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Old 02-13-2006, 06:30 PM   #1
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The Perfect Skoolie

I know that this may be the wrong place to pose this question, but I think it is probably the best place. Kinda like hitting on chicks at your sisters wedding ;)

I have a thought, maybe a bad one, maybe a good one, I don't know, so I am gonna ask here where I can get the most "learned" opinions.

I am considering starting an actuall skoolie conversion business. I don't want to compete with the "typical" RV manufactures, but I do want some of their business. I know that most of the people who are going to buy a $150K RV are not going to want a skoolie. Not that they would have any problems with it in any way, just because it looks different. But I do beleive that there could be a market for "professionally converted" skoolies.

I am thinking this would be in the $30K-$100K market. Mainly targeting people who like to boondock. Slightly less affluent than the people who can actually afford a $150K RV.

Ads like "see it all, not just the RV park" and "go where no RV has gone before" and the like. Actual advertising, going to RV shows, and all the requsite showing one around.

So, what I really want to know, it what would you look for in a "perfect" skoolie, how many should it sleep, how big should the tanks be, should it have solar? if yes, how much? What size genset? and all the other things in that line.

What should my target demographic be? I know its probably not people here as they probably either want to do it themselfs, or don't think they could afford to buy something to their needs. But, If I offered ANY flloor plan, ANY options, for no extra costs (design costs, that is), what if you basically had complete editorial control, but didn't actually have to do any of the work? When it's done it should get a current year VIN.


What would be the perfect skoolie, and do you think this idea has a chance of actually working?

Any and all thought on this are welcome, the more verbose, the better.
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Old 02-13-2006, 06:47 PM   #2
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It would have to have air ride on it for me.... I'll have it on mine one day..
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Old 02-13-2006, 10:14 PM   #3
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Re: The Perfect Skoolie

Quote:
Originally Posted by fmtaylor
Kinda like hitting on chicks at your sisters wedding ;)
Eric, take note, the chaquitas you seek may be at fmtaylor's sister's wedding!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fmtaylor
So, what I really want to know, it what would you look for in a "perfect" skoolie, how many should it sleep, how big should the tanks be, should it have solar? if yes, how much? What size genset? and all the other things in that line. . .What should my target demographic be? I know its probably not people here as they probably either want to do it themselfs, or don't think they could afford to buy something to their needs. But, If I offered ANY flloor plan, ANY options, for no extra costs (design costs, that is), what if you basically had complete editorial control, but didn't actually have to do any of the work? When it's done it should get a current year VIN.
As you can see from the Gallery, the "perfect" skoolie is in the eye of the owner or beholder.
Some clarification questions, if I may. . .
1. Do you intend to purchase rolling stock first, then find a prospective buyer to build it to spec for them, or will you start by acting as a consultant / contractor for a prospect, then negotiate body / drivetrain types, living quarters / system options, etc.?
2. Are your clients going to be able to pay deposits up front and periodical payments for the purchase of rolling stock, options and building materials?
3. Can your budget handle your personal survival until a project is complete and final payment is made?
4. Can you produce enough units fast and economically enough to ensure your business survives?
5. Are you going after the $200,000 rv wannabe's? If so, they probably won't consider a "dog-nose", but will want something that "LOOKS" like a real motorhome, i.e. diesel pusher with basement storage that doesn't look like a school bus.
6. Bunks, solar, tanks, gensets, etc. are probably going to be determined by you clients based on YOUR recommendation, are you prepared to answer their questions?
7. What would you consider the average time to complete 1 unit start to finish?

I think you could definitely have a niche market, although to me it seems as though there would be A LOT of variables / details to be hashed out on EACH UNIT that would slow down production, fluctuate pricing, and necessitate formal contracts to build / pay for building. Granted, I don't think you're trying to make 100 units a year, but it's something I would consider.
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Old 02-14-2006, 10:36 AM   #4
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I think one niche that the RV companies haven't explored that our group is more into is being self sustained. Low power requirements, lots of battery power, and solor or wind regeneration.
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Old 02-14-2006, 11:04 AM   #5
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Re: The Perfect Skoolie

Quote:
Originally Posted by Griff
5. Are you going after the $200,000 rv wannabe's? If so, they probably won't consider a "dog-nose", but will want something that "LOOKS" like a real motorhome, i.e. diesel pusher with basement storage that doesn't look like a school bus.
While I agree with most of what Griff says, I'm not as convinced as he is that a dognose wouldn't be viable in this market. If you look at a lot of the toy hauler RVs such as the Fun Mover, you find that they look like a class C built on a medium duty truck chassis retaining the truck cab and accessories. The very high end RV conversions are often built on a Semi Truck chassis and leave the cab intact rather than trying to disguise it. There could well be a market a bit downscale from these where a custom built dognosed skoolie would fit.

