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Old 08-10-2023, 09:57 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
The Crown Cafe Build

So, here we go, Iím going to build a coffee shop inside a 36 foot 1987 Crown School Bus. It will have an espresso bar, window service and booth and bar seating for either 19 or 23, still deciding on that.

I didnít have any specific intention to use a Crown when I started planning this cafe project, but things just kind of happened and I located one down in Paso Robles CA. In fact I was really having a hard time finding any Pre-2004-35íish-foot-Bus that wasnít a pusher and had decent head room (imagine that). I reached out to the Crown owner and began asking questions about a topic I knew very little about. School Buses. I figured I should get educated, and fast, if I was going to make this happen. So I contact this guy on the site called Crown_Guy, because he sounded like he really knew a lotÖ Yeah, like, a lot, so anyway, like a total noob, I wrote him a PM and after a few hours, which felt like forever, he wrote back and said something like, ďFor that price its probably got something bad wrong with it, but it could be great, and if it is, then youíve got a great bus, but maybe it isnít, which could cost you a fortune.Ē Great. Mike also said I should tell him more in an email, so I did that. Then I waitedÖ and waited, and read about as much as I could about Crown buses in general and got very excited about the prospect of owning one. I had this feeling that if I waited any longer I would miss out on what could be a golden opportunity, so I booked a flight to Oakland for the next day, Sunday (my birthday, no joke) and a train to Paso Robles for the following day. I told the owner, also named Mike (WTF?), Iíd be buying the bus and would be arriving Monday afternoon to get it.

Sunday arrived and I prepared myself for my trip. Still no response from The Crown Guru, but I was feeling good so I called an Uber and headed to the airport. Halfway to the airport I got an email from, Mike (Crown_Guy, not the seller,) and he wrote this, Iím quoting directly now, ďIt may look good on the outside
and the interior may be quite clean for the Customers sake. But underneath the floor where the bus really lives it could be total Dog ****.Ē Yes, this was just a small part of the total email but it literally got my heart pounding and the self doubt kicked into overdrive, this on the way to the airport. I got out of the Uber and called him. I wonít go into all the details of the conversation but Mike calmed me down. One of the last things that he said to me was, and Iíll remember this for the rest of my life, especially now in hindsight, ďGo get that ******* bus, John!Ē So I did.

So I met the seller and I forked over the cash and called Mike. ďWant to hear it?Ē He did and it was very good.
After a few tips on how to drive it, I hung up and took off for my 750 mile journey north, pink slip in hand, back to Oregon. Aside from the absolute thrill of driving this thing (no exageration), the trip was uneventful, just as I had hoped.

Thatís the intro. Next post, removing Bus Seats in a Crown.
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Old 08-10-2023, 11:36 AM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Seat Removal and Interior Clean Up

Turns out the bus was literally the opposite of what I feared, which was ďClean and spotless interior, mechanically a mess.Ē The bus had been sitting for a few years in a dry field, so everything on the inside was covered in a 1/8Ē of California dust and pollen. Driving 750 miles with windows open might have gotten rid of some, but not most of the dust. I began by taking out the passenger side Ďpony-wallí?... whatever its called, you know, the padded divider that keeps the kids seated in the front seat from launching into the stairwell. I quickly discovered that using a socket wrench wasnít going to cut it for todayís project, so I drove down to the local big box store and purchased one of these battery powered jobs. As a carpenter and builder of things, I never had much use for this, but Iím guessing I do now. Anyway, it is the best $189.99 I ever spent and made fairly quick work of getting the seats out.

I did discover that my bus came with a ĎHeater Boxí located in the rear, right in front of the emergency door. Iíve since learned that removing it is a fairly simple project, but a messy one. Not sure what to do here, but not stopping my work to deal with it at this time.

My plan for the day was to get the bus emptied and cleaned so I could assess the situation, see what Iíve got and then take critical measurements for my design plans. Turns out the floor, aside from many many holes and indents from seat mounting hardware, and 30 year old chewing gum, is in excellent condition. Since my vision for this project is to leave the customer with the impression that this Bus came out of the factory as a Cafe. I canít think of any better flooring than the original to achieve this effect, but, sadlyÖ the holes. My current thinking is that Iíll replace the under seat rubber mat and aisle runner with essentially the same thing, if I can find it.

