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Old 10-07-2018, 04:44 PM   #1
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Are we completely crazy?

My husband and I have been dreaming for years about converting a short school bus into an RV and traveling about the country with our son. But the more I read on this forum, the more I am questioning whether what we want is truly achievable. We want a short bus, as many national parks and campgrounds have length limits. We also like the fact that bus roofs are so strong - we want to mount a Thule box and at least one canoe and one kayak and some solar to the roof. Hubby also wants a deck up there so we can camp on the roof. (I'm not completely sold on that plan.) And the extra room in a short bus versus a van means that the 3 of us can be comfortable rather than cramped.



Another reason for the bus is all the wonderful windows - we love light and sunshine and air. We don't want to be cooped up in the bus with the air conditioning running. In fact, we don't want air conditioning at all unless we are actually driving the bus. So we have to have windows to open to provide ventilation and breezes and also plan on some sort of fan that will bring the outside air in and cool things off. The real gotcha about all the windows, though, is that this bus will be a year-round bus...and we live in Maine. We thought a Dickinson propane stove would keep the bus warm, but reading the forums, now I'm not so sure. The other kicker is that there would have to be a way to keep the interior at least 45 degrees in winter and at least the same temp as the outside air in summer whether we are in the bus or not - so even if we are off hiking or biking or skiing, the bus would be a decent temp for our instruments, which are sensitive to temperature changes. And all this temp talk brings up the fresh, gray, and black water tanks. What do we do about those in the winter?



Then there's the bus itself. One of the things I love about traveling with the family are all the wonderful conversations we have and the cool tunes we listen to. But I've test driven a diesel short bus, and that ain't happening. I think we would all be deaf long before we went even 500 miles. And forget about hearing anything we say. I can't deal with all that noise, and I would be willing to give up gas mileage to be able to talk with my family...but then there's the seating - anyone have any success mounting another seat next to the driver's seat in the bus? I gotta have a spot for my navigator.



So, I ask you guys with all the experience, is our dream achievable, or should we start looking at a different plan? (Please, if you have specific advice, can you aim it at a newbie level? A lot of the terminology on this site just goes right over my head.)
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Old 10-07-2018, 05:37 PM   #2
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Questions,

I assume when in campgrounds you will use electric hookups? How about in Maine?

I also assume from what you have said this is to be an RV and a "tiny home" ?

For me the water tank is inside, and I drain it when not using it in freezing weather. black water has not frozen on me. grey drain it. Could put a bit of rv antifeeze in both grey and black if need be.
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Old 10-07-2018, 05:49 PM   #3
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Cold weather and living in metal can insulation will be your best buddy, windows will be your worst nightmare. Fresh water tank and lines inside your bus in the heated space, tank pads on your tanks under bus tanks.

When you said you test drove a short diesel bus, I assume it's a 4-5 window van type? If you find that too much noise, you might want to move up to bigger rear engine bus. I own a full sized front engine bus, sound level, talking to my passenger and playing tunes is not a problem for me.

With a bus conversion anything can be done seats can be added anywhere how much money and time are you willing to throw at it.





Quote:
Originally Posted by betsyme View Post
My husband and I have been dreaming for years about converting a short school bus into an RV and traveling about the country with our son. But the more I read on this forum, the more I am questioning whether what we want is truly achievable. We want a short bus, as many national parks and campgrounds have length limits. We also like the fact that bus roofs are so strong - we want to mount a Thule box and at least one canoe and one kayak and some solar to the roof. Hubby also wants a deck up there so we can camp on the roof. (I'm not completely sold on that plan.) And the extra room in a short bus versus a van means that the 3 of us can be comfortable rather than cramped.



