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Old 03-02-2022, 03:55 PM   #1
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La Coronabus: Gillig Phantom Build

Hi all,

This will be the build thread for our Gillig Phantom bus conversion. The bus was purchased after researching many different coach options from school buses, shuttle busses, to transit buses. I wanted a bus with a higher roof height, 40' and 8.5' wide. I settled on a Gillig after researching how well they've done over the years as well as their large fan base, not to mention they are built within an hour of my home. The engine options seemed to be better than their school bus counterparts and getting something pre DEF & EGR makes things much easier to work on. I've got a lot of ideas for this build, but the goal is to keep things simple, practical and well thought out. The plan is for big solar, big battery, all diesel and electricity. I'll try to keep this as updated as possible. Please feel free to comment, question, and enjoy the build. Special thanks and shoutout to the builds that have helped me get to this point. Beginning from this Morning, Gilligan Phantom, and many many more.


The bus:
1997 Gillig Phantom (C20D102N4)
Ex Tri-Delta Transit- Servicing Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, and Costa County Area, California
Retired in 2013 and sold to Tourcoach out of Los Angeles, CA
Detroit Diesel Series 50
Allison B400R

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Old 03-02-2022, 05:46 PM   #2
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Thomas 4 window w/lift
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Will you be able to register it in CA.?
Heard they make it hard, if not impossible, to get any diesel-powered vehicle 10 years and older, registered...
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Old 03-02-2022, 07:58 PM   #3
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The Gillig Phantom is a great build platform. We have 2 of them, with the Series 50 engines, and they are so nice to drive! Well, we actually sold one (on which I'm doing some work before delivery to the customer) and one is up for sale on ebay. But the whole reason I bought them in the first place was because they're such a solid and comfortable build platform for conversion.

The upper "channels" on each side, above the windows, are essentially hollow...except for a thick bundle of wires...so you can remove those if you're going to use them for "HVAC" air distribution. That makes your framing and layout easier.

You might enjoy this...a video of our trip, in a Phantom, to pick up some sheep. And there's a bit of electrical troubleshooting that you might find helpful, too.

https://youtu.be/1KpzkjCq18k
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Old 03-02-2022, 11:13 PM   #4
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Photo dump- From our first day after buying the bus from the charter company to most superficial demo. Will post more as I upload them.



























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Old 03-02-2022, 11:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peteg59 View Post
Will you be able to register it in CA.?
Heard they make it hard, if not impossible, to get any diesel-powered vehicle 10 years and older, registered...
I've heard a little about that, but I thought it was more for commercial use vehicles. Otherwise, I have an AZ drivers liscense and have an address in AZ. I could register it there worst case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rossvtaylor View Post
The Gillig Phantom is a great build platform. We have 2 of them, with the Series 50 engines, and they are so nice to drive! Well, we actually sold one (on which I'm doing some work before delivery to the customer) and one is up for sale on ebay. But the whole reason I bought them in the first place was because they're such a solid and comfortable build platform for conversion.

The upper "channels" on each side, above the windows, are essentially hollow...except for a thick bundle of wires...so you can remove those if you're going to use them for "HVAC" air distribution. That makes your framing and layout easier.

You might enjoy this...a video of our trip, in a Phantom, to pick up some sheep. And there's a bit of electrical troubleshooting that you might find helpful, too.

https://youtu.be/1KpzkjCq18k
I watched a bit of the video and wow, very cute sheep. We had about 10 sheep here on our property at some point. Now we have a llama. Nice bus. Looks to be 35'?

I'll be taking the interior down to the metal studs for insulation and utilities.
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Old 03-03-2022, 01:24 PM   #6
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Photo drop: from the first day we bought the bus to starting to remove the seats











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Old 03-03-2022, 01:27 PM   #7
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A Sunny Day: April 2021





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Old 03-03-2022, 02:15 PM   #8
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I love this era gillig. The windshield was iconic. I’ve always thought low floor busses make great conversion platforms if you don’t need tanks underneath or lots of ground clearance. Although I guess these are technically high floor.. neat busses nonetheless and the best thing is you got the allison trans and not the ZF or voith
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Old 03-03-2022, 03:57 PM   #9
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I've heard a little about that, but I thought it was more for commercial use vehicles.
CARB standards exempt RVs, so as long as you can get the bus registered as such you'll be fine.
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Old 03-03-2022, 05:58 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
CARB standards exempt RVs, so as long as you can get the bus registered as such you'll be fine.
I re-registered my bus last year with a private vehicle registration service (not the DMV) to get the all-important MH on my title. I was told that the DMV is expecting private registration services to expect to see tangible signs of a proper conversion in place, i.e. a bed, bathroom, shower, kitchen, A/C and/or heaters, water tanks, etc. The young woman who took care of me seemed very happy when I drove up in my mostly-converted bus, and she took a few photos for her records (not for the DMV's), and a week or two later I had a new pink slip and registration showing the magic MH as the Body Type. Yeah! Essentially, any conversion must be permanent, so that the bus could never be returned to revenue public service.

When I had tried to renew its annual registration the previous year, I found that CARB had placed a hold on my bus because it was still registered as a BU, and they assume that all BU vehicles are revenue-earning commercial buses for which the smog regulations apply. (The loophole that allowed me to renew its registration has now been closed.) All the RV folk in CA are hoping that the RV exemption is permanent, but who can guarantee that? If CA later decides that 2-strokes like mine are unacceptable, then to AZ or NV I will go.

