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Author Topic: Driving a big bus  (Read 9099 times)
WorkingOnWise
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« on: April 15, 2007, 08:01:14 AM »

Hi All,
My wife and I are converting a 1966 "Fishbowl" TDH4519 into our retirement motorhome. We love the look of the coach, and the simplicity of it. After a year of planning and research, we have settled on the floorplan, which requires me to stretch it coach by 10', to 45'. I know, there's all sorts of engineering problems to solve, like added weight, available power, and structural integrity issues. I have those problems solved. There is no way we could afford to buy what we are building, which will cost at least 200k, but we can build it for under 80k, and tons of labor. We know, we'll never be able to sell it for what we put into it. That's not our goal. Our goal is to keep and use it for another 40 years, and then pass it on to a grandchild.
On to my question. Is there a big difference driving a 45' coach compared to a 35' coach, all else being equal?
I ask because a few weeks ago I had to tow a 10' utility trailer for a friend, and back it into hig driveway. Wow what a PAIN! I can slide a 40' 5th wheel thats 8' wide between trees that are 8'3" apart looking in the mirrors...no big deal. This little trailer was all over the place. I'll never back one in again! Made me look bad!
If the difference between 35' and 45' is That dramatic, I'll seriously rethink the stretch. Otherwise, I'm just about ready for the sawsall.

Thanks
Keith
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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 #1 on: April 15, 2007, 08:15:20 AM »

Hollo Keith,

Welcome Abord!

You have a very good question, and you will get all kinds of answers, i'm sure..

A 45' coach presents the problem of parking lots and campgrounds. I think a 40' coach is maximum for theese conditions because,

the turning radius needed for thoose darn curbs they have in parking lots now a days. Even big lot like Walmart. I can't see trying to make

thoose turns with a 45'. And for Campgrounds, most will have way too tight of turns for you to get through them unless you are only going

to be in high-end resorts.

Now, for structual... A 10 ft. stretch is a major project. If you are the engenieer type, then by all means...go for it!

A 5' stretch would be a safer challange to accomplish! What ever you decide, Good Luck to You and your Wife with the project!

Nick Badame-

P.S. Luke at US Coach has many Fishbowls in his yard.
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« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2007, 08:37:11 AM »

Keith,

Good luck on your engineering feat.
You'll find most of the National Park CG's are limited for vehicle length and many of the State campgrounds also.

In fact, the State campground we are at in SC right now has a couple of 42' campsites, but I could just barely get around with my 35' GMC because the road is so narrow and the trees at the curves are so close.

On your backing problems between the 5th wheel and the little trailer:

With a 5th wheel, you have the hitch pretty close to being over the rear axle. That means that when you turn your front wheels, your pivot point and the hitch are pretty close together, making it easier to the trailer go where you want it.

When you have a standard ball or pintle hitch, your hitch is a long way from the pivot point and so is more active because the pivoting angle is increased dramatically.

Another thing is that the distance from the hitch to the trailer axle makes a lot of difference. The closer they are, the more active the trailer will be.

An old method of backing a trailer is to put one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. That way if you have to move the trailer to the left, you move your hand to the left, and you aren't tempted to try and over steer.

Good luck and welcome to our madness!

Dallas
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sivrtnge2
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« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2007, 08:38:08 AM »

Hi Keith,

My coach is a 45'...and I have no problems with driving it anywhere I want to go. I'm use to driving long vehicles. As for as stretching your coach, I haven't a clue. You will definately get pros and cons on streaching it.

By the way, the shorter the trailer, the harder it is to back...the longer, the easier!!!

BILL
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WEC4104
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« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2007, 08:39:52 AM »

One other factor that would help us answer your question better is "Where is the 10 ft being added?   Is the wheelbase being stretched the full 10 feet, or is there extra front/rear overhang? Each of these areas has different affects and problems with the driveability.
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WorkingOnWise
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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2007, 08:48:45 AM »

Thanks Everyone,

Someone asked "Where is the 10 ft being added?" It would all be in the wheelbase. The approach and departure angles are too shallow right now. I don't want to get hung up in the rear. It's easy enough as is.   Smiley

I wondered about that too (parking), but it's real tough to even find a 40' to take and whip around the local Walmart. Now I know. And a 5' stretch will only tease us. It's either 10' stretch or no stretch. Hmm.
And I have only rv'ed in 5th wheels and travel trailers where I may be 60' long, but have a pivot in the middle. I almost took a maple tree with me when I drive this coach home, not realizing how long the sides are!

Would a 25' trailer that would sit beside the coach when parked be reasonable in your opinion? We will have a trailer with us all the time anyway for our car and toys (quad's and inflatable boat and the like)?
The second trailer would be where our Master suite is, and an office, and I would have a slidout that would connect the 2.
Roughly like this.


