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Old 05-10-2017, 03:31 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
New here. Lease ends in September and I have no intention of renting another place.

I've had the idea of a van/bus conversion in the back of my mind for the past 1-2 years. I'm a longtime sub on r/vandwellers and more recently r/skoolies.

Over the last couple of weeks I've decided that this is how I want to move forward. I don't want to rent another apartment and I don't have enough to outright buy a house or a piece of property to build a house (although that is hopefully on the 10 year horizon). So getting into a skoolie seems like a practical next step.

I decided I wanted more space than the typical cargo van or sprinter found on r/vandwellers, which naturally led me to skoolies. I think a full length school bus would be too much trouble to manage in urban areas, so I will probably go with a 24-seater or something similar.

My goal right now is to find a suitable vehicle (open to suggestions on where to look) from one of the southwestern states (CA, AZ, NM, NV, etc). I live in socal so this is based both on proximity and also the fact that used buses in this region should have significantly less rust issues.

I also need to plan out the critical systems/layout and work out an order of importance/priority. I expect this project will be a rolling work in progress so to speak, and I want to leave my apartment as soon as the bare minimum systems are online.

I think my bare critical systems to move out are as follows:
- potable water storage (how much does 1 person need in a week?)
- dry food storage + refrigerator
- power generation/energy storage (solar + lithium ion banks? or agm batteries?)
- food prep solution (electric hot plate + instant water boiler?)
- bathroom solution
- shower/grooming solution

And I think the next things to finish would be:
- insulation on floor, walls, and ceiling (planning to go to Toronto around winter time)
- complete electrical wiring system + networking cabling (full 12vdc, 120vac, ethernet wiring)
- finish out flooring, cabinets, tables, seating areas, etc
- ???


I'm sure there's lots of other stuff that I missed but those are the major things I can think of right now. I'd be grateful for any advice from veterans and I'm looking forward to being a part of this community

Edit: Oh I also want to mention that I have a 650cc sportbike (around 460 lbs) that I want to keep, so how should I go about doing that? Should I put it on a trailer and tow that behind the bus or should I get something like a rack that is attached to the rear of the bus? Like this:
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Old 05-11-2017, 11:57 AM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
...did I go too far with the wall of text?
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Old 05-11-2017, 03:59 PM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 4,410
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC 1000
Engine: 5.9
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Nope, not to far. I'm the only one that's responded, but it's been read 45 times.

Welcome. It sounds like you're planning the right basics. A number of us have lived in our buses while we worked on them. It's definitely not as easy, but doable. If you've got time before moving in get that bus interior stripped out and put insulation in it. After that you can build at a speed that sutes you.

Most of us with bikes get a bus with a rear wheelchair lift. If you put your bike behind the bus it's going to be very dirty after a long drive.

You've got a plan for what you want in your bus. Do you know what kind of bus you're looking for? If it's a live-in you're going to want good insulation. Are you ok working on a diesel with air brakes? Are you thinking 40' bus?
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Old 05-13-2017, 11:16 AM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
Unfortunately living in it while I build it out is a requirement for me as I have nowhere else to go. I want to get the bare minimum finished so I can move out of my apartment as soon as possible. Since I live in Socal I don't actually need to put insulation in just yet (I've slept on the street for weeks at a time before, so I know what I can/can't handle), but I will have to do it before I can leave the southwest.

My reason for hesitating on the insulation is that I plan to take the bus through extremely hot places like Texas in the summer and extremely cold areas like Toronto in the winter. To handle that effectively I'm going to have to do a really good job on the insulation; choice of material(s), thickness, layout, what to do about windows/skylights, etc all have to be carefully designed ahead of time to get a good result. And doing a good job will take time, which runs against my immediate target of moving out ASAP. As soon as I'm moved out of this place then the insulation will be my top priority, but not before then.

