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Old 04-23-2016, 04:14 PM   #1
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Moving van + minimal RV conversion?

We NEED to move our important possessions across country as inexpensively as possible. Our WANTS include poking our way from here to there slowly and see the country. When we moved this direction it was a Penske truck and we were in a screaming hurry. Don't want to do that again!

Our plan (well, today) is to have the bare minimum for the RV for titling and to allow as much room as possible for cargo:
  • Get out of debt and save the dough we need. We are two years pre-purchase, I would guess.
  • Pick up a '91 or '92 long conventional bus with air brakes, a DT466, and an Allison 2500 from a local school district via PublicSurplus.com (SUPER shop foreman there, great maintenance + records, and just down the street);
  • Spray over the letters, remove the stop sign, tape over the flashers, and add lettering under the driver's window "Recreational Vehicle for personal use only - not for hire";
  • Hire someone to add an exhaust brake to the engine (we'll be crossing the Rockies, after all);
  • Toss *most* of the chairs, leaving some frameworks still in place in the back 16 feet or so to use as cargo tie-points;
  • Add a propane bottle on a shelf behind the rig, and plumb it in towards the front;
  • Add 110v (I have a 2000w inverter and a deep-cycle battery already);
  • Build a wall somewhere around 1/3 back to isolate cargo from RV sections;
  • Build bunks for our two twin mattresses (we do the split King trick) crossways up against the bulkhead cargo/RV wall;
  • Behind the driver add a kitchen counter with luggable loo bucket underneath;
  • On the passenger side add a used RV Captain's chair to the front, possibly with a pull-up cover for the steps (or is there enough room to put a second seat in the center and forward, just to the driver's right?);
  • Behind the Captain's (co-pilot's) seat, place a tiny closet/cabinet and a refrigerator (we have a full-sized propane refrigerator - why not use it?);
  • Build a swamp-cooler-in-a-bucket contraption to at least give a hint of cooler air; and
  • Retitle as an RV and obtain liability-only insurance for it.

On arrival, use the bus as a storage container until we find local digs. We would sell the emptied bus to someone there who wants a bus to convert. We might keep it and convert it ourselves IF the place we buy/rent has room for it and the wife liked the experience on the way out.

Thoughts?
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Old 04-23-2016, 06:07 PM   #2
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The exhaust brake may sound cool, but they really aren't worth the money and could just lead to more problems.

Here's a 92 MT643RM for $750. WITH retarder.
http://www.mylittlesalesman.com/1992...ission-8478032
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Old 04-23-2016, 06:19 PM   #3
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The exhaust brake may sound cool, but they really aren't worth the money and could just lead to more problems.
I'm kinda nervous about long downhill grades: I recall passing a truck once on the Grapevine that had burning brakes (or something was smoking, anyway). I'll be heading west to Idaho through the Rockies, presumably. If you want to add anything here that would be great, but I think I'll start another thread so folks can find it later.
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Old 04-23-2016, 06:24 PM   #4
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http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f10/re...der-11568.html

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f9/mou...akes-9996.html
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Old 04-24-2016, 12:11 AM   #5
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That vintage bus won't have a 2500. It will be an AT545 or MT643. Second problem for me is your crapper in the kitchen.
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Old 04-24-2016, 12:33 AM   #6
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Last Saturday I drove a 2003 72 pass. bluebird with a DT466E Manual trans for a friend. I had to go over a 4000ft pass with 6-7 percent grade. I switched on the exhaust brake at the top and never touched the brakes until I was down on the flat again at an intersection.
I'm a believer now
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Old 04-24-2016, 06:05 AM   #7
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Last Saturday I drove a 2003 72 pass. bluebird with a DT466E Manual trans for a friend. I had to go over a 4000ft pass with 6-7 percent grade. I switched on the exhaust brake at the top and never touched the brakes until I was down on the flat again at an intersection.
I'm a believer now
Any pics?
Who installed the exhaust brake? What brand?
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Old 04-24-2016, 08:40 AM   #8
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That vintage bus won't have a 2500. It will be an AT545 or MT643. Second problem for me is your crapper in the kitchen.
First problem: you're quite right: I typed it wrong. These are 2001 or so buses. I spoke with the shop foreman to get the model number. Apologies, all: the site won't let me edit the original post.

Second problem: mine doesn't stink.

OK, maybe I better rethink that. Trying to save space for cargo - likely overdid it. Here's one of my other ideas, though it cuts down the cargo space quite a bit.



