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Old 04-22-2016, 03:41 PM   #1
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Talking To-be bus owners lost in buslandia

Hey all! My partner and I have been doing our research on buses for a couple of months now. We plan on buying a short bus this summer and getting it winter ready by well,... winter :] Here's what we have i mind:

Bluebird 7.3L diesel short bus (27-30 passenger) anywhere from 1999-2003 model

Ideally, we want to gut it, lay down the floor and frame a bed and wood burning stove between the end of June-August. Doable?

We also are going to install solar to run minimal electricity and a fridge.

We've talked about installing a gray water tank as well as a water tank for a shower but aren't sure if that is a task we can take on (not knowing exactly how extensive the work to make that happen really is). I have friends that weld but i'm not sure how much work they are willing to do without compensation (besides beer and dinner for a lifetime) Honestly, we can live without a shower but my partner is hellbent on a sauna.. anyway. It wold be nice to have SOME running water...

I guess what I am looking for right now from those of you experienced in bus conversion are the following things:

1) What to look for in regard to common issues with this particular kind of bus while shopping for a bus (1999-2003 bluebird 7.3L diesel short bus)

2) Tips for initial gutting of the bus (tools needed and such)

3) Is insulating a good idea? (we plan on making this our primary mobile residence for the winter & will be in cold and snowy areas in the Rockies ski touring, with wood burning stove)

4) Links to forum threads on installation of a bed and storage etc...

And anything else you could throw in! I'm still learning how to navigate this site but i'm sure I will find all of my answers eventually.

Any help is greatly appreciate!!!

Best,
Erica
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Old 04-22-2016, 05:29 PM   #2
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An IHC chassis is a good choice but don't limit yourself to just the 7.3L/T444(E). I have seen some IHC chassis buses of that vintage that had the DT360(A) and the DT466. Any of those engines would be a great choice with the DT466 being the best choice.

Unless there is something about the Blue Bird body you really like I would also not limit your choice to just the Blue Bird. Thomas and AmTrans/IC make great bus bodies as well.

I would also not limit the model year either. Older than 1995 will be for the most part non-electronically controlled which does have some advantages.

Whichever bus you do choose, make sure there is not rust. Surface rust is okay but any cancerous rust is the gift that just keeps on giving and giving.
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Old 04-22-2016, 06:37 PM   #3
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As far as running water, if i figured it out...i'm sure anyone can!
You'll need a place to store it (i have a 33gal tank which will go under the bed frame/storage area), rudimentary plumbing, pumping (some ppl use foot action to avoid power usage, i have a self-priming/pressure auto shut-off DC pump), outlet basin of some sort, collection unit/grey water tank. And i'm not going to do any pvc in/out the steel body, all tubing plumbing will be hidden by cabinetry.
I'm sure more peeps will chime in soon
A sauna? i wanna see that!

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Old 04-24-2016, 04:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
An IHC chassis is a good choice but don't limit yourself to just the 7.3L/T444(E). I have seen some IHC chassis buses of that vintage that had the DT360(A) and the DT466. Any of those engines would be a great choice with the DT466 being the best choice.

Unless there is something about the Blue Bird body you really like I would also not limit your choice to just the Blue Bird. Thomas and AmTrans/IC make great bus bodies as well.
Thanks for the tips! I was pointed in the direction of the bluebird and those specific years based off of the reliability and power of its engine. Looking for a bus that won't struggle on steep inclines and can handle dirt roads... Like, wildwest dirt roads. We do a lot of our work and exploring off the beaten path (back country skiing, canyoneering, climbing etc..) and we want to make sure we are getting a bus with power to handle that. Do you think the DT466 would be a good fit for us?

I will definitely look into the Thomas and AmTrans/IC too!

Thanks!
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:05 PM   #5
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As far as running water, if i figured it out...i'm sure anyone can!
You'll need a place to store it (i have a 33gal tank which will go under the bed frame/storage area), rudimentary plumbing, pumping (some ppl use foot action to avoid power usage, i have a self-priming/pressure auto shut-off DC pump), outlet basin of some sort, collection unit/grey water tank. And i'm not going to do any pvc in/out the steel body, all tubing plumbing will be hidden by cabinetry.
I'm sure more peeps will chime in soon
A sauna? i wanna see that!

Welcome to the madness
How is the 33gal tank for weight? We need to be able to haul up steep inclines in the mountains.. I'm just worried about losing umpf if you know what I mean

We're thinking about doing a 7 gal gray water and 7 gal clean water on a hand pump and a separate 7 gal hooked to a RV propane water heater and pump for the shower/sauna.

