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Author Topic: Has anyone converted a classic red London double decker Roadmaster bus?  (Read 11223 times)
Kevin Warnock
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« on: July 22, 2008, 03:48:49 PM »

I was wondering if anyone has heard of a classic Roadmaster bus being converted? The guy I bought my RTS from has a really beat up one on his property. He said he planned to convert it, but it looks like it's been sitting for ten plus years. The head room upstairs is such that you can't stand up except in the aisle. But I think the upstairs could be great for a couple of bedrooms with full size queen beds. You couldn't stand up in the bedrooms, but you could stand up while walking to them. These busses are short according to Wikipedia - around 26 to 30 feet. Here's the article on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Routemaster

These are the most recognizable bus design I think. They have the engine in the front, and have an automatic transmission. They are still in use on limited routes in London. I take it someone who planned to convert such a bus would have to learn how to do everything on it personally. How about an engine swap?

Does anyone know the maximum speed?

I ask all of this because it's fun to think about for the future. I am busy with my RTS conversion, and don't plan to actually convert a London bus. But I would like to dream about it. Can you imagine the attention you would get with such a thing???

Do they have airbags or springs? Has anyone here ever driven one? Apparently they accelerate quickly and are very nimble and light.

Finally, are there any for sale in the US? Any problem importing one? I take it they can be imported because they are over 25 years old? If anyone has seen them sell on EBay, do you remember the price and condition? And does anyone know the fuel consumption?

Thanks for any comments!
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2008, 03:50:23 PM »

Whoops... I meant to write Routemaster, not Roadmaster, in the original post! Sorry.

Kevin
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2008, 04:31:52 PM »

Lots and lots of hippies living in old Routemasters - so much so that it's become a bit of a stereotype (bigger version of a VW microbus I guess). There is a fairly famous film starring Cliff Richard (British version of Elvis) on the subject. They are also very widely used as advertising / corporate entertainment / spectating vehicles at sporting events etc. I was at a sailing event last year where a drinks company were using a Routemaster with a big awning as a bar.

They are still being used in London, and in fact may become more popular again as there is currently a campaign to ban the modern single-decker bendy buses because they cause too much congestion. The disadvantage the Routemasters have is that they require two members of staff to operate them (one to drive, one to sell tickets), whereas modern buses are designed so the driver can sell tickets as well. The Routemasters apparently were incredibly expensive when they were new, but effectively have an infinite lifespan as you can just keep rebuilding them whilst generations of newer buses wear out and get scrapped. I don't know how long they are incidentally, but certainly more than 30 feet.

I wouldn't want one as a camper conversion personally as they are designed to trundle around town at low speed, rather than cruise at high speed for long distances. Also the height would be a problem I expect, although presumably no more so than a double-deck coach.

There have been discussions of Routemasters on here before - I remember posting photos of the Harry Potter triple-decker Routmaster and also a 'roof chopped' Routemaster that was built by a hot rod club here which attends a lot of custom shows etc.

Jeremy
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2008, 04:53:13 PM »

When I was in high school, my art teacher went to England and brought back a red double decker- the one with the high radiator on it-just like in the picture.  It had a 200hp Leyland diesel with a 4 spd preselect semi automatic mid mounted transmission. It worked by first selecting the gear, then when you want it to shift, lift up on the gas pedal and depress the "clutch" pedal and it shifts for you.
Some problems with using the old double deckers-getting parts since Leyland is not sold in the U.S. The height of the bus is 14'6" which some cities will allow, but otherwise the national overall height restriction is 13'6".  Plus their top speed is 45mph-50 down hill.  I wouldn't recommend it.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2008, 05:55:59 PM »

I think if I was going to convert a double-decker, I would likely choose one of these:
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2008, 06:07:28 PM »

I have kind of been out of the loop a long time now but there used to be one of those that was operated in Greenville by a bar that had what they called the Pubcrawl where people rode around from bar to bar on the bus kind of like a route. I do not know if it is still running.
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2008, 06:19:43 PM »

There was one that actually ran and was driveable in Winter Garden Florida
for quite some time. One of the Bus dealers had it on their lot and used it
as a sign. It was across the street from the Setra dealer but may have been
moved by now.

