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roach711 12-16-2011 08:30 AM

The Roach Motel
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Here’s our new project bus “The Roach Motel.” Back in the 60’s “Roach” was my nickname so I thought I’d resurrect it for this project.

It’s a 2000 Ford E-450 chassis with a 24’ Aerotech body and a 7.3L diesel with only 92,000 miles on the clock. Plusses are working AC, 6 fairly new tires, power side door opener, a new alternator and A FULL TANK OF GAS. We got it at one of the online auctions from the local metro transit authority. Their busses are typically way more used up than this one and I think we got lucky even if we did have to pay up for it.

The batteries were dead when we picked it up so we had to jump start the beast with two vehicles to get it started. The tires were low so we pulled it over to the bus terminal to top them off and found that one of the inner duallys was flat. The bus guy said his drivers just drive in when they have a flat rear tire so off we drove, Lorna-style (that is, no license plates and no insurance) for the 40 mile drive home. It’s true that with duallys you always carry two spares.

The trip home was uneventful except that I was having trouble getting it much over 65mph. That kinda concerned me until I realized that we were driving into a 20 mile headwind. Driving something that big wasn’t a big deal. It handled like my GMC van on the highway. The trans shifted nicely but the batteries didn’t charge up on the drive home. When I parked it I shut it off then tried to start it again and the starter just clicked. Clearly, I need to have a look at the battery connections.

Actually, this project has already cost us a bit because the local codes require that RV’s be parked behind the house which required us to extend our driveway a bit. Of course, while we were at it we had the rest of the drive resurfaced and that cost us pretty much what we’d budgeted for the entire bus project. The old drive was a bit of an eyesore so maybe the neighbors will cut us some slack during the conversion process.

The weather is rapidly turning on me here in Michigan, but I hope to get the stripes removed to keep the HOA at bay then strip the seats and wheelchair lift and begin sealing the window frames prior to insulating the beastie. The rear AC unit will also be coming off so a shower can fit in the rear corner. After the demolition is done I’ll start in the back and work my way forward installing the bed in the left rear corner and a shower and bathroom right next to it. Add a dinette, a kitchen counter and two closets and the job’s done! A coupla weeks work, right? Lol Anyway, I hope to be far enough along for a shakedown cruise in the early spring.

I’ve been on this forum for a bit over a year now and I *think* I have a good floor plan but time will tell. I’ve also picked up many bits and pieces from ebay and craigslist over the last year or so and that should make the credit card shock a little easier to handle as this project moves along.

So, here we go! Damn the torpedoes’, full speed ahead!

lornaschinske 12-16-2011 11:46 AM

Re: The Roach Motel
It's a "smart" bus. Needs a "smart" car to tow behind it! :lol:

sdwarf36 12-16-2011 08:56 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
Nice looking bus!

roach711 12-20-2011 01:52 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
The stripes are gone, but not the adhesive. That's going to be a pain to remove. I did pick up one of those plastic razor blade thingys. Very handy little tool. Between that and wifey's hair dryer the tape came off more or less willingly. Where the tape was the fiberglass is nice and shiny but everywhere else is dull and oxidized. Looks like there's some rubbing and buffing in my future. Most of the seats are out too. Tonight I'm going to remove the stripper poles cause I'm tired and that job looks easy. :)

All the battery connections are shiny now and the batteries themselves charged up nicely but still no charging when the engine's running. I put a volt meter between the alt and ground (with the engine running) and I'm just reading battery voltage. As soon as I get it insured and plated it will be off to the repair shop. I've also got a trans leak to throw money at and I still haven't looked at the brakes yet. I'm hoping those doggys have some life left in them but I KNOW in my heart of hearts, that they'll need to be replaced too. :(

Transferring the title went very smoothly. I took receipts for my RV mattress, sink, range and porta-potti and asked the kind folks at the Michigan Secretary of State office to wave their majic wands and turn my bus into a motor home. I signed a paper that claimed that I'd converted it from passenger bus to motorhome, paid my sales tax plus $15 to transfer the title and off I went. In a few days I'll insure the thing and go back for the license plates.

The bus only came with an ignition key and naturally Ford has to be difficult and have seperate keys for the doors and ignition. I pulled the door lock and took it to a locksmith who keyed the door lock to the ignition key for $20. One less key to lug around!

Any suggestions regarding rubbing out fiberglass?

lornaschinske 12-20-2011 04:07 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
Don't get in a hurry to toss the poles yet. You may decide to use them in another place or keep the hand rail at the steps. We still have all ours (plus the poles/hand rails from the Eagle) in my daughters shed. I think we may be putting the hand rail back up at the steps, but in front of the heater which is on the opposite side of where it was originally installed.

roach711 12-21-2011 08:18 AM

Re: The Roach Motel
I was thinking the same thing. I'm keeping 4 of the seats and all the poles. Not sure whether they're stainless or chromed but those tubes have got to be useful down the road. Like most schoolie types, I look at an item and try to think of alternate uses.

roach711 12-29-2011 10:07 AM

Re: The Roach Motel
Monday was a really nice day up here in Michigan and I got a lot done.

