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Old 01-06-2010, 02:23 AM   #1
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Hi all. I'm a retired trucker. I have a vintage Peterbilt tractor with all the toys and a vintage Blue Bird Wanderlodge with a drivetrain that is obsolete and inadaquate. I had originally planned on re-powering the coach, but stuffing a big diesel in the doghouse and extending the nose of the bus to accomodate it, along with all the plumbing and wiring modifications would involve a huge amount of work and the result would not justify the project. I've pretty much decided to remove the nose of the coach, remove the engine and trans, build a new front wall for the coach incorporating the front wall of the sleeper with the boot as an entrance to the drivers area and cutting and splicing the frames, resulting in something like a Kingsley Coach type conversion. I will use the rear drive axle from the truck. In short, a Peterbilt cab with a Wanderlodge body.
This post is just a note to introduce myself and my planned conversion. If I can do this it would be great. I'd be a lot happier to be driving my Pete with a custom 31' Wanderlodge body than an antique bus. The dog would be happy to have his old seat too and "drive" his truck.
The truck is titled in Texas and I'll be doing the work there. The Wanderlodge is also titled in Texas and registered as a private bus. I don't know how I'm going to work the title/registration. I'd like to think I could get away with leaving it titled as is using the Wanderlodge title, but then the Peterbilt is titled and has it's own VIN. Texas is strange in that you have to do your registration and title work in the county where the vehicle is parked and mine are registered in Hidalgo County, down on the border. They are really tough to deal with down there and I anticipate difficulties in re-titleing. I've read the threads on this forum and on the escapees forum and haven't found much help. Seems like it's either easy or impossible, depending on who you deal with. I may need some help and advice in this area.
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:40 AM   #2
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Welcome to TC, your project sounds challenging and will produce a one of a kind masterpiece. If answers can be found to your reg problems, they will be found here. Please start a thread with photos when you get started. G
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:27 AM   #3
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+1 on starting a thread with pictures. this would be another fun project to watch come together.

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Old 01-07-2010, 01:30 PM   #4
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......COULD BE A NIGHTMARE....BUT....I'd need to measure the frames first then I could tell you if it will fit together....might be a little high in back but that can be dealt with.....keep both titles the same and go out of state for a revised title....easy if you get into a state that has workers that have an higher IQ than a mud puddle.....stay away from minorities at the BMW they say NO automatically cuz they don't want to spend the effort to research and do the Job right-like here in OHIO with the Social Security Office.....has to get my congresswoman involved and her X husband to get my SS correct....IDIOTS!....anyway the frame sizes will be the variable that mite make it or break the deal....Schoolies are built like a tank and not easy to cut up with out a lot of thought....good luck and send a pix....AND AS ALWAYS ASK FOR IDEAS.....WE HAVE A LOT OF SMART PEOPLE ON THIS FORUM...geof kaye and the Rivercity Girlz in Cincinshitty Ohio
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:03 PM   #5
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About the frames.....I know you are not supposed to weld the frames, so does that disallow the use of a plasma cutter to cut the frame? If so, how do you cut such a hard piece of steel?

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Old 01-07-2010, 05:03 PM   #6
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I think it sounds cool too. How 'bout you Blizzard? Sounds like something you'd do. The guy that claims to be the founder of Kingsley Coach lives not far from me. His web site is www.busesandmore.com . His name is Ralph Dickenson. Call him at 612-747-8580. Here's what I found to support his claim of starting up Kingsley: http://www.erstarnews.com/2006...ry/21fitforking.html

Here's a portion of that article that might pertain to what you're doing: Dickenson then had his crew here cut the front clip off of an old bus he had parked in the back lot. They then backed a used Peterbilt truck chassis underneath and joined them together. There are still photos of Kingsley No. 1 on Dickenson's office wall, although the coach now resides in Boston.


The Kingsley company is defunct now I think. There's just no business. Ralph is a very nice low keyed guy. He showed me all his coaches when I was shopping. He doesn't seem real busy now so you might get some good ideas or advice talking to him on the phone.

As far as titling it. I'm betting you keep the Peterbilt titled and mount the Wanderlodge to that. Then you get it changed to a r/v or motorhome since you will have installed all the items needed to qualify as an r/v. I don't think it would be that hard to do. You just do it and tell them to title it as a r/v. Don't try to get anybody to commit to anything before because you'll get a bunch of different answers I'm betting.

You're not thinking of doing this to save money I hope.
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Old 01-07-2010, 07:48 PM   #7
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.....DOC; THAT IS WHAT WE CUT FRAMES WITH...THE HEAT DOESN'T CRAWL AND SOFTEN UP THE EDGES....WELDING IS ANOTHER ISSUE...- PREHEAT WITH A OXY/ACETYLENE TORCH AND WELD WITH 6012 AND OVER LAY WITH 7016 SERIES ROD....I BACK THEN UP WITH A STEEL DIAMOND AND WELD AS NEEDED....MOSTLY THEY ARE COVERED BY THE DOUBLE FRAME CHANNEL AND BOLTED AFTER WELDING.........anymore I just send them up to John's Spring Service and he does all the frame work for me-which I pass along to the customer without a markup....I'm getting old and lazy specially in this snow stuff...none of the girlz showed up for work today so i took my long winters nap with out interuption.....aaAHHHH!...I SPENT TOO MUCH MONEY ON the plasma and have to sell it asap-know anyone with $1500 laying around?....geofkaye and the Rivercity Group...yawn!
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Old 01-08-2010, 04:08 AM   #8
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Yes Bob, thanks for the links, I'll check them out. I'm thinking about just what he did with Kingsley 1. I've had trucks stretched and shortened before and am pretty familiar with that part of it. It won't be all that expensive, as I have all the parts at hand and will be doing most of the work myself. I'm not looking forward to raising the coach off the frame to make the splice and might ask the man from Kingley about how that went. Also, the idea of painting again doesn't thrill me.
As far as getting anything done by the DMV in the Rio Grande Valley, you're right geofkaye. Forget it. They don't even want to speak English to you and will give you a hard time just because they can. I've already resigned myself to probably needing help retitling it somewhere else.
I really appreciate the helpful responses. The tractor is here in Louisiana with me and the coach in Texas, so I'm unable to measure the height yet. the bus is on a heavy duty Rockwell drive axle on 900/20's so I'm thinking that height will not be a problem. I plan on going to 22.5 lowpros on both axles and using the rear drive axle from the Pete, 19,000# Eaton on Peterbilt Air Leaf. I'll have to change the parking brake to that axle.
Again, appreciate the advice and keep it coming, as I'm in the planning stages and way open to collaboration.
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Old 01-09-2010, 10:41 PM   #9
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I'm not sure how you plan to mate the two. I would seriously look into stretching the frame on the Pete and remove one drive axle. Then remove all the running gear under the Wanderlodge. Then drop that down on the new long frame and bolt it down. Wouldn't that be better and possibly easier than trying to mate the two frames and some junction?
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Old 01-10-2010, 06:46 PM   #10
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I think i would streach frame also. you can get 2 wreckers to lift bus real easy. Or jack up and put on stands. back truck under bus and tie down. we have been getting same size frame and up by transmission area frame gets bigger. slide frame up to old frame till it gets tight. bolted frames together with crossmember in spliced area. weld plates onto both ends of frame to make same size. then weld dimond plates over welded area. we don't per heat frame. we also cut our frame with a steel saw. looks like a skill saw. i can get name of saw and post later. cost about $300.00
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Old 01-10-2010, 08:04 PM   #11
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I think I'd prefer the rear axle from the Pete too over the Bluebird.

