First Wide Body Eagle Bus in the U.S.

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1967 Eagle Suburban – The BCM Bus

Camping as a Boy Scout in New Hampshire when I was twelve years old is a fond memory. We had a great Scoutmaster who would take us out into the woods by the Connecticut River or small brook and we would set up camp for the weekend. We cut firewood and had a fire, day and night and toasted marshmallows and hot dogs. We burned trees from one end to the other and large stumps that seemed to burn all week-end.

We learned how to follow a compass to find our way through the woods, long before the GPS was invented and used the sun to tell time by building a sundial. Clocks and watches were not allowed on campouts and we learned to be able to tell the time by the position of the sun and moon. Cell phones were not around in the ‘60s.

We were in the wilderness and were one with nature and all we heard were the leaves rustling, wildlife chatting, and the stream trickling down hill. We learned some very helpful skills such as where the North Star is and how to boil potatoes in a paper bag on an open campfire. I enjoyed the Boy Scouts so much, I became the Scout-master when I turned 21 and passed on these skills to the younger generation.

I remember one time waking up in the pouring rain next to a drowned out campfire. My friends all realized it was raining before I did and went into their dry tents, but they never woke me up. My sleeping bag and I were soaked through when I woke up at daybreak and it took all of the next day to dry everything out.

As I grew older, I decided that laying on the ground in the rain and cold in the great outdoors was no fun anymore. I quickly determined that a mattress and some form of heat in the fall and winter and air conditioning in the summer would make camping “outside” more comfortable.

It was then that I bought my first truck camper and a dually truck to haul it around on. I traveled all around Texas in that camper and really en-joyed it and spent many nights sleeping under the stars, with only a thin roof in a rickety old camper between me and the outdoors similar to the one below.

A Dually Truck and Camper similar to the one I had.
A Dually Truck and Camper similar to the one I had.

I later sold the truck and camper and I bought a pop-up truck camper as it was more streamlined and was better on fuel mileage. However, I no longer had the truck so I bought a utility trailer and put it on and pulled it behind my Toyota 4-Runner. I did a lot of camping in and around Texas then I took it up to New Hampshire where I did even more camping.

My camper and trailer looked similar to this.
My camper and trailer looked similar to this.

I was living fulltime in my truck camper so I de-cided I wanted something larger and I bought 21’ Sunline travel trailer that looks similar to the one below. I pulled it behind my Toyota 4-Runner. It was a bit of a challenge to pull it with that R22 4-cylinder engine, especially up hills, but I was able to go where I wanted to, albeit not very fast. I lived in that trailer full time for about a year while working for a printing press company in Dover, New Hampshire then at its sister plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sunline Travel Trailer very similar to the one I had.
Sunline Travel Trailer very similar to the one I had.

My next camper was a Roadtrek 190 Class B on a Dodge chassis. I was living in an apartment complex in St. Louis at the time and they did not allow RV’s in their parking lots. The Roadtrek has a unique design that it was not obviously an RV by looking at the outside. The roof A/C unit was hidden in the roof cap and you could only see the rear vent. The refrigerator exhaust was hidden in the window which you can barely see in the photo below. I had a limo tint put on all windows so nobody could see inside.

The water filler was hidden inside the driver’s door and the grey and black water drains were hidden behind hinged running boards that flip up.

One summer my mom, dad and myself traveled in this RV all around Colorado, comfortably for one month. With all three of us in there, there was not much room to move around so cooking and living outside was the norm. The Roadtrek slept three people quite comfortably. One of the primary differences between a Class B and a bus conversion is that you cook and eat outside a lot more and you spend much of your day outside as in a Class B.

I used it for a daily driver in St. Louis and later when I moved to live in Denver. These are great day trip vehicles.

Roadtrek 190.
Roadtrek 190.

Like my truck camper, and the Sportsmobile later, the Roadtrek had a wet bath. A wet bath is a combined toilet and shower where the floor is still wet after you finish your shower. A shower curtain pulled out on a track all around you. This requires you to wipe off the toilet and mop up the excess water after a shower unless you want to walk on a wet surface in your bare feet all night.

Roadtrek toilet/shower combo.
Roadtrek toilet/shower combo.