My problem is I keep needing to remind myself that the goal is to move, not to have an RV. Sure, if the wife likes it we might keep it, but we're planning on selling it at the other end. Hm... she might like it more with the loo someplace other than the kitchen...
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Old 04-24-2016, 09:28 AM   #9
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Oh, why didn't you say so. If your poo doesn't stink, go ahead and put it in the kitchen.
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Old 04-24-2016, 09:38 AM   #10
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Oh, why didn't you say so. If your poo doesn't stink, go ahead and put it in the kitchen.
My wife saw this. Apparently I mis-spoke.
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Old 04-24-2016, 09:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dapplecreek View Post
Our plan (well, today) is to have the bare minimum for the RV for titling and to allow as much room as possible for cargo
Find out what the minimum requirements are for flipping the title to RV. As an example, NJ requires the following to flip the title to RV:

Quote:
Bus – Motor Home (RV)
Foreign – Bus – Motor Home Page 1 of 3
Foreign Title Unit (R11/09)
General Information
1) Change vehicle type on Comp System : This Procedure will be followed when the MVC-Foreign Title Unit is notified that a bus was converted to a Recreational Vehicle (RV). The regulations concerning Certificate of ownership for used motor vehicles converted into motor homes is 13:21-20.5. This transaction can be handled through the mail or in-person at the MVC central office in Trenton. If approved, this transaction will be handled in 2 steps:
2) Issue a Replacement title on the Agency V3 System
* Motor Home Vehicle Type = 05 Required Modifications
 Remove most seats from the bus : In order for the bus to be converted to an RV, the customer must make the following modifications to the vehicle:
 Remove emergency lights including the side mounted stop sign
 Repaint the exterior of the vehicle (Cannot remain any shade of yellow)
 Install a permanent bed or sleep sofa
 Install a permanent sink or bar sink (Must be in working order)
 Install a permanent stove or microwave
Bus – Motor Home (RV)
Foreign – Bus – Motor Home Page 2 of 3
Foreign Title Unit (R11/09)
Requirements
• :
Original NJ Title
o If the customer wishes to re-sell the vehicle, they must do so after the conversion, as a separate transaction. must be already in customer’s name as a Bus.
• Color photographs
o Exterior photos must completely/clearly show all 4 sides of the vehicle. of the interior and exterior after the conversion.
o Interior photos must completely/ show the bed, stove/microwave and sink.
• Pencil tracing or photograph clearly showing the complete VIN plate
The above is from the NJMVC Special Vehicle Unit handbook. But, every state is different, and YMMV
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Old 04-24-2016, 09:48 AM   #12
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Going over the Rockies - If you don't already have a bus, I'd suggest looking for one with a Cummins 8.3 and MD3060R trans (Bluebird TC2000 or All-American often have this combo), you'll be pleased going up the hills AND down. These are both pushers, might make things difficult if you plan to load or access/egress through the back door, but I can tell you first-hand that these buses can get over hills at reasonable speed and the hydraulic retarder is a beautiful addition for mountain travel.
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Old 04-24-2016, 09:58 AM   #13
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Going over the Rockies - If you don't already have a bus, I'd suggest looking for one with a Cummins 8.3 and MD3060R trans (Bluebird TC2000 or All-American often have this combo), you'll be pleased going up the hills AND down. These are both pushers, might make things difficult if you plan to load or access/egress through the back door, but I can tell you first-hand that these buses can get over hills at reasonable speed and the hydraulic retarder is a beautiful addition for mountain travel.
Thanks, Dammit! (Oh, that was fun!)

I met the shop foreman at our local school district and feel that buying from him would give me a solid bus and local pickup, which would outweigh a gamble from someone else far away. All they have are conventional buses with air brakes, a DT466, and an Allison 2500. They turn a bunch loose every year, so I'm likely to find one when we're out of debt. I also need the back door for our piano...

Since this is a move rather than a lifestyle I would think I could stomach a slow climb. But I'm concerned about braking going downhill. I started another thread here asking about exhaust brakes, which I understand could be added to a bus which does not have one already. What I'm hearing you say is that I would appreciate something in addition to the air brakes.
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Old 04-24-2016, 10:13 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Thanks, Dammit! (Oh, that was fun!)

I met the shop foreman at our local school district and feel that buying from him would give me a solid bus and local pickup, which would outweigh a gamble from someone else far away. All they have are conventional buses with air brakes, a DT466, and an Allison 2500. They turn a bunch loose every year, so I'm likely to find one when we're out of debt. I also need the back door for our piano...

