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Old 07-18-2011, 04:52 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Year: 1999
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1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Well after reading for quite some time I decided to take the plunge and looked around for a bus to convert.
Being here in Hawaii is a real eye opener; the DMW and powers to be are very very anti "RV"..
I found a bus for $1,000.00 and had to put tires on it; WOW 225/70R/19.50 are not cheap.
Registration is costing $700.00 per year.
I did eventually figured out the merry go round system here and went to the DOT and got a permit under HRS 286-207 part 9. Means it will only be used for personal ( hauling family ) use and never for commercial use. I now don't have to deal with the DOT " commercial " safety inspection. BUT still have to pay the commercial registration.. Told you they hate "RV's" here.
The bus is built like a tank with steel roll cage in it and skin is Aluminum NOT fiberglass. Floor is 3/4" water resistant treated wood and insulation; rock solid and no squeaks. The bus has TWO AC units - front and Rear separate. It has Two AC compressors mounted to the engine.
The engine is a 1999 Chevy 7.4 liter or 454CID Big Block fuel injected with a 4L80E trans. Four wheel disk brakes and more..
The AC needs a charge and I am thinking of using Propane to test it ( propane is listed under refrigerant # R290 ); yes I will have a hose and multiple fire extinguishers present during the testing.. Reason is 134A prices have gotten in the stupid range - 300.00 and more for a 30lb jug. System tests out okay and if any leaks and fix them; THEN I'll evac and recharge with 134A..
The other issue is the bus doors; they use an electric linear actuator. After trouble shooting it the polarity is not reversing allowing the doors to open; they will close from the open when I use a jump pack to run the motor directly; but again the polarity won't reverse. I looked for a relay and found ALLOT of then in a box under the passenger window across from the drivers seat in line with the dog house cover. I originally thought the box was a heater due to the large wire grill across the top; nope when I pulled the cover off it looked like something from the space shuttle; 50-60 relays; same for LED's and more on a PC board. I found a remote relay item that I can use a key fob to open and close the doors by remote control. I sent an e mail to the bus manufacturer; yet to get a response. I don't get one soon I will have to pull the dash apart to get the door control switch out and hook a buzz box to leads to figure out the door control circuit and make my own circuit.
I will be getting a camera and start to take and upload pictures as to what is going on. I have included links to a video and web page describing the exact same bus I have.
http://www.arcolabus.com/commercialbuse ... /escortfe/
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:22 PM   #2
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

that is really different! very neat! wonder what that would cost to get shipped to the mainland though..
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:39 PM   #3
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

I installed my own linear accuator -I just use a regular 2way switch (press left opens-press right closes-neutral in the middle). I'm sure you can run the power from the switch to a relay for each direction.
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:33 PM   #4
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

hey thanks for the great responses. Just stopped by for a heads up.
WOW take about getting things positioned and setup - like a military action with all the "logistics" involved.
I also forgot to mention I took this critter on the highway. OMG - at 2600 rpm's it cruising at 65mph and I took it to 90mph for a short burst. RPM'S were at 4600.
One poster mentioned shipping to the mainland - I don't know at this time, BUT there is a company called PASHA Hawaii that is based here with a really cool transport ship. I thought when I retire of shipping this to the mainland. But of course I expect the bus to go kicking and screaming onto the boat.. WHAT leave HAWAII?
I am working on a floor plan now and my friends thought I was nuts when I told then the bed platform is going to be 3-3.5 feet high; told then the space is going to be used for storage. I figured the "bedroom" takes almost 1/3 of the buses floor area and why not be efficient. I am also debating on using a 7 cubic foot freeze chest type and used a temp control to run it as a refer?
I have ordered items - ALLOT of an online auction web site sellers I have learned are a real pain in the butt. One refused to honor the auction and doubled the shipping; then all of a sudden claimed a hand saw fell and broke? THE BATHTUB.. Asked for a picture and they refused. Grrr. So I am thinking of either finding a stainless steel sink - large single one to make as a shower pan and use FRB as the sides.
I am also thinking if possible the mount the "sink" into the bus floor if there is room underneath and save some head room - I'm 6-2". As for power. I have a 7000 watt genset and I can get 8D batteries for 130.00 new. I thought about 4 of them? Hooked in parallel it should give me a reserve of 1600amps and cranking if I need it at 6000 amps.
I am looking around for a RV AC to DC converter with battery charger.
I am figuring on making most of everything run on a 12v circuit due to inverters using ALLOT of AMPS when running. Computer no problem; there are dc to dc power supplies for them.
The LCD TV I am considering opening up and hooking my meter to the output and see what the voltage is and running a kilawatt on it to see what the draw is. Then finding a regulated dc to dc voltage regulator and wire that in after the ac power supply?
I have read and seen allot of ways of wiring and I am considering using heavy grade color coded contractors 10 gauge extension cords? Orange 110v/green12v. etc..
Anything I can't run on 12v I'll use an inverter for that item.
Bus interior lighting will be LED, again to save power and they will last a long time.
I am thinking out loud and making a big list. I am trying to avoid mistakes that ill cost money and time and I am going to "steal" great ideas from you posters here on this fantastic web site.
Aloha and have a great day or night.
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Old 07-20-2011, 12:06 AM   #5
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

