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Old 12-28-2020, 11:53 PM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 275
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
Dan the 1995 Collins Bantam

So one night me and my wife were eating dinner and she brought up converting a bus. It became clear to me that pinterest had struck again. Originally she wanted to do a real bus, because we had been looking at 40í 5th wheels to tow behind my Ram 3500 but she doesnít like driving either of my 1 ton trucks so I knew I would end up driving anytime we traveled in it. Also I have never been a fan of your shelter and engine being attached because if you lose the engine you often lose both while it is being worked on. I also have an automotive background and wanted something that I could get parts for anywhere and would fit on a lift. We dont want to live in a bus it would merely be for extended trips.I grew up with a 1986 Westy and had a lot of fond memories; but frankly VW has no business making vehicles. Vanagons suck, I still own one but it is too small and is unreliable. I wanted a better westy. Transit 350ís were out when I discovered that you have to remove the rack and pinion in order to drop the transmission pan to service the filter. We loved the sprinters but they are an arm and a leg and mechanically possibly worse than a vanagon. My family shop makes a lot of money on those; we maintain a fleet of them for a customer and the constant electronic and emissions control failures are nuts, even on newer low mileage units. We work on a lot of diesels and the kings of light duty are the 6BT, the T444, and the LBZ. The LBZ isnít nearly as reliable as the first 2 but most of those applications have the Allison 1000 which is a great tranny. The 6BT has the reliability but dodge has no business making trannies and I haven't seen any short busses with 6BTís. The Ford E series chassis With the T444 and the 4R100/E4OD always treated our customers well and I have owned 2 pickups with that combo. So I went ahead and bought a GMC 3500 midbus... it burned in a wildfire so I bought a 1995 Collins Bantam on an E-350 chassis with a 7.3 and a blown E4OD. I will use this thread to document my progress converting it into an RV.
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Old 12-29-2020, 01:44 PM   #2
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Location: Bay area
Posts: 275
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
Update

Picked up the bus from AAMCO in Wichita,KS after having it towed there. $2900.00 later I have a rebuilt transmission with a nationwide warranty. I purchased the torque converter from Hughes it is called the fuel miser I mailed it to the shop and they installed it. Soon I will install a Mag-Hytec deep transmission pan. Drove from Wichita home uneventfully after some tires and a serpentine belt all told I am just under $5000 in.
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Old 12-29-2020, 01:55 PM   #3
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Location: New Hampshire
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Thomas 4 window w/lift
Chassis: G30~Chevy cutaway
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Congrats on the short $$ Collins find!
Wow, that GM bus really got hot. That sux.

Welcome to the site, and post pics of your project/progress...
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Old 12-29-2020, 01:58 PM   #4
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Update 2

Noticed on the trip home lots of play and wear to the steering and suspension. I will address this first. Did ball joints, calipers, rotors and wheel bearings last weekend. I am using Rustoleum Rust Reformer paint to coat everything because it came from Kansas. This era Econoline is hard to do a good alignment on because of the camber sleeves so I added adjustable camber sleeves. These diesel vans have heavy front ends that are really hard on tires so a good alignment helps preserve them by keeping the wear on the tread block level. Calipers and rotors are from Autozone, pads are Wagner Severe Duty, ball joints are Mevotech or TRW reboxed and branded Duralast. Purchased Gabriel HD shocks from Rockauto for $8 Each! They were $51.00 shipped will post pictures once they are installed.
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Old 12-29-2020, 01:59 PM   #5
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I had to buy pads and rotors from autozone to get the deal if anybody beeds duralast gold brake pads for an econoline in the bay area pm me.
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Old 12-29-2020, 02:47 PM   #6
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Total cost is $5500 so far
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Old 12-29-2020, 03:09 PM   #7
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Engine: 5.7/350 Chevy Vortec
Rated Cap: Just me and my "stuff"?
Rebuilt trans., virtually new front end, definitely the best way to start off a skoolie conversion in tackling the mechanical gremlins first.

As far as total cost, you might not want to keep a "running" total as it might start to climb quickly depending on how far you take it, (assuming you hadn't converted the GMC before the fire?)!

Good luck, and keep the pics coming!
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Old 12-29-2020, 03:23 PM   #8
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Wow you are off to a good start and it looks like you have good mechanic ability so I bet you will really enjoy building your bus! Keep going with the progress and congrats on buying a bus!
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Old 12-29-2020, 05:49 PM   #9
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Location: Bay area
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Got 200 square feet of this solid 3/4Ē Peruvian teak flooring For $100 it is beautiful wood but has a horrible gray finish on it so off to the thickness planer this weekend.
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Old 12-31-2020, 06:18 AM   #10
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I’ll be following along. I enjoy seeing others with an automotive background build buses and explain their thought process. I too fall victim to sometimes overthinking my vehicles purchases because of how much time I’ve spent under vehicles. You tend to get a little pickier when you’re the shop, mechanic, and tow company haha.
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Old 12-31-2020, 03:34 PM   #11
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Year: 1995
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Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
Good haul off craigslist today $650.00 all brand new, wasnt going to go this fancy with the power in the bus, was just going to run a fat cable from a big alternator to a lead acid battery bank and an amazon inverter with a little wood stove for heat. I just couldn't pass this stuff up
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Old 12-31-2020, 06:04 PM   #12
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Location: Spanaway, WA
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I love the teak for the floor. I hope once I'm ready for it, I find something similar here further up the left coast I don't have the garage space for a pre-emptive buy, alas.

