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Old 07-08-2020, 02:18 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Shuttle Bus Trailer Conversion

I picked up a 1999 Ford E450 Shuttle Bus. The plan is to take out the drivetrain and remove the cab, and turn it into a trailer.

I think having the drivetrain married to your home is not a match made in heaven. What to do when you want a divorce after you find that drivetrain has been cheating on you, drinking heavily, won't perform, and making messes everywhere and you've had enough?
If you have a trailer, you can just kick it to the curb and get another tow vehicle.

Here is my idea on the floorplan.
I'd also like to take the door that was the wheelchair lift, and make it a 'fold out' shower, make some doors that open up and form the shower walls and floor.
The other odd idea is to put insulation on the roof on the OUTSIDE, and then cover it with solar panels that have a full polycarbonate covering (as I have flexible solar panels that are raw cells).

Here is a pic of the bus and my proposed floorplan.
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Old 07-08-2020, 03:12 AM   #2
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I like the plan. I haven't seen a cutaway done like this, but I've seen vans done as trailers. There's even a Class A motorhome underway in Tennessee that's going to require one helluva prime mover to get down the road.


A few things to consider:


1. Consider ditching the rear axle and swapping in a straight axle rated for unit. it will be significantly lighter, and you can use a lighter spring pack because it won't be fighting spring windup from the powertrain. It might be better to put dual rear axles under it and lengthen the wheel wells for lots of reasons...


2. You could pick up a lot of storage space (for very light stuff) by extending the nose straight down toward the frame with an external (tapered triangular plan view?) box using the moldless composite method so common in the homebuilt airplane and plans-built car (think Robert Q. Riley) designs. Or make a plywood box, but not too heavy, because:



3. You're going to have to watch your tongue weight very carefully. A dual rear axle with the leading one, or both, forward of the existing one would help with that, as would putting the water and the fridge as far aft as possible. Or make it a fifth wheel.



Seems like a lot of work, though, when an old Airstream (or many other trailers) wouldn't be that much more to buy and would be worth a lot more than the cutaway shell finished...
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Old 07-08-2020, 11:51 AM   #3
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I had previously made a trailer out of a f350 chassis to tow my 34ft catamaran hulls, in that case I removed the rear axle shafts and differential which removed a lot of weight. being full-floating it works just fine without them.
That is the easy button, leave the rest. Replacing it entirely is a lot of work,
but might be worth it, still unsure, I could use it in the tow vehicle I'm building.

The plan was a fifth wheel, so the tongue weight not an issue.

I have looked at older trailers, the issue with almost all is roof leaks, the shuttle solid fiberglass roof won't leak, the trailers with that construction don't sell cheap.

What is a LOT of work is building the house, removing the drivetrain would take maybe 2-3 days, but we will find out!

It has a pretty big fuel tank, was thinking this can be used for grey water? After cleaning it out. The other idea was putting a fresh water tank up high so it feeds the faucet and shower via gravity. No pumps!
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Old 07-10-2020, 05:14 AM   #4
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So here is a good example of the kind of trailer I would buy if I had $5k and was happy with the interior.

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Old 07-10-2020, 09:59 AM   #5
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Placing a water tank "high up" will seriously and negatively affect the center of gravity of the rig making it prone to tipping over. Lots of info on this on the net.
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Old 07-10-2020, 12:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt View Post
Placing a water tank "high up" will seriously and negatively affect the center of gravity of the rig making it prone to tipping over. Lots of info on this on the net.
Jack
They key to adding weight on the roof is having it offset with more weight below, so the 300 lbs of solar panels up there gets 500 lbs of batteries under the floor.
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Old 07-10-2020, 12:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeNimble View Post
They key to adding weight on the roof is having it offset with more weight below, so the 300 lbs of solar panels up there gets 500 lbs of batteries under the floor.
For example, would you think this car would be prone to tipping over, but because it has so much weight on the floor in batteries (it is an EV), it handles BETTER than a normal car as was shown in the X prize tests.

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Old 07-10-2020, 12:54 PM   #8
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I am thinking of doing a 'man cave' themed interior. This might be a bad idea, all the 'beautiful' interiors look like homes with white and dark wood, which I like too, but I'm thinking racer style here, like here is my racetrack bathroom I did. black-white-red and chrome. Is this going to be horrible for an RV?
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Old 07-11-2020, 12:58 AM   #9
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Here is a 35 gallon water tank designed to be put on the roof of a trailer, uv stable. only $105, so not bad. I'd also like to make hot water from the roof too, thinking of running PET tubing under the solar panels to absorb the heat. Don't want the cold water tank to be a hot water tank either, so need to cover/insulate it.
So put this tank right over the wheel axle, and solar behind and front of it, and run the pet under the solar. I know PET is NOT UV stable, so can't be in the sun itself, paint them too?
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Old 07-12-2020, 12:26 AM   #10
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So starting working on the tow vehicle, figure I can't tow the trailer anywhere without it, as my car towing vehicle is not a fifth wheel nor capable of towing a 7,000 lb trailer.

