Rivets are one of the easiest things to use to re-install a metal bus panel, especially if they were the original method of fastening. Our video Gut the Bus – Removal of Rivets, Metal Panels … shows how we removed the rivets to release the panels from their adhesion to the frame. This article and the video below will demonstrate how, with a pneumatic riveter, we completed the task in half the time we expected.
These panels go on the inside of the bus, but the interior side (the part that meets up with the insulation) received a special finish before installation. In an effort to reuse the residual Bus-Kote paint used on the roof, we painted the leftover onto the interior (insulation) side of the panels. We hoped that the Bus-Kote would act as a barrier for any heat that may have accumulated in the wall cavity. Is this what really happened? Who knows. It was a grander idea to try than to throw away the reflective paint. Plus, the kids had a grand time helping us roll-on the paint.
When the paint dried the next morning, we positioned the panels in their former place. Each panel had a “P” or “S” spray painted on it to indicate if it belonged on the port or starboard side of the bus. A number after the letter designation indicated how close it was to the front. For example “P1” meant it was the closest panel to the front on the driver’s side. “S5” was the farthest in the back on the side of the entrance door.
Installation with New Rivets
We used new aluminum 3/16″ diameter rivets that were 1/2″ long. Michael thought he needed a cleat to align the first few holes, but this turned out to be unnecessary. With me there to align most of the holes and Michael putting in the first rivet, we were able to easily refit the panels. Several times, Michael drilled slightly larger holes @ 13/64″ to fit the rivet shafts. The riveter we first used was a pneumatic one from Harbor Freight that did not last long. Our second one, bought at Northern Tools but still most likely an import , completed the job. It was a very quick process and beat our time estimate by 50 %! It only took about 5 hours to install.
The one tricky area was the top side of the panels. This edge lies underneath the windows’ weatherstripping. Any large protrusion would have affected the rubber and the seal. It was important to keep the rivet flush. To the rescue, were rivets and clamps normally used in airplane construction! Their heads are flat enough and, with a pneumatic chiseler and a bucking rod, Michael was able to finish the top edge without impeding on the weatherstripping.
We had not yet decided how we would finish the look of the panels. Paint would be suffice but too boring. Wood slats would give the place character, but might it be too busy of a look that our home starts too look far from classy. Doing both might have worked – a painted chair rail. We decided to end on a high note that day and just call the whole thing done.