The shower was actually in the center hallway and had about a 3” lowered floor to catch the water. If the Roadtrek was not absolutely level, some of the water would not drain and you had to squeegee the water into the drain. If you were driving after a shower, the water would eventually drain out so that was not a problem. But if you were staying in one place for a while, you had to encourage that water to drain. I am not fond of a wet bath, but it is a workable solution in a small rig.

In 1983 I took a job in St. Louis for McDonald Douglas and was traveling on a regular basis for my job. I was living in an apartment and trans-ferred to Denver, Colorado where I lived for a year in another apartment. I spent most week-ends doing laundry and repacking for a Sunday’s flight to visit a different customer and I lived out of a suitcase for sometimes several weeks at a time.

I decided that because I was hardly ever home in Denver, and because I did not like the noisy neighbors and paper-thin walls in an apartment, I thought why not buy a motorhome and live and travel from job to job for the company. My boss was fine with that because I was at customer sites doing programming or teaching CAD (Com-puter Aided Design) week after week anyway.

I decided that I should buy a motorhome and live life on the road as a “full-timer”. I can just park in the customers’ parking lot and save them money while I was able to travel around the country on the companies’ nickel. My employer, our cus-tomers, and I, all benefited by that arrangement as they saved a lot of money on airfares, hotel rooms, and meals as some gigs lasted several months at a time and they paid for my fuel and other expenses as I traveled around the country.

After a pretty extensive search, I decided on a 36’ 1976 Fleetwood Discovery. I took delivery in Den-ver and sold most of my worldly possessions and gave a lot of stuff away (which were not much) and moved out of my apartment and hit the road.

1976 Fleetwood Discovery with 20’ Car Hauler Trailer containing my Harley and my 4-Runner.
1976 Fleetwood Discovery with 20’ Car Hauler Trailer containing my Harley and my 4-Runner.

I headed to Texas for my first assignment in the summer of 1989.

I put 50,000 miles on the Discovery in about four years, mostly traveling around the country teach-ing computer classes to customers for EDS, who bought out the software division designed by Mc-Donnell Douglas that I worked for. I would usually be assigned the long term gigs as I was willing to stay in one place for several weeks or months at a time while other instructors wanted to fly home to their families each weekend. This saved the companies a lot of money and it was like a paid vacation for me.

I lived in an RV Park in San Jose for a while on a one year gig when a neighbor moved in with a Bus Conversion. I had never heard of a “Bus Conversion” but I was intrigued with the rugged-ness of his bus. My Discovery then had about 85,000 miles on it and when doing minor repairs on it one day, I told my neighbor I was not sure how many miles I could get out of it. I asked him how many miles he had on his bus and when he said, “Over two million miles”, I about fell over. I could not believe any vehicle was built well enough to travel that many miles.

About a year later I moved to Anaheim, CA to work out of the local EDS office there. I was still living in my Discovery at the time when a guy with a MCI MC-7 moved in next to me. He was a retired truck driver who also was a full believ-er in owning a bus, after driving several million miles in an 18-wheeler during his career. He was convinced that a bus is not only the safest way to travel but also the most comfortable and would never even consider traveling in anything else.

When traveling on the interstate in my stick-n-staples 37’ Discovery motorhome, if a big truck passed, it would blow me around the road. Div-ing it in a stiff crosswind was a challenge as I felt like I was crabbing going down the road. The owner of the 1972 MC-7 told me that does not happen in a bus because it has so much more mass and is streamlined better so buses hold the road very well.

It turned out that the owner of the MC-7 was building a house back in Illinois and he wanted to sell his bus and move back home. We talked about it for a while and shortly after that, I was the owner of a MC-7 Combo bus.

The Combo bus had a rear cargo compartment with its own wide door behind a wall of about 20 passenger seats. It was used to haul engines, transmissions, and other heavy objects from one Greyhound maintenance facility to another.

Fewer than 100 Combo buses were built for Greyhound. They had two sets of dual wheels in the rear and they were very heavy duty and weighed more than the newer MC-9 buses. They rode very well because of their weight.

