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Author Topic: Bus conversions and money  (Read 4165 times)
belfert
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« on: November 01, 2006, 01:58:51 PM »

I'm going to try very hard to make this my last post mentioning money.  Ace thinks mentioning money will discourage future busnuts, so I will stop.

Bus conversions cost money, lots of money.  My experience is that a conversion will cost more than most ever figured.  In my case, a LOT more than I figured.

I figured I could do a very basic conversion for $60,000 to $65,000 with a shell cost of $36,500.  I am at around $75,000 to date with at least $5,000 left to finish my conversion.  Some of the extra cost came from mechanical work like brakes and wheel bearings, and part of it from doing extra things along the way.  (Things like I hadn't planned on new windows, but the old ones were shot.)  I paid $9,000 for brakes and wheel bearings as busnuts I talked to didn't recommend I do it.

Yes, you can do a conversion on the cheap, but you have to have a long timeline and good mechanical skills.  With a long timeline, you can find a lot of conversion parts used for less money.   An older shell will cost less, but will likely require more mechanical work.  This isn't a big issue if you consider your bus conversion a hobby and not a means to an immediately usable RV.  There are plenty of users on this board who spent much less than I have and are very happy with their conversion.

Personally, I am 34 years old.  I have a mortgage and a car loan to pay still.  I would say that a majority of the bus nuts I have met are in their 50s or 60s and most likely have a little more money to spend on their bus conversion.  I wanted to do a bus conversion early in life while I still have lots of time to use my conversion instead of waiting, but I have learned that waiting may have been better.

I set a very unrealistic time frame to get my my bus conversion done.  I thought I could basically be done in 5 to 6 months, but that didn't happen and it will probably take me two more summers to get completely done.  The push to get things done fast cost me some extra money along the way.  The extra money I spent along the way has tapped me out.  The bus will sit most of the time for the forseeable future because I spent so much on it that I simply cannot afford to drive it anywhere.

I would love to get to more rallies to see how others finished their buses, but I simply can't. 

I would highly recommend BEFORE buying a bus that you visit some bus rallies.  You don't need a bus to go to most bus rallies.  I could have saved some money by talking to more busnuts before I bought my shell.

Don't let money discourage you from doing a bus conversion.  Bus conversions can be done on almost any budget.  You just have to be willing to do a little more work if you have a small budget.

Brian Elfert
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jaybe_2
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2006, 02:43:06 PM »

Nine grand for brakes and bearings seems VERY Hi. What did they replace?
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Ace
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2006, 02:48:13 PM »

Brian, frist off let me say this. If you even thought that you would do a conversion, ANY conversion, especially at spending 60k-65k and have it done in 6 months, you would have to be out of your mind unless of course the money was for labor for someone else to do for you. That MIGHT get it done quicker!

As for the cost that your up to now? IF you have THAT much (75K) into your bus to date and it's not liveable YET, then you have a LOT to learn! I understand the extras like brakes,bearings, and such but dude, come on! That's party of the maintenance and should be considered the same just as a new roof on a house or a water heater or painting. Let me also add that if you have already spent 75K on a bus that is supposed to be a hobby for most of us, it should be done if not almost done. You should be travelling to a lot more rallies with a lot less gripes about petty stuff like fuel prices!

I'm not trying to discourage you about your purchase. I'm merely trying to open your eyes about someof your statements. You got an oil leak. There's probably 90% of the conversions out here that have a leak similar but it doesn't slow them down from being used! Youi have a door problem. Guess what? I do too but I'm using it the way it is! You had a brake problem? Hmm, me too. Probalem is i can't get to it to fix it right now but that's not keeping me from using it. I know it's minor and not a threat to me or anyone else. You stated you paid 9K for brakes and bearings but was told NOT to do it your busnut friends. Well then, why did you? Maybe it wasn't as bad as you thought and it too could have waited!

It doesn't take a LOT of money as you say to do a conversion. You can do one very practical with less than you think but a fool with his money will learn the hard way! Timeline? That depends on who's doing it, how many friends pitch in and who you know! Sure if you tackle it all by yourself, it will take longer but with a little help here and there, you would be surprised as to how much gets done in a quick manner!

You mention that it depends on what your bus is, as far as a hobby or an immediate use for an RV. What exactly is yours? If it's the latter, then what are you waiting for? use it! Trust me, the fuel prices are not regulated by the FMCA or your local bus club so waiting for them to come down to your level will be a long wait!

You mention the cold weather and conversion work has to stop. That I understand especially if your not in a building. I have the heat to contend with down here and the hurricanes when there are some so were kind of in the same boat (bus)!

If your only 34, single, no kids, and you spent 75k including the conversion, on a bus that you cannot afford to use YET for whatever reasons, then I envy you!  I just turned 54 yesterday, no regular work, no benifits, and no disability, no pension or retirement which if you add it all up means NO regular INCOME, (I have my means though) and no kids, but like you, I have a mortgage and a 2005 van payment along with usuall insurances! Your excuses are not valid!

I don't think mentioning money is discouraging to others. I think the way you put it from your OWN experiences on your OWN bus and your OWN conversion IS!

Next Topic!

Ace

Oh and for what it's worth...

