Successful Return & Next Steps

The bus made the trip back from Charleston uneventfully. It was loaded at least half full with various wedding stuff, luggage, tools, etc. We had originally thought of having the bus ready for the wedding as a bonus, but in retrospect it was actually a large part of the wedding logistics and things wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without it.

Having performed admirably for the wedding trip, the bus will now get a bit of a vacation over the winter. During this time I’ll have the engine/trans out again for closer inspection; the trans will need to be either rebuilt or replaced in order to get more speed while also bringing the interior noise levels down. I’ll also work on the interior, paint touch-ups, and various other miscellaneous stuff during this time.

I’ll continue to post updates as these changes are made; but the format of the site may quickly change as I incorporate more ‘non-bus’ projects.

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Wedding Errands

The bus has been very useful for all the miscellaneous errands required leading up to the wedding; it’s also been very popular (too popular!) with passers-by in downtown Charleston and on Kiawah island. We had to run an errand in Mt Pleasant today which necessitated the bus hauling itself over the 3rd longest cable-stayed bridge in the western hemisphere. It was windy up there but the bus did OK and even kept up with traffic.

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First Long Bus Trip

Drove the bus an uneventful ~300mi yesterday, and another ~70mi today.

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Wet-Sanding & Polishing

Today I worked on wet-sanding and polishing; starting with the blue areas. The paint straight from the gun leaves a finish that is shiny, but has the texture of an orange peel. The goal of wet sanding is to level off all the peaks of this orange peel texture so that the paint is flat. First 500grit is used, then 800grit, then 1500grit; the panels are kept wet and rinsed frequently to avoid dust build-up that could scratch the paint. It’s critical that the surface is not sanded below the lowest low spot of the orange peel texture, otherwise primer could be exposed and repainting would be required. Luckily the low spots, being untouched by the sanding block, are visible fairly readily as slightly darker spots. After the sanding is completed the paint is flat, but dull looking from the very fine sand scratches. Polishing with rubbing compound and a rotary buffer brings the shine back. The passenger side of the bus is mostly complete; I’ll likely get the driver side complete by the bus’s first long trip, but I’m unsure about the front/back/white areas.

Before Side by side After

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Passenger Front Seat

The only seat component missing in the whole bus prior to today was the seat bottom of the passenger side front seat. Since the bus has the “walk through” option instead of the standard front bench seat, the seat bottom is hard to find. So tonight I built a seat bottom out of foam until an original seat bottom can be found. I used carpet padding since it’s fairly cheap and locally available; the technical foam industry name for this stuff is “rebond” since it’s made from foam scraps glued together. Rebond is also used in modern car seats, so although a seat made from carpet padding sounds weird, it’s actually correct/ideal. I glued the layers together with contact cement and then shaped the whole stack with an electric carving knife. The result is very comfortable and compresses much less than I was afraid it might.

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Interior Panels Complete

I finished up the last two big interior panels tonight; all that’s left to do on the interior is:
– Two tiny hardboard/vinyl panels for behind the sun visors
– Rubber/trim around the bottom of the front seat pedestals
– Plywood/vinyl panel under the rear seat
– Make/install vinyl seat covers
– Passenger front seat bottom

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Rear Floor Mat

Today I put in the rear floor mat and completed a few more interior panels. The floor mats are reproduced, but for something that will get abused they’re expensive (expensive shipping too), and the reproductions are known to wear out quickly. So to get around all of these problems I instead used a big (4’x’8) generic rubber mat that I already had; I think it’s sold as a horse stall mat, so it should be very durable. The mat is also very heavy, so it should help the inside of the bus sound less like a big metal trashcan, despite being built like one.

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More Vinyl

Today I borrowed Christina’s sewing machine to start on the 3-part panels. Construction is fairly simple; it’s just a matter of making two parallel seams that are the correct distance apart. After this step, the resulting piece gets attached the same way as the single-color panels. The stainless trim attaches by drilling through the panel, installing the clips, then bending the clips over on the back of the panel. I finished 3 panels today, only 5 more to go…

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Vinyl

Vinyl arrived today, the colors very closely match the original “Aero Papyrus” color scheme. The layout will be the same as original also, the only difference will be the texture of the white vinyl; it was originally a ribbed pattern that is no longer made. I was able to get all of the single-color panels wrapped tonight; tomorrow I’ll work on the more complex 3-part panels.

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Door Adjustment

I spent most of tonight installing seals and adjusting the latch on the passenger front door.There’s an adjustment window of about 3 angstroms between the door closing well and it only staying closed when slammed. The latches have 2-stage catches and I have the 1st (outer) catch working well; the inner catch may not work until the new seals have time to break-in/compress. I’ll try for some improvement tomorrow night and then move on to the driver side.

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