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Author Topic: Bought another tow rig  (Read 13597 times)
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Jeepsnbuses
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« on: November 30, 2016, 09:08:03 AM »

Very, very excited to announce that two buddies and I have bought yet another tow rig project!

As many of you know our original plan was to gut and rebuild the Blue Bird below into a tow machine.  It still could work out fine but has been on the back burner for months due to lack of time and motivation on our part, plus we began to question whether or not the old 12V Cummins 5.9 really had the guts to pull a 32' tag-along trailer with two 3500lbs+ Jeeps on it.  Not to mention double car tag-along trailers can be a bear to tow.  It probably had the guts but we weren't sure how long it would last, especially with long hills.  Probably up for sale though, anyone interested?  Great little bus for someone who wants to tow probably a single Jeep.



Came across this thing on Craigslist a few weeks ago and couldn't resist. Details are as follows:

- 1973 International chassis with an updated 1989 body on it (titled as a 1973)
- PO has had it since 1984 and used it during the summer to tow his sprint cars to races
- Titled under 18,000lbs so no CDL required
- Originally built with a gasoline 8 cylinder engine. In the early 90s the PO's church had an 89 International church bus that had a tree fall on it and total it. He was offered the bus for the powertrain and some body parts.
- From the church bus the owner took the front end and the 9.0L/555ci (believe it's called an L10?) International diesel motor and Allison automatic, both with 130k miles. It's a massive non-turbo diesel, essentially a dump truck engine.  At the time the DT466 was really International's top-end powerplant and is truly the better engine, but there are still plenty of 9.0s out there.
- Custom raised-roof made out of aluminum, riveted onto the bus body below
- Back door folds down for ramped loading
- Near-new tires
- Gobs of storage space in the back and the ability to load 1-tons INSIDE (bus interior is 96" wide)

Benefits include:
- Simple work bench built into the vehicle storage area
- Air power in storage area running off the bus' air system
- Comes with a working winch to mount behind the standard fairlead shown in the one picture below
- Ramped storage area for wrenching INDOORS at the trailheads  
- No tow hitch attached at this time but had one previously.  We'll end up welding a new one on to tow a single car trailer.

Pics:















My friends and I joke because we have truly set the gold-standard with this for our hillybilly decisions.  All joking aside, I feel good about this knowing the guy has owned it since 1984 and is simply selling because he's getting out of sprint car racing.  The 9.0L doesn't have gobs of power without a turbo but should be plenty sufficient given that it's meant for towing heavy construction equipment.  No replacement for displacement!

The truck is currently in Syracuse and we're picking it up on the 10th.  Submitted out deposit a few days ago.  To do list includes the following, mostly asthetic things:

- Renovate interior living space (looking for ideas, let me know if you have one)
- Paint the exterior at some point.  We were thinking either military tan or green, but again I am looking for suggestions
- Hopefully stealing one of the rooftop HVAC units from the Blue Bird and installing it in this
- Moving the 9kw Kubota generator from the Blue Bird and installing it here as well

The bus is supposed to be "road ready" so there's a strong likelyhood we'll have it up at Rausch in January.  Very excited to give everyone a tour!  I'll take some more pictures next week.  Cheers
« Last Edit: December 01, 2016, 08:03:52 AM by Jeepsnbuses »

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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
Redleg
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2016, 10:04:52 AM »

That's pretty damn cool, man.  Looking forward to seeing how it progresses! Thumbs Up

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Bill
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ryan.ferguson1993
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2016, 01:30:53 PM »

This looks awesome, congrats! If you guys need any help during this I don't mind lending a hand on the weekends  Thumbs Up

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"Speed never killed anyone its very important to get that straight, Speed has never killed a soul. Suddenly becoming stationary thats what gets people." - Jeremy Clarkson
Jeepsnbuses
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2016, 01:37:39 PM »

This looks awesome, congrats! If you guys need any help during this I don't mind lending a hand on the weekends  Thumbs Up

Be careful what you wish for because painting this thing (even with HVLP guns) is going to be a pain in the a$$!

