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Old 04-19-2020, 12:32 PM   #1
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Rosa- 2003 E450 Girardin

I never meant to write this thread. In December I was 2 years into a relationship with another bus. All the hard work was done- painted, interior stripped, insulated subfloor in, spray foam & T&G pine ceiling, new entry door, A/C relocation. Just getting to the fun part when someone here posted a link to a bus auction in Santa Rosa, CA. Never hurts to look... The bus company had about 10 of these cutaway busses up for auction in early January. If I got a good deal on one or two I could float a lot of improvements on my 98 Vista conversion.

Auction day came and I put in a bid on this one. Lowest miles in the fleet, A/C, good tires. The bidding started and for some reason, only a few bids came in on this one and it closed while all the others kept running up. I came out on top for $1800. Sweet! I confessed at dinner that night and my wife about choked- good thing I didn't buy two

Details: 2003 Ford E450 Dually
183,000 miles
7.3 Powerstroke
Body:Girardin Microbird in Canada- All aluminum body panels
Overall Length: 22'
Interior Height: 7'-3" (I'm 6'-2")
GVWR: 14,000
Empty weight after seats and wheelchair lift removal: 9320 lbs
20200124_095810.jpg
So I picked up a frequent flier ticket to Santa Rosa and flew down in Mid January. Paperwork signed, The bus manager took me out to meet her. He had the lead mechanic come out to explain that the bus had an exhaust regen emissions system and if I was taking the bus home (out of state) he recommended removing the system prior to hitting the road. Otherwise I might get stranded. Oohkay. That wasn't in the plan but I looked up a nearby diesel exhaust shop and they remarkably got me right in.
20200123_131425.jpg
While waiting on the exhaust rebuild in a brewpub nearby I started paging through the 3" stack of maintenance logs. Low and behold they had had engine problems in 2014 and swapped the motor for a Jasper rebuilt 7.3. Since then, they only used the bus as a back-up and it had 12k on the new motor!

My original plan was to hit the DMV for a trip permit. When the exhaust thing went down, I decided to jettison that plan and fly under the radar. As many have said before, you have time to travel when you purchase a vehicle. Also, a yellow school bus is almost invisible. I passed at least 10 cops at close range and never had issues.

Later that night I hit the road for the 1000 miles back to Northern Idaho. Smooth driver. Quiet. Comfortably reached 70mph. Hmm. Climbs hills without loss of power... Remember, this was supposed to come home and land on Craigslist. By the time I got home, I had mostly weighed the pros and cons. Almost the same interior footprint. While I Loved my Thomas Vista- and the ceiling height of 6'-4" converted, this new bus is a highway runner. I had planned on a tranny swap and new tires to be road worthy in the Vista. Neither of these are needed on Rosa. The virtually new motor was the clincher. 12,000 vs. 212,000 on the engine. Decision made, Thomas sold. Onward!
20200125_170244.jpg
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Old 04-19-2020, 01:13 PM   #2
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To validate my decision to keep Rosa, I had my very honest local diesel mechanic do an inspection. The only thing he recommended was to change all the fluids for a fresh start. He had noted a slightly slow response to start so he checked out the glow plug system and found no issues. While there, I had him drop the fuel tank to install a dip tube for a diesel heater. He found one already in place and attached a fuel line to my desired location.

Seats- all 3- removed. Wheelchair lift removed and sold for $200.

Since I was ready to build out my old bus interior, and Rosa has almost the same footprint in the rear, I swung into full gear building interior components in hopes a spring break trip to the Utah desert for mountain biking. I built a couch that pulls out to a double bed, with storage below. I welded up a frame to bolt in 3 seat belts onto the chair rail. Meanwhile, I had an upholsterer sew up some cushions.
20200322_142830.jpg
20200325_125350.jpg
I welded up a queen sized bed frame out of 1 1/4" square tube. This is attached to the rear wall on either side of the door. The bed is installed high to accommodate bikes underneath. I used some extra wheelchair tie down tracks bolted to the wall onto which I made brackets to mount door hinges. My plan is to make the bed adjustable fore and aft so when parked at an angle, I can level the bed instead of the bus.
20200306_172623.jpg
I asked a woodworker friend to help with a cabinet. I had planned to have him cut parts on his table saw and I would build out. I was thinking rustic barn-type wood. Well, one thing led to another- he had time and energy so he ran with it. "Hey- I've got this left over cherry, It won't be any more than any other wood." So we went from rustic barn to modern euro look. And I love it! Now to settle on a countertop. I love the live-edge look but I think it's time to pick a new trend. Also, looking for latches to keep the drawers and doors from flying. The opening at the right fits a Nova Kool 4500 DC fridge a friend sold me for $300.
20200325_125359.jpg
We were an a fast track for spring beak and the cabinet was almost done when...COVID-19 struck. No more spring break. More time for bus build.
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Old 04-19-2020, 02:04 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peakbus View Post
To validate my decision to keep Rosa, I had my very honest local diesel mechanic do an inspection. The only thing he recommended was to change all the fluids for a fresh start. He had noted a slightly slow response to start so he checked out the glow plug system and found no issues. While there, I had him drop the fuel tank to install a dip tube for a diesel heater. He found one already in place and attached a fuel line to my desired location.

