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"This is harder than I thought it would be"

Bluebird Bus-Buy it and strip it

The 82 Bluebird Bus conversion rescued from the Mexican border.  

Back in 01 or so, I was driving back from a job in Mexicali, MX and along the major highway there, was a row of Buses for sale.  Since I worked in the RV industry, we had always wanted to do a conversion bus and I really like the Bluebirds for the construction, and prefer pushers (Engine in rear) which these were.  I stopped to take a look.  These were 30-footers, which is a great size for an RV, because it’s allowed in all campgrounds.  (31-footers can’t go in to many sites.)   These all had 3208 Caterpillar engines new Alcoa wheels and new tires.  However one of them…had a brand new (Factory Reman) engine.  So I called on it.  $8,000.  OK, quick Math $3K in wheels and tires, $7500 engine, yeah, I’ll do that.

First shot of the 82 Bluebird at a truck stop in El Centro, CA.

First shot of the 82 Bluebird at a truck stop in El Centro, CA.

So I got a cashier’s check and made arrangements to pick it up a couple of weeks later.  On my way, I called them and the guy said he was sorry but the bus we wanted was sold, but they still had the three others.  I told him no dice, it was the one we looked at or nothing.  He called me back later to tell me the other buyer was “Sketchy” and he’d sell us the bus we wanted.    When we got there, the guy I had been talking to was this classic tall Hispanic guy with a stereotypical western outfit and preposterous cowboy boots.  I managed to not crack up.  He told us the Mechanic was just “finishing up a few things” but I could go check it out.  What the Mechanic was “finishing up” was reinstalling the engine.  Apparently, the mechanic freaked out when he found out they were going to going to sell the bus for the cost of the engine.  Haha, I win.

 

Original interior seating

Original interior seating

We drove it back to our Office/Workshop in Alameda and work began.  The tearout took what seemed like an eternity the rear air probably weighed 500lbs, and there was probably another 300 in just steel interior panels.  And the lighting system, holy cats, it was so bulky and elaborate.  Pretty much all of that stuff went to scrap.  I kept all the stainless steel railings, hopefully to use for a roof rack, and somehow managed to find a home for all the seats.  This bus was a worker transport.  It was used to transport workers to the fields.  Apparently, cushy riding buses made for shuttling humans around to airports and stuff get stuck in muddy fields really, really easily.  Notice the towbar mounts on the front bumper.  Have you ever seen a bus with a towbar before?

The build tag on the bus said it was made for Manatee County FL.  I presume as a shuttle bus to the airport or something.  Remember there were three or four of these and they were identical.  Also when we pulled the seats out, there were desiccated hot peppers that had fallen out of peoples lunch sacks.

 

 

"This is harder than I thought it would be"

“This is harder than I thought it would be”

After we pulled out the rear bench seat, we found the “Doghouse”, structure over the engine was fastened primarily by the honor system.  which made it very easy to remove, but meant I would have to completely design the engine cover, which is of course where the bed would be.

We also discovered that the curb side of the bus had been extensively “Modified.”  In quotes, because using the word “Modified” in this case is a very liberal application of the word.  It was modified in the same way a third-world country is “modified” by an earthquake or a tsunami.

Apparently, this was formerly a two door bus, one in the front and one in the midsection.  Adding insult to injury, the original framie rail location intruded into the footwell for the front entry.  So they cut it off.  They cut off the frame.  Yes.  Now this is forward of the hard point of the front ridewell suspension assembly, but it is what the coachwork (body) attaches to.  So the curb-side front portion of the coachwork was saggy, and you could see the sidewall pulling away from the cap.  Sigh.

 

 

So, since I have to rebuild BOTH doorway sections, I have the choice of which I want to use as the entry door.  I decided to rebuild the mid door and wall over the front, for a few reasons:

  1. I needed to reattach the frame where it belonged
  2. Creating a front entry door for a coach is really hard (Driver needs to be able to look out the door’s window, and that means custom building a door from scratch)
  3. I just like mid doors in coaches.

Engine doghouse basically fell off

Engine doghouse basically fell off

Sara is very patient

Sara is very patient

So even though we got a bus with new wheels, tires, and engine, it neededmassive structural and body work, which there is no way we could have seen.  There’s a really good chance we would have passed on it had we known, it looked like once we stripped it, we’d have a ready shell to just start adding interior.  Luckily, I’m very experienced in RV structural work, have all the tools and everything I need to do the job, but the time investment would be far more than we could have predicted.

 

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