Another reason for the bus is all the wonderful windows - we love light and sunshine and air. We don't want to be cooped up in the bus with the air conditioning running. In fact, we don't want air conditioning at all unless we are actually driving the bus. So we have to have windows to open to provide ventilation and breezes and also plan on some sort of fan that will bring the outside air in and cool things off. The real gotcha about all the windows, though, is that this bus will be a year-round bus...and we live in Maine. We thought a Dickinson propane stove would keep the bus warm, but reading the forums, now I'm not so sure. The other kicker is that there would have to be a way to keep the interior at least 45 degrees in winter and at least the same temp as the outside air in summer whether we are in the bus or not - so even if we are off hiking or biking or skiing, the bus would be a decent temp for our instruments, which are sensitive to temperature changes. And all this temp talk brings up the fresh, gray, and black water tanks. What do we do about those in the winter?



Then there's the bus itself. One of the things I love about traveling with the family are all the wonderful conversations we have and the cool tunes we listen to. But I've test driven a diesel short bus, and that ain't happening. I think we would all be deaf long before we went even 500 miles. And forget about hearing anything we say. I can't deal with all that noise, and I would be willing to give up gas mileage to be able to talk with my family...but then there's the seating - anyone have any success mounting another seat next to the driver's seat in the bus? I gotta have a spot for my navigator.



So, I ask you guys with all the experience, is our dream achievable, or should we start looking at a different plan? (Please, if you have specific advice, can you aim it at a newbie level? A lot of the terminology on this site just goes right over my head.)
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Old 10-07-2018, 07:45 PM   #4
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can you do it? I think so... here are a few thoughts

Noise levels.... Part of the noise is this giant tin can you are in, so, here are some ways to "fix it". Go to the internet and look up a product called "dynamat" use this on big flat metal surfaces. The metal that is the outer skin, you would place the dynamat on these parts, the additional mass of the dynamat changes the frequency of noise, lowers it. If you do some sort of insulation on the floor, in your best interest i think, and wood over that, attenuation will happen there already. Wind noise. You are going to become familiar with something called "seam sealer". Any place that has an air leak is going to be more road noise. Every window felt, and gasket will need to be top condition. There is a way to make "storm" windows for a bus that is not super expensive, but, you will likely replace them once every five years or so. They would help with wind noise and cold and heat. Any thing that sticks out in the air makes noise. Mirrors, top hatch covers, the bus it self, any gaps or loose seals on the doors. Tires, stuff with "blocks" make more noise than tires with ribs. Ever hear those big "mud" tires on trucks and jeeps sing goin down the highway? The bus tires can do the same thing.

Engine, you can have a quiet exhaust that works well. Might even think about more than one muffler. keep the exhaust hangers loose and flexible, they wont transmit so much noise to the cabin. Air intake system usually makes more noise than exhaust. Some times Adding weight - mass - to the exhaust tubes will deaden the higher frequencies too. This is common in passenger cars. ever see the inside of a recording studio? the acoustic foam placed on the inside of the bus will help too. Likely you will not see a big change from any one thing, all added together will make a difference.

Look at a product called "lizard skin" you can gain some some sound and temperature control using this on the inside of the outer skin.

Then work on the sound absorption in the engine/transmission area, think acoustic foam under the hood and any place around the engine/transmission.

have to go, I think you can do this. temperature control.... look at some thing called webasto coolant heater..... dry heat, build instrument locker like a humidor, control the temp and humidity in there for wood.

bye for now

william
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Old 10-07-2018, 07:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
Questions,

I assume when in campgrounds you will use electric hookups? How about in Maine?

I also assume from what you have said this is to be an RV and a "tiny home" ?

For me the water tank is inside, and I drain it when not using it in freezing weather. black water has not frozen on me. grey drain it. Could put a bit of rv antifeeze in both grey and black if need be.
We're not much for staying in campgrounds all the time. Free boondocking sites are more our style, hence the solar. And it would be somewhere between a tiny house and an RV - we would still have a home base, just not sure how often we will get back to it.
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Old 10-20-2018, 05:29 PM   #6
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So, I ask you guys with all the experience, is our dream achievable, or should we start looking at a different plan? (Please, if you have specific advice, can you aim it at a newbie level? A lot of the terminology on this site just goes right over my head.)[/QUOTE]


To answer the question in the subject of your post, YES, you are crazy. We are all a little nuts to convert a school bus into a motor home. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life. But, I love her. One day she will be my permanent home, and she will have a good registration, and tags!
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Old 10-20-2018, 06:07 PM   #7
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You’re nuts. It’s more than achievable. We did like 20 National parks 33 states and New England winter with 5 people(3 kids).
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Old 10-20-2018, 07:37 PM   #8
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Just for the record...YES...you are indeed insane, mad, crazy.


