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Old 07-31-2008, 05:10 PM   #1
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Year: 1989
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: International
Engine: Detroit Diesel
Newbie with RAGBRAI International Blue Bird Bus project

I've spent the last 3 years driving a Newmar Mountain Air coach on RAGBRAI and with it being 45' plus pulling a 24' enclosed car hauler (second bedroom, has A/C on roof, and yes, I know it's illegal in length) it's really a pain for RAGBRAI. Hard to find a place to park, manuvering is a pain, and it's really too nice for something like this. BTW, it's not mine, I just drive it for the owner.

Anyway, while on RAGBRAI last year, the owner had been watching a skoolie conversion on eBay that was in Florida. The conversion was partially done, but the owner had discovered he had inoperable cancer and only had about 16 months to live and since he'd spent 3 years on it and it wasn't done, he was selling everything off and spending time with his family with what little time he had left (or so the story goes as I recall it).

So my buddy bought it and had it brought back to Oklahoma. We had hoped to finish it before this year's ride, but it wasn't to be.

The bus has about 120k on it, it's a Detroit 360 with an automatic, has already been painted and has what I believe to be Lizard Skin on the roof. It has simulators on it and had an RV door put in place of the normal front door. The seats are all gone and it has carpet, paneling and a headliner put in. The driver's seat and passenger seat are out of coaches (they don't match) and right behind the driver's seat is an electric bench that folds out into a bed that I think is out of a conversion van. There were some cabinets inside that we took out, it already has one set of bunk beds installed and we have the stuff to put the other set in. There is already a shower installed and a RV toilet ready to place next to it. A fresh water tank and a small propane tank were included but not installed as was a stove. Oh, it also has in floor A/C that I believe is 110v. It's had some wiring done to it and has 110v outlets along the outsides, and it also has an electric awning attached to the side of it.

Plans call for a roof deck with collapsible rails so we can pull it into a shop, a front air deflector on the roof that also folds down for the same reason, a 4' deep rear deck to mount a generator on and have a ladder up to the roof deck. Interior would have another bench that folds out behind the passenger seat, a refrigerator and a microwave. The toilet will probably get mounted next to the shower facing the rear and we'll build a wall so it's in it's own room and maybe put another set of bunk beds for a total of 6, plus the two fold down benches, for a interior sleeping total of about 8. Where the flashing lights were, we'll put boat speakers and on the inside, where the mirror to see the passengers was, we'll put a LCD flat panel. We also have a rear view camera to mount and the inside will have surround sound and a DVD player. I hope to design the roof rack rails to accomodate a full canopy as well for when we're parked and if we do, we'll have a projector to put up there to show movies on the roof as well.

Here are some photos of the 'as bought' condition....(taken with cell phone, sorry....)

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Old 07-31-2008, 07:55 PM   #2
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Re: Newbie with RAGBRAI International Blue Bird Bus project

wow that bus is nice thats is the big red express truck with some of its younger siblings love those wheels and that awning welcome to the games we know you can drive it!
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:12 PM   #3
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Re: Newbie with RAGBRAI International Blue Bird Bus project

Welcome aboard. Cool bus. Did someone get pulled over for the flashers? Is that why you removed them?
I'm hungry!

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Old 08-01-2008, 02:33 PM   #4
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Re: Newbie with RAGBRAI International Blue Bird Bus project

The P.O. removed them, we didn't, so I don't know why they were removed. It was just our idea to put boat speakers in their place. We're not really beer drinking partiers, just thought it would be kinda cool. I figure it will also be handy for tailgaiting as well and you can broadcast the local sports station on there, or we can project satelite TV on a screen on the side of the bus.

It should turn out really nice, easy to clean, but not have all the un-nessecary 'bling' of wood work or granite inside. It's been suggested to take out the carpeting and put in laminate wood flooring and run a carpet runner with rubber backing down the middle. I'm thinking of putting some rope light in down low to light up the floor at night. Will probably also tint the side windows and back door.

One problem I have is that the shower is mounted behind the right side wheel well and typically the clean-outs are on the driver's side. The in floor A/C is what you see hanging down from in front of the driver's side wheel well. I plan on putting the toilet behind the shower, I guess I can run the plumbing over to the passenger side, I'd planned on just mounting the grey water tank under the shower and having it dump straight in, then mounting the black water tank behind it, but maybe I mount it opposite of the shower and leave the black water tank on that side? I could either flush them seperately or plumb it up to make the grey water go thru the black water couldn't I? I was thinking of putting the fresh water tank either in between or behind the tanks between the frame rails. I'm also considering putting some PVC pipes under the sides of the roof deck to hold additional fresh water. I wouldn't use it for traveling down the road as I wouldn't want the water weight overhead. Now traveling between towns on RAGBRAI would be okay I think, but traveling from Oklahoma to Iowa....

Speaking of which, I went to a International dealership in Tulsa to ask them about extending the rear framerails and what can I do to increase the highway speed to above 55 mph for traveling to Iowa, ideally 65-70mph. I was told that probably the cheapest way is to change the gears in the rearend, but then it's still about a $1500 deal. And you have to add/replace a box for the speedometer to show correctly. I was wondering if I could put a 2-speed tranny/transfer case behind the automatic transmission and shorten the driveshaft to get more speed out of it, really only for the highway. Anybody try this?

Another idea would be to change out the rear axle with maybe a two speed rear end and put air bags on the rear suspension, which should improve the ride I'd think.
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Old 08-03-2008, 10:17 AM   #5
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Location: downriver, detroit mi
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Re: Newbie with RAGBRAI International Blue Bird Bus project

nice bus

I think your change to a 2 speed rear axle is a good idea, find out what your current axle ratio is and then shop for a used axle with that gear as the low set and something 20 or 25% higher for the highway gears, with luck you might find an axle with an airride setup on it that would be a bolt-in swap. Air for the airride can be supplied by a 12v compressor likethey used on the Uhaul/International trucks.
good luck
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