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Old 02-07-2015, 08:17 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Lansing, MI
Posts: 3
Talking Just starting out

So here I am standing on the edge of a dark abyss ready to jump head first into this thing. I had originally planned to start building a mobile tiny house on a utility trailer but while discussing tiny living structures with my sister the idea of converting a bus got brought up. I started researching it and comparing the two options and found that I was far more interested in the prospect of converting a bus into a home than I was about building a tiny house on wheels. I have started looking around for buses and designing what it is I want the inside of the bus to be like (at least to the best of my foresight abilities). I figure I at least have a bit of time since it is winter here and I won't be able to complete any work for at least a little while.

So that's where I am at so far. It's really next to nothing but I suppose deciding to jump into something like this is a big step to begin with. Next step is buying a bus and beginning to convert it. Any advice people have to give to someone starting their first bus conversion is welcomed and encouraged
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Old 02-07-2015, 08:51 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Southern Maine
Posts: 337
Welcome to the madness!
To best help you with advice and direction as well as markets and materials, we need to know a bit about you. Where are you/where do you plan to use bus? What are you looking to use the bus for? I assume you want a full time living bus, so how many of you are there? What are your must haves, nice to haves and don't wants? You looking to travel or stay put for long stretches? What is you time frame to build and be ready to live aboard? Lastly what skills/tools/people do you have access to?
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Old 02-07-2015, 08:52 PM   #3
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Location: Twin Falls, Idaho
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Find someone local

There are skoolies every place. Find one and learn what ya need. Frank
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Old 02-07-2015, 11:17 PM   #4
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I live in central Michigan and would like to stay around this area, I am a born and raised Michigander and would like to stay that way! I am planning on living full-time in this bus with just myself and my pup. I would ideally like to be able to live in a semi-permanent area and then travel in the bus when need be (I usually take one long trip every year or so). I am ideally wanting to frame and insulate the walls and lay the floor, install a wood stove, and then live in it while I complete the rest of the bus. After paying rent to scummy landlords for years I am tired to renting houses that have a lot of issues and people who own them who are unwilling to fix them. So I am hoping that I can be moved into the working structure by late summer. I figure I can build while I am living there, that would keep me motivated to continue work seeing as it is my home and only place of residence. As far as skills, I am pretty quick on my feet, I've fixed a lot around the houses that I have lived in over the years and have grown up building small projects. I by all means do not know how to build an entire bus but I am definitely up to the challenge and have good friends and great family in the area that are willing to help me complete this task! Here's hoping!
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Old 02-08-2015, 12:32 AM   #5
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Roswell, NM
Posts: 3,587
Year: 1986
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: 40 ft All American FE
Engine: 8.2LTA Fuel Pincher DD V8
Rated Cap: 89
David & I closed off all the windows we didn't want and painted the exterior. Then our priorities were evaluated, got a working toilet, running water (in the vanity sink). Hooked up the gas range from home and put the bed in. Stuck the refrigerator (actually two 4.4 cf undercounter stacked on top of one another) and the freezer in. Hooked up Christmas lights for lighting. Ran an electric space heater for heat. Moved into the bus on Dec 10, 2011 (David's Birthday) and headed to Roswell (150 miles away). We pulled into an RV park that had a bathhouse and laundry. Ran everything off of extension cords. And then we started quietly converting. Got most of the hard work done before David passed this past Nov. I will finish up the rest plus make the changes David & I talked about. Mostly the "pretties" and decor.

I have a full working galley (42" triple bowl cast iron sink - free -, my hardly used 2003 30" LP range, 4.4cf refrigerator X2, 12 cf upright freezer, tile countertop w/full backsplash, space for a 24" dishwasher set aside) . Shower with hot water (got put in after they stopped heating the bathhouse and I took a shower in 40F bathhouse, Brrr!). Laundry (used washer & LP dryer). LP Fireplace (new). Two air conditioners (6K BTU - new). Tile floors (Ceramica). All the comforts. I have things that we used to have in our homes. Things we drug from one state to another then put into storage for a few years. A home.

I have an RV water pump. I have a Valterra ABS Rocket tank for my fresh water. I have a "smart" charger. That is the extent of the "RV" stuff. Everything else came from Home Improvement stores (ACE, Home Depot & Lowes... mostly Home Depot) including my electric water heater. I tell people I have a "residential vehicle". I can get replacement parts almost anywhere. And for much less than from RV specialty stores.

