Wednesday, December 3, 2014

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

So when I last posted, we had just finished painting the entire bus silver below the roof line. It was time to lay out the graphics and add the deep cobalt pearl. Once again, preparation is 95% of the job. The graphic is a blue stripe running the length of the Bus with a "swoop" coming down and then over the rear wheel. In addition two silver accent stripes run inside the blue. The roof was already painted white and masked off before the silver went on to protect from over-spray.Then the blue was taped out using "fine-line" tape. This tape is plastic and comes in varying widths from 1/8" to 3/4". Fine-line gives you a sharper edge and can be laid around curves without wrinkling. So, we laid out the blue with fine-line, adjusting by eye, the curve of the swoop. We then went back and,
using regular 3/4" masking tape, laid it tight to the inner edge of the fine-line. This gave us a perfect 3/4" spacer from the edge of the blue. We then laid down another 3/4" fine-line along the inside of the spacer tape. Once that was completed, we went back and removed the spacer tape. The 3/4" fine-line will be silver once all the tape is removed. With one side completed, we had to transfer the design to the other side; duplicating our pattern by measuring key marker
points along the first graphic to the other side. Yes, I know you can't see both sides of the bus at the same time, but exact duplication was important to us. Additional taping was required to create the graphics for the front of the Bus. Once the tape was laid out, we went back to add paper to mask off the remainder of the silver on the Bus. Total time taping - one week. 

Next, the exposed surface (that not covered by tape or paper) was Scotch Brited (a verb commonly used in body shop lingo) to promote adherence of the blue paint. That was followed by a complete wipe-down with wax and grease remover. Finally, the blue was shot, but the adventure wasn't over yet. The tape had to be removed before the paint was dry, so we could remove any over-spray around rivets and panel seams. You do this by using a very small folded corner of T-shirt cloth, dip in lacquer thinner, and gentle wipe the over-spray into the heaver blue paint inside the tape line. Tedious. 

The wheels had at least five coats of paint on them. Factory white, maroon, and then three more coats of brushed on white. I started out sandblasting which worked great around the lug nuts, but was too slow to do the whole wheel. Next, I used aircraft paint stripper. It took three applications followed by sandblasting the remainder and I had one wheel done. This wasn't cutting it - literally. Mark had a nonfunctional, air powered needler, so out of desperation, I disassembled it, cleaned and polished all the parts, oiled it up and got it
working again. For the uninitiated, a needler is a tool with eight or so 1/8 inch rods about 6 inches long that are held in a tight bunch and alternately hammered at high speed by the air cylinder inside the tool. It pulverized the thick, hard paint in no time. I got the other three wheels down to bare metal in the time it took to do the first one. I sandblasted the lugs and nuts and they were ready for paint. One coat of etch prime, two coats of white sealer, and two coats of white single stage. They look like brand new and factory correct.

I put new glass in the stock rear view mirrors and mounted them along with about fifteen other trim pieces. They all bolt on with 1/4" stainless flatheads. 

I had been pondering how to get the the engine bay door to fit better and also have better access to the engine. The original hinges are really difficult to adjust, and you're always ducking under the door; not to mention the number of times my head has clipped the sharp corner when the door is up. So I made it totally removable by taking the hinges off, welding two locating pins on the bottom that drop into two holes in the top of the
bumper. Then I found these cool marine latches to secure the top edge of the door. A simple four post trailer plug hooks up all the lights in the rear. Total weight of the door - about 25 pounds. Now it fits perfectly. I can remove it and set it aside. And, the new latches look very cool.

The original rear window of the Bus was a three piece unit with a locking bead window seal. The glass is convex in both the vertical and horizontal

planes. So it's biconvex. They don't make these windows anymore. Everyone says they're made of unobtainium. The donor bus had all three windows in the back. One had a crack in one layer of the laminated glass, but otherwise was intact. I had already filled the back window with 1" foam board, so I had the option of installing the original glass using a rope gasket, make a fiberglass copy of the original glass, or make the "window" out of some other material. After failing at getting a smooth fiberglass copy and deciding the original glass would have to be installed and then covered with acrylic to hide the crack, I decided to go with FRP - fiberglass reinforced plastic. It's about 3/32" thick and smooth on the back side. The only issue here is that you can't bend in in two directions - biconvex. I laid made a paper template of the three pieces and cut the FRP to shape. By bowing the plastic in the vertical plain and angling slightly the two side panels, I got a great looking back "window". I seam sealed the edges, painted the FRP flat black and screwed an aluminum trim piece down the two side panel seams. Done and looks great.

