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Bill Blakeley
June 24, 2024
70 views

The Gypsy Queen – A 1982 MCI MC-9 Bus Conversion

My wife Deborah and I are raising our two young grandsons, Jay (8) and Jett (6). They love to travel and go camping. We get two weeklong vacations twice a year and go camping at Lake Texoma all summer long with our tribe of friends. 

We sold the last camper that we will ever own back in early July of 2022. We have had two factory-built RVs over the years. They both leaked and got water damage, the first one, a Jayco started delaminating all over. 

When I found out how much it would cost to fix it, we just put it up for sale. A man who had just lost his home to a fire, answered the ad, he wasn’t worried about the cosmetics. He just needed a cheap place to stay while his house was being rebuilt, it was a 29-foot trailer with a slide-out. He didn’t even try to get us to come down on our price. He just came and got it, whew! I thought that we would never get rid of it.

Our second camper, a used 27-foot metal-skinned Zinger, got water damage in the bedroom, and outside the kitchen. Luckily our insurance paid to have it fixed, but the smell left by the water damage was something that we couldn’t live with. It was also smaller, with no slide-out like our last one, so we put it up for sale, with full disclosure. 

It sold within a week to a couple that had bought a lot up at Lake Texoma, to put there permanently for weekend getaways. We got lucky again, they didn’t try to get us to come down in our price either. We started looking for a rig that we could drive.

At first, I was looking at used Class Cs, and the ones that we liked were out of our price range, as we didn’t want any payments, and had only a small budget. Then I noticed that some of the older Class As were around the price of the newer, but used Class Cs, so I started researching Class As and figured out that we would want a diesel pusher.  Well, those got expensive too, for a nice one, and I didn’t really want another sticks and staples camper anyway. 

Then I saw one wrecked, you couldn’t even make out what it was, just a pile of broken fiberglass, wood, and a twisted frame. 

Nobody plans on having a wreck, but the thought of my family being in that wreck that I saw turned my stomach. With that in the back of my mind, I started watching RV videos on YouTube, not only sales-type videos, like RVing with Andrew Steele but also the maintenance end of it, like Arizona Expert, who fixes RVs for a living. I was trying to learn all that I could, to make a wise choice. That is when I came across the Bus Grease Monkey videos. 

I was hooked instantly and amazed at all the different bus conversions that he worked on. I saw him drive across the country, fixing people’s buses, and rescuing old ones. I don’t know how many regular RVs could sit for 20 or more years and be brought back to life mechanically in a couple of afternoons, but Scott sure did that very thing with the buses that he worked on. I was amazed at how robust they are. 

In his videos, I saw very old buses at rallies, some with beautiful interiors, handcrafted by their owners. I showed some to Deborah, but she was unsure at first. She is twelve years my junior and likes the more modern look of some of the Class As that we had looked at, but I kept watching Scott’s videos and showing her different ones. 

I am an automotive painter by trade and have helped restore a lot of cars and trucks in the 42 years that I have been in the business. Being a car guy, I think Deborah knew the route that I was going to take.

I got on different RV websites and would put “Bus Conversion” in the search bar, I even searched on BCM. I found all types, and ages, some nicely done, some no more than junk. Almost all of them though were many states away from us here in north central Texas. They were either on one coast or the other or way up north, some way out west of us.

While watching a Bus Grease Monkey (BGM) video one night, I found out that he had a website, so I joined and introduced myself. Talk about a bunch of knowledgeable guys, all of them great in their own way. That was in late August or early September of 2002. 

I started my own thread on the website, “Looking for a bus conversion, just seeing what’s out there” and I would post pictures and ads of all the ones that I was looking for, to get their opinions. 

Almost all the guys had home-built bus conversions, so with our budget in mind, I started asking questions, and I found a decent running, fully seated 1957 PD-4104 not far from me in Oklahoma. Well, there are a few purists on the website that hate to see a running seated bus turned into an RV. 

They told me that with deconstruction, planning, material cost, and all the different systems needed, the cost of getting the bus mechanically sound could run into quite a bit of money at today’s prices.  In other words, most of them advised against it and said that you really need to look for one that is already built, with at least some good bones.

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A Prevost I was interested in.

One of the members, Jon, who was the former owner of the Prevost Community website, I hope I got that right, sent me an ad for a really nice low mileage 1984 Prevost, with new tires, and batteries, but it was way up in Wyoming, and about $15K over our budget, but I decided to give him a shout. There was no answer on the phone or email, I ran into this sort of thing throughout this whole process, and it is very frustrating. 

