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Old 02-20-2013, 12:07 PM   #1
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

If I were buying a 40 footer, I would want a diesel pusher for sure. Only problem would be finding a way to get your motorcycle in there. You would have to fabricate some sort of opening where there wasn't one before. The emergency doors are small and located mid-ship and so would likely not work for loading a bike. The advantage of having the engine in front is there is a back door you can use to load large items. Front engine buses are loud though, and do not have the same under-storage capability as the pushers. I would find a way to make the pusher work, but it will definitely cost you more to do that.
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:06 PM   #2
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Best bus is one you actually have!

On a more serious note (B Flat?) while it's one thing to have some idea as to what you think you need, getting too hung up on details will result in you NEVER buying a bus. Deciding to have a longer bus over a shorty is one thing. Holding out for a manual tranny with over drive and rear engine with emergency door in the middle... exactly in the middle not slightly off and it can only be XX number of feet long because that is what your floor plans dictate, the ones you drew up two years before you ever looked at a bus.. etc.

Why can't you haul your motorcycle on a lift. I've seen many RVs with a motorcycle lift that also tow a car behind them. Or do what many in our current park (and previous parks) do... pull a little pickup truck and put the motorcycle in the truck bed.

As for not needing a "hookup" every night, we didn't need a hookup every night with the Class C... it had two 18 gallon waste tanks, an 18 gallon fresh tank, a crappy POS Onan generator, a SINGLE 12vDC deep cycle marine battery from Wal-mart. Longest trip we did in it was from NC to NM. It was 11 nights on the road we spent time in two campgrounds (2 nights in Benbrook COE and 1 night in Harry McAdams State/County park). All other nights we spent in parking lots. You don't need much to be able to park in a parking lot to sleep.

I would LOVE to have $10K to spend on the bus. It would be finished right now! And I'm sure I would not have spent as little as what we have spent (and will spend).

I suggest that you sit down with a couple pieces of paper. Answer some questions (just to get you started). Really put some thought into these questions. You need to think about now or near future as well as several years down the road which involves a great deal of What If's:

-- Will you be fulltiming, long timing or weekending. Fulltime is living 24/7/365, long timing is spending 2 to 6 months or longer stretches in the bus. Weekending is weekends or spending a week or so at a time.

-- You have a large furkid. So where will you sleep? You need to take into account of the space your furkid will be occupying while you watch TV, cook, eat and sleep. Those pesky food bowls for the kiddies tend to be underfoot a lot, where will you put them? What about the furkid food? Where will you keep that.

-- Number of adults & kids to be living in the bus NORMALLY at the same time. Then you have the guest set up. We don't do "guests. When our kids came to visit, they stayed in a hotel. When just the one came to visit, she slept in the back of her Jeep.

-- Do you NEED a table to eat at? Really do you? We don't nor do many others. We tend to eat in front of the TV. Always have even when we had a dining room. We have a couple of small folding aluminum tables that we use as tables when we need to have a table. In nice weather, we tended to eat outside at the picnic table. We do need to pick up a folding table to use as a picnic table. Those picnic tables are looking rougher every year!

-- Where do you plan on normally staying (multiple answer question!!!) private/commercial campgrounds, public campgrounds (may have limited hookups and 30 amp max power), parking lots or boat ramps, boondocking, friends & family yards and driveways, your own lot? And HOW OFTEN!

-- Do you plan on cooking in or eating out at restaurants? Cooking in means you need to be able to store more food (fresh, frozen, canned). Also means you need serious cooking appliances as opposed to cooking appliances more suited to a couple weekends as year.

-- Do you plan on using laundromats, hand wash/tumble washers (requires a line to dry clothes on ... frowned on in commercial parks and some public parks) or have your own washer & dryer. This will influence the amount of clothing you carry.

-- Will you chase the sun or stay in one place for long periods of time? Where do you see yourself staying? We certainly did not expect to be staying, long term or short term, in a place where the temps get below freezing at night. Temps influence your winter proofing measurements. Temps influence your cooling measurements. No matter what... you can't have too much insulation and you need to have thermal breaks!!

-- How long do you want to go without hookups? Will you be frugal with water, etc?

-- What kind of fuel do you want to use as your main heat source. You will need heat even in a South FL winter. You will need a back up in case you are unable to use your primary source of heating fuel.

-- Stuff storage requirements. Your stuff will expand to fill all available space and then start to push you out. How will you thin down your stuff and can you use alternative stuff that takes up far less space (like paper books & mags vs electronic books and mags). What do you own that you do not want to give up? You don't have to give up everything. I kept several hings & incorporated them into the bus (king size 4 poster water bed now holds a standard full mattress, cedar barrel top chest David made me for my wedding present sits at the foot of the bed, 30" LP range that we bought not long before we decided to fulltime in the Class C, 1800's claw foot rocking chair, 1926 Craftsman oak fireplace mantle, old rock maple trestle style end table, Aladdin kerosine lamp, 1954 German key wound anniversary clock my Dad gave me, an oil painting I like and a signed/numbered lithograph of a gristmill outside of Greenville GA plus a few leather bound books that I prefer to hang on to). Decide what you don't want to live without, the things that make it "home" and then figure out how to build them into the bus design.

--Energy. Will you need to put a generator under the bus? Will you have PV panels? What size battery bank will you need for the "house"? What type of battery will you use (and will it fit in the battery compartment)?

-- Transportation. Other than the bus. How will you get around once you pull into a site? What is involved in taking your transportation with you?

Once you get those question answered (plus what ever notes you come up with) you need to have two sheets of paper. One sheet is your must haves. This will include the minimum you will need. The other paper will be your "wish" list. Next you will start price shopping. You want NEW prices. I don't care that Bubba-who-lives-down-the-road said he would sell you the old RV that hasn't been used in decades parked in his back yard real cheap. Look on the internet and get new prices. Use Camping World full price. Don't use any discounted prices. Get prices for your bare minimums and your dream list. Get as many prices as you can. Add up each sheet. This will give you a vague idea of the range your conversion will cost you. Low end and high end. And this does not take into account your bus shell.

Next take a sheet of paper and do a general layout to determine how much space your bed will eat up (our island bed takes up the full 10 ft behind the rear wheel wells including walk space), how much space your bathroom are will eat up (go into your house bathroom, flip the toilet lid down and sit... how much room do your feet take up in front of the toilet seat? Stand up, how much space did you use to stand up?) Go to someplace like Lowes or Home Depot. Try to stand in the smallest shower stall they display and "wash" your hair and feet. Don't forget to drop the "soap".

Next is your field trip. Do you have a digital camera or one on your cellphone. You also need a small note pad, a tape measure and the camera. Now go to your nearest RV dealership. Take your time, you are not really there to look at RVs. You are there to look at SPACE. Look at the walkways. How small can you comfortably go. note down the smallest walkway you can walk down normally (not sideways) note that measurement down as your minimum. Find one that is "comfortably wide" and note that one down as the widest. Check out the bathrooms, take pics in addition to measurements. Pretend to use the facilities. Step into the shower and wash your hair, drop the soap. Flip the toilet lid down and sit on the toilet. Do you have enough room to wipe? Stand up and pretend to pull your shorts up, Do you have enough room? Take measurements. Collect literature with floor plans (write notes on them) Warning! an "all-in-one" bathroom where the toilet, shower and sink are all in the same shower stall is not as neat as it seems. Use one only as a last resort. The floors are always wet and/or muddy. They might be okay for a weekend but for fulltiming, they suck. Check out the bedroom. That narrow aisle around the bed... can you walk in it without falling over? How about the clothes closets. At minimum a single person with 8 days of clothing needs 18". 24" is fairly spacious. Check out the galley (kitchen). Okay, I hate what RV designers do to galley kitchens. Galley (single wall or double wall straight runs) are the most efficient kitchen layout. They are the worst kitchen designers. They waste far too much space. I used to be a Kitchen & bath designer. I specialized in small kitchens. A small kitchen is much harder to design well than a large kitchen. You want to look at counter top spaces. If you have no dishwasher, you need enough counter space next to the sink on at least one side to put a dish drainer. I don't care if you think you will stack your dishes in the drain rack in the "rinse" bowl of the sink. You need space next to the sink. You need a double bowl sink. You need enough space next to the range to set a plate or cookie sheet on the counter. You need at least 6" between the edge of a burner and the closest wall. Pretend you are cooking in the kitchen. Take lots of pictures.