This bus was once owned by Peter Pan and then it was sold and converted for travel to Alaska. It had two very large stainless steel custom built tanks as stops were few and far between on the Alcan Highway back then.

The freshwater tank held 250 gallons and the grey/black water tank held 250 gallons as well. This bus could go a long way between having to water up and dump the tanks. I liked that feature and could travel for about a month before having to water up if traveling alone.

I loved the large tank capacities and I always said, if I ever convert my own bus, it will have the largest tanks I can fit in one bay. These two tanks took up most of one of the bays in my bus. 250 gallons of liquids, plus 130 gallons of fuel is a lot of weight, but the Combo bus had no prob-lem carrying the extra weight. The water never weighed as much as a diesel engines and trans-missions they used to carry.

One thing I should mention is that many moto-rhomes and other RV’s GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) are near capacity when they roll off the factory floor. One must be very careful when loading them with fuel and water and travel re-lated items because the can easily end up being over the GVW of the vehicle.

This can make them very unstable and the brakes may not be designed to hold back that much weight as many are built on standard truck chassis. With almost all buses, they are designed to carry more weight than they would ever have to carry so that makes them very safe.

After a couple of years in that bus and realizing now that I really like the ruggedness and safety of traveling in a bus, I upgraded to an MC-9 bus with a log cabin interior. It had larger windows and was a bit more modern, it was a nice looking bus. It also had a sleeping bay under the floor for the previous owner’s kids. You can read all about that bus in our blog at: My Log Cabin Bus.

I decided to upgrade to the MC-9 because I like the log cabin style and the larger windows that let in a lot more light and looked more modern. The log cabin bus had the lightest interior of any con-version, or other types of RVs I have ever been in because of the lightly stained pine wood and all of the windows were left in during the conversion.

I loved the many windows and it was easy to park in many parking lots as most people thought it was still a passenger bus and not an RV. The only drawback was that it was not insulated very well and the many windows let in a lot of heat and cold, as well as a lot of dark at night, but it served its purpose and some days I wish I still had that bus. It was a real workhorse.

Because my MC-9 was parked in an RV park pretty much full time back then, it was not easy to just take out for a weekend of camping. So I bought a Sportsmobile to travel in on weekends. I kept the Sportsmobile fully stocked of everything I would need to run away for a long weekend or even a week or two. I had duplicates of every-thing in my bus. Even a full set of clothes.

2001 Sportsmobile.
2001 Sportsmobile.

This was a great off-road vehicle with a Quigley 4WD setup and had much more ground clear-ance than the Roadtrek so I could go up on top of a mountain or camp by a stream and sleep with all of the doors and windows open in the wilder-ness. I would camp in places that most other ve-hicles could not go and BLM land was my favorite camping place in the west. It had a 15,000 lb. Warn winch and solar panels covering the entire roof. It had six 12V AGM batteries under the sofa. I could run the air con-ditioner for up to two hours on the batteries and solar alone. It also had a water pump set up to draw water out of a stream for long term boon-docking and a Sirius Satellite radio.It had a $20,000 sound system that was the best I have ever heard.

It also had two halogen floodlights on each of the four sides of the vehicle that when all were turned on, it lit the area up like a city parking lot. It also had cameras on all four sides so you could see anyone around the rig on the TV if you heard a noise outside. That was an awesome vehicle but I sold it to have seed money to support BCM in the first year after I took it over. I ran this 4×4 for four years and sold it for what I bought it for.

The Sportsmobile also had an onboard air com-pressor with a long coiled air hose. This came in handy when you have to let the air out of your tires to travel in deep sand as you need to puff them back up before you travel again on the road. The hose was always hooked up with an air nozzle in the back of the camper which was used to blow out the dust and dirt that may have been tracked in. This was faster and easier than using a broom and did a better job.

After traveling in the log cabin bus for about five years I came across a 1967 40’ Eagle that was for sale. The previous owner in Phoenix called BCM to have it listed for sale in our Classifieds section for $125,000 I was taking notes about what it had and when he mentioned a Series 60 engine, with Cruise Control and a 3-stage Jake Brake, I about fell off the barstool. LOL! I told him I may be interested in it and I scheduled a time over Thanksgiving to travel from Anaheim, Cali-fornia to Phoenix, Arizona to see his bus.

