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North Florida Bus Conversion

C. Fred Hobe
Rt. 2 Box 169
Madison, FL 32340
1 850 673-8446

Please email Fred with you comments and thank him for all the time he has taken to provide this information at:
mailto:cfhobe@gmail.com

Special Notice

To better facilitate my customers, I am building a small apartment on the rear of my shop that anyone from out of state or a long ways off can stay in while major work is being done, like roof raised or work done to get a coach ready to convert.
This will save them from going to a Motel.

-Thanks Fred—


"Tips from a Pro"

    " I don’t post much on the BB's as most take it off, thinking that I am advertising. I have put on free seminars at my shop for the people that are converting a coach and want to do a good job and do it right. Twelve years ago there was very few coaches being built . And fewer builders to get advice from. Now with all the BB's and BCM everyone is trying to build a coach, and a lot won’t ask for help. It hurts me to see so many poorly built coaches out there.

     These tips are only one way to do these things. Use them to get yourself thinking and as a starting place. I know that there are hundreds of ways to do all these things some better than others. I look and try to do each coach a little better than the last. To build one is a learning curve. If I can get those who read these tips to start thinking, then you can make improvements and you will have a lot better coach."

Fred Hobe

horizontal rule

Installing Ducted Roof Air

    
More and more ducted roof airs are going in. This is how I do it. I make up six duct 1-1/2 inch by 8 inches, 12 square inches total buy 8 foot long. 24 square inches per air conditioner. I install plywood on roof were duct will run. Next, I run the ducts to every part of the coach, each duct is 4 square inches, 24 total inches for each air conditioner. On the front one, I run all of the front air up to the front so driver is always cool. The middle one I run to the middle of the coach and install ducts about every 5 feet. The back one does the bedroom and bath. By doing it this way you can run your fantastic fans and not they will not interfere. I then put 1-1/2 foam insulation between the ducts and cover with plywood. On the coach in pictures below, insulation is installed with 4 inches in top and 2 in walls. I install curves were the air comes out of the side of air conditioner so that it has a smooth flow. Air doesn't like to come out of square corners. The pictures show the way that I make it go around corners. This makes the air flow much better, as it is spread over the entire coach.

    

    



Replacement for rubber hinge

     This is the way to fix your rubber hinge for good. It is easier to fix than installing new rubber on MCI 5 7 8 & 9 doors. If the battery door rubber hinge brakes while going down the road it will fall out and is very expensive to replace. Fix with full length piano hinge and it is fixed for ever. Use 2 inch stainless steel hinge and remove the rubber fittings. Rivet on were old fitting was and you are done once and for all. Fred

Fred_Hobe_Replacement_for_rubber_hinge.jpg (44140 bytes)

Polishing your SS
    
     I have polished a lot of MCI's. First you have to sand with 800 or 1000 wet sand paper. Then use a hi speed buffer with a 8 or 9 inch buffing pad. Use black compound first then go to green. After about 3 hours on each baggage door it will shine like a mirror. It takes about a week to do the coach. If in Fla. I have a man that will do it for $300.00. If not in the area you can make it shine with a lot of time and sweat.

The front re-installed and polished.
Fred_Hobe_Polishing_SS.jpg (35503 bytes)

Entry door shine, also door light in another tip here.
Fred_Hobe_DoorLight_Handle_ShineSS.jpg (69157 bytes)

     The compound can be bought through Granger catalog. I first hand sand with wet sand paper. This takes the mat finish off. Then I use a heavy duty 2500 rpm buffer to polish. Put masking tape on trim as you will take the paint off when you get close. Buff the whole coach with black compound then go back over it with the green compound. After you have buffed the hell out of it, you clean off the excess compound with mineral spirits. Then all you have to do is go over it with good cleaner wax about twice a year. Don’t be afraid to put pressure on it, it will get hot.  Keep moving the buffer so as not to get so hot to stretch skin.