Needless to say, after checking out a Prevost, I was all into them and who wouldn’t be, with their mirror-polished stainless-steel, and over-the-top interiors? However, I am just a painter that works for someone else, and not wealthy monetarily by any means. 

Fast forward through literally 100s of ads or more, with everything from Flxibles, GMs including my favorite, Silversides, MCIs, and yes even older Prevost’s.  One bus, in particular, caught my eye, it was a 1989 Prevost Marathon coach, with an upgraded interior. The interior was beautifully done in wood tones, not looking like the entrance to a high-end mall, like most of them are, that is not my style anyway, I’m just a simple old country boy. 

Anyway, his asking price at first was astronomical in my opinion, close to what you would pay for one ten years newer. Also, it was in far northern Montana on the Canadian border, but man, was I ever in love with it. 

The outside needed some paintwork due to fading, but that’s what I do. I struck up a conversation with him but couldn’t get him to budge. I looked at his ad several times, daydreaming of owning it. Then, close to Thanksgiving, one of the members on the BGM site posted an eBay ad, it was that coach, with a Buy It Now price of $55,000.

I immediately sent the ad to my wife and said we will never find a nicer coach for this price, but she was very reluctant, as we didn’t really have that much money that we were willing to part with. She allowed me to bid on it, and I didn’t tell her at first, but I bid our whole budget on it. On about the fourth day, someone started bidding one right after the other, trying to see where I was on my bid, I was at work but was going to beg my wife to let me buy it when I got home. 

Either that person or another, or perhaps a friend of the owner hit “Buy It Now”, and the reason that I say that is because in less than 24 hours the owner contacted me with a possible second chance if the deal with the winner didn’t go through. The guys on the board were all excited for me that whole week, several of them had mentioned that if I ever found a bus close to them, they would go inspect it for me. 

Well, a guy named Jeffrey sent me a message, and by the way most, if not all of these guys are members on the BCM Forum as well, some are probably lifelong members, 2storygreyhound, Joshua, DoubleEagle, dtcerrato, Windtrader, a couple more Bills, Cody, BustedKnuckle, uncle Ned, Clayten, and the class clown Ted, aka Goshawk, who kept me in stitches the whole time that I was looking LOL, really too many to list them all, don’t feel bad guys, anyway he said that he could help me get it home, he has worked on buses and trucks his whole life, and I started making plans. 

The owner sent me another message, and it was strange, with a picture of a man in a wheelchair in a nursing home-type setting, and I started thinking that it might be a scam and mentioned that to him. I never heard from him again.

I was distraught, to say the least, I had my hopes up so high, and then the air got shot out of my balloon, had to throw that in there. Back to looking for another conversion, and I was so turned off by that whole process, that I quit even looking at Prevost, not really, but it sounds good. LOL. 

Anyway, I figured out how to navigate to different states on Facebook marketplace, and in my searching, it seemed most of the buses were up north. I was worried about salt corrosion, but searched anyway, thinking how many people would drive their bus conversion in the wintertime. 

Well, that is when I stumbled across this MCI MC-9 (Bus Number 2703). It too was $16,000 over my budget, and the wife really wanted wiggle room in that budget. She is very frugal, whereas I am the, I want it now kind of guy. She knew how much tires cost for these, amongst other things that might be wrong with them. 

I messaged the seller because he had listed a few things that were wrong with it, and I thought I could use that as a bargaining tool. He seemed pretty set on his asking price, but I found out that it had been for sale for over a year. This was close to Christmas time. 

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This was the picture from the ad that really caught my attention.

I posted pictures of it on the board and the guys all chimed in, one guy in particular, Walter (DoubleEagle on the BCM Forum), when he found out that it was in his state of Ohio, offered to go check it out for me. 

Well, my conversation with the owner wasn’t going well, and he finally quit responding to my questions. With Christmas coming fast, I focused on family, and kind of put it on the back burner, but was still searching and sharing ads on the website. 

Walter spoke up again and was saying how well-built the Custom Coaches were, and that he had toured their factory in Columbus, Ohio, back in the 90s, and even though he was a die-hard Eagle bus owner, he really liked this one, which made me want it even more. 

I received a message from the owner during Christmas week, where he apologized for the delay in his response. He explained that he had been away on business and promised to get back to me after the holiday season.

While everything was kind of in limbo, I was still searching, and watching videos. Then I remembered that I had found a video of that Prevost Marathon that I had fallen in love with, from the prior owner, whom he got it from, so I thought what the heck, let’s see if I can find a video of this coach. Lo and behold there she was, a video that was about 10 years old, showing this coach. 

