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I think I’ll start doing monthly updates on the vintage bus project since so many people ask me about what’s been happening lately. Here’s what’s happened since my last update:

  1. I was traveling overseas for six weeks and during that time not much has happened. That’s mainly because the person who will be making the drivetrain upgrades has been busy working on someone else’s bus. He’s now done with that work and ready get start on my bus.
  2. My bus has been moved into the shop where it will be receiving many driveline upgrades.
  3. I bid on a few brand new bare rolling chassis’ at the Country Coach auction but did not win any of the auctions. Country Coach was the builder of many high end motorhomes and had just gone out of business. I was thinking about getting a chassis that included a Cummins ISL 425, but I will instead use the engine out of the wrecked RV that I mentioned in my last update.
  4. The original engine from the vintage bus should be removed sometime this weekend. Here are pics of what the bus looks like after having the engine, transmission and all four corners of the suspension removed:
  5. I’m still waiting to have the wrecked RV that I purchased transported to the same location where the vintage bus resides. Schedules and weather problems have delayed transport of the chassis.
  6. I’ve been doing intense research in areas such as solar, Lithium ion battery systems, HID headlights, high-tech aerogel insulation, Crestron home automation systems, iPhone and internet control of bus systems and much more.

Today (2/19/2010) the mechanic who is working on the bus sent me some photos of the current progress on the vintage bus project:

The donor RV shell was delivered via a spacial flatbed semi truck. This RV had been in an accident where it hit something in the front and then tipped onto it’s side. The RV shell has already been stripped of most of the useful equipment (windows, RV systems, etc.), but still has the full engine/tranny and related electronics package. The green thing on the end of the trailer is a 7.5KW Onan QuietDiesel generator that I purchased along with the donor RV shell.

The flatbed is able to tilt to allow the RV to be removed. It could not be driven off since the front axel is missing, so a wrecker was used to offload it.

While all that was going on, the vintage bus was getting prepped for it’s updated drivetrain. Here you see the rear wheel removed so that you can see the rear axel and torsion bar suspension.

The rear end is now out. I’ll end up replacing it with the one from the donor RV shell.

This is what the rear wheel well looked like after the axel and passenger-side torsion bar was removed.

The view from the rear engine compartment shows that the original engine has been removed along with the old manual transmission.

Here, you can see the original engine after it was pulled. That’s a four cylinder diesel that has 71 cubic inches per cylinder, for a total of 284 cubic inches. The original non-turbocharged engine is smaller than what’s found in a modern V8-powered Mustang! (284 cubic inches is only 4.65 liters). The original engine put out only 150HP (for comparison, a modern mini cooper puts out 118HP and that’s not even the S version) and 395 lb/ft of torque according to the original brochure for the bus. The replacement engine should put out at least 350HP and possibly more with 1000 lb/ft of torque. The old setup featured a five-speed manual transmission which will be replaced with a modern six-speed automatic that will also come from the donor RV shell. The engine/tranny/rear end/brakes from the donor RV should have no problem dealing with the additional power since they were all designed to work together. The original setup was designed for use before the modern interstate highway system was in place and these upgrades should help the bus keep up with traffic on modern roads.

Here, you’re looking at the torsion bar suspension components for all four corners of the bus. They have been removed and will be replaced with brand new units that can still be acquired in Mexico. That should be better than riding on 40+ year old rubber.

Talked to the mechanic today (02/20/2010) and here’s the latest:

  • The suspension parts (torsion bars, etc) have been ordered from Mexico and should be there before the end of the week.
  • He plans to get the rear end out of the donor RV this week so he can start putting together the suspension. It should take a few weeks before the rear end and suspension are done though. I’ll need to get new rims because the rear end is metric, so the old rims won’t fit.
  • He reports that there is no serious rust on the frame or underside. He plans to clean everything up on the underside and then spray it with Rhino bed-liner.
  • He’ll be tearing out some of the interior to make way for the electrical and other stuff that needs to be run to the dash area.