Updated 1/17/11 (added dash AC information to page 6)
Updated 2/19/12 (added front jack information to page 4)
Our 1985 Eagle 10 Bus Conversion Project
This photo was taken in Apache Junction, AZ in October, 2006
For those of you who have followed my bus project pages, it has been a long hard struggle over a five year period. However, all of that hard work has paid off!! In March of 2006 we took off on our maiden voyage. We went to California for a cruise that Pat had earned and a trade show in Pomona (FMCA). We also got to do some sightseeing along the way.
If you want to see what was involved with this project AND have lots of time to spare <grin> READ ON!
Note: the remainder of the photos on these project pages are thumbnail. If you click on them, you will see a larger view.
States Visited in Bus as of 1/17/11
The photo, above left, was taken at 9:45 AM on December 19, 2000. Jim had just driven the bus from Mineral Wells Texas to our home in Evergreen. We first looked at the bus in June 2000. We purchased it during our sixth Bus Conversion Convention (Laughlin Nevada - October 15, 2000).
The photo on the right shows the exterior as of August 2003. All signs of its previous "commercial life" have been removed. The exterior will remain in this condition for about a year while we continue to work on the conversion and start to enjoy traveling. The paint between the ship lap aluminum siding and the windows is semi-gloss white primer that looks pretty good.
Eagle buses were very popular as entertainer buses in the ‘70s and 80’s and you still see them today. They were famous for their rubber torsion springs that gave a very smooth ride combined with superior handling.
The bus was originally owned by the Houston Metro Transit Authority. It is a fairly low mileage bus (<500K miles). It has a 6V92 Detroit two stroke diesel pusher engine and a Voith automatic transmission. It is 40 feet long and 8 feet wide.
Our plans are to do a quick conversion so that the unit is fully functional and comfortable. We hope to have it in use in the second quarter of 2001. We will then use it in that condition for about two years while we plan the full conversion and Jim attempts to complete at least one of his car projects! (Editor's note: YEAH, RIGHT!! - read on as to how quickly a "quick conversion" goes)
Well, here it is December 2003 and I am still behind on this project (what’s new?). Even though I am semi-retired, I have been kept very busy with consulting, setting up a new business, and various other projects. I have also been pretty busy with lots of family activities All of that, together with a bit of procrastination sure adds up to a project that continues to defy the projected schedule. However, I am making progress and should be on the road in early Feb. 2004.
If you looked at the bus today you would not begin to think that it had that much work in it.
Lets take a look at some of the activity in chronological order:
February 2001. Stripped out the interior of the overhead racks and cut out the heater ducts. During this time I also worked on the battery/starter problems, installed a block heater and worked on the design of the water tanks.
March/April 2001. Removed all of bus air conditioner and heating hardware and removed two piece air operated entry door. I also installed a new air compressor and dryer for the airbrake system as well as relocating the “wet tank”. Each of these jobs were quite messy and difficult.
May/June 2001. Primary work this period included checking and repairing wheel bearings/seals, building a one piece front door and installation of a more conventional fuel filling system. Each of these items are documented in more detail below.
Several of the wheel seals were leaking. I pulled the hubs and drums and installed new parts as necessary. While the front and bogey hubs were off, I installed new, longer, studs so that aluminum wheels could be installed at a later date.
The speedometer on the bus did not work (common problem). As a result, I purchased an aftermarket unit that uses two studs mounted in the drum of the driver front wheel. These studs pass by a magnetic pickup in order to send a pulse to the speedometer. The picture above shows me tapping a hole for the stud. Note (1/1/04): I did not feel comfortable with the holes in the brake drum and later had to replace on of the drums. I moved this drum to the bogey and put the new drum in it's place. On the new drum, I welded the studs on with a mig welder which keeps the heat to a minimum.
The two piece air operated door of the Eagles is a big problem. Often they don’t work well and they take up a big part of the opening. I built a new one piece door. As you can see from the third photo from the left, the door must be curved to match the contour of the bus. The door frame is 1 1/4 inch square steel tubing. I cut multiple notches in the tubing to form the curves. Also, typical RV type door latches are not very strong. I bought a Freightliner truck door and used all of the hardware—makes a very strong latch. The striker plate hardware is shown on the right. For the hinge, I used a large stainless steel “piano” hinge and built a special plate, welded to the bus vertical frame tube, that has blind nuts for attaching the hinge.
