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Old 12-12-2017, 10:14 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Smile Austin TX Teacher Looking to Convert a KidHack

Hello everyone!

I've been a lurker on this forum for awhile, and I think we're on track to buy a bus early in 2018. My husband, 8-month-old little girl (another one on the way in July of 201, and Great Dane live in Austin TX, but we are Louisville KY natives. We've always admired tiny homes, but the cost of 'normal' ones was prohibitive. When I came across Skoolies, something clicked and now we're knee deep in the planning phase.



We bought a 2,000 sqft house in March 2016, and it's definitely a fixer-upper. Within the last year we've built custom cabinets in our office, painted every single room, laid 900 sqft of bamboo flooring, and basically given the place a facelift. It was pretty rough before, and we've really enjoyed working on it in the last two-ish years. We've built furniture, and are no strangers to woodworking or DIY and have lots of tools at our disposal.

There are a lot of reasons for us to move into a Skoolie full time, but one of the main ones is that I want to be a stay at home mom. My husband and I have a lot of debt (credit cards from a particularly rough year or two, student loans out the wazoo, and two car payments), and paying our mortgage AND me quitting my job at the same time just wasn't going to happen. With a Skoolie, our monthly expenses would be a lot lower, we'd have the freedom we want to explore the world a little more, and I would be able to stay home with our kids.

We plan on buying a 40ft RE bus with hopefully enough headroom for both of us (hubby is 6'1" and I'm 5'9") but we aren't opposed to doing a roof raise. We plan on doing everything ourselves, but there are a few things that need to happen before we start:

1. Find a place to park the bus while we work on it (dang HOA won't let us park it in our driveway)
2. Find a bus in our price range with the desired specs
3. Figure out how to work full time, be pregnant, be a mom, be a wife, and convert a Skoolie...



Anyway, we've spent the last few weeks figuring out a rough floor plan to see what we might be able to do in a 40ft bus. I'm happy to say we fit everything in that we wanted to, and even a few extras! I'm probably being a little optimistic, but I'm pumped to get started in the next few months. I'll be looking for the 'magic' bus over my winter break and as soon as we can find a place to park it, we're going to buy it!

I'd love any advice anyone has - we're absolutely newbies to everything solar, composting, propane, diesel, etc. and are all ears. If you're a Skoolie here in Austin or even in Texas, send me a message! We'd love to chat. Anyway, glad to be here and can't wait to get started!
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Old 12-12-2017, 10:33 PM   #2
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Welcome !

It sounds like you are in full nesting mode !

I really like your unique layout. Everyone does the bowling alley layout, but I like how you moved the hallway. I did notice your bus has no wheel-well bumps.
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Old 12-12-2017, 10:58 PM   #3
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Hello and welcome

You hit the ground running, don't you?

Rusty, do they make a 40' handicap bus with flat floors? That doesn't sound practical in a RE. It seems like all the handy buses are FEs.
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:08 PM   #4
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Lightbulb Wheel Well Bumps

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Originally Posted by Rusty View Post
It sounds like you are in full nesting mode !

I really like your unique layout. Everyone does the bowling alley layout, but I like how you moved the hallway. I did notice your bus has no wheel-well bumps.
Good eye! Since we don't have an idea of what specific bus we'll end up with, I didn't know how to plan around them. I'm hoping to get around it by doing something that Ol Trunt did (see below) - modifying the wheel wells themselves. Not sure how it has lasted for him or how it has impacted hwo the bus drives (just figured out that it was possible in the last few days), but it's plan A for now. Hopefully, with the modified wheel wells and some insulation, I can create an even walking surface.

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Originally Posted by ol trunt View Post
I'm probably missing something here but I lowered the offending wheel wells to allow for the available travel of the wheel (up and down) plus an inch to accommodate tight fitting chains and no more. Now rather than dealing with a couple of 55 gal barrel ends I have a couple of 2 inch high flat top surfaces. Three years on the road now and so far so good. Jack



I'm hoping the bus ends up with the wheel wells in these locations so I don't have to do this to all of the wells, but I suspect murphy's law will have other plans!

