Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The beginning of a project.

Hi, my first Blog ever. My name is Steve Rice. I am doing this to document the progress of my latest venture. I have been wanting to build a true 4x4 VW bus for quite sometime. Well, it looks like it its going to happen. Probably not nearly as fast as I would like it to. My goal is to publish as many pics as I can with tips that I learn along the way in the event someone else would like to do the same.

68 VW bus

This is my 1968 Bay window that i just aquired this weekend (not bad for $150 ).

Below is my CJ7 that I will be putting the bus body onto:

my jeep
I will try to keep this updated when I get through the different stages.

After spending some time with CAD program, and taking a lot of measurements, this is what I have come up with. I will be removing the Stock 304, and installing a LT1 rated at 300 HP with an automatic transmission. To accomindate the longer tranmission, I will be relocating the engine forward about 12". The radiator and battery will be located in the rear.

cad drawing

Spent some time on Sunday re-arranging the back yard. Monday it was time to get a little dirty. Jacked up the front and removed the front axle. If you are going to do this, remember to get rid of the shifting linkage and parking brake cables FIRST!!!

Here they are side by side
bus next to CJ7

Front axle assembly removed
front axle removed

Under the front of the bus without the axle
bus with no axle

The rest of the junk under the front that will be removed next
need to remove next

Yesturday I spent a couple of hours removing the rear end and the heat duct that goes down the spine of the bus. I thought about which would be the best way to remove the rear end (unbolt what I could and leave the rest, or cut out the whole frame assembly which holds the rear end). I decided to just cut out the frame to eliminate more weight. It was pretty easy, and faster since I dont need the frame for any type of support. I use a plasma cutter (I love that thing) and then used a Sawzall for the top section of the frame. The steel cut much easier with the sawzall than I expected. I guess it is due to the lower quality steels used back then. If I would have known it would cut that easy, I would have just used the sawzall (maybe next time).

Here is the rear end removed with a small section of the frame.
VW Rear end

Well, its been a couple of weeks since I have been able to do anything. sunday I got a chance to get some work done. I started stripping the CJ7 down. Took me 4.5 hours to get it down to the frame (Thanks Marty for helping me get the tub off )


Got the Cj7 frame in front of the bus to slide it under



Went to jack the bus up just a liiittttlllee bit higher to get the frame under it, and the whole bus came crashing down. Luckily I wasnt under it.



So now it looks like I need to get some other jacks to do this a bit safer :)

spent a couple of hours Monday getting the bus aligned straight and pressure washed the frame/engine/trans of the CJ7. Next I will remove the motor-transfercase assembly and then try to get the frame under the bus again. Hopefully without the big crash this time.

WOW...what a past few days!!!! I was determined to get the body on top of the frame with out killing myself. Theorry this time was a bit different than before. Instead of lifing the whole bus body up, we just lifted the front up high enough to slide the rear of the jeep frame in underneieth. That way the front would be supported. Then jacked up the rear (SLOWLY). by the time the back was high enough it was dark. I started again the next morning to get the frame under the bus. took a couple of hours, but in the end, I am happy!!!!! (Once again....THANKS MARTY!!!!!)





Ok got some time to get some real work done this weekend. Got the bus all squared up on the frame and set it as low onto the jeep frame as possible. In the end, the bus frame is only 1.25" above the jeep frame. That seems to look pretty well. I will have to do a little trimming on the rear wheel wells (which I had already planned on) and maybe a little trimming on the front wheel wells for travel. Then started to weld on the body mounts.

I used 2x4 .125 wall steel tubing on edge. This worked out well because I was able to leave out the body lift spacers that was on the jeep. The new mounts sit right on top of the rubber body mounts.


Here is a pic of both right side mounts:


A close up of the welds:

Once I had the 4 side body mounts secure, I was able to remove the front support bracket and rear jacks. Now she is starting to look like something.



Next I will need to start re-working the steering box. The current steering shaft from the bus is in front of the box, and the box is facing the wrong way. I think that I have a plan to make this work. I will post as soon as I have someting.

last weekend I spent some time working on the bus. I have the steering box turned around (temporarily), and I think that it will work. I am holding off making the custom brackets since I might be getting another steering box that may fit better.

The brake master cylinder looks like it will fit great in the original bus location. Not enough room to but a power booster system on though...too bad. Future upgrades will include a rear disk conversion to stop better and hopefully a Hydro-boost system. But that will be a while.

I spent some time checking out what my suspension travel will be. The rear wheels are complete, and the tires fit under quite nicely.


I started to jack up a front tire to get an idea of the front wheel well clearance. As suspected, the tires hit pretty early. I want to keep the bus body as low as possible, so I will have to cut the wheel wells up front.

