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Old 01-27-2016, 06:59 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2016
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Steel or fiberglass?

Converting a shuttle/school bus to a camper is in the planning stages now. Reading back in the forum has helped a lot.

Are there compelling reasons to choose either a steel or fiberglass body bus?

Some of the differences I see but have no way to quantify between the two are:

Durability-in their original life...are steel bodies shot or rusted out when they get sold off?

Any others?

Thanks for any insights,

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Old 01-27-2016, 07:24 PM   #2
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Greetings and hallucinations, treenail.

Fibreglas bodies have a nasty problem of disintegrating under sunlight. Metal does not. However, metal does have a very unnerving tendency to corrode. But that all depends on where the bus previously called home.

I purchased an 03 Thomas 84 passenger HDX from Midwest Transit. There is some surface rust, but, overall, my Brunhilde is healthy. Some lots will sell you pristine vehicles and others will sell you cancerous wrecks. Midwest shows you pictures from a lot of aspects.

Your choices will be reflected by your needs, desires, and dreams. How much room do you need? Will you be a full-timer or a weekend warrior? Availability is pretty much defined by what you're seeking. Customization? The sky's the limit. Weight and cost are also determined by what you want and where the bus has been used/sold.
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Old 01-27-2016, 07:37 PM   #3
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Thanks for the comments...but...

Fiberglass suffering from sunlight degrade? I'm not buying that one! I've seen wayyyyy too many OLD hoods on over the road trucks turned into dump/utility trucks that are still solid. Cabs are rusted though.

Can you explain how it would make a difference if I was using it occasionally vrs. full time?

Room...doesn't seem relevant to steel or 'glass. Maybe I'm missing something thoughl

Custom...I've had more vans in my life than cars or pickups. I converted a a bus into a dump truck too.

Weight...if there were a steel and 'glass body bus with the same lengths sitting on the scales...gutted of course...which would be heavier? general...are people finding that shuttle buses, which seem to be 'glass, or school buses, which seem to be steel...well...which seems to be cheaper initially.


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Old 01-27-2016, 08:11 PM   #4
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My Eldorado Aerotech has what seems to be a high quality fiberglass body. It's 15 years old and no sign of deterioration of the outer body. There were a few spots where water had leaked past the window frames and degraded the filler between the inner and outer skins but it was fixable. The stair well and wheel wells are aluminum. On the whole I'm happy with the construction.

I was told by one of our forum members who's in the bus business to avoid Starcraft shuttle bodies but wasn't told why.

The Champion bodies look solid but seem to have problems with leaky wheel wells.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:19 AM   #5
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Love my glass shuttle bus. I'm sure the steel buses are heavier. I like the look of the shuttles, more RV like. Skoolies just look like school buses no matter what you do to them.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:47 AM   #6
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I've seen plenty of fiberglass deteriorate here in the FL sun and heat. Fiberglass boats are everywhere here.
Starcraft are called Star-Crap by many. I don't know why exactly, but I've seen some pretty crappy starcraft stuff.

That said- do whatever floats your boat... or doesn't.
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Old 01-28-2016, 08:17 AM   #7
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School buses are made out of a lot of steel. Which means they are not light weights compared foot by foot. The upside is that they are very sturdy and can take a lot of abuse before they come apart.

Fiberglass and composite body buses don't necessarily weigh very much less because hidden inside the body panels there is still some steel. The upside is repairs can be made with some cloth and some resin. The real downside is the marriage between the bus body and the truck underneath is never a very happy marriage. And the divorce can be very ugly! If you can find one with relatively low miles you should be okay for many years. But most commercial buses will have 3x-10x as many miles as a school bus of the same vintage. Most commercial buses will put on in one year what a school bus will put on during the full service life. It is not unusual to find a used 3-5 year old commercial bus with well over 350,000 miles and a school bus ten years older with only 150,000 miles.

One other thing to be aware of is all school buses have a metal floor with most of them with a plywood floor over the metal floor. Most commercial buses have just plywood floors.

At the end of the day only you can decide what will work the best for you.
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Old 01-28-2016, 09:25 AM   #8
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Cowl its

Thanks for the floor insight. ThAt helps a lot

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Old 01-28-2016, 04:23 PM   #9
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Tree-alot comes down to what you find. Are you in a hurry? Willing to travel to get one? Or do you already have a short list of short buses?
How much do you plan on using the bus? Weekender or long trips or full time living? Need plumbing? Insulation?
My fiberglass is fine. Theres a steel frame also. The roof is plenty strong.
With the seat ripped out, mine weighed 10900 or so. And it has a 14k gross. So plenty to work with.
Don't make a fuss-just get on the bus!

my bus build
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Old 01-30-2016, 03:35 PM   #10
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In my opinion you can work metal easier than fiber glass. I did a steel short bus and moved windows up, installed a fridge, etc. Cutting and patching fiber glass is messy. I'd rather work with metal. Also many of those shuttle buses look like they were ridden hard and put away wet, high miles, etc.
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