********************
*                                 *  Coach
*                                 *
********************
           ****        Slide out to connect them
  ************
  *                   *   25' Trailer
  *                   *
  ************

I know it will require us to pay double for 2 spaces, and limit where we can go to some degree, but I think this may be easier that a 45' Fishbowl, in driving and structurally.

The reason for the added space is that there are some things we just do not want to give up when we go totally crazy and start full-timing again.

Oh, who Is Luke at US Coach? I googled US Coach Luke and, well, the was not helpful. I tried uscoach.com, and I doubt that is who you meant.

Thanks
Keith
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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 #6 on: April 15, 2007, 09:11:13 AM »

Hi Keith,

US Coach
127 Berlin Crosskeys Rd.
Berlin, N.J. 08009
856-767-3323 or 4848

Luke Bonagoura


Nick-
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2007, 09:13:47 AM »

Keith- I have a 40ft AMGeneral transit that is 102" wide without slide outs.  I hope yours is also a 102" wide-that extra 6 inches is really alot!  Course if you're putting in slide outs, that will do more-course I don't know quite how you'd do slide outs on a GMC fishbowl since it is a unibody design.

Just to give you an idea of what you'll be up against with a 45 ft'r, look at Woodalls (or similar) camping guide and see how many campsites will accomodate a 45ft'r.  Then look at how many are 40ft and then 35ft.  It's eye opening.  So much so, my next conversion will be a 35ft highway bus, since they are higher profile and usually have the floor flat all the way to the rear wall.  Compared to my bus that has the last 3 ft taken up with the engine protrusion-course the above space makes for a nice 5ft closet.

As far as driving a 35 ft'r compared to your idea of adding 10ft to the center of the bus (I assume) leaving the same over hang on either end of the bus- it'll be dramatically disappointing.  Remember, most highway buses have the drivers well in from the rear with the tag axle behind the driver (exception Eagle 5 and above).  And most 45 ft'rs have steerable tags- they are like casters the turn with the movement of the bus and lock out for reverse.

My suggestion would be two fold.  First that you keep the 35 ft length and just put everything you want in there with the minimum of closet space.  Then pull a 20ft trailer that will have your extra storage space in it for clothes, bikes, ATVs,etc.  Then also plumb it so you can have your washer/dryer in the trailer also.  Possibly also a small lounge that can convert into another sleeping area for guests with a bathroom.  Then you keep your nice 35ft length and can easily remodel the trailer as you see fit.

The second suggestion is that I hope you have at least a 6V-92TA in the bus to get 350hp out of it.  I can tell you from experience that the V730 3 speed automatic is a limiting factor to high speed travel.  I have a 8V-71 in mine that I just had turboed to go from 300hp and 800lb/ft of torque to 375hp and 1125lb/ft of torque (actual tested flywheel horsepower).  While it gives much better hill climbing, my startability is a bit less with the throttle modulator.  Once past 10mph, it gets up and goes.  My bus is geared with 4.625 rears with 11R-24.5 tires that give me 65mph at 2100rpm and topping out at 72.5 mph at 2350rpm.  If you had a more modern bus with an inline drivetrain, you could use a 4 stroke engine and a 6 speed Allison transmission that you could gear to be cruising at 75 mph at 1600rpm, still with good startability.  But-if you already have the bus, too late.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2007, 09:18:46 AM »

Keith, welcome to the board.  One of the things that's impressed me with this group is the mutual respect shown by virtually everyone on this particular board.  I've been in the bus business for a few decades, so I was driving 35-foot and 40-foot fishbowls while they were in transit service.  

I can tell you that, as a driver, there's a significant difference in turns between the 35 foot and 40-foot fishbowls, and an added difference between the 96-inch width and the 102-inch width.  I looked up the specs in a 4323/5307&8 Maintenance Manual.  (the 4523 is two models newer than your 4519, to the best of my knowledge there was never a 4520 or 4522).  Interestingly, the turn radius changes by almost exactly five feet.

Turning Radius at the wheels:
Wheels   .... 35'X96"     32 feet, 2 inches
Wheels   .... 40'X96"     37 feet, 1 inch
Wheels   .... 40'X102"   37 feet, 3 inches  (but it sure seemed a lot different when I drove)

Over Body Corner
B. Cor.   .... 35'X96"      37 feet, 1 inch
B. Cor    .... 40'X96"      42 feet, 1 inch
B. Cor.   .... 40'X102"    42 feet, 3 inches

Now, I don't know if this would extrapolate to a similar increase in going to a 45-foot bus; but it might.    
 
