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lapeer20m 05-13-2011 10:41 AM

Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Today i purchased a 1997 E350 shuttle bus. About 145K miles, dual AC, powerstroke diesel. My plans are to start an actual bona-fide party/limo bus service. I amazes me that half the bus is worth twice the money of a traditional skoolie.

She looks a little ugly at first glance, but there is great potential.

This bus will not have a Jacuzzi...but i am going to name the business "Splash Party Bus." Once i recoup the cost of this bus and prove to myself that party-bus business is a money maker, then i plan to upgrade and build a Jacuzzi Bus to add to the fleet. (i'm going to start calling it a hot tub bus, because jacuzzi is a registered trade mark)

Not much to show so far, i just got her home a few minutes ago. She starts, runs, shifts, and drives perfect. Rear A/C doesn't work, but it could be i just haven't figured out how to turn it on, or there may be a valve for coolant that is open for winter use, idk. Electric open/close front doors. I will remove the lift and all the seats and re-do the interior.

lapeer20m 05-13-2011 01:06 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Interior dimentions:

12 feet long (behind driver seat)
80 inches wide (along chair rail)
77 inches tall ceiling height (in the center)

Stuff 05-13-2011 11:50 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
check with your local transit authority to. dont need expensive surprises!!

lapeer20m 05-14-2011 07:24 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
This is what I want the bus to be modeled after when it is finished.

Worked hours in the rain today and only got half of the lettering/stripes removed. Heat gun + metal scraper + sand paper + gasoline + more metal scraper = no fun!

Seeria 05-15-2011 08:09 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I found heat gun plus scraper does the job, most peels right off. Glue left behind comes off with a Gator. paint and rust remover extra coarse wheel you put on a high speed drill. Think it was $6. Comes with 2 wheels, only needed one. Picks up the goo and what it does pick up it will move into a nice pile you can orbital sand quickly enough to be done with the job. Wish I'd used it on the first few sides. Time saver.

409, glass cleaner, paint thinner, fingernail polish remover, goo-b-gone didn't work for me. :D

lapeer20m 05-15-2011 02:34 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)

Originally Posted by Ascend
I know w/ my rear A/C, it wouldn't work unless the dash A/C was on as well, which I guess makes sense because both units run off the same compressor.

Inerestingly enough I have two ac compressors. The stock one for the front ac and a second one for the rear.

I checked the pressure in the low side whith system running and had zero psi. I put 12 psi into the system. Tomorrow I will check and see if it hasn't all leaked out. If things Are good I will charge the system to recommended psi.

On a separate note, this bus was made by champion bus which is about thirty minutes from my home.

lapeer20m 05-17-2011 12:31 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Bad news for AC.....all the refrigerant leaked out over a period of 3 or 4 days. Either i need to find the leak or hire a shop to figure out it...that'll come later...

I just ordered some wheel simulators....

here is a video of the lift...which doesn't seem to have power going to the controls, so i just hot wired it to make it go up/down.

We have a new Challenge! The opening concert at Michigan's premier outdoor event center is Saturday May 28. That gives me 10 days to get her operational. It may not be 100% finished, but at least want it to be close enough....(this wouldn't be so hard if i didn't average 54 hours/week at my job, plus have a 10 month old baby. )

Yesterday I got all the seats removed, and all of the lettering/vinyl striping off of the bus in anticipation of painting this weekend. We have rain forcast every day this week except friday/saturday. I also got the wheel chair lift working and most of the bolts removed. Not sure if i should sell it, or keep it around for some future project. It has a cool little self contained electric over hydraulic unit. Could use it to make a front end loader for a good sized garden tractor, but i digress.

still not too exciting to look at, but there should be some more dramatic changes soon.....

wmah 05-17-2011 01:04 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
My guess would be the air system sprung a leak on one of the fittings around the condenser on the bus. If so they (auto parts store) do sell ends that can be put on with just clamps.

