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Author Topic: Looking for build advise and your wisdom...  (Read 1848 times)
travelingfools
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« on: July 25, 2006, 12:36:22 PM »

Hi all, new to this sight and the bus conversion thing, but have already learned a ton. Ive only made it to page 10 of the old posts (out of 61 to date) and am enjoying the reading. Like many others have written, we had begun to look at class A's to start travelling around in. We also found, that the ones that were what we felt to be decent and reliable we couldn't afford and the ones we could afford, we assumed we'd be constantly putting money (that we dont have) into and ending up with an old rv with no resale. We were on anther rv forum asking about disiel pushers when I was pm'd by a fellow suggesting bus convesions. After spending a day or two researching (google is my life..lol), I couldn't look at a class A without laughing or cringing. We live near several campsites and have spoke with class A folks and bus folks and have felt the desicion to be clear that a bus is for us.

All that aside, and for all us "newbies", Id like to ask what advice you'd have for us in the beginning and building stages, what you'd do the same in your next bus, what you'd never do again in a bus ( I mean building one..what you do on your own time.....). Im sure you guys have been through a lot of "experiances" and would love to learn from your mistakes while I make my own.

Thanks in advance for the advice.
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John P, Lewiston NY   1987 MC 9 ...ex NJT
ChuckMC8
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2006, 12:41:14 PM »

Since we all are friends here, how about your name and where youre from? Chuck Lott, Douglasville Ga
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kyle4501
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2006, 01:03:43 PM »

What do you want out of the conversion? If having new looking stuff is important to you, then DON'T buy old looking stuff as it is costly to make it look new.
Me, I like the older classic styling with fluted sides. So I bought a classic to convert.

Don't kid yourself, a highway bus is going to be expensive. Not as much as a newer motor home, but you are dealing with very pricey parts when they fail. The good news is that once you replace something, it will very likely outlast you.

You will be surprised at what you can get for your $$$, both good & bad, so Look long & thorough before deciding on what to buy. You will be much happier.

Plan, plan, plan, and lay-out out how you want to use your coach, then you will be able to maximize your time building & minimize re-doing.

Welcome to the madness

kyle4501
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travelingfools
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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2006, 01:09:36 PM »

Since we all are friends here, how about your name and where youre from? Chuck Lott, Douglasville Ga

John and Jean...from Lewiston NY...Just north of Niagara Falls..
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John P, Lewiston NY   1987 MC 9 ...ex NJT
Ross
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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2006, 02:24:51 PM »


Don't kid yourself, a highway bus is going to be expensive. Not as much as a newer motor home, but you are dealing with very pricey parts when they fail. The good news is that once you replace something, it will very likely outlast you.


Actually, I find parts very reasonable...and unlike the parts you find on Chevy, Ford, ect. which are all designed to fail and be REPLACED every three years, just about everything on a bus is rebuildable and made to last a few hundred thousand miles.  What gets expensive is labor, especially if the shop know you don't know anything about the bus.  Learn to work on everything yourself and buy the proper tools and a bus is not that expensive to keep up.  The only thing I can not do myself is a transmission rebuild.  I would remove it and take it to a shop.  Everything else I can do myself.

What scares me is having a catastrauphic failure on the road a thousand miles from my shop.  In that situation, you have no choice but to trust someone to work on your bus and hope they know what they're doing....and hope they don't try to screw you.

Ross
 
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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
1989, MCI 102C3, 8V92T, HT740, 06' conversion FMCA# F-27317-S "Wife- 1969 Italian/German Style"
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« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2006, 02:43:17 PM »

Welcome travelingfools,

We are glad your here!  Nice to know you are enjoying the past threads.

I'm sure you will gather enough information to make your decision..

Good Luck
Nick Badame
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kyle4501
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« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2006, 04:02:53 PM »

Actually, I find parts very reasonable...

Considering the quality for the $$ you are spending & the usefull life of the part, Yeah, some prices are reasonable, but let's not fool a newbie into thinking the maintence costs are trivial. My experience is to add a zero to the same job for my car & I won't be surprised at what the shop charge is. (No it isn't that much, but it puts you in the ball park. ie $65/ tire for the car, $450/ tire for bus, a friend spent $10,000 in just parts to change from a manual transmission to automatic in his bus - the little stuff adds up fast!)

Some of the things are replaced by time since installed, not mileage used. & tires for a bus ain't cheap (especially if one fails on the road & takes some of the bus with it), oil changes for a big diesel requires more oil than a gas powered motorhome.

Let's not forget that most 'affordable' buses are way, way, way behind on their maintence & probably need some additional major work to get them back on schedule.

If someone is able to maintain their converted coach cheaply, good for them. But I'll bet that most of us cringe at the $$$$ spent to maintain our beloved motor coach.

This is my hobby, it makes me happy, & I enjoy it. even if it cost all my $$ (well, what the kids haven't found!)

I just would not feel right telling someone new to busses that cost are 'reasonable' without putting some perspective on it.
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belfert
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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2006, 04:11:33 PM »

Actually, I find parts very reasonable...

Considering the quality for the $$ you are spending & the usefull life of the part, Yeah, some prices are reasonable, but let's not fool a newbie into thinking the maintence costs are trivial. My experience is to add a zero to the same job for my car & I won't be surprised at what the shop charge is. (No it isn't that much, but it puts you in the ball park. ie $65/ tire for the car, $450/ tire for bus, a friend spent $10,000 in just parts to change from a manual transmission to automatic in his bus - the little stuff adds up fast!)

Quite true on the cost of things for a bus.  One new tire for my bus would buy four new tires for my car almost exactly.

