On Saturday morning, we left Zephyr in our rear view mirror as we departed Elkhart in our Mini Cooper, like nervous parents dropping our kid off for summer camp.
This summer, Zephyr will be attending Camp Master Tech where she will be whipped back into shape.
Four years ago our GM 4106 vintage bus conversion came into our lives – a fully converted former passenger highway bus, that we’ve been slowly working on ever since to make our very own. We’ve done it all while living and traveling full time, reaping the rewards of full time RVing while building our dream mobile home.
Our thought process was that it would be more fun and more economical in the long run to start with solid, sexy and livable bones, than starting with most any mid-class modern Class-A that we’d need to renovate anyway to meet our tech demands.
Over the years we’ve tackled a kitchen remodel, new floors, new front seats, building in dual desks, lithium ion batteries, solar panels and electrical upgrades.
This summer will likely trump them all in terms of time and costs as we approach tackling most of the major projects remaining on our wish list. But all total, we still feel ahead than if we had gone the standard Class-A route. And we’ll end up with a coach that is 100% uniquely us.
Here’s a quick video we took before we left Elkhart going over all of the major projects we decided upon while visiting Master Tech:
If you don’t have the bandwidth to watch or prefer old-fashioned text, here’s a quick re-cap of the projects on the list:
Repainting – This is the main project and what is driving all of the others. All of Zephyr’s blue and white paint will be stripped off, primed and then prepped. She’ll receive a new paint job with at least a double clear coat for protection.
We’ll be keeping almost exactly the same paint scheme however – retaining her sweet bus look.
There will be some minor body work done in the process, including some rust remediation and maybe some fun surprises :).
July 22 Update: The repainting is well underway! Zephyr has been stripped, the primer applied, the roof painted (with a single stage paint that is less slippery).
New Windows – Our bus came with RV single pane windows, that are honestly in pretty bad shape. They all need to be taken out, cleaned up, resealed and rebuilt. One pane is has plexiglass instead of real glass. They all need rescreening. Before opting for rebuilding the existing windows, we got a quote from Penisula Glass to have new modern dual pane windows made for us – and it wasn’t all that much more expensive. We opted for the upgrade, and have new windows in process.
Anyone in the market for some older single pane windows for your own conversion? We have some ready for a new home.
July 22: Windows should be shipped by the end of this week. Perfect timing to arrive when the paint job is done.
MCD Shades – We were on the fence about ditching our awesome Tiffany Tilt Mini Blinds (which we can’t find any modern day reference to). They’re mini blinds that actually close completely private. But they are difficult to clean and they all need to be re-strung. We’re installing Day/Night MCD Shades in the living room, and a Day Shade in the front windows. One of the living room shades will be installed so that the night shade can double as a projector screen for movie watching (gotta love double duty!). We’re keeping our blinds in the bedroom, as we love the flexibility of ‘cracking’ open a couple top slats for ventilation, while keeping feeling somewhat private.
Awnings – One of our awnings started ripping apart a few miles ago, signaling it was time to replace them. We haven’t yet decided on just what we’ll replace them with- we’re still in research on that. The biggest hurdle is our curved roof, and we’re in talks with several companies about the most reasonable option to get a lateral arm case style for the patio while minimizing bracket fabrication time. All of the window awnings should be a simple matter of either replacing the fabrics or getting new units.
July 22 update: We’ve decided on the Dometic 9500 Power Case awning for the main patio and new Dometic window awnings. Master Tech will need to fabricate a pretty extensive bracket for the main awning. The awnings are in production right now, and should be shipped soon.
Hydronic Furnace & Hot Water Heater – Our dream has been replacing our propane/electric 10G Suburban hot water heater with a hydronics heating system. We always thought diesel was the way to go, given our fuel source.
However, the PrecisionTemp Jr. really caught our eye as a lower cost of entry and less maintenance over time. After a lot of discussions with current owners – we decided to go with it. This unit, which will be installed in one of the bays, will provide our hot water, engine pre-heating, bay heating, on demand hot water for tea, interior heating via heat exchangers that will be run throughout the coach. With dual pane windows and lots of insulation we’ll be ready for some winter camping!
Which means… we’re bringing propane BACK into our coach. Yup, we went propane free after we got the bus because the installed systems were completely unsafe, but now we’re doing it right with thought and attention to safety.
July 22: The PrecisonTemp installation is well underway! In other plumbing news, in evaluating our existing holding tanks and the work they’d need to reseal and such, MasterTech presented us with the idea of new much larger tanks (current estimate is 150G of grey and 75G of black). We’re going with it – hello endless boondocking!
Ditching the Generator – We already announced we’re getting rid of our 7500w diesel generator (it sold quickly!) – it’s just overkill for our needs. Instead, we are going with a much smaller propane powered unit (probably just 2500w, enough to top up the batteries or run an A/C if there’s not enough sun to keep our solar happpy), that will be installed in our spare tire bay.
Why not go with a diesel generator since we use diesel for our bus anyway? There are none small enough to fit in this bay and they are much more expensive. Since we’re bringing in propane anyway for the Precision Temp, this seems to be a great solution for us when we consider generator use an infrequent need anyway. Plus, propane is cleaner burning and requires less routine maintenance – more suitable for our anticipated very occasional generator use.
We’ll installed Propane tanks in the previous generator bay which is well ventilated and away from other things that can cause calamity. There will be a quick connect mechanism that allows us to hook into other sources of propane should we need them.. such as a refillable 20 lb ‘BBQ grill’ style tank, so we don’t have to take the whole bus for a fill if we don’t want to.
July 22 Update: The old genset is out, and MasterTech has confirmed that the Onan 2500w Propane generator will fit just fine in the spare tire bay – one is inbound. The bay will be sound proofed as well.
And this all.. so that we can turn the old hot water heater cabinet which was located in the hallway into a dedicated cat litter chamber! Kiki is finally getting her very own private place to poop. This will make the entire household happier.
Everything is all about the cat after all.
Whew.. it was a very long and eventful week at Master Tech. We’ve been in super charged turbo mode for weeks on research and preps.
But now we leave all these projects in their capable hands… and on Wednesday morning we board our first train, starting our big Alaskan adventure!
We are exhausted beyond belief, and just can’t wait to finally reach our first cruise ship balcony cabin and indulge in some true down time. It’s been a long time coming.
August 22, 2015: Bus Renovation Progress Report #2: Week of August 17