I have less than, WAY less than 100K invested in my bus AND the conversion to date and it's been two years! Perfect? Hardly! Functional, comfortable and VERY useable!  Roll Eyes

Ace
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edvanland
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2006, 02:55:15 PM »

Brian:
Glad you are in the bus conversion process.  You are right most of us are above 50.  My wife and I started camping years ago.  First was on Harleys, then truck and shell, then 11 foot cab over, then  Class C, then class A, then back to a tent, then back to a class C, then to a Class A and finally a bus conversion.  We were luck in we found a 1973 MCI 7 already converted, wth a 8v92 and Allsion 740 trans for $55000.  Have since spent about $15000 more in replacing the radiators, adding a extra radiator, redoing the brakes, and air lines, and two, yes two generators.  First time we replaced the old Onan propane we went with another Onan, AKA junk, It lasted 2 years, 11 months, and 3 weeks then went south.  It had a 3 year warranty, however ONAN said the heads on the engine were not covered, nor was the armature.  This time went with a diesel and am very pleased.  I have changed some other things in the bus to fit our needs, and since my wife passed away have changed to fit my needs as I will be retiring as soon as I sell the house and then I will be fulltimming with my dog, cats, Harley and Jeep.
Don't let anyone steal your dreams, because without dreams you will become stale.  Go for it and remember you are doing what most people dream of, and a lot of us waited 30 years to do.
Sorry for the long post.
ED
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Ed Van
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2006, 03:15:15 PM »

Wow....9 grand...I would get discouraged also.

I got the brakes and bearings, two rear airbags, and a couple of air leaks repaired for around $2,400 just last year.  I live in the Denver area, so the costs here, while not as expensive as the west coast, are not that cheap, it does pay to shop around.  Some shops just seem to see us busnuts coming.  I never have anything done without getting a couple of different estimates. 

fwiw,

Keith
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2006, 03:35:26 PM »

I think one reason why bus conversions always cost more than anticipated is because when you get started, you realize, you want to make changes along the way and your tastes change.  And, after putting so much work into a conversion, you are loathe to skimp on things and then you think you deserve the finer things like "towel warmers" (sorry Richard)...

For example, when I first started my conversion, carpet on the floor was fine.  I then decided (unfortunately after I carpeted the front of the bus, that I would rather have laminate flooring.  Big difference in price.  Then, I decided that regular furniture would not do, I wanted flexsteel...which was out of my price range, but you get the picture.   

The point is, I believe that a conversion can be done economically if you are willing to go strictly by your budget.  But, who can resist those little chrome naked woman silouettes for bumper...or, how about those great LED running lights.  After all, they are on sale for $28,000 a piece (and I only need 12).
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belfert
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2006, 03:39:53 PM »

Wow....9 grand...I would get discouraged also.

I got the brakes and bearings, two rear airbags, and a couple of air leaks repaired for around $2,400 just last year.  I live in the Denver area, so the costs here, while not as expensive as the west coast, are not that cheap, it does pay to shop around.  Some shops just seem to see us busnuts coming.  I never have anything done without getting a couple of different estimates. 

The costs for my brakes were much higher due to my bus being a Dina.  The same shop has done lots of MCIs for far less.  Over half my bill was for parts and the labor costs were reasonable for what was done. 

Having a Dina means a lot of stuff costs more due to the low number of Dinas on the road and the fact that many parts come from Brazil.

Brian Elfert
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belfert
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2006, 04:11:08 PM »

Brian, frist off let me say this. If you even thought that you would do a conversion, ANY conversion, especially at spending 60k-65k and have it done in 6 months, you would have to be out of your mind unless of course the money was for labor for someone else to do for you. That MIGHT get it done quicker!

I spent quite a few months researching bus conversions and looking at shells before I bought my shell.

Based on my research, I honestly thought I could get a usable conversion with electricity, bathroom, and bunks done in less than 6 months.  I planned to spend every free minute working on the bus to get it done.  The bus ended up at the shop for around a month total plus I didn't always work on it every day like I planned on.  The last month I did work on it every day and up to 12 hours a day on weekends once I realized I wasn't getting done.

No, I never planned to hire anyone to do the actual conversion work.  My total labor costs besides the mechanical stuff are about $400 as I gave one friend a few bucks and I hired a college kid for 12 hours of work at $10 an hour.

Quote
I'm not trying to discourage you about your purchase. I'm merely trying to open your eyes about someof your statements. You got an oil leak. There's probably 90% of the conversions out here that have a leak similar but it doesn't slow them down from being used! Youi have a door problem. Guess what? I do too but I'm using it the way it is! You had a brake problem? Hmm, me too. Probalem is i can't get to it to fix it right now but that's not keeping me from using it. I know it's minor and not a threat to me or anyone else. You stated you paid 9K for brakes and bearings but was told NOT to do it your busnut friends. Well then, why did you? Maybe it wasn't as bad as you thought and it too could have waited!

No, the busnuts told me not to attempt the work myself.  They did not say not to have the brakes done.  (Sorry if I wrote it wrong in the original post.)

When I got the bus, one front brake didn't work at all!  Both of the front brakes were worn beyond the legal limit.  All of the pads and drums had to be replaced due to wear.  The service manager showed me my tag axle bearings and said I was lucky the wheel didn't fall off as the races were pitted and bearings in bad shape.

Yes, most buses leak oil, but not a quart every hundred miles in most cases.  I would expect oil leaks with a 2 stroke, but no engine should go from no oil consumed in 2500 miles to high leakage in a few hundred miles.  The problem is fixed now.

Your door and my door are two totally different designs.  At least you have a hinge on one side.  I still went to BK's rally with my door broken and held closed with a rachet strap.  Ross was nice enough to look at it, but it still doesn't close more than 1/2 way.

Quote
You mention that it depends on what your bus is, as far as a hobby or an immediate use for an RV. What exactly is yours? If it's the latter, then what are you waiting for? use it! Trust me, the fuel prices are not regulated by the FMCA or your local bus club so waiting for them to come down to your level will be a long wait!

