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Old 07-28-2020, 11:58 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
The Wandering Jackalopes

We might call the bus Jack, or maybe Jackie, but regardless, we're definitely the Jackalopes on this journey!

Our bus is a 2000 Blue Bird All American RE that's a little beat up body-wise, but really solid, rust-free, and with tons of potential! We're planning on taking our time and doing it right. Past projects include a motorcycle garage (Tim), converting the 2nd floor of a barn into a music recording studio (Tim) and building a cottage from a kit (with some professional help) that started as a place for guests, but evolved into an art studio for Dharma Cowgirl, Jewelry (Tim and EJ).

This bus will certainly be our most ambitious project to date and will require LOTS of learning! We have some advantages, as I've been doing woodworking for many years and have some machining skills, though I suck at welding. Fortunately we have a friend who is an expert welder and metalsmith.

Today we began our work in earnest, using a hydraulic ram to push out some dented in body panels from a previous driver clipping some corners too close. This is one of those times when Harbor Freight is actually a great resource, as this potentially one-time-needed tool only cost $170 and did the job in about 30 minutes.

Here's the Ram kit that we bought. It worked well. I don't know if we'll ever need it again, but I think it might come in handy around the property.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Harbor Freight Hydraulic Ram.jpg (495.4 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg Getting ready to use the ram .jpg (409.3 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg The undercarriage of our bus.jpg (285.9 KB, 29 views)
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Old 08-11-2020, 12:29 AM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Making small steps of progress...

The demolition work on our bus has commenced! This past week we removed the exterior reflectors, all of the seats, and we also fixed the door that had a bent frame by removing the glass, torquing the door frame until it was straight, and reinstalling the glass.

When it's just me working on the bus, I focus on things that are more of a "one person" type job, like sorting out the wiring and pulling dents with a stud welder and slide hammer.

The only seriously rusted part of the bus (that I have found so far) is the floor of the circuit breaker panel. Apparently water would get in through the gasket and sit in the bottom, oxidizing and eating away at the metal. It's not serious, but I'll definitely want to address both the cause and the result.

Most of the seats we were able to remove by unbolting with one person underneath the bus with a crescent wrench or socket wrench, and the other inside, with an impact driver. You can guess who was underneath the bus.

The last 3 rows were easier to remove by splitting the bolts with a cut-off wheel and then using a chisel or grinder to knock the remaining pieces off. It wasn't too bad, and I only wore out 1 grinding wheel and 1 cut-off wheel.
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File Type: jpg IMG_0024.jpg (181.7 KB, 23 views)
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Old 08-18-2020, 01:28 AM   #3
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
The walls are down!

We spent 2 solid days working on Jack over Friday and Saturday. Among the items accomplished was getting the walls down, and starting on the ceiling and floor. I'm waiting for a new air chisel with a 4" recoil before I attack the ceiling, as I found my air chisel with the 1.5" was taking a bit long on the steel rivets. The aluminum ones peeled off like butter, but the steel took some extra time and effort.

I have also been cleaning the undercarriage (caked with dust from a paper mill) and we've got the stickers removed on the outside. Work on the floor plan is coming along, as well. EJ made some cardboard mock-ups of the various appliances and furniture, and laid them out on the floor of the bus to visualize how well everything fit together. This helped big time with deciding how to position the queen size bed, and how to deal with the wheel wells. Now that she has a good sense of how it all goes together, I've been able to continue tweaking our potential layout with Sketch3D. I'd like to say that Sketch is easy to work with, but I'd be lying. 3D modeling programs are inherently difficult. I have been using TinkerCad for building 3D models for FDM printing, but that doesn't seem like the right tool for this job. Enough on that.

I love that my wife just scooped up the air chisel and started chopping away at the rivets! It's great for teamwork!
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Old 08-18-2020, 01:30 AM   #4
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Glad I missed!

Does anyone else have a problem seeing those little triangles on the top of the lithium grease aerosol can?
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Old 08-18-2020, 01:45 AM   #5
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,627
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Looks like your latte espresso machine had a problem!


Really man, y'all are making serious progress. It does help to have a team working on a project such as a bus.


Note: I have used my hydrolic ram to straighten up a small scraping-oops I made. My bus wanted to play tug-o-war with a metal I-beam anchored in cement.
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Old 08-18-2020, 11:48 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Looks like your latte espresso machine had a problem!
No Kidding! I'm just glad I was wearing my safety glasses!