My biggest concern would be the roof height. I would think that a roof raise would be one of the elements required to compete with the conventional RV.

Interesting idea.

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Old 02-14-2006, 12:14 PM   #6
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answers

Quote:
1. Do you intend to purchase rolling stock first, then find a prospective buyer to build it to spec for them, or will you start by acting as a consultant / contractor for a prospect, then negotiate body / drivetrain types, living quarters / system options, etc.?
I intend to first build a "showcase" skoolie. I want to put every possible option into it. I will then find buyers, and build it to their specifications. I will maintain a catalog of possible rolling stock options and let them select (based on what they can afford) what will suit them best, explaing the pros and cons of each selection. For example flat nose is more desireable, but any engine repairs will be more than a dognose. Same for diesel vs gas.

Quote:
2. Are your clients going to be able to pay deposits up front and periodical payments for the purchase of rolling stock, options and building materials?
That would be the goal. They place the initial order and pay a deposit (probably enough to cover my initial costs) and I start work. On completion, the remaining amount would be due. I could probably offer a "payment plan" of some sort. Of course there would be a contract involved, with some really anal retentive legalese.

Quote:
3. Can your budget handle your personal survival until a project is complete and final payment is made?
I certainly hope so I am working on the financing now, and that has been budgeted in the plan.

Quote:
4. Can you produce enough units fast and economically enough to ensure your business survives?
Short answer, Yes. I have calculated the cost to produce each unit would be between $15-$20K and I am going to target the $50-$100K buyer.

Quote:
5. Are you going after the $200,000 rv wannabe's? If so, they probably won't consider a "dog-nose", but will want something that "LOOKS" like a real motorhome, i.e. diesel pusher with basement storage that doesn't look like a school bus.
That would be one of the drivetrain options, with the associated price increase, but that would not be my primary target market. I would welcome their business.

Quote:
6. Bunks, solar, tanks, gensets, etc. are probably going to be determined by you clients based on YOUR recommendation, are you prepared to answer their questions?
I am making a list and checking it twice, and will have a lot more of the answers after I finish the "showcase", but yes, I am prepared to answer their questions, or I will be.

Quote:
7. What would you consider the average time to complete 1 unit start to finish?
I estimate that I can finish the first one in 3 months, then, depending on options, I can probably finish one unit (working my butt off, all day every day) every 2 months, without actually adding any employees. Beyond that I would need help.

Quote:
The very high end RV conversions are often built on a Semi Truck chassis and leave the cab intact rather than trying to disguise it. There could well be a market a bit downscale from these where a custom built dognosed skoolie would fit.
That was my thinking. Especially since the dognose skoolie is abundantly available for a reasonable price.

Quote:
My biggest concern would be the roof height. I would think that a roof raise would be one of the elements required to compete with the conventional RV.
Definatly an option for those who would require it. Of course it would add to the price and time to manufacture, but it should be an available option. Of course there are those who would not need it, and could save a few thousand dollars.
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Old 02-14-2006, 02:10 PM   #7
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I hate to sound negative here but I think if you are targeting the $50-100K buyer you would be better off converting coaches like MCI or Provost style busses. These busses are basically the same chassis as the $200K-$300K style motor homes and I've seen them go for less than $10K on Ebay, which is only $6-8K more than a skoolie.

These busses look basically identical as a $300K motor home and most run 70+ MPH whereas most school busses run 55-60mph & have to be modified to go faster. Also most Skoolies ride like a lumber wagon whereas those coach busses have air ride.

I've seen some nice skoolie conversions out there, some that hardly even look like a school bus anymore but for that kind of money I would think that people would want something "nicer" I kinda think of it as revamping a 10 year old Kia & trying to sell it to a Cadillac buyer. Keep in mind I see through the ugliness (or whatever you wanna call it) of an old school bus and think there great, but someone shopping for a $50-100,000 motor home probably won’t.

