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Pizote 09-03-2018 05:35 PM

Chicken Skoolie Build
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Hello all...

(Extracted from a FB Page so bear with the simplified explanations and references to the GCART)

Well, the Great (Central) American Road Trip has come to an end and it's time for the next Adventure.

So, introducing the Chicken-Skoolie. What the hell is the Chicken-Skoolie you ask...

Well, you know those old school busses that get converted into a tiny home/RV/Road Tripper? That's called a Skoolie.

But what's a Chicken-Skoolie?

The other part of this is the Chicken. No, we won't be decorating it with chickens. But it got its name from Gringos traveling in Mexico and Central America - taking the extra-urbano transit - or old school busses between towns. They got their name because it is not uncommon to see local people going to/from market with a basket of chickens (pigs, turkeys, rabbits...) to sell - usually they are on the roof, but occasionally they ride inside the bus with the people.

These buses are the pride and subjectively the joy of the drivers/owners - most are privately owned and subscribe to specific routes or are affiliated with established bus lines and routes. They are heavily decorated in bright colors, chrome, bobbles and praises to Jesus. They are all named - most commonly after a women.

So... taking a Chicken Bus and a Skoolie and mixing them together - you get a Chicken-Skoolie.

This is the next Pizote Adventures project - to identify and find the "perfect" school bus to purchase and convert both inside and outside.

Note: This is NOT a hippy-bus. This is a unique creation we will use to wander in the near future and the pending retirement years. Note I used the term "wander" and not travel. There's a difference, but more about that later.

Here's an example of a privately owned Chicken Bus (which gave me the inspiration) we saw in Mexico on our Great Central American Road Trip.

So - if you are curious, you can follow along with the process of identifying and finding the magical unicorn of a bus that we will convert and then go wandering in.

Attached pictures:
Chicken Bus inspiration - saw this private family bus from Guatemala in Tapachula Mexico on our way north
Pizote - my adventure jeep
Magical Unicorn - 2010 IC-CE PB105, MFDT, AT2500, etc...

Side Note: With all the various forums and social media outlets, I have chosen frequently update @pizote.adventures FB page primarily, with Instagram linked to it. This forum post will be updated to keep it alive, but FB will be the primary site.


EastCoastCB 09-03-2018 05:38 PM

Yeah there are several of us on here who are into chicken buses.
I want to make one of my shorties into one.

PNW_Steve 09-03-2018 06:12 PM

I love the idea of putting a Lonestar truck hood on an International conventional and giving it the "chicken bus" paint. There was a pic of one floating around here a year or two ago.

Pizote 10-17-2018 05:30 PM

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I leave tomorrow to pick up Alebrije - we've decided that's going to be the name of the bus, and then drive it 2300 miles home. Good thing is that I will have one full day in New Orleans so I can get some beignets - not that I need them but why not.

First off: Alebrije - Al-eh-bree-hey or phonetically: aleˈβɾixe

WTH does Alebrije mean you ask? Well... It's a spirit guide of sorts. If you have seen the animated movie Coco - you will have a basic understanding of what an Alebrije is.

For those that haven't - it's a good two hours spent learning about Mexican culture and Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is November 1st and is about family. DotD is not just a Mexican holiday but also a -Latin American- custom, but the movie Coco focuses on the Mexican cultural aspects of it.

Anyway, an Alebrije is a fantastically colored fantastical animal. They have a primary shape that is recognizable to most, but have so many physical morphisms that it becomes a fantastical creature of mystical powers. Think a cat with wings or six arms or any other combination of anything you can imagine for that matter.

The job of an Alebrije is to help guide the spirits of the dead between the world of the remembered and the world of the living - and back again. For the spirits come and visit the living once a year on Day of the Dead - IF the dead are remembered by an altar that the living place out to remember them.

If the living forget the dead, then the spirits of the dead die and disappear forever.

This is just an overview and many details are left out - if it intrigues you, let me know and I will post more info.

In the mean time, here's a picture of a bunch of Alebrijes and a picture of a Chicken bus we spotted in Tapachula this past August - see the resemblance? There is actually a theme here - Pizote, Chicken bus, Alebrije, etc.

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cadillackid 10-17-2018 08:21 PM

so what happened to the skoolie your roadtripped central america with? sold down there? oe defunct? that you deicded to get a new one?

I totally Love chicken busses!!! actually i just love how chicken busses are painted all kinds of retty colors and often they have custom drivetrains and body parts.. or Resto-Modding. ()which is totally my gig!!)..

looking forward to this build!!

Pizote 10-17-2018 08:28 PM

Wasn’t a Skooolie. Was a Jeep. Too crowded for two plus dog.

We have a sticks and staples RV that we turned into a rental to pay for the skoolie. It’s a class C based on an E-450 chassis.

Pizote 10-17-2018 08:30 PM

Once we convert, I will either taking down for special mods like the once you have mentioned or just do paint and easy metalwork.

Some of the drivetrain mods aren’t legal here in the states and ones here like chipping or propane injection aren’t available or feasible down there.

