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Phil and Ginni Lyons
March 2, 2023
128 views

The Saguaro Bus – A 1994 MCI DL3-45

Here are how the events of the bus remodel unfolded for Ginni Lyons.

I awakened one morning and looked over at my husband, Phil, who was wide awake, lying there staring up at the ceiling. Recognizing this as a sign that he had been contemplating something, I asked what did this plan entail and how much was it going to cost. So began the saga of the Lyons’ Saguaro Bus.

We have enjoyed many trips in our 1983 MC-9 Moose Bus over the years. But having a bus is a lot like raising a child, the older it gets the more it costs and the harder it is to fix. So, Phil found a newer converted bus for sale in Durango, Colorado belonging to Cy Scarborough of the Bar D Ranch

It had most recently been used as a tour bus for the Bar D Wranglers western band during their off-season. The Bar D Ranch in Durango is a western chuckwagon-style outdoor dinner theater featuring the Bar D Wranglers band open every evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. During their off-season, they travel to other venues to perform across the country. 

Cy, the Bar D Ranch co-founder, and the owner of the bus Phil was considering buying was in his early 90s in 2017. We thought he was selling his bus to start settling down. However, when Phil and I arrived at his place, we found that he had already purchased a newer replacement bus. For some people, there is no slowing down. (Cy Scarborough died at age 93 of natural causes. We are sorry we hadn’t had the opportunity to show him the Saguaro bus after its conversion was complete.)

Just purchased our new bus at the Bar D Ranch in Durango Colorado.

When we arrived to pick up our new bus on the Labor Day weekend of 2017, Cy took us on a personally guided tour of the Bar D Ranch. He had designed and engineered many of the unusual features of the ranch, including the retractable roof that covered the outdoor dining areas during inclement weather. Phil and I were impressed with his ingenuity, especially when he told us he had made a few modifications to our new bus.

In hindsight, let me just mention that when owners make “modifications” to an intricate vehicle such as a bus conversion, problems can arise due to deviations from factory standards. It does make it harder to isolate problems and find solutions. That’s nothing derogatory about Cy as we have a great deal of respect for him, it’s just a fact that factory manuals can’t reflect personalized owner modifications.

Driving the new bus home from Durango, Colorado to Prescott Valley, Arizona, Phil was very impressed with how easily our 45-foot bus handled. But he began to be concerned with how the engine temperature kept creeping higher. That was not a problem we had ever encountered with our first MCI bus, and it would prove to be an elusive one to fix. (Future article to follow.)

Phil’s plans for this bus were extensive. He had years of research into buses, conversions, and camping to draw on and he had a very good idea of what he wanted his bus to become. He wanted to gut the inside, redesign most of the interior, and then rework the outside.

Phil found an RV conversion and repair shop called Leisure Coachworks in Fontana, California, an advertiser in BCM, that agreed to take on this conversion. Phil and Jon Goldstein, the owner of Leisure Coachworks (LCW), hammered out an agreement and the planning began. 

There were many hours spent on the phone with Phil and Jon discussing many plans before work began on the bus when we dropped it off in February 2018. Phil made several trips to Fontana over the next three years to inspect progress and resolve questions the shop had during the conversion. 

Let me point out that this bus was to be the culmination of years of Phil’s plans. He had been dreaming of this bus since he was a little boy. So, I stayed out of most of the planning because I knew that he would push himself as hard as he needed to get the best bus he could. 

Phil would do all the research, communicate with all the main suppliers to find exactly what he would like best, and redesign as needed when structures proved unable to be changed. In January 2021, we were finally able to bring our new bus conversion home. Jon Goldstein had his staff hire a videographer on-site to film the bus unveiling. 

The Saguaro bus is a beauty, and she gets stares wherever we go. Many people have told us that it is the most beautiful RV they have ever seen.

I’m going to let Phil tell you some of the details about our new bus, but in closing, I would like to shout out to Leisure Coach Works and Jon Goldstein, and the staff, especially Juan, Hector, and Lorenzo. They are talented artisans and care deeply about their work.  Just a few weeks ago, someone viewed our final bus conversion video on YouTube and contacted Jon at LCW to request that he ask us to sell him our bus. He offered a price more than double what the bus and conversion had cost.

