1954 RHD Deluxe Restoration Log

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This document is a log of all of the work that I have done on the restoration of my 1954 Right Hand Drive 23-Window Deluxe. The format may change as I go along, so we'll see what happens. Dates are in American DD/MM/YY format. The log starts on January 13th, 1996, when I took delivery of the bus.

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Current status:

8/25/00 The bus is now back home, at my new house. Pretty much the same condition as was in '98, only a little more rust and a little more dust. The only real progress in the meantime was the aquisition of some various parts, including a radio

6/6/98 - got the NOS driver's side piece mostly welded in:

5/29 - Got a lot accomplished in the last month or so
Frame just about done Sighting along the passenger side - VERY straight! Sighting along passenger side with cargo doors open Welding in passenger side dogleg Cargo doors on, dogleg tacked in Side view of nose work - center inner section welded in NOS cargo door NOS cargo door 1/26 - Not much has changed! I had the 16" tires mounted on some scrappy rims I got, and put them on for effect. I've also cut out the driver's side panel and started test-fitting the NOS replacement piece.

A few pix of the progress:
6/20 - Cargo door-side quarter panel welded in!

Frame: before and after

Took some time off to procure parts and nurse a twisted knee.
Whats been done recently: cleaned up and painted spring plates and torsion bars; dressed inside of torsion bar housing; installed new spring plate bushings; installed transmission; started installation of NOS passenger side rear quarter panel, driver's side to follow shortly;

I've been working diligently on the '54, but have been too busy to post updates to these pages.
Anyway, I played with it a bit tonight: I went round and marked all the spots on the body which need to be cut and sectioned. Quite a few!

Whats done:
* entire center frame from front of cargo floor rearward
* new cross pieces
* new outriggers
* frame de-rusted, POR-15'd and painted, from cargo floor back
* transmission cleaned, inspected and painted
* spring plates removed, cleaned, de-rusted, POR-15'd, painted, greased and re-installed. Need to order bushings.
* bought all new fasteners for transmission re-install,
* bought new rear-wheel cylinders, need to finish cleaning brake parts and re-install
* wiring harness removed

Repro body pieces to get still:
* jack points
* cargo floor
* belly pans

Pieces to fab:
* cab floor?
* pieces of edge of cargo floor

Body pieces to be sectioned:
* entire driver's side - I have an NOS piece for this (came with the bus, luckily!) its actually just the rocker and wheel arch that are bad, but I'll put in most of the new piece.
* doglegs - I have a _lead_ on some which are kinda scrappy, but not too bad. I just hope my contact (a fellow listmember) comes thru.

* front frame - Same person has a front end with good pieces for these, which I'm s'posed to get soon after he returns from Germany. These will replace the pieces I fabricated last summer, and correct one of the bigger boo-boos I made: the cargo floor is 1/4-1/4" too low on the passenger side, and 1/4" too low in the driver's side, in the front. I don't know how that happened, but it did.
* lower nose - I have these pieces on order from Das Bulli Haus. I will do these shortly after the frame sections, so I can put a wiring harness in. The upper nose is fine except for a couple surface rust spots.
* rear corners - I have no leads on these pieces yet
* cargo door frame - I have no lead on these pieces yet
* seat wall - the area behind the front seat, which closes the front wheel wells on each side. The pieces are coming from the same listmember
* seat bulkhead - pieces coming from same listmember
* driver's door jamb - same source
* front floors - ROFLMAO/ROFCMEO
* passenger side wheel well - probably get this from Das Bulli.

Though this sounds like a lot, once I finish the frame, I'm to the point where a reasonably modest amount of work will yield major cosmetic improvements.


I haven't worked on the bus in a while. I'm sorry.
I ended up re-doing the lighting in the garage, and buying a new heater, and insulating the back of the garage door, and painting it white, so now I have a bright, warm environment to work in.
I spent all day today and most of the day yesterday working on the bus, cutting out the section between the rear torsion tube and up to the transmission support, and welding in a piece I cut from another barndoor. I wish I could have had pieces like this when I did the front - it would have been a lot easier! I also made a dolly which holds jackstands, which goes under the rear torsion bar. This lets me move the bus around easier, and lets me move the bus around with the transmission out. Cost me $60 in materials to make this, which will also be useful for moving any other heavy items about (engines, transmissions, refrigerators)

Sometime between June and now I fabricated the two frame pieces that curve from in front of the cargo floor and curve up towards the top of the front beam. I wish I had sections from another car, but none are available, so I have to fabricate them.

