By Dave Galey
Ó 1995,1998 RV-Coach Online All Rights Reserved
(NOTE: This info is now in Dave Galey's second edition printing of his "The Bus Converter's Bible" which is now shipping when a copy is purchased online www.busnut.com . I definately recommend that you purchase this book. It is invaluable if you are converting or thinking of converting any kind of bus. 2/2006)
Any one of us who have created a one piece door out of the split-down-the-middle door of the Eagle bus have observed first hand the ravages of corrosion. The object of this article is to not only teach you how to make your own one-piece door but how to solve the corrosion factor.
The first task is to remove the split door sections. An impact wrench will make short order of removing the bolts holding the sections and the support bars. Finally a clevis pin is removed from the cylinder ends and the units are free to be laid out on saw horses.
The outside skin may be removed with a chisel and hammer. A little scarring of the skin is little consequence since it is not reusable. Carefully take out the screws holding the glass retaining extrusions and the rubber. Put these items aside since you will use them to install a single glass window. The inside skin of stainless steel can be taken off by drilling out the rivets. This skin may be retained for use in covering up the holes where the cylinders extended. Otherwise, store it with your precious treasures.
We now have two badly corroded door halves. Cut away the inside vertical bars framing the original window openings. The leading edge of our old door half along the hinge line should be trimmed back the thickness of the hinge in the closed condition (about inch) in order to permit our door half to maintain the proper gap to the body. Along this hinge line install a 1 inch square tube about 44 inches long in the channel by stitch welding approximately 4 inches apart. We will attach our piano-hinge to this tube. A stainless steel piano-hinge, .062 inch x 3.00 inch open with a ¼ inch diameter pin will be used to attach our door. These hinges come in 72 inch lengths so keep the tag end for other uses during your conversion.
Install the hinge with #8 sheet metal screws at approximately 4 inch centers. When drilling the hinge, alternate holes so that when closed, the screw heads will not touch and possibly interfere with each other. Now that your leading edge half door is screwed in place, cup some spacers from the material you cut out of the window frame and clamp your trailing edge door half to your leading edge door half maintaining approximately 1/8 inch gap at top and rear. This figure is not critical at this time since your finished door will be covered with Eagle siding and the clearance may be adjusted at that time. Remove the assembly at this time, lay on saw horses and weld the spacers in place.
The corrosion seen is typical of most door frames of Eagle buses over a few years old. This frame is from a 1982 model 10 Eagle. We first used a grinder to eliminate the loose rust. We then painted a new product, POR-15 on the frame. When cured this material appears to be a flexible ceramic coating. It is important to use rubber gloves with this paint since no solvent will remove it from your hands. I painted without the plastic gloves furnished with the kit and where I got it on my hands, I wore it for over a week. The kit used was a $10 starter kit and was adequate for the door. This product may be ordered from Rum River Service at 1-800-347-6715 or 612-753-0250.
After the two halves are assembled and a single window frame is created, the door is re-installed to the bus body. It may then be covered with siding. We cut the siding in 32 inch lengths and rivet them in place with monobolts (a form of pull rivet). Be careful to line up your fluted siding with that of the bus. A little mismatch at the edges of our siding is not important at this time. After the siding is installed, a power wood plane is used to trim the siding even and adjust the gap to approximately 1/10 inch. When using the plane use plenty of kerosene, diesel oil, or WD-40 should be used as cutting oil. This prevents the aluminum siding from gumming up and provides a smooth finish.
The next project is to install a door latch and a dead bolt. There is no easy- or trick-way to do this job. A saber saw and a die grinder are useful when doing this job. After the door latch and dead bolt are installed, an inner skin must be applied. In fact, an inner skin may be necessary just to retain the latch and deadbolt.
The original bulb seal should work fine if your door thickness does not exceed the original door thickness. Your inner skin must be no more than .062 (1/16) inches thick for your original seal to work. If you choose to use ¼ inch thick plywood as a inner skin so as to be able to upholster it, it will be necessary to relocate your seal retaining angle to accommodate the additional door thickness.
Finally, have a piece of glass cut to fit your new window opening. Make a ¼ inch plywood template for your new window. Fit the old rubber seal and retaining extrusion around the plywood template and install in your opening in order to prove your template size. You will have plenty of rubber seal material and it may be cut and bonded with silicone or weatherstripping liquid. It requires approximately a ¼ inch to 3/8 inch clearance all around the template to install the glass. If you are replacing some of your original bus windows with RV sliding windows, use some of that glass to have new glass cut for your door window.
Note: I was a bit new to computers when I saved this so the pictures didn't get saved. You can get POR15 from http://www.prp-porstore.com/index.htm . As far as using the original bus window glass... Our Eagle windows are safety glass. There are two types of safety glass, tempered and laminated. Laminated safety glass is two sheets of glass with a sheet of plastic between them. To cut the laminated glass, score one side with a glass cutter (one of those little hand held stick ones with the little scoring wheel), and "run the score" by gently tapping along the score mark with the metal "ball" end of the glass cutter (you score only ONCE). Carefully flip the glass over and do the same thing on the unscored side. You may want to get someone to help you flip the glass over. Carefully pour lighter fluid along the scored-&-cracked line of the glass. Carefully light the fluid. The plastic sheet will begin to soften and melt, pull the pieces apart. If you pull apart (side-to-side) you will get a cleaner "cut". If you let the glass pieces "hinge" you may end up with a stringy, sticky mess at the cut edge. Various glass companies have told us you cannot cut tempered glass. And yes, I know this is copyrighted material but it exists nowhere else on the internet. I have gotten so many requests to send out copies that I have decided this would be easiest.