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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
Jeepsnbuses
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2016, 10:09:03 AM »

Did it!  What a job it was to pick this up on Saturday.  Two friends and I left the Baltimore area around 7 AM Saturday morning, drove all the way to Syracuse, arrived about 1, left 2:30ish, and didn't make it back to Baltimore until around 10.  We battled snow on 81 in New York for probably the first 3 hours of the trip home which left the windshield caked with frozen moisture mixed with road salt.  Visibility was pretty rough once we got back into PA since a lot of that moisture had basically frozen onto the windshield and the wipers no longer did much good, aside from spreading it around.  The bus has a windshield washing system but it wasn't working.  Long, long day but luckily this thing seems like it will check all of our boxes in terms of needs.

10 inches of snow in New York when we arrived, but most of it had been cleared away.



The bus ended up being significantly smaller than expected.  The bus/chassis is originally a 1973, so I guess they weren't quite as long as school buses are nowadays.  Has the updated 1989 front end, and also had an updated dash and switch panel. It has a smaller living area up front than we expected, but all in all the size of it will make it easier to park and maneuver, especially since it will have another car trailer behind it.  It'll also be more within compliance of the total permitted combined length of RVs in most states.  We were about to fit our travel vehicle in the back, but a WJ is just about as large a vehicle as we will ever be able to fit back there.  Works for us!







The rear floor is actually all metal and is really structurally solid, and the door itself is seriously heavy.  Didn't flex at all even with the heavy WJ driving onto it.  The seats are pretty uncomfortable, include the driver's seat.  They'll all come out, and maybe we'll be able to find some cushy driver's seat in another vehicle on the farm.  A couch should fit pretty nicely against the wall on the driver's side, and maybe we'll end up putting a table with a couple chairs in on the other side.  The interior heat was pretty weak the entire drive home.  It was getting warm air, but all it's equipped with is a singly blow fan right near the driver which didn't do any good trying to heat a large passenger area that was essentially un-insulated.  Which got me thinking...



I really really like the idea of doing something like this.  Could double as a stove as well.  I figure wherever we go with the bus/Jeeps, we'll almost always be near woods with fuel for the fire.  A tiny stove would make that interior super cozy.

Mechanically it seems pretty solid as well.  Roughly 139,000 miles, came with a bunch of new filters, didn't smoke at all on the trip, less than 2 year old batteries, idles smoothly and sounds good.  Our negative is that it is incredibly, unbelievably, painstakingly slow.  It gets where it needs to go, but I'm telling you a Bobcat accelerates faster than this thing.  It's that bad.  Once we got up to speed on the highway it held 55-65 mph without hesitation, but going up really steep and long hills it couldn't break 45-50 mph.  It wasn't a big deal on 81 and 83 because dozens of other heavy semis were in the same situation, but it made for a loud and long journey.  Engine was right in the 2500 RPM range the whole time.  Shockingly it does 10-12 MPG even with the WJ in the back.  Confirmed this on the way back. 

Looks hillbilly, but the side stack exhaust is meant to direct idling fumes away from the interior.  Works well.  Needs paint for sure, but lights are good, frame is a bit surface rusty but solid, and the tires are good.  I'll probably try and spray some rubberized coating on the frame to prolong its life sometime over the next couple weeks.  It's crazy looking but it should get the job done.  Maybe once it gets some TLC I'll bring it by a club meeting.








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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2016, 11:19:20 AM »

this is great. congrats Thumbs Up Cheers

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Shamus

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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2016, 02:51:41 PM »

I love it.

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Dain

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ryan.ferguson1993
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« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2016, 03:55:50 PM »

This looks awesome, congrats! If you guys need any help during this I don't mind lending a hand on the weekends  Thumbs Up

Be careful what you wish for because painting this thing (even with HVLP guns) is going to be a pain in the a$$!

I'm always up for a challenge  Grab a Wrench!

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"Speed never killed anyone its very important to get that straight, Speed has never killed a soul. Suddenly becoming stationary thats what gets people." - Jeremy Clarkson
sirjames186
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2016, 08:52:35 PM »

Love the wood stove idea but I have a feeling it'll turn it into a sweat lodge instead of a toasty cabin lol

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"I'm no longer ashamed to wheel with you." - Jeremy
Jeepsnbuses
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2016, 09:21:58 PM »

Love the wood stove idea but I have a feeling it'll turn it into a sweat lodge instead of a toasty cabin lol

I could see that too. But man, on a night like later this week when it's 24? Would be nice...