I wanted my bus to be ready this fall for use as an RV.  It wasn't, I got really upset at the time, and now I've moved on.  I didn't intend for this to be a three year project, but it looks like it will be.  Unless some disaster befalls me, the bus will absolutely be ready for use as an RV by spring.  All I need to do is put the seats in, fix the door, and finish some wiring and it will be usable.  (It would be usable with the door broke, but the wind noise is terrible.)

Quote
I have less than, WAY less than 100K invested in my bus AND the conversion to date and it's been two years! Perfect? Hardly! Functional, comfortable and VERY useable!  Roll Eyes

You're a far better bus converter than I if you did what you did on way less than $100k.  I'm pretty sure it would cost me well over $100k to bring my bus to the level of finish that you have in your bus.  I would like to know how you did what you did for so little if you're willing to share.

I've seen the pictures of your bus and the work is absolutely stunning!  You're much further along on the interior than I am.

Brian Elfert
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2006, 04:35:39 PM »

I got new kingpins and bearings for $2k and I thought that was high.  I currently have only $10k in the bus as of now and it is liveable as-is.  There is a whole lot more I want to do to it but I will do it over time.  I just wanted to get up and going with it.  Besides Im the type of person thats wants something done a different way after I just finished it another way.

$6000  -  MCI-8 Shell
$2000  -  Maintainance items (kingpins, air leaks, bearings)
$900    -  Generator and inverter
$800    -  Furniture
plus a couple hundred in Misc items along the way

Of course I did all the work myself (not maintaince items) or with friends over a case of beer.  Im probably in the same boat financially and around the same age (29).  I wish you god luck and hope you can enjoy her after the frustration.
John
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luvrbus
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2006, 04:51:55 PM »

If you put new drums, s cams ,good lining, new bearings ,seals and slack adjusters,you can spend 7 to 9 thousand dollars easy on a good brake job i did on my Eagle but it stops
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JerryH
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2006, 04:52:45 PM »

Hi Brian,

I have clients who are about to embark on whole home building or remodeling ... or simply bath or kitchen remodels.  As much and as best as I try to educate the client and give them a 'heads up' as to what to expect, it often doesn't sink in and then they sometimes get frustrated or discouraged -- but closure does come.  As said before, all about expectations.

I cannot help but ask this question to one of your comments ...
Quote
I spent quite a few months researching bus conversions and looking at shells before I bought my shell.
.

Your choice of bus/shell ... knowing parts availability and your research, what heped you decide on purchasing a Dina??

And as Ace said ...
Quote
You got an oil leak. There's probably 90% of the conversions out here that have a leak similar but it doesn't slow them down from being used! Youi have a door problem. Guess what? I do too but I'm using it the way it is! You had a brake problem? Hmm, me too. Probalem is i can't get to it to fix it right now but that's not keeping me from using it. I know it's minor and not a threat to me or anyone else.

I think that's a valid point.  I've taken our coach to reputable places like Bernhard, Luke and Detroit for service and evaluations.  Luke and Bill assembled a list of 'things to do', which we prioritized.  With that in hand, we take care of the "must do's", still using and enjoying the coach until the "wanna do's" are taken care of.

It's a passion ... it's a hobby ... it's what you make of it.  If you're a perspective bus wannabe who easily gets discouraged, owning a bus might not be for you.  How many people have spent some time working on something, only to have something go awry, requiring you to re-do or start all over.  Happens more often than you like.  Again, if you're easily discouraged ...

Jerry H.
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2006, 05:00:56 PM »

I think this is an excellent thread for people thinking about becoming a busnut to read.

Brian, I am glad to hear that you are planning to be able to enjoy your bus conversion even before it is done.  To me that is an important part of staying motivated and in love with the beast.  One day your Dina will be everything you ever wanted it to be and more.  The process of getting there will have been both trying and rewarding.  But to someone else who may be thinking about a Dina, your experience may be beneficial in helping them to decide if a foreign built bus fits their budget and time needs.  That is part of the beauty of this forum - the sharing of experiences both good and bad.

Myself, after much research I decided on an RTS.  Then after months of looking I found exactly the one I wanted.  Now I have it, I am working on it as time and money permits.  Most days I use tools on it.  Occaisionally I use my head ... to beat against its walls (note: when choosing a surface for this activity, the tires are eaiser on the head).  Some days it's a great stress relief just to get in it and visualize what it will become and/or take it for a drive.  It is a labor of love and I enjoy every thing I do on it (ok, maybe not the head slamming).    I expect to be ready to start enjoying using it on a basic level in a couple more months.  Getting it "done" will be a couple years or more. Even then it won't be as beautifully perfect as some RTS's I have seen photos of, but it will be perfect for us and done my way and to the extent I can afford.
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Dreamscape
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2006, 05:10:37 PM »

Nice to see everyone is having FUN with their conversion.

It is a long a hard process if you do it yourself, but the reward is amazing.

I have had my Eagle for 3 years now. Bought it on eBay, drove it to California from Ohio. Been working on it ever since. Luckily it had been converted years ago, I just ripped out all the old and I am in the process of doing over with our own touches. It has been a lot of work but I would do it all over again. I figure with the ten grand I spent for purchase and 4 grand since, with probably another zillion grand to go, it will be a decent coach. Not glitzy, just comfortable, practical and useable. I thought it would be finished in one year. Well crap happens, working six days a week and normal stuff in life. Plus I got married to a wonderful lady who shares my excitement regarding the coach.

Sure the coach probably will never be done, that's OK with me. There is always something to do with a 36 year old coach. But I will enjoy it never the less.

I enjoy the experience building something with my hands, creating new ideas and learning from this board.

I know it can get depressing at times, just remember what a jewel you will have when she is finished.