You already are stealing a few of mine! I use an orange ext. cord to run to an external plug under the bus. Cut the ends (or in my case one end-the male plugs a power strip-then inverter) + wired it in to the waterproof external outlet. Good grade wire-and good insulation.
And I have led lights all through the bus-they draw next to nothing.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:41 AM   #6
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Bullwacker

I have a bus very similar to yours. Mine is a 1998 Escort FE that I bought 2 years ago. Mine is a former paratransit bus that had the wheelchair lift removed when I bought it. I bought it on ebay for $3000 with fairly new paint and newer tires. I left mine registered commercial since I use mine for my business (I converted it into a mobile woodshop and offer woodworking classes for children). My California registration is $452 per year and now I have to have a biennial smog inspection. I also have the dual A/C's and mine were not working when I bought the bus. I ended up spending another $3000 to rebuild both A/C's (both compressors, two lines and all four fans on the condensor for the rear A/C). I just wish I could find the service manual so I could do some work on the electrical system.
Anyway as you work on your bus I would be happy to share any info that I learn and hope you would want to do the same.

Oh by the way I intentionally bought a gas engine since any diesel bus commericially registered build prior to 2009 has to be retrofitted with a particulate filter that costs anywhere from $12-20,000

Stephan Willner
www.willieswoodshop.com
Galt, CA
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Old 07-22-2011, 05:17 AM   #7
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Thanks Penguin will do that most definitely.
I also went with the gas engine about the same reasons as you do; but parts for this engine are all over compared to a diesel; I like diesel BUT they cost way way more to fix.
I still Have not gotten a response back from ElDorado and will be making a call to them?
I am learning already I can not even start building any cabinets until I have ALL the appliances there to measure them.
The biggest thing that has brought almost everything to a screeching halt is dealing with sellers on an online auction - WOW... I send money ALLOT of money and their "free" shipping is not really free despite my carefully checking their auction information. So now I am trying to get $1,000.00 back from multiple sellers. I have now decided to Make the shower pan out of fiberglass and will have to make the positive mold for it. More routing and sanding to come just to lay a jell coat and glass mat.. Once the base is made I'll make the surround out of FRB and seal it.
I have looked for a drivers mirror but can't find one so guess I'll have to go to a glass supplier and get some and make it.
AC is acting like a Frankenstein and debating either pull the whole thing out and use the condenser box on the drivers side to hold my 4 8D batteries.
I am looking for sliding windows for this critter? It gets really hot inside. The roof is well insulated but the windows let it all in.
The bus is built on a Chevy P30 frame and I am wondering will a trailer hitch for this van fit on the bus?
I've got the stove top - 3 burner, Two 23 gallon tanks - gray water and poop tank in. 4.5 cubic GE reefer, 30 gallon fresh water tank and .9 cubic microwave
Anyone have items they want to sell let me know and I am interested.
Our better halves; they do the most interesting things
While we were removing the seats I showed her very carefully what was to be done on how to put the box end of the wrench on the bolt head and where to brace it against the seat leg AND make sure your fingers were not between them. So I got back under the bus, put the air wrench on the bolt and yelled you ready; she replied yes; I said okay firing air wrench. Brrriiiipppp SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM..... From inside of the bus from her. So I fly out from under it, my head makes contact with an immovable part of the bus, I am seeing stars and wobbling around and ask what? what?... She cries the wrench is eating her dress??? I look at her with watering eyes and saw she had done the EXACT opposite from what I had shown her to do with the wrench. It had spun around and wound up her dress like you wring out a towel. Now I had to take her out to dinner after buying her a new dress. I wonder??
I am compiling pictures and getting them in order and will start posting them in a few weeks.
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Old 07-22-2011, 11:46 AM   #8
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

lol yes, the better half usually gets the better half wrong. at least you didnt do serious harm! (to either person lol)
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:35 PM   #9
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

ElDorado answered the phone.
I was able to get wiring diagrams if anyone needs them in pdf format.
I would just post it here and don't know how?
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Old 07-28-2011, 11:30 PM   #10
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

You have had more luck communicating with El Dorado than I have. If you would could you email the electrical diagram .pdf's to swillner@sbcglobal.net

Thanks

Stephan Willner
"Penguin"
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Old 07-29-2011, 07:52 AM   #11
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

info sent about the wiring diagrams.
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Old 09-04-2011, 07:02 AM   #12
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Hi, Sorry for the delay. Work kicked me out of state for a while and I bbbaaaccckkk.
The wife was giving me the stink eye from the large pile of goodies that arrived while I was gone - WOW like Christmas all over and early too.
I got the seats out this weekend - neighbors thought a tire shop opened for business next door with all the compressor and air wrench noises; BUT love those high torque air wrenches. If it won't unscrew it shears them off.
They are really cool about it though and keep watching what goes on.