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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
sirjames186
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2016, 09:28:46 PM »

Love the wood stove idea but I have a feeling it'll turn it into a sweat lodge instead of a toasty cabin lol

I could see that too. But man, on a night like later this week when it's 24? Would be nice...
Oh for sure! What about one of those really little ones they put in big canvass hunting tents out west?

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"I'm no longer ashamed to wheel with you." - Jeremy
Jeepsnbuses
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2016, 09:39:16 PM »

Love the wood stove idea but I have a feeling it'll turn it into a sweat lodge instead of a toasty cabin lol

I could see that too. But man, on a night like later this week when it's 24? Would be nice...
Oh for sure! What about one of those really little ones they put in big canvass hunting tents out west?

Exactly. Almost like a big shoebox with enough room for a couple pieces. Plus a cooking surface. On days that really have any kind of adverse weather it would be nice to be able to cook inside. Something that small would be nice as a space-saver too given the smaller than expected interior.

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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
Jeepsnbuses
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2017, 01:19:24 PM »

In follow up to the bus' first-ever Jeep-related outing, everything went great.  Albeit slowly, the bus made it up and back from Rausch Creek without any issues.  The worst hills were coming up 81 to the Tremont area, followed by the hill leading up to Molleystown after getting off the highway.  It did the job but had a hard time cresting 45 on both of those.

Prior to this trip I bought a cheap little wood stove to heat the inside.  We sort of threw things together at the last minute and didn't have time to fab up too nice of a system, but we cut some tin roofing into a heat shield for the wall of the bus, as well as something we could jam into an open bus window and act as some sort of insulation from the outside.  Took some hand shears and stabbed/cut a hole in it once we got up to PA, then jammed it in the window.  I bought two 90 degree bend exhaust pipes from Autozone and we welded them to the pipes that came with the stove.  This is how it came out...



I don't have any pics of the outside yet but I'll get some.  The most important part was adding pipes outside in order to funnel the air up and over the bus.  If we didn't it would leak back in through the crappy window holes.  The downside was adding more weight caused the relatively light stove to want to tip back into the head shield, so we ended up have to do some anchoring.

It's far from pretty but it was enough to heat the inside of the bus to 70-80 degrees at night.  It's not very well sealed ($60 on Amazon, China) so we had to feed it at least once in the middle of the night, but man oh man was it nice and cozy in there.  Plus, with the grates sitting on top, it was a primo cooking surface.  Friday night we cooked beans and hot dogs in the cast iron skillet, and Saturday night we cooked baked beans, hot dogs, and bite-sized chunks of steak in the big aluminum disposable pan.  Now THAT was camping!





This was a good first step to see if the wood-stove-in-a-bus idea would really work, and it is truly genius.  I'll probably dump the cheap stove and replace it with an actual cast iron unit with a flat cooktop.  We're also thinking of moving the stove back on the other side of the wall that divides the front/rear of the bus.  If we put the stove on the other side of the wall, pipe the air up, and add a fan dumping the air into the front of the bus as well as the back vehicle area, we can maximize out sleeping space.  I added a pic below in case anyone's curious.  Big box is where the stove will go, small box is where a fan would be.


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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
sirjames186
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2017, 01:53:24 PM »

That's awesome! Glad the stove worked out too.  Considering the trouble it had with hills, would the weight of a cast iron stove be worth it?  Wonder if there are lighter options that would still accomplish what you want.  Maybe one of these guys, they claim you can cook on it, but I don't know how stable it would be: https://seekoutside.com/wood-stoves/  or http://fourdog.com/view-all-tent-stoves  (tent stoves seems to be the best search term)

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"I'm no longer ashamed to wheel with you." - Jeremy
Jeepsnbuses
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2017, 08:08:48 PM »

I'm thinking it'll be able to take it. It's slow and I half expect the motor to hand-grenade eventually, but the few hundred pounds from a stove won't make too much of a difference. Plus we have a spare stove available for the price of nothing, so I'm taking it.

When the motor does go we'll replace it with something like a DT466. Smaller displacement engine but far more refined, turbocharged, and almost double the torque.

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2002 TJ Sport
Tow rig: 1973 Thomas school bus RV conversion. It's slow.

- Adam
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