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Old 01-04-2016, 01:47 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2016
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Greetings from Massachusetts

Hi everyone!

I'm Mark, from Masachusetts, and I live in the greater Boston area.

I've seen a lot of neat skoolie conversions over the past few years (before the "tiny house" thing became trendy.)

I don't have a bus yet, since I don't really have a place to put it yet, but I wouldn't exactly hesitate to look for one in the next year or two because housing is getting so expensive. I have some ideas for my eventual build.


I like the idea of skoolies for a few reasons:

- I think they can be better "mobile" residences then some of the traditional RVs out there. I like the idea that to a point, if I can build it, I can fix it. I'm not an expert, but I'm handy with construction projects.

-Skoolies won't pancake if they get into an accident, and I think that if you get the right one, you'll end up with a better engine, transmission, and frame then a commercially built motorhome. I'd really like to travel with this rig, so the safety is important to me.

-I can customize the space to my needs. A lot of RVs look fairly comfortable, but don't use their space terribly efficiently.

-I'm not going to be doing any serious off-roading, but there's decent ground clearance under a skoolie - not like some of the RVs that have side skirting down almost to the ground on each side.
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Old 01-04-2016, 02:15 AM   #2
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I have one or two particular ideas that I think might be new on the design of my skoolie, in particular the bathroom.

I'd like to keep the "hallway" down the middle of the bus to get from the front-back.

I see a lot of very tiny bathrooms, but I'd like a bit more elbow room. The very back of my bus will have the bunks, and in front of it will be the bathroom. I'm going to put the toilet on one side, with the back of the toilet towards the side of the bus (facing the "hallway.") Across from the toilet, on the other side, will be my shower. I'm thinking a steel water trough as a shower pan, with a curtain around it. (As long as the bottom of the curtain is in the tub, it should be fairly watertight.) There will be sliding doors at each end of the bathroom - so to use the bathroom, you slide the doors closed (blocking the front-back "hallway") at each end of the bathroom. Then you have that extra room to do your business, dry off after taking a shower, etc. etc. Think about it - you need the space either in the bathroom, or to walk to the back of the bus - but how often will you need to do both at the same time?


In the back of the bus, I'd like a bunk bed on the left side, and the right side of the bus, going front-back, with the walkway in the middle. This way, there's room for two decent height bunks on each side of the bus. The top bunk on one side will be hinged, so it can fold up against the ceiling. Now I have an almost floor-ceiling space on one side that could become my closet for clothes storage, or more likely, an area with a desk for my laptop and my photo printer. (I'm a professional photographer, and I have rather hefty printer.) I can't say I"m planning on traveling with 4 people often (right now there's me. . .. and me), but I'd like to have that ability.

So that's a slightly rambling description of what I might build when the time is right!


What I'm thinking about:

10-row Skoolie. Full-size chassis, medium length.
Diesel, engine in front (not a flatnose), automatic transmission.
I'd like air brakes. Air horns (and possibly tools) could come in handy.
Solar panels to be somewhat self-sufficient.
Air conditioning
A somewhat real oven and refrigerator - not huge, but not just an electric hotplate on the counter.
Small roof deck (maybe 8x8 or so?)
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Old 01-04-2016, 06:21 PM   #3
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Location: Billings, MT
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Rated Cap: 84 passenger
MAJOR suggestions:

1) Try to keep all of the liquid facilities on one side. This will keep the plumbing problems to a minimum.

2) Keep the electrical on the OTHER side. Usually, there are cable runs already in place on the driver's side.

3) Try for a transit-style rear engined/ bus rather than a conventional bus. The load distribution is better and the drive is quieter. With a transit-style, you have almost uninterrupted flooring; the only exceptions are the wheel arches. But you can build OVER those.

I purchased a used Thomas HDX 84 passenger Transit from Midwest Transit for $8K with 128K on the clock and almost new tires all around. I have approx. 30' feet of clear space that's 96" wide. I divided it into 3 sections and carpeted the front and rear 1/3 and linoleum in the center section - that will be the kitchen/bath area.
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:38 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum. If you want good ground clearance conventional is the way to go. Many school districts around MA are almost done retiring all of there International 3800s, so in a few years your options will be pushed more to FS-65s and Visons (Rust & contractor age restrictions prevent as old of buses as the rest of the country has from operating). Those will have mostly C7s and maybe MB engines, which people say are less desirable to put mileage on due to the work they need. Air brakes pretty easy to find, however if your looking for a 10 row I would suggest looking in NY. Most schools in MA have 12 or 13 row conventional. Rust is going to be a big factor in finding your bus. You might want to head south to get one. Even north into ME seems to be better for rust than MA. Most buses around MA are treated like crap by contractors, Ive looked around for a while and 95% of them are unworthy of conversion. Ive never built out a skoolie (I planned to but other plans got in the way) so I cant comment much on many of the things that your looking into. However, the emergency escape hatches are good for rooftop ACs unless you want to use ducts to circulate it around the bus. Good luck!
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Old 01-05-2016, 04:28 PM   #5
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Welcome. My two cents is to buy a bus from a place where they don't use salt on the roads. I've seen some buses that are not worth buying because of the rust. I live in the mountains of PA and I know all about salt and rust. Also stay away from the ocean. When I lived in FL you could spot a beach car a mile away. When you look at a bus really look at it, drive it, listen to it. Feel free to ask questions here. Good luck.
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Old 03-11-2016, 04:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptSquid View Post
MAJOR suggestions:

1) Try to keep all of the liquid facilities on one side. This will keep the plumbing problems to a minimum.

2) Keep the electrical on the OTHER side. Usually, there are cable runs already in place on the driver's side.