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Old 12-12-2017, 11:10 PM   #5
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Kid,

Look around at all the RE builds. I'm really enjoying my build. We're in year three of the build, year seven of the whole plan-and-build phase. We're just now getting to the build phase. After figuring out all the leaks, removing all the dead and rotted insulation, blanking out the windows that we won't need, and all the other prep work needed for a conversion to last a good while, we're now working on the subfloor and shaving the spray foam insulation (keeping the shavings for interior wall insulation and sound deadening purposes).

We LOVE the RE configuration for several reasons, but mostly so we can use all the available floor space.

Looks like your plan is well thought out. Personally I love the Thomas high roof buses like ours. We got it from California for $2K. It's getting toward that time of year where the fleets are surplusing their older buses. Older California buses are well maintained (for the most part) and usually only out-of-state residence bidders are able to bid on the non-Carb compliant, or "dirty" diesels like mine. Might want to keep that in mind. That bit of information comes in handy when bidding - those buses tend to go cheap.

Best of luck!

M

P.S. - Ol' Trunt has a much smaller bus. He could get away with that modification due to the suspension travel he's worked with. However, a full-size 40' bus will not be nearly as forgiving. You can reduce the height of the wheel well, but not by that much. Hit a high joint on the interstate - say between Austin and, oh, say Waco.... Ask me how I know... And that wheel well will magically re-appear without having to do any personal effort....

Just sayin'......

P.S.S. - Just happened to notice you have a stairwell where the passenger side steer wheel is located. You might want to either keep the original stairs or relocate them behind the dinette. Just an observation.......

M
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:20 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by M1031A1 View Post
Looks like your plan is well thought out. Personally I love the Thomas high roof buses like ours. We got it from California for $2K. It's getting toward that time of year where the fleets are surplusing their older buses. Older California buses are well maintained (for the most part) and usually only out-of-state residence bidders are able to bid on the non-Carb compliant, or "dirty" diesels like mine. Might want to keep that in mind. That bit of information comes in handy when bidding - those buses tend to go cheap.

Best of luck!

M

P.S. - Ol' Trunt has a much smaller bus. He could get away with that modification due to the suspension travel he's worked with. However, a full-size 40' bus will not be nearly as forgiving. You can reduce the height of the wheel well, but not by that much. Hit a high joint on the interstate - say between Austin and, oh, say Waco.... Ask me how I know... And that wheel well will magically re-appear without having to do any personal effort....

Just sayin'......

M
Awesome advice - thank you! We'll definitely look into the CA buses. I'm having trouble finding RE buses around here anyway, since the school district I teach in favors traditional nose FE buses.

I was a bit worried about Ol' Trunt's size and the suspension travel you were talking about, so I might need to get a bit creative to make a modified floor plan work. The trail between Austin and Waco is brutal!
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by kidhack View Post
Awesome advice - thank you! We'll definitely look into the CA buses. I'm having trouble finding RE buses around here anyway, since the school district I teach in favors traditional nose FE buses.

I was a bit worried about Ol' Trunt's size and the suspension travel you were talking about, so I might need to get a bit creative to make a modified floor plan work. The trail between Austin and Waco is brutal!
Yeah, I-35 was BRUTAL when we went through just before Thanksgiving Break at 2300 hours (11:00 p.m.) with 2/3rds of my dashboard lights working and my wife driving my F-350 with our M1031 on a car carrier on the back of the pick-up..... Daylight would have been better.....

M

P.S. - Here I go again.... Check out this bus. It may suit your needs and help "corral" the little ones for a bit.... It even has A/C!!!!

https://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/au...61&trackId=304

M
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:43 PM   #8
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Prison Bus?

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Yeah, I-35 was BRUTAL when we went through just before Thanksgiving Break at 2300 hours (11:00 p.m.) with 2/3rds of my dashboard lights working and my wife driving my F-350 with our M1031 on a car carrier on the back of the pick-up..... Daylight would have been better.....