But there is no way we could sell this girl. She has become part of the family, and besides, I’m not sure I could live through another conversion! We give thanks to God Almighty for letting us have this bus, and also for the great work and workers at Leisure Coachworks in Fontana. Thanks as well to Phil and his great ideas that culminated in this wonderful Saguaro bus. 

Original Vantare interior. Easy chairs, couch, and table for two.

The Conversion as told by Leisure 

Coachworks - Jon Goldstein

I got a call from some crazy passionate guy named Gary Hatt, who you know was a salesman in another life because man he just knows what to say… he is the owner of Bus Conversion Magazine. He had seen a 1956 PD-4104 at Quartzsite, Arizona that we had just restored. He was very impressed with what we did to transform that old conversion into what was catching everyone’s eye at the 2017 Quartzsite RV show. 

Editor’s Note: You can read about this amazing transformation of this Nostalgic 1956 GM Bus into an Enjoyable RV by clicking HERE.

Next thing I know Gary kept calling me and saying I know this guy who moderates our BCM magazine forum, he wants to do a bus conversion, and I don’t know anyone who can do all of what he is dreaming of… 

I said… neither do I… Just kidding…

I was very adamant that Leisure Coachworks could handle any project, big or small. Not because we had done one before, but because we have a foundation of talented and passionate people who make up our crew. 

Most of our staff spent many years of their life working at the Alfa Leisure factory, building, and servicing RVs for many, many, years before coming on board to Leisure Coachworks. Which started after the great recession was in full swing and Alfa leisure went out of business. 

We opened Alfateers in August of 2008, Alfateers was a company that was going to be a home for all the Alfa owners and some of the most talented Alfa employees… As the years passed and people thought we only worked on Alfa’s, we changed our name to Leisure Coachworks, which still had a tie to our roots at Alfa LEISURE and would not limit us to just the Alfa brand. 

Little did I know it was going to lead us to build big projects for a few large corporations, this build, and then something for a TV network… All because we try our best, don’t try to lie about things we don’t know, put our best foot forward and just keep trying to do the best we can every day.

The interior before the remodel. Looking from the front of the bus to the back.

Now back to the big green Saguaro Bus… Many months after talking with Gary Hatt; Phil and Ginni showed up from Arizona with this giant 45-foot-long bus. I was smacked in the face with this bland interior, mirrors everywhere, tons of triangles and cream colors from the ‘90s, a giant refrigerator installed at an angle, and a TV that was on some type of small elevator because the TV was as big as a suitcase!

I knew we were in for a long road ahead. Phil and Ginni gave me a list of needs and wants. They were very clear about what they wanted. Redundancy is number one in case anything malfunctioned they could use something else. Number two was that Ginni needed room to cook. Phil said she loved to cook for him as long as she had the space.

They also had a few more requirements which also tied into another request of “don’t waste any space, and by the way… we want to seat ten people, we want an access hole in the floor for the kids to access the bay, solar, awnings, rub rails, heated floors, clean lines, and a clear line of sight from the front to back, and a very important note… we want it classy, but not too fancy!” Understated elegance is the term they used, and my team and I were determined to give them that.

We gutted the bus, relocated the load center from the center of the bus to the passenger side, giving them that clear line of sight from front to back, and mocked up a floor plan on the new blank slate with the yellow tape I can still see in my mind, then mocked it up for them to see… then tweaked it and changed it a few times… this bus needed to be all they wanted it to be. Many late nights were spent going back and forth, sitting on the only seat in the bus, the toilet seat as my thinking chair, when the shop was quiet so I could tell the guys one more idea in the morning. LOL  

My guys never got tired of the ideas or got tired of me changing things…. Or one more time, or let’s do it like this now… but somehow, they came back to work and dealt with me another day.

I would call Phil and Ginni at 5 or 6 pm after the crew was all gone… talk about what was going on and Phil would always find a positive way to look at it, and keep pushing the ball forward a little bit at a time… we kept these calls going for over two years to get this project to the finish line…Between the Lyons family’s words of encouragement, the late-night phone calls, and most importantly the staff at Leisure Coachworks we produced a one-of-kind piece of art for the Lyons family. 