I spent almost the entire day working on the '54. Today I got the chassis center sections, which are the pieces that go crossways between the longitudinals and the heater tube and cables go thru them, cut off and started prepping for the new ones. I also drilled the holes and welded in the nuts for the front beam supports. On barndoor busses, there are 2 U-shaped channel supports that are welded onto the front beam, and bolt onto the bottom of the longitudinals, providing extra support for the beam. Suggestion for anyone else who is going to replace the longitudinals on a barndoor: drill the holes and weld the nuts _before_ installing the section. That would have made it a lot easier!
Before I can weld in the center chassis sections, I have to box the the longitudinals in that area, first, just like the factory did. Otherwise there is not much to weld them to! The front one fits perfectly, the rear will have to be narrowed, not because of any flaw in the piece, but because of the way I lined up the new longitudinal just inside the seam where I cut the old one off. I'm about 1/16" off on either side, plus a bit more so I can box them. I also had to modify the holes for the cables, once again not due to a flaw in the repro piece, but because of the bus being a barndoor and RHD, the routing is a little different. I had to widen one of the cable holes in the center section about 1/2"
Now on to the part that wasn't so fun. I had the entire front end off the ground, and I was checking out the front beam area and sizing up all of the fabrication I will have to do there, when I noticed something quite peculiar that made my heart sink. My front beam has been WELDED to the frame by some PO during previous repair work on the bus! This is going to make it VERY interesting to re-do the front end!
On a more positive note, I jacked up the passenger side of the bus, and the whole passenger side raised up, like it should. The last time I tried to raise the passenger side, the entire REAR of the car came up!

I was a weldin' fool tonight!
I got the icky metal in front of the cargo floor, underneath, cut off, and welded on the front half of the passenger side longitudinal. Then I welded on one of the rear outriggers and the front outrigger. I then did test fits of the chassis center sections, the pieces that go between the longitudinals, which the heater tube and cables pass thru.
These center pieces are different between barndoor and non-barndoor busses, but its very close. Basically its a matter of opening up one of the pre-cut holes a bit, and having another hole that nothing goes into.

Tonight I got the passenger side longitudinal cut off and the rear section of the new one welded on.

Got the passenger side rocker cut off and the new one welded on. Someone had welded a serious piece of I-beam in place of the old inner rocker, which was a royal pain to cut out.

Yesterday and today I fabricated the frame piece between the end of the longitudinal where it exits the cargo floor and where it goes up above the beam/under the seat. I also got one of the two rear outriggers welded in.
I first cut a piece to weld on the inside, kind of like a tongue, about 1/4" narrower than the rail. I then fabbed a new frame rail piece by cutting the appropriate S shape from .080 steel, and welding 1/8" flat stock around the curves, to similate a piece that had been braked in a curve. I welded it on both sides, making sure to get extra good penetration. This piece essentially created a cap over the tongue piece and the section of the contraband compartment I'd fabbed earlier.
I then welded the cap section on, getting it most of the way done, until I ran out of wire... D'oh!
Next I finish welding this piece down, then I finish gusseting the frame rail to the torsion bar, and then this side of the frame is almost done. I still have to pull the front beam out and make some repairs to the section in front of it, and pull the transmission out and replace a couple sections back there.
In a couple days, the center sections will be here, and a few days after that, the top hats. The center sections tie the frame rails together across the bus, and the shift tube, clutch cable tube, well heck, all the tubes, go thru it. The top hats go on top of the frame rails, across the outriggers, and tie the frame together more, as well as supplying a base for the floor.

Last night I recieved the new outriggers from Das Bulli. BTW - there are supposed to be 6, not 4, outriggers. 2 long ones on the front and 4 short ones in the back. The length difference is because the frame is not straight, but actually bends just aft of the middle. So I got the new inner wheel well plate that I just fabbed welded in, and then welded the frame rail to that, and then the outrigger welded on between the frame rail and the inner rocker. I woulda welded on the rear outrigger, but there was this pesky piece of solid metal left from the original one (the nerve!) that I had to cut out, made more delicate by the fact that the e-brake cable tube runs right across it, and I don't want to damage it.