Winterizing your coach

     Another little trick that only cost about $50.00, and will make your coach so that you can use it in the winter. When you get your tanks for water and waste, put them in a plywood box that is insulated on the top sides and bottom. Next, put a water bed heater under them. They have a thermostat on them you can set to the lowest setting, 50 degrees, this will keep the tanks from freezing in the coldest weather. Also put a heat strip on the pipes and put insulation over them. You now have a safe, winterized coach. Most home built coaches are just fare weather coaches.

Raising the roof

     It is my believe that every coach should have the roof raised. Reason - First, this is the best way to be able to insulate the floor. And second it is the only way to be able to put 4 inches of insulation in the ceiling. First, you want to make sure that your coach is not going to settle. Next, take a plum bob and drop it down from the ceiling and mark the floor at the point with a small nail or screw. Do this in the front and rear. When you cut and raise the roof, if the plum bob point touches the same spot, your coach is the same as when you started. For information on bracing and installing windows contact me at the number or email address below.

More on raising the roof

     On MCI's the best way to prevent settling during the roof raising process is to ensure all the air is out of the air bags. Try to get it level on the floor so that you don’t have any variation in the angle as it raises. It will work every time. I cut at the bottom of the windows, with a Saw All. Cut the middle brace on both sides last, as this is also used as a guide. There is exactly 11/2 inches between the center support. I then weld a piece of 11/2 tubing at the bottom below the point of cut, then cut the double supports on both sides of the piece that you just put in. This acts as a guide for the roof to slide up on. I jack mine up with a screw jack that has a 12 inch lift, supporting the roof with 4x4 as I go. Lift the back first and then the front, moving 2" inches at a time.

     You have to know the location of your windows and weld 11/2 square tubing 3 inches from were the window is to fit. Then I install the out side skin, and cut the opening for windows. I also X - brace between all roof supports, using 5/8" round steel rods. I put them in the center of the supports so that they won’t conduct heat and cold into the coach.

     On the front you have to space your bracing so that there is some place to screw your plywood to. This takes careful planning as you have all kinds of angles at this point.

Fred_Hobe_front_build.jpg (55477 bytes)
This shows the front hump taken out with new metal and bracing installed. Note the flat strapping tying everything together.

Another tip on roof raising

     Here on the east coast were shipping from the west coast is so expensive on large packages, like front and rear caps. The cheapest way to solve the problem when you raise the roof is a lot of the MCI 7 & 8 have had caps installed on the front when they were in charter service. If yours has both caps on, here is a way to save about 1K on your conversion.

     First when you are going to raise the roof you need to remove both caps. The rear cap is under the aluminum roof skin. To get it out you need to drill all the rivets out and then take a heat gun and heat the strip along the rivet line. As you do this, work the cap out and off the coach. You need to do this in order to weld.

     After you have the roof raised you put the cap back on and rivet it down. Now install a metal strip the height of the raise plus 2 inches. Now shape it to fit the contour of the back of the coach just above the radiator line on the coach and rivet it along that line. With it up under the cap and rivet it to the cap, space your rivets neat to match the rest of the coach. Make sure that you install caulking between the fiberglass and your new metal strip.

     On the front you do the same only here you need to glass it in and sand to match the front cap. Its not a hard job and when you get done you have a very nice looking cap that matches the original caps.

Another tip on roof raising

     I cut the roof at the roof header, the header will go up with the roof. I then add a piece of 1 3/4 square tubing to the angle pieces that did hold the roof header. Now I add a piece of 1 3/4 from built line to roof header, and weld this to the existing angle built line and header. I then add 3 inch by 1/4 flat brace across the roof header just below the holes so that the roof can be riveted down. I also add another piece below were the roof header was and weld this across the new tube that I welded on. When you raise the roof it moves the cap back 1-1/2 inches. I weld a piece of 1 3/4 tubing onto existing rear tubing and weld it all along existing tubing at top and bottom.

Fred_Hobe_raising_roof01.jpg (23603 bytes)      Fred_Hobe_bracing.jpg (24120 bytes)

How to stop rust when you're converting the coach.

