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Old 02-23-2013, 08:08 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 133
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Phantom
Chassis: Gillig
Engine: Series 50
Skoolie Conversions - a great group!

Guys & Ladies, I've been reading Skoolie Conversion for over a year now. This is a great group of people that really love their buses. During the last 3 years the coach boards really slowed down (economy and fuel prices I suspect), but this group kept right on converting and using their buses. I have been amazed at some of the conversions and determination on this board. My hat is off to you! While my current conversion project is a transit, the one before this one was a varient of a skoolie. Here are a few photos taken during various stages of the conversion.






This was a 1992 high roof Thomas Saf-T-Liner, Cummins 5.9 with Allison 3060. I lowered the skirts on it, replaced the front cap (had a big dent where someone had hit an overhang), and did all the other things necessary for a conversion. This was after it was painted, with no strips or anything.



Inside roof work below. It's a good thing I didn't know how much work all this was at the beginning!



Here's some shots of making one of the rear bed frames.









This is the hole in the roof for the rear A/C.




One of the many jobs that must be done on any bus I've ever owned is cleanup the battery box. It's always a job. No one ever takes care of them like they should. This photo shows mine after it was cleaned and had POR-15 applied. Can't say enough good stuff about POR-15. Nothing seems to affect it, not even battery acid. It you get it on you, the only thing that will take it off is a grinder. Typically, this is one of the first jobs I do on a new bus.





Here's a pic before painting. This particular bus had a rear door as well. I replaced the front bi-fold door with Thomas's factory one piece door. That was a job, even though it was made to fit the opening.




Since there was a rear door, I made one bed across the back and another opposite the door.



I sold this bus a few years back. It was a fun project. I'm sorry, but I can't find photos of the interior after it was much further along.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:54 PM   #2
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Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Looks like you did a really nice job on that bus - thanks for sharing!
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:34 PM   #3
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 133
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Phantom
Chassis: Gillig
Engine: Series 50
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Here's a photo of my latest project (bus).



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Old 02-24-2013, 10:16 AM   #4
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Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 6,174
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Can't wait to see what you do with this one! --- Welcome to Skoolie Central...You are obviously experienced & skilled at bus building so this thread will no doubt be a popular one to follow. Please...keep the pix coming!
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Old 02-25-2013, 07:42 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Year: 1995
Coachwork: Carpenter
Engine: International T444E
Rated Cap: 71
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Welcome. Impressive work.

I'm curious what did you learn from your previous conversion that you will or will not be doing on this one?
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Old 02-25-2013, 11:43 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 133
Year: 2000
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Chassis: Gillig
Engine: Series 50
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mchunt
Welcome. Impressive work.

I'm curious what did you learn from your previous conversion that you will or will not be doing on this one?

Wow, that's a big question. The short answer is a lot! In regards to building, I overbuilt some things, under built others. Some things that made sense at the time didn't make sense for the way I ended up using my bus. This is actually my third bus, so I know what worked well for me and what didn't. Some of the things that worked for me will not work for others. If you use your bus as your main living quarters, I think you might build in a different way than if it is a weekend get-a-way vehicle. Also, if you have family travelling with you, you will need to accommodate additional sleeping arrangements. This will impact your floor plan. Here are some of the things I'm doing differently than when I converted my first bus.

1. I don't cook in the bus much. Too hot in the summer time. I usually cook on the grill outside unless it's raining. Install a convection microwave. It's good for microwaving and baking. No stove or cook top. Just counter space with a sink. Use an electric skillet if you need to fry anything. I have a small, portable, induction cook top for boiling water for spaghetti. It's best if you run separate electrical outlets for these and not put them on the same one in case you need to use both at the same time. For weekend/3 day trips, I prefer to take pre-made plates I prepare at home or vegetable plates I buy at the local diner. I cook outside on the grill only in the late evening.

2. No overhead cabinets. I think I just heard some ladies scream! Other than too many dishes, mine mostly carried things I never used, with half of them remaining empty most of the time. If you can do without them, it really opens up the interior space. Use pull-out platforms in your bottom cabinets for dishes and pots. Again, I never used many of the ones I carried, so I was hauling way too many.