You might call ABC Bus in Winter Garden and as if any of the sales people
have seen it lately. Or one of the other dealers in Winter Garden may know
where it went.

Dave....,
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« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2008, 08:56:15 PM »

there was a fleet of them for tours in Victoria BC, might still be some in use there, but there's a whole yard full of them non-functional near Parksville now .... can't imagine it'd be a very practical conversion

Bill
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2008, 09:07:54 PM »

No, I don't think it would be that practical a conversion either. Especially if the top speed is 45mph and there is no rear door at all. Think of the wind noise and trying to heat or cool a bus with a permanently open large door. Of course, I would put in a door, probably inset and parallel to the short side of the bus, so as not to ruin the 'no door' look.

This seems like a great project to look forward to when I retire. I think it would be a second conversion, for short trips of an hour or two from home, since if it were to break down, it would probably need to be towed to my house for repairs. But I'm pretty sure a conversion could be made that would work... after all, people make conversions out of much smaller vehicles all the time.

I would imagine even if I never drove it, and just converted it and had it on my property as a 'guest house' that I would have a lot of fun with it. There doesn't seem to be a hurry to start... I am sure I will be able to find one of these years from now, as I doubt too many get crushed if there are yards full of them in non-operational state.

But of course, I would love to drive it... Any idea if a modern engine and transmission could be installed, and if so, if the top speed could be boosted to freeway speeds? Do you think there might be an issue with it just not being safe at 70 mph since it's never been tested or driven at such speed?

Thanks for the comments even though I'm not a serious buyer right this moment...

Kevin
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2008, 11:06:47 PM »

I just discovered there is a Routemaster Magazine, published by the Routemaster Association. Here is the URL:

http://www.routemaster.org.uk/

Looks like there is a passionate group of people dedicated to these vehicles.

Kevin
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2008, 06:40:48 AM »

I saw a show on a Family in England that had one as a Motorhome.  thiers did not go fast at all, they fabricated a door for the rear entry.  Very hippy style conversion.

would be unique but totally inpractical....

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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2008, 06:44:06 AM »

Then again who ever said that a busnut was practical!
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2008, 09:15:08 AM »

One thing to look for and be wary of is that the English double deckers were framed with wood to keep the weight down.  By this time, much of the wood may be rotted out (wood version of Eagle?) making for a very intensive rebuild.  Considering their odd mechanics, narrower than 8ft, many without power steering, over height, etc, it would make for a hard conversion.  But then again, nothing is simple.
As to a engine swap, either the Cummins ISC/ISL, International DTA466/530, Caterpillar 3126/C7, Mercedes 926, etc would be the right size at around 300hp and 800lb/ft torque.  Then you'd have enough power for both hill climbing and highway speeds.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2008, 10:01:33 AM »

I can't really think of any reason why a Routemaster conversion should be any more difficult than any other vehicle of that vintage, apart from the 'usability' issue that the bus was only ever intended for relatively low-speed travel. I imagine this isn't a concern for many people that live in old buses as their lifestyle is such that they stay in the same location for months at a time, and then only travel fairly short distances when they do move. It's a different matter if you are using the bus for holidays and need to travel large distances fairly quickly - I dare say engine changes etc could be done, but personally it would seem a lot more sensible to start with a more suitable vehicle.

This is the type of use that Routemasters tend to be used for; as I said before, there are a lots of this type of conversion out there:



The company that did that conversion also convert Routemasters and other double-deckers for living purposes:

http://www.doubledeckerliving.com

Jeremy
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« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2008, 10:56:42 AM »

.  .  .  .would be unique but totally inpractical....

That can be applied to almost ANY old bus.  Roll Eyes

It is the enjoyment during the journey that makes it worth doing, NOT the residual value at the destination.

If someone wants that look & doesn't mind planning ahead (overhead) when choosing routes, I think it would be a great place to start.
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« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2008, 08:49:00 PM »

Hello.