Next, I installed all the exterior lighting. That's 22 lights. The four corner upper marker lights are original. The original front and back triple light castings were used, but I replaced all the lens with "beehive" LED's with cool chrome visors. The side markers are 2" round LED's with custom Deco trim I designed with a CAD program and had water-jet cut out of 1/8" aluminum. I polished these parts to chrome-like finish. I also drew up a vent cover for the propane furnace and had that water-jet cut as well - also polished bright and shiny. 

So, the last job to get the Bus roadworthy again was to re-install the big side windows and a new window for the door. There are seven side
windows. I installed rubber seals on all seven windows, Then Mark and I hung them on the hinges and using a little Pledge for added slipperiness got them snug in their openings.

End result, bus looks pretty good. Right?




Monday, October 13, 2014

LOVE - HATE RELATIONSHIP

The Shop last Spring
While we did most of the interior work last year with the Bus outside, at our house, I needed a place to work on the exterior that would not be ruled by weather. I found the perfect building only ten minutes from home - a 56' x 60' pole barn built about six years ago and situated on two acres of land. The building has two 14' high doors at opposite ends plus two 7' conventional garage doors to the side bays. One bay we've converted to a paint booth with radiant floor heat, super insulation and
Interior
excellent airflow. Mark and I have a couple of cars waiting for restoration down the road - a '70 Chevelle Malibu SS, a '68 Torino GT, and a '39 Ford 2 door street rod that my oldest kid and I finished the first time around in 1990. Anyway, back to the Bus. I moved it over there in late June to restore, prep and paint the exterior. I've had three "deadlines" pass and it was still not in full primer. Once again, a project I underestimated x10. I bought this particular bus because of the fresh engine and
Distorted  panel
 
suspension. If I had it to do over, I may have taken a closer look at just how rough the exterior was. Here is one example of a panel that had to be replaced. Note the bulging between rivets. Electrolytic corrosion occurs between the steel backing panel and the aluminum outer panel, forming a white power oxide that expands to a greater volume than the metallic aluminum, pushing the two metals apart. Since aluminum is more malleable it deforms, causing the bulging between the line of rivets. Solution - remove the aluminum skin, apply a layer of undercoating to keep the two metals 
Corrosion under panel
electrolytically separated, and replace with a fresh panel from the donor bus. Many points of steel / aluminum contact were separated by what looks like tar soaked cloth at the factory. You can see some bulging of the panel above, but there are limits to the amount of rebuilding possible These buses were magnificently engineered, but I doubt those engineers expected them to be on the road almost sixty years later. My original plan was to retain the anodized aluminum bottom half and paint
Corrosion barrier applied
the upper half, but there were way more defects in the skin than I had originally realized, so I decided to paint the entire bus in order to repair all the damaged areas and fill holes cut for a refrigerator, furnace, outlets, etc. by previous owners. As I said in an earlier post, I wanted a clean roof which required 11 holes to be patched in the roof alone. In addition there were only four bay doors that were not damaged. I wound up using all three large bay doors from the donor bus, but they still required a
Replaced, re-riveted,painted
considerable amount of dent and gouge repair, as well as removal of all the bay door pull-out handles, straightening and re-riveting. In addition there are over 80 bolt-on window and trim parts that were all removed for repair and refinishing. Two of the bay doors were rebuilt to add expanded metal for venting the air conditioning units and the remote oil cooler. In addition, I removed the front license plate assembly and grafted in a section off the donor bus to give the front a smooth, unbroken
Some of the bolt-on pieces
look. The roof was sanded down to the original,very tough green prime, re-primed and then shot with white Imron. All the bay doors were hung with new hinge rubber. We etch primed all the bolt on pieces, doors and sections as we went. All bolt-on parts were seam sealed to create a smooth,tight, unified look. It's been three months of hammering, filling, sanding, priming, more sanding. I hate sanding! It's like a bad remake of The Karate Kid - wipe on, wipe off. Filler on, sand off, primer on, sand off, and on and on...
Panel repair

