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Old 01-19-2024, 06:47 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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Coachwork: Thomas Built Buses
Chassis: Ford E-450 cutaway
Engine: 6.0 Power Stroke diesel
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Thomas Minotour Build

Started work on the Thomas, now time to start a build thread... ;>)

My plan is to build a comfortable for two for adventure platform for weekends, weeks, eventually month(s) in the Southwest.... We've rented a couple small RVs over the last two years so we have an idea of what works for us.

Started back in October of 23, so a few posts to catch up!
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Old 01-19-2024, 06:59 AM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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The usual starting point... Seats and skins

Little of this was easy, but it's not hard, just a PITA. It's a project.

The chair rail side is easy, but the other side of the seats are bolted through the floor decking and the builder used LONG bolts and they're covered in either undercoating, rust, or both. So both a deep socket, two people or an upper vise-grip, and lots of patience. I got a few off this way, but in the end if was just a lot faster to grind/cut off the heads.

Thomas builds their busses with a lot of sheet-metal screws. I'm going to weigh count them someday, but I have to be past 1000 screws so far. #2 square head, so they generally come right out.
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Old 01-19-2024, 10:36 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaHare View Post
Little of this was easy, but it's not hard, just a PITA. It's a project.

The chair rail side is easy, but the other side of the seats are bolted through the floor decking and the builder used LONG bolts and they're covered in either undercoating, rust, or both. So both a deep socket, two people or an upper vise-grip, and lots of patience. I got a few off this way, but in the end if was just a lot faster to grind/cut off the heads.

Thomas builds their busses with a lot of sheet-metal screws. I'm going to weigh count them someday, but I have to be past 1000 screws so far. #2 square head, so they generally come right out.
Good progress! I like Thomas for their use of screws instead of rivets. I've had to cut off a few screws but most of them have backed out with with an impact wrench and philips driver. Some of the screws work better with a #3 philips, others use #2.

I didn't even bother trying to unbolt my seats but I bought an Ohio bus.
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Old 01-19-2024, 12:19 PM   #4
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I hear you on the screws. My Blue Bird was rivets only...nearly 600 holding the seat rails to the floor - fortunately I did not have to deal with the seats being bolted through the bus floor though. I didn't even count the number holding the side wall and ceiling panels in place, but those were spaced about every 2" or so...
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Old 01-19-2024, 02:10 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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Coachwork: Thomas Built Buses
Chassis: Ford E-450 cutaway
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Floor Battles

My Thomas had positions for 4 wheelchairs which required some serious restraints. The floor fixtures are routed/recessed into the plywood subfloor, and used socket head flat head bolts. Forget about getting these out by unscrewing - the hexes are rusted and the bolts are too underneath.

After trying every prying method I had to get access to grind the bolts, I finally came up with this: I sawed off one side of the aluminum receiver and that allowed me to get a cut-off blade underneath. 4 bolts per receiver, 4 receivers per chair position, plus the end caps on each. Methodical, slow, but effective.
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Old 01-19-2024, 07:09 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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Last floor issue - removing the lift

Big and heavy, easy to remove by grinding the heads off.

There wasn't much connected to mine except the #6 power wire from the power distribution stud under the hood, and the corresponding chassis ground wire. All controls are local and self-contained. The power interlocks are elsewhere and not connected to the thing itself. I ran it a few times for fun, and then out it goes.

And with that the floor is open!
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Old 01-19-2024, 07:18 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Winter Quarters

I've got some very nice friends who have an old riding arena on their property. It's ambient temperature, which was 15 when this was taken, but out of the wind and snow. ;>)
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Old 01-19-2024, 08:03 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Where I'm headed with this....

I've been doing a lot of sketching and as things start coming together I commit them to Fusion360. My background is Engineering - my first job out of High School was drafting - I love this stuff.