lapeer20m 05-19-2011 07:21 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
WOW! I ordered wheel simulators on tuesday on ebay. They arrived here today at noon. crazy fast! They cost a few bucks, but in my opinion are worth the expense.



sdwarf36 05-19-2011 10:56 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Rut-roh. You are gonna find some bad news when you pull up the carpet. I have a Champion box the same year as yours and I had the rust spots around the rear wheels in the exact same place. I noticed the aluminum trim between the wall+ floor around the wheel well were also rotted. Once I started digging, I found that the wheel well has about a 2" gap to meeting up the the outer shell-and i could see the tire while standing inside. :(
These things start as a partial vans + frames-and the bus makers graft the fiberglass box on. The body doesn't match up to the wheel well very good-so they just spray in a sh*t load of expandable foam. That stuff is great for many things, but blocking 15 years of road blast from the dually wheels isn't one of them. Its repairible-just be ready.

Stuff 05-20-2011 10:52 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
those wheel covers look sharp. they just fit on like hub caps? how much $$$ did ya have dish out lol

lapeer20m 05-20-2011 04:53 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
the simulators cost about $150 including shipping.

I've been busy today prepping for the paint. I spent a surprising amount of time repairing a rust hole in the front fender. If i had realized it was going to take me half a day of sanding to fix it, i would have just gone out and bought a new fender. In the end, the repair looks quite nice.

I forgot how much work it was prepping a bus for paint, although this was a lot less work than a traditional skoolie. Nearly everything is masked, most of the lights removed. I still need to finish sanding. I think the weather has convinced me to wait until tomorrow to actually paint.

Stuff 05-20-2011 07:06 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
prepped for launch captain!

lapeer20m 05-21-2011 02:50 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
here are the simulators i bought....i don't know how long this link will continue to work....

lapeer20m 05-21-2011 02:56 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
here she is after a coat of primer:

and here she is all black, before clear coat:

lapeer20m 05-22-2011 12:23 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Today i am wrecking the inside of the bus.


I pulled out tons of plastic trim pieces for spray painting.....Do you guys sometimes ever wonder if your gonna be able to put everything back together when your finished?

Started out painting the ceiling blue.

Then decided we didn't like the painted all of the white black...well, not quite done, but getting there. The blue on black really looks sharp.

sdwarf36 05-22-2011 02:24 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Yea--i determined that (and it was confirmed by a bodyman buddy that tuored the factories) that to get at the floor, you have to start taking things off the ceiling. :lol: The way they overlap things is a nitemare.
Can you do me a favor? Can you send a pic of your door opening mechanism? Mine is done already, (converted from manual to electric)but like to see how it was factory made.

Stuff 05-22-2011 06:51 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
wish i could get my hands on one of those fold up seats with belts! id use that for my passenger lol

lapeer20m 05-22-2011 09:54 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)

Originally Posted by Ascend
Nice paint, what kind of sprayer do you have? Thanks for the link btw.

I have an el cheapo HVLP sprayer, bu i actually use it as a hvhp sprayer (if there was such a thing) I do about 100 psi, if the compressor keeps up. I use rustoleam commercial by the gallon paint, thinned about 25 percent with acetone. I don't actually use any measuring devices, i just mix the acetone in each time i re-fill the sprayer. I dump in paint, then acetone, then use a stir stick to mix it up.

Don't tell anybody, as there can certainly be safety issues if not done properly, but i also heat up the gallon of paint before i use it. Today i set it on top of a heater that gets about 115 degrees to the touch. My goal is to heat the paint up to about 80 degrees or so. I would come by and shake it up every few minutes or so. When i had a different setup, i used to set the paint on top of the air compressor, which would both heat the paint and help stir it up. Warm paint sprays better. It had been about 50 degrees the night before i painted and the paint was outside in the bus.

I also read about a new trick, which is wiping down the entire bus with alcohol before painting. I used to use mineral spirits, but the advantage of the alcohol is that it mixes with both oil and water, removing both from the surface.