With a southwest style, hints of Saguaros all over the bus, lots of Leisure LED lights, heated floors, beautiful granite slabs making a wishbone pattern in the shower, little green accents on the cabinets, a cabinet for something in every inch, Including a green color cabinet for Phil’s coffee, which I should have mentioned is one of his favorite things at any time… just like my Dad and as long as it was fresh.

Decorative tiles compliment the floor in the great room, an exhaust fan in the floor of the bathroom, a smooth leather-wrapped dash, complimented by all new front gauges, an entry door wrapped with a foam-inserted Saguaro, and a step cover over the entrance steps for their four-legged friends Ginni can’t ride without, four full-length Girard awing’s on the top, two on each side, a raised front and rear cap... hand made from fiberglass, polished rub rails from IBP (International Bus Parts), and custom windows in the kids’ bays, new tires, all new Lion energy Lithium batteries, cat 5 cables going to every bay, all new holding tanks, a new generator and inverters, a redesigned wash down bay, accented by an area that was a skirt and we made into another storage bay, with a bay door we made from an old door from a donor bus, all finished in that custom green color you have to see to understand, accented by custom airbrushed murals on each side of bus giving them that southwest feel anywhere they roam.

I am proud to say that Leisure Coachworks brought their dream to life and made it look like it was designed to be that way. It was the biggest project we had ever faced, with many hurdles to overcome, lots of late hours and long weekends… We could not have made it happen without the compassion, integrity, and understanding of the Lyons Family, and the dedication and determination of our passionate crew.

Original exterior by Vantare.

Phil Lyons’ Perspective of 

the Bus Renovation

Since being about five years old, I’ve been intrigued by buses. It was at that time, up in the Sequoia YMCA summer camp where my Dad was the director, I’d love to watch and listen to the big old GM & Crown buses descending and rumbling through the dirt road switchbacks that wended through the tall pines bringing young campers down to the log buildings and cabins. On YMCA trips, sometimes the favorite part of the outing was watching the buses pull into the parking lot, then the ride. Dreaming about somewhere, somehow having one of these magnificent old buses as my very own to turn it into something even more magical.

Our family has had quite a journey with our first bus conversion, Moose Creek MotorCabin #001. An MC9 with a 6V92 Detroit Diesel engine and a Knotty Pine Moose Creek MotorCabin’s interior. The goal of this current bus conversion was to bring together everything we’ve learned about RVs and bus conversions over a lifetime of dreaming, studying, building, and hard knocks from owning a bus conversion. A lot of learning was from reading and re-reading the forum threads on BusConversionMagazine.com having run the forum since back around 1998, and of course, almost every article in Bus Conversion Magazine.

Editor’sNote: To see a Moose Creek Motor cabin, click HERE to read an article about the Publisher’s Bus previous bus.

Putting the learning experiences and what works best into actual practice required setting out a series of goals that would govern the entire conversion process. Throughout the entire journey, my wife has been an incredible source of help and wisdom. As the Bible says in Proverbs 19:14 “… only the Lord can give an understanding wife”.

Getting Started

Several years prior to beginning this project, I began reviewing and posting threads on the BCM Forum, reviewing past BCM magazines, and doing voluminous Internet searches. Considerations were choosing coach length, manufacturer, age of the coach, engine type, and exterior and interior themes. Basically, what would serve as the blank palette for this likely final extensive bus conversion project. A key tenet of a bus conversion project is to plan and plan more, think things through, and don’t rush. Most of the time, if you rush a bus conversion project you will end up paying more in the end and/or making mistakes. That applies to every step in the process. From this lengthy process, several goals and requirements were set.

Editor’s Note: Almost all past issues of Bus Conversion Magazine are online and anyone with a current subscription can access and read them 24/7.

