Our Home on the Road
1963 GM 4106 Passenger Coach SN 1707
Our bus is a 1963 GM 4106, diesel powered, 35-foot highway coach. Produced from 1961 to 1965, the 4106 was a direct successor to the GM4104, the most popular highway coach of all times, and a revolutionary design when first introduced in 1953. The 4106 is substantially similar to the 4104, with only a few significant changes. One is the introduction of a much more powerful engine: the famed Detroit Diesel 8V-71, a two-stroke, naturally aspirated diesel V-8 with a total displacement of 9.3 liters (568 cu.in) and a power rating of 275HP. Other differences are a "new look" more angular exterior design compared to the 4104, and a new concept of driver controls.
Our particular unit, serial number 1707, was originally delivered in January of 1963, as fleet number 115, to Las Vegas-Tonopah-Reno (LTR) Stage Lines, based in Las Vegas, NV. It appears to have remained in commercial service until 1989, when it belonged to the "Antelope Bus Lines", located in Southern California. The bus is entirely original with aluminum body and siding, and the original slanted windows. Two windows were removed on the driver side, and one on the passenger side, and replaced with riveted and ribbed aluminum siding matching the rest of the body. The engine and transmission are original.
The bus was converted into a first class motorhome by Paul Gaboury, of Palo Cedro, California. The major conversion work was performed over a period of 2 years, working full time, between 1989 and 1991. Additional features and finishing touches were added over the next 7 years, as Paul and his wife spent about half of every year living in the bus. The amount and quality of the work performed by Paul on this bus are truly amazing.
All interior walls, cabinetry, and accessories were custom-made by hand from solid oak. The floor plan is a side aisle, nicely breaking the "tunnel" effect of a large bus. The floor is carpeted throughout, except in the galley where it is covered with Linoleum. The ceiling is white marine vinyl tensioned over stringers. Counter tops in the galley and the bathroom are white ceramic tile bordered in oak. The entire conversion was done with amazing skill (kudos to Paul) and is in excellent condition. Several pictures can be viewed by clicking on the floor plan at the bottom of this page.
All electrical systems are entirely automatic with monitors and controllers inside the bus. Solar panels installed on the roof provide all our electrical energy in the summer and a large fraction thereof in the winter.
We purchased the bus from Paul in September 2002, and drove it back to New Mexico. During the next year, we made two long climbing trips to get used to the bus life. One to the Needles and Tahquitz Rock, in Southern California, the other to Devils Tower, in North-Eastern Wyoming. Both trips were complete successes. We learned that we could "boondock" (camp without access to water or power) for as many as 7-8 days on a single water tank (100 gallons) and without using the generator at all during the summer (thanks to the solar panels). Mishaps included a blown rear tire (from running into a rock on a mountain road in the Needles), and a leaking cooling unit on the refrigerator (which we later replaced).
In preparation for our year and a half trip, we made a few modifications and repairs. One major item consisted of enclosing all water systems into wooden "boxes" to help insulate the circuits and pumps from freezing temperatures (since we were going to use the bus year round and at all latitudes). All water pipes were insulated with foam and wrapped with electrical heating tape. A network of temperature sensors connected to a central control unit inside the bus monitors the temperature of various points throughout the water system. If the temperature at any of those points drops to a preset "danger" level, the control unit sounds an alarm (typically in the middle of the night). The pipes can then be warmed up quickly by activating the heating tapes from a switch on the control unit, using power from the generator. We also added an electric block heater to warm up the engine before starting on cold mornings (essential with older diesels which do not have glow plugs). Finally, we made a few changes to the inside of the bus: new carpet and linoleum, new dining table and chairs, a new countertop and sink in the bathroom.
Click on any of the arrows in the floor plan below to see a photograph taken from that viewpoint.
And a few numbers...
|Overall length||35 ft (10.7 meters)|
|Weight (fully loaded)||25,000 lbs (11.4 tons)|
|Fuel capacity (diesel)||140 gallons (530 liters)|
|Fuel Efficiency||7.5 mpg (31 L/100km)|
|Range||up to 1000 miles (1600 km)|
|Fresh water capacity||100 gallons (379 liters)|
|Battery capacity (12V, deep cycle lead-acid)||8000 Wh|
|Solar power||150W (full normal exposure)|