M

P.S. - Here I go again.... Check out this bus. It may suit your needs and help "corral" the little ones for a bit.... It even has A/C!!!!

https://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/au...61&trackId=304

M
Ha!!! I can only imagine what my MIL would say if I bought a prison transport bus. It does look like a neat ride though, and who knows? All that extra metal could come in handy!
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Old 12-13-2017, 04:10 AM   #9
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Actually, the way I see it the RE has less usable floor space. And no rear door.
You can't count the huge engine hump in the rear as "floor" space. Most put a bed there, but its not floor space.
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Old 12-13-2017, 06:49 AM   #10
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Actually, the way I see it the RE has less usable floor space. And no rear door.
You can't count the huge engine hump in the rear as "floor" space. Most put a bed there, but its not floor space.
This is probably correct, but there are other reasons for wanting an RE above ultimate floor space.

With a 40' bus you are up towards the top end of floor space anyway, and the rear engine allows a lot of flexibility in living area design, engine access, comfort while driving, etc.

That rear door in FE buses is nice to have, and crucial for some, but all RE buses have a decent side door.
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Old 12-13-2017, 07:03 AM   #11
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This is probably correct, but there are other reasons for wanting an RE above ultimate floor space.

With a 40' bus you are up towards the top end of floor space anyway, and the rear engine allows a lot of flexibility in living area design, engine access, comfort while driving, etc.

That rear door in FE buses is nice to have, and crucial for some, but all RE buses have a decent side door.
DO they? Most re's I've seen have fairly small side doors that are pretty narrow and short. Not the the rear door on CE's and FE's is very tall, but its more useful than the side emergency doors for sure.
I wasn't debating the merits of the RE vs any other design other than to refute that they have "the most usable floor space". I'd say they have the least, and the least flexibility as you either end up with a high bed or a closet over the engine. Compared to a FE doghouse, the engine cover on an RE is MASSIVE. to the point you have to sleep on it.
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Old 12-13-2017, 07:46 AM   #12
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Been enjoying the Good family's, (mom, dad and 7 kids) video logs of their bus conversion and ongoing adventures in it. Brings back a lot of memories as we got to do some fun trips with our 7 kids back in the day in our old international bus. They just bought a new bus and are going to convert it. Its an RE bus and they are going to do a roof raise on it as part of the conversion. Bottom link is another couple's conversion vlog, they spent all summer doing their conversion and are just hitting the road with it. These builds and others have become my nightly entertainment, gotta love youtube, haha!





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Old 12-13-2017, 01:43 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by 84chevyguyid View Post
Been enjoying the Good family's, (mom, dad and 7 kids) video logs of their bus conversion and ongoing adventures in it. Brings back a lot of memories as we got to do some fun trips with our 7 kids back in the day in our old international bus. They just bought a new bus and are going to convert it. Its an RE bus and they are going to do a roof raise on it as part of the conversion. Bottom link is another couple's conversion vlog, they spent all summer doing their conversion and are just hitting the road with it. These builds and others have become my nightly entertainment, gotta love youtube, haha!
I love YouTube! I will definitely watch these - I'll only be doing it with 2 kids...I admire those that do it with more!!!
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Old 12-14-2017, 02:49 PM   #14
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Potential Bus

Hello again. We've been looking around to find a place to store our bus while we work on it, and may have found a place. Just waiting for the final call back, but I'm hopeful.

In terms of an actual bus, we ran across this one and I'm intrigued. As someone who needs a lot of advice, I thought I would ask what you think. What kind of questions do I need to ask before we go look at it? It's only about 45 mins away, so that's good. Seller is asking $5800. Is that a fair price?

1997 Thomas Bus, Stock No: SB94 by Alamo City Bus Sales LLC, San Antonio TX



Here's what I know about it:
- 1997 Thomas
- A little longer than 40ft (can that be true?)
- Air brakes
- 5.9 Cummins Diesel
- Alison Transmission
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Old 12-14-2017, 03:48 PM   #15
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Are you going to name that bus "Slow Ride"? That 5.9 in a full size bus is going to keep you in the slow lane on flat ground and it would embarras you on hills.
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Old 12-14-2017, 05:00 PM   #16
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I am with Robin. Especially if it has an AT545 transmission. OK for running around town but far from ideal on the interstate or in the mountains.

