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Old 01-11-2021, 10:13 PM   #1
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Starting the Journey! Calling all Skoolie owners near Portland.

Hello Skoolie fam! My girlfriend, @kaitlin.wright28, and I have been swooning over school bus conversions for quite some time now and we have finally decided to get serious and begin the search for our future home on wheels! We live in Vancouver, WA but nobody knows where the hell that is so we just tell everyone we're from Portland, OR. The good ol' PNW has been our home for over 30 years now but we are excited to get our conversion started (and finished) this year and go explore parts unknown. I'm 34, have a background in engineering, and have dabbled in remodeling a few houses so feel fairly confident about tackling the task of converting a bus. My girlfriend is 31, loves the idea of living the nomadic, free-spirited lifestyle, and has been hounding my ass for the last six months because she's so damn excited to start the bus life journey! Oh, and there's also our dog Juniper. She's a 2 year old rescue who mostly cares about squirrels, squeaky toys, and cuddling, in that order.

We're looking forward to getting to know some of you and using this awesome resource you all helped create for our Skoolie build. And if any of you happen to be in, or somewhat near the Portland area we would absolutely love to come see your beautiful bus conversion, ask you a hundred annoying questions, and make lots of "ooh" and "ahh" sounds. We'll even bring you a bottle of wine! So if you're up for showing off your bus and helping us determine our build we would sincerely appreciate it.

Thanks,
Brandon, Kaitlin & Juniper
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Old 01-11-2021, 10:17 PM   #2
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What a great intro! With wine offered, even...

What kind of bus are you looking for? I know there were, recently, some interesting ones in WA on some of the auction sites. And I just drove one back from Whidbey Island a few weeks ago. Let the collective group know what your ideal bus looks like and you may get some pointers.


EDIT: I just looked at GovDeals again and there are 4 buses in Puyallup...one dognose and 3 flat nose. They're all full sized buses, if that's what you are looking for...and you'd want to look underneath to make sure there's no serious rust...but they look like viable platforms with good engine/transmission options. The flat nosed buses are front engine, which has pros and cons. But there are options out there. Let us know what you seek!
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Old 01-13-2021, 12:37 AM   #3
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Hey thanks rossvtaylor! I signed up for one of those wine club memberships months ago and apparently they just keep sending you a whole box every month if you keep paying them. So I’ve got plenty to share!

Ideally, (I think) we are looking for something in the 3/4 range. We like the idea of the bus being a little more maneuverable and we don’t need to have a more open floor plan. I really like the idea of getting a flat nose FE purely for the rear door and additional living space. We have a lot of gear we want to take with us so having some sort of garage/gear storage area is a must. However, the benefits of ground clearance and back road capability of a dog nose are also highly appealing. That was our initial image, a bus that would be somewhat off-road capable. But the more we look into it the more I think it might be wiser to just tow my truck with us and use that for backcountry exploration.

So to sum it up, maybe a 3/4 flat nose FE...or a full size FE, or dog nose, or RE...with some sort of garage area. Lol, does that help?!
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Old 01-13-2021, 02:16 AM   #4
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Hello BdoubleU
Welcome to the group and good luck with your search.
Seems like you've done lots of research about what you'll need. There are many merits to all the different bus styles and some negatives as well, only you can decide what will fit your needs. For my wife and I we didn't want full size because of some park restrictions and we prefer to get a little off the beaten path when we can. We looked at FE transit style and conventional's in the 30' range but decided we just couldn't get a decent floor plan in 30' if we wanted a garage. I wasn't prepared to give up the garage so we ended up with a 36' FE and are very happy so far. We have 7' of garage for all the spares, tools, bikes, and room for two small motorcycles/scooters for exploring after camp is set.
Again welcome and good luck with the search.

Oscar
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Old 01-13-2021, 05:50 AM   #5
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Hello, welcome to the community! I know these would be a long way from you but, in the southeast there are Tiny home Festivals, and many bus owners show at them. Great way to see many different styles. Maybe there are get togethers or festivals out your way look for them. Slooliepalooza is going on I think right now in Arizona. Over a hundred buses last year went.



Speaking of Puyallup, we have family there.
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Old 01-13-2021, 10:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BdoubleU View Post
Hey thanks rossvtaylor! I signed up for one of those wine club memberships months ago and apparently they just keep sending you a whole box every month if you keep paying them. So I’ve got plenty to share!