Front tire jacked up

initial contact point before cutting

rough cut in front of the fender
Looks like I will have to go almost all of the way to the door line. My plan is to weld 1/8" plate alont the lower radius edge so that if there is some contact, it wont just fold in the sheetmetal.

The front jack point was right behind the front tire, so that had to go.

Ive got almost 24" of front compression travel so far.

OK, finally, with the weather getting better, I was able to get some work done on the bus. Welded in the front frame extensions, mounted the brake master cylinder, and mounted and aluminum LP tank in the rear which will be used for an air tank.

Here is the power steering box, reversed and flipped. I will add a skid plate to protect the fittings.

Here is the front frame extension. Only tacked in right now since I am running out of gas in the welder :(b You can see the fish plate I put in for reinforcement.

And here is the Brake Master cylinder. I was able to mount it in the same location as the stock master cylinder. I had to cut an access panel in the floor board to gain accces to the top cover. I will fab a cover plate to hide it.

Dont have pics of the air tank yet, will try to get one shortly.

Well it has been awhile since anything has been done, but got some time to make a little bit of progress today.
Pulled the LT1 out of the boat and ready to set into the bus:

Spent this morning cutting the access hole in the floorboard of the bus. There was quite a bit of material to remove. Not only the floor board, but several hydraulic lines had to be removed (not going to be used anyways) and a section of the frame---a cross member.

Below is the TH350 tranny mated to a NP203 transfer case. Not the ideal transfer case to use, but it mates to the tranny. Someday I hope to run a NP205/203 combo, but that will have to be down the road aways.
PhotobucketThat transfercase is SEROIUSLY HEAVY. I need to get some plywood to act as a floor so that I can manuever the engine stand and lift. Working in a back yard is the not the easiest way to do things. Until next time:)

Spent some time yesturday getting the motor in the bus.
We discovered that the best way to support the engine was to put the cherry picker through the passanger side door. We didnt put the motor in that way, but after looking at it, it looks like it would fit pretty easily. Otherwise, you have to put the engine in through the side door, set it down, move the picker and then lift the motor up again.

Front of the motor (not final position yet). Later we moved it back and down. Will have to get some more pics when it is in its final position.

Rear view of engine (pushed back) but will be lowered some more.

Ok, its been a while since I have done an update, so here we go. I have been busy, Finally got the engine set into its final position, motor mounts welded in, and transmission set into place. A few notes here. Fitting a 350 in here has been quite the challenge. If you like Ford motors, a 351 would probably fit better since it has a 60 deg engine versus Chevy's 90 degree engine. I have about 3.5" of clearance on each side. Not as much as I would like, but it is what it is. I have a set of small headers, but they wont fit. I will be getting ahold of some stock exaust manifolds which look like will fit nicely. Due to the tight clearances, I opted for riged motor mount. I didnt want the engine hitting the sides of the bus frame. Remember that if you do this, you MUST still use rubber or urethane tranmission mounts. If the tranmission mount is solid along with the engine mounts, there is no room for frame flex, and something WILL break.

Here is the engine in its final location. The motor mounts ended up being about 8" forward of the original location. This was done for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted the rear drive-shaft to be as long as possible. Secondly, I didnt want the bellhousing to be in the passanger area. Care must be taken when moving the engine this far forward. It comes pretty clsoe to the axle differential. In this case, that is ok, since I will have to limit the upwards travel of the axle anyways to keep the wheels from hitting the bus wheel wells. I will be counting on axle droop for my overall axle travel. If necessary, I might do a suspension lift or spring over conversion to gain more clearance, but I will run it first and see what my limiting factors are first.
Pic of my motor mount before welding it to the frame

If you do use a Chevy motor (I am partial to Chevy anyways), look at an older motor that does not use a serpentine belt. Another issue that I had was getting clearance with the alternator, it sticks out pretty wide. Using a v-belt set up, will allow you to tighten things up a bit to gain some room.

Here is a rear view of the transmission. It is a TH350. There is room to put a 4 speed in later if I choose to. Even with the NP203 transfer case (not my t/c of choice, but hey, I already have it) my driveline will be a healthy 22" long. Thats pretty damn good. Down the road when I can convert to a np203/np205 dual case, my drive line will be even longer :)

Since I moved the engine/tranny so far forward, the skid plate didnt line up with the frame (let me back up for a moment here). The tranmission/transfer case came with just a cross-member. I didnt like that, so I modified my original skid plate from the 304 and manual trans to fit the TH350. Anyways, the Jeep frame starts to narrow just forward of the original location of the skid plate, therefore, the plate is wider that the frame. I looked into just narrowing the plate, but with all of the compound angles invloved, it looked easier to fabricate and weld on attachment points to the outside of the frame to bolt the skidplate to. I will gusset these later to make them stronger and use larger bolts.

