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.
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".
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.
P.S. Sorry so long.