"Git 'er done"

Paul
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« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2006, 05:36:41 PM »

As someone who has followed bus boards for a lot of years, I see the same problem coming up on a regular basis.

The person bought the bus without being aware of his technical ability and the financial resources required. To be successful in a bus conversion you have to do the majority of the work yourself. Paying commercial shop rates for a one off conversion is just not practical. High line conversions cost more than $1 million and a lot of that is in the shop rate for labor. If you are not capable of doing almost all the trades type work (and have the necessary tools) then the cost will vastly esceed the value of the completed bus.

Buses are big expensive peices of equipment to repair. If you have to take it to a commercial shop, the maintenance cost can eat you alive. If you are not familiar with mechanical systems, you will not even be aware of what needs to be fixed and that can be deadly. You can do a conversion with a Coleman stove, Portaapotty and a sleeping bag and it may serve your purpose. The mechanical condition of the bus is not an option.
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Ace
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« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2006, 06:00:08 PM »

Brian, reading over some of your recent post on other threads I came across this statement.

"Nick, I wouldn't miss my bus at Arcadia since it is basically a steel tent right now.  Luckily, the two rallies I have gone to had a bathroom available.  I won't get much done over the winter except cabinets"

Now correct me please if I read this other one wrong.

You stated below that you bought a shell for $36,500 and to date you have nearly $75,000. There's a difference of $38,500 and you still don't have a bathroom or cabinets? Even if you tore everything that was already in it out, it wouldn't cost you that much to re-do it!

Just what in the hell did you spend $29,500 on minus the $9000.00 for brakes and bearings?

You obviously have seen my conversion work so far to date and I'm sure there are others as well but to be as honest with you as one can be, I don't have NEAR that much in my whole inside conversion and I'm almost to the point of worrying about what I'll do when it gets done! I know there will always be small things to add or change but the big items are all done except the awning if I so choose to put one on.  If I spent $29,500 on MY conversion, you can bet it would be right up there with the big boys conversions with all the gadgetry and bells and whistles!

Something just doesn't add up dude!

As for doing mine for less 100k to date. It's true! You just have to know the right people and have the right friends and spend quality time with your better half doing it night after night. if it's something you really want wether it's 6 months from now or 6 years, you just have to stick with it and not worry about what it cost you NOW but my god man, almost 30K not counting the $36,500 for the shell, and your still in a steel tent?  Totally UNBELIEVABLE...

Ace
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2006, 06:06:16 PM »

belfert

The money sounds about right.
The age not to far off.
I too thought the same. I bought a bus with visions of converting to a motor home way before I had a computer.
$8000.00 for a shell, $20,000.00 & 6 months to finish, Ya that was the plan.
After I really got into it, replacing rusted steel and the like my plan changed to just keeping it roadworthy.
I don’t have a shop that the bus will fit in, I don’t have a solid place I can jack the bus up and remove tires and the like, so I know where your coming from.
I’ve been working on this bus for 4 years now ( I know I’m doing it right). If I knew then what I know now I would have never bought this bus.
My plan was to have my conversion ready to use next year (8weeks away). But I bought new tires (back to keeping it road worthy) Then I started going to bus rallies (with the bus) WOW so much fun using the bus, meeting people with the same interest, typing on the computer, writing this post.
Anyhow I started temping in systems just so I could use it and now I find myself having to redo stuff so that it’s permanent.
Don’t get me wrong it’s great meeting bus nuts, and using the bus but I feel if I would have stuck to the plan of next year, I wouldn’t have created more work for myself.
Take your time, do it your way, throw away the computer.
Ed-9-Nj
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2006, 06:11:43 PM »

There's a lesson in this thead for newbies...the lesson is: stay away from exotica like Dinas, Neoplans, Setras, Mann and anything else that isn't labled with MCI, Prevost, GM, or Eagle.  And, some of these "mainstream" buses aren't worth the cost to burn them either.  
Just have to have an idea of what is repairable, and then an idea of what repairs are necessary when buying a coach.
Obviously, Dinas, Neoplans (witness Sean Welsh's Neoplan), and other "alernative" brand buses can be made into great motorcoaches, but they require "out of the mainstream" solutions....and big $$$$$$$$$ for rare parts.  
Most of us have more than a little mechanical skill.  Only a rich man could own a bus and pay someone else to maintain it.
Brian could have bought an MCI 102D3, S60 and B500 for less than what the Dina cost.   The MCI may not have been in better condition, but repairing it would be less than half the pain and cost.  H3-4?s can be bought for under 60K now.
Owning a bus isn't for everyone.  Best to rationally consider what these things cost to maintain and convert...and how much of it you can do yourself.   Preferably before wading in with the alligators.
My dos centavos, JR    



 
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2006, 06:15:33 PM »

Brian, your missing out on a ton of left coast experience. I have had my coach (4106) for nine years now and use it alot. Still not done done, but close, Ive a total of 20K in it. Brakes, tires, airbags, Sheppard steering, new engine and Allison trans, rear axle gears, all interior appointments, 12.5KW Perkins diesel Generator, stainless tanks, 66.5 gal. propane tank new combo fridg. two 42K furnaces two 15kbtu airs. I need to finish the bedroom and paint the exterior but I dont let the looks bother me when Im out camping with friends and other busnuts cause I know they understand.   Back to the point, I travel all over the western part of the country and have a ball, Im from Utah so I go to the rallys that I like and can afford, the big problem is I own a bussiness and have to scedule my time carefully.  All above work done by me with exception of carpet laying.  Take your time and do what you can, scrounge like crazy, go to events that you can learn from, AND HAVE FUN.  ( A 65 year old aviation mechanic>>>Dan
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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2006, 06:24:21 PM »

Hey claimjumper when it comes time for carpet, make a trip to florida and i'll be glad to do it for you! The cronies are on you though! Wink

Ace
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« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2006, 06:44:17 PM »

Very good discussion.