Why else would you be here among all the other crazy people!


WELCOME to the madness!!!
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Old 10-20-2018, 08:00 PM   #9
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It is required to be at least partially crazy to live in a Skoolie, that's what makes it fun when it aint!

Good luck!
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Old 10-21-2018, 10:04 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by betsyme View Post
My husband and I have been dreaming for years about converting a short school bus into an RV and traveling about the country with our son. But the more I read on this forum, the more I am questioning...
Completely crazy? Join the club! We celebrate craziness here.

As for noise, I'm assuming you test-drove unmodified buses. They are devoid of sound insulation. Thanks to the responders for the ideas for silencing materials. Even my gas-powered Winnebago ('76 Dodge van cab) requires SHOUTING at 70 mph. It is low-tech by today's standards and was built in the 55-mph era (a velocity at which the radio is usable).

Best wishes for your adventure. Better to take the plunge than grow old wishing you did!
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:25 PM   #11
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I don't know if you are completely insane but you certainly are not completely right either.That is what makes us do what we do and why we are members here. We certainly hear a different calypso than most other folks do.Can your dream be achieved? absolutely, the degree to which it is achieved depends on how much time,effort and $$$$ you can and are willing to throw at it. There are folks on this site who have put multiple years into their project and are not finished others have them done in a matter of months if you are uncomfortable with your competence level lay out a plan let us see it and we will see if we can help.But if you are easily discouraged don't start the project as most of those end up on Craigslist for sale and there is no reason to make yourself feel like a failure.A good plan and a reasonable amount of cash will ensure your success. Gene
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Old 10-22-2018, 01:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by betsyme View Post
My husband and I have been dreaming for years about converting a short school bus into an RV and traveling about the country with our son. But the more I read on this forum, the more I am questioning whether what we want is truly achievable. We want a short bus, as many national parks and campgrounds have length limits. We also like the fact that bus roofs are so strong - we want to mount a Thule box and at least one canoe and one kayak and some solar to the roof. Hubby also wants a deck up there so we can camp on the roof. (I'm not completely sold on that plan.) And the extra room in a short bus versus a van means that the 3 of us can be comfortable rather than cramped.



Another reason for the bus is all the wonderful windows - we love light and sunshine and air. We don't want to be cooped up in the bus with the air conditioning running. In fact, we don't want air conditioning at all unless we are actually driving the bus. So we have to have windows to open to provide ventilation and breezes and also plan on some sort of fan that will bring the outside air in and cool things off. The real gotcha about all the windows, though, is that this bus will be a year-round bus...and we live in Maine. We thought a Dickinson propane stove would keep the bus warm, but reading the forums, now I'm not so sure. The other kicker is that there would have to be a way to keep the interior at least 45 degrees in winter and at least the same temp as the outside air in summer whether we are in the bus or not - so even if we are off hiking or biking or skiing, the bus would be a decent temp for our instruments, which are sensitive to temperature changes. And all this temp talk brings up the fresh, gray, and black water tanks. What do we do about those in the winter?



Then there's the bus itself. One of the things I love about traveling with the family are all the wonderful conversations we have and the cool tunes we listen to. But I've test driven a diesel short bus, and that ain't happening. I think we would all be deaf long before we went even 500 miles. And forget about hearing anything we say. I can't deal with all that noise, and I would be willing to give up gas mileage to be able to talk with my family...but then there's the seating - anyone have any success mounting another seat next to the driver's seat in the bus? I gotta have a spot for my navigator.



