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Old 03-15-2021, 12:17 PM   #1
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Question from newbie:)

Hi everyone!

I'm looking into getting a conversion vehicle, and I really have my heart set on a skoolie. But, I would love to pick the brains of folks who have their feet on the ground in this realm of the conversion world first!

The biggest thing I'm wondering at the moment is: how do school busses handle on narrow roads/less maintained roads? I anticipate traveling on some pretty rough terrain, and I don't want to get into a vehicle that is going to severely limit where I can go - ya know?

Any feedback would be super helpful - thank you!!

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Old 03-15-2021, 01:38 PM   #2
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It all depends on what you are comfortable with. we have a 37ft dog nose. we selected that because of the size we felt we needed for us. thats two adults and two large dogs who both work from home, we wanted space for his fitness equipment and for her crafting/makeup supplies and our clothing with extra space to store our collection of tools.
we plan to boondock quite a bit but we understand that we will be limited in certain areas, even though our bus handles fairly well, we have to avoid switchbacks and city streets. If we had a shorter bus like a mini bus (or a 5 window) we would have more options. but 4x4 buses basically don't exist, they are out there for a very high price. So you have to figure out how much space you need for your lifestyle and go from there. you may be able to get away with a 4x4 van even.
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Old 03-15-2021, 09:03 PM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2019
Location: Auburn, WA
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Year: 2000
Coachwork: IC / Amtran
Chassis: 3000 / 33' Flat Nose
Engine: IC T444E / Allison MT643
Rated Cap: 72 Kids / 48 Adults
I will second Whiskey's 4x4 van suggestion.

I'm a school bus driver and I've driven everything from the cut away vans up to the 40'. One thing they all have in common is really stiff suspensions. The body, frame and suspension move more as a unit, so going over anything bumpy throws the bus back and forth hard.

Tire choice on a bus would seem more limited than for a 4x4 van.

Buses are almost 8' wide, not narrow, W I D E.

Buses don't have much of a turning radius and some have a lot of tail swing making tight turns, three point turns, etc. basically impossible.

Around town, we route our buses based on if they can fit or make a turn. We like turning left more than right, because left turns are sweeping versus 90 degree right turns.

The shorter the wheelbase, more stuff it can go over. Buses ride low and anything other than a cut away van is going to have a much longer wheelbase.

A bus is basically a truck with a bunch of safety stuff added on. That also means the electrical is a mess due to the extra lighting, stop signs, crossing guards, emergency exits, entrance doors, etc.. Many of these extra systems can cause starting issues. Rocking and bumping a bus around might just beat that wiring up, and the last place you want an engine problem is out in the wilderness.

Diesels don't like to idle, they like to work. They like to pull. If you're going in the back country, I'm not sure how a diesel would work with going slow a lot. I don't know that it wouldn't work out, just thinking out-loud.

Plus, IMHO, I think a raised 4x4 van looks very cool! I like the ones with the deck on top that people pitch their tent on.

Best of luck.
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Old 03-15-2021, 09:24 PM   #4
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Another option might be a used ambulance. The boxes are super sturdy. We have two, a medium duty Freightliner-based rig and a smaller E350 rig. Both do really well on the forest service roads and I never worry about branches denting the sides or roof...these things are strong.
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Old 03-15-2021, 11:59 PM   #5
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Join Date: Aug 2019
Location: Auburn, WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rossvtaylor View Post
Another option might be a used ambulance. The boxes are super sturdy. We have two, a medium duty Freightliner-based rig and a smaller E350 rig. Both do really well on the forest service roads and I never worry about branches denting the sides or roof...these things are strong.
Ambulance Conversion:
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Old 03-27-2021, 08:12 AM   #6
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Year: 1996
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We've been full time in our 36' dog nose for just shy of two years now. The first 18 months we boondocked around the western half of the country. We took the bus up and down some very rough forest service/BLM roads and it did very well, better than we ever imagined it would.



The only problem we've had with the size is trying to find dispersed camping in the east. Things are just tighter out here, so it's going to depend on what part of the country you're going to be spending your time in.
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