I too had an unexpected expense of brakes and front end work on my Eagle 10 to the tune of $9900.  $5K in eagle parts alone from Jefferson Truck for the front end.  All this had to be done because there is absolutely no compromise for safety.  The main focus I made when I jumped into this hobby 6 years ago was that all my other toys and hobbies were suspended and this was the only activity I spent my money on.  I too went over my budget.  It took me 3 years to complete, but I'm really proud of what I have and it most likely will be the only RV I ever own and will be in the family for years if not decades.   That wouldn't be true if I owned a Winny or other glued up cracker box on wheels.   They just wouldn't stay together that long. 

Since you are only 34 that puts you at a financial disadvantage.  You are in the middle of your expensive living years trying to accumulate wealth, therefore, the "toy money" for you project generally is in short supply.   Like the others said, get it in running condition as you are able, and take it camping even if on short trips.  Your kids will love it just as much as it's finished.  The wife however, may not.  Please her as best you can because if she dislikes the project it will fail.  You have to have her blessing in this or it will not succeed.   

David

Here we are just a couple of days before taking her out on our first snow skiing trip, ere I mean a couple of years before.

You think I could stay a few days at Tiger Run Resort in Breckenride CO with her?   We wouldn't need 50 amp service.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 07:19:48 PM by David Anderson » Logged
Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2006, 07:12:40 PM »

Well, I can confess. I had the unique pleasure of growing up in the bus world. Having helped my dad convert 3 different

PD4104's.  From age 9 to about 23, I was involved with everything. I'll never forget, The first time my dad let me drive one of the 4104's

I was 18 yrs old and very much anticipated that day for a long time. I drove it from NJ to Virginia. Man my dad was nervous...

Needless to say, It's etched in me. It took until I was 39 yrs old to purchace my very own bus. But when I did, I knew it would be an MCI.

Most all the reasons are listed above. What I also knew was the foresight of what to expect when owning a bus. Thanks DAD!

Having my dad involved with my purchace was a god sent... Just knowing that I did my homework 2 years before the actual Buy, gives me

piece of mind knowing that I own a sound late model bus with very little needs, makes me feel lucky.

You can sure bet I wouldn't sink well over $100,00 grand into a Piece of S*it bus.

Moral of the story...... Do your homework FIRST.... Ask lots of Questions...... Don't stray too far from the box.......  Listen to your inner voices.....

Good Luck
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« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2006, 03:32:25 AM »

What would be a better choice? A bus with a 6 V92 that you could use or a bus with a 60 series that you can't use. Dinas are nice looking busses, I ride on them when I'm on vacation in Mexico but I'm glad that I have an MCI.
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« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2006, 05:42:14 AM »


"Nick, I wouldn't miss my bus at Arcadia since it is basically a steel tent right now. 

A steel tent is EXACTLY what I have at the moment.  Ace can vouch for that, as he backed it into a site at Timmonsville for me.  It's not exactly a tent; it has a few upgrades from most canvas tents:  OTR heat and air, roof-top heat pump, decent tires, really good brakes, skinned windows (still need to shave the rivets), used cabinets for the temporary kitchen, two nice captains chairs from a junk yard ($100 complete), a bed (the only part that's mostly complete), and a generator that wouldn't start (but runs fine now).  I'm sure I'm not remembering all the costs, but I think I might have $12-13,000 in mine including the bus itself.  Is it a newer Dina?  Hell no, it's a '78 MC-8.  Does it have a 4-stroke turbo diesel engine?  No, it's an 8v-71.  Does it have a nice Allison Automatic transmission?  I wish!  It's got a Spicer 4-speed manual (Ace can tell you about that clutch, too).  I've probably spent another $1500-2000 on tools on top of the other costs.

I'm also young, in terms of bus conversion ownership (40).  Sure, I'd like to have a much nicer, newer shell to work with.  I'd also like to have my bus 'finished' after 17 months.  What I wouldn't trade all my wishes for is the stress, anxiety, and resentment of buying something to convert that's out of my means in terms of skills, finances, and time.  I've got a pop-up camper that I use at least once a month.  You know, I'd still rather take my bus with it's interior looking like a shell MCI hasn't completed yet.  It's fun, but mainly it's just  cool.  It's cool 'cause it's my bus. 

I took a risk buying this bus; after all, it's 28 years old, had a bit of rust (and still has some), and is not like anything I've ever worked on before.  I don't have a covered place to work on it, so I'm at the mercy of weather, too.  I live at the coast in NC and, like Ace, Jack, and others, have hurricanes to deal with.  When it's nasty outside, I work on the inside.  If I can't motivate to work on it, I go sit in it.  It's good to visualize how it'll come together, ways to save some money, and just because I like my bus. 

If there's one point that a potential bus owner/ converter should get from this post, it's this:  Read these forums, listen to those who've actually OWNED a bus, remember that 'finished' is relative (you'll always have something you'll want to change), buy something standard (Prevost, MCI, RTS, etc), make sure you have the money, time, energy, and skills to do the work or have the means to pay for it all to be done for you.  I imagine my bus will have cost me a bit less than $20,000 when I'm 'finished' with it, and probably a bit more when I'm really 'finished' with it.  Mainly, though, one must have realsitic expectations. 

