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Old 05-01-2015, 10:44 AM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2015
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First Skoolie in 7 days- - Ford E350 2003 7.3L powerstroke


Ill write this like a journal with photos and explanations on how and and why we did what we did. So today is Friday we started this Project exactly 96 hours ago

How this plan came about........

So we 4 Australians who are in there early 20's who bought the bus with the intention of driving from calgary all around the USA with around 8 people and we would just camp/stay in cheap hotels. Between us we have 2 Carpenters, a concreter, and a brick layer and all have basic various knowledge of auto mechanics and electrical wiring. (Taught myself to do my car stereo at 16, thanks youtube) That plan fell through so me and 3 others split the bus. We are all going to work in Northern B.C in Late May and will be living in the bus for 4 - 6 weeks. The plan is to do the road trip with just 4 of us living in the bus, but thats not till mid July.

We work at a ski resort and have used the bus weekly for trips to town, shopping and other things as i live in a staff accomodation with nearly 100 so filling the to its 13 person compacity was never an issue. we would charge them money to go places/borrow our bus and make a little bit of cash on the side.

Originlly we had just planned to sleep in tents and use the bus as more of a storage/ a way to get all our stuff up to northern B.C from calgary. We were just going to fold all the seats up and use it to just throw all our stuff in and maybe use a campstove inside of.for cooking when the bugs are bad outside.


About 4 days ago we started talking about maybe taking out the back 3 seats for a little extra room at the back. So me and another guy started ripping out the beats then hit a snag when all the bolts then went through the bottom frame of the car had become so rusted from the the salt on the roads. We got out all of the internal bolts then headed down the mechanic shop at the ski resort to borrow the grinder. After many curse words and a grease covered face we got he back 3 chairs out. We decided to remove the plastic framing that was mounted behind the drivers seat like that clear plastic sheet stuff that stops kids flying into the back of the drivers seat.

So that night the 4 of us started talking about getting our tents and just stacking luggage at the back. then someone was like we could always take out another row or 2, i mean there is only 4 of us and then we could maybe even put a fold away table in and eat in the bus with our camp chairs. So that night i went on the internet and stumbled upon and have spent 6 hours or more on this website everyday this week. the community on this website is amazing. So helpful and Insightful with great ideas. So Thats when the real fun began. I asked the guys the next day if we should try and maybe do some more stuff to the bus to make it a bit more liveable and then things really took off. Ill post Day 2 later today

Heres so photos so the old girl. 1 week ago.
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Old 05-01-2015, 10:53 AM   #2
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Our build La Tortuga
Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:13 AM   #3
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G'day Mates --- And welcome. Sounds like you are off to a reasonable start. Enjoy the trip and thanks for sharing the pix & info.
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:41 AM   #4
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Day 2

So next day 3 of us had the day off work s we headed down to the mechanic shop to grind our the rest of the stubborn bolts and punch then through the floor. After after getting the seats out we took out the brackets they mounted to and were just left with the front 3 seats which could still fold up to the side.

Next we unmounted the safety bar/hand rail at the front behind drivers seat and started tinkering with ideas on how to use this space. At this stage we were planning on sleeping outside of the bus.

Last year when i was doing Morel Mushroom picking in NWT (also what im doing in B.C in Late May) one of our biggest annoyances was charging small devices even just phones ipods ipads would take forever to charge of our head unit and we would have to do it everyday with only 1 USB port so it was a 6 hour process to charge basic electronic devices. A friend had just bought a van and was starting to install his solar system while we were working on our bus so i asked him cost and was surprised by how much power we could get for our basic needs for relatively cheap. So i began googling basic solar set ups also asked the electricians at work what they thought.

So armed with my new knowledge drove into calgary to grab some stuff for the start of our conversion.

We hit Solar Wholesalers In calgary who had cheaper set ups then the costco by friend had just purchased. So we chatted to the guy for a while and decided on 150W single panel system which we thought we could mount sideways incase we wanted to add more panels in the future. He also reccommended getting the more powerful digital controller so we could just upgrade with out buying an entirely new one. With our new Solar panel Set up (still Lacking Battery and inverter) we headed off to home depot just to look around for idea's

We decided we would need some sort of shelving for our food (2 hours from any town so theres alot of it, all canned). We were originally toying with the idea of just building some crappy ones out of wood but figured for 18 bucks a 72" X 28" X 15" would be cheaper and easier and we were all about doing this the cheapest and easiest way. We work at ski hills not exactly the most profitable career choice. Next we found a standard white table that was 4ft X 2ft which we thought would be handy as we just use it inside and outside. It also adjusted height which was handy cause we were not to sure what side out chairs were.

