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Old 03-30-2010, 12:40 AM   #1
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Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Well, after many years of thinking about it, I am finally actually beginning my trip down the Bus Conversion path.

On Saturday, I received notice of a public auction which includes many old school buses. This will be held on Saturday, 10 Apr 10, a bit north of my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. It will be held in the town of Slippery Rock - by coincidence, I have two sons currently attending Slippery Rock University and they live on a lot of property just a few miles from the auction. They said that I could park the bus at their place, while I work on it.

My reasons for wanting a bus/RV basically fall into three main groups:
1) My family has a family reunion every summer. I would like to attend with my wife and kids, but I cannot sleep on the ground in a tent any more (anyone know how to give me the back I had when I was a kid? ) An RV would be different, because I would be sleeping in a real bed (or at least close to one)
2) I would like to be able to get away for a few day trips, short overnighters and one of my unreached goals in life has been to travel the old Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.
3) Hurricane Katrina, Haitian Earthquake, Sept 11, 2001... Need I go on? The bus will stay at least partially packed for quick departures to meet with #2 (more likely) or #3 (less likely, but possible)

First of all, I had several questions: What constitutes an RV (Motorhome to Pennsyklvania)? How do I transport it to my son's place? Where can I get insurance? ands on... and on...

So, the logical first step is to go to the PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), right? Didn't help, the Pittsburgh office is only for driver's licensing, etc, and they don't know much about customizing buses into RVs. They said to try AAA! So, off to AAA - they only knew about the MV-426B form, an application for title for a modified vehicle. Oh well, at least it's a place to start. A quick search showed the instruction manual for that form and the required inspections. It turns out that my skoolie needs to have at least four of seven required traits:
• Cooking appliance
• Refrigerator
• Self-contained toilet
• Heating/Air conditioning
• Portable water supply
• Faucet and sink
• Separate 110/125 or LP gas supply
?So, one question answered anyway. Well, I planned on most of those anyway, so that should be pretty easy to get started.

One other small snag: the family reunion is going to be in only a few months. So, fast and cheap is better. I will put up with a barely usable, barely legitimate RV if it can get me to the family reunion this summer, and then I can work on making the stuff more permanent and more finished over the winter.

Well, hopefully this new thread/log will keep me working on my project. I will be posting more in the next few days, as I get more information and get started actually obtaining the stuff I need. This is really to chronicle my work, so that I will have a record of it, and also to keep me interested in my stuff - I hope others may be encouraged/motivated/helped/etc, or at least entertained.

Happy rolling, everyone.
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Old 03-30-2010, 11:15 AM   #2
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by granzeier
It turns out that my skoolie needs to have at least four of seven required traits:
• Cooking appliance
• Refrigerator
• Self-contained toilet
• Heating/Air conditioning
• Portable water supply
• Faucet and sink
• Separate 110/125 or LP gas supply
... One other small snag: the family reunion is going to be in only a few months. So, fast and cheap is better.
Buy one of those big Airbed Mattresses to sleep on for the reunion.

As for the 4 of seven: you need a LP gas grill (cooking appliance & LP gas supply), Portipotti (self contained toilet), Cooler (refrigeration). A "water can" for fresh water (potable water supply). Does not have to be built in (usually). This is what we did for our Eagle coach to get it titled in TN. I had to supply a notarized affidavit stating I had the required items. Not pics of interior. We titled the coach as a motorhome.
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Old 03-30-2010, 12:57 PM   #3
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Good luck at the auction, I'm hoping to make a purchase there as well. If you see a group of mid-20s dorky-looking guys walking around, that'll be my friends and me. We're hard to miss, we'll be the ones speaking English. (a lot of those buses end up being exported to South America)
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Old 03-30-2010, 08:48 PM   #4
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Just to let you guys know.. BUS&CHASSIS out of Brentwood NH will be getting in about 200 units I believe before summer. Something to consider.

GOOD LUCK!
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:03 PM   #5
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Wow, lots of info! Thanks a lot.

I wasn't able to make it to the auction; my son is coming back from Army training (Basic and AIT) next weekend and we are going up there to have a family cookout to celebrate. Can't afford to take an extra day of vacation time right now. Keeping my eyes out for other possibilities and will wait for the next auction. We will probably end up at the near-by hotel for the family campout, but soon I hope to make future ones in our own RV.

Here is an update that I typed up at work (can't post from work, this site is blocked This is also mostly for my thoughts and actions (or lack thereof) for this project.

>>>>>>>> From 01 Apr 10:

My wife (the practical one) pointed out that we probably should not get a bus that we would be afraid to take to the family reunion this summer. It would need to be in good enough shape that we could drive it assured of getting there and home. So, most likely I will not be buying a bus next week, but rather, just going up to take a look at different buses; taking measurements, photos, etc. to get ideas for when I do buy one – you know, “just looking… and dreaming… and wishing… and hoping… and drooling…” God will have to work at it to let me know that He wants me to get a bus on that Saturday, but I kind of hope that He does. Of course, if I can’t get the bus next week, I will have that much more time to find a good deal, and to research conversions.

