If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you may be wondering “what’s up” with my vintage bus project. Well, old blogging software (Apple’s iWeb) didn’t allow for saving drafts, posting new content and then going back to finish the draft. I had a very long and detailed post in the works about solar panels that I never got around to finishing in iWeb which prevented me from posting new content… add to that additional delays on the vintage bus project and I just started to forget about this blog and started to update the Creative Cruiser’s Facebook page instead. Now it’s time to get this blog going again and a big change in the course of the vintage bus project is what has prompted me to get interest in the blog once again.
First an update on what has happened with the vintage bus project since my last update:
- In late March 2011 the Creative Cruiser was moved to Trackmaster Fabricators in Newark, TX where George Fields and his assistant Dave started working on engine and chassis updates.
- Delays plagued the project caused by the person who originally started the repower back in California. First he didn’t include the engine/transmission wiring harness with the bus when it was shipped to TX. Secondly, we had to drive to the original mechanic’s home and call him a bazillion times to talk him into giving us said harness (which took about four months). He placed the harness in a huge box and placed it outside the fence at the end of his driveway. We drove by in our current bus, picked it up and had it shipped to TX. Upon receiving that harness, we found it to be the wrong one! Only after two additional months did the original mechanic find a random wiring harness laying around his garage and figure out that he might have sent us the wrong one. In an amazing display of humanity, the original mechanic called to say he was going to ship us the correct wiring harness. Of course we wasted many hours trying to figure out how the wrong harness was supposed to work, so this was a lot more than simple delays. (see how the project was getting delayed and why I might lose interest in blogging about it?)
- During the time George was trying to get the first wiring harness to work, I did a lot of research on Solar panels, Lithium Ion batteries, alternators, water systems and spent time refining a 3D model of the bus that I created in Google SketchUp.
- I designed the plumbing system so that it would have a 256 gallon fresh water tank, a 198 gallon gray tank and a 129 gallon black tank. Those tanks are huge and custom made out of stainless steel. For comparison, my current bus has a 160 gallon fresh water tank and a 135 gallon gray/black combination tank. I wanted large tanks so we would could spend a lot of time away from RV parks. The frame that runs down the length of the bus was strengthened to make sure it could support the weight of all the liquid that would be held in those tanks. At the same time a 130 gallon diesel fuel tank was fabricated to supply the engine, generator and diesel-fired hydronic heater.
- I read the entire NFPA 1192 code book. (It was a real page-turner!) NFPA stands for National Fire Protection Association and is what documents all the building codes for RV plumbing systems. You do a lot of random reading when your project is being delayed and you want to keep your mind thinking constructively.
- I decided to use an electronic induction cooktop in the Creative Cruiser and that ScanPan CTX pots and pans would be our best option. We even created a video cook-off between my current electric cooktop and an induction cooktop. It’s a video about watching water boil… pretty exciting stuff I tell you.
- I created mockups of the iphone and ipad interface for the home automation system I’d like to implement. They aren’t finished pixel-for-pixel designs… they more or less just show what kind of controls I’d like to have without the visual polish that would be on the final designs.
- I chose the location and layout for all wall switch panels in the hope that I’d be able to get a more exact home automation quote. I also made up 12 volt, 24 volt and 120 volt load lists that show exactly how many devices need to be powered and how much of an amp draw I should expect from each.
- I scoured eBay and other sources to find New Old Stock (NOS) parts for the bus. Those are old vintage parts that have never been used and are often in their original vintage boxes. Among the parts I found were NOS clearance lights, front and rear arrow-style turn signals (all glass and metal, no plastic) windshields and more. I also acquired replacement vents for the rear baggage doors that are the louvered style that I like a lot better than the stamped metal ones that came with my bus.
- While I was doing all that research, George and Dave at Trackmaster Fabricators installed Bigfoot hydraulic leveling jacks, fabricated the engine exhaust and cooling system. They also fabricated all the stainless steel water and fuel tanks, insulated the bottom and sides of the tanks and added heaters below them so that things won’t freeze in cold weather.
- The engine was repainted Cummins Red to match how they paint new engines (it was black when I acquired it). The transmission was painted silver and a lot of the underside frame members were also painted to prevent rust.
- I keep buying random vintage crap that I find on eBay. That means we have silverware, grab handles, a wall mounted hat rack, cool looking clocks and much more. All that stuff is piling up in Karen’s old bedroom at her parents place in New Jersey.
- Near the end of the year we met with Craig Dorsey of Vintage Vacations while he was visiting Huntington Beach, CA. He’s the guy I was planning to use for the interior of the Creative Cruiser. He’s the most talented vintage trailer restorer that I know of (and I’ve looked into dozens). He’s also very talented in fabricating custom details that make modern televisions and refrigerators look vintage. We’ve been talking about this project for years and neither of us could wait for the time that he’d get a chance to start on the interior (important updates on that coming soon).