So after being the big spenders we are and dropping 52 bucks at home depot we decided to head to a fabric store for curtains after seeing them in home depot and thinking some crappy ones with a pattern would look kinda cool,but more just for a bit of privacy. The girl we were with said she sewed her own curtains into her old van and offered to help us. So at the store the patterns fabric was kinda pricey but we still wanted the curtains to have character so we went with some silky looking heavy duty material in 5 different colors at various lengths RAINBOW!!! ( We ran out to carpark and measured our windows at the shop). With our roughly measured fabric we headed back home for the day to get some sleep so we could work on the bus all day.

Photos below of us taking seats out and just random stuff we bought

A. Minatel being way to happy with himself
B. Resin Shelves
C. Table
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Old 05-01-2015, 12:25 PM   #5
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Up bright and early to work on the bus as we put the shelf in and the table we had a fair bit of room to work with and started pondering well would it be possible to not buy tents, and just use this bus to sleep in. (we know 4 people is tight but last year we did 3 in an 1977 dodge tradesman and its cramped but that was half the fun). So we started figuring out ways we could sleeep and decided we would keep the middle clear and 2 people will sleep head to toe down one and end and two at the other end on airbeds and foam then we could wake up store it to the side and fold out our table for breakfast. It was ghetto but it would work. ( were pretty easy to please) Ill post pictures later of what we had planned. It amazing how our ideas have evolved every couple of hours over the course of 4 days.

So its now wednesday lunch time we are 2 days in and havnt really made much progress (half the day we sit there pondering the best way to do it, all part of the fun) so and we get the solar panel ready for installation.

Being the idiots we are we didnt even check for a curve in the roof and bought a standard mounting kit. Not a big issue but our original plan of mounting them side ways wouldnt work. So longways it was. after securing it down we realised the we couldnt get the connectors of the cable so we would have to have the connection of the solar panel to the controller underneath he panel itself inside a weather proof box. (Many better ways we could have done it, time and cost was of the essence). so we drilled our two holes through the roof stuck the cable through and for the moment it is just hanging we know our end game with it. So now our panel was mounted down and cable was thorough we put some electrical tape around the wire to stop it rubbing on the cut and then siliconed the hole up. Grabbed out multi meter tested the cords.....Success!! We decided the digital controller wasnt priority and could easily wait.

Now our creative juices really started flowing so we started to search the junk yard at our ski hill for scrap metal and timber or anything we could use. We came up with a few bits and pieces but nothing great. As im leaving i see a deep cycle RV/Marine battery just sitting on this piece of wood that looked kinda new. I asked around the shop and they said if its in the junk yard its free game. We knew it was ambitious (it was a junk yard so it was there for a reason), but decided to test it anyway at the auto store in town later that day. But we will get to that later.

The guy who gave me the idea of solar had just ripped out his old van seats from his car and we had started talking about maybe having a comfortable seat not just a camp chair (Our 10 dollar ones suck after an hour or two). So we decided could we just put them in the bus and claim them till we had a plan or we bought something more practical.

Went to down at night to drop off the battery to be tested and pick up some random supplies. Had to leave battery over night cause we didnt want to wait

Will add loads more photos of what we have done and close ups of individual projects. Any ideas and suggestions are welcomed. We have money to spend if its practical but building this thing from scrap has been great.

A. Pam pondering the finer facts of Short Bus Conversion
B. Get it Done Damo, Gettin it Done
C. Great Success. Panel is on the Roof
D.Score! Free Battery
E. Our Bus interior stacked and packed for the summer
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Old 05-01-2015, 01:24 PM   #6
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Cuyahoga Falls Ohio
Posts: 247
Year: 1997
Chassis: Ford e-350 single wheel
Engine: 5.4 litre
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Awesome, my bus is similar to yours. I can sleep 6 people in mine. I use 2 futon bunk beds. Although it don't leave any room for luggage or food.
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Old 05-01-2015, 03:10 PM   #7
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Join Date: Apr 2015
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Day 4
I am aware of my horrible grammar but after typing for 3 hours i aint got time to proof read. Aint nobody got time for that.

Late start on the bus today last 3 days have been exhausting. Only 4 more days till we have to leave and loose access to any power tools.

Next we clear everything out and hit the bus with the pressure washer inside and out. Looks 1000% better after were done. (there sure was some questionable looking items in the crevasses of those seats). After leaving it to dry we start thinking about flooring as the metal stuff just looks crap so we will try find some old carpet around the place.

