Saturday, January 16, 2016

Rustic School Bus Conversion



Hi! I'm Chelle and this is the 97' International 7.3 school bus I converted. I spent exactly one year working on it with the help of my son and my husband when I needed it. With little money to spend I reused what I already had or could find cheap on craigslist. I salvaged wood and other materials myself when I came across them and purchased plywood, insulation, and assorted fasteners a little at a time as I needed and/or could afford to. 



It's simple and rustic. I'm wired to run off either campground hook-ups or my gas generator. But I'm set-up for boondocking without my rather loud generator too. I have solar lights, solar hot water bag, a propane cook burner, propane 'Mr Buddy" heater, Coleman outdoor oven and of course a BBQ grill too. My small electric appliances include a dorm refrigerator, tiny crock pot (I was set up in these photos for my first solo road trip), toaster oven, hot plate, coffee maker, lamps, fans, of course I have a roof top air conditioner, and electric small heater. 


The peace sign I painted on the storage box is symbolic of how long I've wanted to do this. I've been dreaming about traveling the country in a converted school bus since I was a kid and a magnificent smoke belching, monstrosity of crazy colors and peace signs pulled into the gas station next to us. I was fascinated both by the bus and the young people inside. A girl with flowers in her hair saw me gawking at her. She hopped out smiling and handed me the biggest most perfect peach I had ever seen. I questioned Dad for the next few miles as I ate my peach. He said they were "hippies" and apparently didn't think much of them. From what I gathered 'hippies' didn't have jobs or even real houses to live in, preferring instead to live in a bus, like they were camping all the time, just going wherever they want. I doubt it was his intention but the whole lifestyle sounded 'right on' to me! I decided I wanted to be a hippie and live in a school bus! 


I prefer rustic and vintage over fancy or modern. I wanted my bus to look like a bus and not a RV. I wanted it to feel like a tiny home. I kept all the windows. There's no curtains or curtain rods yet, I've sewn magnets into the sheers to easily hang and move them. For now I have a vintage potty I picked up at an antique fair, and a bucket of compost. It's all I need and works for midnight 'emergencies'. 



The cabinet was damaged and stained. I replaced the top with plywood I had on hand. To cover the stains on the front I experimented with different colors using craft paints. The next day I decided I liked them all! I just touched up a few spots with more color and stained the whole thing a dark walnut. 



My carpentry skills matched my budget - both 'light', so I was mindful to keep my design simple, and serious carpentry work minimal. I used 3/4 insulation board and 1/2" construction grade plywood for the floors. The walls were insulated and finished with pine plank wainscoting. 


Awesome deck right? Well it's illegal, not to mention dangerous! If you don't know what tail swing is...  Imagine yourself in the lane to the left of me - and where do you suppose that big old deck goes when I turn right... With some help we cut it down. It's safe, legal, and there is still enough room to swing the back door open all the way, store a generator, etc.
  

I paid $7200 for my bus. The electrical was already done, which was the part of the conversion I had the most concern about. Some of the seats had been removed, it had a large rear deck, $3000 worth of brand new Michelin tires on it, rope lights, etc. The ceiling was spray painted black and a brand new refrigerator which reeked of cinnamon schnapps! I'm sure she was destined to be a party bus before I got my hands on her.  
Its not uncommon to pick up a school bus at auction for $1500 - $2000.
To register a bus as a motorhome in Texas, you must have 4 of the following 7 facilities: 
  1. Cooking appliance with on-board power source.
  2. Bed or sleeping area.
  3. Heating or air conditioner from an on-board power source separate from the vehicle engine
  4. 110-125 volt power supply separate from the vehicle engine
  5. Gas or electric refrigerator
  6. A potable water supply system 
  7. A toilet with exterior evacuation 
Our Maiden Voyage!

8 comments:

  1. Wow! You did a great job...you also gave me the inspiration to take on this challenge! I'm 62 can't imagine renting after owning homes but since I'm disabled don't want the maintenance of a home! I know there will be challenges, bus maintenance and repairs but not all the costs of a home! Still a little intimidated by the process but I think I'm gonna take the plunge! Any and all pointers or things to do and lol for will be helpful. Good luck and God bless

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    1. Thank you so much Dorca! I couldn't have completed my build without the wealth of information to be found on the internet. I would suggest you join skoolies.net and also a Facebook group I belong to called Skoolie Converters. Both excellent resources to help you decide what type of bus will suit you best, as well as help guide you thru the actual conversion process. Good luck to you!
      BTW I will be leaving Texas and living full-time on my bus before summer is out!!!

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    2. Thank you so much Dorca! I couldn't have completed my build without the wealth of information to be found on the internet. I would suggest you join skoolies.net and also a Facebook group I belong to called Skoolie Converters. Both excellent resources to help you decide what type of bus will suit you best, as well as help guide you thru the actual conversion process. Good luck to you!
      BTW I will be leaving Texas and living full-time on my bus before summer is out!!!

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  3. Just saw your blog, great bus, we just got ours, it's a 5 year plan for retirement. We live N. of ATL stop by if you're in the area.I saw a sketch up of your build, what program is that? Happy trails!!

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    1. Thanks! And welcome to the skoolie club! No regrets here.
      I used a free program from Sketchup.com to plan and design my bus in 3D and virtually walk thru it to see how the space feels.
      If you haven't found the skoolie.net forums check it out too, tons of info there.

      Here's a link to some more sketchup pictures.
      http://sweatsville.blogspot.com/2014/07/skoolie-sketchup-lay-out-and-video.html?m=1

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  4. Hey there I love your skoolie conversion. I can't wait to get a bus and get started on mine. I was curious though, how did you insulate your walls and ceiling? And how did you get air conditioning?? I'd like to have both heating and cooling in my bus. Plus a toilet that is both camp hookup and compostable

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