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Old 09-25-2007, 06:37 PM   #1
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Skoolie Idea

Hey guys,

Well, I'm new to this site, but I go to a lot of college football games, and skoolies are starting to get pretty popular on the tailgating scene. I've been thinking about making a skoolie for some time now, but before I commit, I want to make sure I know exactly what I want to do. I have a couple of questions.

I have an idea for a more versatile skoolie, and I was just wondering if it has been done before or if it would work. I'm thinking about buying a mid size school bus (maybe 7 windows or so), and converting it to a "living" area. It would have a bathroom, kitchenette, tables, a couch, etc. Then I'm thinking about buying one of those box cargo/utility trailers (about 8' wide, 7' tall, and 14' long) and converting it into a "sleeper" with half of it being a "master" bedroom and the other half being a bunk area. I think this would be very versatile, because if there are several of us and we just need a place to sleep, we could haul the sleeper behind a regular truck. If it's just my wife and I going camping, we could take the skoolie by itself and sleep on the couch. And if there are several people camping/tailgating for an extending period of time, we could take the skoolie and pull the sleeper behind it. I think this might also be better because it would be like 2 small projects instead of one big project. I would start with the sleeper because it would be easier since it doesn't need any plumbing. Has anyone ever heard of doing this? What is your opinion? Are there any problems that you can think of that I might face when doing this? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

My other questions is if a lot of people put slide-outs in skoolies. It seems like a cool idea, but is it as difficult as it seems, or is there a simple way of doing this? Let me know if anyone has ideas, and pictures would be awesome.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-25-2007, 08:26 PM   #2
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Re: Skoolie Idea

Personally, I wouldn't do that. I would get a bigger bus and put everything in there rather than hauling a trailer with a sleeper. You really won't get any better mileage with a shorter 7 window bus as opposed to a 12 window bus. You could put a whole bunch of bunks in the back of the bus, bathroom in the middle, living area up front. I'm guessing that if you had a bunch of people sleeping in the back trailer, and one of them wakes up in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom, they'll have to get dressed, leave the trailer and get into the bus. Also, a slide is very heavy and I've never seen one in a skoolie. No doubt that it can be done, but you'd need some good welding and fabricating skills. I'd like to see somebody try a slide sometime! That would be pretty sweet. I think it might be a bit much for a project on a first skoolie. Good luck!
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Old 09-26-2007, 07:52 AM   #3
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Re: Skoolie Idea

Good point about going to the bathroom. It wouldn't bother the guys so much as the girls. We live in Texas so it's not like you have to get bundled up to go outside, even in the winter. I sleep in shorts so that would be fine. But if it's raining or something that would not be too good.

I'm not too concerned about the milage, I was thinking more of the versatility. Sometimes we just need a place to sleep so we could pull the sleeper with a regular truck. Sometimes it's just 2 of us, so we could just take the short bus by itself that is easier to drive (I assume) than a long bus. But sometimes there will be a lot of us for several days and we need to be able to accomodate.

We won't always need at 40' school bus that sleeps 8-10 people. But sometimes we will. Also, we go camping at my wife's family ranch a lot, and to get there you have to drive through a creek. I'm not sure a long school bus could make the steep dip without getting hung up on the ends. If we end up getting a long bus, it will probably be because, from what I hear, they are actually cheaper that short buses a lot of the time. And it seems it may definitely be cheaper than buying a short bus AND a 14'-16' cargo trailer.

Any other ideas about this or any other concerns in addition to the bathroom problem? Thanks.
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Old 09-26-2007, 09:10 AM   #4
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Re: Skoolie Idea

Financially it would be better to get a bigger bus. A 66 passenger bus versus the smaller bus is not going to be as big a cost difference as buying a huge enclosed trailer. My 6'x12' enclosed trailer (that we considered doing beds in until we got our skoolie) runs about $3000 used and $3500 new. I have seen some others on E-Bay as low as $2000 but those trailers aren't as heavy duty, but for beds only, would probably suite you. My trailer is only 6' tall and I am 6'1". I have to watch my head in both the trailer and the skoolie, finding a 7' enclosed trailer is going to be even more money. I have less than the cost of the trailer into my 66 passenger skoolie and it is as finished as we are going with it.

If you do go trailer, the rear doors on trailers are either the double barn style or the ramp style and none of them come with door knobs, they all use the rotating latch system so only latchable from the outside. You would probably be able to find one or someone willing to put a person door in the back door (or DIY). Our trailer has a side door but would get in the way of putting in any beds in that area.
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Old 09-26-2007, 11:53 AM   #5
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Re: Skoolie Idea

What about making some fold up bunk beds that stow against the wall when not in use? I have one that I just built in the back of my bus. When folded up it only takes about 8" of floor space - flat against the wall. I then built a shelf above it so I really don't loose much space at all. Mine is just a single bed for 2 (made from an old futon frame and mattress) but I'm sure you could make bunks that fold up. Thats what those toy hauler campers have in the back.

Here are some pictures of my fold up bed.

