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Old 12-18-2014, 05:19 PM   #1
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7.3l Shuttle Bus 4x4 toyhauler

Hello Skoolies! I've been reading these forums for a little while now, just got around to making an account. So I figured I'd post an intro, along with my soon to be build.

So I've been knocking around the custom toyhauler idea in my head for some time now. I've gone through about everything you could imagine as far as options, from 5th wheels to horse trailers, school buses to motorhomes. They all have their pros and cons, but I'm narrowing in on a ford shuttle bus. Keep in mind I'm not a huge ford fan or anything, however I do love the 7.3l diesels (perhaps because ford didn't make them.)

Here are the main reasons I'm leaning towards this choice:

-Parts are easily available, theres millions of these motors in use all over the world in everything from pickups to farm equipment.
-I already own a f250 7.3l 6 speed diesel truck (which I may be gifting to my mom soon, but I'd still have use of it of course.)
-Before this truck, I had a f350 7.3l 6 speed which was rear ended while parked. I still have this wreck which means I have an known working motor, transfer case, zf6 tranny, front end, etc.
-The deck inside is rather low in comparison to other options, meaning no crazy angles for loading snowmobiles, dirtbikes, cars, etc.
-Overall they're rather roomy inside for their overall footprint. I don't want something which is hard to park or maneuver, this thing will see some light off-roading.
-The 4x4 conversion is very doable, and has been done. I'm currently awaiting a quote on the conversion, which generally is under 10k. Considering I have a lot of the parts already I'm pretty set on doing this. Not having to worry about driving in the snow safely, let alone chaining up would be very nice.

Features I'd like to see in the final build (in no particular order):

-4x4 conversion
-zf6 conversion
-air lockers
-mild lift (I'm thinking 3" or so just to get a little more tire and therefor clearance)
-pv solar and solar hot water systems
-roof rack which can both carry the panels, as well as a small amount of bulky gear if needed
-basic but collapsible kitchen
-shower, may be a collapsible version that folds out of the wheelchair doors
-toilet of some sort perhaps, possibly not
-rear door that opens upward on gas struts, floor that folds out underneath, can function as a ramp for loading/unloading or be propped on jackstands and closed in with snap-in bug netting for a screened in porch.
-lots of wall-mounted fold away workspaces/bunks
-heavy duty winch for when this pig inevitably gets stuck (and for loading dead cars/sleds) This will be designed to be portabe for front/rear or inside use
-Internal rollcage so sleds can be hoisted up, this should at least double the capacity as well as provide additional support for the roof rack

Overall I want to keep the build away from any one purpose and create a nice portable space that suits whatever I happen to be doing at the time. One day this might be a snowboard trip vehicle, the next day I could be using it on a jobsite. Tools come out and in go the sleds. Friend needs a hand moving, no problem, I've got a uhaul. *oops, did I just admit that?*

The reality of fitting a full size car in here is pretty slim, but a small racecar, smartcar or drift project would be doable. I'd also like to spend a good amount of time traveling around and volunteering on permaculture farms and ecovillages, and documenting my journey with video. I might be living in this thing for months on end. So I'll set my sights on flexibility and function over absolute comfort, while trying to maintain a nice clean appearance for both my own selfish pride and as a demonstration to others that conversion buses aren't always filled with dirty hippies. I also see being in a shuttle bus as a nice way to avoid a lot of unneeded police (and otherwise) attention that those flower covered school buses inevitably attract. I'll be carrying a good portion of my life around in this thing at times, so security is also an issue.

And because no build thread is complete without at least 1 picture, here is one of a potential candidate I'll be going to see within the next week.