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Jay still has the original barstools out of the coach, I am trying to talk him out of them. LOL.
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The coach in Jay Wood’s shop when he owned it, notice the bumper rub strips are painted burnt orange.

The video was from Jay Wood, whom I would find out later, was a former employee at Custom Coach. He was also the one who did a bunch of upgrades to it when he owned it three different times. Upgrades including the rebuilt 8V92 engine because of an accident with a prior owner, involving running over something in the road which hit and disconnected one of the lower radiator pipes, and was driven too long afterward. 

Here is the 10-year-old video from Jay Woods showcasing this bus.

In the description, it listed the mileage, which was about 5,000 less than what it shows now, so in 10 years there were only that many miles added to it. The coach itself only had 151,000 miles on the clock, which I thought was amazing for a 40-year-old bus. I showed the video to my wife, hoping to get a positive reaction, as she still wasn’t on board, especially for the price that he was asking.

When the holidays were finally over, the conversation with the owner picked up. He said, after giving it some careful thought, he would lower the price for me.  He did significantly lower the price, but it was still $5,000 more than we wanted to spend. I said, well let’s at least see if Walter still wants to go do an inspection on it for us, and she agreed to that. 

Walter, who has a few Eagle buses, has been around buses and heavy equipment all his life, and I knew that he would do a thorough job of inspecting it. I reached out to the owner and requested his phone number to pass it on to Walter. This would enable them to coordinate the inspection.

The date was set, and Walter drove over an hour from his home, to check out the coach for us, this saved me from having to fly in and do it myself, which I wouldn’t have known really what to look for anyway. I joked on the board about being a certified bus mechanic, from all the knowledge gained from watching BGM videos. LOL., but that was far from the truth. 

It was snowing the day that Walter went to check out the coach, but he was all over it from top to bottom. He told me that he stuck his head in places that weren’t even big enough to fit heads. When I spoke with the owner, who was a greenhorn bus owner, just like me, when he purchased it, said that Walter taught him more about the mechanical side of the coach than he ever knew.  

He laid on his back in the snow and shimmied up under the bus on all four corners, then got on a ladder, and checked out the roof, keep in mind that Walter is 77 years old, but you wouldn’t know it if you ever met him. 

His report back to me was several pages long, and he mentioned in detail everything about the bus, systems, engine, airbags, etc. and he included a cold start video of the engine, which by the way still has the factory blankets on the exhaust. That next week was a long one, there had been others looking at the bus recently, and I was worried that it would sell if we didn’t do something quickly. 

Here is a cold start video of the bus.

Convincing my wife was a hard chore, but she finally gave in. A phone call was made to the owner, and that is when I found out that he still owed money on it. I had planned on taking cash for the purchase and paying for it in person. He told me that if we sent the money to his bank, he would get the title for it, and have it ready for me when we got there. I had Deborah go to the bank that next Monday and do the transfer of funds.

I still had to figure out how I was going to get there and see if my friend Jerry Hensley, who has a 40-foot motorhome, wanted to go with me, as I have never driven anything that big. And would we fly or drive up to Ohio? 

I also knew that it was going to take quite a bit of fuel to get it home to Texas from Ohio, not counting what any possible breakdowns might cost along the way. Then getting it insured, as well as getting the title transferred, and paying taxes, all these things were going to add to the total cost.

My wife and I sat down and had a serious talk about it. She pointed out the same things that I was concerned about. The tires on the front were out of date from 2015, the tag tires were from 2017, and the drives were from 2018, but Walter’s report to me from the inspection that he did, said that they were not weathered, or cracked, and had a lot of tread left on them. 

I guess that Walter likes adventures because he called me and said that he could help me get it home, it only took me two milliseconds to take him up on his offer. He suggested that I make travel arrangements to get up there and that he would meet me at the owner’s house, for the trip to Texas. I told him to go ahead and get a flight from Texas back to Ohio, and that I would give him the money when we met. 

He told me that he could ride a Greyhound back home, to save me some money, which would have taken him two days to get back home. I said, “No way”. So, he finally found a flight and booked it. I called the owner to see if it would be all right if Walter left his truck there for a few days. I also asked if he could pick me up from the hotel by the airport, and he said, “Sure, no problem.”

Walter surprised me again, when he called and said that he would go back over there the day before we were to leave, and do some pre-trip maintenance, which I later found out was quite a bit, he also bought supplies such as extra oil, transmission fluid, hub oil, fuel filters, filter wrenches, and a 5-gallon fuel can, which I later paid him for. 

He also brought his generator, and air compressor to air up the tires, he checked all the fluids, put 10 gallons in the almost empty tank, got on a ladder, and replaced running lights around the roof, as well as taillight bulbs, and added oil to the hubs. Talk about going above and beyond!  He was going to be in the bus too, and I’m sure that he didn’t want to break down either. So, on the 27th of January with a winter storm headed down from Canada, I flew up to Ohio.

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Our second day of travel went through one storm after another, but we missed the worst parts of any of them, a guardian angel perhaps.

The owner of the bus got to my hotel in Columbus around 8 AM Saturday morning, and we headed to Marysville, where he lived, some 45 minutes away. Once there, he gave me the lowdown on the bus, which I recorded for future reference. About an hour later, Walter showed up and was ready to hit the road. 

The owner’s driveway was a solid sheet of ice, but Walter never spun a tire, there was snow, but the roads were clear. He drove to the northeast corner of Dayton, Ohio for our first fuel up, as he had already checked the cheapest fuel stops on the route that he had planned out in advance for us.

Here is a video of leaving the previous owner’s house.

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Walter and his lovely wife Patricia with the bus at Dayton Airfield.
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The coach parked at Dayton Airfield in Dayton, Ohio, where Walter let me practice doing right-hand turns.

After the fuel stop, where we got lots of thumbs up, and questions about, what is this, a tour bus? He drove us to the Dayton Airfield, so I could practice making right-hand turns, which was a treat for me. When we stopped, he called his wife to let her know that we had arrived, as they only lived a short distance from there. She wanted to check out the coach, as well as meet me I’m sure, since her husband was going to be going across several states with a perfect stranger. She was very sweet, and she liked the coach. I snapped a few pictures of the coach with them standing by it. 

After about an hour of practicing right-hand turns, Walter instructed me to drive to a nearby Flying J Truckstop that had a weigh station, as I would need that information to get the title transferred from an out-of-state purchase. It felt good to drive it, but it was getting late in the afternoon, and we had a lot of miles to put behind us. It was better to let a seasoned driver take the wheel.

We put on almost 500 miles before calling it a day. I had mentioned to him, that we could get a hotel room for the night, but he is a very frugal man. We stopped at a rest area in Illinois that was loaded with big rigs.  We had to park on the side of the exit road. After a leg stretch, I told him to take the bed, and that I would sleep on the fold-out couch. 

I am an early riser and was up by 4 AM. Walter was up not long after, and we were back on the road before 5. It was raining off and on, and that is when we noticed the air-operated windshield wipers would not work properly if both were on. So, we just used the driver’s side.

We made it through the rest of Illinois, Missouri, and to the northern part of Arkansas before we made our second fuel stop and grabbed a bite to eat. I was on a mission to get some Rain-X for the windshields. I was looking, but couldn’t find any, there was a lady rearranging some items, and I asked her if they had any. 

While we were looking, I was telling her the story of my bus purchase, and our trip from Ohio to Texas, with only one windshield wiper. There was nothing to be had, and I thanked her for helping me look. She said, “Wait right here”, and she disappeared. When she came back to me, she had a brand-new bottle in her hand, and said, “Here, this is my bottle.” 

I grabbed a picture of her and me and told her that she was a lifesaver. So, while Walter was finishing his meal, I went out to apply Rain-X. Once I got done, I went in to return the bottle, but she wouldn’t take it, what a sweetheart, sadly I didn’t catch her name. Walter pulled around to the pumps, and we filled her up again and were back on the road. 

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The wheel center is more modern, and the paint was starting to fade. Jay Wood wound up doing some touch-up painting, changed some colors, and did away with the murals.
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This may have been a picture from a classified ad. Perhaps when it was sold by CCC. The original cost to build the coach was $350,000 in 1982.

After several more miles, we stopped for another leg stretch, and drinks. It was still raining, but not hard. As we headed back to the bus, he said, “Let’s get you some seat time.” The parking lot was full of big rigs, and he told me how to get out of there, and we were on the road again. He took a couple of pictures of me. I must have looked nervous because he told me to smile, so I did. LOL.

I drove for quite a while, and it was time for another rest stop. The rest area was loaded with big rigs, and only two parking spots left. He instructed me on when to start turning, and I slid right up next to one with no problem.