This is a 2-axle bus called a Suburban, Model number 8001 and was built in Belgium as a proto-type to see how well it was received by bus com-panies in North America. A 2-axle bus has several advantages, in that it has one extra storage bay so it allowed more luggage capacity for longer trips and costs less to drive on the toll roads due to one less axle.

Here are pictures of my bus while it was still in service at Continental Trailways. Photo courtesy of Daniel Lenz, a former employee of Eagle.
Here are pictures of my bus while it was still in service at Continental Trailways. Photo courtesy of Daniel Lenz, a former employee of Eagle.

They only made three of these prototype buses but they never really caught on because at the time they were limited by the number of roads they were allowed on due to the wide body de-sign and the additional weight on the single rear axle. However, this bus made a very nice conver-sion due to the additional storage space in the bays. This bus has more storage space than any other 40’ on the road and handles the weight of a conversion with no problem.

I drove to Phoenix to see this bus and immediate-ly knew it was my next bus. His wife had passed away three years before that and he wanted to downsize. He told me that this bus was built for the St. Louis World’s Fair as the first wide body bus built for the United States. At the time, wide body buses of 102” wide, were not legal to oper-ate in the U.S. yet, and it turned out it would be ten more years before they became legal. During that time this bus sat in a warehouse in San Diego while legislation was being passed.

At first, wide body buses were limited to inter-states in western U.S. and could only exit to go to the nearest bus station. They then had to reenter the highway and stay on the highway and not travel through any cities. Eventually, wide body buses were accepted on all roads in the U.S. and most motorhomes now are 102” wide.

The Eagle is one of the smoothest riding vehicles I have ever driven. The torsilastic suspension soothes out all bumps and rides like a dream.This is why many entertainers chose the Eagle bus to transport them from one gig to the next as they could sleep very well while traveling down the road at night.

The previous owner Tom Wolf in Phoenix bought this bus from a church who ran it after Trailways retired it. He drove it back to Texas and took it to John Edwards. John stripped out the seats and removed all of the siding and replaced the few pieces in the front end that had rust. He then put all new siding on the bus as well as new front and rear caps.

Then Tom had the interior finished. In total, he spent over $400,000 converting this bus into his work bus where he would drive to customer sites to measure draperies in high end hotels, then go back home and make the draperies and then return back to the hotel to install them. He wanted the huge bays to deliver his finished draperies in, so the Surburban was perfect for that.

This Eagle came with a Detroit Diesel 8V71 engine which seemed adequate at the time for traveling on interstate highways. However, as other vehicles came out with larger engines and more and more people started passing Tom on long uphill grades like the Grapevine in South-ern California, he decided he wanted a few more horses.

He found a Series 60 engine and modified the back of the Eagle to squeeze it in. It was a relatively tight fit, but he was able to do it at a tune of about $45,000. The bus now has a lot more horsepower and can climb hills such as the Grapevine at about 60 MPH and passes most trucks on the climb that are in the granny lane. Now I can run with the big dog Prevosts and oth-er newer model buses out there that would once before leave this bus in the dust.

He also coupled the Series 60 with an Allison 740, 4-speed automatic transmission. This was one of the most popular transmissions during the bus conversion period at the time and is still very popular. It is a very strong transmission, which if maintained properly will generally last the lifetime of a converted bus and most Series ‘60s will run a million miles between rebuilds if maintained properly.

I did have one issue with my transmission when traveling to the 2018 Bus Conversion Internation-al Rally in Pahrump, Nevada. After climbing the long Cajon Pass into Hesperia, my transmission gave out and had to be towed into a truck mainte-nance facility and removed and rebuilt. We deter-mined that it was rebuilt by a non-Allison certified shop at one time and had inferior parts installed. I had it rebuilt by Dartco in Anaheim, California, an official Allison certified shop, and it now shifts perfectly. I expect it will run for the rest of the life of the bus with no problems.

The bus came with Cruise Control and Jake Brakes which was a requirement for my next bus. By bumping the Cruise Control switch, you can increase or decrease the engine speed by 25 RPMs or about one mile per hour when trav-eling down the road. The fast idle is on the same switch, and it bumps it up or down by 25 RPMs per click.