I upgraded our air chisel from one with a 2.5" stroke to a 4" stroke, and wow! It makes a huge difference on those steel rivets! We were working pretty hard to get the steelies off, even with drilling out the centers a bit. The aluminum ones came off just fine. With the new air chisel, the steel are coming off easier than the aluminum ones were! I think I would have saved us a few hours if I had spent the big bucks the first time around, but I didn't know any better. I've only used pneumatic nail guns prior to this project.
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Old 08-19-2020, 05:42 PM   #7
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Jumping the gun (I usually do!)

While we're working on the demolition, EJ is exploring the floorplans she sees on busses she admires from Instagram and I'm sorting out the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.

I have to admit that I'm inclined to go big towards comfort and "getting it right the first time" on projects like this. To that end, I have already started buying my battery bank, going with Valance LiFePo batteries that hold 138AH. I have 2 now, and just bought 2 more from the same guy who gets them used, tests and resells. Ultimately, I'm planning on getting 2 more and then setting up 1,200w of solar panels on the roof. My current thinking is 4x300w panels, up near the front so we can still have room for a deck in the back.

My current thinking is a 24v system, as a balance between ease and efficiency. In the meantime, we'll have to figure out where it will go in the build-out. My thought is that we'll frame in, and hopefully any glaring mistakes will be caught at that stage, then we can plumb and wire.
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Old 08-20-2020, 01:32 AM   #8
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,627
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Sounds like you are planning ahead for the future of the build, not jumping ahead. There are so many things that just have to get done on a build, getting the components of the build as you can is a great idea.
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Old 08-21-2020, 11:03 PM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Sounds like you are planning ahead for the future of the build, not jumping ahead. There are so many things that just have to get done on a build, getting the components of the build as you can is a great idea.
Okay, you convinced me! I bought 2 more, making 6 total, and just shy of 10kw of LiFePo storage.

Most things For the solar power system I plan on buying new, but these ďlow charge cycleĒ batteries are worth getting now, while theyíre available at a good price.
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Old 08-24-2020, 12:34 AM   #10
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Walls and Ceiling Removed!

Our progress continues on the demolition side of things, with the ceiling coming down and the insulation removed. It was a good weekend of work, though we hoped to get the floor removed as well. All of those screws in the floor were caked with 20 years of crud so wire brushing and attacking them with a ratchet screwdriver was tedious work. I should have quit long before and just taken the air chisel to the screws, because that is what I did with the few that we couldnít pull. Live and learn, eh?

Next, we need to figure out how to dispose of all those trash bags of insulation!
Attached Images
File Type: jpeg CDCBCFBB-F92D-447A-8183-C8F0762224E5.jpeg (462.8 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg DDCC81CD-8B30-4AA4-8D1F-4D04896E34CD.jpg (429.5 KB, 13 views)
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Old 08-24-2020, 08:59 AM   #11
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Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 4,217
Year: 2003
Coachwork: International
Chassis: CE 300
Engine: DT466e
Rated Cap: 65C-43A
Easiest way to get the floor up is to cut the plywood up into a grid (using a circular saw with the blade depth set to just less than the thickness of the plywood + the rubber mat) and then pry each square up separately. The pieces will break around any screws, which you can then get out a lot easier without any plywood still around them. You also avoid having to peel up the rubber mat this way, and you get a nice neat stack of plywood squares instead of piles of big ripped-up pieces of rotten plywood.
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Old 08-24-2020, 01:56 PM   #12
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
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Year: 2000
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Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
Easiest way to get the floor up is to cut the plywood up into a grid (using a circular saw with the blade depth set to just less than the thickness of the plywood + the rubber mat) and then pry each square up separately.
This is genius!! I have to try this!
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Old 08-25-2020, 06:44 PM   #13
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
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Year: 1999
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Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
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My floor was nailed in with those goofy twisted nails. I just used 2 large, long pry bars. I got under the edge with one and worked the second as far under as I could. I worked this back and forth as best as I could until each piece came up as almost a full sheet. It worked great and the full 4x8 sheets became the floor for my sons tree house. With the rubber mat on the floor, it should last a good many years up there. It definitely takes some extra muscle, but it was so much better than all the cutting and small squares to get rid of. When I got the bus, half the floor front to back lengthwise was gone so I only had to remove the other half, but it only took about an hour and a half to get it done.
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Old 08-27-2020, 12:00 AM   #14
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackE View Post
My floor was nailed in with those goofy twisted nails. I just used 2 large, long pry bars. I got under the edge with one and worked the second as far under as I could.
I have those same nails in mine, as I see them poking through the undercarriage. Iím going to have some holes to plug, for sure!

