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Old 08-06-2010, 02:02 AM   #1
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Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

I've been interested in the idea of custom-building some sort of RV for several years now, but never could decide on a base structure to start with. One day it hit me - use a school bus! Oh, I'm so clever! I wonder where to begin? [google: school bus conversion]. Ohmigosh, I'm not clever, I'M BRILLIANT!! Look at all the material and information out there! Check out all the great minds, and how we're all thinking alike! I love this board!

I do, however, have a few reservations about whether or not I can make this happen.

1. I'm not, in any way, shape, form or fashion, a mechanic. Is this likely to get in my way? How many of you do your own engine work? Will a regular mechanic even work on buses, or will I have to find a local specialist of some sort?

2. I cannot weld. Not a bit. Between the cost of renting a rig, buying the materials, and materials lost to the learning curve, would it be more worthwhile to try to learn or to hire out any welding work? I'm thinking about a roof raise, which doesn't seem safe to attempt with just bolts (Elliot Naess, I'm in awe of the job you did!). I'd also like to weld things like support straps for the tanks, etc, but not if hiring it out will be an Amazing Money Eater.

3. How likely is it that I'll be able to find a dognose bus in Texas with enough room to have a functional roomy living space, plus a few feet of this on the back?

I really really like the idea of being able to cook outside in a mud-free solid floor environment in hot weather (maybe a small bbq pit back there?), plus I don't plan to smoke in the bus and want to give myself a covered patio on which to do so.

I'm not worried about the framing/carpentry/etc. or plumbing (which are in my skillset), and I have a journeyman and a master electrician on call so I don't have to worry about electrical fires because I read a diagram incorrectly.

so....feasable, or should I keep keeping an eye on craigslist for second-hand bumper pulls?

In the meantime, I'm learning a lot here and having tremendous fun drawing out floor plans (if my bus is *this* long, I can have *that*! etc.)

Thanks for reading!
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Old 08-06-2010, 09:44 AM   #2
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

If you plan to do significant mods to the body/frame, then I'd say welding is a valuable skill to have. If you take a welding class, I think often you can bring your projects from home and use their equipment to do the work. I don't weld, but really have not yet, nor do I anticipate much need to do so. But then, my only body mod is to skin the windows and later I'll install a few access doors here and there. Welding would be handy for me, but not absolutely necessary.

There are plenty of dognose buses auctioned off in Texas that are standard length (40ft or so). The dognose buses are 11 or maybe 12 windows at most. Only the flat nosed buses get super long with up to 14 or 15 windows. The flat nose gives you more workable space to play with, especially the front engine models, but the engines are hard to word on due to lack of good accessibility, and they are louder and hotter in the cabin since the engine is practically inside the bus.

Mechanical skills are helpful in owning any vehicle, especially if it's an older model. You would need to find a specialized mechanic for some jobs for sure. Many people on this board start out with very few skills of any kind and learn as they go. If it's not your primary transportation or home, then you have the luxury of time to figure things out. This forum is very helpful, and there are plenty of other forums with a more mechanical focus.
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Old 08-06-2010, 09:53 AM   #3
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

Myrindyl, where are you in Texas? Near the Houston area? If so, there are quite a few of us around here. I have been an ASE certified diesel mechanic way back in the early 90's. I've been working on diesels on-and-off since then. As far as your questions go, it all depends upon what you're willing to learn and willing to do. As far as a flat nose goes, there all over the place here in Texas. Look at Lemons Auctioneers and keep moitoring them for a flat nose you want. Auctions are always coming up on a weekly basis. Price depends upon location of the auction. As far as personally helping you with a flat nose goes, I do not like to work on them because there's very little room for fingers to get in and work - just an FYI. In addition, I'm working on becoming a paramedic, so my schedule for now is full. However, I can help with diagnosis of issues based upon the description of the problem.
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Old 08-06-2010, 09:54 AM   #4
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