The Cruise Control did not work when I bought the bus and for the first two years, but last sum-mer when I was in Eugene, Oregon, my mechan-ic Joe Maser took a look at it and after diagnos-ing it for about 30 minutes, determined that the pressure switch on the brake line was the incor-rect one. He replaced that switch and it has been working flawlessly ever since. Since then, this bus is a dream to drive.

Joe replaced that switch with the one set to the correct pressure, and now I can cruise on down the road without having to touch the throttle or the brakes most of the time. With the Cruise Control and the Jake Brakes on at the same time, the speed is maintained extremely well unless it is climbing or descending a very steep hill. With cruise control, and the Villa captain’s chairs, I can drive for ten hours per day without getting tired.

When my bus was converted, they also raised the driver’s area floor and moved the entry door to mid-ship. By moving the door, it eliminated the big hole in the floor under the passenger seat, so his wife would be more comfortable when riding. It also reduced the noise up front because en-trance doors on buses can create wind noise if they are not sealed properly.

By raising the floor, the entire living quarters are at the same level. Because both the driver’s seat and passenger seat swivel and recline they become part of the living area when the bus is parked. It also eliminates the need to step up from the driver’s area and makes the floor easier to clean. The entire floor in this bus is a wood floor and that helps keep it clean. I am not a fan of carpet in an RV because I generally step out into grass, sand, or gravel and it tracks in very easily.

A new front cap was installed to provide not only a larger windshield but it was also raised up so you had a better view of the road. I like sitting up higher like a truck driver, so I can see over the top of most cars ahead of me, which is also safer as you have a longer braking reaction time if needed because you can see brake lights and cars slowing down further up ahead.

This also opened up the bay space under the floor where the steps were, so the front bays on both the driver’s side and the passenger’s side were large and accessible and accessing the front end components is now easier as well as making it easier to access the wiring and steering controls, etc. The bay is also taller so it is easier to crawl in this space if needed.

This bus also had an upgraded rear cap to make the bus look like a later model bus. They also removed all of the siding and replaced it with all new siding. This is one of the cleanest sided Ea-gles out there. It looked just like new when he fin-ished converting it and still looks like new to most people. Many people have a hard time believing that this bus is over 50 years old and I never get questioned about the age of my bus when entering RV parks. See the article Converted Buses Not Welcome

This bus has an Aqua-Hot heating system which is the best heating system you can buy. It heats water using diesel fuel when dry camping, or it will heat the water with 110V if plugged into shore power or running off the generator. For the fast-est recovery, running on both is also an option. But when running on diesel, you have endless hot showers with this system.

Also, while driving down the road, the water is heated by the engine by tying into the engine cooling lines so when you arrive at camp, you have immediate hot water for a shower and the engine coolant circulates around in the heaters so you have heat while driving down the road all from the engine. If you are in a cold environ-ment, the Aqua-Hot system can also be used to heat the engine with the flip of a switch to turn on a coolant pump in the morning thereby heating it with electric or diesel fuel.

The bus has three heating zones which are individually controlled. One is in the front com-partment i.e. drivers area and living room, one is in the kitchen/bathroom area, and one is in the bedroom. You can turn one or all of them on as necessary. Most of the time, I only run the zone in the kitchen/bathroom as that heats up the entire coach very nicely in the parts of the country in which I generally travel.

This Eagle has very large holding tanks. The fresh water tank holds 200 gallons, the grey water tank holds 100 gallons, and the black water tank holds 100 gallons as well. I can generally go about three weeks in this bus if I use the water sparingly and do not use the washing machine.

The bus came with a Duxiana Bed. I have never heard of a Dux bed before I bought this bus, but I discovered that most beds come with 400 coil springs in it. The Dux bed has 4,000 coil springs and they are all one strand of wire making the bed one of the most comfortable ever.

The original Dux bed.
The original Dux bed.