I decided to start at the back drivers side corner window and see how clean I could get everything there. Iíd like to keep as much of those gorgeous (stainless steel?) textured panels under the windows as I can and it looks like that will be all of them. I tried a few different cleaning agents on the steel and Acetone worked best to remove gum, but Simple Green worked best for grime. Stainless Steel Cleaner was a great finishing pass. I used a wire brush for a minute and instantly regretted it. It wasnít by accident that I started in a section of the bus that would be buried behind cabinets for my cleaning technique trials. A small detailing brush and simple green worked well on the rusty rivets and screws. The rubber cleaned up incredibly well with a degreaser, even the treaded aisle rubber .

The ceiling doesnít have any noticeable defects or scratches. Its fín perfect. I used simple green on a section to see how clean I could get it and the answer is, very clean. The light and speaker Ďsoffit?í Looks great. See before and after photos.

It was a good day and I went back to my computer and input some new design choices based on my current understanding of the space.

Next week will be over 100 degrees here. Beginning Monday, Iím moving my roasting operation from my AG building on my property, into a larger space 8 miles away, one with a 14í high garage door and enough room to park the bus inside. Its a great situation, but I canít have the bus in there when the Oregon Department of Agriculture comes in to inspect it. Also, Iím trying to get as much of the Ďdirty workí out of the way before I move it into a space used for food packaging. Oh, and Iím closing on the sale of my property on the 25th, which is when I will have to be out of my house/shop. What Iím trying to say is, Iíve got to work fast on getting a few items off the list before I no longer have use of my private space and rural seclusion. Iím thinking I should probably get the exterior painted sooner rather than later. So that might just be the next step. Stay Tuned.

*not sure I'm doing these photos correctly. If anyone has a better way to do this, lease let me know.
Attached Thumbnails
Socket_Tool.jpg   Heater_Box.jpg   Rear_Corner_dirty.jpg   Rear_Corner_Clean.jpg   Soffit_dirty.jpg  

SOffit_Clean.jpg   Rivets_clean.jpg   Rear_Panel_Clean_1.jpg   Rear_split.jpg  
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Old 08-10-2023, 11:37 AM   #3
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 1,382
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
Welcome to the fun!
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Old 08-10-2023, 12:14 PM   #4
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Bly Oregon
Posts: 524
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: Supercoach
Engine: Cummins 350 big cam
Rated Cap: 86 passengers?
Congrats on your Crown Purchase! It looks like a good one.
I have an 81 model similar to yours, with the Detroit 671 (turbo) and the Alison trans.
I converted that one into a motor home. I got 10 MPG reliably, but slow on hills. I am slowly converting a second one to a motor home, an 86 model 40 ft, tandem axle with a Cummins big cam 400 in it.

If you don't already know, use straight 40 wt oil in your Detroit motor. You should be able to get all the seats out in an afternoon.

Your bus would be one of those made in Chico, as Crown moved manufacturing to there in 1986.
You can secure the front door from underneath by placing a pin through the hole through the step.
I would drill a hole through a 7/16 bolt about 4 inches long then you can put a padlock through the bolt and the tab located next to the hole in the bolt. Once you see the hole and tab it will make sense.
My thread is "The conversion of my 86 Crown supercoach". While your goals for your Crown are different than mine, you may find some of the info useful for your conversion.
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Old 08-10-2023, 12:42 PM   #5
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Bly Oregon
Posts: 524
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: Supercoach
Engine: Cummins 350 big cam
Rated Cap: 86 passengers?
Removing the heater(s):
When you remove the heaters you will need a raincoat on when you disconnect the plumbing. My suggestion is to have a mechanic at a truck shop do this. If you do it, I suggest that you cut through the pipes with a sawzall instead of attempting to unscrew them, else you will likely destroy the heater core in the heater. Cover the resulting holes through the floor as rodents will use those as an entrance. Your Crown hold 20 gallons of coolant and the floor heaters are connected through long steel pipes to the coolant system.
Fleetpride stores are a good place to buy parts for your bus. The chassis parts (steering, differentials, some of the suspension, shocks etc.) are common to over the road trucks.
Your Crown may have dump valves for the air system. Look in the spare tire bay for those. My 86 model has them there. If you have leak down issues in your air system check those as I had to replace mine.
The spare tire bay is a great place to install a generator.

