This is my 1985 Blue Bird Micro Bird on a Chevrolet Chevy Van 30 chassis. It's powered by a Chevrolet 350 small block, and it has a 3-speed automatic transmission. I paid $1,700 for it and it's going to need some TLC. I hope to give it a nice paint job this spring when the weather warms up. As soon as I fix up the exterior a little, I want to start work on the interior. This is going to be my future camper/motorhome. Interested in school bus conversions? Check out Skoolie.net!
Right after I purchased it:
Not much to say, just a dirty old short school bus!Rear window says "IN TRANSIT - Purchased Dec 28, '07". In most states if the school bus is still yellow, it is illegal to drive on any public road until the color is "significantly different than national school bus yellow..." Obviously I couldn't haul the bus home, and since it was a one-way/one-time transportation trip, generally speaking you're not going to get into any serious trouble or anything (but don't quote me on that if you do!)
Driver's seat, yes the fan still works!Previous owner was a carpenter and built a sturdy, yes STURDY, bench behind the driver's seat. It took me 2.5 hours to take it out using various tools.This is how it appeared from standing in the back when I first got it.
I used a 4.5" Craftsman angle grinder ($53 with tax) to grind off the heads of the bolts on the first seat. Then I chopped off the back half of the rear heater seat using the same grinder. As you can see, the bench is no longer there either. Oh, and if you use an angle grinder make sure you wear goggles with side protection (ricocheting sparks), normal safety glasses won't be good enough.
I tore off the vinyl on the first step, good thing I did!
After applying some of 'The Must For Rust' (available at Home Depot for $7 something, comes in a 32oz spray bottle), then waiting, and finally applying some Rust-Oleum Hammered Finish spray paint ($3.29 Wal Mart) over it. I'd highly recommend both products I just mentioned, well worth it.
Well, it was 40'F out so I thought I'd give the old girl a nice wash up. I scrubbed the heck out of that thing with clean water mixed with a little WD-40.
Notice how much whiter the wheel rims are than in the original first three photos after I bought the bus? This again is a fine example of how well 'The Must For Rust' works. It was about 40'F out and I scrubbed the rims off with plain water. Then I dried them and sprayed 'The Must For Rust' on and waited for three minutes, then dried off what was still wet and sprayed it again. Repeated that process about four times and look how much different they are!
Taking the floor out with a pry bar and a hammer. Yeah, it took me 20 some minutes to take out that tiny area. I better try something else instead...
After removing a majority of the floor with a circular saw. The circular saw went perfect through the 3/4 plywood and the rubber on top of it. I cut it into small squares and rectangles and pried them out.
Same thing as above, different angle.
This is what the floor looked like after cutting the heads off all of the fasteners (with my angle grinder), and then sweeping the plywood/saw dust/loose fasteners out the back door.
Took out the divider that had been between the stairwell and the first seat. Now the bus can be entered going up the steps at the same angle the second step curves to.
A couple rust areas, I'm glad I took the floor out. I will hopefully get the heater seat out sometime in the spring when it's warmer out.
View of the bare floor towards the front. I have no idea why there are four rectangular holes in the floor, but I did find acorn shells at the bottom of them, hmmm.
This is my current idea for a floor plan. Click here for a larger view of the floor plan
Finally I removed that troublesome heater from the back of the bus. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I bought a 90' barbed plastic elbow fitting and some coolant, then I cut the hoses under the bus (that went to the heater) with a utility knife. Then I plugged the fitting in on both ends, and sealed it off with some pipe clamps. I filled the radiator up with 50/50 Prestone coolant, then I let the bus run with the radiator cap off for about 15 minutes, this let the air in the hoses 'gargle' out of the system. I had to keep adding 50/50 coolant until the radiator was completely full, and the overflow tank was up to the 'cold line'. Then I used a tin snips to cut the wires that went to the heater, I wrapped some duct tape around the ends (didn't have electrical tape on me), I can use those wires if I ever want to run something off of my 12V battery. Then I just hauled the heater out and finally tore up the floor that was underneath it.
I bought a wire-brush drill accessory and wire-brushed pretty much the whole floor, especially where it was rusty or where paint was chipping. Then I used a high-density foam roller to apply Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer, it's supposed to be the best stuff Rust-Oleum has for heavily rusted metal.
Here's a shot from the rear looking forward. If you'll notice, not all of the floor is painted. I still have to find a way to cut very close to the edges to remove the flooring that's fastened so close to the walls and wheel well covers. Unfortunately my circular saw can't get in those tight spaces, a hand saw doesn't work (tried it already), and as a financially-struggling college student, I think buying a new reciprocating saw is out of the question. Bah, I'll think of something eventually...
I gutted out the rest of the floor that I was not able to take out with my circular saw. I used a reciprocating saw a couple times to help get the stuff out that was very close to the walls. Good old fashioned elbow grease got most of it out to be honest, thanks to a hammer and pry bar.
Same thing as above, you can see the edge where it is unpainted, that's where I wasn't able to paint it earlier because I couldn't get the edges of the floor out with my circular saw alone. I ended up painting those spots later on that evening, also put on a second coating of paint where I had previously painted.
Firring strips in place in the middle/back areas of the bus. I used 1x4 (eight footers), then I pre-drilled some holes in both the boards and the metal floor of the bus, and fastened them down with some 1.25" self-tapping (TEK) screws from Mill's Fleet Farm. I found Fleet Farm to have a better selection of screws than Home Depot, where I usually shop. When you're drilling a lot (especially through metal) make sure you have a can of WD-40 with you, then give the drill bit a quick spray after each time you get done drilling a hole. This will keep your bit lubricated and will also cool it off, a drill bit that is constantly hot is going to get dull faster than one you try to keep lubricated and cooled.
Same as above, but at a different angle with the camera. I can't wait for the next step, to put in the insulation and OSB!
I used Owen Corning's Foamular (size 1/2"x4"x8") to insulate between the firring strips. The firring strips are 1"x4"'s, and the the Foamular fit perfect in between them. They were the same exact depth. In case you did not know, even though they are called 1"x4"'s, they're really .5"x4"'s. When they bring the wood into the sawmill, they come in as true 1"x4"'s (rough lumber.) But before leaving the sawmill, they're sanded down to help make them straight and smooth, and during the sanding process they lose a small portion of depth. I didn't know this myself until a few weeks ago, so next time you're lumber shopping keep this in mind.
This is just another view of the insulated floor looking towards the back. Oh and before I forget, if anyone's wondering what I used to cut the Foamular with, I took a utility knife and scored it once, then went through it all the way the second time. It cut pretty nice for the most part and didn't leave too many jagged edges.
I just wanted to say thanks to everyone following my project. If you have any suggestions, advice, or ideas that I could seriously implement, please let me know!