Todd got ahold of some really cool aluminum steering u-joint with slip shafts. They are from '02-'05 chevy trucks (might be more years that have them). They will work GREAT. I will need to get a steering column bearing and attatch it to the floor to support the bottom of the steering column (oringinally the bottom of the steering column attached directly to the steering gear box).
Photobucket WOW, after all this time, I finally got some time to get some work done. I mocked up the location fro the middle bucket seats and the rear bench seat. Remove the buckets, then fabricated the mounting brackets for the rear bench. Since the seat is from a Blazer, not only does the back of the seat fold down, but the whole seat pivots forward ont he front mounting feet to allow for better storage options  photo busbenchseat_zps00acfcbc.jpg Got the middle bucket seats mounted (try to ignore the seat covers, they will get replaced)  photo bucket1_zpsdde8efbf.jpg The right seat tilts forward to allow easy access to the rear bench  photo bucket2_zps3ce72f54.jpg Got some more work done. Converted the side sliding door to hinge at the top.  photo sidedoorup_zps692e24d6.jpg Then installed some hydraulic lifts that Kurt from KAL Offroad supplied me (thanks Kurt). The lifts have about 120lbs of force each. Plenty to hold up the door, but it looks like I will have to make some custom brackets for the end ball pivots. These are maxed out strength-wise and will fail from fatigue over time.  photo sidedoorwithlifts_zpsdb5601db.jpg FINALLY got the steering system done :)  photo bussteeringbox_zpse6cd95e0.jpg The above photo doesn't show it, but there is now a brace tube that runs from the mounting plate to the passanger side frame. That plate does NOT move at all!!!!! The steering was definately the most challenging hurdle so far. I don't plan on going into great detail as to how i did it other than the photos for 2 reasons. If someone else is brave enough to tackle this project, they should be able to figure it out, and I dont want the liablity of the steering system failing because someone did it the way I did it. Don't get me wrong, I am very confident in my methods and will be very comfortable driving it. Another reason is that there are many other ways to do it depending on what steering box is used, what axles are used, what frame is used....etc. 6/5/13 Well now that I have the steering pretty much done: left goes left and right goes right (now aint that a good thing?) I have now moved to the rear of the bus. I have a radiator from a chevy blazer. It will supply plent of cooling (and just for the record, good luck on getting a larger on squeezed in there). Below is a pic of the radiator on the lower mount  photo busradiatorlowermount_zps13946338.jpg And then we have an over-all picture of the radiator set far back into the old engine compartment.  photo busradiator_zps0a9adcd3.jpg The plan will be to get a massive dual fan that will move over 3000 CFM of air. I will also be building a shield over the gas tank to keep the tank from getting too warm. 6/9/13 Got some more work done this weekend. Finished the top radiator mount so that it is secured tot he frame. I decided to secure the lower AND upper mounts to the CJ frame. I was concerned the the body would flex against the frame too much. This way it can flex all it wants, and the radiator will stay in place.  photo radiatormounts_zps3a7c180c.jpg I also sand blasted my mirrors. The previous owner thought that a random camo paint sceme would look nice (Blazer)...YUCK. then painted them silver and mounted the passanger side for now. Will get the drives one mounted later. Before:  photo mirror_zps58cd9b10.jpg After:  photo bussmirrorclose_zps8458114f.jpg I know that I haven't been posting much lately, sorry about that!!! I've been working on the motor mounts. There are a total of 10 of them using 5/8" bolts. I figured that should hold things in place.  photo frontbusbodymount_zps28ec5bae.jpg Now you may be asking yourself: "Is that really rigid mounted"? The answer is yes. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. In the end, I didn't want the body leaning on the side of a hill. If I don't like it, I will simply add some rubber spacers. Tonight, just for the heck of it, I was playing around with another idea. Maybe add some window armor to give it that "post-apocalyptic" look.  photo buswindowarmor_zpsc029ab88.jpg I will leave it on for a bit and see how I like it. I hope to get more done this week and try to keep this a little more current.

Ok, 2/15/14, got some more stuff done this  week.
I really wasn't happy with the steering arrangement that I had set up, so once again, I ripped it apart and started over. I got a hold of a cool 90° box. This did 2 things for me: got the steering shaft in a better location and provided a solid point for less slop.

I cut my bracket out of 1/4" steel plate (would have been much easier if I had a mill to just drill a larger hole). Had to use the plasma cutter, then slowly grind away until there was a nice fit.

Welded the bracket plate in place and then welded in gussets.

Now I am very happy with the alignment of the shaft to the power steering pump ☺

I also started working on the exhaust manifolds. I was originally going to run headers, but there was absolutely NO WAY they were gonna fit!!!! Trying to remove the old air injection tubing from the manifolds proved to be useless, even after they have been sitting with penetrating oil for over a week. Ended up just cutting off the tubes and welding the holes shut, then cleaned up the welds. Not too bad, and there is absolutely no way anyone will be able to see them anyways once installed.