I've been obsessing about a trolley roof for a couple years. I think it's easier than a full roof raise, and IMO looks prettier. There are basically no other examples, so I'm either doing something stupid, unpopular, or new. Time will tell.

This is a the layout that works for my GF and I. We love the dinette for eating across from each other and planning the next day's adventures. Queen sized bed - 100% must have. A functional shower/bathroom shown here about 44" x 32". The space in front of the sink will mount a Ford passenger seat facing forward.

Two 30 gallon water tanks under the bed over the axles, black and grey water nestled between the floor ribs, and I'm adding in a slide out battery tray. 12 gallon propane tank is HW and cooking; heat will be a higher end Chinese diesel heater.

Starting to rough out the electrical showing two LiFePo batteries and about 10,000W of power. I think it may be too much already but still tuning the power budget. The biggest power consumer is presently an espresso machine, but I haven't placed AC in it yet...

Now just to build it. ;>)
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Old 01-20-2024, 09:39 AM   #9
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Coming along nicely! Keep it up! And the Pics coming!
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Old 01-21-2024, 07:36 AM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Chassis: Ford E-450 cutaway
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Lower panels and rust preventative

I'm lucky - my Thomas is remarkably unrusty for a northeastern (Pennsylvania) bus. The floor decking is still shiny pretty much everywhere.
But I had some rust underneath a couple windows, and needed to see what was going on.

Thomas does some nice metal work with the under-window panels, but it makes them hard to remove. The upper panels (above the chair rail) are screwed to the ribs and the chair rail on the inside, but are also bent, go under the window, and are clamped down/screwed by the outer rub rail. I had to remove the outer black rub rail to remove them.

The lower panels (below the chair rail) are also screwed to the ribs and chair rail, and are also bent and screwed down to both the floor pan and the outer skins. Both panels (and the insulation behind) must be installed from the outside before the skins are attached - no other way.

After some fussing, I just cut them at the floor line and left the lower and outer screws in place.

The water that caused this rust appears to be coming from above, maybe weeping rivet(s) in the skin? New paint should resolve that. I ground out the loose stuff and started putting POR15 down on everything. This is one pint thickish coverage.

I'm going to be slowed down by the weather - I got this down on a 45 degree day, but I'm not going to have one of those again soon. If I need to, I'll run a skirt around the bus and heat it from below to get the decking up to temperature. I've got plenty to do in the meantime. ;>)
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Old 01-21-2024, 07:45 AM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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Chassis: Ford E-450 cutaway
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Rated Cap: GVWR 14,050
Rear flasher delete

Once it flashed, now it does not.

Also started to rough-in new LED tail lights. I'm replacing all the exterior lights with LEDs, and cleaning up the back end as well. I think the back end lighting looks cluttered and half-baked. Going with three lights across the back each side, and removing all the other stuff. Upper third light later after I sort out the rear door and skins.

At this point, the build thread is up to date with work from November to January. More posts as I actually get things done but it's going to slow down some.
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Old 01-24-2024, 01:14 PM   #12
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ya all the screws on the inside reminds me of a airplane on the outside LOL
awesome job!
its looking great.
enjoy the build.
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Old 01-24-2024, 04:14 PM   #13
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Love the trolley style roof raise idea. I considered that with mine but I have just enough height to stand with an inch to spare.
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Old 01-24-2024, 04:46 PM   #14
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I like the idea of a trolley styled roof raise but, in your drawing, it will still require an actual roof cut and raise otherwise your head would be smashing into the roof hat channel/ribs/framing.

Or,

You could just cut the roof ribs right at the trolley windows and just lift/raise it from there, creating extensions from the cut rib just below the trolley window up to the actual roof rib now under the trolley roof?

How much would that affect roof structural integrity?

Also, before you cut the roof, please make sure insurance is not gonna be issue on a roof raised bus. Census for right now is, it makes getting insurance much more difficult/costly.
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Old 01-24-2024, 05:56 PM   #15
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It would lower it some, but depends on the welding quality and thickness of steal you use. It will lower as you are removing the strength of the arch effect by raising it in that manner.