I used to live in Guatemala and have family there so I don’t have to make up reasons to go down and making contacts is pretty easy.

Pizote 10-22-2018 04:26 PM

We bought a bus!!!
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Well - we bought a bus. To be exact:

2006 ICCORP CE300
DT466 220HP, 540ft lbs torque
Allison 2500 5speed
6.17 R&P gears
31' tip-to-tip
20'4' inside rear door to threshold
Liftgate door on right rear

So - on to the story...

Three weeks ago I found a bus in New Orleans a through a Craigslist ad. He had a really nice (newer) similar bus but it was out of budget. He offered this one as an option. Wyatt went over and beyond helping me out with the remote issues associated with a purchase like this. He took tons of pictures, and answered all questions promptly.

I flew out there last week and spent a day in New Orleans and eating too much (it's what you do in NOLA). We met Friday and the bus was in excellent condition and it was waiting and ready for me. I wanted to see it cold start, but he had already started it - which was good as he power-washed it earlier and there were no leaks.

We closed the deal Friday PM and I was on my way back to NOLA and my AirBnB. Only I had to fill up the tank. In the dark, it's kind of hard seeing all of the switches and buttons and the "No Child Left Behind" safety features went off and lights flashing, horn honking and me sitting there thinking... "crap". I called Wyatt and he laughed - saying he just drove by me and told me how to override it.

Anyway - a sixteen hour/800 mile drive on Saturday to Amarillo TX and the fuel filter light came on. I did some quick research and got the gammat of what it could be - he had already changed the light. I was all prepared (on a Sunday AM) to go buy some brake cleaner for the filter but then the light was gone when I started it up. 20 miles down the road and it came on again - I stopped and filled up the tank - after a while, it was gone for good - until...

Sunday was one of those crazy days - I started at 0600 Central Time and got to my target destination of Needles, CA - another 16 hour 800 mile drive. Except I had just crossed two time zones and it was light out and I wasn't tired. What's two more hours to Barstow? Then to Bakersfield and then a rest stop - only it was closed. Five hours after that, I arrived in Santa Rosa for a 25hour 1600 mile day. Oh... and filling up the tank with B20 in Mojave, the fule filter light came back on. Stayed on the whole 400 miles to fill up again and haven't seen it since.

So, fuel filter light? Fuel quality perhaps? don't know. I'll pull the filter and screen later today and see.

Anyway - that's the story of getting El Alebrije back home. Now enjoy some pictures.

Pizote 10-22-2018 04:30 PM

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more pictures

cadillackid 10-22-2018 05:09 PM

california is tough on drivetrain mods.. up here in ohio our busses /cars/ etc arent inspected or smog tested so we can build whatever we want.. id register that thing in some other state that doenst have stringent laws then you can mod to your hearts content..

the easiest ways to get more ponies out of your 466E is bigger injectors / turbo and modding the ICP. ICP mod alone is good for a cheap 20-25 HP .. issue becomes you start exceeding the specs of that stock allison 2500.. you can get away with some as allison. tends to be conservative on their specs, but the danger on a stock 2500 is you spin the C5 clutch against the torque of a built 466..

when you change your R&P to something lower, you may find the trans is shifting at the wrong speeds.. esp when you reprogram the computer so the speedo and all work.. might have to get a different tune for the TCM.

Pizote 10-22-2018 05:59 PM

Hi Cadillac Chris - I have briefly thought about doing things to the engine but since I didn't have the bus yet, it was futile. One thing that intrigues me is the propane injection valve. Seems like with little additional complexity and nothing permanently done to the engine, additional torque, hp and MPG would be nice.

As for larger injectors and turbo, at 8.x MPG now, the thought of more fuel burn is slowing down me exploring in that area.

Changing the R&P, I agree there are issues there but they can all be worked out. Ideally if I could get 6th gear unlocked, that would be sufficient for me.

Tango 10-22-2018 08:16 PM

Funny thing with diesels. Often (not always) you can turn up the fuel screw and actually get better mpg's (?). Usually need to advance the timing a small bit as well.

Pizote 10-22-2018 10:20 PM

My paperwork is already in the mail to Vermont. No need to register it here in California.

I will eventually register it internationally to have dual registration.

Pizote 10-22-2018 10:21 PM

The idea of propane injection intrigues me. Not that I’m gonna do it but... maybe. Who knows.

cadillackid 10-23-2018 06:51 AM

Tango - unfortunately on the 466E you cant control the fuel with screws.. the amount of fueling is controlled by the throttle pedal.. the injectors do the high pressure fuel through a diaphram and piston, so lift-pressure fuel goes into the injector and then high pressure engine oil is used as hydraulic fluid to press the diaphram down and "break" the injector. the timing is computer controlled too.. you can "fool" the computer by making it think that its high pressure oil reading is lower than what it realy is so it will increase the hydraulic pressure and inject more fuel... I havent figured out a way yet to advance the timing on the electronic engine.

that said, I do plan to do exactly as you say on my mewchanical DTA-360 bus.. since I have an MT-643 trans in it now I can turn up the smoke a little without worries..

the DT466E in the OP bus is an EGR engine, im not sure how propane responds with EGR.. im intruiged by the idea of it in general, but I still question how you control the timing, the DT's are pretty high compression.. does the propane not burn until the diesel fuel starts to burn?


