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Old 06-27-2018, 10:48 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 168
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Which platform for RV conversion?

After looking at several of the great school bus to RV conversion threads here I am still undecided which platform to build our RV on.

We recently made the round trip from East coast to Montana (~5000 miles) twice in our International 26' box truck, towing another vehicle on a 10k flatbed trailer. Since the box was occupied either by household items or a disassembled airplane, we slept in the towed vehicle for the long days and stayed in a motel every second night or so. On every trip we visited National Parks and other interesting places. The truck had no problems with our sightseeing excursions even on pretty gnarly dirt roads. On the highway, the Allison 545 transmission behind the T444E was a noticeable handicap and the most we could hope for was 65 mph and about 7.5 mpg (loaded for bear).

We have recently finished our 'base camp', a small house on plenty of land in Western North Carolina and plan on hitting the road for an extended period of time in 2-3 years from now. "We" is my wife, one Jack Russel, one Rat Terrier, and yours truly.

Converting the existing box truck into some RV-like contraption would be an obvious choice since it is already paid for and has also received the necessary maintenance and repairs to be trustworthy. However, the bus conversions are undoubtedly cooler than a huge, white box with some windows/doors behind a day cab.

Here is my list of the pros and cons for the various choices. I left the front engine buses off the list since they combine IMO the disadvantages of a truck (heat/noise up front) with the disadvantages of a bus (more difficult build-out).

Rear engine skoolie
Pros:
Good accident/roll-over safety
Existing basement compartments

Cons:
Will require exterior sheet metal work and roof raise (I stand 6'6" tall)
Time consuming interior demo and refinish

Low floor transit bus (e.g. Gillig)
Pros:
Decent accident/roll-over safety
Sufficient interior height

Cons:
Low ground clearance (paved roads only)
Time consuming interior demo and refinish
No basement or external space for tools and seasonal items

26' box truck with day cab
Pros:
Easiest build-out. (Flat hardwood floor, straight walls, more than enough height)
Best off-road capability
Lift gate and 'garage' in rear
Additional baggage compartments can be added below floor

Cons:
Transmission swap necessary
Cab/box connector needs to be installed
Noisy, small cab
Box is less sturdy in accident
Least floor space
Low to no cool factor

I hope to get input from folks who have experience with more than one of these options. Thanks.
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:44 AM   #2
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Greenwood, Indiana
Posts: 668
Year: 1999
Coachwork: New Flyer
Chassis: D45HF "Viking"
Engine: 11.1L Detroit Diesel S60
Rated Cap: 51,600
Different box truck?
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Old 06-27-2018, 12:26 PM   #3
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 168
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkyDee View Post
Different box truck?
That's also an option. I could try to find a DT466/MT643(or better) truck and sell my T444E/AT545. But also having air ride, lift gate, and know maintenance history will be tough.

However, the big fork in the road is whether to start with a bus or a box truck. It would be great to hear from people who have experience with converting both.
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Old 06-27-2018, 12:36 PM   #4
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Spring Valley AZ
Posts: 1,190
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 2 elderly children, 1 cat
Big ass step van. All steel and great height. get one with a lift gate and you're good.
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Old 06-27-2018, 01:23 PM   #5
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 168
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2kool4skool View Post
Big ass step van. All steel and great height. get one with a lift gate and you're good.
Thanks. I almost forgot about that option.
The other day we saw this Utilimaster at a 'Food Truck Show Down' and I thought that a van like this would make a sweet conversion base. The ex UPS vans are just too ugly for my taste.

How are step vans on the Interstate?
Attached Images
File Type: jpg StepVan.jpg (211.5 KB, 1 views)
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Old 06-27-2018, 01:43 PM   #6
Bus Geek
 
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Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: Essex, MD
Posts: 3,491
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: Blue Bird TC RE 3904, Flat Nose, 40', 277" wh base
Engine: 8.3L Cummins ISC 260hp, MT643, 4.44 rear
Rated Cap: 84 pax or 1 RV; 33,000lbs
Question: time frame of the start?


Option you forgot depending on answer above; how about a blood mobile, mobile library, or similar bus? You are a tall one. I'm a short 6'2" but still doing a raise myself. I got impatient. I have seen buses that are taller and when you add in the extras they come with (genny, batteries, etc) some are very good deals even at double or triple the retired school bus route. If you have the budget (up front) and the time to wait for one to pop up at auction...
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