Cheers, thank you all for reading and I appreciate your feedback.
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Old 12-18-2014, 07:56 PM   #2
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Re: 7.3l Shuttle Bus 4x4 toyhauler

Welcome!
That pic is the same bus as mine-except I have a rear door. Looks nice. Check out around the wheel arches REALLY close.
Ok-you can have 50% of what you want-just gotta pick what 50.
For 20 years, I had probably closer to what you need-a cube van. I could fit 4 flat track bikes-or 2 dragbikes + tow bikes-or later a dwarfcar. I had a side door (off a salvaged pop up) folding steps to an area in the front of the box-walk thru to the cab. The area had bench seats + a table that could drop down + a queen sized air matress could go on top. My present bus has a small shop in back-and the niceties the wife wants-more room-heat-microwave-tv-etc. The car now goes in a trailer.
I thought about doing what you want-and putting the car inside. But with the size of the bus, your couldn't have decent room AND have the toys inside. Also the side of the bus curves in at the top-any cabinets or such you put up cuts down on room more than the square box of a cubie.
Search thru the shortie forum-there a guy withe a longer shuttle bus that hauls a Cobra kit car-he has a neat hatch /ramp. set up.
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Old 12-18-2014, 10:23 PM   #3
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Re: 7.3l Shuttle Bus 4x4 toyhauler

Two ways to go on the 4x4 conversion - leaf springs or coils. The coils give a better ride and are all around better as evidenced by every new truck on the road. The key is to salvage a Superduty and take as much OEM parts as possible. Quadvan is one of the nicest conversions on the market. They use coils and Superduty control arms. http://www.quadvan.com
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Old 12-19-2014, 07:46 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdwarf36 View Post
Welcome!
That pic is the same bus as mine-except I have a rear door. Looks nice. Check out around the wheel arches REALLY close.
Ok-you can have 50% of what you want-just gotta pick what 50.
For 20 years, I had probably closer to what you need-a cube van. I could fit 4 flat track bikes-or 2 dragbikes + tow bikes-or later a dwarfcar. I had a side door (off a salvaged pop up) folding steps to an area in the front of the box-walk thru to the cab. The area had bench seats + a table that could drop down + a queen sized air matress could go on top. My present bus has a small shop in back-and the niceties the wife wants-more room-heat-microwave-tv-etc. The car now goes in a trailer.
I thought about doing what you want-and putting the car inside. But with the size of the bus, your couldn't have decent room AND have the toys inside. Also the side of the bus curves in at the top-any cabinets or such you put up cuts down on room more than the square box of a cubie.
Search thru the shortie forum-there a guy withe a longer shuttle bus that hauls a Cobra kit car-he has a neat hatch /ramp. set up.
You bring up a lot of good points, many of which I've already debated heavily, others which are new. By checking the wheel arches, you mean just for rust? I could see where a cube van could be cool, but might not be quite the direction I'm aiming. I really like the two walls of solid windows. Makes spending time inside the vehicle much less claustrophobic. Fitting a full size car isn't a huge priority, if it really came to that I can always bumper pull it or use a trailer. I'm also partial to looking like I'm just hauling around a bunch of senior citizens when I want to stay under the radar. I may wish to park this in places that may not be explicitly legal to camp and getting kicked out in the middle of the night is never fun.

I've seen the shuttle bus with the cobra, he did a very nice job with it. I'm absolutely on the same page about everything being either collapsible or removable. Even down to the kitchen sink, I'll be able to leave it at home if I really wanted to have every last inch of space. Using a modular approach will mean this project gets the most real life action possible. I'll also be using this to work out of.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daysailor View Post
Two ways to go on the 4x4 conversion - leaf springs or coils. The coils give a better ride and are all around better as evidenced by every new truck on the road. The key is to salvage a Superduty and take as much OEM parts as possible. Quadvan is one of the nicest conversions on the market. They use coils and Superduty control arms. http://www.quadvan.com
Thanks for the info and the link! As stated, I already have the salvaged super duty. Most of the parts I'll need are still usable, with a backup forged motor that will get rebuilt and stored for down the road. I wouldn't dream of trying to tackle a 4x4 conversion myself, but have some very mechanically inclined friends with lots of experience in the 4x4 world who could help make it a reality. Or I might just shell out the money and let the pros do it, we'll see.