Hi and Welcome. I wouldn't let my reservations interfere, if I were you. You, like ALL here, have the vision, and that's most important. It will get you over, around, and through any difficulties you may encounter.
I'm thinking(worrying) over the whole idea fresh anew, because I just went and purchased a diesel. I've always owned gas vehicles, and I'm pretty clueless when it comes to diesel engines, but I'm looking forward to the learning. The only prob you might have with regular mechanics working on your bus, is if it's a gasser, alot of mechanics won't have the space to work on it IN THEIR SHOP. I don't think it's as likely to be a problem for a diesel mech.
Welding?- get a decent MIG setup, and start practicing. You could teach a monkey to do it, it's that easy. Sure, there are techniques that come with practice and knowledge, but you'll pick it up. Stick welding, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to pick up, so I'd really recommend going with MIG.
I'd say it's highly likely to find the bus you want in Texas. As for bumper pulls- I think you know what most here would think of that in comparison to the bus! Go forth, young Man!(or woman, as the case may be)
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:43 AM   #5
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

You need three things to be able to pull this off.

1. Desire

2. Time

3. More time

Everything else will come naturally

S
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:27 AM   #6
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

timmylc: thanks Hope you've had that coffee by now! hehe

Diesel Dan: I'll have to price out some local welding classes! I can scale down my interior space plans somewhat, especially since I'm planning to weekend in the bus and not live in it full-time. I'm just really attached to the aesthetics of the dognose style...and darn it, if I'm going to skoolie a schoolie I want it to look like it started life as a school bus! How else will the uninitiated know how much work went into it? Being able to get to the engine is a factor as well.

M1031: I'm in the Austin area, but Houston's not exactly unreachable from here. Thanks for the tips on where to find a good bus deal, and I promise that if I ever need help, I'll try to accurately describe the mystery noise. Good luck with the paramedic studies!

bus-ted: Thanks! I definitely have the vision. I have trouble getting to sleep sometimes because I can't stop thinking about what I want to do and the best way to accomplish it. I'm glad to hear that MIG welding isn't the complicated scary thing I was imagining it to be - I'll have to look into that further! Oh, and I'm a young woman - while my boyfriend is handy to have around, I'm definitely a better handyman The skoolie idea is my project and my baby!

swhite832: Got it, got it, can arrange it if necessary! Thanks!

Wow, I'm starting to think this may not just be a pipe dream! Very exciting
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:49 AM   #7
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Myrindyl
Wow, I'm starting to think this may not just be a pipe dream!
Run with those thoughts! It could, and most likely will be an epic adventure!
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Old 08-06-2010, 02:21 PM   #8
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

Iceni John: I plan to do as much as I can with bolts and/or rivets, but some projects just don't seem safe without welds. I'm specifically thinking about a roof raise of at least a full foot. For just the one job though, I may hire it out. I'm pretty sure there's at least one welder in my social circle, I'll just have to find out who has the skills and what they want in return if I decide not to learn for myself. Other than the roof though, I plan to rivet and bolt primarily for the reasons you mention - ease of changing my mind later.

bus-ted: I could really use an epic adventure/accomplishment these days. Onward, through the fog! Victory awaits!
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:20 AM   #9
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?

omg Smitty, the porch on that tailgater is EXACTLY what I want for my outdoor kitchen area!! I've been hunting for a conversion like that all over the site for weeks now, thanks so much for the link I've been thinking about raiseable sidewalls/awnings like you see on catering trucks to cover the upper portion for travel, and solid or expanded metal sides for the lower portion. I may use the original bus wall for the lower portion, but I'm not sure it'll come up high enough once the windows are removed - I want the porch walls to be at least kitchen-counter height.

Thanks for the welding suggestions, though I'll probably go the barter route instead of youtube. I may just see if I can barter for lessons, as I'd feel more confident about welding if I had someone to walk me through it in person at first (I see you there behind that sofa ). I just checked the fall schedule for the local community college, and it looks like they only get into MIG techniques in the second semester intermediate class.

I'm still very excited about this project, but I'm getting a lot more realistic about the time involved (I hope). At one point I was planning to get a bus this winter and have it completely ready for next fall, but I'm starting to realize how unrealistic that probably is, especially with fitting bus work around a full time work schedule.
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Old 08-08-2010, 02:00 PM   #10
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Re: Curious Newbie Wonders: Can I Do This?


Thanks for the kind words, Myrindyl! You are getting good advice here already, so I'll be brief. I would not hesitate to raise a roof with bolts and rivets if that was my only possibility. Just remember that the only nuts worth using in a vehicle are self-locking nuts, like NyLock nuts. I buy them by the pound at a "discount industrial supply" store.
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