatic transmission
• Overall length, bumper-to-bumper: 37 feet
• Engine firewall to rear wall of interior: 31' 9"
• Finished Interior headroom will be 7' 2" across the entire ceiling (flat ceiling).
• Finished interior width will be 7' 3".
• GVWR 25,500 lbs
• GAWR Front 10,000 lbs
• GAWR Rear 15,500 lbs
• X175 rear axle (rated for 17,500 lbs, 4.44 gear ratio)
• Interestingly, this vehicle must have left the factory with 20-inch rims, but was upgraded later to 7.5" x 22.5" tubeless rims on the Dayton-type wheels
• Hydraulic 4-wheel-disk brakes
• 16KW Martin/Yanmar 4-cylinder diesel generator (sold on eBay for about $2500)

The previous owner had already done a modest conversion, but the interior doesn't fit my specific needs so I'm going to gut it and start from scratch. What I really wanted was the nearly perfect shell that this vehicle provides. It has 7 feet, 5 inches of interior headroom with a flat side-to-side ceiling. The exterior skin is all aluminum, except for the fiberglass roof (EDIT: the roof is aluminum, too). It also has a huge diesel generator plumbed into the main fuel tank, so I don't have to worry about the genset fuel going bad after long periods of non-use (as long as I'm driving the bus around, that is).

My plans include removing the rear wall and putting in a small ramp to drive my Jeep Cherokee inside the back half of the bus. The "house" section will be sealed from the garage and the bed will be on a shelf over the Jeep's hood. It will be tight ... uh, cozy inside, but I'm traveling alone and I don't need or want a lot of space.

Cost progression (approximate, as of July 2014)
Bus ticket to pick up vehicle: -$140
Vehicle purchase price: -$7500
Temp tag to leave Tennessee: -$10
Fuel for trip home: -$250
Vehicle registration in Florida: -$835
Sold various cabinets removed from vehicle: +$100
Sold LCD TV from vehicle: +$20
Sold RV toilet: +$25
New front tires and new spare tire w/rim: -$1198
Various bits and pieces of hardware/fittings: -$25
Sold two light fixtures that came with vehicle: +$25
Sold 16KW generator that came with vehicle (minus eBay fees): +$2475
New pantograph windshield wiper arms: -$116
New headlights: -$56
Sold refrigerator that came with vehicle: +$140
Sold washer/dryer that came with vehicle: +$100
Roof decking materials: -$250
New driver & passenger seats (as part of a set of five chairs from another vehicle): -$400
Interior wall framing materials (lumber and wood screws): approx. -$1600
Foam It Green 602 expanding foam insulation kit: approx. -$750
Miscellaneous stuff: approx. -$500
Sold two rooftop air conditioners: +$250
2x100 gallon fresh water tanks: -$650
Small window A/C with remote: -$150
Shower tray and walls: -$350
Two small chest freezers: -$75 (both)
Sink: -$120
Faucet: -$75
Cooktop: -$300
Laminate sheet: -$58
Custom stainless steel kitchen backsplash and countertop edge protector: -$100

TOTAL: -$12,233

Costs pending: Deep-cycle batteries, solar panels, portable toilet, flooring, etc.
Sales pending: Various kitchen utensils and cookware.

"Why do you call it The Camel?"
When I bought my Jeep, I found myself wanting some kind of mascot. I didn't like the idea of longhorn steer horns across the hood, but I remembered seeing a story about a company that sells skulls to museums, schools, and the general public. I visited their web site and found the perfect thing: a domestic goat skull. (Goats are found all over the world and can go almost anywhere and climb just about anything, including trees. I figured they are a lot like a Jeep in those respects.) I'd like to have a mascot for the bus as well, and since my conversion plans include a lot of fresh water storage and the ability to survive for long periods without needing to find water, "Camel" seems like a fitting nickname. (The same web site also sells camel skulls, so you know what's going to end up over the front window of my rig. )

First photo taken on the drive from TN to FL:
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:14 PM   #2
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Nice rig! Though if I were you (& I'm not) I'd tow the jeep.
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:22 PM   #3
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by bus-bro
Nice rig! Though if I were you (& I'm not) I'd tow the jeep.
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that....