The seats are out...

and I only found one section of rotted wood (so far). Fortunately, it's in an easily repaired spot.

I also disconnected the lines back to the rear heater. Note the clever use of woodworking clamps to avoid draining the cooling system.

Anyone know what this thingy does. Looks like it's heater related.

This fuse panel needs to be relocated. After removing all the extra wiring I'm thinking I'll try to move this panel into the area behind the air bag door in the dash if there's nothing there already.

I discovered that the bus floor is one sheet of 3/4" plywood so the plan is to just insulate over the existing floor. I have 6'7" of headroom at the center aisle now so insulating the floor and ceiling with 3/4" insulation looks very doable. The plan is to insulate the walls up to the side windows leaving that whole window area uninsulated. I just can't think of any practical way to insulate around the windows. I will attach some sort of carpeting to the fiberglass between the windows to keep the chill down and dress it up some.

I also ordered a key switch that I will connect up so I can open the side door from the outside.

roach711 12-29-2011 10:33 AM

Re: The Roach Motel
I got liability only insurance from GMAC for $216/6 months. At first I got a quote from the website then I called a service rep to actually sign up. The rep quoted me a price $35 higher than the website so I went back online and signed up there. The website also mentioned a substantial discount for the time a motorhome is parked in a "secure storage lot." My back yard seems secure enough so I'll definitely look into that a bit later.

There was no option to print the proof of insurance form online so I'll have to wait a bit longer before getting my license plates and terrorizing the neighborhood.

Progressive wouldn't insure a Ford E-450 at all, suggesting that I check with their commercial arm instead (I....don't....think so). My Allstate rep mumbled and scratched his head and eventually admitted that he had no idea what to do with my rig. Apparently insurance folks don't handle the new experience very well. :lol:

We're back to snow and cold here in the Great White North so progress will be slow.

Tango 12-29-2011 05:51 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
Hey Roach --- glad to hear the weather cooperated long enough to get some ripping & shredding done. Feels good, doesn't it!? And, I could be mistaken, but I think the gadget you are holding in that one pic may be an early Federation Tri-Corder. But seriously folks...any Aerotech owners out there recognize it?

roach711 12-29-2011 10:19 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
A tricorder would be seriously cool but a phaser would make my life a lot simpler. Want that funky A/C unit gone? Press a button and it's vaporized! I'd even settle for a used light saber. :)

A few days ago I tried to loosen the lug nuts on the duallys so I could get that flat rear tire fixed but they wouldn't budge even when I stood on my breaker bar. Today I found a 5' pipe for leverage and with great difficulty finally got the nuts loose. At least the ratchet didn't explode. If the weather cooperates tomorrow maybe I can get the thing off and get it fixed. That pipe will be traveling with us, for sure.

The weather today is rain/snow and 35 degrees. I went out for a minute to take some measurements and two hours later I had dropped the A/C unit (on my head) and pulled up most of the nasty old linoleum. This demolition thing is addictive!

Here are the bus measurements. I was pleasantly surprised to have a few extra inches over what I planned for. Length behind the driver's seat is 16' 7" and the headroom is 6' 7" at the center aisle. Very usable space even after the insulation goes in.

lornaschinske 12-30-2011 11:48 AM

Re: The Roach Motel

Originally Posted by roach711
A tricorder would be seriously cool but a phaser would make my life a lot simpler. Want that funky A/C unit gone? Press a button and it's vaporized! I'd even settle for a used light saber. :)

You boys are thinking too small. Dilithium crystals... and Scotty to make them work! Toss in a kilt for Scotty just to make it ....interesting! 8)

roach711 12-30-2011 04:46 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
I'll go you one better. How about I just ask for honest politicians. :lol:

wtd 12-30-2011 06:01 PM

Re: The Roach Motel

Originally Posted by roach711
I'll go you one better. How about I just ask for honest politicians. :lol:

More likely to find lithium crystals ... :lol:

lornaschinske 12-30-2011 06:20 PM

Re: The Roach Motel

Originally Posted by roach711
I'll go you one better. How about I just ask for honest politicians. :lol:

Now you are getting delusional! :lol:

roach711 01-05-2012 05:58 PM

Re: The Roach Motel

The lift is out!!!

I was hoping that buying a shuttle bus would exempt me from having to buy an angle grinder, but there have been some bolts that are apparently impossible to remove without one. The lift came out fairly easily. I ground off the front bolts then lowered the lift platform onto a 4-wheel cart. After grinding off the back bolts I had to gingerly maneuver (sp?) the hydraulic part out the door without causing any damage to the fiberglass body. Bottom line, I got the thing arranged just right in the doorway and used a crowbar to unceremoniously shove it out, just missing the bus body. Man! those things are heavy. I swear I heard the bus give a great sigh of relief when it hit the ground.