Seats- all 3- removed. Wheelchair lift removed and sold for $200.

Since I was ready to build out my old bus interior, and Rosa has almost the same footprint in the rear, I swung into full gear building interior components in hopes a spring break trip to the Utah desert for mountain biking. I built a couch that pulls out to a double bed, with storage below. I welded up a frame to bolt in 3 seat belts onto the chair rail. Meanwhile, I had an upholsterer sew up some cushions.
Attachment 43486
Attachment 43487
I welded up a queen sized bed frame out of 1 1/4" square tube. This is attached to the rear wall on either side of the door. The bed is installed high to accommodate bikes underneath. I used some extra wheelchair tie down tracks bolted to the wall onto which I made brackets to mount door hinges. My plan is to make the bed adjustable fore and aft so when parked at an angle, I can level the bed instead of the bus.
Attachment 43488
I asked a woodworker friend to help with a cabinet. I had planned to have him cut parts on his table saw and I would build out. I was thinking rustic barn-type wood. Well, one thing led to another- he had time and energy so he ran with it. "Hey- I've got this left over cherry, It won't be any more than any other wood." So we went from rustic barn to modern euro look. And I love it! Now to settle on a countertop. I love the live-edge look but I think it's time to pick a new trend. Also, looking for latches to keep the drawers and doors from flying. The opening at the right fits a Nova Kool 4500 DC fridge a friend sold me for $300.
Attachment 43489
We were an a fast track for spring beak and the cabinet was almost done when...COVID-19 struck. No more spring break. More time for bus build.
That’s some damn fine work there all the way around
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Old 04-19-2020, 03:59 PM   #4
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Sweet deal!
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Old 04-23-2020, 08:17 PM   #5
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Year: 2003
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More progress: Last week I finished the install on my Espar S2 diesel heater. I know a lot of people have gone for the Chinese versions but I didn't want to monkey around with reading countless threads on how to coddle them along. I waste too much time already reading skoolie threads. When I hit the road, I want that heat to work. No disrespect to those who have gone that route, I just don't have the patience.
20200417_143938[1].jpg
Now lest you purists think I'm putting nice finishes over the lousy factory interior and insulation, the plan had been to do the furniture install to get away for spring break. Since it was all designed for easy bolt-in and out, I would then remove and do the full gut. Now with the lock-down, here we sit. We pulled out those pieces and I'm going to replace the wet plywood floor and lower walls. Then, once again hope for summer travel, after which the ceiling will come down for that bit of fun. On the way home with the bus, I picked up a Harbor Freight air chisel at a ridiculous price of like $10 and that blew through those aluminum rivets like butter. Out with the wet fiberglass, On with some Oshpho at the bottom of the chair rail in the wall and below some windows. Over all, not a bad amount of rust. My spray foam installer is on board for Monday morning. Ideally I'd have the windows resealed but my Skiaflex 221 is on Amazon Prime slow-mo.
20200419_165853.jpg
20200419_172110.jpg
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Old 04-23-2020, 08:31 PM   #6
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This afternoon, my son and I started removing the wheelchair tie-down rails. The bolts are coming up easier than my old Thomas. Impact driver with a 3/16" hex head on the floor and one person holding the nuts below.
20200202_172044.jpg
We're probably 60 bolts in and I started to wonder what else is holding the body to the frame? There are some rather small fittings at the cross-frame beams, but what is hold the bulk of the floor on? Maybe the chair rail assembly that appears to come down to the frame? Here's a shot of the U-shaped rails where you can see the wheelchair- rail bolts:
20200423_173430.jpg
Here are the little fasteners inside the cross beams:
20200423_173504.jpg
Are there any Girardin bus owner who have some insight? I know the W/C rails aren't in every bus so these are critical, right? Argobus??
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Old 04-23-2020, 08:47 PM   #7
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Nice work. Any chance the '98 Vista might be for sale in the foreseeable future? Or has it already sold? Not my favorite style, and I'm not in a position to make a move just yet, but I'm interested in potential finished conversions that might be up my alley for when I am able to.
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Old 04-23-2020, 09:21 PM   #8
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Thank you. Actually I already sold the Vista. Hated to part with it but this was fate.
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Old 04-30-2020, 09:20 AM   #9
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Hi peakbus, i am in the process of buying a SRW girardin / microbird. have not seen this bus yet and have some question about materials used.


Is the floor aluminum, how about the cross members under the floor?
s the roof a single sheet, aluminum steel or fiberglass.