Between last night and tonight, I cut the lower portion of the old frame rail, where it enters the wheel well. I had to go about 3/4 of the way up to get around all of the rusted out areas and into solid metal. I then fabbed the plate which forms the wall of the contraband compartment and boxes the frame rail. My wire wheel for the die grinder was disintegrating, so I couldn't clean the area and weld it in yet.
Next I will create the U shaped channel to tie the two pieces of the frame together.
Any barndoor people on the list have the measurement from the bottom of the "seat shelf" to the top of the frame rail, or a between a similarly relevant set of points? I wanted to double check the "lattitude" of this new section. It is different, barndoor to non-barndoor, I already tried that by looking at the '56. This is important because it will affect how the floor and outer skin line up. I took measurements from the rib to the bottom of the rocker, and used a bottle jack to lift the cargo floor and frame rail into what I believe is the proper position.
I got lucky/good on lining up the frame rail crossways: using a straightedge across the existing and new frame rail sections, it appears to be aligned perfectly, or at least to tolerances which I can not see or measure. :)
The other lucky stroke is where my gusset ends on the rear section of the frame rail, where its welded: it ends up being perfectly in the middle of the outrigger!
I have been taking pictures as I go along. When I get this next set developed, I'll have some scanned and put them on my web page...

Today I fab'd the gussets to go between the frame rail and the torsion bar. A noisy, crappy job, but I gotta do it. Musta really PO'd the neighbors. Matters were compliacted by a jigsaw with a bent blade holder, so it always wants to go right.
I welded the first gusset on, and for once, when you grab the frame and shake, the whole bus moves!
One close call was suddenly remembering to cut a hole in the top rear edge of the frame rail so the wiring harness will have a place to go thru! I'm probably going to run that PVC coated flex conduit to replace the original metal tube. Ya see, all busses with belly pans, ie sunroof busses or double doors, had a pipe that ran on the inside of the right side frame rail to carry the wires; other busses just had tabs which held it up. This lets you fish a new harness thru later. So next I will weld on the gusset on the other side, and then start fabricating the front frame rail section, the one that curves up toward the beam. I have to replace from almost at its apex down. This section on barndoor busses is radically different than later ones: where the frame exits the floor towards the front, it makes a dramatic rise upwards to the area under the seat. Later busses had a gently sloped section. Due to the nature of this radical bend, barndoor busses also have 2 U channel supports, which are welded to the beam and bolt to the frame rails where the floor begins.

Just got the driver's side frame rail welded on! I was going to notch it in the back (notch back, get it?) and cut a beautiful half moon shaped piece out of it, using another torsion bar as a guide. Fit beautifully, until I put it up against my bus, when I realised that while it was going to fir perfectly, it was 1" - 1 1/2" too high! I'd made the cut directly in the middle of the section, when it should have been off-center, towards the top! D'oh! So I got a chunk of metal from a friend down the street Anyway, I got the rest of the areas clean up so I could clamp everything in place. Once I got everything shuffled around, I looked it over for about 15 minutes, then committed the whole thing.
Now I have to fabricate a piece to mate the rear torsion bar to the frame rail. With the 2 sections butted together in the center, I get about 1" of overhang in the front, and it just butts up against the torsion tube in the back. The piece I have to fab will gusset the frame and torsion tube. At the same time, I'll fab the piece to section the piece that goes up from the frame rail up to the torsion bar in the front.
Outriggers are on order from Das Bulli Haus, and I'm going to get an order for center sections (between the frame rails, front and rear) out today. I also have to fab a couple pieces to box the front and rear section of the rails, and to gusset the butt weld where the two sections meet in the middle.

I bought some 6 ton bottle jacks, and used them to truss up the bus. I then cut off the driver's side longitudinal rail and cleaned most of the are up in preparation of welding the new one on. This doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment, but there are alot of welds, and a lot of ragged metal to carefully cut thru.
Now I'm trying to figure out how best to put the new ones in. I think they were designed as repair sections, and not a direct replacement for the whole frame. Where I'm running into a problem is how to mate the frame piece with the rear torsion bar - round peg square beam story. I'm thinking of making a circular cut in the new piece so that it fits over the torsion bar, and then weld it right up. Haven't found anything to convince me why I should do otherwise yet. Any experiences from the field are welcome at this point...
So next I have to finish cleaning up the mess around the torsion bar and the front frame section, and I'm ready to weld.

Yesterday I cut the last of the inner rocker and jack point off, and welded on a new inner rocker. At the Vallejo swap meet, I got a set of semaphores, although they are for a bug, and a set of '54 tags to use for when I get the '51 plates. Friday I recieved the first shipment of pieces from Das Bulli Haus, the 4 sections of the longitudinal frame rails and the inner rockers.