As far as mounting the bike behind the bus: my preference is to put it outside the bus since I'm going to need all the space I can get on the interior, And I can always build a lightweight enclosure to block against dirt and grit from the road. At the very least I can always wrap it in plastic sheeting for long trips (although a built enclosure would be more ideal).

As to what kind of bus I want to get: I don't think I know enough yet to make a good informed choice, but I was looking at some ford e350/e450s with around 24 seating capacity. I'm not sure how long in feet that is - I was mostly looking at pictures and trying to get an idea of what seems good or not. The super short buses (16-20 seats) look too small for my tastes and the longer ones (34+ seats) seemed too large. If I was going to stick to open country areas I think I would be fine in a full length bus but I do plan on going into urban/downtown areas (Austin, Philadelphia, Boston, etc) and I think it would be too hard to manage that in a full length bus. But maybe my assumption here is wrong so I'd like to hear what other members with full length buses have experienced going into heavily urban areas.

I have a lot of experience working on motorcycles including engine rebuilds so I'm not intimidated at the prospect of getting my hands dirty. All I need really is service manuals or decent community writeups if I run into something I don't know how to do (which I expect will be a lot in the beginning; I don't have experience working on diesels or air brakes).
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Old 05-13-2017, 11:42 AM   #5
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 4,410
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC 1000
Engine: 5.9
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There is a 1992 Bluebird TC1000 for sale in one of these active threads this morning in Portland. It's a single mother and college student that is backing out of the build because it's to hard while she is going to college.

Physically this '92 is very similar to my '97 TC1000. These TC1000 buses are about 1 1/2 parking spots long. They turn around like a suburban because they have a short wheel base. Another interesting fact about this type of bus is it apparently gets about the same mileage as a cutaway bus which has barely half the interior space.

Not to argue, but my bus has plenty of room for a small garage in the back of the bus. The lift makes loading and unloading bikes pretty easy.
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Old 05-13-2017, 12:32 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
Ah yeah I went to take a look at it. It might work but I'm a little apprehensive about the FE style. I had my sights set on a dog nosed bus as my understanding is that the engine is much more accessible/easier to work on.

Since it's similar to your bus, could you give me a rough estimate of the interior sq footage? My rough guess would be around 8'x20' (160 sq ft) - am I close or way off?

Also no worries about arguing. I have no issues with it (even prefer it to some extent) as long as it's civil.

The reason I'm not enthusiastic about storing the bike inside the bus is because I plan to have a section of the interior as a dedicated workshop with a workbench and as much space as I can manage for tools and the like. That puts space at a premium, so if I can make it work with the bike outside, that's what I'll do. As I mentioned before, if I thought I could manage it I would get a full sized bus but I think the compromise on a short bus is necessary for the places I plan to go.
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Old 05-13-2017, 12:38 PM   #7
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Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Greater Houston, Tx.
Posts: 338
JSTriton .....Welcome.
In reading your post I can't help but think that you need to look up, and study DRedman's build. He's done it a time or two, and is doing one right now. He just installed the bike ramp in his bus. He walks (or will be walking) us through his new bus.
Over the last year or two, I have seen many GREAT builds, so You will find anything thing you might need. It never fails to surprise me when I stumble on something that I can do better (or easier) than I had thought.
When you get your way to Texas make sure you let us know, and maybe a bunch of us can meet you.

GO 4 IT!
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Old 05-13-2017, 03:08 PM   #8
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Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 4,410
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC 1000
Engine: 5.9
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I have a workbench in the rear of my bus, and my front wheel simply goes underneath the bench. My bus is easily large enough for me to put a bike in the back. It would only take up about six linear feet of floor for a garage with tool storage and workbench. How much tools do you want to haul anyway? I thought I had a lot.

With this type of bus you won't notice any difference while driving on the highway. At low speeds it maneuver at angles you wouldn't believe. There's a little bit of a learning curve but it's not bad. I've only backed into trees so far and they're fair game anyway. What I particularly like is the mileage is about the same as a shorty.

