As many of our online customers and Youtube viewers know, we sell custom auto parts here at Adventure Vehicles NW and we build vehicles over at our shop, Jonesy’s. We showcase some of those builds over on our Youtube channel. Through our online customers, in-person customers, and viewers, we get questions all the time about building some very cool vehicles for people, and for that we are incredibly grateful.
Up until recently, however, we’ve had to turn down 99% of those build requests. It’s always hard to say no to a project that’s genuinely exciting, but first and foremost we have to take care of our existing customers and do right by their builds. We are a small shop by design, and we intend to stay that way so that we can give each of our customers the attention they deserve.
That said, we’ve recently made some changes around here to free up slightly more time for new projects. What does that mean for you? If you’re interested in having us build your vehicle, first know that we are flattered and appreciative! We’d love to hear more about your project. **Read on for more details.**
Usually people first want know about cost estimates for their build, which we both appreciate and understand. The thing is, every project is different; the variables are truly limitless and depend on your preferences, market availability, and any quirks particular to your vehicle. As a result, our shop works on a time plus materials basis at the shop rate of $75 an hour.
We understand that in order to entrust us with your build, you’ll likely want more information than that. For those who are serious about completing their build, we need more information about your project and your expectations. Before we get to that, a few things to keep in mind when considering working with us:
We’re a small shop. We choose to stay small because we want every project to get the expert attention it deserves.
Doing it right takes time. Our next available opening for projects is Fall 2021. Depending on the extent of your build, 6-12 months to completion is the standard timeframe.
We require a deposit at the outset. We believe in doing business honestly and with integrity. We want you to be comfortable with the way we do business, so we invite you to ask questions and get to know us.
Think we might be a good fit for you and your project? For us to determine whether you and your project are a good match for our services, and in order to provide you more information so you can make an educated decision, we ask that you complete this questionnaire.
We are always learning and enjoy taking on new and different projects. Right now, we’re most interested in working on the following types of builds:
Engine swaps in any and all types of vehicles
Again, thank you for your interest in our services!
If you’re not familiar with the magazine, you’ll want to check it out. It’s well-written and the photographs are absolutely beautiful. We’re so impressed with the quality of content they’re putting out! You can find the free download here. You can find the URB review at the top of page 5.
We sell URBs for both the 80 series and 100 series of Land Cruisers. Our one-piece bent metal design includes a one inch hole in each bracket to fit shackles and tow hooks. All of our URBs are manufactured in the USA.
Thanks to Toyota Cruisers & Trucks for including us in the Winter 2021 issue!
We sell other products to upgrade your Land Cruiser, like:
Back in 2017, we rescued this 1996 Chevrolet Suburban from its neglected, undriveable state parked outside in the rainy Pacific NW. It was in bad shape, but we knew with a little TLC it’d be the perfect candidate for a Cummins swap. $400 later, it was ours.
The original plan was to keep this rig for a daily driver. But as seems to happen around here, more vehicles trickled in over the intervening years and we realized, for the thousandth time, that you just can’t keep them all. As the time and effort poured into its rehab, we started looking ahead to its eventual sale. We knew it would need the right marketplace to find an audience appreciative of its upgrades. Bring a Trailer was the clear winner in our minds.
Enter Bring a Trailer
For those not in the know, Bring a Trailer is the preeminent online vehicle auction site. They’ve cultivated a knowledgeable and dedicated audience by pre-screening submissions for interesting vehicles. Notably, that screening process is completely accomplished by actual humans. The net result is an eclectic variety of curated vehicles with a devoted following of repeat commenters, who themselves act as something of a vetting committee for the vehicles allowed on the site.
When we finally completed the project in 2020, we immediately sent over our application. We had no small amount of confidence: This was a beautiful, functional, unique build! Of course they’d list it, right?
You can see where this is headed: Wrong! That email declining our initial submission was a gut punch, to say the least. We quickly gathered our disappointed selves off the floor and got back in touch with BAT. Convinced that the BAT screener had confused our rig with just another mid-90s Suburban when clearly, it was not, we resubmitted. We emphasized all that had gone into the build, and made our best plug that they take a look at the playlist of videos documenting the project.
Sure enough, once they saw that yes, this was a special vehicle, we were (sort of) in. Woot woot! But there were two further hold ups to our admission on the site.
First, the next gut punch: They wanted to list the project with no reserve. What the what? We have invested in this vehicle, poured love into it, and you want us to put it up for the whims of your auction site to give the last word on its value?
Truth be told this was nearly the end. But … we were curious. The BAT community seemed like a discerning group. And really, we understood BAT’s reluctance to insist on our bottom line price. This was the first build of its kind on the site, so there was no frame of reference for price. We guessed that the right bidders would come along to push the final sale price to an acceptable number. In the end, we called it a calculated business risk and took the plunge. We’d list it with BAT with no reserve.
On to the second problem: BAT explained that while yes, they wanted to list our vehicle, their current and near future roster of auctions was bloated in our category. The listing would need to wait several weeks before they would take it on. This was not ideal for our schedule. Ultimately, though, we were glad they were monitoring their offerings enough to give us (and them) the best shot at a good profit margin.
That timeline came and went, but by the time they were ready to list, we were not. Through a confluence of life events (Yup that’s vague … this is the Internet), we needed to push the sale date back. BAT was gracious about this and allowed us to set a future date for the auction to start.
About a week before that date rolled around, BAT sent us an initial listing to review. It included all of the pictures we had uploaded and a written description of all the specs of the build. Andrew, our BAT handler, did a great job out of the gate. With just a few minor tweaks, we were off and running.
Then it was time for the listing to go live. The email comes through with the posting, and all the air gets sucked out of the room. It’s a whirlwind of reactions, mostly around that no reserve. Had we done the right thing? Were were about to hand over three years’ worth of blood, sweat, and tears for $500?
We forged ahead and prepared to obsessively reload the auction page. We did that plenty over the course of the week. The biggest thing you can do to prepare for your BAT listing? Make yourself a nice list of low mental energy tasks to do throughout the week. You’re not going to be thinking about anything but that auction for seven full days.
The auction goes live
While we were busy living our lives on the auction page, we were focused from the outset on actively investing in the comments section. Our goal: Be as thorough and transparent as possible, leaving nothing to the imagination for the would-be winner. We tried to answer every question, respond to every comment, and anticipate what people might ask next. We really wanted the winning bidder to feel like they knew exactly what they were getting.
With that goal in mind, we wrote an introductory post explaining Joel’s education and experience and the story behind the build. Unlike most social media outlets, this was a pretty straight forward and gratifying thing to do: The questions and comments we got were, by and large, genuine and positive. BAT has a great feature in which you can flag a comment as “not constructive,” but honestly we didn’t even come close to having this issue. The overall tone of everyone who posted was supportive and inquisitive. Kudos to BAT for building that type of community.
The first bid came day one, for $2,500. There’s a special sort of nauseous feeling to seeing a number like that come in, even if it is day one. But the bidding was off, and from there, we saw steady build up throughout the week-long bidding process.
By a few days in, we were seeing repeat and legitimate questions about the build, and with our initial posting goals in mind we decided to do an update video for the auction watchers. We were able to do a 0 to 60 demonstration as well as borrow a neighbor’s trailer so bidders could see how it towed. This seemed helpful for people and again, helped us to fulfill our goal of transparency for the would-be winner.
As the week wore on, and our thumbs grew tired from hitting that little refresh circle, you could have asked anyone around here at any given moment the exact dollar amount of the current bid.
*Finally* the last day of the auction arrived. By this point, we had answered so many questions that really nothing new was rolling in … just some nice, supportive comments and a bid here and there. The auction was set to end around 1pm, and when we woke up that morning, the bidding sat at $13,500. About 11am we set the website to airplay on our big TV to watch what would happen. We were happy to see some bids roll in early in those last two hours, which we understand is pretty rare: Most of the action usually happens in the final minutes of the auction.
As that timeline wound down, we got to see one of the best features of BAT put into action: Their anti-sniping bidding process. Let’s say your auction ends at 1pm. At 12:59pm, a bid for $20,000 rolls in. Instead of that clock ticking down with one minute left, they automatically bump up the remaining time to two minutes left. This continues until there are no further bids.
Those last 5-10 minutes were heart-stopping. It was such a relief to watch those numbers increase and finally enter a reasonable zone. After those nail-biting final moments, the Suburban sold for a fair and respectable $29,750.
Once the sale is complete, BAT automatically sends along contact information to both the buyer and seller. In our case, we were able to speak with the buyer by phone shortly after the sale ended. He was easy to deal with and enthusiastic about the build, which really felt great. We always want to see our builds go to good homes. The buyer wired the money, and we sent off the title and bill of sale. He arranged for a truck to come pick it up and voila, our BAT experience is complete.
Would we list on BAT again? Absolutely. The community of thoughtful bidders and posters is outstanding, and really this was the best marketplace for us to reach the right buyer.
Next time we’ll just make sure to keep a defibrillator on hand for the next auction end.
Want to see the auction page for our *now sold* Suburban? Find that here.
We did it! Around here, we’re pretty excited about this one: Our first “Fummins” build.
Let’s get right down to it. We started with a 4wd crew cab short bed 2000 Ford F250 Superduty with a worn out 7.3L diesel and a ZF6 manual 6 speed.
We named the project “Tom.” That’s for two reasons:
First, we bought the truck from a stylish guy named … you guessed it … Tom. He drove the truck out to us in the Pacific NW all the way from Maryland. Thanks Tom!
And the second reason is this: The school bus that gave up its engine was a Thomas Built Bus (#425 for those keeping track of how to get home after school) which was bought at a GOV deals auction from a local school district. Bus #425 had approximately 9000K hours and 156K miles.
Back to the original truck, it was in surprisingly good condition, considering that the Superduty had north of 300K on the clock and spent its days in a rust-prone part of the USA. It even made that cross-country drive without issue, other than the expected dirt and wear and tear. The truck ticked all the boxes needed for my first Fummins swap: Basically that it was a running, driving truck.
The goal for this build was straight forward: Create a “forever” truck. We decided to tackle this in two phases:
Freshen the 24 valve Cummins and boost the power output to approximately 350 HP
Install a School Bus ISB 24 valve Cummins out of a 2000 Thomas School Bus
Plumb the compressed air system from the School bus to run air bags and air tools as needed
Retain the ZF6 manual transmission
Install an exhaust brake
Repair and stop any rust as needed on the body and or chassis
Rewire engine and accessories to ensure the body can be removed easily in case of future repairs.
Test drive, test drive, and more test drives
Install larger Turbo if more power is needed or if it smokes too much due to the larger injectors
Fix anything that need to be replaced after all the testing in Phase 1
Repaint Paint exterior body
Replace the interior with leather from Leather Seats.com
Fabricated and install custom bumpers from MOVE
Because I know everyone wants to see photos, I tried to document the build with the details that would be most interesting and helpful. Here we go:
We started by dismantling Bus #425 and removing the engine. For any of you considering this, let me just say, it’s a major undertaking requiring a lot of work and equipment. I would never attempt to remove the engine without the use of a suitable forklift or a very big tractor with a loader. Everything on the school bus is big and heavy.
I had excellent help courtesy of a sawsall and a good pack of blades:
While in process, make sure you keep track of the required wires as well as the gauges and the gas pedal. You’re going to need to keep those. Also, if you intend to reuse the bus air system, make sure to keep the governor as well as the dryer and some of the air tanks. We also kept all of the battery cables, fuse holders, and switches. There are a ton of good parts on the bus that we tried to keep for future use.
We finally had both the engine out and the parts we wanted to keep. It was time to send the rest of the bus to the recycler. We were glad that part of the project was over. Working on gravel sucks!!!!
Once we had the engine in the shop, on a workbench, we could really see what we had. Have I mentioned working gravel is the worst? I was so glad to be back in the shop.
In the shop, we first added the SN of the Cummins to Quickserve and unlocked a lot of very useful information, everything from wiring diagrams, service manuals as well as air system diagrams. If you have not set up a quickserve account for your Cummins, I highly recommend you do so.
Our engine is rated at approximately 250 HP, so our plan for 350hp is doable with a set of 100hp injectors and no tuning. We sent the injectors out to our local turbo and injector shop for them to be resized. It appears that our VP44 pump, as well as the lift pump, were recently replaced. Great news for us! One great thing about buying a bus from a big school district is that you can be confident the buses were maintained. As a bonus, the buses aren’t necessarily going to auction because there’s something wrong with them; we learned from the helpful shop manager at the bus depot that most of the auction buses are just old. They just need to make room for new ones.
Our turbo is an HX35W and was in great shape. As a result, our plan is to run it and if the black smoke is bad with the upgraded 100HP injectors, we will swap it with something bigger.
Here you can see the two ECM connectors. Thanks to Quickserve, we have a great wiring diagram for the ECM connector as well as the 23 pin connector that is used for all the power, ground, and switched power connections. Because the School bus engine is modular, the wiring is simpler than it looks. In most cases the harness comes apart in big sections with bulkhead connectors as well as a lot of weather pak connections.
Our engine did have an exhaust leak on the rear cylinder, so we sent the manifold to the machine shop and had it surfaced. The bolt was just loose when we removed the manifold but better to be safe and have it surfaced than to risk an exhaust leak.
We pulled the cylinder head and were very happy with what we found. No ridge, no discoloration and still a clear appearance of the crosshatch pattern on the cylinder walls.
We pulled a couple main bearing caps as well as the rod bearing caps and were again very happy with the condition.
We cleaned up the surface of the cylinder head and inspected all the valves. Finally, we cleaned up the block and got everything ready for new gaskets and head studs. The condition of the engine internals gave me a lot of confidence that this engine has a lot of life left and does not need a rebuild or machining at this time.
Now it was time for ARP head studs and new gaskets.
After everything was torqued up, we sprayed Cummins Beige and topped the engine off with a “Fummins” Valve cover from my friend at Quick Draw.
Now that the engine is ready for install it was time to shift focus to the chassis and get it restored and ready for the fresh 24 Valve. We started by removing the bed and getting the rear chassis restored. You will also notice we bought new wheels and tires for Tom. I could not stand the old crusty wheels it had and the new wheels fit perfectly with the overall theme of the build colors.
After we pulled the bed it was time to clean the chassis and address the rust. Thankfully the rust was limited to surface rust so no significant repair was needed.
After a lot of work and wire wheels, plus some heavy pressure washing, we brushed on rust convertor and then topped it off with SEMS Rust shield in every possible crack and seam. We were very happy with the results.
Now that the rear chassis section was restored, it was time to immobilize the truck and pull the cab and the old, tired 7.3L Powerstroke. This turned out to be difficult as almost every mount needed to be torched off. A new poly mount kit from Daystar is on the order list.
After the engine was removed, we moved the chassis so that it could be cleaned, degreased, rust scraped off, wire wheeled and painted with the SEMs rust shield just like the back half of the chassis.
Fast forward, after a ton of work, we have an amazing looking chassis that has all the rust converted stopped and will last for many years to come.
Now that the chassis was restored and ready for the Cummins, it was time to mock up everything and build some mounts. We moved the chassis back over to the lift so that we can test fit the engine positions and build out mounts.
To get the Cummins mounted into the Superduty chassis, we used two 2010 Right hand Ram Truck Cummins engine mounts. These mounts are Anchor Part number 3410. Then I measured and cut out some plates on the CNC plasma and test fit everything over and over to make sure I had all the clearance we needed. (By the way, if you’re interested in these engine mounts, they’ll be available soon on our website: https://adventurevehiclesnw.com/).
The transmission was moved back approximately 2 inches; this allowed use of a mechanical Gen 2 Dodge fan. We also cut out some of the front crossmember so that the high capacity oil pan from the bus could be used. More on engine placement later in the post.
Now that we have the engine mounts fabricated and all the clearances verified, it was time to blow the whole thing apart fishs weld everything and turn the corner and finally start assembling the chassis for good. Before we could do that, we needed to box the front crossmember we cut to have clearance for the large oil pan. This wouldn’t have been necessary if we had used an oil pan from a Dodge truck, but since more oil is better and the Ford crossmember had a huge hole in it to begin with, we decided to cut it out and box it in.
Then we had to touch up the paint.
While the chassis was empty we replaced all the brake lines with a SS set from Dorman. We also mocked up all the air system parts, rear power cables, as well as new Billstein shocks.
As for mating the Cummins to the ZF6 6 speed transmission, we used the steel adapter plate from Wildhorse MFG as well as a crank spacer and a conversion clutch kit from South Bend. Lastly, we clearanced the block as well as the bellhousing on the transmission to allow the use of the Ford 6.4L Diesel Starter.
After a ton of work we were finally ready to set the engine and transmission back into the chassis and get our custom engine mounts bolted up.
Here are some better photos of the engine mounts we will be selling on our website. If this were a 12 valve, we would have needed offset adapters. This is because the 12 valve does not have the second set of mounting bolt holes in the block.
It was finally time to move the chassis back to the main shop where the Cab was patiently waiting.
Before we finalized the exhaust and installed the turbo, we built a wastegate lock out bar and tack welded the waste gate so that it would build as much boost as possible. Then we mounted up the turbo and finalized the exhaust with a simple 90 degree mandrel bend and a 3-4” transition.
I’ve been building custom vehicles and restoring classic cars for 20 years. For most of that time, I’ve helped customers build their dreams at my shop, Jonesy’s. I’ve gotten to do some seriously fun customer projects in my work there. Cars like these shop favorites:
I’ve also gotten to build some great rigs while doing diesel engine swaps, like this one, a favorite:
A big thank you goes out to all of our former and existing Adventure Vehicles NW customers. We really do have the best customers on the Internet. Drop me a line or leave a comment on our Youtube channel; we love hearing from you!