Go easy on the slow speed issue. I rode on a subruban style route in the UK on vacation in the late 70's that quite nicely ran at highway speed.

No different than a GM fishbowl? Lots geared and engined for city, some set up for highway use?

Jeremy?

happy coaching!
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« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2008, 02:47:26 AM »

I didn't know the answer to that, so did a quick Google and found the very useful summary below which provides an answer to just about every question / issue raised so far on this thread. I for example was wrong when I said they were more than 30 feet long - in fact many of them were only 27.5 feet long, which I still cannot get my head around as they look much bigger than that.

"The Routemaster is the quintessential double decker London Bus, the last to be wholly designed by London Transport.

Conceived in the mid 1950's and built until the late 1960's, it was the last open platform bus to enter service in London and was designed for a 17 year life

Ironically, the first few models looked quite a bit different than what were used to seeing today - there were a number of different front end versions tried until they settled on what we're used to seeing today..

Although the Routemaster was designed in the 1950's, one should not forget what an advanced design it was for its time. By using a light alloy body, it was possible to produce a 64-seat bus within the weight limits of the older 56-seat RT bus. The RM also differed from earlier London designs in being of integral construction. Instead of having a traditional body and chassis, the Routemaster has a strengthened body which does not require a chassis to take the stress. The mechanical units are mounted on front and rear sub-frames rather than a heavy fixed chassis. Other novel features for a bus of the 1950's, but fitted as standard to the Routemaster, included independent front suspension, power steering, fully automatic gearbox and power-hydraulic braking. In 1961, 24 vehicles were built and then lengthened by the insertion of an additional 2ft 6in bay in the centre of their bodywork. Classified RML, this version with its 72-seat bodywork became the standard product from 1965 and remains the most common type in London today. At approximately 7 3/4 tons, the RML is still some 2 tons lighter than modern double deck vehicles of similar passenger capacity.

Many modifications or variations took place during the production of the fleet. During 1962/63, 575 RMs were fitted with Leyland engines from new. From 1964, several batches of vehicles were built with offside illuminated advert panels. Other design changes affected the radiator grille, head lamp panels, heater grille, offside route number panel, brake cooling grilles and upper deck front windows, to name just a few examples. This list does not include the many variations to the mechanical components or the interior of the vehicle. What may appear a standard bus is far from it! Following on from the fourth prototype, 68 similar vehicles (right) were built for use on Green Line routes from 1962. This production batch, classified RMC (Routemaster Coach), were built as 57-seaters, with fully enclosed platforms with electrically-operated doors, air suspension, fluorescent lighting, different interior trim, luggage racks and twin headlamps. In 1965, 43 further Green Line coaches were built to the longer (RML) 30ft length and classified RCL. These were 65-seaters and were equipped with larger AEC engines. From May 1964, 50 vehicles were delivered to Northern General Transport of Gateshead. These vehicles, known in London as RMFs, were to the 30ft length, fitted with Leyland engines, forward staircase and entrance. With different windows, interiors and many other features, they were quite distinct from the London examples. Despite these variations and the hilly operating environment, they were another successful Routemaster variant.

British European Airways (BEA) was the only other customer for the Routemaster. A batch of 65 vehicles was built in 1966/67 but to the shorter 27ft 6in length. Like the Northern General examples, they were forward-entrance and had non-London interiors, but mechanically they were fitted with the larger AEC engines and were capable of running at up to 70 mph and towing luggage trailers. In 1966, a final prototype was completed, namely FRM1, the front entrance Routemaster. It was built with some 60% of standard RM parts, an AEC engine fitted at the rear, and staircase and platform doors fitted at the front.

Nearly 1500 Routemasters have been scrapped in the intervening years, but many have been sold for further service around the United Kingdom or around the world; others have been used for a variety of non-pcv duties and numerous examples have been preserved.

Meanwhile in London, between 1990 and 1994, all but two of the 502-strong RML fleet together with more than 100 RMs, were re-engined with new Cummins and Iveco engines. In addition, between 1992 and 1994, 500 RML's have been refurbished for a widely quoted "further ten years" service.