Also, all the truck conversions I've seen they remove the air ride for the cab and lock the cab down to the frame. I saw where somebody was going to try to build one and keep the air ride cab and hope the accordian boot flexed enough to work. I don't know if he ever got that to work tho.
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Old 01-11-2010, 11:49 AM   #12
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Thanks, My tractor is an '81 359 and the cab and sleeper are not air ride, but mounted on rubber bushings and the boot between the cab and sleeper is not an accordian type, but solid rubber without pleats. I'm planning on incorporating the front wall of the sleeper with the opening, into the new front wall of the coach. I'm seriously worried about putting too much weight on the steering axle and will have to find a way to determine what's going to happen there before I start cutting on anything. Unfortunately, I'm about six hundred miles away from where I have the coach parked and will have to wait until I go there in May to measure anything. Here's what I do know. The coach is 31' long and the drive axle is I'd roughly guess about 10 ft from the rear of the bus. The bus weighs 20,900# and carries only about 11,000# on the drive axle and a little less than ten on the steers. I should drop off a bunch of weight from the front of the bus when I remove the engine, transmission, front axle, steering sector and the face of the bus. How much at this point could only be a guess. The tractor weighs around 17,500 and if I remember right about nine something on the steers, but I want to say ten. It's got a 3406B Caterpillar engine and a 13 spd. Front axle is rated at 12,000#. Roughly guessing, after removing all that stuff from the bus and the drives, fifth wheel and sleeper from the tractor, I'll end up with around 30,000 gross for the components. That's enough weight to put the max on each axle and be OK, but I don't know how that weight is going to distribute. Looking at the Kingsley conversions, it sure looks like there's got to be a bunch of weight on the steers, but they appear to use their standard axles and tires. They have tandem drives, but are ten feet or so longer than mine. Trying to put tandems under my coach's body would displace the entrance door and bathroom, so is not an option. I'd like to lift the bus off the frame, back the truck chassis to it having cut the frames in the desired location, splice the frames and set the bus body back down. I would use the rear drive axle from the tractor. It's an 18,000# Eaton on Peterbilt Air Leaf. All I'd have to do there would be extend the air lines back to the axle and install the parking brake from the front drive of the truck. The drive axle of the bus is Rockwell 5.80 with hydraulic brakes, so needs to be out of there.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:10 PM   #13
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when you go to single axle truck that rear axle probly wont be heavy enough. most single axles are rated heavier. also make sure steer tires are right ply and weight rating. i know the dot watches this on dump trucks in il. even tandem axles.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:48 PM   #14
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Ooops, I meant to say my Eaton drive axle is rated at 19,000. But your only allowed 18,000 on a single axle or 34 on a tandem anyway. My axles are about as heavy as they get for normal highway use. I do have a set of 40,000# Rockwells on KW 8 bag air ride, but would rather use the Eaton drive axle from the Pete. Couldn't legally put more weight any single drive axle. Steering axle is 12,000, same as any 18 wheeler. They do use heavier steering axles and tires on cement trucks and other vehicles. I pulled limestone in the Chicago area for a few years and could tell some stories about Illinois and dump trucks.
My main question has to do with where the weight is going to be distributed if I do this conversion. If it goes to the drive axle I'll be OK. That's only got 11,000 on it now.
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Old 01-16-2010, 11:53 PM   #15
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Hay Vintageray, I just talked to Ralph Dickenson at a RV show in St. Paul today. I told him what you're planning on doing and his eyes lit up. He said that should make a wonderful truck conversion. I told him I had given you his number and he said good. He said he'd love to talk to you about it.
Hijack: He only brought one truck conversion to the show ( http://busesandmore.com/rvs/2004-Show-Hauler.shtml ) and it was the only t/c there. People were lined up to walk through it. He had a "sold" sign hanging on it too. He said he sold it at the show. That's good news people are buying t/c's.
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Old 01-17-2010, 04:59 AM   #16
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Thank you, Bob. I really needed that bit of encouragement. Posted photos (peterbird thread), 116 views and no comments. I was starting to feel a little alone in the woods.
Also on the bright side, over on the escapees forum I found the regulation for registering a tractor as a private truck for RV use in Texas. If the regulation is still the same, you just have to sign a statement that it's only going to be used to pull an RV and your good to go with regular truck tags.
I'll call Mr. Dickenson when I get my ducks all in a row and can ask the right intelligent questions. Again, thanks so much for mentioning my project to him.
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Old 01-17-2010, 08:39 AM   #17
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Ray, I bet that registration thing you refer to is for a tractor pulling a 5th wheel. What you are doing is creating a single unit self contained motorhome. I think that's a bit different. I doubt if it will be much work to get it titled tho. The harder ones are the tractors that people try to register as motorhomes since they don't have all the required equipment. Or the states don't believe that they're not going to use the tractor for exclusively personal non commerce that's why they have trouble. You'll be just fine. I looked at your pics when you only had a couple, one of the tractor and one of the Wanderlodge. I'll have to check back.
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Old 01-17-2010, 06:08 PM   #18
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Thanks, Bob. The way it reads registering the truck as a private truck is possible in Texas. I hope so because the truck is in Louisiana and I'd hate to have to hire a friend with a drop deck to haul it to my yard in Texas.
I've only posted the two photos for now just to give an idea of what I'm thinking about doing.
I'm collaborating with another man in the Northeast who's also got a Wanderlodge and a Peterbilt and thinking along the same lines about a conversion.
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Old 01-18-2010, 06:57 AM   #19
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For that initial transport I bet you can just get a driveaway permit from Louisiana for a few bucks. That will give you like 10 days or something to get it to Texas. Then you just do the conversion and after it's all done get it inspected to prove it's got all the requirements for a motorhome and get rv plates. I think that's how it's done anyhow. That's how my buddy Tony Desnick did it with a couple of truck conversions he built. In MN you just need a cop to inspect it and sign off that it's got enough to be a motorhome. I'm a cop so I signed off on his trucks for him. Hopefully TX has something like that.
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Old 01-18-2010, 09:50 AM   #20
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Thanks Bob. The driveaway permit would be a lifesaver if I can buy liability insurance for the trip. My CDL and the DOT sticker on the truck are current, but tags are expired and no insurance or current 2290 (HVUT), since I haven't been running.
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