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Ron Mead
April 19, 2024
45 views

Best of Show - 1959 Flixble VL-100

We live in our RV on the road full-time and have been doing so since May of 1993 when Ron retired from the Navy. We started out in a 1976 GMC Motorhome because we liked the rounded look and the big wide windows. After living in that for almost 6 years, we needed more room. It was too small for our full-time lifestyle, so our next rig was an Airstream Silver Bullet, 32 ft., which we owned for 10 years, again, we liked it for all the windows and the neat design.

In the early 2000‘s, we were at an RV rally in Quartz-site when a friend gave Ron a bunch of Bus Conversion Magazines and that is when he started dreaming of getting a bus. His reasoning was that buses were made to go a million miles and they were built to last. Of course, I just passed it off as wishful thinking, happy with the rig we had at the time. We had been admiring the Scenic Cruisers and even went to look at one that was for sale. But, I didn’t really want a 40 ft. bus, because, with the car behind, I thought we’d just be too long and make it harder for us to go into out-of-the-way places. The other question I had was whether we should buy one that’s already converted or start from scratch. As I’ve said, we live on the road full-time and we don’t have any place to work on a bus. But, as Ron explained to me, why get one already converted and then spend more money making it the way we want, when we can just buy one for cheaper and make it the way we want, which made sense, but, how to do that on the road.

In the winter of 2004, again in Quartzsite for the annual get-together, we were cruising down the road and looked over at a rally with buses that looked a lot like Scenic Cruisers, so naturally, we had to go look at them. That is when we got introduced to Flx-ible VL-100’s. They looked like the Scenic Cruisers, but, were only 35 ft long which was fine by me. The members of the Flxible club were warm and welcoming and we liked them right away and got more information about them than we were able to absorb.

Lowering Floor Level

We ended up joining the club before we bought a bus and started actively looking for a VL. We especially liked that bus because it was big enough, but not too big, had lots of windows to let in light, had big under-bays, (a plus for a full-timer), and had a different look inside, with two different floor levels, instead of one.

After that encounter, we wanted to get a bus, but our dilemma was now where would we work on it? Everything pretty much fell into place when we got a work camper job for the summer in a San Diego County park. We asked our boss if we could park our bus on the property and work on it when we weren’t working for them and he said it would be okay. Fortunately, they had property out of the public eye, so that solved our problem. That is when we started looking in earnest for a VL. In June of that year, we bought a 1959 Flxible VL-100, from fellow bus member, Dave Rosique.

We actually didn’t really do anything to it that summer at the park. We asked Dave if he’d mind driving it down to H.B. Industries, a diesel shop east of El Cajon, owned by fellow bus member Bob Rowsell. Not being a diesel mechanic, Ron turned it over to Bob to upgrade all the mechanicals. We had a DD 6V92 with an Alli-son automatic transmission installed to replace the old 6-71 with a 4-speed transmission. He also added a parking brake, Jake brake, put in wet wheel bearings, re-geared the rear end, added power steering, and custom-built a dash for us with new gauges and an engine shut-down system. We decided not to keep the one skylight that was still intact and put a vent in, instead. We did not skin any windows over, we wanted to keep them all intact, with the only exception of the back corner windows. One had a really bad crack in it and since it would be covered with cabinets anyway, we took them out. The diesel shop was not that far away from where we worked, so we would come down from the mountains periodically to check on how things were going.

We got the bus back in February of 2005, while we were out in the desert with friends. The coach had been partially converted into a band bus, back in the early 80’s, in the wonderful colors of burnt orange and brown/gold. We had been told that the bus used to belong to a band, but, didn’t know who. We found out for ourselves when doing the inside demolition of the contents, we found a
stage pass for Hall and Oates for their H20 tour back in 1983. They used the bus to travel around to all their gigs.

It was during this time that we decided to drive the bus to Peach Springs, AZ where the Bus Conversion Convention was going to be held in April. As an added plus, they were holding a bus conversion workshop right before the convention, so we signed up for it so we could learn all we needed to know about how to build a bus. We had a little write-up in the BCM that year in the month of June, so you can see what color the bus used to be and what it looked like inside.

From the time we seriously started working on the bus, in 2005, it took us until 2008 to finish it enough to move into it. Fortunately, for us, all our work camp-ing jobs allowed us to park the bus where we were working, so we could continue working on various areas of the bus and not have to put it into storage.

On the lower level, we couldn’t get around not having a walkway through the kitchen, because of the wheel wells, but, in the living room, we wanted the floor all one level, so Ron did all the work required to lower the floor, only hiring a welder to weld all the joints. We also took the bus into Algodones, MX to have bodywork and a paint job done. What should have taken only three weeks, according to the owner, ended up taking three months. But we were satisfied with the end result. We picked it up right before we headed to the desert for the winter. At this time, we were driving two rigs, I drove the Airstream, which we lived in and Ron drove the bus. While we worked on the bus during the summers, we basically took the winters off to play. That’s probably another reason why it took us so long to get stuff done.

The next step was getting all the fiberglass stuff off the inside of the ceiling, so we could get it ready for the spray foaming. That happened during the summer of 2006, at the same county park. Ron put up firing strips on all of the beams and covered the windows with plastic sheeting. We hired someone to do the spray foaming. Ron did all the cutting of wood for the walls, ceiling, floor, and interior walls with what hand tools he had on hand. He also built all the cabinet shells, only ordering the fac-ings and cabinet doors from a cabinet maker. His workshop was either the ground or a nearby picnic table.

Building Interior Walls

Firring Strips and Spray Foaming

Wood Flooring

We had set up our previous rigs to run on solar power only and this one would be no different. We park without hookups for long periods of time during the winter months out in the California and Arizona deserts, so we bought 8 solar panels, for a total of 1,000 watts, 2000 watt true sine inverter, and two six-volt deep] cycle batteries to run our solar system. The batteries we have are not your run-of-the-mill batteries, they are Rolls Surette, out of Canada, and together, they put out 1156 amps. Unlike most RVs, we use them for both our starting and house batteries and have never had a problem with them. To go along with the boondocking concept, we installed a composting toilet, an on-demand hot water heater, to minimize the use of propane to keep the water hot, and portable propane tanks. We also have an electric household refrigerator and a propane apartment-sized stove.

While we were working in Oregon in the summer of 2007, Ron started building the cabinets and I had decided we were going to paint the wood. All I’d ever seen was oak, walnut, or maple, I didn’t like any of them, but, then, we came across some hickory cabinets and I LOVED the look of them, so we decided to go with hickory. Ron built the shells of the cabinets, but, since he didn’t have all the fancy tools to make the cabinet doors and facings himself, he ordered them from a cabinet maker nearby. My only criteria for the wood was that it had to have character, meaning brown swirls in the wood. At the same time, he also started working on the wiring and plumbing. We had several friends in the area that summer and some of them would come for a visit and help Ron out. I keep saying “we,” but, Ron really did all the work, I was just there for moral support, with helpful ideas now and then. We even had a micro rally with 3 VL-100’s, when our bus friends came to see us.

In early January of 2008, we decided to have more cabinets built before the Flxible bus rally in Quartzsite, so we found a cabinet maker in Yuma, AZ, and Ron gave him instructions that he wanted him to match the hickory exactly to look just like the ones we had. We had the cabinets, drawers, and entertainment center built for the living room and just the facings and cabinet doors done for the lower cabinets, since Ron had already built the cabinet shells. We also ordered cabinet doors and facings for some cabinets in the bathroom. To top it off, we had Corian counters put in. Ron also put some electrical outlets in the kitchen so that when Corian went in, that would be done. The whole place was starting to come together.

That summer, we got another work camping job in Blythe, CA in a campground and again we were able to park our bus right next to our site. I was nudging Ron toward the idea of moving into the bus, so we wouldn’t have to drive two rigs around forever and he said that would be doable, but, first, he wanted to get the pro-pane working and the water running. So, that is what he worked on, as well as hooking up the instant water heater and shower faucets. I didn’t want to have to live in a bus with plywood flooring throughout, but, because Ron was working 40-hour weeks in 110-degree weather, we decided to hire someone else to do the flooring. We had already chosen the tile for the kitchen, bathroom, and shower area, so we hired a local company to come put it in, as well as real wood flooring in the living room and Berber carpet in the bedroom.

Tile Flooring

Water Lines

Wiring

We had a job lined up to sell pumpkins and Christmas trees after our summer job, up near the San Francisco Bay area, so we moved into the bus the day we left the campground, Sept 11, 2008. Ron didn’t want to do that, because he knew if we lived in the bus, work probably wouldn’t progress as fast as it would have, had we not been living in it, but, it was the year of extremely high gas prices and I couldn’t see paying for two rigs to drive to northern California, so our Airstream went into storage and we were finally a one rig family again.

Since we’ve been living in the bus, we had new front and rear suspension put on the bus, a pretty new steering wheel, installed
more outlets in the living room, installed new shades throughout the coach, added shower doors to complete the shower area and
just this summer, added Big Foot Levelers, a 3200 Quiet Diesel Generator, and new upper kitchen and cockpit cabinets, with a spice rack and a cabinet for the microwave.

We are still not done with our bus. We still have to figure out what we want to put on the ceiling and walls to finish it off,
Ron wants to build a custom dash made out of wood, with cabinets beneath and we still need closets and dressers for our bedroom. But, that will come, all in good time. For the present, we are happy with what we’ve done so far and continue on down the road to see this great country of ours. If you would be interested in seeing more pictures of what we’ve done with our bus from the beginning of when we bought it, we started a blog back in early 2005 to document our work, you can find it at: http://ourbu-sanus.blogspot.com Comments are always welcome!

Article written by Ron Mead
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