David
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« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2006, 05:58:22 AM »

There's a lesson in this thead for newbies...the lesson is: stay away from exotica like Dinas, Neoplans, Setras, Mann and anything else that isn't labled with MCI, Prevost, GM, or Eagle.  And, some of these "mainstream" buses aren't worth the cost to burn them either.  
Just have to have an idea of what is repairable, and then an idea of what repairs are necessary when buying a coach.
Obviously, Dinas, Neoplans (witness Sean Welsh's Neoplan), and other "alernative" brand buses can be made into great motorcoaches, but they require "out of the mainstream" solutions....and big $$$$$$$$$ for rare parts.  
Most of us have more than a little mechanical skill.  Only a rich man could own a bus and pay someone else to maintain it.
Brian could have bought an MCI 102D3, S60 and B500 for less than what the Dina cost.   The MCI may not have been in better condition, but repairing it would be less than half the pain and cost.  H3-4?s can be bought for under 60K now.
Owning a bus isn't for everyone.  Best to rationally consider what these things cost to maintain and convert...and how much of it you can do yourself.   Preferably before wading in with the

I paid $36,500 for my Dina with S60 and B500.  Are D3s really going for that price?  I've never seen a D3 or DL3 with S60 and B500 with a listed price for less than $60,000 to $70,000. 

Would I buy another Dina, maybe, maybe not.  Dinas are generally far less expensive for a bus with a S60 and a B500.

I was not aware at purchase time how hard parts would be to get.  I should have done more research on that.  I expected items like brake pads and drums to be readily available, but they are not even though Dina used the same parts suppliers as any heavy truck maker in the USA.

If I were ever to do another bus, it would probably an MCI or Prevost as Dinas will be pretty old by the time I would do another one and MCIs and Prevosts with S60 will be in ready supply I expect.

Brian Elfert
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« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2006, 06:02:30 AM »

What would be a better choice? A bus with a 6 V92 that you could use or a bus with a 60 series that you can't use. Dinas are nice looking busses, I ride on them when I'm on vacation in Mexico but I'm glad that I have an MCI.

If I had a bus with a 6V92, the conversion process would be no further along than it is today.  I would have spent a bit less money, but that wouldn't help get the conversion done.

My S60 runs just fine right now.  I just got back from 1,600 trouble free miles to BK's rally and back.  I did have to stop every few hours on the way down to top off the oil, but I knew that would be the case before I left.

Brian Elfert
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« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2006, 06:25:41 AM »

What would be a better choice? A bus with a 6 V92 that you could use or a bus with a 60 series that you can't use. Dinas are nice looking busses, I ride on them when I'm on vacation in Mexico but I'm glad that I have an MCI.

If I had a bus with a 6V92, the conversion process would be no further along than it is today.  I would have spent a bit less money, but that wouldn't help get the conversion done.

My S60 runs just fine right now.  I just got back from 1,600 trouble free miles to BK's rally and back.  I did have to stop every few hours on the way down to top off the oil, but I knew that would be the case before I left.

Brian Elfert

That's true, Brian, but you titled this thread "Bus conversions and money", so the point of the money and the fact that you wanted an S60 (and chose the bus you did to get one) is relavent.  It's all about trade-offs.  Just think... the difference between what you have in your Dina and what I have in my MC-8 would buy a lot of labor to speed the conversion up.  From your questions about the oil repair, it seemed like a time consuming issue to me.

On another note, how many converters who've had bad luck and lots of unforseen issues with their buses had good inspections prior to purchase? 

David
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« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2006, 06:55:55 AM »


You stated below that you bought a shell for $36,500 and to date you have nearly $75,000. There's a difference of $38,500 and you still don't have a bathroom or cabinets? Even if you tore everything that was already in it out, it wouldn't cost you that much to re-do it!

Just what in the hell did you spend $29,500 on minus the $9000.00 for brakes and bearings?

I was wrong.  I have spent $73,000 to date on my conversion.  This includes money for my initial trip to see the bus and money for the trip to get the bus and bring it home.

Major expenses:

Airfare/hotel/rental car to inspect bus: $512
Airfare/fuel/hotel to get bus home: $1528 (It took several days longer than planned to get home so more hotels.)
Oil change/inspection/misc at Detroit dealer: $560
Check out overheating on way home: $226
tanks and RV range: $520
Brakes/wheel bearings/exhaust: $9100
Water heater/furnace/propane tank: $994
Microwave: $139
Sales tax and registration: $2655
two 15k rooftop A/C: $1098
Bathroom vent fan: $105
LED side markers: $112 (Special marker lights cost a lot.  Should have stuck with regular instead of LED.)
11 gallons coolant: $103
Vanner Equalizer: $315
Replacement escape hatch: $89
Bulb-tite rivets: $242
Marine wire: $144
Steel: $133
Custom hitch: $457
Onan generator: $2850
Parts/manuals for Onan: $141
Shipping for windows: $374
Peninsula Windows: $2310
Menards plywood/misc: $758
custom bunk mattress: $190 (Knox foam couldn't make any cheaper with cover.  Tried another foam mattress that was 1/2 price, but terrible.)
Fantastic vent: $138
Eight 6 volt batteries: $540
Powertech generator: $6016 (This was a stupid decision.  I didn't have time to do vibration isolation and soundproofing on Onan.  Big waste when bus wasn't ready for first trip.)
custom bunk mattress: $218
Stuff for 12/24 volt power: $366
RV ultraleather sofa: $1031
Proheat diesel heater: $382
More bunk mattresses: $808
Alignment: $188
New mirrors: $320
New bearings for steering: $356 (installed)
New driver's seat: $335

Did I make some stupid purchasing decisions?  Absolutely!  I still have the Onan generator I originally bought to get rid of along with a few other things.  The Powertech generator was only bought due to being out of time to get the Onan working properly and not vibrating the bus apart.  We ended up not going on the big trip planned for end of September, so would have had plenty of time to work on the Onan.

