“Two Birds” – From the Beginning

When we began building our bus, our blog was not ready. We completely redesigned the website from it’s humble beginnings while we were traveling Australia and SE Asia. You can still see some of our early posts in our travel journal! We started writing online about our progress at Skoolie.net, a large online community of people doing similar things to us. There are some amazing bus projects on there! We also began blogging on our Facebook page and sharing our progress there.

Here is the link to our Skoolie.net page:
http://www.skoolie.net/forums/showthread.php?t=9168&highlight=birds

Photo from Day 1 with our bus.

On Day 2, Nancy’s Dad and I got right to work, stripping all of the seats out of the bus and a family member hauled them off to the scrapyard in his truck, against our recommendations to take two trips.

 

Throughout the late spring, and summer months, we completed many projects on the bus.  Some triumphs and defeats include:

  •  Stripping the floors of surface rust, sealing with rust converter, and painting a black rustoleum coating.
  • Removing what seemed like millions of rivets throughout the bus, to strip the ceilings, wall panels, and the old insulation.  Check out our Time-Lapse Video on Youtube!
  • Beginning our Waste Vegetable Oil Conversion
  • Getting a metal shaving into our injection pump during the veggie oil conversion, including a tow across the state of Michigan, a month and a half of time lost getting covered in diesel and veggie oil day by day trying to figure out why our bus wouldn’t start, finding that it was the one thing I was dreading (injection pump), taking the bus to the shop for two weeks, and paying $2,600 to have our injection pump rebuilt.  OUCH!
  • Finishing our Waste Vegetable Oil Conversion. Driving on Waste Vegetable Oil for the first time!
  • Completing our insulated sub-floor.
  • Removing and Skinning over 14 windows on the side of the bus, the front and rear bus flashers, and the replacing the rear four windows.  All done with Wabash Duraplate material sourced by some helpful friends in Indiana!  Check out our Time-Lapse Video on Youtube!
  • The complete exterior treatment, including prep-work and spraying “Two Birds” with a beautiful DIY paintjob and graphics done by our friends at Party On Printing
  • Having our bus featured in ArtPrize 2014 in our hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan!
  • Strapping the walls (or putting up furring strips) of the interior to create a “thermal break” in preparation for our spray foam insulation.
  • Complete Spray Foam insulation on the interior.

Those were some of the highlights of our time so far with “Two Birds”.  It may not look like much, but it has taken a lot of blood, sweat, and even a few tears to get this far!  We also managed a successful Kickstarter campaign in that time, did loads of research, learning pretty much everything as we went, bought a lot of parts and materials, sold a lot of materials that we decided weren’t right, and made more decisions than we could count.  We managed to do all of this while still maintaining a touring schedule (Jeremy) and a full-time Dental job (Nancy), downsizing and moving from our apartment, building this website, and all the life that fits in between.  It’s been a super-size job for a super-size bus project!

We managed to get the exterior of the bus done just in time for winter and having the bus insulated allows us to run our propane heater inside so we can complete the interior during the winter months.  Currently, we are gathering parts and materials, as well as doing the research for our electrical systems, plumbing systems, and propane systems.  We have also sourced parts such as our Amana 20″ Propane Range for cooking, our Precision Temp RV 550 NSP on-demand water heater, our ProCom Blue Flame Propane Heater, and more.  Stay tuned as we continue to update our blog on our progress!

PHOTO GALLERY COMING SOON!!!

Skoolie – Waste Vegetable Oil Conversion

One of the primary modifications we wished to make to Two Birds was converting the diesel powered bus to run off of recycled, or waste vegetable oil.  This was one of the main reasons we chose to buy a diesel bus.  This post will be a work in progress, documenting the process of converting our bus to run off of WVO.

Back in August (2014), we worked with Atomic Independent Pictures to make a video documenting our Waste Vegetable Oil conversion on our bus.  This medium-length documentary describes the individual components of the system, operation, and how the system is routed.

After a lot of research, we decided to go with mostly WVO Designs parts and their centrifuge for an on-board filtering setup. After some chatting with Leon, the owner, they decided to sponsor our project, which is really exciting for us. This is a first conversion for me and I spent many, many late nights researching the system and figuring how to adapt SunWizard’s setup for our bus. He is the owner of the forum www.burnveg.com.