Another tip:
the Crown coolant system uses only straight hoses. Wherever a bend was needed Crown made those parts out of brass if I recall. If you need replacement hoses they can be found at a NAPA store. Unless you have a leak and loose coolant your coolant temps will never get past 190 degrees.
You may or may not have a battery switch in your Crown. My 81 model has one located at the rear engine bulkhead on the left side. My 86 does not have one.
If your Crown has a lean to one side that appears like suspension sag, that is normal. Crown made the left and right side springs differently, with the left side having an extra leaf. I don't know why.
If you loose a bunch of coolant you may have to open a small relief valve located at the top front of the Detroit engine, to expel air in the water jacket.
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Old 08-10-2023, 12:57 PM   #6
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Bly Oregon
Posts: 524
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: Supercoach
Engine: Cummins 350 big cam
Rated Cap: 86 passengers?
One last piece of info!
Do not block access to the large floor panels in the floor of your bus. They need to be removable for repair/replacement of some engine mounted parts. The one at the rear less so.
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Old 08-10-2023, 12:58 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Oh yes, I've read your thread front to back. Lots of useful information. I'm beginning to think my project kind of falls under the heading of "Restoration" rather than "Conversion", though it is essentially both. I'll for sure do this door lock 'hack' at some point. I'll put it on this list. Thank you for chiming in. It's reassuring to know that someone is actually reading this.
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Old 08-10-2023, 04:24 PM   #8
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Mar 2020
Location: Western MT
Posts: 628
Year: 1990
Chassis: Crown Supercoach
Engine: Detroit 6-71TA, 10 sp.
Rated Cap: 90 (40')
Subscribed and can't wait to see your progress (and meet up for a coffee someday)!

Regarding your rear heater - it's supply/return hoses a should be underneath your rear access hatch above the fuel tank. There should be two pipes that run the length of the bus that circulate coolant between the engine and the front and rear heaters. If you can park with your nose slightly downhill, you can disconnect the heater at those iron pipes and catch all the lost coolant in a shallow oil pan sitting on in top of the fuel tank. I was parked with the rear downhill slightly and still lost less than a gallon. Then sawzall the heater out as FT said.

There should be a valve somewhere near the front of the bus to shut off the whole heater coolant loop for summertime driving. Mine is a simple ball valve up under the front bumper. If you find and close that valve, you might further minimize coolant lost when removing the rear heater. That's a good valve to find anyway - I forgot to close mine on a recent drive across Washington and couldn't figure out why my dash was 180į F

Nice job cleaning up that textured stainless. I love the look of that stuff. Definitely going to be a cool vibe for your rolling cafe. Magnets stick to it really well, which we've found handy.
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Old 08-10-2023, 07:13 PM   #9
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Near Flagstaff AZ
Posts: 1,914
Year: 1974
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: "Atomic"
Engine: DD 8V71
Following along, too. I've got two Crowns now...and have owned others, too. Great buses. For what you want to do, you want/need a bus that attracts attention and a vintage Crown like that will be just that kind of bus.

For inspiration, look up the posts and videos about the Allegro Coffee Company's Flxible bus. I've seen it at a couple of events and it's definitely an attraction...and the coffee is good, too.

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Old 08-10-2023, 07:56 PM   #10
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: SoCal
Posts: 377
Year: 1989
Coachwork: Crown Coach
Chassis: 40ft 3-axle 10spd O/D, Factory A/C
Engine: 300hp Cummins 855
Rated Cap: 91
I'm here too and watching. Damn you're fast. Sorry about the delay earlier when you were still debating weather to buy it or not, but I was busy driving, Commercially which I still do, and not able to get to my email on my computer at home. If I'd known your time constraints I would have contacted you much sooner. Most folks rarely respond to my communications so I just made that assumption in your case. But it seems to have worked out beautifully for you, Congratulations. And that is most definitely a GOOD Crown. Can't wait to see it for myself.

