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

After months working on our bus build outside, we were now ready to bring it into the shop! The first thing we needed to do to get it moving was fix an air line. We noticed that we had a hiss and we were losing air pressure, which is needed to run our old bus, so we identified where the air leak was coming from. We purchased copper tubing, compression fittings and got it all fixed up, so the bus was able to pump up to the appropriate pressure for braking.

The bus had been sitting out in the field for a few months while we were working on it, so it was a little dug into the ground. We needed a quick tug from our bus buddy to get it out and afterward, we were able to drive him into the shop.

Right when we got in, we addressed the big shroud on the top, which covers the old air conditioning condenser. We think it’s a really cool kind of “rocket booster” look and we want to keep it, so we took a look and made a game plan.

The next thing that we did was take out all of the windows. According to the manual for our bus, we’re supposed to take them out via the hinges (there’s one Phillip’s head on one side and there is a pin riding all the way through), but they were pretty jammed and stuck in there, so we just went with taking the screws out of the window, just on the bottom of the hinges. It was a simple process and we were able to take them down and get to the areas for the rust treatment that we weren’t able to before.

Vintage Bus Conversion | The Lills New Look Fishbowl Bus

The awesome shop owner addressed some of the rust on the exterior of the bus. There were a few rivets all along the bottom that he removed. Some of the areas on the bus had completely rusted through, so he needed to cut those areas out, so he could weld in some body patches. By peeling back the skin of the bus, we were able to treat underneath for the rust. He cut out new pieces of steel for the body patches with the plasma cutter and then welded them in, ground them down to be flush and then filled in with any body filler where it was needed.

There are two air-intake vents, one on each side of the bus. One of them we’re going to use as a little window for our cat, Squishy, and the other one we wanted to cover up. The shop owner created a little body patch that he could adhere to the side of the bus and get it welded on for us. Once the patch was in place, he welded it, ground it down and filled in any areas that were needed with some body filler so it was smooth and flush to the side of the body. You really wouldn’t even know it was there.

Vintage Bus Conversion | Rust Treatment Body Filler  | The Lills New Look Fishbowl Bus

In our last video, we showed some of the paint removal when the bus was outside. We continued the process of removing the old paint once we got the bus into the shop and we were able to make a lot of progress. It took days and days of getting down to bare metal that was on the steel around the windows, some of the hard to get places and the aluminum.

On the front of the bus we took off the accessories, so that we could get to areas that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to. We were then able to drive the bus outside of the shop, so we use a portable sand blaster and take away the paint around a lot of the rivets and the tighter areas that we couldn’t get to with the dual action sander (around the doors, the driver window and the face of the bus).

Vintage Bus Conversion | Paint Removal | Rust Treatment Body Filler  | The Lills New Look Fishbowl Bus

The body of the bus is held together by solid aluminum rivets, so the ones we removed we had to replace. We had to size the varying thicknesses that we’d be riveting through and we ended going with a 7/8 length aluminum solid rivet and cut them to shorter sizes where we needed them.

Vintage Bus Conversion | Replacing Rivets | The Lills New Look Fishbowl Bus

POR 15 is a really great product for rust prevention, if it’s used correctly. The biggest thing is the preparation: degreasing and metal prep to etch the steel, so that it can absorb the POR 15, is essential.

Once we were complete with those steps, we applied very thin layers of POR 15 to the steel surfaces. When the first layer was tacky to a thumb drag, we were good to go for the second layer. We learned that small foam brushes are also great for getting those nice thin layers of the POR.

Vintage Bus Conversion | Rust Treatment | The Lills New Look Fishbowl Bus

The “rocket booster” shroud that sits on the top back of the bus (which we love so much) actually houses the old original air conditioning system. There were lots of rusted nuts and bolts, but with a little elbow grease, we were able to get the shroud off. We were then able to address the big condenser for the A/C unit that sat in the top. This thing was really, really heavy and it was locked down with tons of nuts and bolts, a lot of which were rusted and there were a few pipes in areas that we needed to cut.

When we finally had all those loosened up, the shop owner was able to raise up a forklift and we were able to get that baby out of there! Removing this old condenser, since we’re not going to use the original AC unit, definitely lifted a lot of weight out of the bus for us.

Vintage Bus Conversion | Shroud | The Lills New Look Fishbowl Bus

So far while the bus has been in the shop, we have fixed the air leak, removed all the windows, did a lot of body work, removed all the paint, added new rivets, completed the rust treatment, removed the shroud and the A/C. We’re going to continue our bus conversion by prepping the body for paint, priming it, giving it a new paint job, rewiring the electrical system and continuing the build!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to our channel to follow the adventure. There’s lots more to come! – Peace & 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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