I swear I thought I had cleaned the bus out really good from the junk from the previous owner:

But I had to put on a dust mask from the flour like dust being raised. Also a very good Idea to use knee protectors. With them on you can crawl around like a crab running from a pot on your knees and that protruding bolt won't poke holes in your knees.

I lost the light and light on cell phone camera didn't work well so here's some bad pictures of the cleaned out insides:

I have my priorities straight; the new GE frig on the right all stocked up with beer; I hope the wife doesn't find it LoL.
BUT it makes a good bribes for friends to come over to help; I have to remember to lock the frig first though.


Here is some pictures where I bought the bus from the previous owner - it had sat for five years.
I thought I would get tetanus just looking at it; but the bus grew on me.





What I have also found out the Chevy P30 chassis is used on allot of motor homes like the 1995 Winnebago.



7.4 Liter or 454 Big Block Fuel Injected Chevy Motor. In the left upper you can see it has not one but two AC compressors - one for the front and one for the rear of the bus.



I am looking at installing Solar cells on the roof and want as much wattage I can get. The Thin film ones are great; peal and stick but the bus is too short for the six 134 watt ea I wanted. they are 15 plus feet long and 16'' wide. The store bough solar panels in the 230 watt range are stupid expensive and I bought 200 4 watt 6x6 cells from ebay. That should give me 600-80o watts output. I do electronics and plan to assemble the panels. I returned the 8D batteries after I found out they weren't a good choice and went with 6 volt deep cycle golf cart batteries. I am going to start out with six and see what happens; maybe go to 8 or ten. I bought a MSW inverter rated at 2000-2500 continuous watts and surge to 5000 watts and will be thrashing it under a load from an AC unit to see what happens. The thing was a little over $100.00 and will see if it holds up; if it does I plan on buying another and setting them up in parallel; run one one one circuit and another on another circuit. I am working to run as much as everything I can on 12v and use the inverters when I have no choice. 12v appliances are stupid expensive. I found out an inverter will pull at a minimum of 90 amps per 1000 watts output.
In the plans is to make a pedestal on the right side of the doghouse for the co-pilot, using one of the removed bus seats with seat belts and looking at extending the frame in back out about 4-5 feet for a cargo deck; to carry my motorcycle and two 100lb propane tanks and gen-set 6000/7000 ( already have that for running the house for power outages ).
I kinda wish the bus had been about ten feet longer but at $1,000.00 price I got a deal. I got all to stupid wangling done with the DOT for a commercial exemption on the bus and have the permit for that, insurance and registration- the nice lady at the DMV wasn't really nice and despite the exemption stated I still had to pay the commercial registration on the bus 700.00.I asked where it stated that in the law and she refused to show me ( I haven't given up; wrote a letter to the Director of the DMV for the statues ) That was a Friday; the following Monday the new Gov. ( I didn't vote for that ahole) raised the weight tax by 100% so next year the reg. will be double at a minimum. Yea they know how to fix the economy-NOT..
Everybodies registration about doubled. Weight tax went from 1.25 @ Lb. to 2.25 @ Lb.
Tomorrow I back at it breaking things so I can build things.
Aloha
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:05 PM   #13
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

I haven't been able to do much on the bus for the past few weeks. Had an accident and right foot is busted. Doc says NO WEIGHT ON IT. I hope it heals; if not they are gonna slice and dice and drill to put pins in it.
The bus is full of goodies just waiting to be installed; but can't at this time.
NOW the landlord is starting to gripe about the bus even though everything is nice and neat; nothing strewing around the outside of it.
I'll try doing some things where I can sit there and work.
Maybe assemble all those 1KW worth of 6x6 4 watt solar cells I bought into panels.
Assemble them into 72 cells per panel; makes about four panels at around 1KW rating.
Realistically I expect an average of around 800 watts per day where I am or more..
I was looking at Dows slygard and WOW it is expensive.
There is a similar product and not much cheaper either.
I am reading on people using marine 300 as an encapsulate for the cells on the panel?
Epoxy Resin that is clear and UV resistant. Way cheaper than the silicone mentioned.
There is a laminate process that uses a film called EVA; BUT that is also expensive for some reason.
THAT uses a vacuum oven, etc.
I thought to make an air tight solar oven big enough to hold a panel and use an AC vacuum pump which I have to pull the air out and let it cook to the laminates adhesion temp with a flat weight on the film over the cells then a backing on the cells.You would have to sandwich the cell array between the EVA and set it down then the weight on them - very careful though cells are as fragile as light bulbs.. I've seen people doing it on youtube and will make a test panel to see what happens.
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Old 11-01-2011, 11:12 PM   #14
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

I just bought a 1997 Chevy Escort FE Bus and would love it if you could shoot me the wiring diagram for this bus. Thanks so much!