These beds run about $10,000 each so it is not an option for most self-converters or people that own bus magazines. LOL. The bed was starting to get worn after 20 years and it was very dusty. Because of my allergies, I decided to replace it. I liked the mattress but it was very heavy which was not a problem unless you had to access the top side of the engine, which I did quite fre-quently for the first couple of years to work out some kinks. I have always wanted either a Tem-pur-Pedic or a Sleep Number bed. Because of the weight and cost involved in moving the mat-tress when I had to access the engine, I chose the $900 Sleep Number air bed because it is very light and easy to move.

I had to modify my bed frame to accommodate soft-sided mattress to make the base larger, but that was a very simple modification of screwing a larger sheet of plywood over the original hinged bed base.

The Dux mattress was very heavy so when I had to access the engine bay, it was quite a struggle to drag the mattresses off the bed into the bath-room to get them out of the way for servicing the engine. A Sleep Number bed is an air bed with a compressor that puffs up the bed to the “Sleep Number” you prefer to control the firmness of the mattress.

The Queen size Sleep Number mattress works out very well. It has a separate “Sleep Number” setting for each side of the bed. The only prob-lem I have run into is that I have had to replace one or the other mattress three times in two years. One problem is when you climb in ele-vation, the compressor does not sense the in-creased pressure and bleed off the pressure and the mattress keeps expanding.

To remove the mattress to access the engine compartment, I simply remove the blankets, sheets, and mattress protector, and unzip the mattress cover and disconnect the air hose from the compressor and let the air out. Then I can fold up the airbags and move them to my sofa along with everything else and then I can remove the engine cover to access the engine.

I am not sure yet if the altitude change is what caused the failures or the fact that my engine puts out more than the average amount of heat and it is affecting the glue in the seams. When I returned the last mattress bag, I asked them to let me know what is causing the failure but to date, I have not heard of the reason. Since then, I have added to my pre-flight checklist to deflate the bed air pressure so it does not over expand when traveling in the mountains just in case.

I plan to rule out the heating problem when I get back to California again by installing some EHP insulation and insulating my engine compartment better. The old insulation that was put in when the bus was converted in 1996 is getting brittle and falling apart.

The EHP insulation will also reduce the amount of heat getting into my bedroom as it is some-times pretty warm in there when I stop for the night, especially on a hot summer day.

This bus also has a very extensive dashboard de-signed by Custom Instrument Panels. It has over 40 switches of various types which control and monitor all electrical systems in the coach.

From the driver’s seat, you can start and stop the generator while driving down the road with-out leaving the seat. You can turn all the lights in any room on and off. This is helpful if you are driving into the night and forgot to turn off a light switch in the bathroom or kitchen, you can turn it off from the driver’s seat without having to pull over and walk to the back of the bus. I also have a remote control for my front heat pump air con-ditioner so I can turn the unit off and on and also control the temperature from the cockpit while driving.

Drivers Cockpit Panel designed by Custom Instrument Panels.
Drivers Cockpit Panel designed by Custom Instrument Panels.

The dash panel has several gauges so you can monitor engine and transmission temperatures and also the generator functions. You can also monitor the weather with a Weather Watch sys-tem and has a battery monitor gauge so you can always see what your battery voltage and am-perage draw is at all times. I would love a Storm Scope, but that is not in my budget.

I also installed electric shades throughout the coach so I can raise and lower them with the flick of a switch. When I get up in the morning, I can hit a few switches and all shades open and can close all shades at night very easily.

I can control all four front shades on both the driver and passenger side of the cockpit with switch-es in the cockpit. This allows me if traveling solo, to be able to raise and lower any shades includ-ing the passenger’s shade from the driver’s seat, if the sun is rising or setting while driving and you are headed into the sun at any angle. For an ar-ticle on my shades, see the February 2018 issue of BCM.

I travel alone most of the time and wanted to be able to see on all sides of the bus better. I in-stalled a 360 Omniview camera system.

With this system, I can see all four sides of my bus within an inch of all sides so I can safely back into any space without a spotter. It is also helpful to see my toad at all times and when I turn left or right, the turn signals change the screen to the side I am turning so I can see if any vehicles are along the side of my bus.

It also helps when people are passing as I can see them coming up from the rear and on the sides in the 9” screen on the dash. I can also monitor the outside of my bus when parked to see if anyone is approaching. I don’t even need to look out the windows to see what is going on. There is a video recorder option to record all events outside of my bus, but I do not have that option…yet.