Refinished latch handle






Modified front
Old front



Silver at last!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

THE THIRD YEAR

Yup, three years as of February 2014. Since being so late with my last post, I thought I'd try to catch up on what's happened since our return from California in January. The Bus sat exactly where I parked it on arrival for almost two months. 
I plugged her in and left the mini-splits set as low as I could (60 degrees F). Amazingly with temperatures dipping into single digits, the system could still extract heat from the ambient temperatures. I thought I had enough heat in the utility bay to prevent freezing, but after a couple of below zero nights, one of the plastic PEX manifolds burst. I also had the refrigerator to repair and I decided to send the Victron back for a go-over since it was still under warranty. I was convinced the inverter was the cause of the refrigerator cable fire. 

So, my first project in the Spring was to pull the inverter and send it in for testing. The good news was that there was nothing wrong with it. The bad news was there was nothing wrong with it. I'm still unsure of the cause of the meltdown. I got the inverter back and re-installed it with a few "better ideas" added. I can't find any abnormalities in the system. I hate it when that happens!


Donor accelerator pedal
Next - replacing the cable throttle with an air throttle. Although I pulled, cleaned, and lubed the cable when started the project, it has gotten more sluggish over time. The decision was made easier as the parts bus had an air throttle. When I drove the parts bus home, the throttle response was so much better, that I moved it to the top of the To-Do List.
The first step was to remove the system from the parts bus. That was pretty straight forward - unbolt the accelerator pedal assembly up front and the piston assembly in back on the governor. The pedal assembly is a proportional air valve with three air lines. A supply line from the front air tank, a distribution line to the actuator piston on the governor, and a vent line to depressurize the air valve. The picture shows the valve with the pedal removed.

The old pedal had to be cut out from the brake/accelerator assembly and replaced with the air pedal mechanism. It looks easy. Took about two hours. 
New pedal

Old accelerator pedal
Next, the old cable throttle was removed. Then the air throttle had to be modified because the governor on the Bus was different than the donor's. The mounting plate had to be modified by adding an extension plate and the pivot return arm flipped to make it work on my governor.
New air throttle

Old cable throttle

I ran 45' of 3/8" air hose from the pedal assembly to the throttle piston, aired up the system with the shop compressor, fired up the Detroit, and volia! Great throttle response, and a drastic improvement in overall drivability. I don't use the clutch once rolling, so quicker shifts are possible since the engine revs drop quicker with the air throttle.

STILL TOO HOT


Driving in the mountains last winter pushed the cooling system to the edge. We had to pull over a few times when the temp started climbing past 190F at 80F ambient. With electric fans, it only took a few minutes to bring the temp back to 180F, but that's not going to hack it at 95+F. I didn't want to go back to the stock the radiator and crank driven fan which failed twice in the past. My decision was to install an additional, independent oil cooling system to take some of the load off the water cooling system. I haven't seen this done before, so it's pretty experimental. I installed two 18"x24" Hayden oil coolers in series - tucked into the space behind the rear electrical panel which is pretty much empty since I gutted all the original wiring.

 The coolers are hung with rubber hangers stacked one behind the other. A remote, 12v electric, gear driven oil pump moves 5 gal. per minute from the bottom of the oil pan, through the oil coolers and returns the oil via a fitting in the block below the oil fill. I cut a hole in the bay door and also in the aluminum panel separating the compartment from the area behind where the coolers are
located. I mounted a Flexalite fan to push air through the coolers. I've done a short run, but not under conditions that would put the system to the test.