A further variation to the standard Routemaster specification occurred in 1996 with the commencement of the fitment of Scania engines to London Central's RM fleet for route 36. At the end of 1994, the privatisation of London Buses was completed and now all the Routemasters in London are in private ownership. However, the 43 RML's for routes 13 and 19 remain owned by London Transport and are currently leased to the operators. From 1996, London Transport Buses have offered the individual contracts for the RM operated routes for re-tender. To date all but one of the routes has remained with Routemasters.

Sadly, 2005 appears to mark the end of the Routemaster on active service... by year end, it's planned for all RM service to be phased out (thanks to many reasons). The RM will live on, however, in both preserved buses as well as the many models shown on this site"

from: http://routemasterbus.home.att.net/history.htm

Jeremy
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« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2008, 07:26:34 AM »

Some people may have difficulty adapting to the steering wheel being on the wrong (right) side.

Richard
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« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2008, 10:01:16 AM »

I drove my high schools art teachers 1959 routemaster, and I can tell you it did NOT have power steering, did NOT have independent front suspension (road rough-standard straight axle with leaf springs-lots of them), and did NOT have a fully automatic transmission-rather a preselect semi automatic that had a shift pedal instead of a clutch to activate the preselected gear.  The engine was maybe as much as 200hp and it was a dog up any kind of hill.

If you up graded to a 300hp American Diesel, and cut down the roof to 13'6" from its' 14'6", then had a hydraulically powered roof that would come back up for proper headroom when parked-that would make a unique motorhome.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2008, 11:12:27 AM »

The article I included above came from a website of someone who collects diecast model Routemasters, so I thought I had better check elsewhere to make sure it wasn't all baloney. Turns out there is loads of stuff out there about Routemasters - here's a couple of things about the gearbox / steering / suspension:

Specification - The Routemaster in its standard form (built 1958 to 1965)

Width 8'
Length 27' 6"
Height 14' 4.5"
Seating 64 (28 Downstairs, 36 Upstairs)
Engine AEC AV590 9.6 litre or Leyland 0600 9.8 litre diesel rated at 115 bhp at 1800 rpm
Gearbox AEC direct selection/automatic 4 speed with electrical control and air operation
Brakes Continuous flow power hydraulic
Steering Power assisted, sweeping a 62' circle
Weight 7 tons 7 cwt (unladen)
11 tons 10 cwt (laden)
Body All aluminium stressed skin construction
Chassis Two separate steel sub-frames:
Front 'A' frame carrying engine, steering and front suspension
Rear 'B' frame carrying rear axle and rear suspension 
 
(from: http://www.routemaster.org.uk/faq_fandf.html)

Catalogue entry from the Earls Court Commerical Motor Show, when the Routemaster was first launched:




(from: http://www.rm8.org.uk/construction.htm)


It is perhaps worth remembering that the Routemaster was only one of many types of red double-decker buses that were running around at the time, and to 99 out of 100 people I expect they all looked the same

Jeremy
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« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2008, 11:20:11 AM »

I have learned a lot more about the Routemaster in the last few weeks. Here is a site that sells them and many other used British busses:

http://www.ensignbus.com/

What's interesting is that many for sale have been repowered with Cummins engines and Allison transmissions. Does that necessarily mean that a US Cummins mechanic will be able to work on it and get parts? I see Cummins is in 160 countries and has $14B in sales, so they are big. But maybe they have totally different product lines in Britain?

It appears some Routemasters are geared for freeway driving and can go 70 mph, so that issue is now a non-issue provided I can find the right bus.

Can I import a Routemaster to the US? How much is shipping likely to be from England? How will I register it in California? I take it all this has been done before with really old cars like the original Mini.

The more I think about this project, the more I want to do it. It won't be my sole conversion. I have two others - my 1967 MCI 5a and my 1994 RTS. So I know about the hassles of having an old bus. But an old British bus is another story I know.