Shame about the GMC burnt offering there. I hope it was insured? What a way to start out though. Your bus and mine look reasonably similar in size, so I'll be following your fun progress as you forge ahead. I might get some "oh that is an awesome idea" moments, after all.
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Old 01-01-2021, 09:48 PM   #13
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Year: 1995
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Rated Cap: 16?
Help

I now have a 12v propane heater. I was simply going to get an inverter and run all my appliances off of 110v AC HOWEVER all the RVís and sprinter conversions I have looked at are using 12v DC appliances and devices! What gives? Watts are watts and any good inverter will have very little loss, 12 volt wiring will be huge compared to 110 volt wiring. If you are building an RV you want to buy low and sell high, why would you equip it with appliances that cost at least double the money especially when inverters are so cheap now? What am I missing? Should I go 12v or 110v for my fridge, tv, and maybe microwave?
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Old 01-01-2021, 10:07 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ISAF2009 View Post
I now have a 12v propane heater. I was simply going to get an inverter and run all my appliances off of 110v AC HOWEVER all the RVís and sprinter conversions I have looked at are using 12v DC appliances and devices! What gives? Watts are watts and any good inverter will have very little loss, 12 volt wiring will be huge compared to 110 volt wiring. If you are building an RV you want to buy low and sell high, why would you equip it with appliances that cost at least double the money especially when inverters are so cheap now? What am I missing? Should I go 12v or 110v for my fridge, tv, and maybe microwave?
I put in a 12v propane furnace just because I got it from a wrecked camper. (We love the heater so far as my wife used it for over a week while on quarantine.) I bought a used camper fridge that runs on 110v or propane (but also requires a 12v source).

If I did the fridge over again, or a new build, I wouldn't do this fridge. Top reasons are Ive had the fridge going for two camping seasons now and I have yet to run propane line to it. I had to cut two large holes for venting correctly and buy the vents. So far I always have it plugged in at house before we leave and then when we get to campsite or tailgating I'm either plugged in or running generator. Even with it off for a 5 hour trip everything stays cold/frozen in freezer. We just don't open it up. I will eventually run propane to it, but if I did it all over again, I would buy a small appt fridge 110v. (This is just my opinion and not trying to sway you either way)

My tvs and microwave are also 110v. When we travel (so far 5 hr trip is longest for us) I just have a harbor freight invertor and we run blue ray player and tv for kids on house battery.. I would say it all depends on what your plans are... I plan on mounting my generator so we could run rooftop ac at some point for longer summer trips... If I do this, I definitely wouldn't need a 12v or propane fridge.. good luck!
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Old 01-02-2021, 01:18 AM   #15
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Stuff is 12v because the car battery is 12v and alternator is 12v. This doesn't really apply once you have a separate house battery. Not any 12v microwaves (I worked on making one), and the 12v fridges are fairly small and don't have defrost. Or icemakers..
So you will need an inverter for those things. I guess the issue is 12v or 24v or 48v for the DC, 12v gets you more options for stuff, but the 24v is better, and 48v best.
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Old 01-02-2021, 11:00 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeNimble View Post
Stuff is 12v because the car battery is 12v and alternator is 12v. This doesn't really apply once you have a separate house battery. Not any 12v microwaves (I worked on making one), and the 12v fridges are fairly small and don't have defrost. Or icemakers..
So you will need an inverter for those things. I guess the issue is 12v or 24v or 48v for the DC, 12v gets you more options for stuff, but the 24v is better, and 48v best.

There is no best. The optimum choice of system voltage depends on any number of variables specific to a given installation based on the users needs, supplies, already-owned components, & budget. But if there were - for 95% of skoolies - 48V wouldn't be it.
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Old 01-02-2021, 03:12 PM   #17
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 275
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
Fluids time

Coolant and oil, waiting on the diff gasket
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Old 01-02-2021, 03:32 PM   #18
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 275
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
New shocks
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Old 01-02-2021, 03:38 PM   #19
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 275
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
New transmission

Shiny new transmission from aamco wichita
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Old 01-02-2021, 03:38 PM   #20
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Join Date: Dec 2020
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Year: 1995
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Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
Why are my pictures sideways!?!?
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