It sounds to me like you're trying to fit everything into a shorty. That's reasonable in many ways. A smaller bus is going to be easier to heat during the winter and they're easier to park. So what's better, an overloaded shorty or a medium bus that doesn't care about the extra weight? My motto is "It's better to have to much than not enough."
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:28 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
Quote:
I have a workbench in the rear of my bus, and my front wheel simply goes underneath the bench. My bus is easily large enough for me to put a bike in the back. It would only take up about six linear feet of floor for a garage with tool storage and workbench. How much tools do you want to haul anyway? I thought I had a lot.
I have almost a full set of motorcycle mechanic's tools, a few boxes of spare parts for the 650, some woodworking/general carpentry tools, a couple bags of power tools, electronics, computer, and networking stuff, a 3d printer, a sewing machine, and a couple other things.

Also there are a few more things that I want to add like a benchtop power supply and oscilloscope, basic welding equipment, and a compressed air system for air tools. I would also like (but all this isn't really possible in a bus) a table saw, band saw, planer, jointer, full sized lathe, and a milling machine. I would need a permanent location with a real sized workshop to have things like that. Although it might be possible to figure out some kind of table saw and bandsaw setup that can be quickly assembled outside the bus when parked.

And besides all the tool storage, I want the workbench itself to be relatively clean and open (I hate when working spaces get overly crowded/cluttered because it just makes everything slower and more annoying). I am thinking about a workbench roughly 6ft long and 3ft deep, but I might have to compromise that as the design progresses.

Quote:
With this type of bus you won't notice any difference while driving on the highway. At low speeds it maneuver at angles you wouldn't believe. There's a little bit of a learning curve but it's not bad. I've only backed into trees so far and they're fair game anyway. What I particularly like is the mileage is about the same as a shorty.
Good mileage is great, but it's not exactly a primary consideration for me. I'm not that big on road tripping like a lot of others are. I don't really expect to go over 10-20k miles within 5 years. Mostly I just want a place to live that I can call my own. I'm really tired of living in apartments that belong to someone else (and also surrounded on all sides by neighbors who complain about noise from power tools or hammer strikes. I don't really blame them but I still want out). I really like building and improving things and it's kind of pointless (assuming you even have permission) to do that kind of stuff in an apartment because once you inevitably leave, everything you improved stays behind.

Quote:
It sounds to me like you're trying to fit everything into a shorty. That's reasonable in many ways. A smaller bus is going to be easier to heat during the winter and they're easier to park. So what's better, an overloaded shorty or a medium bus that doesn't care about the extra weight? My motto is "It's better to have to much than not enough."
Yeah that's about right. I would be happy to go with even a full sized bus if I thought I could manage it in urban areas. My concern is that finding places to park for the night (or multiple nights) would be too difficult and that a full sized bus would draw too much attention from petty homeowners/law enforcement/criminals and I don't want to deal with either of those 3 groups. For the most part I just want people to leave me alone and I'll do the same to them. This is my ONLY problem with a full sized bus. If you think a medium length bus wont run into these issues then I'll consider that option too.

Edit: I also want to mention that I'm going into urban areas specifically for friends and family. I don't actually like urban places myself and if it wasn't for friends/family I would probably avoid cities altogether. But when I go to visit friends and family for a couple weeks or a couple months I need it to be as manageable as possible.
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Old 05-13-2017, 06:30 PM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1olfart View Post
JSTriton .....Welcome.
In reading your post I can't help but think that you need to look up, and study DRedman's build. He's done it a time or two, and is doing one right now. He just installed the bike ramp in his bus. He walks (or will be walking) us through his new bus.
Over the last year or two, I have seen many GREAT builds, so You will find anything thing you might need. It never fails to surprise me when I stumble on something that I can do better (or easier) than I had thought.
When you get your way to Texas make sure you let us know, and maybe a bunch of us can meet you.

GO 4 IT!
I checked it out, I'll keep his approaches in mind. Thanks for the encouragement
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