We start talking about a more efficient way for sleep. More so were not walking on top of each other every time someone needs water or to go to the toilet. and create a bit more space for our paradise on wheels

In Our old dodge tradesman someone had drilled a wood frame into the side then cut some 20mm ply board into planks and layed them out with the ply just sitting on the wood frame with about 2 inchs either side. They had used them for storage above the drivers seat and came out about 4.5 feet. We got another board cut put it in and volia a double bed that can be disassembled when your travelling/cooking. we would sleep 2 up there and its cramped sure, but it worked.

So me and matt started telling them how the bed and worked in our old van and could we maybe build a bed above where we were sitting. but at the back of the bus. At first we thought we cant do this. The metal skirting that covers where the interior sheets meet on the wall, was so high and if we put frames on the sides the would be so high u would be flat against the roof. we left the idea for a while and didn't think it would really work out. We were worried about the roof clearance and if the boards would bow to much with two people up there. We knew they would bow as they had last year in our van (we even slept 3 people up there 1 night, all under 160 pounds though). But it didnt matter it was only slight and didn't phase us. We left it for the time being and decided to turn our attention back to the van seats we inherited.

So they were just 2 double seater van chairs that had metal mounts that went into the van floor (GMC safari mid 90 - early 2000). almost like a leg either side but the were awkward and we didnt have a way to mount them efficiently so off then came. Now the chairs have semi flat bottoms. So now how to put them in the Bus. We figure we need to sit them on ply then attach the ply to something that gives them a little bit more height. (other wise they are flat on the floor). We mess around with various things and decide on 4 milk crates 2 on each chair, 1 at each end. we butt them up pretty much hard up against the back of the 3 remaining bus chairs. now the chair works it its not exactly secure. We didnt really mind it being loose as its only being sat on while stationary and its not hard to strap down. But now its all starting to come together and were start thinking about aesthetics and practicality, especially considering how far we have come in 72 hours. Pam (His name is sam but we call him Pam) comes up with bolting the back of the chair to the wall just to keep it steady not so much to hold a humans weight ( thats what the classy milk crates are for). We feel the back of the chair and realised it had 1 big metal plate along the whole back so we cut little holes in the stitching at the front on the seam and drill some pilot holes, followed by some short galvanized tek screws. (we will just sew with red thread u can barely tell at the moment so after a quick sew no one will know). After fiddling around we get the chairs to sit reasonably well (back is a little straight but better then camp chairs). Now with 6 Screws in each chair and milk crates underneath. We can now fold our "couches" up onto the wall as the back is mounted and just fold down the "seat" part when we are stationary. We want to secure the crates down and they will double as under chair storage with the open side of the crate facing out but thats not to important.

I will post so more detailed photos later today of our couch.

With our new wall folding couches installed and tested we return to the headache of our bed frame situation. After a coffee and a brain storm we decide to give a go. I mean its scrap wood worst case scenario we have to sillicone a few screw holes.we decide on 2.1 M for the bed and it will reach wall to wall. We find some 30mm X 70mm timber(not sure on exact demensions thats very rough) and it was in 4 lenghts at 1.1 M. Perfect. So we decide that skirting that has to go and that our new framing will double at hiding the where the sheets join. We cut the skirting with an angle grinder at 2.1 M from the back of the bus. So our new wood frame butts up nicely aganist the skirting. The carpenters of the gang decide a solution to our bowing problem. We find wood that almost resembles bed slats ( Old Vanished wood about 1" X 5" X 1.8M) sorry about the combination of imperial and metric. With our new wood side skirts/frame we cut out "slots" for our slats to sit into and they will go where every piece of ply board meets for extra supports. This way the whole bed can be disassembled and stacked at the back of the bus in to a convenient stack of 4 ply boards (2 and 2 if we wanted some extra storage, just dont hit your head!).

We found our carpet it was 1 large piece and was 3cm shorter then we would of liked but hey, beggars cant be chooses. It will just be a little short is width. No big deal.

Our friend Lauren has currently finished 2 of our 5 curtains she just sew little stitches every couple of inches and we slid some coloured speaker wire thorugh and we had our selves some makeshift curtains for under 100 Bucks. (could have done it cheaper but we and the man at the shop liked the brightness of it all. So now to finish our curtains up. We will use some basic metal hoops to string the curtains.

We cut and chiseled away till our wood was looking all nice. just before mounting we decided lets paint them tomorrow and call it done for the day. As we finished up we start to realise our very crappy storage bus is starting to resemble a very crappy house on wheels. But it was our very crappy house on wheels, and thats all we wanted.

More photos later and also day 5 progress which is starting 2 hours as i have been typing this journal for the last 5.

I have fair few questions which i will start firing off tonight.

Thanks for reading
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