I filled the bus up with fuel for the first time, then we drove 90 miles, for a total of about 100 miles for the day. This is the first time i've driven the bus since i purchased it. Here we are at Mcdonalds:

Did i mention the paint for the ceiling is some of the most UV reflective paint money can buy? the same paint that Blue Man Group uses?

I still have to install 2 more UV lights...

Tomorrow i have to work,,,,but i've made pretty good progress on the bus in the past 3 days.

This Friday is the big concert. I'm nearly out of time, and i have to work 56 hours this week at my place of employment. I really don't have any seating inside the bus yet, so that is the next priority. I won't have time to install the new flooring. I ordered some vinyl graphic's that will hopefully be here before friday, might run out of time to install them however. I wish i could keep going tonight, but it's 10pm and i started working on the bus about 6am.

lapeer20m 05-22-2011 10:08 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
one more thing.....I don't use a sprayer inside the bus. In the good old days i used to (this is my sixth bus conversion) but the environment inside the bus gets so hazardous that a fully self contained breathing apparatus is required. Now i just use a roller. I think it's actually faster than masking all the windows and other items.

Stuff 05-23-2011 05:42 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
looking goooood! she looks nice black w chrome! even the doors look good.

lapeer20m 05-23-2011 10:22 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I didn't get home from work until after 5pm, and i had to do some adult stuff, like mow the lawn, so i didn't get as much done tonight as i wanted.

I did get the lift removed. My understanding is that it is over 400 pounds.

First i set the lift down:

Then unbolted it:

Removed the 12 volt power wire

Then loaded some pieces of a maple tree trunk on the bottom part of the lift....because that was the heaviest item i had handy.

Then i started jacking:

and it didn't quite fit out of the i spent a few minutes getting that figured out.....

eventually it pretty much came right out of the door.

Then i pulled it away from the bus with my lawn mower and drove the bus away.

Stuff 05-26-2011 11:00 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
lol nice use of your lawnmower. man thats big!

lapeer20m 05-27-2011 09:54 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
It has rained probably 12 days in the past 2 weeks. This weather is depressing! It takes the motivation right out of a person. That and i did something to my back. Had to go visit the chiropractor so i didn't get any work done yesterday.

Unfortunately i will not have the bus finished in time for tonight's concert. All is well as most people in our group decided not to go since it's an outdoor venue and there is more rain forcast. Rain and 45 degrees when i got up this morning.

I did some playing around with the interior, but just wasn't happy with the way it was turning out. Although i was quite impressed with my handywork when it comes to making the black seat cushions. I hand cut the foam, glued wood onto the backs, cut out and sewed the vinyl covers, and stapled the material onto the back.

I was going to try to re-cover the stock bus seats, but they were just too difficult.

so we decided to purchase some "new" bus seats. I am going to pick them up this afternoon. They should look very professional.

new seats:

I also got the new vinyl raindrop graphic's in the mail. I still need to do the writing which will say "SPLASH PARTY BUS"

After working almost non-stop for an entire week, she is still not finished :(

Stuff 05-27-2011 11:12 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)

this guy does great vynil work. think he must be reasonable priced if he is shipping all over the place

Diesel Dan 05-27-2011 02:22 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Yeah, I'm blown away by how fast this thing came together, especially considering all the obstacles of a job, weather, etc... I guess it helps that you're not fussing with insulation and tearing up the floor.

lapeer20m 05-27-2011 03:14 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I got lucky I guess. My floor is real solid. My windows don't leak either.

This bus was built well for a shuttle, but it is weak by skoolie standards.

I think there was a big effort to reduce weight which in turn costs more money ie: the ceiling is aluminum and so is the rear bumper among other things.

I'm pretty sure that a rollover would be catrostophic.

I just picked up the new seats and I'm on my way home.

lapeer20m 05-27-2011 05:13 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Here are the new (used) seats i bought off of craigslist. They are all just piled in the bus, i haven't had time to mount them yet. The color scheme is perfect! I also scored some free hardwood flooring for the bus.