3. Use a home style fridge. The RV fridges work fair (most of the time), but you've got the issue of leveling (they need to be relatively level or their life is shortened). They are expensive, and they are small compared to what we are familiar with at home. As mentioned above, I like to take pre-prepared meals with me. These take up a good bit of room. Also, the freezers are small on RV fridges.

4. No LP. The items in RVs & buses that typically run on LP are fridges, cook tops, and furnaces. I use a 10 CF home style fridge, electric cook top, electric convection oven, and a ceramic heater for heating. I don't use the bus much in the winter. A ceramic heater keeps it nice and warm for the cool October mornings. No need for LP.

5. Make the bathroom as small as possible. If you think about how little time is spent in this space, it doesn't make much sense to have a large bathroom. You're just not there that long every day (probably ). Use the saved space for your main living quarters. You'll get more use from it.

6. Use quality RV furniture when possible. Like Flexsteel ---- yes, I know, it's not cheap, and I'm not rich either. But, it is scaled to fit into RV spaces and still be comfortable. By being slightly smaller than home style furniture, it doesn't over power your interior space by being out of scale. If you do a bit of looking, you can usually find very good used pieces on Craigslist.

7. Use 12 volt lighting (or 24 volt in my case). You can find just about anything you want now in low voltage. It works directly off the battery bank, without inverters, and is simple to install. I've always used reflected lighting. I like to bounce it off the ceiling by placing fluorescents behind a valance (down the side of the ceiling) or in a shaded fixture. I don't like to see the source of a light shining into my eyes. Reflected light (from the ceiling) is much more pleasant. You can also buy compact fluorescents now that are 12V, and use the same light fixtures as regular household bulbs. You just need to wire them on 12V and not 120V --- else you're in for a big surprise on power up!

8. I like a booth in the kitchen. This is just a personal preference of mine. Tables take us much less space than booths though, so if youíre tight on space, consider using a table.

9. I wanted to build my current bus without 2X4 framing. This is the first time I've done this, and so far, it has worked out well. This advice was given to me by an older gentleman that is a long time converter. Please don't think that using 2x4's for framing is the wrong way. I don't believe that at all. Not using 2x4 framing is just a different way of doing it. The reason for not using them is straight forward ------ if you add up the width of all the 2x4's used in the bus, you will lose between 1 to 2 feet in bus length by the time you are through.

It's been an interesting experience figuring out how to brace all those walls without using 2x4ís. Aside from the "engineering" time, it has added to the cost of the interior conversion, probably by $1,000 dollars. Mostly, the cost comes from requiring cabinet grade plywood instead of a lesser grade. Since there is no framing to screw to, you must use very straight ĺ inch plywood. As a result, I've rarely been able to find any plywood I can use at Lowes or HD. I did buy 5 sheets at Lowe's last month when they got in a new supply that was straight. After it sits there a while, it takes on a curve due to the way they shelf it. If you stand a sheet of ply up on its edge and sight down it, it must be straight with no curve. You can't really get the curve out if there is no framing to screw it to. As a consequence, Iíve had to buy my plywood at the place most of the local cabinet makes use. They donít have Home Depot pricing.

10. Get all the bus mechanicals fixed before you start converting. I've done it both ways, and this way was better for me. My first bus needed several things repaired, nothing major, but things that should be done before using it much. I didn't really have the money to get them all fixed at the time, so I worked on the inside first. Before you know it, you'll find a place you want to take the bus for a weekend outing, but you can't go due to maintenance issues. On my current bus, I started getting maintenance things out of the way first. Couldn't do them all at once, but did them as I could afford it. The only things inside I did was to remove all the seats, rubber on the floor, and planned, planned, planned. Also, I started to buy up a few things I'd need once the interior work started. This gives you time to find good deals. I had the bus almost a year before I started the interior.

