Inspecting The School Bus: Will Norma Run Again?

Its been a while since I have given anyone an update on Norma, my 1955 International school bus conversion, and there sure has been quite a bit of progress over the last month or two. Time flies when your busy working on your bus conversion. Or waiting for manuals and parts to come in. Sometimes it feels like restoring a bus conversion is more of a waiting game than a restoration project. Once we got Norma home we focused on making sure she was going to run, after all Matt and his step father did just drag her over 100 miles, after not being able to get her started or evaluate the brakes properly. We knew there was a possibility that she was going to be a permanent home for us in mamas back yard, although we were hoping that was not going to be the case. We would rather be able to drive back to Arizona before the snow happens here in Montana.
Inspection of the mechanical workings of the bus revealed that our biggest problem was not in getting spark to the engine as we had originally thought, but it was actually that the back brakes were broken. The back drivers side wheel cylinder was not functioning properly and brake fluid would squirt out of it. Matt tried honing it, replacing the dust cover seals, resizing the cup that goes inside, pretty much everything short of taking it to a machine shop, which was our next step. However, his wonderful and mechanical genius of a father did some serious research and found a guy who was able to find the part and get it ordered for us. That new wheel cylinder for our 1955 International R180 school bus is currently in shipping, scheduled to be here this week. All in all it took us almost a month to figure out what was wrong with that part an find a new one. Bus problems, go figure. I expect we will run into more eventually.

So here are some progress points that the inspection revealed.
  • The distributor cap and point was bad. When we found someone who knew about old engines like ours, he was able to replace it easily, as well as give us part numbers, and direct us to the parts store that has been really great about finding the other parts that we need. 
  • All the radiator hoses were pretty cracky, so we replaced them all, and bought spares for everything. 
  • Replaced our stock air filter with a K & N lifetime filter with the largest air flow possible. 
  • Freeze plugs were rusted out. Had to have a machine shop make us more. Were also installed a block heater while they were out.
  • The alternator was really old obviously, and I think it was drawing current from the battery and draining it, so we had it refurbished by an alternator specialist. 
  • The engine, transmissions and gas tank were all full of gunk. Not as big of a problem as we had initially thought. Again, his mechanical genius of a dad did some serious research and referred us to the old timer's method. It involved wall paper remover. I don't know the details really but it worked like a charm.  
All in all, it looks like Norma is going to run like a champ once we get the brakes put back together. Which is great news for me, because its really getting cold here in Montana and I am ready for some sunshine. There are definitely a few more hurdles we are going to have to jump before we can take her on a journey south across the country, but we are almost there. 
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