I'm pretty tired of working on the bus......can't wait until this nightmare is finished! lol

Stuff 05-27-2011 10:22 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
those match very well!

lapeer20m 05-28-2011 09:50 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
After the floor and seats are installed I still have a few projects left:

Install solar panel to maintain batteries while bus is parked.

Install white lights under bus to light up the ground when door is opened

Install inverter

Fix rear ac

Install 12 volt and 110 volt outlets

Then I think the project will be finished

sdwarf36 05-28-2011 11:03 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I think you are the only person ever on this forum to INSTALL seats! :lol:

I had this site recommended to me for
A buddy did his racecar from them-I plan on doing the same.

Stuff 05-29-2011 12:04 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
did you put the vent in or was it there? they are nice to exhaust hot air!!

lapeer20m 05-29-2011 09:36 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
[quote="Stuff"]did you put the vent in or was it there? they are nice to exhaust

The vent was already there.

lapeer20m 05-30-2011 12:18 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Started installing the 3/4 inch hardwood prefinished flooring. Also got my rear a/c fixed! (yah!) The temps went from the 40's a couple of days ago to a high in the 90's today. I hope to get the flooring finished today, and start welding legs onto the new seats. They were meant to attach to the chair rail, so they only have legs on one side.

lapeer20m 05-30-2011 04:25 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
more progress....I got legs welded onto the seats, and bolted groups of seats to each other. They are not yet bolted to the bus. I have to paint the back wall before i secure the seats.

It's coming together nicely!

Sail Man 05-30-2011 04:35 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
No surprises here that you would do a bang up job.

lapeer20m 05-31-2011 09:11 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Photos from when i was welding the legs on the seats. I wished i had something a little less heavy duty laying around, but the material i had on hand is 1.5 inch square tubing with 1/4 inch wall. About twice the strength i really needed.

Today i got the remote keyless entry installed. Here is a video:

Installed the inverter....although i seem to have lost that pic..

When connecting the inverter, I like to take the copper ends, smoosh it on the cable, then fire up the torch and fill the empty space inside the copper end with solder.

Diesel Dan 06-01-2011 09:47 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
So I assume that since you've converted several buses, the Harbor Freight inverters work out well for you? I've had bad experiences with their stuff, including a battery charger and air compressor. So even though I considered the "Chicago Electric" brand, I ultimately went with something else.

lapeer20m 06-01-2011 01:14 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I have used Chicago electric inverters in most of my buses. One inverter was a Coleman, but it was identical to the chi electric brand, just had a different label on it. This particular one is the new version of the 2kw inverter.

Harbor freight sells a lot of junk. Especially anything that comes with rechargeable batteries.

I have had exceptionally good luck with these cheap inverters. Over the past ten yeArs and hundreds of hours of use, I can recall only two of these inverters I toasted, both as a result of operator error. One was the result of a jello shot that fell directly onto the unit. The second one died while I was spraying the ceiling of the bus wih aluminum based paint. The cooling fan on the inverter sucked in a bunch of alumni paint covering the circuit board with a layer of conductive metal. The only useful thin I ever heard at radio shack invol ing electronics: "once the magic smoke escapes you can never put it back in.

I have destroyed far more alternators than I have inverters. I have plugged in literally hundreds of devices to these modified sin wave inverters and have been very pleased.

Stuff 06-01-2011 04:03 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)

Originally Posted by lapeer20m
"once the magic smoke escapes you can never put it back in.

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

lapeer20m 06-01-2011 09:23 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Today was reasonably productive:

First, someone a while back asked for a photo of the door opening it is. Also, i shot a youtube video of it i'll post later if you are really interested.

Here were the front stairs when i got up this morning:

and what they look like tonight.....Not quite finished with them, but made good progress.

Also moved seats around. Only about 4 or so have armrests, and the armrests were in the wrong next to each other instead of being on the ends.