Goals & Requirements

Mechanical/Engine/Coach

  • The manufacturer. I was looking for a manufacturer who was still in business so I would more easily be able to procure parts when necessary. Also, it would be nice to be able to call the manufacturer tech support for the coach as I can use all the help I can get.
  • Decision: MCI. This is entirely a personal preference issue. I like the simpler coach than some other models, with a bit less cost. My preference is for a workhorse of a bus, simpler in case we need to have the coach worked on at a truck stop in an emergency. Also, the MCI DL3 line is not quite as tall as other manufacturers’ coaches. Having hit a few tree branches in the past, I’ve decided to do what I can to avoid that going forward.  
  • Length – 45’. I debated much between 40 vs. 45’. Finally decided on 45 feet. We gave up some spontaneity but made it easier to live and work for extended periods. These five extra feet in the forty-five-foot length allowed us to add more creative touches and features to the conversion. This 45’ approach to a bus conversion requires more travel planning and reliance on truckers’ GPS and guides, but with 30+ years of RV experience, we know most of the ropes. And I’m blessed that my wife is an excellent navigator.
  • The engine. Fewer electronics and simpler to work on. An engine vintage that would be a 4-stroke but prior to the extensive electronics which seemed to start around the mid to late 90s. Less to go wrong. Having second thoughts on this as will be noted below. I also preferred to work with a coach manufacturer that was still in business and producing products and providing support. The engine systems had to be well maintained without expensive issues as I’m not a diesel mechanic. 
  • The decision on the engine was for an early 90’s Detroit Diesel Series 60. I ended up with a DDEC II which is indeed simpler with fewer electronics. However, I was surprised to find out later that it does not support a coolant temperature probe, and that the DDEC model turned out to have so few functions and probes that attaching a sophisticated Silverleaf electronic dash provided very little value. Note: The engine coolant probe configuration for this engine and DDEC only indicates a low coolant level condition.  We don’t have a coolant temperature probe, and the DDEC is not informed of high-temperature problems. And the DDEC II also doesn’t have a physical interface that is still available to most mechanics. I started to find that out the hard way during a roadside repair visit from WW Williams. Their mobile dispatch mechanic was quite puzzled when presented with the DDEC II interface. None of his diagnostic gear would attach. This has happened a few times. So, this ‘simpler electronics’ approach has backfired a few times. I do now carry my own interface cabling and software for the DDEC II.
  • Coach. No rust, bends, frame damage, etc. There are plenty of checklists out there for buying a used coach, and I reviewed as many as I could find. Search the BCM forum and you will find a handful. Most all checklists indicate you should have a mechanic check out the vehicle. It is good advice. I had two mechanics check out the vehicle. Even they both missed some noteworthy items.

A 1994 Vantare Conversion coach was selected as the foundation. This coach was never used in passenger service and had slightly over 100,000 miles and was lightly used. Two different mechanics reviewed the coach and stated it was in excellent condition. The plan would be to completely gut the coach down to the frame, salvaging the RV Windows and as much of the bay equipment as possible. 

Bay salvage would include the generator, tanks, and Aqua-Hot equipment. Not every plan is perfect. As a side note, I called the Vantare service department (acquired by Featherlite in 1996) a few times during the process and they were always interested and professional with my questions which to me was amazing as the coach was almost 20 years past the time it rolled off their assembly line. 

My full-time day job requires 40+ hours per week, and then some. Between work and several other projects, I lack the time and expertise to complete a bus conversion prior to my sesquicentennial birthday. So, we went with a professional bus converter. I interviewed several conversion companies and it appeared I had the greatest flexibility with Leisure Coachworks of Fontana, California. Even better, their team members had extensive experience in the RV repair and conversion business. This choice has been one of the best decisions of the project. 

After deciding on Leisure Coachworks after several lengthy conversations, I flew out to their shop in Fontana, CA. I met Jon Goldstein the President, and several of his staff members. They are an impressive group; courteous, and talented, and they love what they do. Touring the facility also was quite interesting as I was able to see several repairs and builds in progress. This visit confirmed this was the right company, so I signed on the dotted line. 

Coach Systems and Design

Here are the design principles I derived based on our 30+ years of RV/Bus Conversion experience.

Redundancy of Systems

  • If one system fails or is insufficient, another system will be able to take over or augment.
  • Applies to heating, A/C, water, power, cooking.

Simple Technologies

  • On the road and away from repair services, we are the front-line tech support. Don’t get too fancy with electronics and gadgets which may fail.

No Wasted Space

  • In this case, the original bus conversion had a floor plan which used a diagonal design that used space inefficiently. For example, the refrigerator and kitchen hallway were arranged diagonally, as were the bedroom features. To support the diagonal layout, many triangular areas were unused and a large area at the very rear of the coach was unused and walled off. Jon was able to reclaim this unused space in the new layout.