Logo_transparent

Here is the diagram from SunWizard for his 5.9 Cummins that we based our system off of.  Click on the image to enlarge.  For more information on his conversion, visit here.  We have made a lot of modifications to his system, since it was designed for a Dodge Ram truck.

voconversion

Here is a non-comprehensive parts list for our conversion noting the major components

Tank:
116 Gallon Aluminum Military Fuel Tank.
Fuel Pickup:
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/wvo-conv … tickb.html
WVO Designs RAW Power Hotstick
13″ – Will be expanded via the threaded port to ~26″ to pick up fuel from the bottom of the tank.
Veggie Filter:
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/wvo-conv … ilter.html
WVO Designs Coolant Heated Filter Head
Donaldson P551000 Filter/Waterblock with Drain Bowl
WVO Designs Heated Filter Wrap
Flat Plate Heat Exchanger
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/wvo-conversion/fphe.html
30 Plate from WVO DesignsValves
http://www.iboats.com/1_4_X_1_4_X_1_4_N … w_id.67211
iboats.com manual 3 way valves, per SunWizard’s conversion – X3We also got the following to help us collect and filter oil:Centifuge
WVO Designs Raw Power Basic Centrifuge
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/centrifu … ifuge.htmlBolt-On Heater Assembly
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/centrifu … r-rpc.html“Power Booster” – This helps to eliminate splashing as the WVO enters the centrifuge.
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/centrifu … oster.htmlTransfer Pump – We are mating the WVO Designs pump head to a 5.0 HP Honda Gas Engine we recieved for free from a pressure washer that had a broken pump.Goldstream Monster Pump Head
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/pumps/oi … -only.html

Pump Adapter Mount – for Gas Engine
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/pumps/oi … motor.html

3/4″ Shaft Coupling – For Honda Engine
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/pumps/oi … pling.html

14mm Gas Coupling- For Pump Head
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/pumps/oi … pling.html

Rubber Connector Element
http://www.wvodesigns.com/shop/pumps/oi … pling.html

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Finding “Two Birds”

We are often asked where we bought our bus.  It was a long road to finding the “perfect” bus for us!  We set out with a list of criteria that we hoped for and it took us nearly a year to find it.  In the end, the bus is almost exactly what we laid out in our criteria!

We wanted something low mileage, rust free, direct from a school district.  We wanted a bus between 28 and 35 ft.  We also preferred a Bluebird and needed a diesel for our Waste Vegetable Oil conversion.  We were looking for a Cummins 5.9 engine with a Bosch P7100 injection pump.  Ideally, we wanted an Allison MT643 transmission, but this is one area where we did not meet our first wishes.  This was partially because this was either a really rare engine/transmission combo or non-existent.  We still located a bus with an Allison transmission, an AT545.

Stats:
1992 Bluebird TC2000
5.9 Cummins Diesel
Bosch P7100 Injection Pump
Allison AT545
79,000 miles when purchased
Rust-free Southern Bus
34 ft. Long
Brand New Tires
We searched for what seemed like ages.  Some of the best places to search are public surplus auctions at sites like publicsurplus.com, GovDeals.com.  We also called local school districts, checked Craigslist and eBay regularly, and I even drove to Kentucky and Tennessee on a bus-search for a few days and came back empty-handed.  You can get buses at dealers too, but they tend to be very expensive.  I even flew with my Dad to Florida to buy a bus we located and we ended up flying home without.  It was a difficult task at times…

We found Two Birds on eBay, owned by a private school in Pennsylvania.  They owned the bus for 10 years and only put 9,000 miles on it.  It was originally from Fort Benning, Georgia, hence the lovely rust-free body.  We bought it outside of eBay for $3,850, which was their Buy it Now price.  We didn’t want to chance losing the bus over a couple hundred bucks (where the bidding was at).  We have heard of great buses going for LESS… but we were happy to get what we wanted for this price (NOTE:  We also have seen many, many people pay way more for a bus).  Buses are cheap… you can get a used bus for less than a van of the same year.  You just have to be patient and know where to look.

It happened to be an hour or so drive from where I had a concert in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Here are some photos from when I found Two Birds, and the drive home from Pennsylvania.  I knew immediately that it was the bus for us after so many dead ends.