We'll see if we can make the sauna work! Our idea is to make the shower also a sauna and some how frame the back end of our wood stove into it, weld some sort of rock basin on the top.. Definitely will start a thread when we get it all worked out

Happy to be here!
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:20 PM   #6
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if you are going to run the bus in the dusty west i would choose a non-electronic engine if you can, though they are tough to find in busses newer than 1995.. the electronics are of course more susceptible to dirt getting in connections, vibration, wild temperature swings.. not to say electronic engines are not reliable, because many are.. but as they age they can become susceptible to the things above..

that said, I have run my Jeep wranglers over canyonlands, moab, etc without issue and they are far more electronic..

blue-bird busses are good heavy busses.. as are thomes and carpenter.. my carpenter is a 7 row and has a GVWR of 27500 so its a HEAVY bus...

the DT466 is more powerful than a DT360 .. if you are pulling hills you will want the MT643 transmission much more than the AT545...

-Christopher
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:51 PM   #7
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As far as water weight, I know 1L = 1Kg and 1Lb = 0.45Kg

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Old 04-24-2016, 06:22 PM   #8
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Well Erica, you're not going to boondock very long if you only have 7 gallon tanks. At a minimum each person will need at least one gallon per day between eating and drinking. Possibly more if you want to bath.
However a $10 55 gallon food grade plastic drum is about 24" in diameter and about 35" in height. Basically counter height. Fits any budget and you can always add a fancy RV water tank later.

Which one of you was going to take that shower out of the 7 gallon tank?
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Old 04-26-2016, 12:17 PM   #9
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In a bus where the empty weight is over 25K lbs., adding even 50-gallons of water isn't going to make that much of a difference. As a percentage of the total weight it isn't going to make enough of a difference to notice a change in the performance while going up a hill.

In regards to engine choice, an inline engine will out pull a V-type engine every time. I don't understand the reasons but two engines with similar torque and HP ratings will have very real differences in the real world if one is an inline and one is a V-type of engine.
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Old 04-26-2016, 12:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
In a bus where the empty weight is over 25K lbs., adding even 50-gallons of water isn't going to make that much of a difference. As a percentage of the total weight it isn't going to make enough of a difference to notice a change in the performance while going up a hill.

In regards to engine choice, an inline engine will out pull a V-type engine every time. I don't understand the reasons but two engines with similar torque and HP ratings will have very real differences in the real world if one is an inline and one is a V-type of engine.
Maybe it's not a matter of how much HP/torque, but WHEN.
It would be interesting to compare HP/torque curves for 6-inline and V8s.
Then again, i know nothing...
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Old 04-26-2016, 10:23 PM   #11
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2) Tips for initial gutting of the bus (tools needed and such)
an angle grinder, an impact driver or drill, a large crow bar, eye protection, ear protections, a breathing/painters industrial mask, head cover/rag. Lots of #2, #3 bits, at least 5 angle grinding disk (the thicker 1/8in one's). A place to recycle the gutted material

3) Is insulating a good idea? (we plan on making this our primary mobile residence for the winter & will be in cold and snowy areas in the Rockies ski touring, with wood burning stove)
Yes!!!! especially because you want to live in it during the winter. R10-R14 is achievable in 2 inches.

4) Links to forum threads on installation of a bed and storage etc...
That would take awhile, i suggest youtube search as a lot of helpful videos are available there.

Additional information make sure you have easily accessed power for your power tools. Otherwise your project will hinge on a generator and fuels costs can slowly add up. Make sure you have work clothes you do not mind getting destroyed. the greywater tank installation will depend on if it is internal or you build an external structure to house it one. If it is internal it is easily kept in place by wood structures. If you make the greywater external and go to subzero climates you will need to insulate the external bay and make sure it gets heated or can maintain above freezing temps. it can be as complex or as simple as you want. side note a sauna? what are you giving up in return for that space?
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Old 04-27-2016, 06:58 AM   #12
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torque and HP ratings mean nothing until you look at the RPM curves.. just max HP and max torque are what the ratings are usually listed as.. however typically an Inline engine reaches peak torque at a nice LOWER RPM compared to a V-series engine.. so it all depends on what you are doing.. in my opinion a bus is going to spend most of its time requiring HP and torque at lower RPM..

this also depends on how the engine is built.. camshafts, fuel injector timing, shot amount, etc.. the engines are often tuned for what the main purpose of the vehicle is.. ie a school bus engine will be tuned more for slower speed urban environments.. as to maintain driveability and MPG's in that environment..

