Battery Upgrade

Hello again!

I recently addressed the long outstanding issue of The Ghost’s corroded battery tray and dying group 8D battery. The original battery holder was rusted and since it interfered with my black water tank outlet, I had hacked on it heavily to make things work. Two burning-mans later, I decided it was time to properly build a tray to hold some new batteries!

The trickiest bit is that not only must the tray hold the batteries, they must also be removable AND allow for the plumbing to route around them (grey water from fore, black water from aft). Having the hose connection behind this door saves having to cut another door or having plumbing hanging down dangerously low on the chassis to snag on stuff. Originally The Ghost had two group 8D batteries to support the stop/go driving…numerous incandescent lights…and electrics for the door controls/starter/etc. Now that the load is lightened and space is premium, I decided to install two new group 4D batteries that I acquired cheaply (they were blemished and repaired). I normally would prefer one larger battery over paralleled dual batteries but the space only allows for maximally two 4D.

With the old battery carrier removed (held in by bailing wire), I drafted up an idea in my head, purchased a 20ft stick of 1/4″ 2″ steel angle iron and set out to building the tray.

Angle Iron on the chop saw (in the rain)


Scheming the pieces (in the rain). Welding too!

After much cutting/tacking/getting wet and shocking myself, I finally had something tacked together ready for final welding (and it fit like a glove between the frame rails and cleared the sewage tank fitting nicely). Bottom views:

Finshed Product 1Finished Product 2

Once everything was welded up and checked for fitment, I blew on some rustoleum brown primer paint and drilled the various holes for mounting. I used fine thread 1/2 stainless bolts/nuts/washers/lockwashers to make sure things didn’t move. In once place I had to use a small spacer to make up the gap difference but in the end it was a perfect fit. On the last hole I killed my Milwaukie 1/2 drill bit (sheared it off laterally) in the frame of The Ghost. THICK STUFF!

Finished Installed Clearing Tank Valves Finished Tray Installed and Primered

Now it was time to upgrade the battery cables, install some rubber mat, and test fit the batteries/etc.

New Cable Ends New Cable Ends 2 Cleaning and Protecting the Ground

Once all the cables were clean/coated with copper shield/tightened I was ready for the batteries.

Batteries Installed

I obviously need to finish the final securing method to keep the batteries in their tray but the 2×4 is doing the job nicely for now. The temporary red/black duplex wire on the left is the connection to the float charger/house electricals to keep things fresh for solid starting. In the above photo you can see that the batteries are high enough to allow for the 1.5″ grey water plumbing to run under them and across to the front of the coach where the grey water tank will be. The angle piece of the front is simply for structural support and gives me a nice place to mount my battery restraint.

Check back soon for more updates! Thanks for stopping by!



November Update – No News is Good News

Hello again!

The Ghost has been sitting quietly in the driveway these past couple months enjoying some much needed rest. The return trip from BurningMan 2012 was uneventful although VERY long (multiple construction zones stopped us many times, and we didn’t hit pavement until closer to noon departing BRC). I think we rolled into PDX right around 0230. I don’t like pushing it that hard, but I had a good amount of pre-trip rest stored up to tap into. The ghost never missed a beat and once we got back down under 500ft elevations, it was coming on night so the air cooled off and the horsepower really jumped up to make the I-5 stretch rather speedy.

I took her out last weekend to go service the black water tank (had been sitting in the driveway since early September) and blow the cobwebs out. Unfortunately I once again plugged up a fuel dip tube in the tank so I need to fix that (again). There must be more junk floating around in the tank causing issues. Shy of that annoyance, the rest of the trip was uneventful.

When I brought her back into the parking slot and shut things down, it turns out that some small air leak has reared it’s head under the chassis. Some quick investigation shows it right off the main dry air tank feed line to the brakes in some odd little aluminum block. I will investigate further and either a) repair the block or b) find that it’s other lines run nowhere and it can be replaced with a straight coupling. Half the air line leaks on the coach have been repaired by just removing unused fittings/lines (which used to run air doors, etc.) Otherwise, the only other concerning leak is some small one on the drivers side rear air suspension . To keep things ‘level’ I have to keep her attached to my air compressor for a weekly fill-up of the aux tank.

Next on the list is getting the two new Group 4D batteries installed for hopefully better cold weather starts and also getting the hydronic heating system installed for the early February camp-out we always attend. I usually use a 120V 1500W oil radiator heater but it’d be nice to at least have the system functioning for a full-on test. Roof painting is on hold until the weather becomes more agreeable. I am also going to start working on the coach HVAC control circuity (thermostat that will control two zones of both heat and AC)
I’ve also been slowly bringing the deep cycle batteries up to full charge that I scored out of the old paper mill. The appear to be holding charge nicely and the internal impedance is looking nice and low so far. I will start load testing them soon to see what happens. I have a holder for about 400-500A/hr of these at 24V to run the future desired inverter/charger & onboard systems (the coach itself is 12V).