I wasn't keeping close enough track of my spending as my Sept 27th deadline approached and I ended up spending more money than I planned on.  There are some things I would have postponed or skipped had I realized how much I had spent.

I researched to death pretty much every single item I bought.  I wanted to be sure I was getting the best price on everything.  My self imposed deadline of Sept 27th meant I bought some stuff in haste and didn't look around enough for used.  For instance, I saw some inexpensive used A/C units on BNO a few days after I bought mine new.  I would have waited longer on buying them if not for my deadline.

Brian Elfert
« Last Edit: November 02, 2006, 04:52:47 PM by belfert » Logged
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« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2006, 07:05:52 AM »

That's true, Brian, but you titled this thread "Bus conversions and money", so the point of the money and the fact that you wanted an S60 (and chose the bus you did to get one) is relavent.  It's all about trade-offs.  Just think... the difference between what you have in your Dina and what I have in my MC-8 would buy a lot of labor to speed the conversion up.  From your questions about the oil repair, it seemed like a time consuming issue to me.

On another note, how many converters who've had bad luck and lots of unforseen issues with their buses had good inspections prior to purchase? 

I agonized over which shell and engine to get for several months.  The main reason I paid extra for the Series 60 was I thought the engine would last a lot longer.  A 102A3 with 6V92 was only $15,000, but I guess I paid too much attention to horror stories about V92 series engines failing often and didn't want to be buying a new engine right away.

You're right, if I had a GOOD inspection done, I wouldn't have bought the Dina without a major price reduction.  I couldn't find a bus garage within 150 miles of the selling dealer, so I had the bus inspected at the Detroit dealer.  The Detroit dealer mainly checked the engine and tranny and didn't mention the brake linings and drums were bad.  They also didn't find the cracked exhaust pipe, but did adjust one of the front brakes so it sorta worked.

Brian Elfert
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« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2006, 07:19:40 AM »

You should be easier on yourself.  Sure you could have done it better (we all could), but you cuold have done a lot worse too.  You've done a huge amount of research and work in a short time, and some of it has really paid off.  With a bus conversion, there is so much to do, to know, its a real challange for one person to do it at all.  I would say that while some of your decisions might be suboptimal, they still moved you forward.

Just look and appreciate at all you have accomplished.  I think thats one reason so many of us offered you our suport when you were having doubts.

You'll have an awesome bus when its done!
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« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2006, 07:30:12 AM »

Brian: I don't think you deserve all the criticism  you have been getting. Your readily admit that some things were bought in haste and may have cost more than if you had waited. The really bad mistakes don't add up to more than two or three thousand dollars and this is insignificant on a $100,000 conversion.  I really admire anyone who does a high line conversion without any mistakes along the way.

I don't think the people who do a sleeping bag/portapotty conversion are in a position to criticize the people who do high line conversions and the people with high line conversions must accept that not everyone can afford, or even want a high line conversion. It all comes down to the 'do it your way' with the one exception that regardless of the make or age of the bus, the running gear must be maintained to the same high standard of safety.
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« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2006, 08:21:38 AM »

Hi all,

Wow, this is a great thread. I wish I had been able to read it when I was just "getting started", but I am also glad I didn't.
I was thrust into the world of busses without anymore knowledge than the occasional Greyhound ride.
My family and I lived in a travel trailer for two years fulltime. We are fortunate to work in an industry in which we can move about the country earning enough money to pay for the house we don't live in.(Forestry/reforestation) I was almost in an accident when I blew a tire on the Damn trailer and it tried to kill me. I decided then and there we would have something safer.

As far as research goes, I decided to talk to the "experts". I went to the Memphis Greyhound terminal and spent a couple hours talking to the professional drivers. They were so excited to be able to reccomend a style of bus to someone for a conversion. They HIGHLY reccomended the MC9. I then looked on the internet and had to agree with them. The parts are widely available for the bus itself, and the 8v71 is one of the old standby workhorses in the forestry industry so that I could probably find a good mechanic just about anywhere.

I purchased a 1980 model bus because I have the thought that I don't like computers on my motor. I also liked the idea of a manual transmission because I felt more in control of the "powerband". I would only consider purchasing a southern bus because of the rust issues. Besides southern is better in just about anything I can think of. Grin

I took the seats and bathroom out, put in a kitchen, dinette, couch, quad bunk, bathroom, master bed in about three weeks. I also plumbed the grey water, wired with romex, and put in the tanks.
It was not pretty by the marathon standard, but very livable.

We lived in the bus for a year that way, and decided to do a refit. I stripped all but the bunkroom out and replaced damn near everything in four months, while working and helping the wife to raise four kids. We probably have about $35-40K in the bus now, including purchase price of $11K.

I think our bus looks nice. People walk in and say it looks like a house inside, not an RV. We lovingly refer to it as our "Arky farmhouse".

Brian,
Forgive me for this, but if you would spend more time in the bus with your computer, rather than in your house reading these posts, you would probably be farther along.
I also think you are projecting an image on your bus that you may not be capable of producing. You will NEVER have a marathon-style coach, so just do what you can to ENJOY the bus.

Everybody has a different way to do their conversion process. I'm not saying your way is wrong, but I think your time could be better focusing on the inside, one room for example, at a time.

I have a new cuss word from the conversion, so let me give you a word of caution.

LAYERS Angry

Devin

P.S. Sorry so long.
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« Reply #31 on: November 02, 2006, 08:30:07 AM »

Brian with all the items you listed some are duplicates such as mattresses for your bunks. You must have a lot of bunks for that many mattresses.