After: Also put bought a gray carpet runner. My wife didn't like the dark brown colored wood on the floor....

I still have not bolted the seats down to the floor, or painted that pesky back wall. I don't care to work in the bus after i paint because it's oil based and gives off a bad odor (and prob isn't all that healthy) so my plan is always to paint just before i quit for the night. The only problem is that i keep getting too tired and stop working without picking up a roller.

Stuff 06-01-2011 09:32 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
steps look nice! not worried about them being slippery when wet though?

lapeer20m 06-01-2011 10:07 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)

Originally Posted by Stuff
steps look nice! not worried about them being slippery when wet though?

I thought about that. Two options. The most likely is that i will buy non-slip treads from menards.

The other option is that i can sprinkle sand into/onto the final protective clear coat that i put on the stairs...i'm not a woodworker, i forget the name of the shiny clear stuff you put on last, but i purchased a can of it.

on a side note....i am curios to know if the steps are actually made from high quality stainless. My tek self drilling screws are useless when trying to screw them into the stairs. (i used to refer to them as "self tapping screws", but that term is not correct)

dirtygoat 06-02-2011 01:35 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Looking really good...

More info on the keyless entry please... I would like to do the same thing...

lapeer20m 06-02-2011 08:36 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)

Originally Posted by dirtygoat
Looking really good...

More info on the keyless entry please... I would like to do the same thing...

autozone no longer sells it, but they used to have a really great 4 button long range keychain remote that would turn on/off up to four different devices, and also had an option for momentary on. I used the autozone remote for a couple of other buses.

For this bus I used bulldog remote keyless entry from orielly auto parts: (the above photo)
$39.99 Each
Part Number: KE1702

It has an option to set the length of time current is delivered to the "locks" or in this case to my door opener. 0.7 seconds is default, but there is a 3.5 second option for German cars that use vacuum operated door locks. I made my connections near the switch for the door. It takes less than 3.5 seconds to open my doors, but i don't think it's harmful for the door mechanism to have power going to it for an extra second after the door is all the way open/closed. I considered putting in a limit switch to turn off current, but i don't think it is necessary.

Here is a youtube video with a close-up of the door mechanism. I'm not home today or else i would have included the connection of my remote keyless setup.

roach711 06-02-2011 03:01 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Hey Lapeer

Looks like we're neighbors. I'm in Farmington (and have also used my bunton hydro for things totally unrelated to mowing). Where did you find your bus? I'm looking for the 24' version of yours.

lapeer20m 06-02-2011 04:21 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I put more time, effort, energy, and money into finding this bus than i have any of my previous five (except bus IV, i paid more for that one) These half sized buses cost twice what a real skoolie does. However, for a conversion there are a lot of fuel economy, cruise control, air conditioning.

I kept going to auctions with a pocket full of cash and just couldn't find a bus to spend it on! I also carry a g-27, but i digress.

A few months ago, oakland and macomb county SMART buses were being auctioned off on this site, most for under $3k.

I bought my bus from this site, but there were many unanticipated fees.

sdwarf36 06-03-2011 06:47 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
Thanks for the picture+ movie of the door opening. I wanted to make mine electric to get rid of the manual door opening mechanism -so i could mount a passenger seat up front. I probably stared at what I had to work with longer than it took you to install yuor seats :lol: -my easiest soulution was a liniar accuator going straight to the linkage. MIne take maybe 8-10 seconds to open. I came real close to going with a remote opener-but was afraid it would always be on the wrong side of the door when i needed it. I have a switch overhead-and one outside (hidden under a waterproof 110v outlet cover.)

lapeer20m 06-03-2011 09:00 AM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
I thought that for an outside switch that it would be cool to mount one of those magnet switches like alarm companies use on windows. Once installed, you could use any magnet to magically open the door. A magnet ring, or necklace, or whatever.

Stuff 06-03-2011 12:11 PM

Re: Splash Party Bus (97 E350)
wish my doors never messed up and still worked lol

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