Wow. Has it been a year already?
One year ago today – after an extensive cross country search by Amtrak train, and 2-days in the roasting hot 120+ degree Arizona sun trying to get her ready for a test drive – we bought Zephyr – our 1961 GM PD-4106 bus conversion.
When we found her in Yuma, AZ she had basically been sitting abandoned for most of the past 15 years, roasting (but not rusting!) in the dry Arizona sun. The nondescript Craigslist ad that led us to her was so underwhelming that we almost didn’t even make the long drive to go check this bus out.
We are sure glad we did!
She was so heavily oxidized that we could barely tell she had blue striping. Her interior so dusty that it took imagination to see the beauty that was laying underneath.
She still had split rim wheels, and tires so old that it was scary even taking her for a spin around the parking lot. We knew we’d have a big maintenance bill to get her safely on the road again.
But the first time we saw her, we knew we had found a bus with potential to be our full time home on wheels… if we were willing to take a chance that this old girl had more life left in her.
The conversion was complete and seemed to be done to pretty high standards. She would be nearly livable from Day 1 (providing we could prove the air conditioners still worked), to provide us a foundation to start our own extensive modifications and updating. Unlike most folks approaching a bus conversion – our bus had to be ready to serve as our home while we were in the process of making it ours.
We were shocked when the seller (someone who bought the bus at auction) accepted our low ball offer of $8,000 without even countering. And we were even more shocked (and relieved!) when we got Zephyr up to an expert (known as the Yoda of Buses) and he proclaimed her a strong runner.
When we started our search, we barely knew a thing about buses or 2-stroke engines. I still remember the first time someone showed us the engine compartment of their bus and I just nodded. Now we can both name most of the parts, know what they do, perform pre-flight inspections and even recognize potential problems. We’ve spent hours in the pits with mechanics learning our systems and how to maintain them.
Are we bus experts? Hardly… but we know where to go to get answers, and how to ask the questions. The bus community is amazing, and has been so welcoming of us newbies. We couldn’t have done this without them; so many have gifted us their expertise, experience, spare parts and assistance.
Aside from a stuck valve that caused us quite a scare, we’ve not yet had any major mechanical problems (knock on wood). We continue to keep Zephyr up on maintenance to help keep that track record.
We’ve gotten quite ahead on our modifications to making the space truly our own. We’re still quite under the budget we set as our final goal for creating our next home on wheels. But we also still have a list of about 150+ projects to go.
Some of them quite pricey and will involve some effort – like adding solar, expanding our lithium ion battery bank and adding a diesel burner hydronic system for hot water, heat and engine pre-heating. Those projects became less important as family took our priority this year, but we’ll get to them in time.
When we found Zephyr, the odometer installed during her original conversion & in-frame engine rebuild in the late 1980s was showing just 21,489 miles. We have no idea how many service miles she had before that, but as a regional charter bus in Arizona – probably not nearly close to the 1/2 million she was built for.
In the one year since, we’ve driven 9,454 miles together. And what a ride it’s been! We couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out when we decided to follow serendipity to that little lot in the blazing hot Arizona sun.
Here’s to many more miles ahead!
Serendipity Challenge Last Chance
We’re hosting a Serendipity Story Contest in honor of Zephyr’s 1-year Busiversary. We’ll continue to accept entries through the end of today, and announce our winners sometime next week!