I got a bunch more sandbalsting done, but tried a whole new technique: open air sandblasting! I parked the bus on the apron in front of the garage, lifted it up, and went to town. Plusses: can get bus higher into the air, so its easier to manuever underneath, and faster seup and teardown times; Minusses: harder to clean the sand up afterwards, and can get a bit warm in the sun. I think the net productivity gain makes it worth the wasted sand. Besides, now I'll get better drainange on the lawn... Hopefully the new metal will be here in time to weld in this weekend. I had a friend cut the sections out of the barndoor rear end I aquired. I decided to section it, since parts of the donor piece had modifications that I wasn't happy to install on the host bus. I have to finish cleaning up these pieces and trimming them down, and i'll be able to weld them in after I get the center longitudinals done.

Got a lot of useless metal cut off: the driver's side inner and outer rocker panels, the lower rotted portion of the driver's side longitudinal frame member. Blasted the rest of the driver's side underbelly and part of the middle section of the underbelly, and started on the driver's side front wheel well and front beam.

Got a lot of sandblasting done today, in fact a good portion of the driver's side 1/3 of the car, in to the frame longitudinal. I keep finding more metal that will have to be replaced.

Started sandblasting today. I'm hitting the very bottom of the learning curve here. I also had a lot of problems with the sandblaster, which I think are related to the small nozzle.

Ok, so I really haven't done much to the bus in the last month. I bought a new air compressor, a 5hp, 60 gal model, runs on 220V. I also bought a sandblaster from Harbor Freight Tools, and we're gonna play with that this weekend.

Today I removed the middle and rear seats, and vaccumed all the rust and junk out, including the back deck. Found that there is rust along the edge of the back deck, which extends into the cavity above the engine lid hinges. That area will be very challenging to fix! Removed the pedal box, and vaccumed all the rust from the cab floor as well. Also removed the remnants of the passenger cab floor section, which was not even the original metal, but a poorly done repair. The lower portion of the rear seat is toast, probably completely unusable.

Had a chat with Charlie Hamill, the Bus God, and he suggested a completely different approach to repairing the underside. He suggested that I replace the outer rockers first, since they attach to the I-beams, which would give the bus better support. Then I could remove and replace the longitudinal beams, one at a time of course, and then replace the center chassis sections. The parts that will be tricky to replace are the sections in the front between the center section and the beam, and the sections in the back between the chassis center section and the torsion bar housing.

Removed the passenger side rocker that was riveted on, and the belly pan on that side. Discussed plan of attack with a bus-friend, we came to decide on replacing the I-beams although they are salvageable, and to weld temporary supports to them to help stabilize the bus while replacing the frame rails. The next step is to sandblast the underside. In the meantime, I think I need to upgrade my compressor - it's not keeping up with my ambitions! I also need to purchase the frame members so I'll be ready to weld them in when I get the underside blasted. I also have to figure out how to set up the garage for sandblasting so I don't make a total mess.

Removed the riveted-on rocker panel on the driver's side by cutting with a grinding wheel. This let me see the underside much better. Rusty! Also removed the replacement belly pan someone welded on. Removed the lower 4-5" of the original sriver's side rocker panel.

Hooked up a battery charger to the battery cables to test the electrical system. The idot lights and parking lights work, but not the headlights, which I think is because I reomved the dimmer switch. I also removed the passenger side footrest, and managed to loosen all of the lugnuts except the ones on the driver's side front wheel, which for some reason is frozen solid. The next task is to cut off all lose metal, such as the faux rocker panels and belly pans someone had welded in prior. Then I will start sandblasting the undercarriage in preparation for welding in new crossmembers.

Took more pictures (2 rolls), mostly of the inside, and some of some particulaly rusty areas. Managed to get the heat director (the thing that switches between defrosting the windshield and defrosting your toes) un-frozen. I also managed to removed the floor section that covers the clutch - (on a barndoor bus there is a removable floor section, to access the cables). The clutch one was not too rusty, just a bit around the edges. The box which covers the pedals on the underside is a bit rusty, but salvageble.

Cleaned out the inside of the bus, removed the front floor mat, removed the fake semaphore light-thingies, managed to get the sunroof open, applied liquid wrench to all the nuts and bolts I could find. Generally spent the day looking the bus over.

Took delivery of bus from Charlie Hamill

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