- Around January of 2012 is when I could finally start to see the finish line on engine/chassis updates. It was a good feeling to think that the bus was about to move on to the most exciting stage… the interior.
- In February I met, once again, with Craig Dorsey of Vintage Vacations while we was again visiting California. We went shopping and picked out the wood veneer we thought we should use, purchased leather and just looked at things like cabinet hardware and more.
- The CreativeCruiser.com web site got a total redesign thanks to Apple (for canceling the iWeb service) and my fiance Karen for whipping up a brand new design in Word Press. She not only made the new site from top to bottom, but also redesigned and combined all my other web sites into a single site that can be accessed at www.DigitalMastery.com! Now my old URLs just send you to the proper areas of the new combined site. The CreativeCruiser side could be found by visiting DigitalMastery.com, clicking on Blog and then clicking on Creative Cruiser from the right side bar… or just go to CreativeCruiser.com and you’ll be sent there automagically.
- As time progressed, I started to research which appliances and accessories I’d want to buy for the project since I knew the interior phase was about to begin. Here are a few details: The fridge I plan to use is made by Vitrifrigo in Italy (they still build quality instead of crap), the toilet is from Planus, electric water heater from Torrid.
- On April 19th, 2012, I took the Creative Cruiser for it’s first road test with its new powerplant. We were unable to take it up to cruising speed because we didn’t have the correct type of wheels installed (it was an issue with bolt patterns and stud types).
- The next day, after getting the front wheels changed for ones with the proper bolt pattern, I was able to take the bus up to cruising speed. Holy shit, is it a hotrod! I had to concentrate in order to keep my speed below 90 MPH on the interstate.
- After a day of working out a few kinks and doing a bunch of test runs, I left Newark, TX on what become known as “The Vintage Bus Run.” The idea was to drive the Creative Cruiser from Texas to Nova Scotia, which is where I planned to have the interior fabricated and installed. I figured that I should be able to make the trip in about ten days and thought the bus might brake down two or three times on the way considering that it had so many changes made that hadn’t been tested.
- The first day I had it from near Ft. Worth, TX to Oklahoma City, OK. After that I headed to St. Louis where I encountered my first problem: The transmission heat exchanger started to leak at a fitting. It took three days before I was back on the road. My next stop was Evansville, Indiana where a sensor snapped off one of my air tanks because the rear axel shifted two inches toward the drivers side. Why did it shift? Because the original mechanic (the same one who caused the wiring harness fiasco) hadn’t tightened the bolts properly. I was able to get this problem fixed the next morning and get back on the road. At this point I had been on the road for a total of six days.
- The vintage bus run stops short of its goal. This Facebook update sums it up “Major setback with the vintage bus project! The guy who was going to do the interior has taken a six month project on (when he knew I was heading his way with the vintage bus), which means everything is up for grabs. I might get paint/body work done during that time, or I might choose to use someone else to do the interior work. I feel like I’ve been screwed beyond belief since I talked to him about heading his way a few weeks ago and he chose to not mention the fact that he took on a six month project (he played stupid, which he must be). I could have had body work done in Ft. Worth where the bus was previously based, but now everything is up in the air and I’m pissed beyond belief. Does anyone know of an amazing body and paint shop between KY and NJ? I’m beyond pissed off… I’m so pissed that I’m calm, which is scary.”
- Dejected and not knowing where to go next, I decide to head to Columbus, OH and Elkhart, IN to get quotes on a paint job and look at RV surplus stores.
- On May 4th I drop off the Creative Cruiser at the Choo Choo Express Garage near Chattanooga, TN. At the time I hoped they could spend time doing additional updates that I would have otherwise done after the interior was installed. That included converting windshield wipers from air to electric, adding dashboard heat and air conditioning, adding power steering and a bunch of other upgrades. I flew back to my current bus on May 5th (which was in California) and have been trying to manage things remotely ever since.
- Recently, Karen completely redesigned the Flxible Owners International web site. Karen and I are the volunteer web masters of that site which is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people who own Flxible buses. The Creative Cruiser is a 1963 Flxible Starliner.
I’ll post another update within the next few days to bring everything up to date and announce some very large and important changes that are happening with the Creative Cruiser project. I’m sorry for not having kept you appraised of the progress on this project and I hope to post updates on a regular basis. If you’d like to see more granular updates like “I’m researching having the window seals remanufactured” kind of stuff, then be sure to follow the Creative Cruiser on Facebook.
If you have any questions about what has progressed over the last year, post them below and I’ll answer them soon.
Thanks for taking the time to share your story. You have a lot more fans than you realize.
I am looking into getting a 1954 Visicoach repowered. Do you recommend this guy George Fields? If so, do you have his contact information? He is not coming up on google searches.