Right now, I'm at $6,700. And I think I will get it finished for $8K (not counting the shell) or real close to it. The goal was $6K. Upgrades and inflation has hit my budget hard. Reusing a lot of stuff we had has saved us a lot of money. Thinking "outside of the box" (using things in a different way than how they were marketed) also saved a lot of money. Staying with residential stuff has also saved a lot of money. For example using an inverter with regular 110VAC flourescent lights saved me more than 50% over using 12VDC "RV" lights. That's lights plus inverter.

We had a pretty set floor plan. We moved a few things an inch or two after moving in. But the current floor plan is basically the same as what we originally planned. Having a set plan meant we could do things in stages. We knew what went where and what needed to be done before we could do other areas. Very helpful.
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Old 02-08-2015, 08:10 AM   #6
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Florida
Posts: 584
Year: 1988
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: I.H.
Engine: DT360
Sorry to hear about your loss. It was before we bought ours.
We are planning to dive into the first big steps this weekend and next. We are pretty set on a compost toilet now (saves weight, space, tank, hoses). We are also planning to pick up a 2k honda generator with the inverter. Lights will all be led.
Tomnorrow, I have some cels removed. My wife had stage4 but recovered and is clear 11 years now.
I think we finally agreed on a name, she likes Knot-a-bus.
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Old 02-08-2015, 10:12 AM   #7
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Roswell, NM
Posts: 3,587
Year: 1986
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: 40 ft All American FE
Engine: 8.2LTA Fuel Pincher DD V8
Rated Cap: 89
When you size your generator, get one big enough so that it can run at 50% load. That will give you the best fuel use.

Life goes on.
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Old 02-12-2015, 12:49 AM   #8
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Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Lansing, MI
Posts: 3
So I went to look at a bus today and I let the guy know that I wanted to take a bit of time to think it all over after looking at it. The bus is a 94' International Bluebird 3800 with a 5.9L L6 Diesel engine. It has 180,*** miles on it and it is in pretty good shape, minimal rusting across the entire body and underbody of the bus (we climbed all over the underside despite the snow). The engine is is good running order and it drives well from what I could tell.

The current owner had started to convert it himself, got to framing the walls and insulating and framing the ceiling before other life events became priorities and he decided to sell. He is selling it for $5000 with all left over building materials and supplies he has collected included. The bus was originally purchased for a little over $4000. So with all the work and supplies he has put towards it, I can understand the list price. I would like to hear what others more experienced than myself think. I have researched buses but am still very new to all this.

Also I wanted to ask how buses hold up when they are not being constantly driven around. I live in Michigan so winters here can be bitter and snowy and ideally I would park it for the winter and have it stay parked until spring/summer. How would a diesel engine do without being driven consistently?

Any input anyone has is greatly appreciated!
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Old 02-12-2015, 07:38 AM   #9
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 12,172
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
Hard to find a michigan bus that isn't crustified with rust.
94 would be a good year for mechanicals.
But unless there are brand new tires on it I think that its probably a bit over-priced.
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Old 02-12-2015, 07:29 PM   #10
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
Posts: 1,607
I can get you into a western no rust rear engine bus with a new engine for $4,000.00. With good rubber. So unless there is well over $2k worth of parts and pieces I would say pass on it.
  • IHC has never built a 5.9L I-6 diesel engine, or at least never called it by that nomenclature. IHC built the T444(E) V-8, the DT(A)360 I-6, and the DT466 I-6. Until late in 2014 a Cummins engine was not available as an option in IC/IHC/Navistar medium duty chassis.
  • Rust, no matter how little, is a problem. As chronicled in several builds here, converting rust or replacing rust compromised components can become very extensive and expensive very quickly.
  • Type 'D' buses (transit style with the service door in front of the front axle) have the greatest amount of interior volume. All other buses lose interior volume to the engine's hood out front.
  • Spend your up front $$$ on the best bus, both mechanically and body condition, as you can find. The better the foundation is the less $$$ you will need to spend down the road fixing the foundation.
In regards to sitting around, no mechanical beast likes sitting around doing noting. But if you do your homework and prepare the beast for hibernation properly you shouldn't have any problems.

Good luck and happy trails.
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