I decided to try something a little different for my floor. Since the air chisel worked so well on the walls and ceiling, I picked up a Harbor Freight Pneumatic Scraper for just under $100. Iím not sure what else Iíll use it for, but if it gets the floor up quickly and easily, itís money well spent and Iíll have a tool to pass along to someone else to use. The scraper is about 40Ē long and has a 4Ē wide x 1/4Ē thick chisel on the end. If it doesnít work, worst case scenario is that I return it to the store and maybe take a hit on the restocking fee.
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Old 08-27-2020, 02:54 AM   #15
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,627
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
I bet that chisel will work very well.
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Old 09-01-2020, 07:18 PM   #16
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
I bet that chisel will work very well.
The pneumatic scraper worked extremely well! At first my wife grimaced at the expense of yet another $100 tool, but once we started pulling the floor up, we both areís that it was money well-spent. I think it saved us hours, as the glue and nails were very strong. In some cases we had to use a 10í 2x4 as a pry bar and a circular saw to knock the 8í lengths of plywood down to 4í.

We were rather surprised to find standing water underneath the plywood. After having completely clean walls and ceiling, I did not expect to find a small lake trapped underneath the rubber and plywood.

Which brings me back to the pneumatic scraper. My first pass (and 2nd, 3rd...) On prepping the floor is with the pneumatic scraper. It is a back-saver and since Iím one of those clumsy old coots who tried to snow ski far more times than I should have, kneeling is not exactly my forte.

The scraper is also helping me find the twist nails that had their heads pop off when we pried up the plywood. Iím pounding those through and will follow up later and plug all of the holes.

How bad were your floors when you lifted the plywood? Did they look like ours?
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Old 09-01-2020, 07:55 PM   #17
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
More smoke this time

Whoops! This post doesn’t belong here!
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Old 09-08-2020, 11:56 PM   #18
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
More progress on the floor...

EJ and I continue putting time in each weekend on the major stuff, while I piddle throughout the week on the smaller and more technical issues like dealing with the changes to the dashboard and deciding which wires can be pulled out of the loom.

This weekend we took on more floor prep, using a wire cup on the angle grinder to clean any loose rust from the metal floor, and remove the automotive caulk from around seams so that we could replace it with fresh, clean caulk after we prime the floor.

Getting the contact cement off the wheel wells was definitely a challenge! The trick was to use Klean-Strip paint remover, letting it soak for 10-15 minutes, then following with a plastic scraper. Eventually, it all came off.

We then pressure washed the floor, followed by phosphoric acid, and a low pressure rinse. Once dried, we applied Corroseal Rust Converter. Granted, we could have used any product, but I was satisfied with the reviews on Corroseal and it could be applied with a brush or roller, rather than coming out of a rattle-can.

Now that the floor is sealed, our next step will be to plug the old holes where the seat bolts went through and then add a paint primer, with Hy-Tech ceramic microspheres added for sound and insulation value. I keep wondering, though, if I am forgetting something? A radiant barrier, perhaps?
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Old 09-09-2020, 02:01 AM   #19
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Join Date: Sep 2015
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Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Been there, done that. There is a lot of work to cleaning up a floor! I added the ceramic beads to the floor paint as well, for the same reasons. A word of caution: the beads cause the floor to be rough and collect dirt. So either be prepared to put your insulation down immediately, or put a top coat of paint over the paint with the beads.
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Old 09-10-2020, 01:40 AM   #20
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Evansville, Indiana USA
Posts: 210
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American RE
Engine: Caterpillar 3126B
Rated Cap: 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Been there, done that. There is a lot of work to cleaning up a floor! I added the ceramic beads to the floor paint as well, for the same reasons. A word of caution: the beads cause the floor to be rough and collect dirt. So either be prepared to put your insulation down immediately, or put a top coat of paint over the paint with the beads.
Thanks! That sounds like a good suggestion. I have 5 gallons of latex primer, I'll probably paint the entire interior with the beads and primer, then hit it all with a protective layer. Everything that we are painting at this point will ultimately be covered. The floor will get 3/4" rigid foam and then 3/4" plywood subfloor. Wife and I are both short, so losing an inch or two in the vertical height isn't going to have us crawling.
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