So, I ask you guys with all the experience, is our dream achievable, or should we start looking at a different plan? (Please, if you have specific advice, can you aim it at a newbie level? A lot of the terminology on this site just goes right over my head.)
You don't have to be crazy to like the idea of buying a bus, stripping it out, and converting it into a tiny home on wheels. But it helps!

In answer to your questions:
  1. Any yellow bus or MFSAB that was built on a yellow bus platform will be able to take the weight of a platform or storage pods on the roof. The problem with rooftop storage is it is up on the roof. That is a long way up in the air to try and manhandle large and/or heavy items. You also need to be aware of height restrictions. The last thing you want to do is get some place and not be able to proceed onward because you are too tall.
  2. Windows are great but all of the split sash windows, which have been pretty much standard on all buses since the '80's, don't seal out the weather very well. I can remember some Ward and early AmTran buses where you could slide a finger between the upper and lower sash. Needless to say snow and rain could blow in very easily. If the windows are tinted it will help with keeping heat out of the bus. Having a deck with a dead space between the bottom of the deck and the top of the roof will help a lot with heat in the summer as well. A propane heater can go through a LOT of propane in a winter trying to keep a school bus warm on the inside. You may want to consider a wood/coal burning stove instead. The cost of keeping a little wood stove pumping out heat will probably be a lot less than a propane. A wood/coal stove also has the advantage of not requiring any electricity to make them put out heat. If you don't pull the ceiling and wall panels down and replace the factory insulation with better materials you better plan on adding a layer on the inside and covering the insulation over with wall board. The same holds true with the floor. It doesn't take long for a stock school bus to get really cold inside when it is below freezing outside. Mounting the potable water tank and hot water tank inside the bus body will keep them from freezing. Enclosing the waste tanks and using some sort of tank heater will keep them from freezing.
  3. The amount of engine and road noise you experience is all dependent upon where the engine is located. If the engine is in the rear you are always going down the road away from the noise and heat so it isn't as much of a problem. But if the engine is under a dog house next to the driver's right foot the noise can be extreme to say the least. Most school buses do NOT have much in the way of sound deadening products employed under or over the doghouse. Blue Bird had an optional noise dampening package for their FE buses that consisted of 4" thick vinyl covered pads that snapped over the top of the dog house. It reduced the noise of a Cat 3208 to manageable levels. Which is something that you could do to reduce the noise. The make and model of the engine can made a big difference in noise. A Detroit Diesel -53 series 2-cycle diesel engine defines screaming. Even in a rear engine bus the noise can be deafening. But a Cummins 6BT/ISB or 6CT/ISC running below redline are not that loud to start with and with some sound deadening materials can be made to be relatively quiet. As far as co-pilot's seats are concerned I have seen several different ways in which that question has been addressed. The most complex was to move the service door from in front to in the middle of the bus. The simplest involved a drop down panel that covered the step well and the co-pilot's seat was mounted on a swivel on the edge of the step well so that while going down the road the co-pilot could see forward and when parked could turn around and face towards the rear.
Your dream is very achievable and it can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want to make it. Many have gutted their buses and used them as tin tents for a season or two to figure out where exactly built in cabinets, walls, and fixtures need to be. It is a lot easier and less expensive to move tape on the floor and cardboard cutouts held in place with tape than framing with wall board attached.

As far as length is concerned, many have converted Type 'A' buses on van cut-away chassis and have been happy with the result for a lot of years. Others want more ground clearance or more weight carrying capacity and opt for a larger Type 'C' bus. One real advantage of the full size Type 'C' bus is that all of the running gear is larger and more durable which is also the disadvantage--more expensive to get fixed and fewer places you can take them to get fixed. Others have opted for the Type 'D' bus due to the fact a Type 'D' maximizes the interior volume in relation to the outside dimensions. Every Type 'D' has the total length of the bus inside the bus body. All other buses have some sort of nose which adds to the length of the bus but doesn't add anything to the interior volume. Also, a Type 'D' bus can usually turn inside of any other bus of the same length that has the engine out in front of the windshield.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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