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MCI 102-C3 coach to RV - General/Floorplan

JNHEscher

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This thread will entail the conversion of an MCI coach bus into an RV. I've had a number of requests asking that I start an online blog of the build, although I do not write nor read blogs. So, here be my Pirate thread. Having been a member of the Pirate community for several years, I know damn well this place tops all others for engineering collaborations and knowledge, as well as the ultimate in criticism where needed.

Starting from the top - here is what we picked up from an eBay auction. 1990 MCI 102-C3 as retired from a limousine service in Dallas, Texas.

As you may notice further down in this thread, this is the main topic that relates to us purchasing the bus, tearing it down, and designing the overall floorplan. Everything from the heated floor to the inside of the roof, and everything from the rear wall to the windshield relating to the living quarters will be here. Subtopics are split between Engine Bay, Electrical System, Water System, and Driveline/Suspension.
Those that followed along with the original thread on Pirate know all too well how a build thread this large can get royally mixed up as parts orders and subjects of the particular time end up completely out of order.

Engine Bay - https://irate4x4.com/tow-rigs-and-tr...-rv-engine-bay
Electrical System - https://irate4x4.com/tow-rigs-and-tr...ctrical-system
Water System - https://irate4x4.com/tow-rigs-and-tr...v-water-system
Chassis/Suspension - https://irate4x4.com/tow-rigs-and-tr...sis-suspension

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JNHEscher

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As it was when we arrived to pick it up. My first lesson in driving a 40-foot vehicle - getting it out of a tight parking spot. Then, exiting the center of Dallas at 5:30pm on a Monday.

Followed my wife home for all of the drive with the exception of the mountain pass between Walsenburg, CO. and Alamosa, CO. The speedometer isn't OE for MCI, so I couldn't trust it to keep me from getting pulled over.

Lastly, where it resides now. Registration was a breeze and the lady doing the VIN inspection at the DMV was thoroughly intrigued by the idea of converting one of these metal monsters.

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JNHEscher

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Current known specs are: 8V92TA Detroit Diesel two-stroke, Allison HT740 four-speed auto, full air ride, and air brakes on all three axles.

One of the first and foremost big plans are to rip out the OE floor and finalize measurements and plans for a hydronic, radiant heat floor. I'll lay out that idea very soon and all input regarding the design is welcome.
 

JNHEscher

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larboc@hotmail.com said,

Nice. Being a 1990 is that electronic controlled DDEC?
How many gallons of 40w did you go through?
Fuel mileage?
I'm curious how much something like that sells for?
Trailer hitch plans?
 

JNHEscher

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GLTHFJ60 said,

Hydronic radiant heat floor, what are you going to use for the fluid, engine coolant? That with a webasto heater to heat/circulate when the engine is off would be pretty bad ass for a camper heating system.
 

JNHEscher

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Got it for $7,500. It is in fact DDEC. I'm not sure yet if it's the I or II version. It smokes a bunch upon cold start, but I'm going to be tracking down the source of the oil next week along with beginning my plans to rid this rig of all the backyard mechanic add-ons that it received. The air box drains have hydraulic lines hooked to them and somebody ran them uphill higher than the supercharger. Haven't really figured accurate mpg just yet since I've only driven it from Dallas to home with an inaccurate speedometer swapped from some other bus.

For the hydronic floor, the basic idea is steel strap and thick fender washers welded to and sandwiched in between steel sheet. I'm wanting to go with Evan's waterless, but the entire system would need nearly a full drum and that runs around $2,500. Ouch. Peak PG may be better.

There will be a beefy hitch to tow whatever get-around vehicle we have. A front-mount bike rack, as well. The intercity versions of these has OE bike racks. I may be able to find one cheap through the Denver auctions.
 

JNHEscher

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Seat removal happened a few days ago. Went crazy fast with my wife and a friend helping. 44 minutes from start to finish, including some pauses for texting a three diaper changes lol. We'll be stripping the covers and cushions off the frames next so the steel can go to the scrap yard and the faux leather used for something else. Overhead parcel racks go next

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JNHEscher

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DMG said,

I have thought about something like this but it seems like a bus of that type and size would be limited to paved or very well maintained dirt roads and parking lots with a lot of space. It could be a base camp but not much else. What are your thoughts after driving it?
 