I got the rear heater fan unit drained and removed and I also got the back AC unit out. I had assumed that the AC system would have a front and a rear condenser but I discovered that the rear roof-mounted condenser took care of the entire system. To get AC to the front of the bus I'll have to install a condenser coil up at the radiator. Oh joy! I get to learn about air conditioning now.

On the whole I'm happy with the Eldorado bus body. It seems well built with no obvious production shortcuts found so far. The battery box is stainless steel and cleaned up real well.

Tomorrow it's off to the repair shop to get the alternator problem fixed. Let the money flow!

roach711 01-08-2012 05:03 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
The weather was really nice this weekend so we decided to cancel the trip to the shop and do some more demolition. First to go was the roof mounted air conditioning condenser.

It was another beastly heavy piece of equipment, I'm guessing 100 lbs or so, and there was no way to gently ease it down to the ground. In the end I just chucked it onto the ground. They sure build those things sturdy - after a 9 foot fall I could scarcely find a scratch on the thing.

The emergency escape hatch was next to go. I used a piece of the fiberglass interior trim to cover the hole, sealing it with butyl tape under the patch and some Dicor white caulk around the edges and covering the screws. I'll fill the space beneath the patch with Great Stuff before insulating the ceiling. The holes left from removing the AC unit also got slathered with the Dicor caulk and while I was up there I caulked the top of my leaky wheelchair door frame too.

Once the AC unit was gone I could remove the big decorative interior roof roof panels. True to form they were heavy as hell and a real chore to get out the side door :( . I also took the angle grinder to the chair rails on both sides then ground off the wheelchair tie-downs that were bolted to the floor. What a pain THAT was! Next to go was about 30 lbs of wiring. Maybe I can re-use some of it. Finally, I tossed all the junk out the side door and took a shop vac to the inside. Heres the view from the front looking back. Notice the shower pan pretty much where it will be installed:

And from the back looking front:

Here's the stairwell and driver's seat, The driver's seat is in real nice shape. Probably the best part of the bus so far. I'll pull it out this week to clean it up and also get that floor mat out for a good scrubbing. It's seriously grubby.

I also discovered that the roof vent is a Fantastic Vent. Not sure if it works though.

All in all - a very productive weekend.

Tango 01-08-2012 09:06 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
Lookin' Good Roach! --- Rip it up!

sdwarf36 01-08-2012 10:18 PM

Re: The Roach Motel
I'd leave all wires from front to back-you never know. I left my massive loom to AC unit in-glad i did. After all the walls and ceiling were in, I decided I wanted some led lites in the back shop area. I know I'll never overload the circuit-4 small led strips thru a -8 wire! :lol:

roach711 01-09-2012 11:20 AM

Re: The Roach Motel
I am keeping all the wire that I pulled out. I learned long ago to keep all usable bits and pieces until the project is done. My electrical closet will be over the passenger side wheel well and all the circuits will radiate from there. Most of the runs will be quite short. I plan to build in two wire chases below the windows (one for 120v and one for 12v wiring). I'll also rough in some of that #8 wire to the escape hatch area in case I want to put in a roof mounted AC unit. The current plan is to use a portable AC unit but I just know that if that wiring isn't there I'll want a roof top AC. Sure as hell. :)

When the lift came out I found a spot of rot in the floor. The rot doesn't go all the way through and I heard that there is a penetrating epoxy sealer that will soak into the wood and harden it up. The dinette will be going over that area so I don't need a ton of strength there but I don't want that rot spreading.

While the bus was parked I noticed a small dark spot developing under the front of the engine. I freaked out a bit after reading up on all the likely (and impossible to reach) oil leak locations on a Powerstroke diesel. I put a piece of cardboard under the leak and fortunately it's not oil, it's automatic transmission fluid dripping from the trans cooler. Hopefully that's something I can fix real cheap. I like building stuff but really hate working on old, rusty engines and running gear. Servicing vans in particular is more like medieval torture with even the small engines shoe horned in there all tight as a tick.

Looks like we'll have a few more decent weather days up here then it's back to winter. I'm due for a break anyway.

roach711 01-11-2012 11:33 AM

Re: The Roach Motel
Spent part of the afternoon yesterday crawling around under the bus. Didn't have to be thrown under it, I went willingly. :lol:

My trans leak turned out to be just a loose clamp so that's officially crossed off my list (and didn't cost a cent!!!!) but while under there I found two wires that had just been cut off and left dangling. Inside the bus I've found many more wires to nowhere. So much for the myth of the "fleet maintained vehicle."

I predict that I'll be getting *very familliar* with the electrical system in this bus.

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