Next step is to remove the spark plugs, spray some oil into the cylinders and turn it over (it's been quite some time). Then install the manifolds. It is so tight that the only way to get them to fit is to come up from the bottom.....yipee.

Worked on the remote latch for the side door. Sorry the video is too close up, it was a bit difficult to hold the camera and operate the latch at the same time 


How to install exhaust manifolds on a VW bus with a LT1: 
Cram engine hoist through side door

 Raise engine as high as possible 

Once manifolds are secure lower engine. Create new language (not necessarily appropriate for children or mothers)

Enjoy a beer Laughing

Ok, got some more work done. Finished the side door latch and trimmed the cables, so on to the next project. I got a hold of a 22 Gal race fuel cell from Kal-Offroad. The CJ7 tank was only around 18 gallons. The biggest issue with the original tank is how SMALL the fuel fill line is.

You can see it on the right. Filling up that tank has always been a pain in the butt.

Here is the fuel cell.

As you can see, it has a massive fuel fill, which coincidentally matches the large fuel fill of the bus  :P 
Had to fabricate a new skid plate to support the tank out of some steel plate. The bottom of the tank is lower than the original, but since the bus body is longer the the CJ7 body, my approach angles change. Looks like I wont have any problems with hitting anything and it does lower my CG a bit. 

Relocated the bumper into the right location, painted and bolted into place

Then I started to fab up the side rockers
here it is mocked into place

cut and tacked in the support brackets

Here it  is the rocker tacked in place

The plan is  to get it over to Kal Offroad this next week. There we are  going to plumb in the radiator, power steering, brake, and tranny cooler lines.

Pulled the bus out for a little sunshine. Kurt from KAL Offroad is coming over with a flat bed trailer. We are taking it over there to install the cooling and hydraulic lines (and who knows what else we will do while it is there). While I was waiting, I took some time to see what kind of travel I can get out of it.

 Bottom of the tire is 21" off of the ground before the left rear tire started to come up. Still was pretty stable.

This picture is just for fun. Couldn't help from taking a pic of the bus next to my Spitfire.

More stuff done. Grant and Kurt helped me get it over to KAL Offroad where we pulled the wheels off to start with the brakes

Got the brakes put back together on the front. New rotors, calipers, pads, studs, locking hubs, 18" stainless DOT brake lines, and all new steel brake lines through-out the bus.

Ok, So I know that it has been awhile since I did an update. I did take a bit of a break, but now I am back on the project. Installed the dual radiator fan onto the radiator...HOLY COW, does that thing move some air. Should have NO problems keeping the engine cool.
I also added some serious insulation over the fuel cell, and then covered that with a sheet of stainless steel. Should not have any issues with the fuel tank getting hot. Also note the 2.5" fuel fill line, This thing will fill up fast. Not sure  if I will run into issues with the line being right behind the fan, but I will test it out and then see if any changes need to be made.

I also built the bed frame that goes inside and it h old the mattress quite nicely and provide some nice storage accessible from the rear hatch. (pics to come). 

Ok, here are the pictures from the rear of the bus of the bed. Rear shot with the door closed:

Top rear hatch open showing the mattress folded which allows the rear bench seat to be in the up position:

And here is the bed folded out for sleeping, hangs over the folded bench seat. Pretty comfortable.

Ok, Got some more stuff done this weekend. 
Pulled all the wheels off again and got her up on jack stands.

Hooked up the cooling tubes that run the length of the bus to connect the engine to the radiator. Here is a shot connected to the LT1. Tight fit, but does clear.

Coming down fro the engine (driver's side). Welded tabs along the frame to hold the cooling tubes.

The cooling tubes connected to the radiator. In the back ground you can see the passenger's side going straight up tot he top of the radiator.

Another view of the driver's side while mocking up the Fox shock. I have over 12" of suspension travel, so these 14" shock will give me a bit of fudge room so I don't max out the shocks.

 I will be heading off to the drag races in a couple of hours, So I pulled the cooling tubes out and painted them. They will have plenty of time to dry. (Nice job on bending those up Kurt -- KAL Offroad)

Been doing some more work on the bus project. Received the wiring harness. Looks simple, don't it?

Sorting out the mess. Some wires had to be moved since there are things not in the "normal" position, like the radiator.

 Mounted the fuse panel, wires everywhere!!!!

Cleaning all of the terminals on the reverse light, tail lights and dash switches.


 Fuse box with all of the wiring run.

 These wiring are waiting for the instrument cluster to be installed. Will be waiting a bit for this, I need to order a custom quad cluster gauge that will fit into the stock instrument dash to look "stock"

Reverse lights are working!!!!!!!

Tail lights are working!!!!!

Got the windshield wipers to work. They were pretty stuck at first (who knows how long it has been since they were run 15+ years???? The "park" mode even works :)