Since this is a move rather than a lifestyle I would think I could stomach a slow climb. But I'm concerned about braking going downhill. I started another thread here asking about exhaust brakes, which I understand could be added to a bus which does not have one already. What I'm hearing you say is that I would appreciate something in addition to the air brakes.
I definitely appreciate having multiple speed control options. There are also magnetic retarders. The operation looks the same from the cab, you pull a lever or push a button and a magnet tries to "grab" a fixture on the driveline. They get hot in operation, even when operate properly, but especially if you ride them for long.

There are plenty of 466 fans on here. I don't have anything against them, just had good luck with my combo. There's always the downshift, go slow, surge with your brakes style of driving if no other options come up, but if you plan to haul any serious weight, you'll probably want a backup plan.

And yeah, trying to stuff a piano onto ANY bus is going to be a chore, but I don't think it would even fit through my side door...
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Old 04-24-2016, 10:18 AM   #15
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One example of a magnetic retarder (Telma brand):

Welcome To TELMA USA
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Old 04-24-2016, 12:25 PM   #16
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I've gotten a piano through the wheel chair door previously.

I like your moving plan except for one thing. You're putting all the weight in the far rear of the bus. If you've ever driven a pickup truck with all the weight near the tailgate you know how it sways and makes driving uncomfortable. Ideally you should have the majority of your household weight between the two axles for safety, or spread it out through the length of the bus.
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Old 04-24-2016, 01:07 PM   #17
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I've gotten a piano through the wheel chair door previously.

I like your moving plan except for one thing. You're putting all the weight in the far rear of the bus. If you've ever driven a pickup truck with all the weight near the tailgate you know how it sways and makes driving uncomfortable. Ideally you should have the majority of your household weight between the two axles for safety, or spread it out through the length of the bus.
Hm. Will rethink the weight distribution. Once packed, might also get the rig weighed front and back and see if I need to shuffle. But that's a long time from now, and that's why I asked early. Thanks!
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Old 04-24-2016, 01:48 PM   #18
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You're doing well to figure out how to best accomplish your goal.

If you were already on the road I wouldn't need to tell you. You'd feel it with every little curve the bus goes round, especially at speed. I'm quite sure you would have eventually stopped at some point on your trip and redistributed the weight, which would be a real pain at a rest stop somewhere.
The rear of my medium size bus seems to noticeably sway in the back on corners and I don't have much in the way of extra weight in it.

Just a thought, but based on your diagram of your proposed bus design and cargo area, you could very likely get your cargo into a medium size bus and still have room to sleep there if needed. During long trips it is really nice to go somewhere and sit down to eat a good meal instead of trying to cook in an unfamiliar bus kitchen. You're both going to be under enough stress during the trip anyway. And my final point, if you get a medium size bus I think you might be more likely to keep it rather than keeping a long bus. Just a thought.
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Old 04-24-2016, 02:02 PM   #19
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You're doing well to figure out how to best accomplish your goal.

If you were already on the road I wouldn't need to tell you. You'd feel it with every little curve the bus goes round, especially at speed. I'm quite sure you would have eventually stopped at some point on your trip and redistributed the weight, which would be a real pain at a rest stop somewhere.
The rear of my medium size bus seems to noticeably sway in the back on corners and I don't have much in the way of extra weight in it.

Just a thought, but based on your diagram of your proposed bus design and cargo area, you could very likely get your cargo into a medium size bus and still have room to sleep there if needed. During long trips it is really nice to go somewhere and sit down to eat a good meal instead of trying to cook in an unfamiliar bus kitchen. You're both going to be under enough stress during the trip anyway. And my final point, if you get a medium size bus I think you might be more likely to keep it rather than keeping a long bus. Just a thought.
Robin, very helpful and thoughtful comments. I'll certainly consider the medium length bus, but I'm kinda leaning toward buying from our local school district - not sure what the selection will be. But it's still all arm-waving at this point.

Keep the bus? I would like to, but finances are indeed a concern and the though was to recoup at least the bus cost at the other end (and avoid storage monthly fees). I am trying not to be an idiot here - had lots of practice doing it that way and thought instead I would try being responsible now that I'm 60.
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Old 04-24-2016, 02:25 PM   #20
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If you are going to go though all the trouble of converting the skoolie, why not consider staying in it permanently? you can park in an RV/motor home park, rent is far cheaper than in a traditional house mortgage, And if you ever decide to move or leave again, you can literally turn the engine over and be on your way, no muss, no fuss and easy.

The other thing is people generally want to convert their own skoolies. So the resell-ability of your bus is probably going to be low. You might also have to take a hit on the amount you get back if you do sell the skoolie. If you don't sell it immediately, you will likely have to pay the storage fee anyway.
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