Ghost Lighting Upgrade – LED


Well, it’s been a long time coming however finally The Ghost is getting a much needed jump into a more recent decade. Previous owners had hacked together turn signals, brake lights, and marker lights to get the rig down the road. Since I am a firm believer in proper lighting, I used as a guide for a full system redesign. Since The Ghost is >30ft long, certain rules applied for lighting that it currently doesn’t have.

On the list of things up replace/upgrade:

  • Convert x4 Brake/Tail red lights over to Red 4″ Grommet Mounted LED Lights
  • Convert x2 Rear Amber Turn Signals over to Amber 4″ Grommet Mounted LED Lights
  • Convert x2 Front Amber/Red Turn Signals over to Amber Rectangular Grommet Mounted LED Lights
  • Install Front Lower Side Amber Turn/Marker Lights
  • Install Mid Lower Side Amber Turn/Marker Lights
  • Install Rear Lower Side Red Turn/Marker Lights
  • Install Retroreflectors as required by guide above
  • Replace Bulbs in Clearance Lights with LED or Replace whole fixtures with LED

The previous owners had removed the factory front turn signals and since the originals are  impossible to find, I decided to install LED rectangular signals (closest match I could find that was reasonably priced). This required sawing a hole in the old turn signal ‘cover’ metal that someone had installed. Once that was finished, the lights simply popped into these holes and connection is made behind the dash and in the passenger side jockey box. It should be noted that using these locations requires some modification of the drivers side windscreen wiper bracket to allow the rather deep lights to fit far enough into the body to properly seat in the rubber grommets. Thinner fixtures would solve this problem as well.




















The rear lighting simply required moving the old incandescent fixtures, adjusting hole sizes, and mounting the 4″ round fixtures and their associated grommets. Since these are all LED lights, power consumption is so low that smaller new wiring is being run to feed the lights/relays for trailer connection. A LED compatible turn signal flasher is also required (cheaply available on Amazon/etc.)








The stock rear lighting configuration (two small fixtures down low on the body) looks cool but functionally I’d expect people to smash into the back of The Ghost regularly if that is all the lighting I had. The previous owners installation of x4 brake/tail and x2 turn signals looks tacky but is very effective at catching people’s attention (even over motorcycles/etc. mounted on the rear). With the LED conversions installed, things are VERY bright back there when on the stop pedal.

Steel armored side marker/turn signals were mounted low down on the side of the body (amber mid, amber front, and red rear) to provide the requirements for NTSB. These also aid greatly (properly connected) to indicate when executing a lane change if someone is sitting along-side the coach. To make this work, the side LED lights simply are connected one wire to tail light power, one wire to turn signal power. Resistors may be required depending upon the internal makeup of the lights, but this works nicely to help get cars out of the way when on the freeway. Lights were sourced off Ebay (Optronics model MCL86RB)

Overhead clearance lighting is functioning currently and since I recently sealed all the fixtures to the roof, I am inclined to continue using them but swap out the bulbs with LED conversions. I would only be tempted to replace these if I was able to source the original large clearance lights found on the bus in the 50’s (unobtainium). No rush on these.

Retro-reflectors are being mounted in all positions where the associated marker/turn/tail light doesn’t already have them built in. There are a few other locations that require a retro-reflector so I will add as necessary. These are very effective at lighting the coach in the event of a on-road power failure or when parked to prevent getting smashed into.


Overall fairly pleased with the conversion. It will be nice to leave marker lighting on when doing deep desert camping to prevent collisions without worry of draining down the battery.




Shes home!

The Ghost made the first trip since transmission work and made it to the new home DAS BREMHAUS! Lots of freeway onramp power and with the ‘audiable’ new exhaust, people stay out of the blind spot.


Exhaust Upgrade

Something long overdue for work, mostly back-burnered because it wasn’t outright dragging on the ground, was the existing exhaust system. The stock dual 3 into 1 manifolds with matching  <3″ piped canisters + flexible rusty crushed pipe just wasn’t cutting it. The Ghost’s exhaust was quiet enough, but cruising down the highway I had a feeling the back-pressure was high and the restriction too much to let the engine stretch out. I sourced some 5″ exhaust components, installed an industrial 6 into 1 (4″) manifold, and built up a custom system.


