Wild wild west conversion long-term plans
I've been dreaming of a bus for several years now, and it's getting time to act on that. I've been lurking here for around a year soaking up knowledge, and a recent windfall makes it possible to turn that into action soon. So now I need to start asking questions.
I'll post details about where that project is at in more specific forums; here I'll gush a few details about what I'm planning to build and who I am.
That way if you're interested we can talk, and I can keep my other posts more to the point.
I live in Seattle, and we just bought a modest place with a city-owned empty lot across the street that our seller had laid gravel down on to park his bus (that he took with him). I'm handy enough when tracking down and fixing issues with several gas-cars over the years (worst puzzle: a faulty solid-state 'points' module on a Range Rover engine prevented real ignition due to too-short dwell; deepest fix: fresh clutch plate for an Alfa Romeo; plus - several years of keeping a Beetle 'alive forever'), and I'm a pretty good general handyman, but I have no real experience with diesels or heavy components. I can make simple welds. I work in tech, so I can stick with a problem till I reach the bottom, and I have just enough budget to do things right when I need to.
A couple decades from now I'd like to retire into my bus full-time so I can put whatever real estate equity I've built up into my son's education and his own home. Plus, if history hits the fan, I'll have a fall-back platform to "take it with me". That will all be more fun with a steampunk theme: the railcar from the late 60's TV show "The Wild Wild West" is my inspiration. Salon, galley, stateroom; wood paneling, brocade curtains; a whistle-stop platform off the back door and a mid-ceiling clerestory raised roof (that can also hide a roof-mounted AC); and like that. A full-size conventional bus already has a lot of great lines for a "railless autolocomotive".
1 - Research. What am I looking for, and what do I need to plan for? I've made some progress on this.
2 - Select. Make a decision. What's the platform for my project? This may be coming up soon. I'll be asking for advice here.
I'm looking for a drivetrain, chassis, condition, manufacturer, and price, in that order.
3 - Purchase. Make it mine, and legal, and get it home.
4 - Teardown. Get to the bottom of its real condition, to work my way up from.
5 - Minimal RV parts. Transplant enough to make it really a motorhome, and useable that way while the real project gets started. Add basics like insulation and maybe a simple 110v shore-power system. Base-coat the exterior paint.
6 - Hauling phase. Use it as a big truck to make a few long (~500 mile) test trips, and to bring renovation supplies home. Minimalist camping platform too.
7 - Build out. Put the skeleton of the final house in - main systems, interior structures, etc.
8 - Troubleshooting. Iron out whatever mechanical or interior system issues arise by here.
9 - Finish. Make it awesome. Steampunk the dash, a computer station, the lighting, etc.
Heck - maybe even a Tesla house battery and a ham radio installation? Fabricate a cow-catcher (elk-...) for the nose. Like that. Maybe veg oil or solar electric add-ons?
10 - Enjoy! Make it the base of operations for many of my adventures from then on, and put it in my will.
Timeline: (as usual, maybe optimistic)
1-3: maybe weeks, maybe months.
4-6: half-a-year from there
7 & 8: a year or two
9: a few years
10: the rest of my days
So, yes: I'm hoping to get it right enough the first time that I can invest in the interior without regretting the platform.
That's why I need to be able to ask y'all questions, starting about now.
PS: I'm a long-time ranger at burningman, so that will be part of the hauling phase and probably thereafter, and gives me a resourceful community to draw on. My wife is a ranger too, and our boy has been to every one since we didn't know he was with us. His grandmother came for the last two, which worked out great. She's from rural Oregon, and the weird didn't phase her: she and the kid had a great time with each other, and he still tells stories of riding a dragon (art-car).
The stage-6 shell will be useful in our camp (and getting to it), maybe this year?, and the stage-10 vehicle will be able to drive around as part of the show.