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by | 2021 | Bus Life, The Lills, Vintage GM Bus Conversion

Our 1961 GM Fishbowl / New Look bus conversion continues!

There are decorative aluminum panels above the windows that run the length of the bus. They also function as a drip rail for rain, so we wanted to take a look underneath and see if there was any rust or damage. We found a good deal of rust and one major hole that we needed to address.

Below the drip rail panels, there are long aluminum strips that run the length of the bus. They are riveted to the body and hold the window hinges in place. Because they are located just below the drip rails we wanted to take a look behind them for any rust or damage to the body and/or hinge depressions. These strips are held in place by many rivets, all of which we needed to punch, drill and tap out.

Once all of the panels were removed from the passenger side, we got a good look at the body and made a plan to tackle the damage that we saw. There was enough good metal around the hole that had rusted through, to weld a solid patch. We repeated the process for the driver side of the bus by removing all of the panels. That was a lot of punching, drilling and tapping.

Welding Bus Skoolie - The Lills

With the body exposed, we went to town on removing the surface rust and old paint. The last step before rustproofing was to remove all of the hinges and clean up the areas where they meet the body. The hinges are fairly thin aluminum so we wanted to be delicate while removing them. We removed the paint that was remaining on the bottom of the bus, as well as the door.

There are a few decorative aluminum panels we had to remove before tearing down the paint over the cab of the bus. At last, we made it to the roof! This was a big project, with a ton of surface area to cover and hundreds of rivets to sand around. Getting up high on the roof with ladders was a little precarious, so we brought in the scissor lift! Not quickly, but we brought it in 🙂 This really helped with tackling hard-to-reach places and getting on and off the roof.

Now that we had the area above the windows cleaned up and repaired, it was time to rustproof. The panels that cover these areas act as drip rails, so moisture gathering here is expected. We used POR-15 again as the base layer for long-term protection.

Rinsing the metal prep was a little tricky because we didn’t want all of the aluminum body below to get etched by the rinse-off. A bucket and a gallon jug proved to be useful. We talked about the POR-15 rustproofing process in-depth, in our previous videos and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to rustproof or cure rust on anything.
Rustproof Skoolie Bus - The Lills

There were a few hard-to-reach places that we needed to rustproof, so we thinned some of the POR-15 and sprayed it into those areas. The result was very smooth and very clean. We used foam brushes on the larger surfaces.

Any good paint job starts with good surface preparation, so every inch of POR-15 that we coated the body in had to be lightly sanded in order to accept the paintjob. This can be a tricky process, because you’re only working with a layer that is a couple millimeters thick and the goal is to give the surface some tooth but not sand through it down to the metal. After sanding around thousands of rivets to get the POR-15 scuffed, the rust-proofing process was finally complete!
Rustproof Bus Skoolie Conversion - The Lills

Other accessories had to come off in order to finish some body repair. The rear passenger wheel well trim had to be removed so we could hammer out a few dented areas and fill a few holes.

The area in the back of the bus needed some work after removing the air conditioning condenser and shroud, so we cleaned up the fixtures, fasteners and removed unused hoses and parts. While removing the old paint from the shroud, we found some rust-throughs to fill and dents to hammer out. Then, we rustproofed the whole shroud.

This was a public bus from 1961 into the early 80’s, so it is had some wear and tare. Small scratches, dents and pitted areas were all easily filled in with body filler. We laid it on, let it cure, sanded it and repeated the process, where needed.

There were some missing rivets above the bay doors and along the bottom trim, so we wet installed new ones by putting a dab of sealant in the hole before shooting them. We used blind rivets because we couldn’t access the backside of the hole to back up a solid rivet.

We removed the aluminum panels, the hole in the body was cut out and welded, we took off the old paint above the windows, we removed the window hinges, we sanded the old paint off the entire roof, we rustproofed the area above the windows and we removed the old paint from the shroud and rustproofed it.

Metal Body Repair Bus Conversion - The Lills

The shop owner was nice enough to cut out our logo, using a plasma cutter. It will be welded to the shroud that sits on the back of the bus. Next, we’re going to customize the shroud, do a little body work to the front of the bus, prime & paint the bus and rewire the electrical system.

So that’s the update on our 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 Bus Conversion – Part 1 video!


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