The industrial manifold (which you usually see mounted upright) points down off the back of the cylinder head with the outlet pipe parallel to the engine block. I installed an immediate 4″ to 5″ adapter at the output flange. From there it travels downwards about 10″ and then bends (about 85 degrees from straight) towards the front of the bus. Usually there is a bulkhead here (aluminium) however I cut out a 8-9″ round hole to allow the pipe to pass through without touching or rubbing. It them immediately makes a turn to the drivers side of the coach, where it connects with the 5″ resonator and drops out close to the ground through a 5″ turn-down. I lightly sectioned a undercarriage panel (non structural) so that the turn-down fit nicely up into the body without hanging out the breeze (making the coach wider) or being even closer to the ground. The end result turned out excellent and shy of installing a few rubberized exhaust hangers, the setup is done. A slip-joint coupling was used at the pass-through of the bulkhead; everything else being welded solid. The flange obviously unbolts from the manifold as well.

The end result is a very aggressive high flow exhaust. There is room for improvement in the overall noise level department, but the note is acceptable and we’ll see how it sounds on a long run. A longer muffler can could be installed in place of the shorter one if needed. It definitely lets you know it is a 426cu in 2-stroke…rat rod style.


A size photo comparison of the purchased 5″ muffler.



As you can see, it is a direct pass-through design with two resonant perforated sections at the inlet/outlet and a open area in the middle.



Here is a photo of the piece that connects (at the bulkhead) to the rest of the exhaust up to the engine.



While I was doing this task, I took the opportunity to do an acid was on the cooling system. I had seen scale buildup evidence in my coolant buckets/samples so, figuring it hadn’t be done in quite some time, gave it a strong shock of Oxalic acid for a few runs up and down the road. I then drained, flushed multiple times, and re-filled with my coolant.



The handy trick for filling a horizontal radiator cap which is eye level from a 5-gal bucket. Funnel + flexible hose + bungee cord + forklift.



All in all a very productive Saturday. I took a break from the work for Mothers Day and will resume re-assembling the sheet metal back onto the rear of The Ghost so it can make it’s trip over to the new house Emily and I are closing on this week.


Until next time…

VS2-8 Transmission O/D Repair – Finished! & Powertrain Update

Well, it’s been multiple weekends and week nights working hard to get it fixed, but the VS2-8 transmission in The Ghost is now back to operational status.


A few short (<5mi) test drives were performed however with an unfinished exhaust system, things are a little too loud to be driving far. All three ‘gears’ were fully functioning and after topping off the transmission fluid (being careful not to overfill) shifts were firm.

There still remains the need for a microswitch on the throttle linkage to enable the soft down-shift solenoid for O/D to direct drive. I also want to fine-tune the shift point into O/D as currently the switch happens at about 40MPH and I would prefer it to be closer to 52MPH. I am also planning to install a small fluid/air transmission cooler and some valves for switching between O/D and Direct Drive (manual mode).

Another large hurtle overcome was getting the engine power up to rated output. Apparently making the timing adjustment as well as re-adjusting all injectors/exhaust valves with doing a full rack run/setup procedure really brought the power output up. The ‘new’ governor cover with shutdown lever that I had been fighting (and discovered was limiting fuel travel) had been adjusted to no longer interfere. With this fixed, the rack tuned normally and the idle, high speed, and full fuel adjustments were 10 times easier. Seat-of-the-pants power output feels considerably better than before. With overdrive fixed, MPG should improve as well.


The positive to negative ground conversion is going well. The generator and the regulator (stock) both operated properly once I re-polarized the generator with negative ground. The dash gauges indicated charging status and everything except the positive ground gauges I disconnected is still working. I still need to fabricate a dash, re-wire the heater coolant pump motor (swap wires), and install all the engine/transmission gauges/speedometer. It appears there will be 1 speedometer gauge + 8 aux gauges spots:

  • Speedometer (0-85MPH)
  • Engine Oil Pressure (0-80psi)
  • Engine Water Temperature (0-250F)
  • Fuel Level
  • Transmission Temperature (0-400F) – 2 senders
  • Transmission Pressure (0-150psi)
  • Air Pressure (dual needle, indicate tank + application)
  • Charge Current (stock for now)
  • 1 slot left for a 2nd air pressure gauge if I go dual circuit air brakes

This weekend the plan is to fit the 5″ exhaust + muffler and route properly through the bulkhead. a 4″ to 5″ adapter is used at the industrial manifold (4 bolt) then it travels down along block, turns forward towards the bulkhead, passes through (need to cut a large hole) and bends to meet the muffler (if it won’t fit before this) and then finally dumps on the drivers side just behind the rear wheel with a 5″ turn-down. Makes for a total of ~170 degrees of 5″ mandrel bend (minus turn-down). The muffler is a straight-through resonator (Walker 21835). It will be a little loud, however I did not have enough space for a full size can in 5″ and I’d rather have less restriction than quiet exhaust (30ft from the drivers seat). I may fashion some sort of adapter to install on (or in place of) the turn-down for on-playa use to prevent stirring up playa dust from exhaust flow.