Thanks,

Kevin
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« Reply #21 on: July 25, 2008, 12:46:26 PM »

I remember many years ago on some TV program (maybe "You Asked for it"), London double deckers doing doughnuts on a skid pad for driver training.  That would be a cool video to see today.  I haven't been able to find one.

Len
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« Reply #22 on: July 25, 2008, 04:09:41 PM »

Kevin, here is what California says about height;

General Rule: CVC Section 35250. No vehicle or load shall exceed a height of 14 feet measured from the surface upon which the vehicle stands, except that a double-deck bus may not exceed a height of 14 feet, 3 inches. Any vehicle or load which exceeds a height of 13 feet, 6 inches, shall only be operated on those highways where deemed to be safe by the owner of the vehicle or the entity operating the bus.

And here is where it came from;

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/trucks/trucksize/cvc-sum.htm

This is something I would do if I had the time and money, however the Scenicruiser comes first.

If you do it, please keep us informed!

I did a safety survey on a bus company in San Diego several years ago, I do not know the name, however they had one for sale.  Start there!

Jack
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« Reply #23 on: July 25, 2008, 04:37:58 PM »

So, according to the Routemaster specs, it's 14' 4.5", or 1.5" over the California maximum limit for double deck busses. That seems to me to be close enough, and an inspector's tape measure probably could not measure to that accuracy anyway. Plus, the height is probably 14" 4.5" only at the center peak of the roof, not on the side where the tape measure would be. Do you think I'll be able to pass any height inspection in California? I guess I could also let some air out of the tires for the inspection... lol.

I'm still hoping to find out if the bus has springs or air bags. If air bags, I can just let some air out for the inspection.

But the more important issue is how will I plan my routes in my Routemaster? Is there an online or book resource that lists overhead clearances for some or all US roads? I don't want to appear on the news with a topless bus because my GPS 'told me' that was the route to take!

Thanks,

Kevin
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« Reply #24 on: July 25, 2008, 08:38:51 PM »

Hello.

The Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas is what you need.

Lots of resources in the front of interest to busnuts, including low clearance locations on the interstate system.

Check one out at a truck stop near you. Always some place to buy at less than the suggested price.

I usually get a current one for around $10. Change truck stops, if they are trying to sell it for full price.

happy coaching!
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« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2008, 05:28:22 AM »

I have kind of been out of the loop a long time now but there used to be one of those that was operated in Greenville by a bar that had what they called the Pubcrawl where people rode around from bar to bar on the bus kind of like a route. I do not know if it is still running.

Don't believe that fellow is doing the pub crawl any more and the bus is not parked out behind the house it used to be.



There is an outfit near Charlotte NC that had one and an RTS that did dpecial tours there,  Even a haloween ghost tour.



....What's interesting is that many for sale have been repowered with Cummins engines and Allison transmissions. Does that necessarily mean that a US Cummins mechanic will be able to work on it and get parts? I see Cummins is in 160 countries and has $14B in sales, so they are big. But maybe they have totally different product lines in Britain?.......



The engines in britian turn the other way Grin
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« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2008, 03:03:48 PM »

key wording in the ht exception is BUS.....not motorhome or house car.

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« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2008, 01:23:51 PM »

Well, I have decided to put this project on the very back burner. A large seller of Routemasters in the UK strongly discouraged me from trying this project. He said there are only 10 remaining examples in the world of Routemasters that can go 60 mph. The others go 40 mph.

He also said the brakes need to be charged with a device that is very difficult to get.

He said there is no insulation at all in the Routemaster.

That, plus the problem of it being too tall to be a motorhome, really makes this an expensive project.

To do this project 'properly', I would have to put in a new engine and new gears and new brakes. I would also have to cut the roof down by a foot, and figure out how to raise it when camped. This sounds like I could spend over $100,000 just getting the bus ready to convert. Oh, and the cost to get the bus to the US is another $10 or $20 thousand dollars depending on who you ask.

Thanks for all the great comments. I still want to do this project, but it will have to wait until I make a fortune and retire.

Kevin
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