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Bluebird Bus-Fabrication

The Bluebird gets major structural work.

As soon as the tearout was done, I built a new bed/engine cover, and had a body guy re-skin the giant gaping hole that remained after removing the eleventy-bazillion BTU AC unit from the rear cap.  Fixed up a few other things and made a trip up to our place in Oregon, only one problem where a water connection broke off the engine, but luckily, I had spares on hand to effect repairs on the road.  When we got to Eugene, we picked up some RV doors, a Whole bunch of bus-style 2″ windows, some leather furniture, about five lbs of Stainless Rivets from Northwest RV Supply in Eugene, Oregon.  We stopped at Coyote steel just down the street where Sara and I used to have our bike shop  (Which is now the location of Ninkasi Brewery) and picked up some steel, including some 18ga sheetmetal.  Headed back to Alameda with no issues with the bus and got to work (1,100 mile round trip)

As I mentioned on the previous page, when we stripped the interior panels, horrors were revealed in the curbside wall.  The term “DPO” (Dreaded Previous Owner) applies to Cars, Motorcycles, Boats, Homes, etc, etc… but it was never more appropriately applied than on this bus.  Holy hack-job Batman.  they chopped out the structure for the mid door and welded in scraps that included (I think) steel studs like you would use in an office building and just some random pieces of metal that they probably found in a drainage ditch.

I cut out all the cobbed in stuff and replaced everything wtih 2″ box tube (Buses have 2″ walls, most RVs are 1-1/2).  As I mentioned previously, the original construction involved lopping off the frame extension forward of the suspension mount, and moved it inward to allow for the step-well to extend further in the bus floor.  This was done with an enormous bracket that yielded over the years and allowed to right front corner of the bus to sag.  I removed the bracket and re-welded the frame extension back to the frame.  I’ve done lots of frame repair, but never underneath a bus.  After jacking the front cap back into a better position, I added a diagonal brace in the old doorway to help support the sagging the cap.

We took the steel we picked up on our trip and pre-primed the inside with Rustoleum, and the outside with Epoxy Automotive primer. I did not replace the sheet metal the same way Bluebird originally built it.  They lapped the upper sheets over the lower sheets.  I cut them flush to butt up with the existing lower panel and sealed the edges with 3M 5200.  That will last for a thousand years.  There was another horror in store in regards to the previous work though, they had welded the exterior sidewall material to the roof skin.  An absolute nightmare to part them without ruining the roof skin (IMPORTANT) plus, it now meant we have to refasten the roof skin back down to the sidewalls.  If they had just cut the old sidewall skin even with the roof skin, they could have just riveted the new skin down and sealed it.  That’s what the plan is for the other side.  It was pretty difficult to pull the roof skin down, I used a ratchet strap and some insanely long 10-14 stove bolts through the rivet holes and some toggle bolts on the inside to draw the edge gradually and evenly and one by one replaced the bolts with rivets. It was a very slow process.

 

 

At this point, my photos get pretty sparse.  Our circumstances changed and we elected to migrate to the Detroit area.  I always wanted to live where cars are born.  Stay tuned for the adventures of a cross country trip in this shell of a bus, full of my shop supplies, picking up a couple of kids on their way to the “Final Phish Concert” in Vermont, and some pretty expensive repairs.

 

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