It could still be pretty strong though if done right. For driving, it would be fine, but if you were ever flipped over on it's top, it may not end well.
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Old 01-24-2024, 07:20 PM   #16
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Looks great. Glad to hear the lift wasn’t to big a deal. I’m about to take mine out in the next few weeks. Keep up the good work.
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Old 01-24-2024, 07:53 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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Chassis: Ford E-450 cutaway
Engine: 6.0 Power Stroke diesel
Rated Cap: GVWR 14,050
I appreciate all your comments - thanks!

Maybe a couple details will clarify the design intent.

First - the front rib (rib1) and the rearmost rib (rib6) are not going to be cut. Primary reason is they are under and support the ends of the fiberglass shells that Thomas uses on the Minotour. In the back, it's over the bed and NBD. In the front, it defines the start of the bus body and is directly over the stair from the cutaway chassis into the Thomas body.

I did not want to deal with modifying the fiberglass. I had a project boat once - if I never grind fiberglass again in my life it will be too soon.

Ribs 2, 3, 4, and 5 are getting cut as shown.

The result is I will be able to step UP into the bus and be standing in the trolley area in front of the shower. Going OUT of the bus, I'll need to be a little more careful with my head. Like the doorframe - AMHIKT.

The geometry of the roof cut is perpendicular to the skin surface. It's a 12" lift, and with the stub ribs as shown, I get a resulting nice angle on the skylight walls, a great place for a drip edge, and an easily replicated geometry fabrication for the stubs.

I've put beams in the form of U-channels on the lower and upper cut ends. The lower ones will weld out to rib1 and rib6, the upper ones will tie into plywood bulkheads (not shown) mounted to the ribs and supporting the raw edges of the roof panels. They also provide riveting surfaces for skins.

It will effect structural integrity, no doubt. I'm not going to attempt to model it with finite element analysis. I don't have the chops or the software license.

That said, I think it's as strong as it needs to be. Thomas famously put a full sized bus on top of a Minotour with a crane. I'm not transporting school children or meeting FMVSS for buses. If I feel it's not good enough when fabricating, I'll add inner liner tubes to the existing channels.

If I roll it, the roof is only one of my concerns.... ;>)

Last piece of fun - the skylights are designed to fit aftermarket VW Samba windows and gaskets. I personally think that's wicked cool.

Insurance is different for the E-series cutaways. Technically, my VIN is an incomplete vehicle. It's 14050 GVWR, so under commercial licensing. Its registered, titled, and insured as a van.

I think that covers the questions?

I've never done exactly this before, many of you have, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.
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Old 01-25-2024, 04:24 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaHare View Post
I appreciate all your comments - thanks!

Maybe a couple details will clarify the design intent.

First - the front rib (rib1) and the rearmost rib (rib6) are not going to be cut. Primary reason is they are under and support the ends of the fiberglass shells that Thomas uses on the Minotour. In the back, it's over the bed and NBD. In the front, it defines the start of the bus body and is directly over the stair from the cutaway chassis into the Thomas body.

I did not want to deal with modifying the fiberglass. I had a project boat once - if I never grind fiberglass again in my life it will be too soon.

Ribs 2, 3, 4, and 5 are getting cut as shown.

The result is I will be able to step UP into the bus and be standing in the trolley area in front of the shower. Going OUT of the bus, I'll need to be a little more careful with my head. Like the doorframe - AMHIKT.

The geometry of the roof cut is perpendicular to the skin surface. It's a 12" lift, and with the stub ribs as shown, I get a resulting nice angle on the skylight walls, a great place for a drip edge, and an easily replicated geometry fabrication for the stubs.

I've put beams in the form of U-channels on the lower and upper cut ends. The lower ones will weld out to rib1 and rib6, the upper ones will tie into plywood bulkheads (not shown) mounted to the ribs and supporting the raw edges of the roof panels. They also provide riveting surfaces for skins.

