Zephyr: Our 1961 GM 4106 Vintage Bus Conversion
Meet Zephyr – our full time home on wheels!
Our bus began life in September 1961 as a regional charter tour bus in Arizona for Citizen Auto Stage Co out of Nogales, AZ – and is serial # PD4106-446.
While our bus was never a “hound” – this model of bus was designed in cooperation between GM & Greyhound to be the heart of their fleet in the 1960s. It was designed to seat 41 passengers and carry all their luggage. With its aluminum construction and beefier engine, the 4106 was considered the ‘sportscar of buses’ for its day.
Our bus was converted and titled to be Class-A motorhome in 1989, and had less than 20,000 motorhome miles on it when we found it in Yuma, AZ in June 2011.
She’s 35′ long, 96″ wide and weighs in at about 24,000 lbs. She has a 2-stroke 8v71 Detroit Diesel engine, with Allison v730 automatic transmission.
We did extensive research on bus conversions starting in spring 2011 after deciding it was time to sell our prior home on wheels – a highly geeked out fiberglass 17′ Oliver Travel Trailer that we traveled in full time for 3 years. We even bought an Amtrak Rail Pass to travel the country to look at buses and learn from other ‘busnuts’.
We found our bus on Craigslist, and the ad was so simple and lacking in details that we almost didn’t go look at it. But we are so glad we did! When we walked in, it held more promise to become our ideal technomadic home than any other bus we had looked at.
The interior was well designed (with solid wood cabinetry), the engine ran strong and the body straight & nearly rust free. She needed to be caught up on nearly 15 years of neglected maintenance – but she just begged to be given a chance to go out adventuring again! We said YES!
We’ll be working on updating the bus and making her truly ours as we travel full time. We’re doing some projects ourselves, some with help from friends we visit and hiring professionals with tasks well beyond our skills and available tools.
Thus far we have done:
- Massive interior updating (new floors, kitchen, bathroom, ripped out the dinette, installed a dual computer desk, put in cat doors, re-covered valences, etc).
- Lots of gadgets that help keep us online
- Built a cutting edge Lithium Ion battery & inverter that will be the foundation of our eventual solar power system (we’re planning to line the roof with as much solar as we can get)
- Massive amounts of house systems revitalization (plumbing, electrical, etc.)
- Gone propane-free – replaced the fridge with a Vitrofrigo Danfross compressor model, and currently have just electric heat
- Replaced one roof air with a Coleman Mach 8 (with heat pump and strip)
- Converted to LED lighting
- Replaced all of the dash gauges
- Had a major out of frame engine & powersystem overhaul
- New driver and passenger seats
Some upcoming future projects include:
- Solar panels
- Expanding our Lithium Ion battery bank
- Diesel hydronics system for our hot water, heating and engine pre-heating
- Repaint the exterior and body work
Our aim is to create an all electric & diesel coach that is versatile for a variety of environments and camping situations – from boondocking off-grid for weeks at a time, drive-way surfing with friends & family, scenic public campgrounds to going pole-to-pole in urban RV Parks. Our pace of travel varies quite often, and we want to be comfortable whether we’re just overnighting or pulling in for a few months. We like to mix it up.
Oh, and yes – we tow a 2009 MINI Cooper (manual transmission) behind the bus as our primary means of local transportation when we’re parked. We also enjoy walking, using public transportation and intend to eventually add folding bicycles that fit in our bays.
More Information on our bus:
Remodeling & Projects:
Interior Remodeling: Round 1
Interior Remodeling: Round 2 – Dual Desk
Our Lithium Iron Battery (LFP) Research, Cost Analysis and Installation
7 Months in a Bus (Review of bus life, plus maintenance & remodeling costs so far)
Our Propane Free Goal
Kitchen & Bathroom Remodel
Project Dominoes – Simple Refrigerator Replacement sparks 33 other projects
Our Mobile Internet Gadgetry Setup
Shopping & Installing RV Seats in Elkhart, IN
The Master Tech Marathon (major electrical re-wiring project)
Three Years in a Vintage Bus (3 year update on lifestyle & costs)
8V71 Engine Rebuild:
In June 2013, we had an unexplained overheating coming down a small pass in Montana. While damage was contained to only two cylinders, we used the opportunity to have a complete out of frame overhaul at Interstate PowerSystems in Billings, MT – so that we could thoroughly have everything from our ‘mystery engine’ gone over.
Take a Video Tour of our Bus: