Introducing O'Billy - our new Type-II Ambulance

mike.marcacci

Adventurer
After almost impulsively buying a Javier, my wife and I did our homework, figured out exactly what we needed, and purchased our new project: O'Billy the 2003 7.3 PowerStroke Ford E350, Type-II ambulance by Leader. I got this guy in Las Vegas (I'm in San Diego), had it checked out by a mechanic last week, picked up a 1-trip DMV permit, then flew out to Las Vegas last Sunday to pick it up (thanks to Spirit Air for the $36 plane ticket!) and drive it home. I had quite an ordeal getting it insured – last minute on my laptop in the airport, of course – because it exceeds USAA's underwritten GVWR. They normally can do these "special" situations through a partnership with another agency, just not on Sundays. When I got off the phone with USAA, I gave Geico auto a call, who sent me to Geico RV, who said they don't insure conversions or commercial vehicles... so I spent some time on the free wifi looking up who USAA's partner agency is, and discovered that it was Progressive. 15 minutes later, it was insured by them.


I got it home with no problems at all, and set out to get it re-registered in California: I took it to "my people" – Finest City Registration – who provide absolutely the best service I've ever purchased... on anything... ever. It's passed smog and re-classified as an RV which saves ~$250/year due to weight fees.


In total it cost $5000 plus some pretty hefty registration fees. We've got TONS of plans and more that are still evolving... but enough rambling, here are some pics:

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Panorama Oct 29, 2015, 21.15.44.jpg

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Just got dropped off by my Uber driver in Las Vegas, the owner hadn't arrived yet:


Has what looks to me (and the Las Vegas mechanic who checked it out for me) like a new (factory reconditioned) transmission:
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Plenty of tread... like, all of it:
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Working lights, invert, vacuum pump... everything except the siren:
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[HR][/HR]

Like I said, we've got tons of plans: The build quality inside is so excellent, we're going to try and use as much of it as possible. We're obviously taking out the bench, and we're going to take out the upper shelf by the barn doors to make the small desk more usable. We're debating adding a window on the right side, but we're going to spend a few weekends in it to see for sure.

As far as drivetrain goes, we're looking to get a 4" ujoint kit (does anyone know somebody in Southern California who's done one, or you would trust to give it a go?).

As far as the exterior goes, I'll probably leave the bumpers mostly stock and it looks like we can fit a slightly larger spare tire in its current spot (haven't measured it yet though). We're almost 100% sold on spraying the whole thing with Raptor Liner which is looking cheaper than paint (and so cool).

We're going to add 300 or 400 watts of solar – we already have 3 external deep cycle batteries in the box and top-notch charging components, but I suspect all the wiring is pretty thirsty, so I'd like to take advantage of all that roof space to feed it. I'd love to get any suggestions or tips especially from other ambulance owners - I've reached out to Leader to get a wiring diagram, but any first-hand experience would be awesome!

So that's it for now - thanks for reading!
 
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silvrzuki77

explorer
Nice! Wear gloves when decontaminating it! Might find some when pulling things apart. That's from experience lol. I work for county fire in Las Vegas and non of the private ambulance have that color scheme. Wonder where it came from?


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smick

New member
This is an amazing project! Looking forward to seeing updates! Are you planning to decontaminate it? How deep are you going? :D
 

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martell06

Observer
Almost bought a "Javier" - like it's an artists name. lol. glad you asked before pulling the trigger. I saved a friend a long road trip to see a van with a shady seller thanks to the expo guys.

New ride looks great!! Congrats, looking forward to the build. Ask Chris about installers in CA, I think someone in the I.E. did a U Joint kit on a Class B motorhome that might be on here.
 

flightcancled

Explorer
I can already see what I would be doing with it! Looks like the interior wasn't torn up. Bonus!!

Please let me know how thick and strong the topper is when you do the solar.
 

mike.marcacci

Adventurer
Thanks for all the comradery everybody! Ya, I'm really grateful for this forum (and all the ujoint site/videos/etc - inspiring).

I work for county fire in Las Vegas and non of the private ambulance have that color scheme. Wonder where it came from?
It actually came from Los Angeles originally. The previous owner purchased it from the Las Angeles division of Schaefer's Ambulance (check out their photos on Google) just over 2 years ago. He intended to send it back to Mexico, where he used to work as a paramedic. Unfortunately for him, some laws had recently gone into effect and the export/import would have cost over $5k in fees... so it sat for 2 years in a parking lot in Las Vegas, until I found it on Craigslist.

Are you planning to decontaminate it?
Oh ya, we're going in tomorrow morning w/ masks, bleach, gloves and goggles: these things are built to be easy to clean, but we've found some nasty stuff in the few crevices that exist (IV needles inside the bench storage compartment, medical tape in places, several backings for EKG pads, etc.) It's been sitting completely unused for almost exactly 2 years, which makes this a bit less scary. Either way, my wife and I are both biologists by training (she is by profession) with WFR certs, so we know our way around sharps and biohazard. I plan to rip out the floor (my wife thinks it's unnecessary, but we'll see what she says when there's bare metal under where the bench used to be), and dispose of all cushions/fabric from the back part.

Please let me know how thick and strong the topper is when you do the solar.
I'll see if I can take some photos tomorrow, and I'll definitely update when I add the solar. From what I've seen by peaking through the cabinets, the thing seems rock solid: there are steel cross-members every several feet (not sure exactly how frequently they repeat), and the fiberglass is thicker than I would have imagined (looks thicker than my old Cal-20 sailboat's hull!).


I'm not exactly in a rush to get this completed – I don't need this done for about a year – but I also don't see any reason to put anything off, as I'll definitely be using this on weekends when I have the time. I have a ton of modifications I plan to do myself, but the drivetrain work is outside my abilities.


Some quick questions for the community:

1. Does anyone know of a Southern CA or AZ -based shop that's done a u-joint conversion? @martell06's you mentioned somebody in Inland Empire - do you happen to know of that thread? Chris, if you know of anybody or have any recommendations for what to look for in a shop's previous work, it would be much appreciated!

2. Has anybody here used Raptor Liner before? LineX would be ideal, but it's about 5x my paint budget... I'd actually prefer doing this myself and the product looks really good.

3. Wiring. If anybody knows some good resources for these ambulances, it would save me tons of time.
 

gnartumyeto

Observer
Usually each ambo comes from the manufacturer with a three ring binder with all the wiring tabs. Every rig they build is going to be different so not having the diagrams for that specific rig will be rough. You could talk to the people at leader.
I've always thought an old ambo would be cool but I know from experience that they are HARD miles that get put on them.


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ujoint

Supporting Sponsor
1. Does anyone know of a Southern CA or AZ -based shop that's done a u-joint conversion? @martell06's you mentioned somebody in Inland Empire - do you happen to know of that thread? Chris, if you know of anybody or have any recommendations for what to look for in a shop's previous work, it would be much appreciated!
I have a few places you can go to. Shoot me an email and I'll send the info! Where are you exactly?
 

mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
Awesomeness, looking forward to following your build. I almost pulled the trigger on an ambo(Type3 or Type1) before VANdiana. I'm actually surprised we don't see more Type2 ambo's used for builds where people want to end up with a SMB/Voyager top. You get tons of value for the money starting with an ambo!
 

jblaze5779

Observer
I called Miller McCoy when I bought mine and they were happy to send me wiring diagrams for my vehicle. The interior on mine wasn't as nice as yours though.

I'm working on a way to do a hinged VW camper top with my fiberglass hightop. I also have the steel roll cage that I need to figure out what to do with. I think I'll be cutting it off and welding some angle to the short vertical pieces for my bed (a la sportsmobile).
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
Awesomeness, looking forward to following your build. I almost pulled the trigger on an ambo(Type3 or Type1) before VANdiana. I'm actually surprised we don't see more Type2 ambo's used for builds where people want to end up with a SMB/Voyager top. You get tons of value for the money starting with an ambo!
Some are touchy about their former use. There's a misconception that people have died in them, spirits, and such. Germs are a real concern... I felt less so in a rig that's not been in service for a long time. Mine had 7 years of contractor use after it was an ambulance. Their hard use scares some... But in these parts, they are maintained with public funds and no corners are cut. Does my rig have 15000 hours on it... Yes... But for 13000 of that it was impeccably maintained, and the POs seemed to have taken good care also. Would I overpay... NO. But I couldn't but a set of tires for what I paid for a type III in decent shape.

OP, I'm looking forward to your build. :beer:
 

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mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
Some are touchy about their former use. There's a misconception that people have died in them, spirits, and such. Germs are a real concern... I felt less so in a rig that's not been in service for a long time. Mine had 7 years of contractor use after it was an ambulance. Their hard use scares some... But in these parts, they are maintained with public funds and no corners are cut. Does my rig have 15000 hours on it... Yes... But for 13000 of that it was impeccably maintained, and the POs seemed to have taken good care also. Would I overpay... NO. But I couldn't but a set of tires for what I paid for a type III in decent shape.

OP, I'm looking forward to your build. :beer:
I am concerned about their hard use with a turbo diesel. With a V10(rare), not as much.
So you're saying Canadians maintain their municipal rigs better than us 'Mericuns? ;)
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
More non profit unlimited budget government maintained are better than for profit.

They have a maintenance schedule: tires are replaced at 50% or more. Belts, hoses, batteries, alternators, etc. are replaced after a certain number of hours or miles... Long before they need to be. Everyone who I've met who has a retired BC Ambulance raves about what a great truck it has been... Not so much for equivalent mileage US rigs.
 
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