One last tip (finally! bet you thought I would go on forever)... You need to be able to pick up and leave fast. While a skoolie is much better built than an RV, you still will need to leave places due to storms, floods, fires, etc. The faster you can pack up, the faster you can leave, the less chance you have of being caught in the path of destruction. To me, best scenario, would be crank up the bus, let the air build up, while that is happening, go outside: dump the waste tanks, close the valves and stow the sewer hose, stow the fresh water hose, unplug from shore power. Inside: secure the refrigerator door, secure the cabinet doors. Secure anything loose. Take the dog out to go (which it won't), dump the pet water, secure the dog (mine always just climbed in the bed and slept), check the lights on your walk around to make sure everything is ready to go and you haven't left anything. GO!

A place for everything and everything in it's place. Means less clutter, less chance of stuff taking over and less chance you get caught in a bad situation that you could have avoided if it didn't take you two days to get ready to go.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:43 PM   #3
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Geeze Lorna, you should collect all your posts from this board and just publish an e-book!
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:08 PM   #4
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Lorna, your post is most informative and would be useful for other means of camping also as they would apply to trailer and motorhome alike.
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Old 02-20-2013, 11:06 PM   #5
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Welcome aboard, Espiritus!

There are three basic types of “grown-up” buses:

Conventional. Also called “dog-snout” and such. This is with the engine out in front of the driver, under a hood like a pickup-truck.
Advantages: Easy access to engine. Tail can be opened up for loading a motorcycle or whatnot.
Disadvantages: Noise, fumes and heat from the engine. Less interior space available.

Cab Forward. Also called “front-engine flat-nose”. This means the driver sits forward of the front axle, with the engine near him under a cover that resembles a dog house – and is called the dog house.
Advantages: Good amount of floor space. Tail can be opened up for loading a motorcycle or whatnot. (Maybe you saw the tailgate on my Millicent.)
Disadvantages: Extremely poor access to engine. Noise, fumes and heat from the engine. Difficult access to driver seat (must climb over dog house).

Pusher. Also called “rear engine”.
Advantages: Reasonable access to engine. Little noise, fumes and heat from engine. Good floor space – you put the master bed on top of the engine, so you do not really lose the engine space. More underbody storage possible, since there is no drive-shaft.
Disadvantages: Not possible to open tail for loading. You would load your motorcycle thru a side door.

Sooo…. If I had it to do over, without my need for huge cargo space, I would probably get a pusher. Absolutely no cab-forward.

For all your highway travel, definitely get a strong engine – both in pulling power and in durability. Top of the heap are International DT466 and Cummins 8.3. Next, Cummins 5.9 is not bad, and most common, but a bit small.

Automatic transmissions are the standard these days, and they are mostly the Allison brand. But if you find a stick shift behind one of those three engines, buy it. (Unless you don’t want one, which would be rare around here.) The newer Allisons have four-digit model numbers, and I am not familiar with them. The older style Allisons that you will likely run into are AT545 and MT643. Avoid the AT545 – no torque converter lock-up. The MT643 has lock-up and higher power capacity. If the bus has the International DT466 or Cummins 8.3, or is 40 feet long, it will probably have the MT643. If you find a big engine with an HT700-series tranny, rock-n-roll.

That ought to get you started.
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:42 PM   #6
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diesel Dan
Geeze Lorna, you should collect all your posts from this board and just publish an e-book!
You think I could sell it for..... 99˘

We could sure use the money!
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Old 02-22-2013, 01:31 PM   #7
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elliot Naess
Cab Forward. Also called “front-engine flat-nose”. This means the driver sits forward of the front axle, with the engine near him under a cover that resembles a dog house – and is called the dog house.
Advantages: Good amount of floor space. Tail can be opened up for loading a motorcycle or whatnot. (Maybe you saw the tailgate on my Millicent.)
Disadvantages: Extremely poor access to engine. Noise, fumes and heat from the engine. Difficult access to driver seat (must climb over dog house).

Pusher. Also called “rear engine”.
Advantages: Reasonable access to engine. Little noise, fumes and heat from engine. Good floor space – you put the master bed on top of the engine, so you do not really lose the engine space. More underbody storage possible, since there is no drive-shaft.
Disadvantages: Not possible to open tail for loading. You would load your motorcycle thru a side door.
Elliot also neglected another disadvantage for both the Front Engine Flat & the Rear Engine (which is also flat faced). Some folks find sitting in front of the front axle disturbing. We looked at a Van Hool highway coach that had been placed up for sale at a then local dealer (Chattanooga). The reason the bus was for sale, the guy who had bought it for a conversion could not sit in the seat to drive it. The dealer had it sold twice until the test drive. Both potential buyers backed out due to the position of the driver which was both low to the ground and well in front of the steer tires.