Again, thanks for the comments, keep them rolling and wish me luck finding a good victim *ahem* candidate.
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Old 12-19-2014, 08:21 PM   #5
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Found someone who did almost exactly what I'm going for. Guess I won't be the first :P





Although its a v10 gasser, but you get the idea.
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Old 12-22-2014, 01:53 PM   #6
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That'll be a pretty neat build, if it's similar to that silver 4x4 truck. Do you have any particular reason for a bus body instead of a smaller box like the earthroamer-ish style bodies? 4x4 and bus don't usually compliment each other well unless you're always in wide open areas.

I have experience with Unimogs and the camper bodies on them, and that's about as big as I'd want to go for true 4x4 camper boxes. Any larger and it's going to either be for a specific area that's more open, or overkilling the offroad capability just to ensure you don't get stuck. (not a bad thing!)

I'm looking forward to watching your build.
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Old 12-22-2014, 03:49 PM   #7
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I've seen the earthroamers. I've also seen the price tags. Way beyond my budget. And I feel like ultimately I'll still be happier with a rig like this than earthroamer style. The reason is by going the cab-over style I don't get the floor space I need for extra stuff. I'm still pretty much just in a 8 foot pickup bed. By making the drivers seat spin into the main living area you can really open up the space. I know it doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're working with a small footprint to begin with, every bit counts. You could even cut a wood insert to fill the front door well when not in use then a portable chair could fill its space.

I realize I'm going to sacrifice some 4x4 ability with a shuttle bus. But if it comes down to it, I own a truck. I also have access to a lance camper whenever I'd like to use it. That's not what this is for. The reason I'm going 4x4 is mostly to be able to get around well in the snow, and light off-roading. I'm not looking to do the rubicon or enter any hillclimbs any time soon.

I want a versitile space that can be used in a number of ways. As a warming hut/emergency garage for snowmobiling, toyhauler for dirt toys, mobile workshop, off-grid home, and even as a mini-solar farm when parked near the house.

If I was more concerned about its off-road ability, I'd probably get this one.

It would just barely fit 2 sleds though, and I'm aiming for 4 (with their rears hoisted so the one behind can slide under.) While the wheelbase/footprint in this thing isn't much longer than my f250, I just feel its too small. Going just a bit bigger will allow me a lot more flexibility. I don't expect it to drive like a pickup, but hopefully when I'm done it won't drive like a bus either. It's all about finding a happy medium.
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Old 12-23-2014, 02:39 PM   #8
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My shuttle bus has decent ground clearance *except for the stair well.* The front corner of the well has grounded out on a couple of steep driveways.

A rutted two track is going to give you trouble without a substantial lift.
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Old 12-23-2014, 05:53 PM   #9
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Ya I was looking at that. I might modify the step area so its at the same height as the rest of the bus. I don't think I'd want to stick with the stock door anyway, its seems like it would leak air like crazy when I'm trying to keep the thing warm.

I plan on having a mellow lift, and probably a different set of tires for times I know I'll need the extra clearance. I dont want to be too top heavy all the time though, as I'll have a roof rack and sometimes a decent amount of weight on it. Again, flexibility for all situations is paramount.

Some skid plating would probably be in order too, especially around any fuel/water tanks. Could probably be the first shuttle bus ever with rock sliders. :P
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Old 12-23-2014, 08:32 PM   #10
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Or I can stop screwing around and get this for 10k. 6x6, cummins 8.3l diesel with allison tranny. 7k miles/300 hours. I could then build a tiny home in a 20ft connex and either bolt that to the rear, or make a sweet dolly setup so I could drop it wherever I wanted like the guys who move them around. With 2+ feet of wheel travel, these things go about anywhere. And it still gets 8mpg!



Someone please talk me out of this, I'm starting to wonder if I'm crazy.

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