I, too like fishbowls.  Since you've mentioned you'd looked at the engineering aspects of a stretch, I won't comment on the monocoque construction - I assume you're familiar with it and have addressed the concerns.  (For others, monocoque or unibody construction means that if you slice the roof open, the engine falls out - like an aircraft, even the skin is structural.)  

Just the amount of work I'm doing on my 4107, updating the interior, would make me pick and choose my projects.  If I needed more length, I'd sell my 35-foot 4107 and buy a 40-foot 4905.  So, a question for your consideration ...   would a 40 foot, 102 inch wide fishbowl work with your plans?  If that may be an option, how would it affect your costs?

That said, what you're proposing sounds like a fascinating project, I wish you success.

Arthur  
« Last Edit: April 15, 2007, 09:20:53 AM by Runcutter » Logged

Arthur Gaudet    Carrollton (Dallas area) Texas 
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Paso One
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2007, 09:22:28 AM »

My opinion although Biased is you'll find your 40' Fishbowl  more than enough space especially as TomC mentions if it is 102 wide.  The transit turns sharper than the highway buses so keep that in mind. One of the benifits of the transit.
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68 5303 Fishbowl 40' x 102"
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WorkingOnWise
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2007, 09:42:49 AM »

Wow, great stuff Arthur! It stands to reason that a 45' fishbowl would have a 47'+ turning radius, based on your numbers. Wow! I am so glad I asked this ?! The 35' is enough for me to drive. My wife is still very scared of it! She is like a kid! Thrilled to stand there while I drive, but I can,t get her to drive it around the field it's parked in, and there are no maple trees for 300"! lol

As for going to a 40' 102" fishbowl and the effect on cost, I paid $100 for this running and drivable coach. The electrics are shot, except for the alternator, regulator, and starter, and the solenoids needed for starting and shifting, but I planned on totally rewiring and updating it before I even bought it. It was gutted to the metal walls already, so I could see the (very few, given it is 41 years old) rust problems. I can start it in 45f weather with no ether, and in 15f weather with a single short burst of either while I crank it over from the back.
In all, I got an awesome deal, and doubt I'll find the like in a 40'!

With that said, I will be adding a "second skin" of sorts, to add 2.5" of additional insulation th each wall, for a total of 5" of insulation in 6" thick walls, giving an interior width of 7'5". I need the insulation because we plan to use this coach everywhere, anytime.

But, if you know where I can come close to the deal I got on this coach, in a 40' 102", I'm all ears!

As for the slideouts, I will be building a spaceframe between the wheels to replace everything from the floor down. This spaceframe will be stronger than the original monoque design, and will allow me to have storage bays and slides in a stronger and equal weight design. I worked to reduce the weight, but I only succeeded in weakening the structure too much.

It is a cool project. The scarry part will be grafting the new spaceframe into coach. Weeeee!
Thanks
Keith
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2007, 10:02:19 AM »

Sorry Keith I thought you "had " a 40'  I can't read.  Smiley
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68 5303 Fishbowl 40' x 102"
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2007, 10:06:42 AM »

I would go for the the bigger trailer. Would also consider a 40' coach to start with.  Adding 10' and keeping the font/rear overhang the same simply means your main clearance problem will be the center of the coach.  There will be many parking lots that won't be a problem because you won't be able to get over the entrance to them without high centering.  Take your coach and pull on to the average approach over a sidewalk and then project that wheel base another 10'.  Both for ground clearance and turning radius

Quite often when traveling unfamiliar places, with traffic and the size of the rig in the first place, it can be hard to judge what the approach looks like until you are committed to the turn.  What do you do when you are in a turn only lane with traffic behind you and you realize you can't clear whats ahead. 

We are on our second coach.  We chose to stay with 35' because it is so much more maneuverable.  With the rig your planning you would be pretty much limited to places you can take and park a semi.  But hey, if that's what turns your crank, go for it.
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2007, 10:16:28 AM »

The 'side by side' trailer idea is one which I'd really like to see someone undertake; it's an idea I've had myself, but never actually seen done. The closest I have seen is a double-decker bus run as a mobile studio / offices by the BBC, which has a trailer which is placed end-on in a 'T' configuration with the bus when parked up. If you do go with the 'side by side' idea, I would consider using an awning of some description over a fold-down floor between the two vehicles, or a system where the roof, walls and floor of the 'joining bit' all fold out of the sides of the trailer (not exactly like the photo below, but similar). Both solutions would involve a lot less structural engineering than a slide-out, and provide more space too.



Regarding reversing short trailers - they just need a bit more practice. I used to have a towing dolly that effectively gave two pivot points between the car and trailer - now reversing that was really good fun!

Jeremy

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« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2007, 10:36:40 AM »

what is this Space Frame you are talking about?
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