     The main cause of rust in a bus is moisture. First you need to remove the fiberglass that is in the coach as when it get wet it takes forever to dry. Then on the square tubing that makes up the frame work of MCI's and Eagles. Drill a inch hole every 8 inches and fill with can foam. What happens is the difference between inside temperature and the out side temperature causes condensation to form. This moisture then runs down to the floor and causes the tubes to rust out. When they are filled with foam they can’t sweat any more, thus no more rust. Cost to do a coach, about $10.00. Cheap to protect your investment.

Installing over head cabinets.

     On most coaches that are built, builders usually try to find the ribs to secure the cabinets, or just screws them to the plywood. This is another option. After you have insulated the coach and are ready to install the plywood, (I use 3/8 ply) in the locations over head cabinets will be installed, put a piece of 26 gage sheet metal the length and width of the cabinets. Secure to the ribs with flat rivets. Rivet the 26 gage sheet metal to all the ribs that it contacts using lot of rivets. Next put up the plywood as you would have. Now, when you put your cabinets up you can screw anywhere you want and really have the cabinets up strong. Some builders use plywood, but this is a lot off extra weight. To build a coach that is well built, one that has good resale value, and one that you are proud of, it takes time and a little extra money from the run of mill coaches. And . . . all the little tricks that makes the job easy.

Interior panels and lurking rust.

     Most of the time there is rust in the middle section where the angled windows come down. I take all this out to the ribs. Then when I raise the roof I   X - brace between with or 5/8 round steel rods. I weld them between each rib, and foam to the floor. This is stronger than the sheet aluminum that MCI used. I haven’t had any problems. The foam makes the coach very ridged. I also take all the front skin off as all the 8’s I have seen are rusted out in the front. This is due to the fiberglass and vent at the bottom on passenger side below the bottom molding. After all the rust is cleaned off or ribs replaced, I coat with zinc chromate to stop any further rust. I then make a new front and insulate with 1 " block foam.
         
     Also take the interior door panel off and either foam the whole inside of the door or use block foam. Ensure you have access to the bottom section. This section needs to be accessible to install or remove the outside bottom rub panel. Here I install block foam.

Fred_Hobe_Door_Insulated.jpg (26468 bytes)

Fred_Hobe_Front_Repaired.jpg (25085 bytes)

Fred_Hobe_Rusted_Front.jpg (28118 bytes)

We'll keep the light on for ya


     Now a small tip . To make it easy to get in your coach after dark. Install a license plate light . You can get them at any auto parts store. I use the little round kind . It fits in a inch hole, its 12 volt and can be hooked up to your house system. Turn it toward the door lock and you have a nice little light to come home to. Also note the shine (Tip# 001) and latch assembly that fits your hand and you don't have to push with your thumb. This will be another tip.
Fred_Hobe_DoorLight_Handle_ShineSS.jpg (69157 bytes)

Installing a Tilt and Telescoping steering wheel for MCI

     Go to a large truck salvage yard and find a late model, 80 or 90 Freight Liner  long nose that has a tilt wheel in it, most do. Have it removed making sure you get the mounting bracket and middle universal joint with about 8 inches of the shaft . Also get all bolts that hold it to the mounting bracket. Freight liners have a good looking steering wheel on them. You should be able to get one for about $300.
    
     After you have taken your old wheel out. Fit the mounting bracket from the front of the floor, tight to the front and bolt it to the dash where your old wheel bolted on. Don’t tighten real tight, as you will need to adjust at a later time. Now, install your new wheel to the bracket. Adjust the bottom to make your wheel straight. You need to build a bracket that will bolt it to the floor. The bracket will have to come out over the heater pipes that run close to the front wall. Bend the bracket over these and down to the floor. This is the point that you bolt the bracket down to the floor. Don’t drill through the heater pipes. Now cut your old shaft, and add the new shaft to the length that fit in the tolerance in the slip collar of the steering sector. Weld the shaft. Now you have a wheel that you can raise and tilt. It makes driving easy as the wheel sits back, more like driving a pick up truck.