JNHEscher

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PAToyota said,

Post the seats and overhead racks on craigslist. Someone may want them, you’ll get more money than scrap, and a lot less work than breaking them all down. If they don’t sell in a couple weeks - then scrap them.
 

JNHEscher

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OHV Wildcat said,

I always wondered about clearance on rough roads getting into campsites, too. I'm hoping the full air suspension on this will allow you to raise it when necessary? How loud is that engine? My exposure to 2-stroke Detroits is around old farm equipment that you could hear for 1/2 mile or better. Obviously, on a tour bus, it has to be somewhat controlled.

I'm excited to see this happen!
 

JNHEscher

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ChiScouter said,

That looks like an amazing amount of machine for 7k, I hope it doesn't 1000 dollar you to death, I am guessing everything on that is expensive to deal with.

Were those seats held in place by L track/airline track fittings?
 

JNHEscher

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Jeepermat said,
OHV Wildcat said:
I always wondered about clearance on rough roads getting into campsites, too. I'm hoping the full air suspension on this will allow you to raise it when necessary? How loud is that engine? My exposure to 2-stroke Detroits is around old farm equipment that you could hear for 1/2 mile or better. Obviously, on a tour bus, it has to be somewhat controlled.

I'm excited to see this happen!​
This is my experience from the outside of an MCI 2 stroke bus! I followed one onto a highway once and it definitely drowned out the straightpiped Dmax I was in, along with the radio. They must have some serious noise abatement between the engine and passenger compartment.

Either way this is a pretty awesome build, looking forward to what you come up with. I kicked around something similar but decided against it, as many of the campgrounds I go to wouldnt fit such a beast.
 

JNHEscher

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jaluhn said,
DMG said:
I have thought about something like this but it seems like a bus of that type and size would be limited to pace or very well maintained dirt roads and parking lots with a lot of space. It could be a base camp but not much else.​
This. Also worth checking what the height is - many of those buses are over 12', which can limit access in some places.

I don't think the air ride will help you much. Yes, you can air down, but that only decreases clearance. My experience on my truck has been that the air system really isn't near as good off road as a conventional setup. Admittedly that's under very light load, so you might be better with more drive axle weight.

I would think seriously about doing so test drives into places you think you'll want to go before you put too much effort into the conversion. I think you'll find it's more of a pain to use than you think it will be.
 

JNHEscher

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SkZuk said,

The guy I bought my acreage from converted and MCI bus like this as well. He lifted the roof something like 8 inches and built a slide into one side.

He said he drove over the border into Mexico and got the airbrushing done while armed US border guards watched :laughing:
 

JNHEscher

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Driving this size of a vehicle hasn't been too bad. I wish we had gotten the 45-foot DL3 that we were after, but this will do. The DL3 was the only D series that got the caster steer tag axle. Specs say that the total height of these is 11.5' when aired up. I'll see what my tape says.

The Detroit is certainly a noisy engine, but every diesel I've been around is noisy. I'd agree that there's some noteworthy sound deadener between the engine bay and cabin. You don't hear near as much din while inside. I do wish to eventually convert it to completely electric drive, but as anyone that has looked into electric vehicles knows, the amount of kilowatt hours that would be needed to produce the torque to push the beast along and utilize regenerative braking would be ridiculous at this time.

If time and finances allow, I'd love to beef up the suspension to something more military-like. For starts, cleaning up the steering mechanism! Some Michelin 42's would fit right in it without modification.

As far as parking this, I want to set up at any national park that we can. My wife is an ultrasound sonographer and has the opportunity to start as a traveling tech. The pay is better and we've both been wanting to travel more of the country. Where she gets her short-term contracts will determine our parking. She won't have to be on call, so we won't have to be parked within a timely radius of every hospital.

More to come tomorrow. We're headed to it to break down the seats for scrap, unless we decide to give craigslist a go. Alamosa is three hours from every major city. Getting anyone here to pick up stuff like bus seats is a bigger hassle than anyone of us care to deal with. There's a lot carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and copper that we can just haul to the scrap yard about 40 minutes away.
 