We continued our journey through Arkansas, and we were both getting hungry. I saw a billboard advertising a Bar-B-Que and catfish restaurant called Nicks, just up the road, with truck parking. Walter said that he had never eaten catfish, and I said, “Then you are in for a treat, he wasn’t sure about it, but we both ordered combination plates with catfish as our second meat. 

While we were waiting, I was mentioning other southern dishes, and he was making faces, like why would you eat that, I laughed several times. He enjoyed the meal, which made me very happy.

On the way back to the bus, he asked me if I wanted to drive, but the roads in that area were narrow, and in bad shape, with construction cones everywhere. I told him that I would feel better if he drove and once we got to Texas I would take over. So back on the road we went, and didn’t stop again until we reached Paris, Texas, which was about two hours from my house. It was 60 degrees when we had stopped for dinner, but the temperature was down in the 20s there, with a light mist, the front of the coach was frozen rain. 

He said since it was getting worse that he would just continue driving, as he would feel safer. I tried to argue because I knew that he was tired, but by that time he was one with the bus and wanted to complete the mission. 

That last two hours seemed to take forever, I was worried about him, but he knew what he was doing. It was dark in between towns, and the headlights were weak, but we finally arrived at my house at around 10:30 that night, after two days on the road and 17 hours in the bus that day.

My wife stuck her head out the back door of the house as we were pulling up to the shop, and I motioned for her to come and look. Walter, who had to be exhausted jumped to his feet, and as she got on the bus, he gave her a tour, he pointed out several things, opened cabinet doors, showed her the bathroom, and sounded like a salesman. LOL.

Afterward, he went into the house and did his check-in for his flight the next morning. We took him out to the shop, as we were unwinding from the long day. He was telling us stories, and Deborah was just glued, as he spoke. We wound up staying up until almost 2 AM. 

I had mentioned to him that if we got up in time, maybe we could run the bus uptown to get it inspected as that was the last thing that I would need to get the title transferred. When I got up the next morning it was brutally cold, and the weather forecast wasn’t good, so when he got up, I said that we would just leave a little early so that I could get him to the airport which was 60 miles from my house. Deborah didn’t want him to leave. LOL. 

When I pulled up to the gate for drop-off, we were 45 minutes early. I gave him the taxi fare, as he still had to collect his truck from the previous owner’s house, I shook his hand and thanked him for all he did for me. Walter stepped up for me, like no man, other than my own father, and I will be forever indebted to him, for his kindness.

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A screenshot of the flight location, where Deborah and I watched to make sure that Walter’s flight made it to Columbus, Ohio.

As I was leaving the airport it started sleeting, and it took me over two hours to get back home. 

While I was sitting in the parking lot, Walter sent me a text saying his 11:30 flight was delayed several hours, I felt terrible for him. Once back home, my wife and I found a flight locater from the airport’s website and tracked his flight. Once it landed, he texted me to say that he was on his way to get his truck, but it was snowing hard, the poor man didn’t get home until about 1 AM.

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The CCC demonstration coach #2703 and Propsom’s coach #2710 were both on display at the FMCA Connection in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1983 and the 1984 FMCA show in Fort Myers, Florida. This picture is of both coaches in Sarasota, Florida.
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A picture from when the bus was new.
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I love looking at this angle, from the semi-gloss black on the back to the highly polished wheels with their original center caps and the chrome lug nuts.
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Original interior looking towards the rear of the bus.
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Original bus interior looking from the back to the front.
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A sign of high-end quality, shared by all Custom Coaches.
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A Private Coach sounds better than a motorhome.

This bus was the first show/demo coach put out by Custom Coach Corporation, to entice people to buy one and to compete with what Marathon Coach was doing at the time. I heard that it was shown at the race tracks up north, perhaps in Indianapolis.

When I got the coach home and the dust settled, I put pictures of it on a couple of Facebook bus pages that I had joined when looking for a bus conversion, and someone told me that I needed to join the Custom Coach Corporation page, so I did, and that is when I found out that this wasn’t just another Custom Coach, but it was the first one to be built by the company, strictly as a show coach. A couple of former CCC employees chimed in. 

The first was Jay Wood who told me that he had owned this coach three different times over the years and that he was responsible for the upgrades that had been made to the coach, as well as the remanufactured 8V92 engine. I plan on picking his brain about all the different systems on the bus.

Then Andy Beal spoke up, he was a high-up employee in the company and was the one who put the bug in the owner’s ear about building the demonstration coach in the first place, to highlight CCCs exceptional workmanship. He told me to send him a message, and he could tell me more about it. He is also the one who provided all the pictures from when it was new, thank you so much, Andy.