Before and after photos for installation of tilt and telescoping column.
Fred_Hobe_Before_Tilt_Telescoping.jpg (33641 bytes)

Fred_Hobe_After_Tilt_Telescoping.jpg (28743 bytes)

Installing and wiring updated headlights

     Have you bought a set of those new square head lights that are 12 volt wired only to find that they aren’t as easy to hook up to your 24 volt coach as you though? This may make it a little easier. If you have taken out the coach air, there are some real heavy duty relays, in the box in the first bay on MC8's . Take one of them and put it in the fuse panel. Next disconnect your 24 volt line from your dimmer switch run it to the relay. Now come from your house battery with a12 volt line and hook to the line side of the relay, then run a line from the load side of relay to your dimmer switch. You now have 12 volts on both high and low beams. All you need to do now is hook up those neat looking square lights. It is easier to do than you think. I use #12 wire. Don’t take 12 volt from the middle of your 24 volt system as this messes up your charging system. And the wire that is there isn’t heavy enough.

Way to save money on wiring

     I buy 100 foot extension cord when they're on sale number, 12/3 conductor wire size. I can get them for as little as $15.00 and they come in different colors. I get several different colors and use yellow for air conditioners, orange for lights, black for wall plugs (120 volt) and green for 12 volt. They are UL approved and very flexible. You need to tin the ends when you hook them up to your main and on other connections use High lugs. Use an indent sqeezer to make good connections. You can buy 100 ft. cords with plugs on them cheaper than you can buy the wire by the foot. I use about 500 ft. of wire on a coach.

Fred_Hobe_Electrical_05.jpg (46488 bytes)
This shows how wires are run in the roof. Run them were they will come down the wall to the fuse panel.

Below is a very nice post from the Bulletin Board.

Date: Thus Feb 11 17:23:47 1999
Subject: Impressive "FREE SEMINAR"
Posted By: Gene Lewis

A couple of months back an announcement was on this board about a
Free Seminar offered by Fred Hobe in Northern Florida (Madison area).

Being a relatively new converter and being in the mist of doing my
own conversion of an Beautiful Silver Eagle, it caught my attention.
I contacted Fred by e-mail and then by phone and started making
arrangements to pay him a visit.

After some personal situations were cleared up ,my brother (he's
doing a 4106) and I proceeded to Florida. We spent Feb. 1 & 2nd with
Fred and came away with a great deal of information and knowledge on
how to build a safe and dependable coach. Fred shared lots of info
and how-tos with us, knowledge that comes only from over 12 years of
converting coaches for people.

I must admit that when he said 'Free' flags flew up (ain't nuttin
free). He told me he was now retired and had all the work he wanted
and was not looking for more and that he was not looking to sell
anything. He impressed me with his honesty and straight forwardness.
Not only did we get a chance to see him working an coach, but he was
free with answers to any and all questions about my coach. Had I been
able to take my coach down, he would have helped me with any problems
I had run into. The key word here is HELP me. He has the ability,the
knowledge and the willingness to help you help yourself.

I would recommend this seminar to anyone who wants to build a good
safe coach. For my part, it was time well spent, plus I feel like I
made another good (Bus NUT) friend.

So if U really want some good help send Fred an e-mail at
c_hobe@hughes.net and find out for yourself.

P.S. Fred said I could post his e-mail address to U.

Enjoy the Journey,
Gene

A visit with Fred Hode

May 29, 1999

Dear Tom,

Yesterday I spent 3 hours with Fred Hobie picking his brain and crawling through his two converted MCIs. He also took a critical look at my 50% completed MCI-7. I visited Fred with my brother, one of my daughters and one of my best friends who are all helping in the conversion. We had a great time and more importantly, since this is my first conversion, learned a tremendous amount in a short period of time. I wished I had of visited Fred sooner as he would have saved me many hours, nah make that months of time and a considerable amount of money.

He has some very practical ideas that a first timer such as myself just doesn’t think about until after the fact. Not only did he shows us and explain how things work and why, he allowed us to grill him extensively in areas that were a major concern for our conversion. This man was truly helpful and didn’t try to sell me on anything other than the fact that if you are going to do a conversion, do it right and use practical ways to save money and yet have a superior product. I’m excited knowing there is someone out there like Fred as in the future I will be running a number of conversion ideas by him. Thanks for providing a forum for him to speak from.

Sincerely,

Austin O. Hollis, Jr. (Audie) 904-262-5119

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