You've done well my little Padawan. Keep it up and in no time at all you'll have a serviceable Crown that will do well for you and return your investment, plus, make it happy to be back in Commercial Service.

I firmly believe in the innate spirit of these fine machines. Through the many years of my driving all manner of buses I've had occasion to feel that Spirit helping me through some really serious situations that threatened us both. I know that sounds wacky to some but it's a comfort to me to know that these vehicles seem to respond to a nurturing owner/driver, and will fight against negligent or destructive owner/drivers. I've seen signs of this through the years.

As you can see a Crown will definitely grow on you and become an extension of your own dreams and goals. As I suggested, and you most definitely found out on your trip home, a Crown needs to be driven as much as you can on the road. The more you drive it the less problems you'll have with it, plus the shear fun of driving of it is 90% of the joy of owning it, nothing like a Crown at speed on the highway. Have fun and Great success in your business endevour.
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Old 08-10-2023, 11:04 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Ah, man, don't be sorry. Damn, it was perfect the way it unfolded. Way more dramatic that way and memorable.
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Old 08-10-2023, 11:50 PM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Another good day of progress. Made the decision to concentrate on the exterior so I can get it painted before they come and take my house keys away and kick me out.

I started at the front of the bus and began by removing everything I didnít want to paint. Not bagging and labelling everything is something Iíve kicked myself about in the past, so not doing that this time. A little PB spray and some patience and I only stripped one screw. I did discover a pretty gnarly dent in the upper passenger side roof, where the school bus flashing warning light fixture clearly got bent back on impact and forced the roof to cave in. Not quite creased, but close to it. I removed the entire two piece housing and fixture and will have to deal with them separately. Probably will have to drill and pull that dent out, I guess. See photos.

I got the bumper off with much less effort than I thought Iíd need and put that aside... who am I kidding, I left it right where it fell. Damn thing is heavy. Wipers, mirrors, emblems, antenna, headlight chrome rims, etc.. Got to the mirror on the driver side and discovered a well corroded section of the roof, as it slopes to the drip rail. Iím going to have to dig in there and see whatís going on, but Iím no welder, so if itís not too bad itís going to be a fiberglass repair job for this iteration of this buses life. I've done this type of thing before and so fiberglass is a familiar material to me, but Iím still not sure about the extent of the damage and will make a decision tomorrow.

I power washed the entire bus and then scuffed up the front with a scotch pad, but I think it just polished it. Iíll use an orbital sander and maybe a 180 grit soft pad or maybe a 220 paper disc and see how that feels. I typically like to use a sanding primer when painting metal, but Iím thinking just spot priming some trouble areas and using the existing paint as a primer coat. Thoughts?

Iíll tell you this, my friends. Getting notifications about comments made on this thread throughout the day, was a wonderful distraction. I could feel the support and enthusiasm and it put a pep in my step, so thank you all.

While I was under the front end removing the bumper I saw those heater lines you guys mentioned and air lines as well. It was nice to be able to immediately identify what they were.

I hired a helper for tomorrow and Saturday, so hopefully that means lots of progress.

More to come.
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 08-11-2023, 04:51 AM   #13
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Mar 2020
Location: Western MT
Posts: 628
Year: 1990
Chassis: Crown Supercoach
Engine: Detroit 6-71TA, 10 sp.
Rated Cap: 90 (40')
You're really getting after this!

Paint prep was not my favorite. One thing that really helped me was nylon abrasive bristle wheel and cup attachments for a drill. Nyalox or Nylox is a brand name. They're really nice for prepping around rivets and tight contours. I used 80 grit and it was a bit too aggressive, but I think finer grits are available.