Lugging around a trailer seems like a hassle. And when not in use you have to find a parking spot for your bus and a big trailer.
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Old 09-26-2007, 12:35 PM   #6
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Re: Skoolie Idea

Space is not really an issue either so I'm not really worried about the fold up bunks. I kind of planned on making the top bunk fold down to turn it into a back rest for the bottom bunk, making it into a sort of couch. But to me, there is no difference between a short bus with a trailer and a long bus by itself, as far as space goes.

Skoolies are all about being able to customize them to each person's individual's needs. Personally, I won't need a 12 window school bus each and everytime I go camping/tailgating. Most of the time we would either haul the sleeper behind a truck, or take the short bus by itself. But for the few times we need both, we would be able to do that too.

I'm looking for potential problems, not preferences. The one about having to go outside to go to the bathroom, and the idea that it probably would cost a lot more are both problems with my idea. I'm also looking for suggestions on making it better, because obviously it is not flawless. Of course I can take a long school bus, put a master bedroom in the back, bunks in front of that, then a kitchen and bathroom, and a living area in the front like most everybody else, but I kind of want something a little different and more suited to my specific needs.

For the record, I'll probably just end up getting a long bus and converting it just because it seems to be cheaper and easier, but I would still like ideas on how to make the "split" skoolie idea better.
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Old 09-26-2007, 12:47 PM   #7
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Re: Skoolie Idea

You could get the short bus and then find a cheap travel trailer...stripout the bathroom/tanks/kitchen and use those in the bus, then you would have the TT for sleeping (based on your idea)...to buy a inclosed car trailer the size of the TT we have would be several thousand, we paid a whopping 900 for the TT and it saves me the hassle of buying a lot of the parts later. watch craigslist and you could even possibly find one for free.
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Old 09-26-2007, 01:27 PM   #8
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Re: Skoolie Idea

Another problem with pulling a trailer is backing it up. You WILL have to back up at some point. You may think you won't, but you will. Trust me. Backing up a big trailer with a bus that you can't see out the back of will be difficult. You have more things that can go wrong like flat tires or something. Since you're wanting a tailgating type of skoolie, you could build a roof deck on top of it and make a tent that attaches to the roof deck. You could use it for a party deck in the daytime, and put the tent up and let people sleep up there at night. It would be easy to heat the tent in the winter. You could have a roof hatch with a ladder. For when it's just you and the old lady, buy a short bus built on a van chassis. It would be about the same price and most likely cheaper than an enclosed trailer. This is what I'm planning to do. I'm working on converting my big bus now. It should be able to sleep 5 adults very comfortably. I go camping by myself a lot too. Hunting and dirtbike races usually. I'm going to buy one of the short buses built on a van chassis next. I'll set that up to sleep two people. They would be a lot easier to drive, maintain and cheaper to maintain and operate as well. They take regular truck tires, have common engines like a 350 and they'll cruise faster down the highway. A big bus tire costs at LEAST $250 for a new one. There's six of them. Anyways, with these buses, if you think that there are possible problems with your idea, there will be a BIG problem. I'm telling you, keep it simple. You will regret the trailer idea I think. The only thing I would use a trailer for is hauling stuff. Most people won't like sleeping in a trailer with no windows and no ventilation.
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Old 09-26-2007, 02:20 PM   #9
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Re: Skoolie Idea

i like the trailer idea. It provides lots of versatility, since you can pull it with another vehicle, or leave it at home. Perhasp what i like best is that i haven't heard of anybody else doing this.
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Old 09-26-2007, 02:54 PM   #10
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Re: Skoolie Idea

It wouldn't be a bad idea having a small and a large skoolie like you said, but then I would have to have two bathrooms, two showers, two kitchenettes, etc., so I think that would be a lot more trouble than its worth.

Of course I would put windows and an AC in the sleeper. I wouldn't expect people to sleep in a completely closed in box. It would look pretty much like a regular bumper pull camper on the outside, but it would only have beds rather than the bathroom, kitchen, etc. on the inside. Maybe I didn't do a good job of explaining my thoughts. Also, I like the idea of putting a deck on top of the bus and that is something that can be added later. I wouldn't really sleep up there because it gets pretty hot in Texas.

Backing up would suck no doubt, but it's not like people haven't done it before. Our band in high school pulled a cargo trailer behind a FULL size bus for football games. I'm sure they had to back up once or twice. Also, a trailer uses regular truck tires, right? I'm not sure where you are going with that.
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Old 09-26-2007, 03:05 PM   #11
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Re: Skoolie Idea

I like the idea of buying and stripping a camper trailer. You can use the living room/kitchen stuff in the bus and convert the trailer to be used only for sleeping... maybe even leave the bathroom in it - solves the getting up in the night and having to go outside and back in the bus to use the bathroom. Plus it'll already have windows, roof vents ect..
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Old 09-26-2007, 05:09 PM   #12
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Re: Skoolie Idea

I pulled a 16 foot enclosed trailer from michigan to nevada and back. I was loaded way too heavy which was uncool, but the trailer it'self pulled really good. Backing up a big trailer with a bus isn't a big deal at all. I had a lawn mowing service for 5 years and got really good at backing up a trailer with a pickup truck, so maybe that helps here with the skoolie. I find that the trailer tracks inside of the bus, so if i am able to get my rear skoolie tires around a curb, the trailer will follow. I'm not at all opposed to pulling a trailer with a skoolie.