Comfortable in very hot and very cold conditions

  • Even though we may plan to be in temperate climates while traveling, circumstances may not always allow that. Having lived in Texas, Washington, Illinois, and Arizona, and RV’ed in most of the 48 continental U.S. states during all seasons, we’ve hit some extreme temps. It’s better to be comfortable. Keep your wife happy!
The front bay bedroom opens on both driver and passenger side of the coach. There are windows on both sides.
Passenger side bench seat and entry from main cabin to the bedroom bay area.
Passenger side bedroom bay door with window and front-right side flood light. The bedroom bay is padded and carpeted.
Open compartment with 8 Lion Energy batteries on the right. The carpet and padding easily pulls out to reveal a basic hardware floor when heavy items need to be carried.
Entrance to the lower bedroom from above.The bay is equipped with forced air ventilation from the main cabin area, 120V and 12V outlets, USB outlets, a cable feed from the over-the-air antenna or the park cable service, 12V and 24V lighting, and multiple Cat 5E jacks.
The DC-DC Sterling charger (left hand side) and breakers for the Vanner inverters, the coach Iota battery charger, and the DC-DC charger.
Cutoffs for the Vanners, upper right-hand side.

We have under bay sleeping quarters. There is a bedroom in the front bay. This is one of the more popular features of our current bus as well as our original Moose Bus! In the main seating area, on the passenger side, the rear section of the bench seat folds out of the way exposing a concealed hatchway to the bay area. Below is carpeted, padded flooring that can be removed for hauling heavy items. USB/120V and 12V outlets, Cat 5e network jacks, a wall-mounted electric heater, lighting, and forced air circulation bringing in the airconditioned/heated air from the main cabin. It’s always been a favorite with the youngsters and myself. 

We wanted to keep the bus look with very simple elegance. We wanted to add a small mural such as an Arizona desert scene. We also wanted stainless steel bumper guards to keep the dust & dirt from becoming too obvious. I prepared a punch list of requirements and specs for Jon. A mockup image of what the bus should look like including paint, mural, bumper guards, and interior details was provided to LCW (shown below).

The above image was created in multiple Linux drawing tools, showing the desired final product.

 The punch list for the interior list of requirements covered ceiling to bay layouts, moving from the front dash to the rear wall. From that list, Leisure Coach provided incredible creativity in meeting the design requirements. It would be impossible to praise their work sufficiently in making the project happen. It was an amazing process.

I know I slowed down their process with dozens (hundreds?) of calls and suggestions. Nevertheless, they were courteous and worked to make the magic happen. I planned for the redundancy of systems and that is what I got. 

Bathroom/Shower

The bathroom tile was the same Desert Canyon marble slab used in the bathroom, shower, bathroom sinks, and kitchen. This consistency of material ideas were put forth by Jon of LCW. It provides a theme throughout the coach and turned out very well. It provides a smooth transition between the functional areas of the bus. 

There is in-dash factory air conditioning for over-the-road cooling of the driver and copilot area. One roof A/C unit runs off of the Lion Energy battery bank. Currently, there is a standard 15K BTU Dometic unit running off the Vanner inverter. This may be later changed out for a 12/24V 12 BTU roof air unit like that used in the boating and trucking industry. 

This swap-out would increase the efficiency of the battery-powered, over-the-road cooling which doesn’t require the generator while the vehicle is in motion, or for short stops of just a few hours, running off the bank of house Lion Energy batteries. There is also a basement air conditioner, with vents throughout the coach. 

The basement A/C has a heat pump option, which works down to about 32 degrees outside temp. Every electric baseboard heater is paired with a baseboard diesel heater unit. There are four of each throughout the coach. Bays are also heated by electric and diesel heat. All floor tile throughout the coach has heating pads underlaid. The heated floors make a huge difference when it’s cold outside. There is an in-dash factory system for over-the-road heating. 

A dishwasher was added to apply extra heat to the dishes and kill off more germs. The jury is still out as to whether it remains or gets turned into more storage.
The lighted curio cabinet is a fun addition. It lets us display gifts of Mimbreno dinnerware from our daughters given to us over the years.

There is an electric cooktop side by side with a Webasto cooktop. Either or both can be used based on available power. The electric cooktop operates on an inverter circuit. There are parallel water pumps and dual fresh water tanks. We have 150 gallons of fresh water total in capacity. 