It was a shock to me to find out all of this new information about the bus that I had just purchased, and I was so glad that I had joined that page, or I may have never known. It sounds like it was really something back in its heyday.

I plan on having a plaque made, engraved with information about #2703 and CCC, and place it in the coach somewhere for all to see. She needs some love, but I am very excited to own it.

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Jay Wood’s business logo, featuring bus #2703.

When I purchased the bus, the updates to the interior had been done by Jay Wood. Jay Wood worked at CCC. He started in 1979. He has owned this coach three times over the years and now buys and sells them when he can find one. “I have owned that coach three times. I sold it to the guy in Sunbury. My wife and I had a lot of fun with it. We did a lot to it. I don’t think the last owner did anything to it. I looked at it last summer. I still like that coach.” – Jay Woods

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Driver and lounge area. The couch and chairs have been reupholstered. This is a great area to visit in. Notice nautical-type switches and gauges, much like you would find in a yacht.
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These are swivel rocker barrel chairs. We’re not sure yet, but we are thinking of changing this area into a slender booth that would be made into a single bed.
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The original tiled shower has a small tub built in.  This bathroom has two full-length beveled mirrors doors that close off the bathroom at both ends. 
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The toilet seat has a dual purpose at the vanity. The lighting can be adjusted with the swipe of a finger.
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The bathroom sink area with a mirrored medicine cabinet and built-in lighting.
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Granite countertops, original tile flooring, and cabinets with underlighting. There is a pull-open door where that counter comes out, which has a shoot down to a trashcan in the storage bay.

The captain’s chair is air ride, with a matching stitched passenger fold-up seat. They are both still in the original leather.  The arms on the passenger chair need to be reupholstered. We also have a Jackknife sofa and swivel rocking barrel chairs that were recovered about 10 years ago but look like they have never been used. Lastly, there are two adjustable swivel barstools at the end of each counter.

There is an original to the coach tiled shower with tinted glass doors.  There is also an electric toilet. The seat doubles as a place to sit for makeup on the vanity next to it. There is touch lighting at the vanity and over the sink, that can be dimmed with the swipe of a finger.

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Swivel barstool with brass foot rail.
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Apartment-size Kenmore refrigerator/freezer.
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Queen-size underlit bed. There is a lot of hidden storage in this room.
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Built-in electric Amana two-burner stovetop with a Jenn Air microwave above.

Until I can get everything looked after, we will be making short local trips in north central Texas and southern Oklahoma. My insurance has roadside assistance, and we also paid for a year of Coach-Net. Nobody wants to break down, but it is better to be prepared if you do. 

We have plans to go to Colorado, the Grand Canyon, and possibly one day up to Moab. I want to hit some bus rallies too, I’d love to take it up to Nappanee Indiana for the RAOC rally in September, but will probably just fly in this year, and enjoy it that way.

This coach was made to be enjoyed, and that is exactly what we plan to do, like I said before, our grandchildren love to travel and go camping, doing that in a bus will be a whole new experience for all of us, and another chapter of our story to unfold.

As far as changes or modifications are concerned, I might add about four solar panels to the roof, with a backup battery bank, for another way of having power. However, the roof really needs stripped and repainted, as well as the back of the coach, and some touch-ups on the sides. 

Those are the least of my worries though, as this coach needs a thorough going over. We made the 1000-plus mile trip from Ohio to Texas without a glitch, but I don’t believe either of the last two owners have done much if anything to it, while in their possession. 

I’d love to be able to take it to Scott up on Bus Grease Mountain and get him to guide me, as well as help me address all the things that have been neglected over the years. The bus steers well, but I’d like to take the tires off, to really get a close look at everything under there. Four of the tires really need replacing, especially the steer tires, they all look great, with no cracking, but out of date or close to it. 

I need to check for, and fix any air leaks, and replace parts as needed. Do an inspection and replacement of any worn out or questionable suspension parts, especially shocks, brake canisters, and bags, but also including wheel bearings, hub seals, new oil, and grease. 

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A remanufactured 8V92 was installed in the coach less than 6,000 miles before I purchased it.

I noticed a few oil leaks on equipment behind the engine, that I need to fix. The engine cooling fan unit needs to be taken completely out, and put new seals in it, as it leaks, then clean up that whole area, and detail everything. 

None of the basement A/C units blow cold, nor does the over-the-road A/C. I have a guy coming to charge everything and check for leaks on those systems, that won’t be cheap I’m sure, but it is about the only thing that I can do right now, as we went way over on our budget, and have no more money that we can let go of right now, so this all may take a while, but it will get done, this coach is special, and really deserves it, in my opinion. 