It will effect structural integrity, no doubt. I'm not going to attempt to model it with finite element analysis. I don't have the chops or the software license.

That said, I think it's as strong as it needs to be. Thomas famously put a full sized bus on top of a Minotour with a crane. I'm not transporting school children or meeting FMVSS for buses. If I feel it's not good enough when fabricating, I'll add inner liner tubes to the existing channels.

If I roll it, the roof is only one of my concerns.... ;>)

Last piece of fun - the skylights are designed to fit aftermarket VW Samba windows and gaskets. I personally think that's wicked cool.

Insurance is different for the E-series cutaways. Technically, my VIN is an incomplete vehicle. It's 14050 GVWR, so under commercial licensing. Its registered, titled, and insured as a van.

I think that covers the questions?

I've never done exactly this before, many of you have, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.



"AMHIKT" ??? Is that an old Egyptian curse? I pretty much got lost after that.
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Old 01-25-2024, 06:00 PM   #19
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Central Tx.
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Year: 1999
Chassis: Amtran / International
Engine: DT466E HT 250HP - Md3060
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaHare View Post
I appreciate all your comments - thanks!

Maybe a couple details will clarify the design intent.

First - the front rib (rib1) and the rearmost rib (rib6) are not going to be cut. Primary reason is they are under and support the ends of the fiberglass shells that Thomas uses on the Minotour. In the back, it's over the bed and NBD. In the front, it defines the start of the bus body and is directly over the stair from the cutaway chassis into the Thomas body.

I did not want to deal with modifying the fiberglass. I had a project boat once - if I never grind fiberglass again in my life it will be too soon.

Ribs 2, 3, 4, and 5 are getting cut as shown.

The result is I will be able to step UP into the bus and be standing in the trolley area in front of the shower. Going OUT of the bus, I'll need to be a little more careful with my head. Like the doorframe - AMHIKT.

The geometry of the roof cut is perpendicular to the skin surface. It's a 12" lift, and with the stub ribs as shown, I get a resulting nice angle on the skylight walls, a great place for a drip edge, and an easily replicated geometry fabrication for the stubs.

I've put beams in the form of U-channels on the lower and upper cut ends. The lower ones will weld out to rib1 and rib6, the upper ones will tie into plywood bulkheads (not shown) mounted to the ribs and supporting the raw edges of the roof panels. They also provide riveting surfaces for skins.

It will effect structural integrity, no doubt. I'm not going to attempt to model it with finite element analysis. I don't have the chops or the software license.

That said, I think it's as strong as it needs to be. Thomas famously put a full sized bus on top of a Minotour with a crane. I'm not transporting school children or meeting FMVSS for buses. If I feel it's not good enough when fabricating, I'll add inner liner tubes to the existing channels.

If I roll it, the roof is only one of my concerns.... ;>)

Last piece of fun - the skylights are designed to fit aftermarket VW Samba windows and gaskets. I personally think that's wicked cool.

Insurance is different for the E-series cutaways. Technically, my VIN is an incomplete vehicle. It's 14050 GVWR, so under commercial licensing. Its registered, titled, and insured as a van.

I think that covers the questions?

I've never done exactly this before, many of you have, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.
I can see you thought this out well!

Congrats!

What design software are you using?

Don't forget to upload some pics when you start the cutting!
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Old 01-25-2024, 08:07 PM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
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Posts: 58
Year: 2008
Coachwork: Thomas Built Buses
Chassis: Ford E-450 cutaway
Engine: 6.0 Power Stroke diesel
Rated Cap: GVWR 14,050
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Originally Posted by kidharris View Post
"AMHIKT" ??? Is that an old Egyptian curse? I pretty much got lost after that.
Sorry for the shorthand - a rhetorical self-depreciating question 'ask me how I know this' ;>)
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