Omniview 360 Camera.
Omniview 360 Camera.

I also have a dashboard camera which is on whenever I am driving. I purchased the camera from AnRVersFriend.com. It is very high quality camera and is clear enough capture the license plate information if needed. Sometimes I share some of the video’s of my travels when I go to interesting places. It also has a built-in Collision Avoidance System and many features that most dashcams do not offer. If I am ever involved in an accident, I will have proof if it was not my fault.

The bus came with two pull-out sofas in the front. A five-foot long sofa on one side and a six-foot long sofa on the other. I removed the long sofa on the driver’s side as it was a bit tight moving around the center counter in my bus. I put the shorter sofa on that side instead. Then I gave the longer sofa away, as I wanted to put an office desk on the passenger side of my bus so I can work on the magazine while traveling.

I found a simple desk table at a yard sale and a 3-drawer file cabinet that I keep my necessary files in and to set my compact printer/scanner/copier on. I can do everything I need for the Bus Conversion Magazine business in my “office” while looking out the window at a mountain or lake.

This is the original sofa layout in my bus.
This is the original sofa layout in my bus.

I have a 32” display screen that I use with the lap-top, as I usually have a lot of Microsoft windows open at any one time. When traveling, both the laptop and screen ride on my bed so there is no possibility of damage from vibration. I also carry a spare laptop so I can be up and running quickly if something happens to my primary laptop.

I removed the old fashioned clearance lights and replaced them with all LED lights so I will be seen better on the highways and will also consume much less power. I will be replacing my head-lights with LED lights in the future as well.

In 1996 when this bus was converted, it had about 50 Halogen lights on the inside. One time I pulled a sock out of the shelf behind one of these lights, it was on and it was charred. Halogen lights get extremely hot and it had chared my socks to a crisp. This was very scary. I replaced all of the Halogen lights with LED lighting that I purchased from Wrico International in Eugene, Oregon.

LED lights produce basically no heat and operate at a fraction of the cost and allow my batteries to last longer when boondocking. The LED lights I bought also provide more lumens and dissipate the light better than the Halogens.

I have two 8-D start batteries and eight 6V Trojan T-105 house batteries. I can generally run ev-erything I need all day or all night with this setup. The house batteries are on a slide-out tray. I am ordering four Lion Energy Lithium batteries next month to replace my eight house batteries.

Battery compartment in the BCM Bus. Room for 16 6V Batteries.
Battery compartment in the BCM Bus. Room for 16 6V Batteries.

Lion Energy Lithium batteries have a lifetime warranty and can be drained down significantly more than lead-acid batteries and do not require a battery watering system like I have now to top off my batteries each month. They also recharge much faster so I will be able to fully charge them in much less time than the lead-acid batteries.

Going to Lithium batteries is pretty much a no-brainer if you plan to keep your bus for a while and are ready to replace your current batteries.

When I bought the bus, two of the three roof A/C units worked, but one of the two was not cooling well. Both of the Fantastic fans were pretty rough looking too. I replaced both Fantastic fans imme-diately and replaced the three roof air condition-ers at the rate of one per year as they became less and less effective. For more information about replacing the roof air conditions on this bus, read the article in the November 2019 issue of BCM titled Air Conditioning in a Bus.

The bus came with a King Dome satellite sys-tem. I replaced it with a TailGator Playmaker and switched to Dish Network after Direct TV was taken over by AT&T. The Playmaker was very simple but could only record one show at a time. I grew tired of setting it up every stop, so I mount-ed it on my roof. It worked okay until Dish made changes to their service which created signal loss with the Playmaker, then I was arguing with it almost every time I set it up.

I decided to upgrade to an RF Mogul satellite dish after attending a rally with the Northwestern Bus Nuts in Salem, Oregon last summer. I have had much better luck with and the service is excep-tional.

One week after I had it installed, I bent the crap out of it when I went under a low bridge. (That is a story for another time.) However, the factory was great and shipped me a new reflector in two days and walked me through how to replace it. Now it is working fine and I am very impressed with the quality of this system and the support staff at RF Mogul. They have been great to work with.