My bus required $9,000 worth of repairs to make it really road worthy and I still need at least an alignment.  I drove it 1,600 miles home with marginal brakes.  I was lucky not to lose a tag wheel on the way home as the wheel bearings were badly neglected.

Brian Elfert
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ChuckMC8
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2006, 04:29:17 PM »

Welcome John and Jean! Click on my name here on the left and if I can help, my email is posted there- I'll gladly share any info that I can- Chuck
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Far better is it to dare mighty things,to win glorious triumphs,even though they may be checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much,because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.  Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
ceieio
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2006, 04:35:04 PM »

<snip>
All that aside, and for all us "newbies", Id like to ask what advice you'd have for us in the beginning and building stages, what you'd do the same in your next bus, what you'd never do again in a bus ( I mean building one..what you do on your own time.....). Im sure you guys have been through a lot of "experiances" and would love to learn from your mistakes while I make my own.

Thanks in advance for the advice.

The interesting thing about bus conversions is that there are many, many right ways to do it.  What works for me may not be right for you, but that is OK.

What I did was bought a bus that had been converted and well loved by the converter.  The interior needed updating, but was "all there".  I needed to make some layout changes to match my family's needs and I planned on folding that into the update.

The bus had been well maintained and had low time on the power train ( 12K on out of frame rebuild on the engine and the tranny).  The brakes were new and the seller ran it through a Freightliner shop and had all mechanical squawks repaired.  He had driven the bus for 14 years and treated it like a pet.

My plan was to use it for a job shack and when finished update the interior.  Well, the job shack days are over and into it we go.

Here is the one thing I would do differently so far... (WARNING, controversy to follow!).  My bus was converted with all the windows in place.  I sort of liked the look, but you could see the back of the refrigerator, and there was an interesting shower curtain and blinds in the bathroom.  You also could look in and see the side of the master closet through the glass.

People will warn you that leaving the windows in place can be bad because they can break or begin to leak and will be difficult to service.  In a stunning turn of events, moving the bus from the desert southwest to the rainforest northwest, the bus began to leak.    Where did it leak?  Behind all the inaccessible stuff of course.

I can't speak for other brands and models of buses, but on the MC7 you must remove the window from the bus to take the glass out to put in new felt in the sliders.  (Once out of the bus you disassemble the frame and replace the felt).  My bus had a combination of fixed and slider windows and most of the problem was coming from the fixed windows, but the sliders leaked some two after a year or so in the NW.  I could have gooped the fixed windows where the sealer had shrunk around the glass, but to do it right the glass needed to come out.  This meant pulling those windows as well.  While I think I could have gotten the hinge pins out without pulling the drip rail off, it was probably easier to pull the windows with the drip rail off.

In the end I decided to pull them all out and skin the windows over.  By the time I had the windows out to fix them, I was halfway there on the prep front for skinning the windows.  I finished the port side last weekend and am starting the starboard tonight if I can get free of non-bus entanglements.

To make a short story long, I (my opinion) would make sure that windows behind immoveable things are skinned over.  If you were not planning on ripping it all out (like I was) it could be quite disappointing to service the windows at the expense of your interior.

Also, my approach to bus converting was part political.  I wanted to get the wife and kids in the game and doing so from a raw shell would have been harder for me.  We have used the bus along the way.  As I change things, I like to do so in steps so that the bus is returned to an operable state between projects.  My wife is now hooked and called me at work today to find out what I had done with the 1/4 inch air ratchet.  Smiley  She wants the other side done and is pulling the drip rail off as I type.  Yippie!


Craig - MC7 Oregon
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Craig MC7 - Oregon USA
Beatenbo
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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2006, 05:40:39 PM »

Having a wife involved and helping is truly a blessing. My wife has told me how to do most everything on the last 3 buses Grin
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jjrbus
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« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2006, 06:18:29 PM »

Jim Robinson
 
 Arcadia FL, Asia, and soon back to  N Tonawanda NY, next week in fact.

 Lots of talk about money here, and it is important. But If you want to do your own conversion, how about time,  you can easiely put 6000 hours into one!! Do you want to spend that much time on something? Plus lots of money? Not trying to disuade you just something to think about.

 There is always the option of buying a converted bus, lots of really nice ones out there.
                                                                                                                          HTH Jim
 
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TomC
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« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2006, 08:27:59 PM »

Look for a conversion that is already done and close to what you want.  Then just modify it to your tastes.  That should only take a few months if a year.  Rather than the thousands of hours from scratch.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2006, 09:24:11 PM »

Choose the donor bus you like ,design a floorplan and start converting it.ALways try and keep the bus usable through all the stages of the conversion.In the early stages you might just have a porta potty ,some mattresses,curtains and a camping stove in the bus ...but you can still go camping in it.
  Put up some temporary fluorescant lights and plug them into extension cords ,throw in a cheap TV with built in DVD player and a small boom box radio/cd player.
  MAK advised me to do this when I bought my bus and it definately works and keeps up the enthusiasm to work on the bus ,I'll even go to the post office in the bus sometimes ,usually to stretch it's legs if it hasn't been run for a few weeks.
Tim

   
 

 
 
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Basalt Colorado
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travelingfools
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« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2006, 04:36:11 PM »

Thanks all..good advise so far. We hear that there are lots of conversions that people start and never finish and give up on. That would be a nice find ! As Tim had suggested, we plan on using the bus throughout the convresion. We are comming from tent camping so even an empty shell with a few items in it would be a huge stepup for us !
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John P, Lewiston NY   1987 MC 9 ...ex NJT
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