Another time lapse video from last nights work:

A photo before I put the valve cover and corner support rod back on for final road test.


VS2-8 Transmission O/D Repair – Day 5 & 6

Another Update (with videos!)

The flyhweel, starter, generator, air compressor, transmission, cooling lines, and hydraulic lines are all re-installed and ready for leak checking. The engine compartment air system has had the fat trimmed off (old valves/gauges for the prior transmission) and the shutter-stat air oiler was re-mounted in a better location. The new single 4″ outlet exhaust manifold has been mounted and is awaiting exhaust pipe. The exhaust valve clearance and individual injector timing has been checked and set. Only a few of the injectors were off. After connecting some fuel lines and filling fluids, the engine will be ready for running the rack and final governor settings adjustments. I am also planning a oxalic acid flush of the cooling system to help reduce scale buildup in the block/radiator.

I also did some MUCH NEEDED service on the stock oil bath air filters. Apparently they had ingested a rat/mouse nest at some point while doing long drives. I had checked these filters when I first acquired The Ghost but deemed them reasonable.

Hopefully this evening (4/7/2012) I will at least have the engine running so that The Ghost can power around the parking lot without needing the forklift to push it out of the way of normal business activities on the property.

Some Time Lapse Videos:

The Ghost – Setting the Timing

The Ghost – 2012_05_05



Here is a photo of the bottom of the air filter mesh canisters as well as the oil bath pans. Quite possibly the dirtiest filter I have ever seen…it is a wonder the engine ran.



Here is another photo of the air filter sides (stainless steel mesh).



Putting a fresh coat of paint on the air filter oil bath canisters.



The mesh bags fit up into the body and then the oil basins go on the bottom.



The transmission (and generator) installed. This was late morning Sunday before installing the air compressor and working on the valve/injector train/cooling system lines.


More to come soon!

Positive to Negative Ground Conversion Progress

The 120A generator, which will be installed pre-transmission, will be re-polarized in a hope to convert the bus to negative ground. It appears, through careful study of the dual field voltage regulator, that there are NO diodes or other current direction sensitive devices that require replacement of the regulator for negative ground operation. The starter for the engine, like most, is a field wound DC motor so reversing both the armature and the field windings results in same direction of rotation. Lighting systems, etc. do not care about which direction current flows. VDO instruments have been acquired to monitor the following:

  • Electronic Speedometer (0-85MPH)
  • Electric Engine Oil Pressure (0-80psi)
  • Electric Engine Coolant Temperature (0-250F)
  • Electric Transmission Oil Temperature (0-400F)
  • Electric Fuel Level
  • Electric Transmission Main Pressure (0-150psi)

The coach already has a gauge for showing charging/discharging and hopefully will continue to work (just with reversed what-is-what). The only loss to the whole project will be that I will sell my 12V +ground stewart warner fuel gauge that I got off ebay last year. All air pressure gauges are mechanical. A HUGE advantage will be that all negative ground device, like the stereo, CB, phone chargers, etc. no longer have to be ground isolated or use a converter. Also, my DSI water heater, which has a negative to ground bond that is very difficult to break and keep operating (the auto ignite sparker uses negative ground as a return path to the high voltage coil), will be able to be hooked up normally. All in all, a very reasonable setup for zero dollar cost (all gauges except engine oil temp were failed or had broken senders).

VS2-8 Transmission O/D Repair – Day 3 & 4

Another weekend, more things checked off the drivetrain list.

The big project for this weekend was to prepare the engine for the transmission reassembly and reassemble the transmission splitter overdrive clutch pack and planetary to make sure there were no hidden problems waiting to be discovered.


Part of removing the end housing off the engine is needing to replace the (leaking) oil pan gasket. This involves removing the oil pan from the coach, cleaning, and reinstalling with a new gasket. Seems easy however the maze of underbody cribbing and structure keep the puzzle adequately difficult. It was also suspected that there was a bunch of foreign material in the oil pan, after discovering the chunk of material wedged up against the main crank gear from an old air compressor drive failure.


Here is a photo of the oil pan just after removal. You can see the amount of foreign material in the pan (which should only contain motor oil)


Here is a close up photo of the sump. Note the lack of cleanliness!



While in this area, I decided to remove the entire exhaust system to allow for the installation of my much simpler and (hopefully) better flowing 4-5″ exhaust system. These, shy of the flex, are probably stock setups. Both of the brackets that hold the mufflers to the oil pan area were loose, causing wear points on the oil pan (eventually would have worn through the pan, causing a massive leak). The mufflers themselves were starting to show signs of wear as both input and output pipes were starting to rattle loose and leaking exhaust. Time for replacement.