Don’t get me wrong I love skoolies - I have one myself but I have a total of maybe $3,500 invested in mine, if I were looking to spend 50K-100K I would be looking at a coach style motor home.

Just my $0.02... & I'm not trying to be negative here, just telling you my thoughts.
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Old 02-14-2006, 02:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
I hate to sound negative here but I think if you are targeting the $50-100K buyer you would be better off converting coaches like MCI or Provost style busses.
That is a valid observation, however, you can't take a bus of that type off the pavement. Also, that particular market is pretty much covered. I would prefer to target the market that would rather have the low gear ratio and the ground clearance The people who prefer dry camping, but tents and sleeping bags hurt to much now that they are over 30. The type of person who wants to full-time it, but wants to do it in the middle of nowhere. Like I posted earlier, "see the world, not just the RV park"....

Quote:
I kinda think of it as revamping a 10 year old Kia & trying to sell it to a Cadillac buyer
I understand your point, however, what I have in mind would be more like taking that 10 year old kia to the RollsRoyce plant and having them completly rework it and put a RR sticker on it. Sure, it won't go for as much as an "original" Rolls, but for the discount it would still sell (I hope). It is my goal (and you should hope I succeed) in actually making a skoolie something someone would actually save money for, and plan their vacations around.

The things you posted did give me cause for concern as I was doing my research, until I realized that my target market was not the same as the target market for an MCI or Provost conversion. Sure, they are nice, but they wouldn't suit my needs, and are way too expensive to maintain.
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Old 02-14-2006, 02:59 PM   #9
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I would say that a lot of me (like me) don't want something that big. Especially if you pull a trailer behind it, when you get to the racetrack, etc. it is too hard to manuver around everyone else..
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Old 02-14-2006, 05:12 PM   #10
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There's alot of questions that still remain unasked, and even before you've even looked at your first chassis, you listed one glaring shortcut to scuiscide. First and foremost DO NOT EVER offer ANY form of financing for your busses. Leave that for the banks. The idea is that you get YOUR money for your efforts, and leave the repossessing to the finance companies if one of your customers fails to pay the note. To that end, sit down and lay out your business plan in GREAT detail. Again, the idea is to be able to GET financial backing for your business, and make your product saleable to the public.

Another one is warranty. What do you plan to offer as a warranty for your conversions? $15K to $20K sounds like a very aggressive figure for what will also be the need to really thoroughly go over your donor chassis, and make sure that NOTHING will need any form of attention when you are done. You'll get eaten for lunch if you end up shipping out a batch of oil burners that require multi thousand dollar engines before the buyer can even drive it, without realizing it.

Using a skoolie, some form of roof rise will be a requirement to answer to headroom. Even though you'll be offering what sounds to me like an "enrty level bus based R.V.," you will still be competing with the class A used market. If your product fails to impress, you'll lose to them.

Personally, using a skoolie chassis won't be quite the big deal that others might think. Remember that this is excactly how the Wanderlodge R.V. line got started.

IMO, the best thing to do, would be to get on the R.V. show circuit, as an upstart looking for venture capital. This will give you a very blunt assessment of how the public will receive your product, before you dump your entire life's worth into trying to get started. You will also be able to get an up close idea as to what the public will want in their products. If you are to survive, you will NEED to build for the largest common denominator.

IF it were me in your shoes, I'd avoid the conventional and front engine busses. The public will largely reject them in a market full of pushers. As an example, a used Wanderlodge that is a diesel pusher, automatically sells for at least double it's same year font engine cousin. I'm headed to Houston tomorrow to look at an 80 Wanderlodge, that the seller has been trying to sell for 2 and a half years. Over that time, he's dropped the price of his R.V. to $17K. It's a front engine model.

Your finished product will need to look alot more like an R.V. than a school bus. This means out with those rattly windows, and in with the R.V. glass. Slides are in, and that's going to be impossible in a round roofed skoolie, especially at the price you're looking at. Many of the people that I've talked with, that are doing conversions themselves, are doing this because they want that otherwise unreachable top shelf bus based R.V., but are either unwilling, or unable to pay the premium price.

Basically, make a careful study of what's on the market. See how you can offer a product that will fit in it, especially since there is no shortage of choices out there.

I hope this gives you something to chew on.
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