I also upgraded the Dish receiver from the Wally to the Hopper which allows me to record three shows at once so I can fill up my disk much fast-er. LOL. It also has several other features that the Wally did not such as a 2TB hard drive that can record 500 hours of programming. You can also connect an external hard drive as well for even more recording capacity which I also did in case I get stuck under trees for a long time at a campground.

I installed a 20’ Carefree electric awning on the curbside of the bus. I have never had an auto-matic/electric awning on any of my RVs in the past so this is a nice feature. In the past, I would only use my awning when I was going to be in one location for at least a week because it took some effort to set up. The electric awning is great as I can put it in and out just by hitting one button on the control pad. Now I think nothing of putting it out for a one day stay or even for a few hours if the sun is shining in my window by my desk while working.

This awning also retracts automatically if it gets too windy by a sensor built into one of the arms. One time when I had a previous RV with a man-ual awning, when at 3:00 in the morning, I was awakened by a violent wind while at the Oshkosh Air Show. I had to run out of my RV in my skiv-vies to put my awning back in lest it gets torn off. The automatic awning takes care of this for me, when the wind increases too much, it retracts the awning whether or not I am home.

The other advantage of an automatic awning that most people do not realize is that you can put it out the distance you want. Much of the time,
I only put mine out a few feet so it shades the side of the bus but does not block my view of the sky in the distance from my “office”. With some awnings, the awning has to be all the way in or all the way out to work.

I also installed a Splendide washer/dryer unit in my bus. Read the story about this in the March 2020 blog on the BCM website. (Laundry in a Bus)

I do not like Laundromats and I sit in my bus several hours per day working on the magazine any-way, so it is much more convenient to do laundry while I am working. I usually put in a load after breakfast and take it out and put it away before lunch.

Many people do not like to take up valuable space for a laundry machine(s) but many people like myself, will give up the extra space for the convenience of not having to find a Laundromat. I also like the ability to toss anything in the laun-dry machine anytime even when traveling down the road with my generator is running. My wash-er/dryer combo will run off the inverter, but not long enough to complete a full dry cycle.

The bus has dual-pane Peninsula windows with a light tint. These windows keep the bus very quiet inside, much better than any single-pane windows. I had all of those windows tinted even darker for privacy. Also because I live in my bus fulltime in Southern California, I was using quite a bit of electricity to keep the bus cool when I was home all day. The tint I had put on the windows has reduced the amount of heat that gets trans-ferred into the bus significantly so the savings in electricity paid for the tint in about a year. It is also easier on the eyes on a bright sunny day.

I have not really done any other modifications to the bus but have a list of ideas I still want to incor-porate. Everyone with a bus conversion has ideas on what they can improve. The bus now runs better than any other bus I have owned and has a lot of power for passing and climbing those long grades after Joe tuned up the engine. It is a nice feeling to be able to sail past the truckers that are in the granny lane crawling up those long hills.

A lot of people are always wanting to upgrade to a new bus or a different bus, but I have not found any other bus with this much bay storage capac-ity. And because I am a full-timer, with no house or garage to store my stuff, I need lots of storage space. I also like the ride of this bus as it is very smooth. When I travel, many things are left on the counters and tend to stay in place very well. With previous buses and RVs, I always had to put everything away before traveling, or they would end up on the floor.

This bus suits my needs very well so I plan to keep it as for a long time. I will write more stories as I add features and make modifications to my bus as there is always room for improvements.

Now that I have written about my bus conversion it is your turn. Write us a story about your bus and we will make you famous too.

By Gary Hatt

Since July 2012, Gary Hatt has been the Publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine. Gary does most of his own work on his bus with the help of mechanic friends. He has owned tents, truck campers, travel trailers, and stick-n-staple motor-homes until he bought his first bus in 1997 which was a 1972 MCI MC-7 Combo. When he had a chance to buy a 1983 MCI MC-9 Log Cabin bus with larger windows he jumped at the chance. On Thanksgiving of 2014, Gary bought a 1967 Model 08 Eagle and has since been living and traveling full time in that.

You may reach Gary Hatt at

Gary@BusConversionMagazine.com

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