There are a few folks on here that have a 5.9 in a full size bus that are happy with them but most of us prefer a DT466 or Cummins 8.3 in a full size bus.

Also, the better transmission would be an MD3060 or 2000 series. Second choice would be an MT643 or 647.

If you have not done so already, I would suggest reading some of the "FE vs RE" discussions. It is a very personal decision. In a FE you have a bit more room to build but you have more noise & heat to deal with and maintenance can be tough due to limited space/access.

An RE bus gives up some living space but gives you much better service access and is MUCH quieter. Also, less heat to deal with in the drivers area.

Good luck!!
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Old 12-14-2017, 06:44 PM   #17
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I am with Robin. Especially if it has an AT545 transmission. OK for running around town but far from ideal on the interstate or in the mountains.

There are a few folks on here that have a 5.9 in a full size bus that are happy with them but most of us prefer a DT466 or Cummins 8.3 in a full size bus.

Also, the better transmission would be an MD3060 or 2000 series. Second choice would be an MT643 or 647.

If you have not done so already, I would suggest reading some of the "FE vs RE" discussions. It is a very personal decision. In a FE you have a bit more room to build but you have more noise & heat to deal with and maintenance can be tough due to limited space/access.

An RE bus gives up some living space but gives you much better service access and is MUCH quieter. Also, less heat to deal with in the drivers area.

Good luck!!
Great advice! Thank you. I'm so torn between the FE/RE options, but feel like I'm sawing towards the RE camp. Unfortunately, I can really only find FE around here in TX. Widening my search tonight!

Good to know about the 5.9 vs 8.3. Like I said, I'm a complete newbie to all of this, so I'm always happy to learn.
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Old 12-14-2017, 06:49 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by kidhack View Post
Great advice! Thank you. I'm so torn between the FE/RE options, but feel like I'm sawing towards the RE camp. Unfortunately, I can really only find FE around here in TX. Widening my search tonight!

Good to know about the 5.9 vs 8.3. Like I said, I'm a complete newbie to all of this, so I'm always happy to learn.
If you decide that you can live without that nice rear door, then the RE holds all the aces.

We thought very long and hard about this, but dang was that 500-mile drive home quiet and comfortable
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Old 12-14-2017, 06:53 PM   #19
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There's really nothing wrong with the 5.9. Most of us simply believe that 40' of bus is to much for that engine, unless you're always going to be on flat ground at relatively low speeds.

I'm running a 5.9 in my '97 BB FE, 26' long. It is adequate even with the 545. I'm sure not going to wind any races though.
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Old 12-14-2017, 07:42 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidhack View Post
Hello again. We've been looking around to find a place to store our bus while we work on it, and may have found a place. Just waiting for the final call back, but I'm hopeful.

In terms of an actual bus, we ran across this one and I'm intrigued. As someone who needs a lot of advice, I thought I would ask what you think. What kind of questions do I need to ask before we go look at it? It's only about 45 mins away, so that's good. Seller is asking $5800. Is that a fair price?

1997 Thomas Bus, Stock No: SB94 by Alamo City Bus Sales LLC, San Antonio TX



Here's what I know about it:
- 1997 Thomas
- A little longer than 40ft (can that be true?)
- Air brakes
- 5.9 Cummins Diesel
- Alison Transmission
Kid, if you look very carefully that bus has a roof DROP, not a raise. You will be out about 10 inches in headroom as compared to a Thomas with the roof bump. In addition, that 5.9L is a small engine to power that bus. If you're looking to go up ANY kind of hill that 5.9 will dog out. I'd hold out for either the 8.3L Cummins, or, better yet, the 10.6L Caterpillar. I know there are Cat haters on the site. But I'm on my fifth Cat engine and LOVE them. If you take care of the Cat, it more than takes care of you. Now I'm referring to the mechanical Cats I've owned. The 3406 series were and outstanding engine, and the 3208 Cat in my bus is one tough engine.

However, it's your decision in the end, but I'd pass on this one.

Just sayin'

M
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