Gary McFarland
mykeljordan@gmail.com
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Old 12-19-2011, 08:51 AM   #15
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Re: 1999 Chevy Escort FE Bus Conversion

Well still have the cast on my foot and leg; x-rays show fracture worse and Doc. still messing around. HMO's screw around and won't fix a problem while it is small and will maybe finally fix it when it is way way worse.
So with the wife as a helper I did a check as previously mentioned on the buses AC system. Pump it down to 30Hg vacuum for an hour to boil out any water.
Charged it with a test charge of R290 ( propane ). Yes took precautions with a number of fire extinguishers present and a charged water hose; nothing happened. What blew my mind was the AC compressor ran way more quiet; Hssss and not that 134a growl you get. The head pressure was way lower and it blew like a freezer.
There is allot of controversy over using HC - propane and similar types of refrigerants and HF or HFC's. As for 134a when exposed to heat like on an exhaust manifold it breaks down into some very very bad gas. Lethal type of gas.
The refrigerant Freeze12 and other similar types are in reality "purified" PROPANE and or Propane Butane mix.. Read up on it.
The system will be recharged with 134a to be "legal". Propane has almost ZERO greenhouse effect and is used by ALLOT of countries for refrigerant gas R290.
I know all the arguments about "propane" flammability and "explosive" nature 134a will also do that. You will get that when combined with air. As for me and me only using 12-16 ounces compared to the many many gallons of gasoline in a tank in my bus doesn't scare me.
it mixed with the pag oil and I had no problems.
If it is ever used in vehicle in the USA I would see a propane leak detector in the vehicles passenger compartment; propane is heavier than air and will seek the lowest point to collect.
My opinion is EPA and politics. 134a a 30lb jug now costs in the region of $300.00 when about two years ago it was 90-100. DuPont is the sole patent holder of 134A.
You have to construct a 100 million dollar plant to make 134A. Propane nada zip on plant construction.
I am aware this is getting off topic some what; but I am mentioning what I did and I AM IN NO WAY TELLING YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME.
I did this due to the very high cost of 134A and used an "alternative" R290 just to test my AC for leaks - found a bad hose and replaced it. Got the system all tight and pumped it back down and charged with 134A.
I have decided to keep the buses AC; two separate systems and use it while driving. The thing blows an incredible amount of cold air from the back unit. Factory lists 32,000BTU or at 70,000BTU unit and I think I got the 70,000BTU unit. I will still install a "window" unit in the back center window to use while parked.
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Old 02-21-2018, 03:22 PM   #16
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Location: Texas
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thor
Chassis: ElDorado National FE
Engine: Vortec 454 V8
I realize this is an old thread, but I just bought a rare short 21' 1999 model FE! Any manuals or wiring diagrams you guys could share with me would be amazing! I'm going to try to post pictures in this reply and would love to see an update of y'all's buses. It has some kind of rectifier that goes from 12 to 40 volts and have no idea what it's for, and idea?
Thanks so much!
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Old 02-21-2018, 03:34 PM   #17
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Dude, that thread is 7 years old...
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Old 02-21-2018, 07:57 PM   #18
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Galt, CA
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Year: 1998
Coachwork: El Dorado Escort FE
Chassis: Chevrolet P30
Engine: 454 Chevrolet
Rated Cap: 20
I have a very similar bus. It is a 1998 and a little longer than yours. I am having a new engine put in right now and the shop has my service manuals with the bus. When I get the bus back at the end of the week. I will share the electrical wiring diagrams with you.

Stephan Willner
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Old 02-22-2018, 06:44 PM   #19
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thor
Chassis: ElDorado National FE
Engine: Vortec 454 V8
Thank you so very much, penguin/ Stephan! That would be wonderful. I'm in a bind, it broke down while trying to drive home and has electrical issues. It also has 220k miles, so wondering if I need to toss in a new engine too. What caused you to have to put in a new engine, what's going to be the cost, same 454, how's the transmission, etc.?
Thanks!
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Old 02-22-2018, 10:57 PM   #20
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Location: Motor City
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I just rescued a 1999 P32 Chevrolet based motorhome for my sister. Researched the common failures quite a bit before we left to go get it (900 miles one way). In this case it was a bad crank sensor, a known issue with these motors. What happened to yours?
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