I hate towing anything. I've always hated it, and the drive home once again reaffirmed my reasons for doing so. I pulled into a truck stop for fuel and overshot the pumps. I had to pull back a bit while turning to get close enough to the pumps to reach with the hose, and doing this with a trailer or toad would have sucked. As it was, it was simple and quick.

Maybe other people value interior space over traveling convenience, but I want simplicity. I even figured out today that I really won’t need a ramp to drive inside—the Jeep can climb the rear bumper as it is and just hop up inside. (EDIT: Nope. Can’t do that. Need a ramp.)

The only thing I need to worry about is the rear springs appear to be sagging a bit. I might need to get some helper springs or an airbag lift kit to bring up the rear level with the front.
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:37 PM   #4
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

More pictures from Day One back in Ocala. These will show what it looked like when I bought it and drove it home. Hopefully there will be progress in the weeks to come:











Beautiful Martin 16KW diesel genset:


Master bedroom was inside the right rear door, which was also the main entrance:


Driver's area. The pink table tops are from when the vehicle was used as a bookmobile (at least, I sure hope that was when they were installed!):


Shower needs work, but this will be remodeled and I'll re-use the parts:


Interior from driver's area:
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:39 PM   #5
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by PDBreske
Quote:
Originally Posted by bus-bro
Nice rig! Though if I were you (& I'm not) I'd tow the jeep.
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that....

I hate towing anything. I've always hated it, and the drive home once again reaffirmed my reasons for doing so. I pulled into a truck stop for fuel and overshot the pumps. I had to pull back a bit while turning to get close enough to the pumps to reach with the hose..........
IMHO it would be much easier to learn the little things like where you need to stop at the pump instead of tearing up a very nice aftermarket body just to park a car in and possibly max out the load on your bus. Also a huge waste of floor space, especially if you plan to spend any amount of time in it. Towing is so much easier and not the issue you make it out to be.
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:41 PM   #6
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by dgorila1
IMHO it would be much easier to learn the little things like where you need to stop at the pump instead of tearing up a very nice aftermarket body just to park a car in and possibly max out the load on your bus. Also a huge waste of floor space, especially if you plan to spend any amount of time in it. Towing is so much easier and not the issue you make it out to be.
Thanks for your concern.
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:20 AM   #7
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Nice truck- great gen set on board too! You might have to add helper air bags on the back axle with the extra weight of the Jeep onboard. Each to his own, the onboard 'garage' will be interesting to see how it turns out. As long as it's your dream, go for it!!
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:50 AM   #8
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by dburt
Nice truck- great gen set on board too! You might have to add helper air bags on the back axle with the extra weight of the Jeep onboard. Each to his own, the onboard 'garage' will be interesting to see how it turns out. As long as it's your dream, go for it!!
While I wasn't seeking a bus with this kind of electrical powerhouse, I like the idea of having a giant genset for two reasons: My folks live in Florida and power outages after a hurricane are a real problem. With a 16KW generator I would be able to power their entire house in an emergency. Also, I want to be able to power my photography studio lights on location, and while this set is overkill for that purpose, it's nice to know this is designed to run all day without interruption.

Hey, these are the reasons I make up to justify carrying around such a massive diesel generator.
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Old 10-27-2011, 09:00 AM   #9
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

That is an awesome rig. So much potential! And if you ever get tired of having that generator in the bus, you could swap it out and use it as the engine for your jeep!
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Old 10-27-2011, 09:58 AM   #10
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diesel Dan
That is an awesome rig. So much potential! And if you ever get tired of having that generator in the bus, you could swap it out and use it as the engine for your jeep!
Funny you should mention that. I've always thought a hybrid Jeep would be a cool toy. I could use the diesel genset to charge a battery (or super capacitor) that would in turn power an electric motor to drive the wheels. Fun stuff! Of course, that's an entirely different thread topic...
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Old 10-27-2011, 10:25 AM   #11
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Looks like an excellent starter platform! And that genny is not only awesome...but looks to be about the same size as the engine I'm installing under the hood of my bus! Cool. Keep the updates coming.
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Old 10-27-2011, 11:08 AM   #12
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

congrats! outside looks like a giant prision bus lol
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Old 10-27-2011, 11:52 AM   #13
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

