Crazy, you have got to be crazy! This is what I thought of Al Puhlman when he stood in the doorway of my office in Pittsburgh and proclaimed that he had a motor home with a BCII 400 Cummins engine laying on its side halfway back in the coach.
My first thought was, “mister, you may be able to ‘bs’ some of the people you run into about Cummins engines but you’re not going to ‘bs’ me. I’ve been around these engines too long.”
My next thought was maybe he does have a 400 Cummins laying on its side under a bus converted into a motor home. I then asked him, “when can I see this motor home?”
“Tomorrow,” he replied, “It’s at a campground in Washington, PA.” The following morning into our parking lot pulled a gorgeous black and silver motor home unlike any I have ever seen. Al, who is an OOIDA member from California, was behind the wheel. Upon exiting the coach he opened the side compartment and there it was – a chromed BCII 400 Cummins lying on its side. Actually, it’s on a 15-degree angle so the oil will drain into a strange shaped oil pan.
The workmanship on this motor home was superb. Everything was clean and meticulously fabricated. I asked Al, “Where in the world did you get this thing?” He replied, “I built it!”
This is a one-of-a-kind motor home. Originally built in 1965 to be a U.S. mail “on-highway” post office bus. The original engine was a horizontal NH220 Cummins with a Fuller 10 transmission. Puhlman purchased this bus in 1975 with only 98,000 miles on the odometer. The conversion started immediately to transform the bus to a motor home. The NH220 was turbocharged to make it a 262 horsepower engine. This conversion was completed in 1980 and used by the Puhlman family until 1989 and then sold. In 1996, they bought the coach back from the family they sold it to and began a second conversion. The new interior consists of 17 hides of leather and a 32-inch color television that rises out of a table with the touch of a button. A horizontal BCII 400 Cummins engine mounted to an HT754 CR Allison 5-speed transmission became the new power plant. The differential is a Rockwell 140 with a 3.33 gear ratio. The driver’s cockpit is a work of art with 24 gauges, 38 switches, four suspension air valve controls and of course a mahogany steering wheel. This bus was originally manufactured by Crown Royale and then remanufactured by the Puhlman family.
Engine power was low and the air cleaner was too small. We did some work on the fuel pump and installed a 1,500 cfm Farr Ecolite air filter. Al was surprised at the difference in power on his return trip to Redding, CA. We then supplied Al with a huge set of injectors, high volume and high pressure fuel pump with a large V-12 gear pump, duel fuel line kit, pyrometer for the hot side, V-12 fuel filter and specifications for a larger charge air cooler. Al and his son Scott installed the new high-performance parts and reworked the exhaust system. This motor home is now the world’s most powerful coach in existence producing over 600 hp. Keep in mind that this vehicle only weighs 35,500 pounds and with the Jeep in tow the gross combined weight is 43,500 pounds and cruises up El Cajon pass on Interstate 15 in California, at 75 mph using only 25 pounds of turbo boost and 200 pounds of rail pressure. The engine is capable of producing 35 pounds of boost and 350 pounds of fuel pressure. It’s a street rod you can sleep in!
Now, don’t ever think Al’s love of Cummins performance stops here. You see, the family business is Outdoor Creations. They manufacture concrete vandalism-proof one-piece picnic tables and benches. To deliver these heavy tables they purchased a 1996 Freightliner, which was assembled in 1995. The engine is an N-14 500 hp Celect Cummins. The truck is driven by Randy Marquard. Randy normally keeps the power selector switch at position number four or five, which makes it possible to run the mountains one gear higher. At position number 4 the N-14 500 now producs 600 hp. Occasionally, Randy will use position number 7 or 675 hp when he needs to prove a point.
Al and Scott’s love of Cummins engines continues to grow. They recently purchased a new 2001 Dodge Cummins 6-speed one-ton dually pickup.
Now our phone rings in Pittsburgh, it’s Al and he wants to know when I’m coming to Redding to hot rod the new Dodge. April, upon completion of the Escapees RV show in Chico, CA, I drive my KW RV to the Puhlman’s ranch just east of Redding in Round Mountain. Al, Scott and I started immediately on the Dodge. We changed the injectors, added the stage 3 Power Max computer, changed the turbine housing, changed the muffler and added a turbo boost and pyrometer gauge.
This fire breathing Dodge Cummins 6-speed has come to life! Look out, 42 pounds of turbo boost and with this package the engine produces 11 hp per pound. Driving up the twisty mountain roads just east of Redding, this black dually will break the tires loose coming out of the tight corners in third and fourth gear.
Now, do you think Al and Scott are finished building Cummins power? Heavens no. They read Land Line Magazine and know that OOIDA members Frank Heiden and Butch Schuman (both Texans) have KTTA twin turbo 1,150 cubic inch Cummins’ engines that produce 1200 hp. With some research we found a KTTA horizontal Cummins engine in Europe powering people-hauling trains. However, this engine cost $84,000, a bit much for a street rod motor home. It took an act of Congress to obtain a parts manual from Europe but we have it! Some day the Puhlman’s may have a 1,200 Cummins horsepowered Crown Royale motor home. n
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