More to come soon and hopefully some more interior shots as I build it out more and get it all cleaned up.




Interior Documenting August 2012

Some quick photos of the inside and current build state before Burning Man 2012.


I am right in the middle of finishing out the bathroom enough to have a decent shower space so that plus the kitchen sink area is a bit under construction…

View looking forward from entry door landing:


View of the kitchen from the entry landing:


Seating area (stock bus seats from the 50’s), lightly elevated for breaking up single plane interior:


Drivers position (dash not yet fixed in place with screws):


Drivers control panel/seat/steering wheel/pedals:


View from the front facing back towards the bedroom/bathroom w/ sliding door open (dining room chairs lightly tilted to help keep people ‘in the seat’.


Kitchen view from the front. Sink/stove/fridge visible, not yet framed for storage or drawers/power equipment:


Bathroom current status (removed upper advertisement panels), ready for insulation and plastic wall material behind toilet.



Thanks for checking in!

Window Tinting!

After last year’s desert excursion (Burning Man 2011) and with our recent visit to 4th of Juplaya (2012), we decided that window tinting was now upgraded to a MUST HAVE to be able to survive in a metal tube (with glass windows) in the desert.

I picked up some ‘somewhat’ reasonably reviewed Gilla window tinting from Lowes (similar price to Amazon) and while it isn’t rated for automotive applications, should work nicely on the RV application. It is an actual adhesive (not static cling) and installs just like it would on a car (soapy solution + plastic knife). The results have been quite decent for single pane glass. I first did a rear bedroom window (directly facing into the sun) and it made a 10-12 degree F difference in surface temperature (on the white mattress). The glass had a slightly higher temperature but when viewing from the outside, it is obvious that the tint/thermal management film is doing it’s job (good rejection).

This, combined with the white painting that is happening, should DRASTICALLY improve interior temperatures of the coach in the summer heat in the desert. We don’t often open the windows at Burning Man (bad dust) so having them closed with this film should help the situation. I’m hoping it will be decent enough for us to not need to run our solar reflectors (silver bubble wrap) inside the windows as well but we shall see. The overall ‘tint’ of the windows isn’t that substantial however the reflective rejection properties are pretty decent.

For your consideration, tinted on the left, non-tinted on the right. Noticeable difference. I haven’t tinted the upper smaller windows yet.

I should have the rest finished off in the next couple nights!



Thanks for checkin’ in!

VS2-8 Fix Update – Repaired!

As some may recall, from my last post, the ‘replacement’ transmission for The Ghost ended up being an incorrect ratio (non-ideal) and would require some fancy footwork on the old transmission to make things work.

Well, all that work is now complete and The Ghost is back into operational status! The transmission repair and replacement ended up being a breeze. Using the good overdrive planetary + clutch pack from the ‘new’ transmission to install on the damaged ‘old’ transmission, I ended up with a fully functional (and hopefully happier shifting!) overdrive! The transmission pan (upon inspection) was rather clean and while in there I added a couple 1/4″ washers to the pressure regulator spring stack on the fluid pump to give a little extra pressure in the heat.

The only remaining projects are to cut the hole for the transmission oil cooler in the side door, tidy up a couple little leaks, and do a final hose/bolt check after the NorthWestMogFest shakedown run!

I snapped some photos through the process randomly so enjoy!

Picture of the completed setup:image

The repaired transmission ready to go back on the transmission jack and be installed:


The freshly cleaned flywheel housing with good used bushing installed in the flywheel. This bushing was from the ‘new’ transmission and fit so tightly that I have no issue using it versus machining a new one.


Another photo of the new transmission preparing to be installed:


A photo (for documentation) of the required modification (in addition to shaving the ring down for proper end-play) to the spacer ring around the starter area for clearance.


Here’s a photo of the milling bed being set up to shave down the bellhousing spacer (removed 0.230″ from one spacer to properly set the end-play on the splitter O/D gear pack).


Here’s another photo (thanks Andy!) of me using a cordless drill to run the rotary table around while removing material off the spacer. Worked well!











Here’s a photo of the ‘old’ clutch pack and sun gear assembly after removal from the ‘old’ transmission input shaft. You can see the black sun gear in the bottom left.


This is what I found (expected) when I removed the transmission. Blown up planetary gears and a damaged sun gear.



