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by | 2020 | Bus Life, The Lills, Vintage GM Bus Conversion

In 2019 we came across a 1961 GM Fishbowl / New Look bus in the New Mexico desert and now we’re converting it into a bigger home on wheels! It’s the Suburban model, so there are two platforms on either side and a thin, little aisle way going down the middle. The people who had the bus before us, built a little wooden platform that ran the length of the bus.

The issue with it was that we didn’t have a ton of headroom. We’re a little bit taller so when we were walking through the bus, we were skimming our heads and we thought well that’s not going to work. We had two options, the first one was raise the roof and the second one was drop the floor and so we went with dropping the floor.

GM New Look Fishbowl Bus Conversion Interior

We realized the driver’s side platform needed to stay in tact because it contained important lines running the full length of the bus. So, we decided to only drop the passenger side platform into the bay storage area to make more headroom. Dropping the floor gave us an additional 7 inches.

After we removed the rubber layer on the top of the floorboards, we realized a lot of the bolts and screws were rusted, so rather than drilling those out, we opted in for cutting the platforms instead. Our bus buddy had all the tools and knowledge to help make this happen.

Part of one of the air vents near the back of the bus was in the way of where our new floor was going to be, so we had to cut out portions of it and this was okay, because we are going to find a different solution for the heat and air system in the bus.

The bay storage area is what allowed us to drop the floor. We cut the bay ribs at the same height as the center aisle so we could have a nice even, level floor.

GM New Look Fishbowl Bus Conversion Interior Subfloor

When we found the bus, there was already a black water and a fresh water tank with plumbing attached installed inside one of the bays. We removed those so we could put in our own new system.

We used metal screws to attach the framing into the bay ribs and then we put down our plywood subfloor, which will allow us to put down our permanent flooring. We tackled all the insulation that was left in the walls and in the ceiling and we gave the inside walls just a quick undercoating. We took out the tracks for the big panels on the headliners and once we brought those panels down, we found more insulation, which was conveniently, neatly packed.

This stuff was all kind of rubberized in there, it was held together with an adhesive, but it all kind of popped out pretty seamlessly, so it wasn’t too much of a mess. With all the insulation removed, we were in a good place to assess any water leaks and also to be able to re-insulate and put up our new walls and ceiling.

GM New Look Fishbowl Bus Conversion Interior Insulation

The majority of the vintage bus is aluminium, pretty much from the windows down, which is great because that’s going to stay rust-free. For structure reasons, from the windows up, until you reach the roof, that’s all steel and that’s where we really noticed a lot of the rust coming in, in this humid weather.

So the first thing to do, was to take out a wire wheel and strip down the paint in any areas that we saw were trouble areas, which kind of led to okay, let’s just take all the paint off and just see the whole thing for what it is, so we started getting it all down to bare metal. To make our hard work last, we wanted to rust-proof the bus.

We used POR 15 Cleaner Degreaser, which clean the area. Then, we used POR 15 Metal Prep, which etches the steel and creates an optimal surface for the POR 15 Rust Preventive Coating to adhere to. You have to be sure to keep the area wet for at least 20 minutes, which can involve going back over the areas and reapplying with the metal prep.

GM New Look Fishbowl Bus Conversion Rust Treatment POR15

We then applied thin layers of POR 15 Rust Preventive Coating, which is UV sensitive, so it does need to be primed and painted, but we still have both of the sides left to finish, so we’ll be going over this process more in-depth in a future video.

We’re looking forward to doing a little welding, finishing the exterior rust treatment, finalizing our floor plan and continuing the build!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to our channel to follow the adventure and if you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comments section below our video on YouTube.

So that’s the update on the bus conversion. Lots more to come, Peace and Love!

Click here to see our Rescuing A 1961 GM Bus – Part 1 video!

Click here to see our Vintage Transit Bus Conversion Cost – Part 1 video!


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