<-- Another trailer hater. In the 100's of trips I've done going racing, EVERY time there has been at least one trailer broken down along side of the road. My last hauler the car was inside--i lost out this time to creature comforts for the wife.
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:32 PM   #14
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by spencerforhire
If you want to update that Rig head to your nearest IKEA with a trailer. Would definitely look at airbags if you want to put your jeep in the rear.
You know that place is at the top of my list for interior appointments.
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:44 PM   #15
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdwarf36
<-- Another trailer hater.
Keep fighting the good fight, brother.
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Old 10-27-2011, 01:18 PM   #16
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by PDBreske
... I hate towing anything. I've always hated it, and the drive home once again reaffirmed my reasons for doing so. I pulled into a truck stop for fuel and overshot the pumps. I had to pull back a bit while turning to get close enough to the pumps to reach with the hose, and doing this with a trailer or toad would have sucked. As it was, it was simple and quick...

I flat tow my 4WD Jeep Grand Cherokee. But I also know that you do NOT back up a car that you are towing with a 4 tires on the ground. The camber of the front wheels will not allow you to back up in a straight line. So no backing up, not even a few inches. You need to pay attention to what you are doing.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT TOWING... You need to consider that you cannot back up. If using a tow dolly, you will need a place to park it. Some long term campgrounds like to make you store ($) tow dollies off site in their "secure" (?) storage lots. Many sites are too short to handle a tow dolly in addition to your Bus/RV and towed.

For us, flat towing makes more sense. I have enough of a logistical nightmare with out having a dolly added to the mix. Besides, if the "worst case" scenario ever happens, we could not tow the food cart plus a tow dolly & Jeep behind the bus all at one time.
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Old 10-27-2011, 05:08 PM   #17
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

I edited the first post to indicate my fuel consumption on the drive to Florida (10.4 MPG).
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Old 11-02-2011, 12:13 AM   #18
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Had a bit of a water accident today: While attempting to remove the kitchen cabinet, I thought I had purged the water pressure in the feed lines to the sink. I was wrong. As soon as the saw cut the line, water sprayed all over me, the TigerSaw, some other tools, and my camera which was on a tripod behind me. The camera is fine, but I left the tools to dry for a bit before I plugged them back into power.
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Old 11-03-2011, 09:49 PM   #19
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

At the end of the first week with my new project and I'm loving this platform more every day.

The shower was raised by the previous owner to allow plumbing under the shower pan. There is still plenty of headroom even with the ten-inch lift!


The interior shelving removal is complete and all the cabinets are unmounted. I sold a bunch of junk on craigslist to a guy who responded to the ad in less than an hour. Love craigslist.


Next up is getting the registration complete for Florida (I'm still on the temp tag I got in Tennessee). After that I'm going to disconnect all the electrical lines inside the bus so I can start ripping out the walls and carpeting. Not sure yet if I'm going to attempt to pull up the plywood floors—I'm going to wait and see what the corners look like after the carpet is up. Not worried about the walls as the entire skin of the vehicle is aluminum.
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Old 11-12-2011, 10:01 AM   #20
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Re: The Camel Conversion Project

Now that I have a little more room and better access to the floor and substructure, I was able to complete some more accurate renderings of what my plans are for the interior. These are based on removal of the subfloor generator (replaced with batteries) and subsequent flattening of the hump under which the genset currently resides.

The driver's seat is in front of the refrigerator, with about 12-16 inches between the two. You may notice there is no passenger seat area. That's where the dogs will live.

Driver's side interior. The curved-door shower will work in that location, but cost may dictate something a little less extravagant. The kitchen area is just aft of the fridge.


Passenger side interior. The ladder on the ceiling tilts down for access to the hatch and planned roof deck. The computer workstation is next to the entrance door.


Overhead plan. The toilet shown is a placeholder for a cassette toilet with exterior door access to the cassette. The rectangle in the middle of the room is the roof hatch location.
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