We have a flat nosed front engine bus. It does not bother us as it's just like the Eagle coach we had (although the Eagle was a rear engine). But it's something that you need to take into account. If the idea disturbs you, then you may be better off with a more conventional bus. And if you have a another person that will be driving the bus, make sure they are comfortable with sticking out there in the air.

GUYS! If you have a Significant Other who will be using the bus with you, PLEASE make sure they can drive the bus as well. A great deal of women drive these things as school bus drivers. So it's not a case of "can't" but of willingness. Not every one is comfortable with a manual shift (and that goes for a lot of guys too) so that may be a point you need to discuss with your SO. They don't need to be able to run an obstacle course at high speed. But they do need to be able to get you and the bus home because you are suffering from food poisoning, the flu or a sprained foot. Going from a tiny ubercompact car to a 40 foot behemoth is a bit of a shock and takes some adjusting.

I believe I can drive anything. Just let me get on a clear road and get out of my way. The first thing I drove was a vintage Ford 8N farm tractor. My first car was a tiny 5 speed on the floor VW Squareback (VW's version of a station wagon only slightly bigger than a Bug). But I also learned to drive a full sized 3 speed column shifted pick up truck at the same time (my then boyfriend taught me how to drive stick shifts and deal with hydroplaning). Over the years, I learned to drive my Dad's 3/4 ton 4 speed manual shift pick up truck, 1 ton dump truck (manual shift) and the biggest thing up til we got the bus, the Class C (auto and is about 2 tons fully loaded). The first time I drove the Class C was from Franklin NC to Cordele GA. Over 250 miles and we took the 285 bypass on the east side of Atlanta. First time driving the big beastie and it's thru Atlanta. With bad shocks/leaf springs. I survived that. I also found an alternative route so I did not have to deal with the slowly creeping rush hour Atlanta traffic. Every trip meant I got more comfortable driving the Class C since I was the primary driver.

Only time I've driven the BlueBird is from one spot in the campground to another spot in the same campground. I had no problem and as long as David only tells me when to stop, I can back the bus into a campsite with no problems. I've backed the Class C into all the campsites we put it into. That's not a problem once you figure out the trick to it. As for driving the BlueBird. Yes, I most certainly will drive. David does not need to be doing all the driving. No matter how far the trip, I will be doing part of the driving. David has good days, bad days and occasionally really bad days since his heart attack. It doesn't hurt me in any way, shape or form to be doing part of the driving. The more I drive, the more comfortable I am driving. So get your SO's to drive and let them drive (without complaining or telling them they are doing it "wrong") as close to half the time as possible. You may find you like not having to drive all the time. As for the Ladies... just remember... "S/He who drives get to decide when and where you stop".
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:07 PM   #8
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske
Some folks find sitting in front of the front axle disturbing.
There is indeed a reason long-haul truckers still love the mile-long hoods, in spite of the difficulty of maneuvering them in tight spaces -- they are so much more comfortable to drive. The closer you sit to the axle the more you bounce, and when you sit in front of the axle you bounce like you are riding on a teeter-totter with a giant pogo stick spring under it.

But truckers may pull 53 foot-trailers without regard to the length of the tractor, while school buses come no more than 40 feet long. So to us it is largely a matter of available interior space. If you can be happy with limited space, then I certainly recommend a Conventional. Newer models no doubt have less leakage of noise and heat than the 1983 rattletrap I had before Millicent.

But in Millicent, where I deliberately gave up living space in exchange for "garage" space, we constantly find ourselves desperately short on living space.

With my couple of million miles behind "long hoods", driving Millicent was indeed very different -- even instinctively disturbing at first. But I was soon accustomed to it. The noise is the big bugaboo now. And climbing over the doghouse.
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:35 PM   #9
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elliot Naess
...The noise is the big bugaboo now. And climbing over the doghouse.
It's "exercise" and it keeps you young and flexible!
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:39 PM   #10
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Re: Best Bus for a conversion

Sitting in front of tires is interesting at first, the first time you make a very sharp turn from a stop and notice everything behind is moving sideways but you are still facing straight and swinging like your on some carnival ride waiting for the floor to fall out...turning onto 90* streets at night is interesting....when headlights dont light up the street your tires are on (thats why I have "turning" lights) that light up the side of the road between front tire and drivers window
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