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Old 08-28-2017, 12:15 AM   #1
New Member
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Northern California
Posts: 2
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Chevy P-30
Engine: 6.2L 8-cylinder
Catbus - A Lesson in Compromise, Realistic Expectations, and Humility

Hey there! I posted about a month ago, but can't seem to find my original post. Anyhow, things have moved a lot past that original question and I wanted to make a post dedicated to my skoolie project!I have been following school bus tiny home builds since I was 16, dreaming of one day having my own RV and traveling the country and leaving my small town (and smaller minded community) behind. Then reality struck and I was shown the limitations of the world and my dreams derailed. This was until about 3.5 years ago, when I turned 21. I was living in San Francisco and spending more money keeping my one bedroom in a house of roommates than I would ever like to admit. My search for a living situation that fit my minimal belongings and my desire to explore led me back to skoolies.
I dug up all the spare change I could find and stored it away for a rainy day. I took off from the city in April to spend some time learning about permaculture and enjoying a more natural and community driven way of life in the Sierra Foothills. The farm I landed on happened to have a shortie school bus. Already converted (crudely) into a temporary living space. Already registered as a motor home. Already insured. Well kept. And for sale. Within my price range. I couldn't believe the serendipity. I worked for a few months on said farm and paid off the owners of the bus just this past week and I am so SO happy to say that I am the proud owner of the future Catbus!
She is a 1992 Bluebird Minibird, built on a Chevy P30 chassis with a 5.2L (? cant remember if its 5.2/6.2.. late right now and sleepy..) 8-cylinder diesel engine. It had a wheelchair lift so it has 3 doors not including the folding one.
I have already begun a lot of the deconstruction and have been planning for months. My design has shifted thousands of times and I'm happy to answer and questions anyone has about why I've reached a certain conclusion or why i've chosen a particular material, etc. I also welcome different opinions and angles of situations I had never considered.
The only experience I have was building a crude cabin up in Tahoe with a partner of mine a few years ago. Even then, it was basic wood structure and I had most part cutting and measuring so .. there will be a lot of learning curves for me.
I am also a small woman, weighing in at 100lbs in my winter jacket, so I am lucky to have a few muscles friends to have volunteered their very limited spare time.
I am currently staying with my secondary partner on his farm in Northern California (I am married and have a secondary partner as well; we are all poly. Probably TMI but I don't aim to confuse people in the future.) He is building a permanent tiny home while I am building this skoolie. His structure is already framed and is moving onto the interior. His toolshed has been a godsend *_*
Okay, on to the fun parts!

I have a lot of under storage that I plan to reinforce and support to hold my batteries, propane tanks, grey water, and a small a box for tools/garage stuff (water hoses, etc)
There is a roof deck already in place that I plan to extend, reinforce and refit a trap door to, which is where my fresh water tank will be stored. I have an 80amp solar panel that came with the bus and I intend on purchasing somewhere between a 360 and 500 for my future needs. The bus also came with a 1000amp 12volt deep cycle battery and a charge controller.
I intend to add a skylight over the bed area and cover/replace the bus windows. I am curious if anyone has attempted reusing the top half of the folding door and it's windows as stationary windows somewhere else on the bus... ? I plan to unbolt it, cut the door in half horizontally a few inches below the window bottom, then reattach in another spot on the bus where I would like windows.
I have already removed the old structures. I have also removed the rubber floor, plywood, windows, and most of the interior metal wall panels. Tomorrow should hopefully be my last day of angle grinding the walls and the ceiling (fingers crossed) after which will be a big clean up and I will begin removing and reforming the small rust spots I found after removing the floor. The rust is very minimal given its poor storage for the last year and its age.
The engine runs great and she has driven several times up and around the toughest windiest hills with the old structures inside with little effort. Recently she wouldn't turn over or even click, so I have analyzed it as the starter but I am not able to remove it to test it, so I have a mechanic coming to remove, test, and potentially replace it. Other than that, she's beautiful mechanically. Noticed a small little spot of oil on the ground under her the other day but I'm not too concerned as it's not growing and I did get a little sloppy with a recent refilling..
Photos to come as soon as I figure out how to post them. Can I post videos too? Ive take a few.
My progress has been slow, depression keeps me down some days and gets my head wrapped around problems that don't need to be solved yet. I had to get over the initial hurdle of "Just DO the thing already!" instead of talking and planning so much.
My family back in Rhode Island is excited to see me by Christmas hopefully, and I plan to leave CA by the beginning of November, giving me 2 more months to complete the project! Can she do it ?? Who knows !
I have a $5,000 budget for the remodel that I might exceed, but will try my hardest to stay under. My skoolie will be my home. I plan to live in it full time, not hooked into shore as much as I can be, exploring the states with my small pup and cat. I also want the option for shore connect, however. My main concerns are cost, functionality/durability, and design.
I feel I've rambled more than enough for this evening. Thank you all for having me in this community and hello to all those experienced and learning I hope you enjoy my journey ~

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Old 08-28-2017, 08:51 AM   #2
Bus Geek
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 18,848
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
bring it on!!! this is a fun project to watch!!! you should be able to drive that P-30 wherever you want!. the 6.2 diesel will be a bit slow in the hills but just hop in the right lane and done be in a hurry and it will take you anywhere you want it to!..

love your relationship - im a FIRM believer in relationships being built and created for the PEOPLE IN THEM and not to some dumb societal rule-set..
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Old 08-28-2017, 09:49 AM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Midwest
Posts: 2,573
Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000
Engine: 5.9L Cummins
Rated Cap: '00
Welcome !

Originally Posted by nyxiem View Post
Hey there! ...
Photos to come as soon as I figure out how to post them. Can I post videos too? Ive take a few.
You can do it all from this site:

Get your pics on your computer.

Click the paperclip icon (may have to go advanced edit).

A Window pops-up (must have popup enabled for site)

Choose file(s) you want to publish, click upload. wait...

Click the paperclip again and select image you want to insert in your post or insert all.

Welcome !
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Old 08-31-2017, 02:29 PM   #4
TimeTraveler's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: my heart
Posts: 35
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Blue Bird - mini bird
Chassis: chevy P30
Engine: 6.2
Rated Cap: 36!

im happy to see more of these mini busses coming out of the woods!

i own a 1992 mini bus same chassis and 6.2 detroit you have. i have never been able to connect with a current mini bus owner. all of the ones i find on these nets have previously owned one. or just own a 6.2 motor not the bus, im curious as to see your bus and your reno! if you have questions do ask!

i wish i was in cali.
"not all who wander are lost"
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Old 12-09-2017, 07:12 PM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: everywhere (often minneapolis mn)
Posts: 4
do you mean like... THE Catbus?
(will you be designing it to look like said bus?)
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Old 12-09-2017, 08:45 PM   #6
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 23,764
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
My new shorty was apparently "the cat bus"
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Old 12-09-2017, 09:12 PM   #7
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 6,409
Coachwork: 97 Bluebird TC1000 5.9
Did somebody lock a tomcat up in your bus?
Nobody's Business
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bluebird, first bus, mini bird, mini bus

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