Everything from the previous conversion was removed and redesigned so that from the rear of the coach to the front, every space was either for planned storage or for RV systems usage. Leisure Coach removed everything in the coach interior, down to the foamed walls and electrical panel. It wasn’t just the outside that was stripped down. There should be a line of sight from front to rear to make the interior appear open, larger, and less claustrophobic. In a home environment, this may be called the ‘open concept’. And especially important as this coach would have no slide-outs.

Bench seats allow us to seat many people easily for group outings. Their slimmer design also affords more space for moving about in the main cabin. Additionally, these seats slide out for more comfortable seating or providing extra beds.

There are long bench seats along each side of the front cabin area, each also doubles as a bed. The dinette drops down to a bed in standard RV fashion. And the front luggage bay also sleeps 1-2. The rear bedroom accommodates 1-2. The front bay is kept cooled and heated by means of forced air brought down from the coach floor area. The concept is that the underbelly cabin is kept heated and cooled as is comfortable for those upstairs. 

The Arizona theme continues with the pattern stitched into the seats. This design is loosely taken from the murals on the coach exterior.

In addition, the front bay also has its own electric heat unit. Feeding many people is made possible by an ingenious system of pop-out tiles which hide table leg floor receptacles. A series of slim tabletops can be configured for each side of the coach, along with the dinette for mealtime. 

We’ve driven groups of people to family outings, church outings, school events, service projects, and concerts. Flexible seating arrangements to accommodate just my wife and me comfortably while still being able to handle groups of 12-20 when called upon. 

Cutting down on the Arizona heat the roof is coated bright white. Along with foamed walls, these features make a significant difference as compared to our MC9 which has neither of these advantages.
The airbrush artist was masterful in how he approached and carried out his work.
Reimagined exterior built by Leisure Coachworks.
The front endcap is crafted from fiberglass by the LCW team.

Girard awnings were selected as they matched the bus lines and hid any hardware such as solar panels and a roof A/C unit without being obvious. One small Arizona desert scene mural was airbrushed on either side of the coach. We wanted the desert scene indicative of our home state of Arizona. Stainless steel bumper guards were added to keep the dust and dirt from becoming too obvious as we live off a long dirt road. The Leisure Coach crew built a beautiful front endcap out of fiberglass which dovetails into the Girard awnings. The look is aerodynamic, low profile, and aesthetically pleasing.  

Several different configurations of the Mexican tile and Talavera inserts were explored before the final design was implemented.
Bathroom short and tall closet space for hanging clothes. Webasto and electric heaters are spaced under these closets.
The spice rack is a pull-out cabinet maximizing the use of space.

Our theme is Arizona, you can see the southwestern desert throughout the bus. The bus is named the “Saguaro”, so throughout the interior, there are backlit Saguaros and stitched upholstery following the Saguaro theme. There is porcelain Mexican tile with Talavera inserts. We had originally planned to use Mexican tiles, but the test run of that in our Arizona home showed that floor heating through thick tiles is not as quick to heat up. The bus would be traveling through weather conditions which could change quickly, so a thinner porcelain Mexican tile was selected. Heated flooring in an RV in cold weather makes a huge difference.  

Patch panels supporting coach-wired networking.

A mobile office area was set up in the rear of the coach, and there is wired networking throughout the interior and bays. I’m not personally a fan of public Wi-Fi for many reasons. There are redundant networking jacks throughout the coach – dual patch panels were installed for network configuration flexibility.

A Plex media server serves up digital entertainment in the coach while connected or disconnected from the Internet. The media server runs on a Raspberry Pi (miniature computer) and supports the Roku Plex media clients displayed on the front and rear TVs. Raspberry Pi servers provide additional support and networking services to the coach. 

Looking with a clear line of sight from the front to the back of the coach.
The inside look of the new interior. Picture showing midsection of the bus looking forward.

Engine Heat Protection

In the section of this story written by my wife she mentioned that the engine temperature would continue to creep higher during the initial drive. This problem would continue to plague the DL3-45 Series 60 until a solution was found after years of research and testing various potential causes. 