I have pretty much settled on a couple of things that I want for my bus: I really want a diesel bus, I would like to convert it to Waste Veggie Oil (WVO) at some point down the line; also, I would like it to be as long as I can get – the more room, the merrier. I will probably be starting out with only the minimum needed to get it legally converted into an RV (PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, requires that you do any four conversions out of a list of seven: •Cooking appliance •Refrigerator •Self-contained toilet •Heating/Air conditioning •Portable water supply •Faucet and sink •Separate 110/125 or LP gas supply – notice that they don’t say anything about beds? Strange.) Since I plan on having all or nearly all of those things put in, I should be able to get the title changed to a Motorhome without too much trouble – I know… “famous last words”.

Some of those things will be pretty simple. For example, I will start my kitchen by just mounting our camp stove on a counter and this will give me the first requirement (followed, of course, by a microwave eventually). Also, I will be putting a simple 5-gallon water can in the bus with a hand pump and a simple sink draining into a gray-water tank under the bus, this will be another two requirements (the 5-gallon can being replaced by a 55-gallon, or so, tank later.) A $100 camp toilet from WalMart will give me the last piece required to convert the title. With that toilet, I will be able to put off dealing with a black-water tank to begin with. I will also probably put a camp shower that I purchased for emergency use into the bus (replacing it with something better later on), but that is not a requirement. Of course, this will be improved, and added to, over the time that I have the bus, but I want the title converted as soon as possible so that I can use it while still working on it.

In one of the conversion stories that I read, they started off calling their bus, their “steel tent,” that would work while I put time, effort and money into making it into more of an RV, than a “steel tent.” I probably will not even have the basic bus before this summer’s family reunion, but that would be nice. I am thinking of a master bedroom in the back, and then a bunk area for a few kids/guests, a washroom with toilet, sink and shower. Ahead of that would be the lounge and the galley.

Not sure how those plans will turn out. This is really just the beginning of my planning stage, the rest will depend upon a lot of things. One good thing about the “temporary” way that I am starting off, is that I can see how things work and then make changes as needed. I may have to combine the galley and lounge into one area. Actually, I may keep the galley to just the food prep area and the eating will be in the lounge/living room area. We do that at home a lot, eating on the couch like that. I will probably need to keep at least one small table area for my computer and work. That may turn out to be a small office hidden away, possibly in the master bedroom. Maybe it will replace (part of) the bunk area after the kids move out to their own camper/tent/whatever (or, just carry their tents with us, and when we camp, they will go sleep outside – they would probably prefer that). I think that I may end up needing to be able to do some telecommuting or at least “work from home,” and would like to be able to do that on the road, if the opportunity ever presents itself.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:35 PM   #6
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

very interesting!!

and i didnt know walmart sells 100$ toilets. been thinking of one for my shortie.
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Old 04-15-2010, 12:57 AM   #7
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Smitty,

Thanks. Yeah, I think that you are talking about the same thing that I am. What I imagine is starting at the back of the bus will be my master bedroom. Exiting that through the doorway, I will have a bathroom on my right with a set or two of bunks on my left (driver's side) - either two or (preferably) four bunks, depending on total space available. Fore of that will be the lounge/living room with a small galley on the right side. Finally, closest to the front will be the seating area - a couple of the bus' seats left in place to hold the family while we get to our destination - probably replace the original seats with some better seats fairly quickly. It seems to me that forward-facing is the best position in case of an accident; or at least better than lounging around in any old position.

Anyway, the bunk area will be kind of temporary. When we decide that it's time to put the office in, I will just pull the bunks out and replace them with some cabinets, some shelves, a desk, a workbench and a chair. I really don't need a whole lot of room, just enough for my computer (a large notebook) and a development bench to build small electronic device prototypes. By the time that I am working from the RV, I will, hopefully, contract with someone to do order fulfillment, while I continue my design work and the sales side of things (I design educational and training materials to encourage kids to enter engineering and to help students learn engineering - Granzeier Consulting, Helping to build a better engineer. )

I know what you mean about vehicles breaking down. Just that I need to have a bit of a good feeling about our chances of getting there and back. We have had several cars/vans which I was afraid to take on any kind of road trip. The van we have now is a 2005 Pontiac Montana, and, while it could breakdown at any time, I feel safe taking that almost anywhere in the ConUS - the last van we had, I felt nervous about taking to Indiana, PA - a 75 mile trip. I want to save up some more to try to get a somewhat decent bus; I am not a mechanic, not any more. So, I want something that I can spend my time on the interior and exterior and keep the mechanical work to a minimum.

Art
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Old 04-15-2010, 11:26 AM   #8
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

sounds like your ground plans are well laid out. good luck man!
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:04 AM   #9
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Re: Stqarting Out - The Family Camper Bus

Stuff,

Thanks. The plans are actually not all that well laid out yet - I would like to get the layout into my CAD program (Sprint Layout; actually meant to lay out printed circuit boards, but I can probably convince it to do a bus .) CAD will let me move things around before committing to hardware. Does anyone have the inside dimensions (floor length by width) for typical buses? - it will probably be a pain to convert the measurements to mils (1000ths of an inch ), but for the sake of the bus...

I am hoping for, at least, a 72 pax bus and maybe longer. Maybe a few different bus sizes to play with (even a short bus maybe) and try out. What I need is the actual floor size that I will be working with, so probably from the back of the driver's seat to the rear of the bus is the length that I should be using.

Thanks,

Art
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