JNHEscher

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DE Jeeper said,

We use an espar coolant heater for our peterbilt sleeper. It runs through their 5 way valve so it heats the heater loop first then check valves open and it heats up the motor. Our heater loop also has a 30 plate heat exchanger for hot water and we have a coil in a heater box from Proair. So is basically forced air over the coil. We considered the radiant floor heat but since the sleeper is only 9' lower we didnt want to loose the head room. I would bet that the espar unit would be enough for the bus and they r pretty efficient. It would be pretty pimp if u did tile floors
yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7
.
 

JNHEscher

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Many of these came with a Webasto. Since we're so focused on getting the interior stripped right now, I haven't taken the time yet to poke around the engine and storage bays to see what gadgetry this one is equipped with. It was built at the North Dakota plant, but from what I've found with the VIN, it spent all it's service life in Texas. The radiator louver air cylinders must be disconnected because they wouldn't close when we got to colder weather. The mechanic that worked on this one built a cooling contraption with a fan to pull hot air out of the engine bay. It's hotwired, so I have to shut the main switch off to keep it from killing the batteries.

We purchase a used and unknown condition Eccotemp L5 portable, tankless water heater last month. I'm modifying it to work with a snap switch thermostat and it will be the heat source for the floor coolant. I also plan to make it loop through the engine block to keep it fairly warm. I've also considered omitting the engine loop and using the water heater exhaust to pass against the engine block for winter heat.
 

JNHEscher

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Elwenil said,

That's a lot of windows and none of them appear to open. I'd have to replace most of them with metal and then a few with metal frames for some windows that actually open if I were building an RV out of it.
 

JNHEscher

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All of the windows open. That was one of the incentives to stick with MCI. Every passenger widow is hinged at the top. You just lift the aluminum latch bar at the bottom and push them out. I'll toss up a few pictures. Stayed a little too busy to take any today.
 

JNHEscher

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DE Jeeper said,
JNHEscher said:
We purchase a used and unknown condition Eccotemp L5 portable, tankless water heater last month. I'm modifying it to work with a snap switch thermostat and it will be the heat source for the floor coolant. I also plan to make it loop through the engine block to keep it fairly warm. I've also considered omitting the engine loop and using the water heater exhaust to pass against the engine block for winter heat.​

Its gonna be interesting to see what uour consumption rate of lp will be with that unit. I guess with all the room on that thing u can store several tanks. One of the advanages of the espar was that we could draw fuel from the tanks. The draw back was the price. Fyi, the 5 way valve is a sperate piece so u can use it on any system if u want use it on your system.

Cool project, ill be watching.
 

JNHEscher

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A little something to show the window operation. They don't come with any supports as they're meant as emergency escape routes, but they certainly open. I grew up in central Missouri, and working in the house with all the windows open to listen to storms was always a pleasure. Being able to do the same in the vehicle means a lot to me. I can only be cooped up inside for so long, so opening windows to experience some of the outdoors while keeping busy on the inside when the weather gets crazy is a must.

We cleared out all of the seats and scrap metal so that we could get busy on the parcel racks. The right side is all out. Left side is about half way dismantled. The windows are nice and large, allowing plenty of room to throw each seat out as a whole. The door wouldn't have allowed them through. The left rack will be down, tomorrow. Hell of a scrap pile accumulating.
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JNHEscher

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Wife's pics from today. We've filled about one and a half of those big gulp cups we found in this bus with all the screws and bolts from what we've taken apart so far.

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JNHEscher

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These things can apparently tow a loaded, tandem-axle box trailer without fuss. 1,250 ft. lbs. and 400 horsies. And that's on the stock injectors. I can swap injectors and take this to 650 horse in half a day's time.
 

JNHEscher

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More of today. You can see the seats stacked neatly in the sand and thistle. That's about all we could do with them, for the time being. Those white, cast-looking pieces that the aluminum extrusions bolt to were plastic. We were assuming, at first, that they were cast aluminum. Lots of alu and ss to haul off.

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JNHEscher

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Meant to add this photo for ChiScouter. The seats are mounted to T-bolt rails. Both rails are stainless steel. One on each side in the floor, and one on each side at an angle just above the stainless kick panel air ductwork. Pretty solid mounting and by far the easiest seat removal I've ever experienced.

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