Here is a photo of what you often don’t see. The air-box cover has been removed (to replace the gasket) and the governor housing, flyweights, water pump, and blower end housing to allow for replacement of a gasket that was leaking oil. I was in here recently (August 2011) to inspect issues with the governor when I discovered the water pump drive had failed. Unfortunately I didn’t have the correct gasket to do the job, so some Three Bond + Gaffing Tape saved the day for the trips. Upon R&Ring this area, I found that there was yet ANOTHER piece of water pump drive plastic laying in the sump where it didn’t belong. Apparently it had been hiding behind something and didn’t get removed when I replaced the drive. Bottom left is oil to water cooler, and bottom right is the oil filter housing.



Here is a photo of the bottom of the engine (oil pan removed) you can see the oil pickup tube as well as the main bearing caps and connecting rods. These parts are NOT small. The dipstick is visible on the right side of the photo.



This is the material that was stuck in the oil pickup screen. There were many more small particles stuck in the screen itself (not visible here). Fortunately this piece is EASILY cleanable and accessible without removing the whole oil pan (a lower sub pan removes for easy access). The Ghost has a full flow oil filter so luckily none of this stuff made it into the bearing surfaces.



Here is a photo in the air-box with the cover removed. You can see (through the air intake holes) the skirt of the piston. It is in fairly good shape. This space is showing the miles but there is no accumulation of moisture which means the air-box drains are clear. This space is pressurized at all times the engine is running to force air out of the combustion chambers on the down stroke (end of power and beginning of exhaust). This is a 2-stroke diesel engine (every stroke of the piston is a power stroke).



Although this LOOKS Alpine Green, it is actually dark grey paint that I happened to have on hand to paint the paint-less gross oil pan, post cleaning.



Here is a close up shot of the governor housing flyweights. These flyweights, in conjunction with the springs in the governor box, regulate engine idle speed and maximum engine RPM. They are fed rotational energy off the end of the blower housing (just above the water pump).



Here is a photo of the splitter overdrive clutch housing being assembled. The top of this stack is the bellville spring which translates the piston movement into an actual clutch pack movement (and thus, a shift).



A photo of the now MUCH cleaner engine after hours of pressure washing. Of primary ‘nasty’ was the engine mounting points below the transmission and the subframe components. I also discovered that my radiator was 1/3 plugged with foreign material in the cooling fins. Some Castol Superclean + HOT pressure washer water cleared things outs nice (don’t do this at home, you likely will damage the radiator fins). It is amazing that the engine didn’t overheat more readily with the amount of plugging it was experiencing. A minor oil leak at the oil pan and compressor housing caused most of the engine to the right of the roots blower to be coated with dirt + oil + playa dust so thick that only the high pressure spray would tear it loose. The engine block actually now needs a good coat of Alpine Green to finish it off.



Here is a progress photo of the transmission after installing the splitter overdrive clutch pack. This setup is now ready for the planetary + outer gear before installation. Some plumbing rework will be done as well as dropping the pan to gather all the last metal bits and whatnot that fell down in there. The factory installs a large magnet in the pan so I’m expecting that to be quite built up with shards. The flywheel, with the new bushing installed in visible in the bottom right side of the photo. The two spacer rings required for a 6-71 to VS2-8 mating are visible on the left of the photo.



It was a very productive weekend and after a few more hours of cleaning up the last bits, the transmission should be ready to install and start building the supportframing that I have needed to build all this time. A medium size external oil cooler will also be fitted to help keep the transmission cool in the direct-drive/over-drive mode where not much fluid passes through the cooler.


More soon.



Transmission Parts Arrived

Huge thanks to Luke at US Coach for getting me the parts super quick that I need to do the transmission assembly this weekend.

Ordered 4 of the pilot bushings (brass/bronze rings), two sets of the seals that are destroyed on dissasembly of the splitter O/D clutch pack, and 4 pan gaskets.

Part Numbers:

  • VS2-8 Pilot Bushing (presses into flywheel) – 5188926
  • VS2-8 Pan Gasket (one piece) – 677405
  • VS2-8 Rubber Seal (one needed if removing splitter O/D clutch pack) – 6778345
  • VS2-8 Teflon Seal (one needed if removing splitter O/D clutch pack) – 6778086


That bushing part number took some serious digging to find…so hopefully it will help someone in the future. Luke @ US Coach. (888) 262-2434 is the guy whom I got these parts from.