In my opinion the most difficult part of pulling a trailer with a bus is backing the bus up and trying to connect to the trailer....and it's really not that bad. I don't have the sort of trailer that can be moved by hand, so you have to be very accurate backing up to it. Its a long ways to walk from the drivers seat to the back of the bus. It's almost a necessity to have a ground guide.

Bring a spare tire or two. I think we had 3 flat tires on the trailer on our way to burningman and back. That was pretty uncool, but the problem was that we had exceeded the weight rating of the trailer by a significant amount. I do see a lot of trailers during my travels that have flat tires. Keep your tire and requierd tools in a handy place. ie: don't pack them in the trailer so you have to unload a mountain of stuff to get to it.

the bus on the other hand has really tough tires and they don't go flat so easy.....in about 50K miles of driving with some pretty worn out tires at times i've only had 2 flats i think.
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:54 PM   #13
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Re: Skoolie Idea

I think buying an old camper and remodeling it seems to be the best idea. Would it be hard to repaint/refinish the outside of an old camper to make it look decent? I would want it to match the skoolie. I actually got this idea from a picture I saw where someone took a full size bus, made the back part into a flat bed, and pulled a 5th wheel with it.
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Old 09-26-2007, 10:06 PM   #14
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Re: Skoolie Idea

I'd say backing a trailer behind a bus isn't too bad. When I back up a trailer as wide as a school bus I look out the mirriors to see where I'm going. But when the trailer is a little cargo trailer that is maybe 7 feet wide, I look out the back window using the inside driver mirrior after having the bus load of kids all sitting down so I can watch the roof of the trailer to see where it is going. I can't imaginge backing a little cargo trailer without being able to see out the back window or at least have a backup camera.

So if you go the short bus with a cargo trailer make sure the trailer is as wide as the bus it will be easier for backing. I'd say a benifit with a short bus and a trailer is you could park the trailer unhook it and park the bus next to it and put a tarp up between the two and then you wouldn't have to get wet making the trip to the restroom during a rainstorm.

I'd have a 40 foot bus but local laws don't allow rvs over 32 feet. Having a 7 window bus (25 feet) myself it is nice cause I can squeeze it into a single space in small parking lots by backing into them overhanging the curb. I am also able to take tight turns much easier. I will say a 40 foot bus isn't much harder to drive at all once you are use to it it is no problem. I drive 40 foot buses on weekends during the school year for extra money and it is only an extra 15 feet than my short bus.
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Old 09-27-2007, 03:20 AM   #15
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Re: Skoolie Idea

As far as painting them to match, I don't see how it would be any different than painting the bus in the first place, both are metal after all *S*
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Old 09-27-2007, 07:41 AM   #16
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Re: Skoolie Idea

I like the idea of the camper trailer too. As far as refinishing them, metal ones can just be painted. The fiberglass ones can be repainted but sometimes need to have a new gel coat applied. All depends on how old it is and where it was stored and how good you want it to look. Yesterday I was at my skoolie gas station, the only one in the area with RV lanes, and saw someone who bought an old box truck, kind of looks like an older UPS truck with the sliding driver door. He used the truck for his toys and toyed a camper behind it. The only problem was that the step bumber was so low that the trailer was at an awful angle and the tongue scraped every time he hit a high spot in the road.

With the bus your trailer hitch will actually be much higher depending how you mount it. I just took my skoolie in yesterday and had a local fab shop torch a hole in the bumper for me. I bought the hidden hitch from them and they cut the hole for free as a favor. I had to get a new receiver that I could adjust to a much lower offset than what my truck uses. Wiring for the brake controller and lights was a piece of cake though, as was drilling through the frame rails, though my shoulders were a little sore from holding the hammer drill in place for 6 holes. If you can figure out a way make an inverted drill press, that would be a great way to go for drilling holes into the underside of the bus. The hitches are universal RV hitches that adjsut for the width of your frame rails and run anywhere from around $200 to $400.
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Old 09-27-2007, 11:36 AM   #17
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Re: Skoolie Idea

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Old 09-27-2007, 11:24 PM   #18
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Re: Skoolie Idea

that's photos awsome! I love creative people!

might oughtta be careful using a 12 ton bottle jack with a plastic drill. I'm definately gonna use that idea someday.....hmmm i bet having the drill bit not sunk all the way to the bottom of the chuck when you tighten it up might be a good idea. it would give ya a little play in case you got a little over-exuberant with the jack.


that's brilliant!!!!
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Old 09-28-2007, 03:26 PM   #19
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Re: Skoolie Idea

I stole the bottle jack idea off of Vonslatt's website. Definitely a good idea.
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Old 09-28-2007, 07:10 PM   #20
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Re: Skoolie Idea

Quote:
Originally Posted by KC10Chief
I stole the bottle jack idea off of Vonslatt's website. Definitely a good idea.
Yeah, that's where the photo is from. That guy is sharp.
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