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Author Topic: Here we go... How much skill am I going to need?  (Read 3511 times)
thejumpsuitman
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« on: September 30, 2009, 09:18:19 AM »

First off, let me thank everyone for welcoming me to the fascinating world of buses!  Your input is very much appreciated.

Okay, I want to use a bus I have found as an example...  This particular one may or may not be right for me, but it represents the kind of thing I have been considering.  It is a 1960 PD-4104 distress sale.  The guy paid about 10 grand for it and started the conversion.  For personal reasons he explained to me, he is selling it for half that.  The former Trailways bus has had a major rebuild in the past, and has a file folder of service history documents.  He says it is mechanically sound.  Of course, if I got serious, I would have it looked over by a bus mechanic, but for the sake of the example, let's say it checks out fine.

It has 2 roof airs installed and working, basic electrical is in place.  He says it has a small 3.5 generator that would really need to be upgraded.  He has only a basic layout inside with some framing done, and the bedroom bed platform made.  It does have new flooring.  The plumbing is NOT installed, but he has a toilet and all the tanks. No furnace, no gas set up for cooking, but has an LP tank to go in it.  He has a power inverter for it, but not installed. 

My question is, what kind of skills would I need to take this one to completion?  I know there are pros and cons to finding one like this.  I would see the pros as being it's cheap and you can more or less lay it out like you would want it, knowing the work is done right.  Cons being obvious, that you would have to do it, in my case, with no experience, and I am sure one would spend an unknown amount of incidental money along the way.  I would expect something like this would nickel and dime you to death, but the alternative would be paying big money all at once, right? 

Would it be better to pass on one like this if you have no experience with bus conversions?  Or is it something that can realistically be completed by a tenacious novice with mechanical inclination?

Also, what are the most difficult things left to do in a case like this?  Is the plumbing a real booger?  One plus for me is that I do have an old motorhome that I would be willing to sacrifice for the cause.  It has a 6.5 Onan gas generator and all the house-related implements.

Eager to learn,
Marc
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2009, 09:36:09 AM »

The mechanical issue of the coach itself is an item to consider. Does it need tires, how is the engine itself, transmission, brakes, body and all the items related to the basic structure of the coach. Unless you can do mechanical items yourself it can get very expensive. Engine rebuilds can cost upwards of $30,000 depending on the engine. If the coach is mechanically sound and runs good and is drivable you can get it registered and insured and then work on it when time is available and even use it for some short weekend trips. Ask for help from friends or relatives, some of them may have certain skills that can be put to good use. A bus conversion can use up a lot of money, but if you do it over time like I am doing it doesn't quite hurt as much. Good Luck !
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2009, 09:38:55 AM »

Marc,

I am not fimiliar with that model bus, but here is my input.

You need some level of carpentry, building, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, mechanical, and lots of other skills and lots of tools to go along with this project. The way we did ours is that yes we bit the bullet and paid a lot for a completed bus, however, they are never completed. I knew all well that I would need to redo all the plumbing, redo some electrical, fix the HVAC several times, install all new home theater items, redo the flooring, ended up with all new storage tanks - insulating the bays as we like to take the bus on ski trips, first trip out ended up being towed and  I installed a new water pump at the campground then had to limp to US Coach for a new radiator.

I can tell you that no matter what condition it is in when you get it you will want to personalize things and will end up doing many things you didnt expect. But that is the fun of it. The real factor is in how mechnically sound is it. Is it the right size for what you want to do with it. How soon do you intend to use it (we wanted to use it right away and we did, that is why we spent more upfront and more afterwards in customizing). You also need to factor in the fact that if you will be working on it for a while, you need a really big parking spot and need to be sure the local zoning won't frown upon a bus / motorhome in your driveway for a while.

Lots to consider, but no matter which direction you go, it is always an adventure!

John
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thejumpsuitman
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2009, 09:46:42 AM »

The mechanical issue of the coach itself is an item to consider. Does it need tires, how is the engine itself, transmission, brakes, body and all the items related to the basic structure of the coach. Unless you can do mechanical items yourself it can get very expensive. Engine rebuilds can cost upwards of $30,000...

Thanks for the reply, I totally agree on the importance of the mechanical condition.  Whatever I decide to go with would have to mechanically A1 from the get go, and I will wait as long as I have to to find one that is.  I want to keep this discussion focused on the other side of it, the actual conversion.  One big problem I have is that I don't have any friends who are like me.  I am the most mechanically inclined person I know.  LOL.  So from the standpoint of working on it regularly, all I could really hope for would be for someone to stand by with a cell phone to call 911 in case I half kill myself doing something... Or just be an extra set of hands.
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2009, 09:54:00 AM »

Starting with a bus in good mechanical condition with a stripped interior and the conversion started is a good way to go.  skill level is like a lot of things, I tend to think that plumbing, electrical wiring HVAC is more a case of knowledge of what is the right thing to do, the right way to do it and the willingness to get stuck in and not take short cuts.  To me that's not really skill, because I can do all that and I don't feel particularly skilled, but maybe it is.  Doing fine woodwork, cabinet work, getting it all on the level and on the square inside a bus that isn't level and isn't square, now that's a skill.  At the end of the day, you're working with plywood, solid wood trim, taking measurements twice and cutting once, and that is a skill that one can learn.