PS I and others and here painted directly over well-scuffed factory paint with decent results. Depends on what you're going for though. Showroom quality is achievable with enough time and money, but many of us settle for "done" instead of "perfect". See member olTrunt's bus for one really nice paint job example. Also check out GMarvel's Crown if your want to see just how nice your bus could look.
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Old 08-11-2023, 12:16 PM   #14
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Orange County, CA
Posts: 1,339
Year: 1990
Coachwork: Crown, integral. (With 2kW of tiltable solar)
Chassis: Crown Supercoach II (rear engine)
Engine: Detroit 6V92TAC, DDEC 2, Jake brake, Allison HT740
Rated Cap: 37,400 lbs GVWR
Quote:
Originally Posted by flattracker View Post
Your bus would be one of those made in Chico, as Crown moved manufacturing to there in 1986.
Chino, not Chico. Big difference! Even that factory, originally for Freightliner, is now gone.

John
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Old 08-11-2023, 12:29 PM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Prep and Paint

Yeah, I'm not looking for a showcase finish, more of an industrial look. I'll prep the existing surface, repair and treat rust, dents etc, spot prime, and paint with a single stage good quality automotive paint. I've done plenty of spraying, mostly on cabinetry and furniture, but did spray my '79 VW bus and got a nice finish with that single stage stuff. I am planning to rent a larger compressor though, my nail gun rig ain't gonna cut it.

Now for the painful process of figuring out color and pattern. I saw this 1948 GMC bus that pretty much captures the vision I have in mind.

Time to dig into that rust spot on the roof above the driver seat. Fingers crossed.
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Old 08-11-2023, 12:35 PM   #16
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
Chino, not Chico. Big difference! Even that factory, originally for Freightliner, is now gone.

John
Yep, Chino, home of the Crown Coach Corporation. Chico, home of Sierra Nevada Brewery, my favorite Pale Ale.
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Old 08-11-2023, 12:50 PM   #17
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: mid Mo.
Posts: 802
Year: 1976
Coachwork: bluebird
Chassis: F33695
Engine: 427 chevy converted to 466
Rated Cap: 84
My girlfriend and I scotch brite-ed the whole bus till our fingers bled, and that was 16 years ago, paint is surviving well except where we got tired and did a poor job, paint is starting to peal along seams. Yes it is best if you scuff the whole surface you are painting unless you spend money on "no sand primer", when I painted mine it was $200 a gallon, wonder what it is now? We didn't use it. Actually implement paint is plenty good for bus paint. Great start to your conversion and will follow it along.
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Old 08-11-2023, 01:01 PM   #18
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tejon7 View Post
Also check out GMarvel's Crown if your want to see just how nice your bus could look.
OMG... just devoured his build thread. Unreal. Lot's to consider now.
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Old 08-11-2023, 06:49 PM   #19
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: SoCal
Posts: 377
Year: 1989
Coachwork: Crown Coach
Chassis: 40ft 3-axle 10spd O/D, Factory A/C
Engine: 300hp Cummins 855
Rated Cap: 91
Be aware most panels inside and outside are Aluminum. The few steel panels are there for strength and they will rust. As you see. That area above the windshield is usually rusted on every Crown I've ever seen. Even mine who lived in the desert it's whole life. The overnight condensation collects in the rain gutter and sits there and does the dirty deed over the years. The rear escape hatch with the windows is also steel and will rust starting with the two opening handle rods that go through the two piece steel stampings of the hatch assembly. All that aluminum in the body is one reason they manage to still be around decades after they were built. Gilligs not so much, they were mostly made all steel and rusted away pretty quickly.

Check with a magnet as you prepare for painting in case it requires different prep procedures for steel versus aluminum.

You are fast. One caution regarding painting outside first. As you work on the inside you may have construction tools and materials near the bus and may accidentally hit/damage your brand new paint job. I've always assumed it was a good idea to wait till the end and all the heavy modifications are done and then do the paint as the last step. You may also find a need to remove a windshield, or the rear hatch or side emergency door, to get a bulky item inside. This could potentially mar a nice new paint job. Just a random thought.
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Old 08-12-2023, 11:43 AM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2023
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 48
Year: 1987
Engine: DD 6-71TAC
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crown_Guy View Post
As you work on the inside you may have construction tools and materials near the bus and may accidentally hit/damage your brand new paint job.
This is a good point and one I've struggled with. Today I'm going to look into maybe borrowing a space or a driveway to paint the bus. If I can arrange something like that I'll wait, but at this point the clock is ticking.
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