So the plan: put the v10 out of the bus into this 72 GMC 5500, that was originally a 16,000lb box truck. Now I'm making it into a short bed step side fifth wheel hauler. I've been going around in circles for days trying to find replacement options for the 20 inch 6-lug 'widowmaker' wheels and 40 inch tall tires. Was not going to go with the newer 10-lug 22.5 inch wheels $500 each tires no thanks. But with some 35 inch ford f350 8-lug wheels, it looks to fill the wheelwells, no dually, so just 4 wheels. $200 tires and just four of them, much more manageable, and replacements found at most any tire store.
So the 70's 2 ton drivetrain is coming out, a 90's 1 ton is going in.
The yellow one is another guys project, he kept the original "death" wheels.
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Old 07-15-2020, 07:55 PM   #11
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If you make it a 5th wheel I see no reason to change the rear axle, just pull the axle shafts. You could remove the pumpkin to loose some weight and plate over the hole too. Depending on if the axle bearings are greased or lubed from the diff oil it could be run dry(the diff,not the bearings) or might need to be filled enough so that oil goes to the wheel bearings. My rear has oil seals on the axle shaft and the bearings are greased instead of lubed by the diff.

The death wheels are no where near as dangerous as many think. I have changed many of them. As with anything knowing how to do it safely is key. However getting one fixed on the road can be a real problem, so for that reason I changed mine to the tubeless 22.5", and traded to a fellow who wanted the split rims for an antique truck

I do have a short bus I have toyed with the idea of making a trailer to pull with my bus.

One other thought If you retain the original axle how are you going to work the brakes? Most states require brakes over 3000 lbs trailer weight. If you did not do 5th wheel a surge brake could be used. Perhaps there are surge brakes for 5th wheel trailers? I have not heard of any but it is possible. This might be a reason to use a trailer axle. There are dual wheel trailer axles that use 235/75r16 tires. These axles use electric brakes,and could be put in place of the current rear. I think this would be the route I would take.
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Old 07-15-2020, 11:44 PM   #12
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Since I am not putting a dually in the truck, I am leaving the one in the bus.
It has really big disc brakes on it, major stopping power compared to any trailer axles. How to control it is a good question. I suspect there are commercial solutions but cost more than I'd pay for. I will try some diy solutions, in particular I have long wanted to figure out how to use an antilock brake unit to control the brakes, we'll see if that will work.
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Old 07-16-2020, 04:29 AM   #13
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I wonder if the electric over hydraulic brake actuators would work for this?

https://www.etrailer.com/Brake-Actua...e/K71-651.html
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Old 07-16-2020, 04:37 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeNimble View Post
Since I am not putting a dually in the truck, I am leaving the one in the bus.
It has really big disc brakes on it, major stopping power compared to any trailer axles. How to control it is a good question. I suspect there are commercial solutions but cost more than I'd pay for. I will try some diy solutions, in particular I have long wanted to figure out how to use an antilock brake unit to control the brakes, we'll see if that will work.
You might be able to use an electric over hydraulic brake actuator. They're meant to convert surge brakes to electric.

I'm not sure how they work on truck brakes vs trailer specific brakes, but it could be an option.
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Old 07-16-2020, 06:15 AM   #15
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If the truck has air brakes there are air to hydraulic boosters with a master cylinder. The old army deuce and a half trailers use them.
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Old 07-16-2020, 08:24 PM   #16
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Continuing to work on the truck, getting ready to pull the cab off the old chassis. 50 year old bolts don't like to loosen up. This truck had a 305ci V6.

I'm going to see about putting the cab on a 1974 Dodge 1-ton motorhome (B-class) chassis I got for free. I like its compact coil-over IFS, and it has a floor for the truck bed, which I need as I just have the step-side fenders for the chevy. I like the Dodge chassis, Chevy Body, and Ford engine combo here.
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Old 07-19-2020, 12:23 PM   #17
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I came up with the name for the project, The NautiBus as it isn't a bus anymore.
Maybe throw in some nautical theme instead of a 50's diner theme.
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Old 07-19-2020, 03:16 PM   #18
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Now I just realized one could read NautiBus as Naughty Bus instead of Not A Bus. :blush
Maybe NautiaBus better? NautaBus ?
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Old 07-19-2020, 03:51 PM   #19
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Naughty bus is what I thought at first, then thought maybe you meant nautical bus. So the third wins as not a bus.

I like the first !
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Old 07-20-2020, 09:14 AM   #20
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Very cool project! Your old Chevy would be a good candidate for an old 12v Cummins in my opinion! Either way, this is going to be cool when it's finished! Keep the pics and progress coming!!
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