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A look at the bay storage.

I’ll try and sell some stuff, including my project car, which I really hate to do, as I have had it for a long time, but I don’t need two money pits. LOL. I know that once everything is tended to, this coach will outlive me, and be around for others to enjoy into the future.

Here are some videos about this bus:

Bus Specifications

General

  • Year: 1982
  • Manufacturer: MCI/ Custom Coach Corporation 
  • Model: MC-9
  • Vehicle Weight: 35,300 lbs.
  • Engine: Turbo Charged 8V92
  • Transmission: Allison 5-speed
  • Mile Per Gallon: 5 - 6
  • Transmission: Allison 5-speed
  • Mile Per Gallon: 5 - 6
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: Main Tank is 144 Gallons, and the Auxiliary Tank is 80 Gallons
  • Overall Length: 40 ft. 
  • Overall Width: 8 ft. 
  • Overall Height: 12 ft. 
  • Solar Power: None yet
  • Shore Power Amps: 50

Inverter:

  • Size (Watts): Manufacturer: Vanner 1500
  • Onboard Battery Charger: Intel- Power 9200 Series
  • Batteries: (2) 8D Start Batteries, (1) 8D house battery Napa Commercial. I want to upgrade eventually.

External Equipment

  • Fresh Water Tank Capacity: 100 Gallons
  • lack/Grey Water Combo Tank Capacity: 100 Gallons
  • Tank Material: Plastic
  • Water Heater Type: Reehm 10-gallon (Electric)
  •  Plumbing Materials Used: Copper and PVC
  •  Propane: N/A

Internal Equipment

  • Stove: Amana Two-burner (Electric)
  • Microwave: JennAir
  • Refrigerator: Kenmore (Apartment Size)
  •  Air Conditioning: (3) Basement A/Cs and OTR Bus Air
  • Heating: Bus Heat and Electric Heaters
  • Generator: Kohler 12.5 KW 
  • TV: (2) Flat Screens, One in Lounge Area, and One in the Bedroom
  • VCR, DVR, Blu-Ray: N/A
  • Satellite TV: Winegard 360
  • Bed(s) - How Many and What Size: There is a Jackknife sofa in the lounge area, and queen size bed in the rear bedroom. We may upgrade to a small booth where the barrel chairs are, to make it into an additional single bed.

Interior

  • Wall and Trim Material: The walls are covered in a wood grain countertop material. The windows, ceiling, and cabinet doors and trim are all made from Hawaiian Koa wood.
  • Ceiling Material: Suede
  • Flooring Material: Wood in the Lounge Area. Original Tile in the Kitchen and Bathroom. Carpet in the bedroom
  • Type of Insulation: Several layers of different materials were used, as per Custom Coach Corporation.
  • Cabinets: All the cabinets and closets are carpeted and lit on the interior.  The coach has a three-drawer slide-out pantry. The bedroom has a lot of storage, huge drawers under the bed, roll-up compartments on either side of the bed, with A/C and lighting controls on the right side, and a built-in AM/FM Cassette stereo and equalizer on the left side, with carpeted cubbies as well. There are cabinets above the bed, and small but deep drawers on both sides. There is a large closet with a huge drawer under it and across from that on the other wall are three small but deep drawers. The coach had a central vacuum hookup, but the vacuum has been deleted.
  • Countertop Material: The kitchen was upgraded by Jay Wood, using granite. The bathroom counters are original Corian. 
  • Window Coverings: Wood slat blinds are in the front area. Dual night and day pull-down shades are in the bedroom.
  • Lighting Type: Standard 12V and 24V bulbs, and 120V hidden fluorescent. There is also hidden rope lighting under cabinets and built into the bathroom sink cabinet. As well as underlighting around the bottom of the bed.

Insight on Bus Number 2703  From a Former Employee of Custom Coach

by Andy Beal

The background on the coach was that for every FMCA event or client request, Custom Coach had to get permission from the owner of a used coach on the lot for sale to use their coach for display or trial run. As V.P. of Sales and Marketing, I pestered Kirwan Elmers for several years trying to make the case for having a Custom Coach owned “Demonstrator” coach that we could use as we saw fit.\

Our mechanical and electrical components and construction quality were second to none, but our “look” was dated, very similar to what was produced in the early 1970s. We needed a new look to stem the tide of losing market share.