The biggest trick is starting.  Starting at the beginning, and starting every day.  the cost of the RV equipment, the furniture, the trimmings, all add up so fast it isn't funny.  You look at your kitchen and bath when you are done - sink - check, hot water - check, fridge - check, stove and oven - check, and you don't think $5000 check - check!  But that's what it can cost.
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thejumpsuitman
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2009, 10:01:40 AM »

Sounds like the old "nickel and dime you to death" thing.  How much do you suppose having a parts motorhome would help?  I would not want to re-use the fridge, but is it feasible to scavenge other stuff?  Or is pulling it out and reinstalling it more trouble than it's worth given that it would be used?  Or is it a judgement call?... I am starting to get the impression that there aren't that many rules set in stone outside the chassis/mechanical realm.
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2009, 10:36:07 AM »

I am a skilled Diesel Mechanic. I can fix mechanical issues with my bus. As for the interior , there are many books on how to remodel or build a house. My favorite is a series by Time-life books, available at used book stores. With out slandering the true Master carpenters on our site, I have always said , If a drunk can do it, so can I. I can read, write and use a tape measure with out calling out"2 Little bitty marks". so can you. Plan, study, mark out in bus, use cardboard cutouts. Go for it!!!!! If you hit a stump, get on the board and search the archives. Sean knows wiring, Cody knows woodworking. Everyone else will help. God gave you a brain, use it. You will love the experience. If you can go to rallies. Meet the faces. Welcome to our world.

Big John
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2009, 10:37:43 AM »

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« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2009, 10:39:01 AM »

Marc,

That's a pretty old coach to be putting money in. If it's gonna be your baby for life then it won't matter. It also will not return anything for you upon sale, so you need to keep that in mind.

I would look for a converted coach that has been completed in the areas of your weaknesses, because starting at the beginning with something so out of date, (old), is going to be very expensive.

There are usable coaches from that era available for about the same money you are talking about spending, many that have been someones baby for some time and show it in ways that represent additional value to you.

A 60's bus is way out there, for not alot more you can get alot newer running gear and start with something that will be newer technology for highway use as well.

We all love the old buses, if you have the time and money, don't be discouraged because of age alone, but just like old trucks, it takes alot of time and money to have a nice one.

There is a GMC 40 foot "runner" over at the Lake RV park right now that people have been living in all summer that they want $2500 for. I haven't seen the inside, but the outside and paint are attractive.

The add says, 1953 Greyhound GMC 4104. Walnut Hardwood throughout. Bath completely remodeled. Kohler pedestal sink and faucet. Water saving toilet. Splendide one piece washer dryer. Propane oven stove, fridge, hidabed and recliner. Strong DD, Rebuilt rear end and set up to live in...
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thejumpsuitman
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« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2009, 10:47:35 AM »

To BCS, the artist formerly known as Dallas,

I love the brutal honesty.  Thank you for that, this overly sensitive world needs more of that!  I'd rather go in with my eyes wide open.  and when I said A1 condition, what I really meant is that I am planning to do my absolute best to avoid buying something that will require some kind of major rebuild in my lifetime.  1 million miles is more than I will ever drive, and I have seen deals out there where people have blown their wad on a rebuild and are now burned out.  That's the kind of thing I am looking for.  Call me a scavenger, but I call it smart.  Let someone else take a beating.

If I was faced with a $30,000 repair of any kind, the bus would be pushed off the nearest cliff and I would get on with my life. 

Marc
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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2009, 12:02:16 PM »

I would look for a bus already converted. There are lots of them for sale and they are cheap. Look for one that is close to what you like/need, then you can sleep in it and use it that night. Then do modifications to suit your style gradually. You will have enough to do in maintenance and renovations here and there, without building something from scratch. And it will cost you a fraction of doing your own. If you have the patience to wait, go to some rallies to look at some buses. There are usually some for sale too.

Take care,

JC
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JC
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thejumpsuitman
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2009, 12:04:48 PM »

I would look for a bus already converted. There are lots of them for sale and they are cheap. Look for one that is close to what you like/need, then you can sleep in it and use it that night. Then do modifications to suit your style gradually. You will have enough to do in maintenance and renovations here and there, without building something from scratch. And it will cost you a fraction of doing your own...

That sure sounds logical.  Thanks.
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2009, 02:27:24 PM »

I like the 4104's   Check out the one mentioned above for $2500,  you could get more for parts and recycle if it doesn't work out.  I think it is 35' unless it has been modified.   How many people do you plan on traveling with and for how long?  I have kids so I wanted a 40' one.   With the 35' you have a lot less travel restrictions and fit into more state and national type parks.  Also the lane restrictions are less and 4104 has less tire and gets better mileage.  If your friends is to the walls check out the insulation.  Foam would be preferred.  The advantage is you can lay it out how you want.   Maybe buy both and use one while you build the other Cheesy.  Mine is not a wonderful conversion(half slow Wink) but the shell is decent and I used it quicker than if i had tried to build one myself.

Good luck and keep us posted



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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2009, 02:30:26 PM »

Hello Marc,

Welcome!

Your question, How much skill am I going to need?

Well, to start.. A SKILL Circ. Saw, A SKILL Saber Saw, A SKILL Drill, A SKILL Tape Measure, and a SKILL Welder "If they make one" Cheesy Cheesy Grin Grin

These guy's have given you alot of great advice, don't be discouraged though.. When SH*T happens, just give us a yell... That's why we are here!

Lots of Luck to you!
Nick-
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2009, 03:10:59 PM »

Marc,

I just wanted to make sure that you got my email, through the board? Sometimes, newbie's don't know that they have email through the board...

God bless,

John
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