Ideally, (I think) we are looking for something in the 3/4 range. We like the idea of the bus being a little more maneuverable and we don’t need to have a more open floor plan. I really like the idea of getting a flat nose FE purely for the rear door and additional living space. We have a lot of gear we want to take with us so having some sort of garage/gear storage area is a must. However, the benefits of ground clearance and back road capability of a dog nose are also highly appealing. That was our initial image, a bus that would be somewhat off-road capable. But the more we look into it the more I think it might be wiser to just tow my truck with us and use that for backcountry exploration.

So to sum it up, maybe a 3/4 flat nose FE...or a full size FE, or dog nose, or RE...with some sort of garage area. Lol, does that help?!

My bus is that 3/4 size, I think. As a HandyBus, it rides lower than any other bus I've seen (besides van cut-outs), and has smaller tires. Yet it has more clearance than my 4×4 pickups ever did, and bigger tires. The short wheelbase is 6" longer than my minivan, and if you go 4×4ing alot, you know the short wheelbase is where it's at when off-roading (but a "harder/harsher" ride on-road).


All that said, the first road I chose not to go down that I wanted to was simply too narrow for a bus. And get stuck in the boonies, even in a Jeep is bad. With a bus, even a dognose, it is a real problem. Who CAN help you? Not many. Who WILL help you? even less.


I'm all about deep-woods camping, but I don't know that I would want to risk taking my bus anywhere that may be any challenge.


My first road trips were in CA. I got stuck 1/10 of a mile from pavement on a wide smooth road at 15° incline in 2" thick mud (was solid, then not!), and ended in a ditch. I called the CHP (because it was a deathtrap for anyone coming down the hill), they never came. I then heard stories of people there for weeks - first the stuck guy, then the cops got stuck, then the tow truck got stuck....


here's the whole story:
https://www.skoolie.net/forums/f9/to...eek-20211.html


Bottom line: my advice is get a Jeep or 4×4 truck and tow it, if you want to get into those places.
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Old 01-13-2021, 11:21 AM   #7
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Winch

My bus is around 12,000 lbs. I have a 9,000lb winch, chains, straps, and two snatch blocks. Just for off pavement stuck situations. I have unstuck one bus already.

William
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Old 01-14-2021, 01:12 PM   #8
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Originally Posted by magnakansas View Post
My bus is around 12,000 lbs. I have a 9,000lb winch, chains, straps, and two snatch blocks. Just for off pavement stuck situations. I have unstuck one bus already.

William
That sounds like a milk crate full of good stuff to have around
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Old 01-17-2021, 08:14 AM   #9
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BdoubleU, keep us posted on what you end up choosing for a conversion. pictures are worth a thousand words! polite offer of you guys to donate a bottle of willamette valleys finest vino.

good luck on the search and best of luck with the conversion.
cheers.
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Old 03-20-2021, 12:31 AM   #10
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Well, we did some more waffling about bus types but I believe we have officially decided to go with our original idea and get a 3/4 flat nose FE. Unfortunately, in the last couple of months we’ve barely been able to locate many of them in the western half of the US. It seems like the vast majority of school buses are either dog nose or RE. We’ve completely ruled out a RE bus due to the extended wheel base and the fact that almost all of them only come full size, 40’. At least with a FE bus we could get something full size and then chop off the back if we felt so inclined.

@Oscar1 Your bus is absolutely perfect and just what we’re looking for. I see that you’re running the CAT C7 engine. I’ve heard many people say those are great engines but very costly to have worked on. What’s your take so far?

@Mountain Gnome Thank you for the advice. That is exactly what we intend on doing. I already have a Toyota Tacoma and we plan on getting a trailer to tow it with us. Speaking of towing, should we be narrowing our engine search even further to accommodate for the additional weight? We’ve primarily been looking for a DT466 or the Cummins 8.3L. Are there certain variants of those engines that have more low end torque?
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Old 03-20-2021, 11:19 AM   #11
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Every time I see your pic in the first post, I think you look familiar. Were you ever on the Big Island in the last 10 or so years?
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Old 03-20-2021, 11:36 AM   #12
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Every time I see your pic in the first post, I think you look familiar. Were you ever on the Big Island in the last 10 or so years?
Funny, I thought he looked familiar to me too. I was thinking, perhaps, it was through our hunting/outdoor connections from our FBOMB food business. But I absolutely thought..."I know this guy."
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Old 03-20-2021, 11:43 AM   #13
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Ha! I think I just have one of those faces. You aren’t the first ones to say I look familiar. I have been to the Big Island but that was definitely more than 10 years ago. And I am very much into hunting and backpacking but I haven’t tried any of your FBOMB stuff.
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Old 03-20-2021, 12:14 PM   #14
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Ha! I think I just have one of those faces. You aren’t the first ones to say I look familiar. I have been to the Big Island but that was definitely more than 10 years ago. And I am very much into hunting and backpacking but I haven’t tried any of your FBOMB stuff.
Both of you (guy and girl) look familiar. I was on the Big Island from 2006-2009 and 2011-2018.