While the solution was later solved by an excellent mechanic, this journey enabled me to work with a tremendous product to combat the heat permeating the bedroom under extreme temperatures. I hasten to add that the engine heat was not within the scope of the coach conversion work completed by Leisure Coach. Engine performance was part of the original bus shell and engine health. 

Originally I did not recognize the engine issue as the temperature gauge did not seem reliable and was very difficult to read. I found it difficult to believe that two mechanics would not have uncovered a problem of this magnitude so I worked to keep engine heat out of the bedroom. I just didn’t realize what a battle I was fighting. 

The Series 60 was running at overheating temperatures continually, with a couple of shutdowns to emphasize that fact. But this is information gained in retrospect. With the bedroom being uncomfortably warm after the initial summer drives, I worked with LCW to insulate the bedroom from turning into a sauna of sorts. 

I remembered the ad for Engine Heat Protection’s product called Rollboard displayed in Bus Conversion Magazine. I requested LCW include this blanket as an insulator between the engine compartment and the bed. This blanket material was placed directly under the bed above the Series 60. 

Fast forward to the time after the conversion was completed; we noticed the bedroom was no longer stifling hot at the end of a day’s drive. This was a good start, but it was still uncomfortable. The overheating bedroom battle was off to a good start, but not good enough. If a single application of the blanket helped some, possibly more EHP blanket would be even more effective. 

We worked directly with Penn Lenson of EHP, and he encouraged me to apply the EHP Wet Blanket directly on the exhaust system and turbo. I was a bit intimidated by the project, but with guidance from Penn and Gary Hatt of Bus Conversion Magazine, the application was completed, was not difficult to apply, and looked excellent – if I may say so myself. After a few trips the following summer, my wife and I realized that the bedroom was no longer a hotbox after a day’s drive! 

We hadn’t thought about it for a while as the room was a comfortable temperature after the drives and we didn’t give it a thought. What a tremendous surprise. This was in spite of the fact that the engine overheating problem had not been solved. We were still running under borderline overheating conditions and the bedroom directly over the engine was no hotter than the rest of the bus. Based on this test under extreme conditions I highly recommend the EHP blanket.

What I would do differently if I ever build another bus?

I really should have remembered to run the engine and exercise the bus during the conversion process. I’ve read that a thousand times on the forum, and that’s how we maintain our MC9 in good health. A bus needs regular exercise. And yet that detail was overlooked as I was so interested in the design and conversion process. I believe that the bus sitting led to some issues mechanically going forward.

Next, I would reconsider a newer coach with newer electronics vs. the older electronics. Even if it meant a coach with more miles – with the provision that it was a coach that had been well-maintained. I’ve fielded complaints from diesel mechanics, and it has been hard to find a mechanic to work on the older DDEC and Series 60 engine when I’d run into a couple of more complex engine problems. 

Dashboard of the bus.

I am not saying for sure I would have made a different choice, but I would have had more of a debate on the topic. I’ve also found the older engine control module doesn’t support certain other upgrades such as a Silverleaf dash setup. I’ve had several talks with Silverleaf but they eventually said that with the older DDEC II module, it wasn’t worth the effort to use their product for that application because it does not send a sufficient amount of information to monitor. 

The Saguaro Bus at home in the desert.

We were blessed to come across Leisure Coachworks through Bus Conversion Magazine. They were patient, skilled with deep industry experience, fun to work with, and supported their work if something didn’t go as planned. I would highly recommend them to someone looking for bus conversion or repair work. 

Click HERE to watch the complete YouTube video walk through of this bus, by Leisure Coachworks.

Article written by Phil and Ginni Lyons

Phil Lyons has been a Bus Nut and moderator of the Bus Conversion Magazine forum for many years. He and his wife Ginni live in the central highlands of Arizona.  Phil’s day job is in IT Security and Ginni is a retired Registered Nurse.

They are the proud parents and grandparents of daughters, granddaughters, and two spoiled dogs.

Phil and Ginni are part of a bluegrass/gospel trio called Copper Mountain StringAlong, are members of Bethel Baptist Church in Prescott Valley, and volunteer and serve in various capacities in the church and the community.

RVing has been part of their lives for over 35 years, and they both hope to enjoy the bus lifestyle for many more years.

You can contact Phil via email at

Phil@BusConversionMagazine.com

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