The smart businessman that he was, Mr. Elmers didn’t want to rush into something that was unprofitable or detrimental to the future of the company. Kirwan finally agreed and we started Coach 2703 on the production line. Coach 2710 was also on the production line at the same time.

I worked closely with our V.P. of Manufacturing & Production, Darrel Price; our engineering department, Gary Waidner, and Skip Apple; and with our interior designer, Leda Emery, to come up with a finished coach that incorporated all the quality and design that Custom Coach was known for, in a totally different aesthetic design, never seen at Custom Coach. 

Also keep in mind that in addition to the outside-the-box thinking that had to take place in the design stage, the production workmen, had to buy in as well, and they took to this project with enthusiasm!

Darrel Price did a lot of research into new door hardware, electrical switches, plumbing fixtures, etc. We decided to use Koa wood for the walls and cabinets as opposed to the usual solid core plywood and Formica or Ultrasuede coverings.  

Leda Emery sourced out the original bar stools and the dinette table chairs. The team collaborated to finalize the design of the Koa window surrounds which incorporated fluorescent tube lighting. Dating back to the earliest Custom Coach conversions in the 1950s, the main lighting was hidden behind horizontal\valence panel covers.\This was quite a departure from the standard Custom Coach conversion.

Regarding the paint scheme, we had used John Stahr earlier on the underwater-themed coach #2710 for Mike Propsom of Sarasota, Florida. It was John’s first big coach of his career. He started by custom painting cars, motorcycles, and conversion vans early on. 

Mr. Propsom gave him his start in the conversion coach industry and that much later led Stahr to Marathon Coach where, for many years, he painted all their production coaches! John is now painting personal and corporate aircraft from his home in Love’s Landing, Florida, near The Villages. He can be found on Facebook.

The task of the design theme and paint scheme fell on my shoulders, and I decided since we were producing coaches for very wealthy clients, that we should try to represent their other toys on the exterior. The Lockheed Jetstar II on one side panel illustrated the plane in which one of our other clients had flown to visit us on many occasions. 

Roy Woods, who was an heir to the Oklahoma City-based Woods Petroleum fortune, owned the plane. It was the epitome of the luxurious form of air travel enjoyed by many of our customers. Unlike all the other private jets, this plane had four engines across the tail which made it exceptionally fast!

On the other side panel was an airbrushed rendering of a Riva speedboat from Italy. This was inspired by seeing it portrayed in the pages of “Symbol” magazine, which, at that time, was only sent to owners of Rolls Royces, Ferraris, and Riva boats. 

Custom Coach had placed ads in the magazine on several occasions, so we received copies as well.\Published between 1978 and 1994, the publication catered to the lifestyle of the rich and lovers of art, travel, style, and high-quality products. That seemed like a perfect platform to highlight the benefits of a Custom Coach.

The rear engine panel doors were especially gratifying to this bona fide car nut. Stahr was able to recreate a black 1978 Lamborghini Countach, the world’s first true supercar, and the silver 1933 Rollston Arlington Torpedo Duesenberg Model SJ, otherwise known as the “Twenty Grand” model. So named because it cost $20,000 in 1933 at the depth of the Great Depression. 

For comparison, you could purchase a brand-new Ford Model A in 1933 for $385. I had met this car’s owner, J.B. Nethercutt at his home in San Sylmar the year before and he displayed the car in the Grand Ballroom of this spectacular home. Mr. Nethercutt was the owner of Merle Norman Cosmetics.

The CCC Demonstrator coach #2703 and Propsom’s #2710 were both on display at the 1983 FMCA Convention in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the 1984 FMCA show in Fort Myers, Florida. Both coaches were photographed together in Sarasota, Florida, near where Mr. Propsom lived.

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The very special cars airbrushed on the back of the coach were probably a real conversation piece, especially for anyone traveling behind it.
Article written by Bill Blakeley

Bill and Deborah Blakeley met in the summer of 1992, and have been together ever since. They finally tied the knot in 1997 with their 5-year-old daughter and the parents as witnesses in a Justice of the Peace backyard.

Bill has worked in the automotive refinishing business as a painter since 1980, helped restore many cars and trucks, and worked on countless collision repairs. Deborah has worked in the same nursing home for 30 years, in every department except nursing, she loves caring for the elderly and helped to take care of four of Bill’s family members over those years.

This couple loves to travel and go on camping trips. Once their bus is back up to par, they plan on going to different places, across this great country. They haven’t named their bus yet but are ready to let the good times roll.

You can reach Bill and Deborah
via email MyFriendBillB@gmail.com

Click HERE to read other articles by this Author
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