Browsing the Skoolie forums and bouncing schemes to build a 4x4 bus off of other members has become a bit of a pastime for me, but recently I thought a little more in depth about the bus that many people probably picture when they think of "The Short Bus":
Yes, its goofy looking, yes its been equipped with everything from crappy 6.5L diesels to gas guzzling 5.7L gassers, but for a 4x4 conversion it might actually be a decent choice... I've looked at this from all angles at this point and pretty much figured out the following:
If you want to build a full size bus into a 4x4, your only option is a medium duty front axle ($$$), a lot of lift, and very expensive tires if you want aggressive tread and the ability to safely carry maximum GVWR. On the other hand, if you want to build the average short bus (E450 based) into a 4x4, it can be done by finding a wrecked F250/350 4x4 and some fabrication. However, what I don't like about the E450 based buses is that even if you find one with a full height roof and full width body, you still have that tight and awkward cab up front. The van front and fat body on an E450 based bus make it look like tick about to pop.
Enter the Mini Bird, built on the GM P30 chassis, which was used for everything from bread vans to small box trucks. GVWR on the Mini Bird, as I understand it, is 14,500. I'd be very curious to find out what an empty one weighs to find out how much leeway one has. I have been able to find some evidence that Mini Birds were equipped with the GM 14 Bolt rearend, which is good for 8600 GAWR. A Dana 60 up front (6500 GAWR) would bring GVWR up to 15,100. That plus a divorced NP205 transfer case from a scrap yard would be a pretty minimal investment. The Mini Bird uses leaf springs up front so adapting the D60 would be pretty easy. For tires I would go with these:
Michelin XML military tires - 38" tall, 13" wide, and fits a standard 16" wheel with a max load of 5,070lbs PER TIRE! With some lift, this kind of rubber, and a flat desert tan or olive drab paint job, I think the Mini Bird would start to look a little more like this:
I welcome any comments/criticism, after all, I've never actually messed around with one these buses, just gleaned information about them from the internet. The biggest plus I feel is that you get the fullsize bus ceiling height and width along with the cockpit space without it actually being a medium duty and requiring a ton of lift and $$$ to convert it. Thoughts?