11. Use the bus whenever you can while converting. I can't stress this enough. If you work on it every weekend, but never use it, you can lose the luster for completing it. It's important to have some balance. It will also give you an idea of what works and what doesn't and give you memorable moments to laugh about in the future. This is another reason to get all your mechanicals fixed first.

12. Have buy-in from the family. Things go much better if your family is involved. Sharing the experiences brings you closer and teaches many lessons to the younger generation.

13. No generator. This won't work for everyone, maybe not even most, but it should work fine for me. Over several years of RV'ing/busing, I've discovered that I never go anywhere (as a destination) that doesn't have electrical hookups. First off, my bus is built primarily as my "dog show" vehicle. By far and away, most of my use is going to dog shows in the local region. It's hot down here in the summer, so A/C is required 24/7, especially with my Chow Chows. They have polar bear coats on them and need A/C to stay cool. With our heat and humidity, you just have to have A/C.

If you haven't done the math yet, running a genset 24/7 takes a about 10 - 12 gallons of fuel every 24 hrs. That's around $50. This greatly increases your weekend expense, not to mention those 150 hour maintenance intervals on the genset. Typically I'll be gone 3 days to a show. It's much cheaper to use the destination site's electric than to bring your own. Add to this the initial cost (and maintenance) of a genset and you're into a lot of dollars. Onan diesel generators are $5,000 to $7,000 for a new/used one. Plus you have to have some place to put it. Transit buses aren't exactly overrun with under floor storage. To solve all these problems, and to reduce expense, I decided I can live entirely without a generator. To do so, you need a little up-front planning though. Hereís what I did:

a) I bought a bus with great air conditioning already built in. Transits have huge air conditioners on them. They must have them to accommodate the constant open/closing of doors as well as a bus full of passengers. So, I kept my A/C in the conversion. The down side of this is the duct work takes up conversion space, and A/C maintenance can be expensive if stuff goes wrong.

b) I have roof top A/C units for when I'm parked. Plug in to the destination electrical source and you're set for the weekend.

c) My Gillig has a 24V 270 amp generator on it. This is about 7.5 Kw of electrical power when you consider that the output voltage is actually 28 volts, not 24. I have a 3Kw sine wave inverter and a suitable battery bank for it. If need be, I can run an A/C unit while the engine is running for emergency cooling. This is my backup if Iím on the road and the A/C goes out. So, I'm pretty much covered for A/C whether going down the road or at a destination. The one situation I cannot handle is boon docking. That's only practical for me in the early spring or late fall due to the heat.

So, this was the short answer. Youíre probably sorry you asked. I hope I didnít bore everyone to death. There are many different ways to build a conversion. Everyoneís needs and wants arenít the same. Thatís why we all build it ďour wayĒ!
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Old 02-26-2013, 12:46 AM   #7
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Southeast raleigh
Posts: 221
Year: 1974
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: Supercoach
Engine: Detroit Diesel 6-71
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Luckychow,
Your Thomas was a beautiful bus! We are looking to pick up a Thomas as well, I can only hope it looks close to a nice as your old one. I really like how you fixed the dent in the front - it really changes the look of out in a great way. And your explanations are very much appreciated - knowing what you have built and what you use it for even helps those of use that will be using our conversions for the complete opposite! ... so when do we get to see your dogs??

Thank you for posting!
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Old 02-26-2013, 04:18 AM   #8
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Posts: 148
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LuckyChow
I sold this bus a few years back. It was a fun project. I'm sorry, but I can't find photos of the interior after it was much further along.
argh! When I saw the first image, it was like seeing my idea bus being projected onto the internet. I had instant thoughts of buying it! You did a great job!
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:36 AM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Year: 1995
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Engine: International T444E
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Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

I guess it was a big question . Thanks for taking the time, good insights. And I couldn't agree more with #12, having buy in makes a world of difference.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:10 AM   #10
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Year: 1997
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Rated Cap: 47
Re: Skoolie Conversions ---- a great group!

Very nice busses. Thanks for taking the time to write all that.
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