turning it into a motorhome that crosses the country, it may not be optimal.. the newer electronic busses are more complex but will tend to adapt themselves to changing driving conditions..
-Christopher
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Old 04-27-2016, 08:37 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
if you are going to run the bus in the dusty west i would choose a non-electronic engine if you can, though they are tough to find in busses newer than 1995.. the electronics are of course more susceptible to dirt getting in connections, vibration, wild temperature swings.. not to say electronic engines are not reliable, because many are.. but as they age they can become susceptible to the things above..

that said, I have run my Jeep wranglers over canyonlands, moab, etc without issue and they are far more electronic..

blue-bird busses are good heavy busses.. as are thomes and carpenter.. my carpenter is a 7 row and has a GVWR of 27500 so its a HEAVY bus...

the DT466 is more powerful than a DT360 .. if you are pulling hills you will want the MT643 transmission much more than the AT545...

-Christopher

What if, while parked in the dusty West, you cover the hood/grill with a tarp?
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Old 04-27-2016, 08:45 AM   #14
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Remember this, wood burning stoves require wood, require space, shorties don't have much of........

Water is about 8 lbs per gallon. A 50 gallon tank would add about 400 lbs if you were deciding to run with it completely full, which is something most never do. Remember a 55 gallon barrel is close to the size you'd need for a tank, but can get them flatter and more narrow if need be. As far as the shower goes, I'd recommend an on demand propane style. The Eccotemp L5 is what I bought. I tried it out just hooked up to a garden hose and a gas grill bottle. It is fantastic! Robot Check

Welcome to the group and good luck on your hunt!

-Doc
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Old 04-27-2016, 10:30 AM   #15
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I agree with Doc. The wood stove isn't such a space hog, the wood itself takes a lot of room and it's always dirty and carries bugs. That's why people store their firewood outside.
I do have a wood stove in my bus, and it's not tiny. However during the winter I'm parked in my driveway and have access to a wood pile. If you're traveling at all firewood is difficult to find in most camping areas because people have been picking it up and burning it for years. Then there's the people that sell little bundles of firewood for $5 or $8, good for about a 30 minute fire to cook on or heat.
I'm still tickled about having a wheel chair lift because I'm going to wheel that wood stove right out of the bus until the weather gets cold again.
A wood stove is marvelous compared to propane, and it comes with it's own built in exercise. Sometimes you just don't need the heat as long as a fire will last, like on cool mornings when your feet are cold. Then propane for off grid and small electric heater for with shore power.

I'm amazed at the amount of automation people are installing into their buses on this site. These are not hippy buses you guys are building. Everyone is so concerned with safety and efficiency. Pretty cool.
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Old 04-27-2016, 11:03 AM   #16
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Toilet first priority when traveling.. After a couple public restrooms most will agree on this one.

I'd have my own toilet if i had to stick it on the roof,.

Our shorty does NOT like hills. But it gets up my daughters N.Georgia incline from hell driveway and going down is always a breath holder. .
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Old 04-27-2016, 11:49 AM   #17
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Yeah, there does need to be some kind of basic facilities.
What is astounding to me is the cleanliness, or uncleanliness, of public restrooms around the country. Here in the NW public restrooms are generally quite clean in comparison, but while traveling along the southern border most public restrooms had copious amounts of skin flakes on the toilet seats. The kind of situation that makes you clench your cheeks and leave unsatisfied. We kept renting motels to get access to a clean toilet and avoided bringing home any new skin conditions.

That toilet on the roof. Good gravity flow, but I'd install some hand rails.
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Old 04-27-2016, 12:04 PM   #18
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Yeah, there does need to be some kind of basic facilities.
What is astounding to me is the cleanliness, or uncleanliness, of public restrooms around the country. Here in the NW public restrooms are generally quite clean in comparison, but while traveling along the southern border most public restrooms had copious amounts of skin flakes on the toilet seats. The kind of situation that makes you clench your cheeks and leave unsatisfied. We kept renting motels to get access to a clean toilet and avoided bringing home any new skin conditions.

That toilet on the roof. Good gravity flow, but I'd install some hand rails.

,darn forgot the hand rails, thanks for the 'heads up'.
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Old 04-27-2016, 12:25 PM   #19
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Yeah, when that bus is going down the highway and you're up there on the roof doing your thing you might need those hand rails.

I can visualize bits of tissue getting away at cruising speeds.

Ok, no more sideline toilet jokes. It's a serious issue, at times.
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Old 04-27-2016, 12:25 PM   #20
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well if your looking to save space and time, a kitty litter latrine isn't a terrible option, after you're finished, just add more litter, when you reach your dumping point, pull the bag, tie it up, and in the garbage it goes!
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