3) Try for a transit-style rear engined/ bus rather than a conventional bus. The load distribution is better and the drive is quieter. With a transit-style, you have almost uninterrupted flooring; the only exceptions are the wheel arches. But you can build OVER those.
That's a good point about the plumbing. I was thinking maybe the kitchen and shower would be on one side, with the toilet on the other. I think that would mean the gray water on one side, the black on the other. (Basically, black water right under the toilet.) If I understand my tank design right, it would just be a downhill pipe and a valve so the gray flows to the black which flows to the sewer connection. Either way, I'm WAY ahead of myself here.

I don't know what style bus I want yet. It really depends on what I end up doing with it - I'm still torn between going more tiny house, or staying more "motorhome." If I went tiny house, I'd want that full bathroom, and might get a bigger coach.

At the moment, I want to design a coach that's actually mobile - road ready, something I can go out on trips for a week or two at a time in.

I'm leaning towards a medium conventional bus. I like the flat nose options, and all that room inside - but I've heard that front engine models can be noisy, and I'm not sure how I'd deal with the bump for the engine in the rear. How comfortable would it be sleeping right over the engine while it's running? I know that at some point, you have to stop for the night and actually sleep - but cross-country trips get easier if you can trade off driving a bit, and start a bit earlier, and stop a bit later - even if its just to avoid traffic.

I've also been helping my dad work on our Ford Powerstroke 7.3. . There are some things I think its just easier to do having the engine out there in front. Some engine repairs can get really expensive really fast. I don't mind trying to pull it apart - but having to jack it down from the bus first, or trying to fit the wrench through the hole in the floor worries me a little bit. Popping the hood and getting a step stool I can do.

I'm also thinking my first build will be more a budget build. Something I can get on the road now and go have fun with. Try it out, and see if I like living in a bus. If I was going tiny house, I'd probably want to try and spray foam it - which means totally pulling out the interior. I'd probably want a more robust electrical system, and I'd consider my heating/AC differently. (Namely, right now, I'm not thinking of heat at all. Shore power, and a small space heater, or an electric blanket if I need it.)

Either way, looking at my finances, this thing is at LEAST a year out, if not two.
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:18 AM   #7
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There is no one bus that is perfect for everyone.

Having said that, I think you will find the smaller Type 'C' buses available but there just are not as many of them out there. The most common school bus built is a 12/13-row Type 'C'. They come in several different configurations with a lot of different spe'c's. Going out of your area to find a rust free bus with heavier duty spe'c's will save you a lot of $$$ over time.

Most contractor owned buses are built to the absolute minimum spe'c, they are driven hard, and in many cases do not get the same level of care as buses owned by school districts. The big difference is school districts are spending other people's $$$ and they are not concerned about making a profit at the end of the year.

Going to WA, OR, CA, or CO where air brakes are required will make it a lot easier to find a bus with air brakes. Those states are also known for having rust free buses.

Shorter overall length will make it easier to get around if you decide to go off the beaten path or off the end of the pavement. Just be aware that most full length school buses will turn a lot sharper than you would think possible. But at the end of the day, if you get to the end of a dead end road it is much easier to turn around a 30' long bus than it is a 40' bus.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 03-12-2016, 11:40 AM   #8
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This is the size I'm thinking of.

I want the all-steel, won't pankake if it rolls over model.


Full-size truck chassis, engine/tranny.
Just missing a few feet behind that rear axle.

This looks like it has 8 windows, I'd be open to the 10-window size - its really just the full 12/13 window size I'd like to avoid, just so I don't quite have that huge overhang at the rear. I don't plan to do any real off-roading with it, but at the same time, if I go to a national park or somewhere with a dirt road, I don't want to be worrying about dragging the side skirting down the road either.
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Old 03-12-2016, 01:59 PM   #9
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I agree with Cowlitz, no bus is perfect for everyone. Beyond that needs change over time.
I like your bus choice because it is more maneuverable for off road use. Vehicles of this length are not good in the mud, even when it's a 4x4. I should know, I get stuck turning around in my own yard sometimes. With that body design you will experience the more normal driving experience compared to flat nose buses. On the other hand when you're standing on a foot stool working on your bus in the rain I'll be working from inside my bus, yes bent over to reach down to the engine. It's all about what works best for you and what you're comfortable with.
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Old 03-12-2016, 05:10 PM   #10
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Year: 2003
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Engine: Cat C7
Rated Cap: 84 passenger
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark_In_MA View Post
That's a good point about the plumbing. I was thinking maybe the kitchen and shower would be on one side, with the toilet on the other. I think that would mean the gray water on one side, the black on the other. (Basically, black water right under the toilet.) If I understand my tank design right, it would just be a downhill pipe and a valve so the gray flows to the black which flows to the sewer connection. Either way, I'm WAY ahead of myself here.
Keep the kitchen/sink/bath all on one side. You might also want to consider a composting toilet. That way, you'd only have to be bothered with potable and grey water tanks. The composting toilet may need to be emptied only once a quarter, if I read their circulars right, and NO stinky-slinky.

Quote:
I'm leaning towards a medium conventional bus.
Conventional buses have a hood; transit-style buses do not have a hood. The transit-style buses have motors on either end.

Quote:
How comfortable would it be sleeping right over the engine while it's running?
Rear-engined buses do NOT have a bump in the rear; rather, the entire back end is taken up by the engine compartment and usually intrude into the rear by about 3' (no, I haven't measured exactly). You do not sleep OVER the engine; rather, you sleep in FRONT of the engine, and, they are surprisingly quiet. You get used to the engine noise quickly.
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