The fuel filling system is quite a story unto itself. The Houston Metro fleet used a special quick connect system with the filler on the passenger side only. Apparently, they would hook up the hose and come back a half hour later to a filled bus. Worked well for them, but not so well for me. When I tried to fill the tank on my way home from Dallas, it was painfully slow and the truck type filler nozzles would just barely fit. The standard Eagle buses had a much larger fill system with filling capability on both sides of the bus. I purchased, used, all of the hardware needed to convert to a standard system. The installation was extremely difficult. The parts that bolted to the tank were almost impossible to get to (located up under the bus just in front of the rear end and only enough room for one arm). I had to cut a new opening in the left side of the bus and weld in the new filler box. Before I could do that, I had to repair the purchased box, because it came out of a very rusted old bus. The filler box on the right side had to be replaced as well. It was not in too bad of shape and went in much easier than the left box.
July 2001. This month I finished the door structure and worked on the driver’s window frame (see below for reason). I also ground all of the paint off the side between the windows and the aluminum siding in order to remove the decals and some pretty bad paint.
When I ordered the RV type windows for the bus, two of them were for the door and a matching one for the drivers window. Because of the door size, the drivers window had to be re-framed in order to make it the proper size.
August 2001 to April 2002. I did not get much done during these months. My work schedule was very hectic and I spent quite a bit of time on some of my other projects. Never really ignored the project, as I kept buying parts and thought a lot about various sub-projects. Also kept up with all of the bus related internet activities.
April/May 2002. Well, I started back on the bus again. During these two months, I began work on the generator sound box, built the rear bed platform, reinforced the rusted tubing in the frame and started building the wall dividers. I will add a little detail on some of those activities below.
I had made a decision to build the bed frame with a structure that would raise the engine area opening 13 inches. I also opened up the area drastically to allow better engine access. By raising the engine bay, I will be able to install a late model four stroke truck engine if I win the lottery. In the mean time it makes working on the engine components much easier. Since I removed quite a bit of floor structure, I made the bed base frames as trusses and then covered them with 1/8 inch steel plate. Obviously, that is a case of overkill, but what else would you expect of an engineer on his own project. The frame for the mattress was made out of 1 1/4 inch square steel tubing sandwiched with 3/8 inch plywood. In between is sheet foam insulation. The mattress frame will be hinged to allow access to the engine.
As noted previously, I had to do some reinforcing where some frame tubes had rusted. The photo above show the worst area. Eagles are pretty famous for having rust problems. I had inspected most of the normal places and did not find anything significant. Because I had planned to do a quick conversion, I had not planned to remove the existing lower wall covering. However, I thought I ought to just make a quick check and the rest is history.
This particular rust comes from water/condensation. running off the windows and down the inside of the wall. Some people simply remove the tubes and weld in new ones. That can be done if you remove the skin of the bus, but I was not doing that. Instead, I cleaned up all of the rust, painted POR 15 rust killer and then special primer on all of the tubes. Then I welded 3 inch angle iron the full length of both sides of the bus. I welded the angle iron to the wall tubes and floor beams. I also “doubled-up” the tubing where the rust was particularly bad (see picture third from left). (BTW, I have to put this rust into context — I have seen Eagles where the tubes were almost nonexistent for several inches above the floor, so my rust was not real bad).
After the rust repair was done, I insulated the walls with 1 1/2 inch rigid foam. The walls were then covered with 3/8 inch plywood.
June/July 2002. This period I built and installed the trailer hitch, finished up the fuel filler system, started converting the emergency roof hatches to air conditioning openings, and started installing the electrical equipment.
Installing a heavy duty trailer hitch in and Eagle is a real challenge. There is lots of equipment that gets in the way. I made several components that bolt to the frame side rails and bolt to each other in order to make the unit strong and removable.