Water tank assembly

So the water tanks that need to go into the luggage bay are huge РI suppose my eyes were larger than my appetite, because after I got the tanks I realized that they were about an inch higher than the gap between the deck of the bay and the frame rails. After a little bit of hydraulic jack  assistance, I was able to squeeze two of the tanks between the rails.

After this however, you can’t just (in good faith, anyway) leave them there and fill them up. Each tank when full of liquid is 390 LBS. Two of the tanks will be clean, and two are waste (gray). Technically, all four could be full, with a combined tankage weight of 1560 lbs, which is 3/4 of a ton.

That’s a lot of weight!

This is a 3/4 ton “pickup truck”, which means that what is pictured below is what’s required to haul 1500 lbs around in the bed safely. Yes, that is a gross simplification – I know that truck can carry more…


Anyway, after crunching some numbers and throwing about numbers related to young’s modulus, moment of inertia, and point loaded cases, I came up with a design to cradle the tanks off the frame rails that makes me happy enough.

Here it is pictured with the tanks and the chassis frame rails. The three across is towards the back of the vehicle. Not pictured are the cross members of the truck frame.


Here’s a simplification with the tanks removed to see the cross beams. Most of this assembly is in tension, so it’s more about hanging below than supporting. I have not built a lot of suspension style assemblies like this.

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And here’s a picture of just the bits I want to assemble. Not shown are the fasteners and assembly join plates so I can actually put it together in the bus. Each truss section is individually built, and the cross-legs are then bolted onto the truss sections.¬†2016-07-21 (2)

All in all, it’s a compromise – cost, weight, ease of assembly… I would have wished to have added the structure outside the luggage bay but it would require complete deconstruction of the bay floor. The bus is pretty low at the belly already as well.

The dynamics of carrying water are daunting, from all the movement, to the fact that it’s riding along in a moving vehicle and bouncing/sloshing is sort of scary.

I have a materials quote available, so maybe in the next week or so I’ll get my pile of steel and get to putting this monsterpiece together.

Sheet metal completely installed

Detail view of the various panels ready for rivets. The basic idea here is follow the same rivet placement that the factory did, which was I think every two inches, on each rib flange.

The weather is already starting to change in September, so there’s that feeling in the air every day to get a little bit done before the rain comes and starts messing stuff up.

Warning light holes aren’t filled yet, but they will be soon.

The rear cap was one of the first things to get riveted together. Since it is structural, and has some backing behind it, larger 1/4″ rivets were used with extra large heads – similar to the rivets for the rub rails. The upper seam on the “punch in” of Bluebird bus headers was seam welded to the transition panel. Lots of cold galvanizing sealant paint is inside the gap on the inside.

Not a lot of photos of the actual riveting process were taken. It was a pretty large job, and I had several helpers with bucking, drilling, and logistics.

Once all the rivets were driven, and I could put those tools and processes behind me, I was able to take the vehicle for a drive again. This was the first time it had been driven since I had parked it as a regular school bus. It looks SO much bigger after the roof raise!

Our neighbor’s kid Joe Jury lounging at the door. We are parked at the school bus pickup at the grade school down the street. The irony being that Joe is home schooled.

Here is the crew that helped during the riveting process. Not shown is my wife who took the picture. I’d like to add that Cory was taking classes to work at Boeing as a machinist, so he had lots of knowledge about riveting already – I learned a lot about the process doing this.

L-R: Ava, Nick Wekell, Me, Cory, Chris Wekell. Thanks guys, wherever you are at!

Sheet metal

9 sheets of 4’x10′ 20 gauge sheet metal. They’re cheaper when you buy a bunch at once.


Picture of the first sheet hung on the side. It’s just held with two rivets, but tucked under the proper roof parts for further fastening.

To be honest, adding the sheet metal was pretty straight forward stuff. Measure, cut, hang square. One of the decisions I had to make was seam welding some of the sheets to the frames of the emergency exits.

Originally, the body sheet metal was riveted via short little panels that went between the windows. Since I wasn’t using those any more, and I didn’t really have the ability to make nice brake edged panels, I sort of reverted to old techniques that I’ve used for assembling body panels on more conventional vehicle chassis.


Here’s a picture of the panels hung on the chassis. In this photo all of the mating surface seams are coated with zinc cold galvanizing compound, and the surfaces themselves have VHB tape strips between the sheet metal and the ribs to keep things relatively in place, and provide a sealing material once more rivets are driven into the panels.


Detail of the rear right exit door frame. The original frame of course has moved upwards 18 inches, so a new square tube section replaces it.


Detail view of the paint seam coating, as well as the small trim metal pieces that close the gap from the outside “eyelids” on the original roof. These small angle parts are galvanized roof flashing (re-purposed here of course) and the very ends have small gaps to allow a bit of air exchange, much like soffet vents in a house roof would work.


Detail of the panel on the outside. The crusty appearance is the terrible primer that I tried spraying on and then later wiped off. Plug welds across the original door frame on the right fix it to the square tube backing.

View of the door as it fits, before adding the small header sheet.

Overall view of the bus as it starts to gain it’s paneling. A lot of this went up in some crappy August weather.


Still some panels missing, but getting there quickly.


Interior glory shot of all the panels “hung” onto the chassis. At this point all the sheet metal is in place, and the remainder of the riveting just needs to take place.


Exterior shot of the panels in place. They are positioned, but still need hundreds of rivets to be installed.



Rear roof cap

Ready to rivet the last cap panels in after dinner.

Making some endcaps. Very high tech, fence boards and vice grips.

Here is the outside of the endcap as it is mostly done. It seems to take a long time, but really I have only worked on it a few hours here and there.

Left curved side is fixed with vhb tape and is ready for rivets right side is sort of flapping in the breeze before I pinned it into location.

Welder is up on the step to reach some of the framework structure that’s in place, on the left and right panels (where the engine intake is at for example).

Roof Transition

It’s a straightforward translation from high to low, but the patch for the corner gets a little strange shaped. I made a template with cardboard which is way more low tech and easy to do. The drawing below wasn’t something I actually used but illustrates the effort nicely.

Blue tape lines “sketch” in the transition surface.

Welding a bit up high.


Once the curves were patched in, the center sections were easy to work out.

Patched in sections. I will admit that now that I’ve seen how this goes together, a really slick thing to have done would be to integrate the glass from a rear hatch of some sort of minivan or suv. Another guy, Wes Lewis, did such a thing.

It was a challenge to weld up that high. I ended up balancing the welder on a cooler on the dash, and running the lead out through one of the old upper flasher light holes.



I was happy how this turned out. It’s strong, efficient, and didn’t leak.

I wasn’t sure at first how much deconstruction needed to happen before adding the caps. It turns out I removed that whole section of the roof except for a 2″ strip to weld to. If someone was crazy enough to do so they could chisel all the rivets off and pull that whole transition cap. I tried to be faithful as possible with what I am capable of to the way the bus is constructed.


I got the bits seam sealed and riveted. Now I need to get the rear cap done. Pretty sure that’s just a bunch of rivets, sheet metal, and sealer so we’ll see.

Skoolie roof raise cab jacks

I built some roof jacks today. They are designed to be used in conjunction with a high cut on the column that the jack is attached to, and the next inner columns from the ones they’re attached to will have the reinforcement inserts attached to one side probably the lowers. Those will keep the whole roof centered during the lift and prevent it from paralleling sideways.

They’re made to attach to the two bolts on the rib at the top, and a middle bolt lower on the rib.


Slight modification, because that first idea was sort of half baked.


Bus structure recalibration modules mostly installed. I just need to verify they’re set in the right starting point to give me enough lift.