All in all the whole process was made a LOT easier by having a cement driveway, taking my time, and having milling machine access for doing the spacer ring adjustment (thanks again Andy!) Let’s see if we can keep this setup together so I don’t have to repair it for a 3rd time! Getting tired of having to swap transmission parts right before Burning Man 🙂

Thanks for checking in!

Major Bummer!

The new transmission, on the verge of being installed, reared it’s ugly head and showed it’s true nature………it’s the wrong ratio!

It happens to be one of the most rare VS2-8 models…and there’s no way to tell unless you drive the bus or drop the pan. Unfortunately it’s the center bevel gear ratio so it’s not really worth changing on an otherwise good transmission.

So the game plan is to take the good parts (overdrive gears, clutches, oil pump, etc.) and move it into the busted transmission.

Unfortunately it means more work….but we shall prevail!

More soon.

VS2-8 Repair Round TWO!

So, it broke again.

On our way back from Reno, NV (working after the 4th of Juplaya Trip), we lost overdrive just before Susanville. The feeling and the sound was the same. Large pow, and left with only 1st and 2nd gear. It was the middle of the night on a road that didn’t allow safely parking a 8ft wide 35ft long bus enough to have a look-see at what just happened. I did a visual, nothing was horribly wrong externally, so we continued on.

Fast forward to this week, I’ve been preparing to remove the transmission from The Ghost to determine the fault and drop in the replacement transmission! I recently acquired another VS2-8 from a gentlemen in Kelso, WA out of a Colorado (Mountain Metropolitan Transit) New Look T6H-4523A. The clutch packs look to be in sound shape (better than mine) and the internals were EXCEPTIONALLY clean. Assuming nothing alarming rear its head before installation, this will be the future transmission for The Ghost.

The reason I pursued an entirely new transmission was two fold. First, the parts to fix The Ghost’s VS2-8 (failed round two) are near impossible to find. Secondly, there may be a compound issue with low MAIN pressure on the transmission, which could be aggravating the lack of lubrication issue. Either way, I will be installing my sensors (two temperature sensors and one MAIN pressure sensor) along with the lock for 2nd gear (for descents with Jacobs brakes and climbing large hills).

To make this new transmission work, I will need to adjust the gear end-play from 0.250″ to .050″ or less. This large gap caused a bypassing of lubrication oil of the planetary gear driven plate…eventually leading to a failure of the bearings/bushings. I will be building a small spacer to insert into the transmission stackup to close this gap and hopefully solve the problem for good. This of course is the repercussions of installing a VS2-8 (designed for a deep bellhousing 8v71) on a 6-71 (with a shallow bellhousing) with dual spacer rings.

I also learned (by acquiring my VS2-8) that the factory setup on a 8v71 uses about 1/2 to 2/3 the number of bolts to hold the transmission to the engine that I am using in my setup, WITHOUT a external support on the end of the transmission. I have already built a support (using a motor mount rubber for a Kennworth tractor) so this should be plenty of support to keep the transmission attached to the engine.

Outside of adding this spacer, and re-installing with the new transmission, things should go rather smoothly. I recovered all of my old (undamaged) fluid so I could put it into the new transmission. This is similar to the fluid required for wet clutch driven heavy equipment (like bulldozers).

Over the next few days I should have the spacer built and be back to re-installation. Hopefully everything is ready for a shakedown run to NorthWestMogFest 2012 then shortly after down to BurningMan 2012!

Thanks for checking in!

Gray Ghost No More!


Quick update as I begin the roof-to-beltline painting of marine epoxy high gloss white on The Ghost. This will MASSIVELY help with interior thermal management and also with cleaning/etc.

For perspective, the gray roof gets so hot in full sun that I cannot hold my hand to it (120F+). The white roof on the Volkswagen Riveria nearby (same paint) is ambient (80-85F) temperature when touched in the same sun. The paint I’m using is Petit brand Easypoxy High Gloss White. It’s not cheap, but with a Port Supply account and some wheeling and dealing, I can get it about 1/2 price (gallon can retails over $120). It is deigned for boat top-side paint. It has to be applied in 2-3 thin coats over a few days for the finish to fully cure and be rock hard. This stuff is highly recommended if you have metal/wood/fiberglass that you want to seal/cover. Preparation for paint involves a pneumatic disk sander (for auto body work) and some medium grit disks. I’m also wire brushing all loose flakes/spots off before a good blast with pressure air to clean. I’m simply foam/bristle brushing it on and will low nap roller it on once I hit the large open areas.