That new guy here, "Freebo", looks familiar from the B.I. also, but I think he just looks similar to someone that I can identify.
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Old 03-20-2021, 12:18 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BdoubleU View Post
Speaking of towing, should we be narrowing our engine search even further to accommodate for the additional weight? We’ve primarily been looking for a DT466 or the Cummins 8.3L. Are there certain variants of those engines that have more low end torque?
With a smaller bus expecially, you should be able to tow any Jeep or 4×4 truck with a "smaller" motor (like my 5.9L Cummins) that is typically found in a bus. I'd worry more about the tranny. With the AT545 like I have, with no lockup converter, that could be an issue with a heavy toad.
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Old 03-21-2021, 07:20 PM   #16
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With a smaller bus expecially, you should be able to tow any Jeep or 4×4 truck with a "smaller" motor (like my 5.9L Cummins) that is typically found in a bus. I'd worry more about the tranny. With the AT545 like I have, with no lockup converter, that could be an issue with a heavy toad.
We just located a 2003 International with a DT466 and Allison 2000 transmission that we’re super excited about. This sounds like it should be a good combination for our needs.

Do you flat tow your rig or have it on a trailer? I was expecting that I’d be able to flat tow my Tacoma but sounds like that’s not the case.
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Old 03-21-2021, 09:42 PM   #17
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Location: Fraser Valley British Columbia
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Engine: C7 Cat
Quote:
Originally Posted by BdoubleU View Post
Well, we did some more waffling about bus types but I believe we have officially decided to go with our original idea and get a 3/4 flat nose FE. Unfortunately, in the last couple of months we’ve barely been able to locate many of them in the western half of the US. It seems like the vast majority of school buses are either dog nose or RE. We’ve completely ruled out a RE bus due to the extended wheel base and the fact that almost all of them only come full size, 40’. At least with a FE bus we could get something full size and then chop off the back if we felt so inclined.

@Oscar1 Your bus is absolutely perfect and just what we’re looking for. I see that you’re running the CAT C7 engine. I’ve heard many people say those are great engines but very costly to have worked on. What’s your take so far?

@Mountain Gnome Thank you for the advice. That is exactly what we intend on doing. I already have a Toyota Tacoma and we plan on getting a trailer to tow it with us. Speaking of towing, should we be narrowing our engine search even further to accommodate for the additional weight? We’ve primarily been looking for a DT466 or the Cummins 8.3L. Are there certain variants of those engines that have more low end torque?
Hi guys
Glad you're still on the hunt.
Actually my bus came from Clover Park school district south of Tacoma, I couldn't find anything close to home that wasn't a rust bucket with a ton of miles.
There will always be some very strong opinions regarding the C7 both ways. I am extremely happy with its performance in an almost full size bus, we are in the eastern Fraser Valley of B.C. and have already had several fantastic mountain trips and the bus has handled the hills great. I think the biggest issue with the C7 appears to come from lack of keeping a regular oil change schedule and using Cat spec filters, dirty oil can take out the injector pumps. There are thousands of them if not hundreds of thousands in service in buses, rv's highway trucks and industrial applications so yes there is going to be some failures but how many of those are maintenance issues? Anyway to your question I have heard that parts can be more expensive but so far I've experienced no problems and regular service items like filters and such seem to be on par with others. One piece of advice I can offer and this might not work for everyone but during my build I have kept my bus fully insured and on the road for trips. We are far from complete but we are using it as I build it and I think that's important to keep a piece of machinery working. I don't imagine it's going to benefit anyone to have it sit for 3-4 years doing a build and expect it to flash right up without issues.
Any questions, ask away.
Again good luck with the search

Oscar
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