2009 - Volume #33, Issue #2, Page #34[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
School Bus Converted To Family Camper
Todd bought the 1991 International 6-cylinder, 170 hp diesel bus for $1,500 from a bus company that serves his school district in Coffee Creek, Montana.
"After the bus reaches a certain age, it can't be certified for hauling kids," Todd notes. Mechanically the bus was fine and Todd knew it had received good maintenance and was only used as a spare bus in its last years.
His son unbolted all but a couple of the seats and caulked the holes in the floor.
Todd is a wheat grower with experience as a finish carpenter. He used some salvaged store displays to build cabinets, bunk beds and divider walls. He shopped on eBay for a propane stove and refrigerator and bought an 18-gal. water storage tank and pump for under the sink.
He put screen in roof hatch for ventilation and bought an AC converter to run a fan, coffee pot and other appliances off the battery.
The bus works well for Montana summers, but was a little chilly for a fall deer hunting trip. It sleeps the four members of the Todd family comfortably, with the bunk beds, a seating area and the table converted to beds using bus seat cushions.
"From a woodworking perspective, the most challenging part was trying to fit to the curved ceiling. I ended up caulking quite a bit, but nothing has shaken loose," Todd says. "It's a work in progress." Future plans include adding a heater, finishing the bathroom, and putting a small deck on the back to hold a barbecue grill.
Altogether he estimates he has less than $3,000 in the bus. For others considering doing something similar, he suggests contacting bus companies. Buy one with manual transmission, if possible, Todd recommends. When driving on back roads, manual shifting is better for hills and boat landings. He likes the bus's clearance and ability to drive places motorhomes can't travel. It also gets a respectable 8 to 10 mpg.
States vary on the type of vehicle license needed for buses. Todd was required to remove the lettering and disconnect the warning lights.
"My kids keep nagging me to change the color, but it's an awful good paint job," Todd says. Besides, it's easy for guests to find the yellow bus amongst all the regular campers.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Wayne Todd, Box 83, Coffee Creek, Montana 59424 (ph 406 567-2607; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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