Thanks a bunch,


Johan
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Old 04-30-2020, 01:20 PM   #10
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Mine is an MB-IV. All the body panels appear to be aluminum with the exception (maybe) of the front and rear end caps. I'm guessing they are fiberglass. The cross members and framing are all steel. The roof is two piece with a seam from front to back. I did read someone here had a shuttle bus model with a plywood floor-no metal below. Here's a shot of the roof and one of the underside.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 15882705704504981149019669837672.jpg (139.7 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg 15882707280563515379125630853602.jpg (106.7 KB, 15 views)
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Old 04-30-2020, 03:55 PM   #11
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Great, thank you, that helps a lot, great pictures. Is each cross member attached to the framing? welded or riveted? How is the floor attached to the cross members. In your under body cross member picture it looks like there is a small space between the floor and the cross member?


Thanks again

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Old 05-01-2020, 11:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Great, thank you, that helps a lot, great pictures. Is each cross member attached to the framing? welded or riveted? How is the floor attached to the cross members. In your under body cross member picture it looks like there is a small space between the floor and the cross member?


Thanks again

Johan
HI Johan,
Sorry for the slow reply. Work gets in the way of fun too often. At least I've got work right now... I took another look under the bus. The cross members appear to be bolted to the chassis frame with rubber cushions between. The floors are riveted to the cross members. The space you saw was just shadow- there is a steel connector, or maybe part of the cross members.
I just read your umimog thread. Cool stuff!
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File Type: jpg IMG_20200501_081920.jpg (115.0 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_20200501_081913.jpg (122.9 KB, 9 views)
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Old 05-01-2020, 11:45 PM   #13
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Thank you again, with your help I just paid for a microbird mb-ii that has engine and rust issues. Will see how it all works out.


Man your bus looks amazing .


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Old 05-01-2020, 11:53 PM   #14
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Floor removal

Yesterday and today I got the floors torn out. If anyone debates doing so, just do it! It sucks, but my plywood was wet. There was literally water on the metal below and the plywood was moldy. Mostly along the wall from window & door leaks. Luckily, with the body being aluminum, there was little rust. Just the chair rails where they meet the floor and along the base of the wheelchair side door. I think a good wire brushing and Oshpho will take care of it.

The last 4' of wheel chair tracks were a bear to get out because Girardin has a false floor about 5" below the actual floor behind the wheels. I think this may be a barrier between the fuel tank and floor. I had to grind the heads off each bolt because there is no access to the bolt heads below.
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File Type: jpg 20200430_115046.jpg (381.0 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg 20200430_115601.jpg (486.7 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg 20200430_122111.jpg (369.9 KB, 11 views)
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Old 05-02-2020, 09:24 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Thank you again, with your help I just paid for a microbird mb-ii that has engine and rust issues. Will see how it all works out.


Man your bus looks amazing .


Johan
Thanks! I hope it will be amazing once i've finished cleaning up this floor
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Old 05-02-2020, 10:33 AM   #16
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It is nice that you started out with such rust free example. We were not unlucky with our corbeil ( thomas) bus but I still had a huge hole under the driver seat. Here is the link to our built.
https://www.skoolie.net/forums/f27/e...eil-13556.html


I did not pick up the plywood but did some samples with a hole saw. There is ribbed aluminum under our bus so I think water drains out from underneath the plywood. The devil is in the details.


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Old 05-05-2020, 02:10 AM   #17
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With all that water, it is a good thing the floor is aluminum. If it were steel, it would look like Musigenesis' Rusty87 floor.


How does aluminum react to Ospho?
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Old 05-05-2020, 10:15 AM   #18
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I got the floor cleaned up. It's amazing how much aluminum corrodes. Everywhere a screw or bolt passed through the floor, the aluminum is pitted. There are even a couple of holes. Nothing to the point of structural weakness, though I haven't delved into the driver's area yet. Galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals is a big thing on boats, and apparently busses. Aluminum floor+steel bolts+wet plywood.
I applied Oshpho to the galvanized chair rail and will paint the floor and rails with Rystoleum Latex aluminum primer then paint.
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File Type: jpg 20200503_122441.jpg (455.4 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg 20200503_163609.jpg (366.8 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg 20200503_163554.jpg (392.7 KB, 11 views)
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Old 05-05-2020, 10:18 AM   #19
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[QUOTE=How does aluminum react to Ospho?[/QUOTE]

I only used Oshpho on the galvanized chair rail and the rusted plate that the wheelchair lift was bolted to. I don't think it would have done anything to help the aluminum.
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Old 05-05-2020, 04:22 PM   #20
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I only used Oshpho on the galvanized chair rail and the rusted plate that the wheelchair lift was bolted to. I don't think it would have done anything to help the aluminum.
I was curious if you had overspray or tried it on the aluminum. Not to help it, but to see if it reacts. Aluminum is great in that when it oxidizes, it forms an oxygen barrier which stops the corrosion. However, electrolysis is an entirely different matter.
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