John
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Old 03-03-2022, 06:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I love this era gillig. The windshield was iconic. I’ve always thought low floor busses make great conversion platforms if you don’t need tanks underneath or lots of ground clearance. Although I guess these are technically high floor.. neat busses nonetheless and the best thing is you got the allison trans and not the ZF or voith
Thank you, yes I love the look of the front windshield and the overall look of the bus in general. It's just a classic 90's design. The plan is for full under-belly storage as I'm more concerned with storage and utility than maximizing ground clearance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
CARB standards exempt RVs, so as long as you can get the bus registered as such you'll be fine.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
I re-registered my bus last year with a private vehicle registration service (not the DMV) to get the all-important MH on my title. I was told that the DMV is expecting private registration services to expect to see tangible signs of a proper conversion in place, i.e. a bed, bathroom, shower, kitchen, A/C and/or heaters, water tanks, etc. The young woman who took care of me seemed very happy when I drove up in my mostly-converted bus, and she took a few photos for her records (not for the DMV's), and a week or two later I had a new pink slip and registration showing the magic MH as the Body Type. Yeah! Essentially, any conversion must be permanent, so that the bus could never be returned to revenue public service.

When I had tried to renew the annual registration the previous year, I found that CARB had placed a hold on my bus because it was still registered as a BU, and they assume that all BU vehicles are revenue-earning commercial buses for which the smog regulations apply. All the RV folk in CA are hoping that the RV exemption is permanent, but who can guarantee that? If CA later decides that 2-strokes like mine are unacceptable, then to AZ or NV I will go.

John
I went the Vermont registration route and got it reg'd as an RV right away. I haven't been driving it enough to concern myself with having it registered in my home state just yet. I will be doing that as soon as I need to take the bus out more regularly. Thanks for the reply.
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Old 03-09-2022, 08:23 AM   #12
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Interesting history on those busses. Gilling up until the late 70's didn't sell transit busses. Wanting to break into that market gillig bought a couple transits from neoplan and started copying them. The first of them are built by neoplan and the gillig made copies came in shortly after. I actually own one of the import truss frame busses. Probably the biggest issue I think people face is the bus being designed for low power low speed city driving. Aside from a 55mph top speed any heavy load driving creates cooling issues. That and the rockwell rearends they use require custom machine work to run highway gears. Either way I could never keep the series 50 cool on any type of incline. In the end every single piece of my drivetrain was replaced with something different.
Not sure how much better the newer models are but they seem to have the same major parts as the old ones.
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Old 03-09-2022, 09:06 AM   #13
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the busses of the same era we ran in Columbus as city busses had no issue running 65.. the units from the mid 80s and older may have been 55 top speed but by 97 speed limits were 65 all over and we had these on express routes runnign the freeways..
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Old 03-09-2022, 10:53 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Form&function View Post
Interesting history on those busses. Gilling up until the late 70's didn't sell transit busses. Wanting to break into that market gillig bought a couple transits from neoplan and started copying them. The first of them are built by neoplan and the gillig made copies came in shortly after. I actually own one of the import truss frame busses. Probably the biggest issue I think people face is the bus being designed for low power low speed city driving. Aside from a 55mph top speed any heavy load driving creates cooling issues. That and the rockwell rearends they use require custom machine work to run highway gears. Either way I could never keep the series 50 cool on any type of incline. In the end every single piece of my drivetrain was replaced with something different.
Not sure how much better the newer models are but they seem to have the same major parts as the old ones.
I figured there was some history between Gillig and Neoplan as their older models look very similar. Regarding the cooling and highway use, I'm pretty certain these are different than the older drivetrains you speak of because while I am currently limited to 55mph by the factory governor, I am in the process of having that removed as well as unlocking 6th gear. I know there is also an option to change out the rear end with something taller, but I don't think that'll be necessary. I've driven the bus up several large inclines for miles and while I was cruising at around 35-40 mph, I never heated up. If this turns out to be an issue, there are ways to mitigate that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
the busses of the same era we ran in Columbus as city busses had no issue running 65.. the units from the mid 80s and older may have been 55 top speed but by 97 speed limits were 65 all over and we had these on express routes running the freeways..
Yea I know these buses had many different combinations and setups for city, highway and suburban use. I really believe the Phantoms are the perfect high floor starting point platform for a build for these reasons. Not overly complicated, higher roofline, wide body options, flat panel siding and all galvanized steel construction which leave opportunity for little to no rust like on my bus.


Thanks for the responses. I have a bunch more updates, I just need to post.
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Old 08-20-2023, 08:29 PM   #15
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Hi, I'm in the process of building a 1996 phantom high floor. Mine has a Cummins m11 and Allison 6 speed with 6 locked up. I have attempted to have 6th unlocked but gillig has not been willing to approve and my mechanic says he needs clearance from Gillig. I hope you don't run into this issue and if you are able to unlock 6th I would love to know who did it! Good luck with your build and if you have any questions I would be happy to help.
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Old 08-21-2023, 07:41 AM   #16
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Hi Sam, I've spoken with Bo at Gillig and he had given me the impression that it's something they would do, although I have yet to receive the approval. There are several local resources I may have to reach out to in order to get a more clear response as I know there are other bus manufacturers that have had b400r's unlocked upon request. Not a huge issue for me currently, but will be in the future.

Do you happen to have build pics of your Phantom? I have to update my thread.
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Old 08-21-2023, 08:28 AM   #17
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Search the forum for 6th unlock, and we took fine you are not alone in this. Charlie Ball on Facebook may be able to help
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Old 08-27-2023, 08:05 PM   #18
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ID:	73596Here are a few recent pics. I'm out of town and will send more when I get home.
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