Cdimples67 10-23-2018 11:08 AM

Hi Christopher,
I have a 2001 DT466E with the MD3060 and when I climb grades I have to keep it to the floor typically or it shifts to a higher gear hence I loose my MPH and RPM is this common? It will climb a pretty good grade even pulling my Jeep at the lowest 45mph but the foot to the floor and shift timing just seems wrong? I don't know what the dif ratio is and I doubt it was changed after it left the school yard and maybe that's how you drive them?

Pizote 10-23-2018 11:31 AM

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Originally Posted by cadillackid (Post 295648)
the DT466E in the OP bus is an EGR engine, im not sure how propane responds with EGR.. im intruiged by the idea of it in general, but I still question how you control the timing, the DT's are pretty high compression.. does the propane not burn until the diesel fuel starts to burn?

My understanding with a Propane Injection system is that the propane is injected between the air intake and the turbo. It is mixed with air and then blended in the cylinder with the diesel. There is a vacuum line from post turbo back to the propane solenoid valve to control how much propane is injected into the airflow.

The idea is that because diesel only burns about 70%. the added propane allows for a higher burn rate of diesel, thus requiring less fuel for the same amount of power produced.

An added benefit of the propane is that it is cooler and burns cooler so while the engine is burning more of the fuel in the cylinders, it is burning cooler.

It's just like NO burners in street rods - it allows for more of the primary fuel to burn, creating more power from the same amount of fuel. The other side of this is that because there is more power is provided by the same amount of fuel, less fuel is required to do ordinary tasks so the fuel economy is improved.

Since there are no modifications to the engine (other than an injection port pre-turbo and a vacuum port post-turbo), it's easy to turn on and off, and remove.

The cooler burn also allows for better longevity on the core engine parts.

It can be controlled by a switch in the cab, you can even get systems that will allow for tuning from the cab.

I have seen stats from customer/fleet studies that claim 30% increased power and milage. Economically, driving 10,000 miles will pay for itself (tank and install not included).

The major drawback to this system, is that to use it, you have to stop and fill the propane tank. The rate I've seen is a 1:7 propane to diesel burn rate. So with a 65gal diesel tank, you would need a ~10gal LP tank. Propane is not available at every gas station and you would need to search for them. I would prefer to get a larger LP tank (29gal) so I wouldn't have to fill up with every diesel stop.

cadillackid 10-23-2018 11:32 AM

the throttle mapping on the 466E is a little wierd... the throttle is always trying to take the engine to a desired RPM... the pedal doesnt relate directly to how much fueling is going on... in a mechanical diesel, if the pump has linear vaslve.. you move it to 50% and you are fueling at 50%. .. if the engine is unloaded, the RPM's may soar to redline governor... if you are in neutral and start pressing the throttle on a 444e or 466e you'll notice it goes to a certain RPM and holds.. the engine will do whatever it takes to reach that RPM.. if you are lugging it in a higher gear it will fuel fully in attempt to reachj the desired RPM of the pedal. the result is once you reach 100% engine load factor. the pedal feels like it does nothing..

this scenerio makes it a total Pain to program a transmission to react correctly.. make the TCM to sensitive and you hunt all the time.. make it always want high throttle and it never wants to downshift..

ive found the factory programs on busses like to prefer higher gears... (it makes the EPA happier I think).. diesels like lower RPM but not to be lugged.. they allow you to lkick it down by going full throttle which puts the TCM into 'kickdown' mode. and the kickdown program is almost always going to allow you to run the engine up to the RPM governor before it will upshift on its own .. this also mimicks the operation of the pre-electronic transmissions like the MT-643. in 2001 you were only the 2nd model year after release of the allison 2000. so im sure they were still learning.. that will have a 3rd gen TCM. the 4th and 5th gen TCM;s got a lot better at attempting to learn and adapt..

yours sounds like it works like id expect.

Cdimples67 10-26-2018 07:23 AM

Hi Christopher,
Thanks for your detailed explanation, sounds like all is well and she's just doing what she's supposed to thankfully. I appreciate you taking the time to explain it to me :-)

Pizote 01-07-2019 06:44 PM

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We went to Guatemala to visit family over the holidays and I did some research on the chicken busses. Here are a couple that I really like.

One interesting thing I found out is that they replace MOST automatic transmissions with a Spicer 7/8-speed manual. Don't know the model(s) but I thought it was interesting.

Another thing I found out is that the cost of these conversions inclusive of de-rusting, mechanical, inside electric (for charging phones, TV, etc) and outside paint and bling costs between $3000-$10000 and takes a month. Almost worth it to drive it down and have them do it.

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