Next: The Shop

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Click to enlarge
It's been awhile – yeah, I know, more than awhile. Like, six months. I actually left you hanging with us in California in the dead of winter. We found an RV park about twenty minutes north of Paco and Allison's house at candlestick Park,In South San Francisco. This is a Google Earth view of the stadium, RV Park, and Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.
The rate was very steep at $89.00 a night, AND they didn't allow bus conversions! We arrived late in the evening and the night manager said we could stay for one night and talk to the General Manager in the morning to determine if we could stay longer. Fortunately, the GM was very nice – we could stay, and if we paid for a month it would only be $1200.00, a “savings” of $1470.00. In other words, we could stay for four weeks for less than the price of the two weeks we had planned. The weather was great in San Francisco and brutal in Michigan, we were with our grandkids every day, and we were retired – tough choice!

The RV park was at Candlestick Park – the stadium! Candlestick Park is, actually was, the home of the San Francisco Giants MLB team from 1960 to 2000. It then became the home of the 49ers NFL team until the end of the 2013 season. It will be demolished later in 2014 or early 2015.The RV park is located across the street from the main stadium parking lot. 

Candlestick Point is a spit that juts out into South San Francisco Bay. It is a lovely natural retreat with walking paths and a fishing pier. It's also adjacent to the RV park and we would walk out into the bay to enjoy the breeze and smell of the ocean, talk with the fishermen and enjoy a little piece of nature in the middle of the city.  We spent almost a month in San Francisco / San Mateo - mostly hanging out with the grandkids. 


We went to the Star Wars exhibit at the 
San Jose Tech Museum.


Maddie in her Luke Skywalker Halloween costume.










And Point Reyes National Seashore.

We reluctantly decided to head home the end of January. Big mistake. It was in the low to mid 70's and sunny the whole month. We knew it was cold back in Michigan, but didn't expect it to keep up. We had John and Nicki checking on the house (when they could get up the 800' driveway), and we had the new automatic generator, but felt we couldn't extend another month. Should've called them. They would've talked us into staying in California. We left on January 27th to climb over the Sierras - from 9' above sea level at Candlestick Park, down to 73' below sea level crossing the valley then up to Truckee River RV Park - 190 miles and 6000'. It was a long slow pull with the bus doing 27 mph max. at times (top speed in second gear). I'd put the four-ways on an follow the heavy trucks in the right-hand lane.




The next day we headed out of California and across Nevada. There were a few short climbs along the way, but basically uneventful. We stopped in West Wendover, NV for the night - just short of the Utah State Line. This is the view of the casinos from the campground. The casinos offered free shuttle service to and from the campground. We passed and went to bed early. 


Next state - Utah
Next morning, within minutes of crossing the Utah state line, the terrain becomes flat and brilliant white in all directions. Miles and miles of salt flats. No trees, dry scrawny shrubs, and little more. The only other "scenery" was hundreds of names and messages written on the salt by arranging stones. This one says "PARKER" and "TANNER".What are you going to do for entertainment under these conditions? Of course! Get out of your air conditioned vehicle and collect stones to arrange in the blazing sun. Salt flats stoners.
PARKER and TANNER
Welcome to the salt flats


On the east side of Utah was another mountain range to climb - The Wasatch Range - from Salt Lake City up into Wyoming. 
Once in Wyoming the winds began to intensify. I mean INTENSIFY. The digital speed limit signs read 25mph! The speed limit on an Interstate is 25?? Yup. The winds were 50 mph with gusts to 70. Empty trailer loads were ordered off the Interstate. I thought we'd tough it out for awhile, but then the wind blew a semi trailer we were following from the right lane to the left in a split second - in the wink of an eye - fast as greased lightning - a speeding bullet - a rabbit - a trailer in a high wind. So, we took the next exit and parked it for the remainder. The oil rig guys next door left their trailer and got a motel room for the night. Wimps! We just hunkered down and rode'er out. That's whutcha do when yer in Wyoming.

The next day was a long haul - 455 miles to Sidney Nebraska, home of the original Cabella's. They have a campground there, so we parked the bus for the night. Next morning I really felt wiped out, so we decided to spend another day in Sidney before moving on. This was not the high season for camping in Nebraska. We were back in the grips of winter and really desperate just to get home. So, it was a two day sprint across the remainder of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and finally into Michigan. Teri had called ahead to get our 800' driveway plowed prior to arrival. We pulled in late, around 10:00 pm. We could unload the bus in the morning. It was time for a good night's sleep in our home sweet home.