Anyway, you obviously have purchased many many items for your conversion and yes some purchased in haste as you say but why in the world would you say you can't use your bus, and at that, call it a steel tent? You've got way more than some others I have seen and they are using there's all the time!

Your bus does NOT have to be completely done by a certain deadline for you to use it. In fact, it's bad for it to sit for a long period while your waiting for it to be done. Use it often and quit worrying about what isn't done! Use it and what you have in the meantime and enjoy it during your younger years of life! Why wait until your OUR age. Heck by then you won't be able to do half of what you can do now!  Wink

Ace
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belfert
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« Reply #32 on: November 02, 2006, 09:18:38 AM »

Ace, I will have eight bunks when the bus is done.  I have purchased six mattresses to date.

I have driven my bus over 2,000 miles in the past month so it hasn't exactly been sitting.  I hope to drive it at least 60 miles a month over the winter as sitting still for 4 or 5 months isn't good for it.  60 miles should be enough to get everything warmed up I expect.

Everyone has different definitions of a usable conversion.  All of my camping is boondocking, so my definition includes a working bathroom.  I don't have that yet, but I'm very close.  An hour or two running some electricity to the pumps and the plumbing will be done.  Until two weeks ago, I didn't have any fresh water plumbing at all.  A marathon plumbing session in the cold with my friend took care of that.

Brian Elfert
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« Reply #33 on: November 02, 2006, 11:03:13 AM »

Brian,

You need to just enjoy the bus for what it is.  The conversion process should not be a burden, financially or emotionally.  Bus conversions should be enjoyable and dare I say it...FUN!  I had more fun working on my bus than anything else I can remember in a long time.  Was it easy, heck no.  Did it cost?  You better believe it.  But, I knew I couldn't afford a $500,000 coach.  So, I settled in on what I COULD do and never really focused my energy on what I couldn't do.

You should find happiness in what you do.  Whether it's work, marriage, bus conversions...whatever.  God did not put us on this planet to be miserable.  That's why He gave us buses!

So, look at what you've done and smile.  You've done what only a handful of people could or would do.  And, the risk is it's own reward in my book.  Life without risk is just not worth living. 

You will get lots of good advice on this board, but none better than this....  BE HAPPY Smiley

Jimmy
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« Reply #34 on: November 02, 2006, 11:04:23 AM »

Oh yeah, one more thing...

If I lived anywhere near you, I would be honored to help you work on the bus.
But you'd have to let me drive it a little!!!

Jimmy
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« Reply #35 on: November 02, 2006, 12:59:30 PM »

Don't be discouraged, it takes time and patience to convert a bus.  We purchased our bus in 1998 and are still working on it. It was a entertainers bus with 12 bunks that we didn't need.
We used it the first year with only a few minor changes.  Then the real work began, the second year we had a queen size bed and a toilet, no vanity, a hot plate and a small refrigerator, and a pole hanging on the wall for a closet.  It cost a little more to convert it than we planned, because the engine blew and we had to have it rebuilt, we also put on new tires, had the torsil's fixed, new radiator and air compressor.  We are lucky to be able to do most of the work ourselves, my wife did the sewing part for the interior, my son built the cabinets and I did floor plan and had the sleepless nights building the bus in my head.   Everything adds up, the little things add up sooner than you think.
We had 3 motorhomes before we bought the eagle and I did four years of searching before I found the one I wanted.We've all been where you are just keep the faith and you'll enjoy it when it's usable to you.

Feel free to enjoy it while your young, you and your children will enjoy it.



          Pete & Jean
            Fantasy

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« Reply #36 on: November 02, 2006, 03:11:05 PM »

I have to agree with Devin; this is a great thread.  Brian, your list of expenses is one of the most helpful posts I've read.  For those of us who are still looking, it gives us at least one mans experience relative to replacement/purchase cost.  I don't post much, but I read the mail every day.  Thanks guys! 
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« Reply #37 on: November 02, 2006, 04:04:27 PM »

Quote
Brian: I don't think you deserve all the criticism  you have been getting.

May I put my $0.02 back in here.

If you choose to purchase an expensive car, television, house, widget whatever ... and pay whatever you pay for it ... it's a choice you made up front.  I have little pitty or understanding when someone later complains or is frustrated with the money they spent for said item.

On the other hand.  If you (let's say) require roadside service and are told or believe one dollar amount, but are given a bill for something else ... while they hold your bus hostage, requiring payment ... then you've got cause to complain, be frustrated and certainly bitch.

I have 2 MC-8's, one we use but still undergoing some tweaking, the other far from done.  I've got a lot of parts and stuff to finish the one and certainly have time and money invested in it -- I am not bailing out on it ... but it's been tough finding the necessary time in between work, family, life, projects, etc. (not necessarily in that order).  Point is, I enjoy working on the bus, whatever money I've spent on each -- it's been spent (done deal).  To revisit that money "spent" (not invested) would be futile.  It is what it is.

Just my rambing -- sorry.

Jerry H.
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« Reply #38 on: November 02, 2006, 06:00:30 PM »

This solution won't work for everyone but it works for us.  About 14 years ago I started building a 26' Bartender - that's a double ended planing hull designed for coastal use.  I have puttered away at it for the past 14 years with long pauses during that time.  Whenever it gets to be a chore I just stop working on it.  I expect to finish it sometime.  When I do I will start another boat.  In the meantime I have owned 3 other boats which we have used a lot.  I suppose if I hadn't had the other boats I might have done more work on the Bartender but then again I might not have.  As it is I look forward to the time I can work on the Bartender & it doesn't interfere with our ability to spend time in a boat.
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R.J.(Bob) Evans
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