I will be doing the whole length of the bus in this to the beltline to start the paint match to the original delivered color scheme (white, navy blue stripe, gray below). It should make things much cooler in the desert when done. Thanks for checkin’ in!

Burning Man 2012 – Trip Schedule for Ghost Riders

Here’s the current trip schedule for The Ghost Bus for the PDX/Black Rock City, NV route! It’s pretty hot and heavy but less of a push than last years. It should make it much easier on myself (as driver) and passengers enduring the warmth & lovely noise of The Ghost.

Thursday Aug 23rd, 2012:

  • 0800hrs – All riders meet up at Das Bremhaus, situate any cars to be left behind, and arrange last minute carry-ons
  • 0900hrs – Depart PDX from Das Bremhaus
  • 1030hrs – Stop at Santiam River Rest Area – South Bound
  • 1050hrs – Depart Rest Area
  • Random Breaks/stops as needed + Lunch
  • 1700hrs – Arrive Kalamath Falls Fred Meyers – Fuel Up
  • 1745hrs – Depart Kalamath Falls Fred Meyers
  • 1915hrs – Arrive Eagles Nest RV Park – Take on Water & Sleep

Friday Aug 24th, 2012:

  • 1000hrs – Depart Eagles Nest RV Park
  • 1100hrs – Arrive Alturas, CA – Gather Food/Supplies at General Store
  • 1130hrs – Depart Alturas, CA
  • 1140hrs – Climb over flippin huge Cedar Pass
  • 1159hrs – Remove seat from buttocks and begin enjoyable decent into Cedarville
  • 1220hrs – Pass through Cedarville – Add some fuel if needed due to extra weight
  • Bake across desert – Lunch as able
  • 1545hrs – Arrive Gerlach, NV – Bypass town unless anyone needs any last things
  • 1630hrs – Arrive BRC Gate Road
  • 1635hrs – Holy crap we made it.

Departure from Black Rock City will be fairly similar with departure likely slated for Wednesday early morning. I usually attempt to make a good run at getting up and over the Cedar Pass before the heat of the day really gets into full swing. That also makes for a very nice lunch stop at Alturas ice cream/burger place. Anyone who is interested in a return trip to PDX needs to clear it with Emily and myself BEFORE slated departure. If we’re transporting just your materials and not you, we need to know that as well (and get packed the night before).


Obviously plans can change due to vehicular issues, heat, exhaustion, emergencies, animals, mother nature, locusts, fire, and/or detours. The Ghost is NOT a fast way to arrive at BRC but if you are up for the adventure, welcome aboard. Ear protection recommended.


Dash Removal

Well the day is finally coming to upgrade the dash in The Ghost to allow for more gauges, newer priorities, and less incandescent bulbs. I Removed all the gauges from the dash (the only decently working ones being the air pressure, engine charge indicator, and water temp) and all the indicator lights (many for city bus service…long disabled). My hope is to continue using the charge indicator (shunt DC current meter) however eventually switching over to a voltage meter would likely suffice















This was a fairly emotional moment…tearing one of the few completely stock pieces of The Ghost out…like gutting the heart out of an animal. I take ease in the fact that it will be replaced with a nice milled piece of aluminium with 9 gauges sitting front and center. I am now in the process of tidying up the wiring all the way back to the junction panels to allow for a much tidier behind-dash condition. The long broken speedometer system will be abandoned in favor of a newer VDO pulse sender. All other gauges (other than air) will be routed electrically through a new 15 conductor cable to the rear of the coach to new senders placed all over the engine/transmission/etc. I also will be using this cable to run a few signals for engine/transmission devices (Jake Brakes, Neutral Solenoid, Direct-Drive Lock).

I am also moving over the maxi-air-brake valve (parking/emergency brakes) a little closer to the driver position to allow for less air-lines running behind the dash and to aid in dash removal for service. I also removed the very old AM/FM 8-track radio even though it still works. I am tired of looking at that ugly thing hanging out of the dash.

For perspective of the magnitude of this project, have a look at these photos:















While it would be easy to just gut everything and start over…this system is actually fairly decent (including self resetting circuit breakers, large gauge conductors, shrink wrap, and labels). I will slowly transition over to the new wiring but will be keeping many of the old devices that seem reasonable to continue using (horn relay, circuit breakers, bus bars). Doing an all-out replacement is possible however with the expense of copper wiring, it seems silly to gut the old wiring simply to replace it immediately with new. Transition is the name of the game here…just means more complications.

Needless to say, the body manual has been invaluable in this process with full size schematics, labels, and circuit descriptions. Not recommended for the faint of heart.

Oddly enough, even in it’s current state, it will still start and run.

More soon!