I have been working through ideas for more than year now on how to bring the Geo Suzuki business to the whole country in a more hands on way. I have had many many of you offer to buy franchises and I am intrigued by the idea, honestly have no idea how that work out. Part of the issue is I'm simply so busy I have a chance to delve into properly. Then of course I have some trade secrets that make each part of the vehicles work better and last longer. Its hard to figure out a way to give that up. I am truly not ready to retire and in fact I just want to find a more unique way to bring my services to you and make it a bit more interesting for me.
Well I believe I have found a direction that inspires me and challenges myself. My goals starting about two years ago were to find a way to be in more involved with individual customers around the world. YOUTUBE does this a bit for me through my open channel and my private channel. Its simply isn't enough so I added live HD cameras which I hear many people enjoy and I have tremendous viewership with. Its a great option but not the connection I was looking for.
I was at a road race course watching some Suzuki GTI's put down some amazing lap times running 18 plus lbs of boost on a couple long blocks I had built for the So Cal Rally Group. They had an amazing pit set up with a a couple RV's but no trailers? The cars came in off the track from testing and drove right up into the back of the custom built RV's. They had Built car haulers with living quarters in 40ft buses. The rear was a small shop capable of a complete full car tear down and resemble.
Since you can not buy one of these units as they are extra extra custom. I decided to start collecting up and procuring the parts I would need to build my custom coach.
This week I finally found the donor bus for this conversion. I searched high and wide as I needed a particular bus that virtually isn't built any more or for the last 10 years (maybe) I think. The trick is most bus's have rear engines and transmissions. They call them pushers. This would be your Grey Hounds, Provost, MCI and most school buses. I was able to track down a International built bus with a AM TRAN Genesis built coach or body. This bus has a couple things that make it special. First the roof is about 6" taller which make a huge difference inside. It has the longest coach body built at 40ft. It also has one of the larger bus engines used and since its a International chassis of course its a international engine and rear end. It uses the DT466 engine and the Allison 643 transmission which has a lock up torque convertor which gives it about 10% more MPG and keeps the transmission much cooler running fast or over a mountain pass. Not to mention the rear end is some thing like a 15 ton gear box.
This bus has a front engine which is referred to as FE model and was offered as RE rear engine as well. The rear engine creates a hump in the back of the coach which stops you from having a flat floor to drive up into. The front engine has a drive shaft like a normal truck to the rear end that ends at the rear end which is about 12 feet from the rear of the bus leaving the floor flat from front to rear on A FE model. Its a flat nose coach. A truck nose is a dog nose FYI.
What I really like about this International Navistar chassis is it is the only midsize semi style truck chassis with a engine that uses wet cylinders. Instead of removing the block and machining the bore during a over haul you simply remove the head and oil pan. Slip the pistons out and push the cylinders themselves right out of the block and install new ones. Its very convenient because of how heavy the parts are. I expected having to buy one of these older coaches to convert I would probably have to rebuild it. Luck would be on my side as each bus I looked at I spent about 5 hours going over a check list I had made.
Being that I was going over every detail and being very scrupulous about my purchase as I new any thing I missed I was not really set up to fix myself as it all takes big truck equipment. Just changing a tire can be a job. Just a couple weeks back I came upon a gentleman selling over priced buses. He had bought several hoping to re sell them at a hefty profit. What he did not know is anything about the buses. So he bought a variety pack you might say. One of each kind of bus.
After a very tight inspection I noticed one of two possible chassis to be very clean. Not the normal clean or pressure was but genuinely not previously greasy. I ran over the inspection plate on the transmission and engine finding the had new re manufactured engine and transmission. The sticker showed what looks like a 10k miles ago. From what I read on how they do these bus sells and when they get rid of them I assume this bus was mistakenly sold. It looks like it was suppose to do a five year reduced schedule or be used as a trainer vehicle. All in all it worked out very well after looking at so many vehicles. I'll be able to avoid major overhauls and the cost of the bus was under what those repairs alone would be. I'm told about $25k in repairs. Plus as a cherry on top it was upgraded from 195 hp to 250 hp with the newer engine option installed.
So over the next year I plan on a complete conversion of this bus to full living quarters in the front half and a shop in the rear Capable of doing every thing I do now. My plan will be to head out across the Country spending the winters down south and the summers every where else.
I'm calling this Local America. For those that email me about wanting to get there cars serviced and updated from the other coast or down south and cant afford the shipping I would like to offer myself coming to you. Saves $1k to 2K$ dollars and makes your Geo even that much better of an investment. At the same time I get the chance to meet with more of you and fish from some of the best places in all of this amazing Country.
I have set a side one year to build and one year to tour before deciding on what direction the future will take me. The idea is truly to make a loop around the country setting up restorations appointments. Of course I cant take the machine shop with me so I'll be bringing as many machined blocks and heads as possible. Plus my normal assortment of parts. What i need from there can be shipped to me or as I come around the west coast I can make a run myself to the machine shop and restock if that's more convenient.
Normal orders such as head, transmission, engines and parts I will still do and from the bus shop and ship from where ever I am. With cores going back to the shop here it should be very easy to keep up my stock through the mail.
Ive been getting into and supplying many towed cars for RV owners. They call this TOAD vehicles. The Geo is probably the very best TOAD vehicle ever designed in every model. They are under the federal weight to make you use external breaks. They don't require a tow dolly. Most RV's don't even change there MPG while towing a Geo. Of course a Geo that has been restored and is a Toad Vehicle may in fact last just about out last its owner. With maintenance such as brakes not effecting your RV to the fact that your Geo being flat towed is almost like having it parked in your drive way at home. Its such a win win for the RV community that I am going to focus in on this market as much as possible.
I have picked up some sponsors along the way for this project. Soon I think I'll have every parts manufacture I work with involved. I'm hoping to do some speaking engagements at there offices and shops around the country. This should also allow me to do more stuff with groups I enjoy like mother earth shows and all the eco automotive groups.
With that said I'm going to post a blog on the building of this Geo shop on wheels and the adventure it will become traveling and meeting more of you. I'm also up to trading with any one for services on this project. framing, plumbing, welding, general labor, electric 12 volt and 110, flooring, also painting designing drawings on some custom slide outs for the walls. Spray foaming etc etc as it gets taken apart and goes back together. for certain specialty stuff the bus can go to where it needs to be to make a project happen. I'll post some YouTube videos here of the work and of other doing work i will be needing done. If you can do any of it let me know in am email and I'm happy to trade with you. If you have any ideas on some thing that could be added to make the build better. Or if your see us making a mistake please chime in this is all off the cuff and being done in a fairly short time.
Also I'm looking for some appliances. A propane refrigerator full size can be 110 or 12 volt as well. An apartment style stacking 110 volt washer dryer that heats with propane if its natural gas I convert it to propane. Need a couple front steer tires no recaps 22.5's and also simulators fro the rims or aluminum polished wheels. need some windows tinted. Fiberglass one piece shower stall, tile work, fresh water tanks , grey water tanks , black water tanks. double stainless sink and faucet. Counter tops. Its basically like a tiny little apartment 7.5ft x 15.5ft for the living quarters. Let me know if you can help and I think we can find some one a place in a spare room to sleep while there here if its not local.
Let the show begin!