I guess I should start this by explaining what this hare-brained idea is. The goal is to take a bus (think “charter,” as in 56 seats of air-conditioned comfort), strip it down, and turn it into an RV (think “tiny house,” but with wheels.)
So, we start with this:
This is a 2006 MCI J4500. It is 45’8″ long, 8’6″ wide, and 11’9.25″ tall. It has a Detroit Diesel Series 60 Engine and an Allison B500 transmission. As equipped, it weighs 54,000 lbs. and can carry over 6 tons of people and cargo.
As I mentioned before, this bus came out of charter service so the interior looks like this:
It has a little over 450,000 miles on it, which sounds ridiculous for those of us who have only driven cars. However, these engines are designed to run in excess of 1,000,000 miles and the body is designed to last 30+ years. So this bus is barely halfway through its’ life span, and I’m not likely to see the end of it.
So, what would possibly make someone want to take one of these massive vehicles and turn it into an RV? Well, it’s not as crazy as one might think. People have been doing it in various forms for many years. Conversions range from used school buses converted into “bare bones” hunting cabins to multi-million dollar factory shell conversions custom built for music and movie stars and even Presidents.
For me, I have been interested in buses since I was pretty young. I can’t pinpoint the age, but I remember seeing Greyhound buses on the highway and being fascinated by them. Then, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to travel with a touring group. We did two tours of the US in a Model 10 Silver Eagle and I loved it. I loved the bus and the travel.
Fast forward into adulthood, marriage, kids, etc. and I always thought it would be pretty fun to have an RV and travel the country. We had friends who did it full-time and I always envied them. My wife was not interested in living on the road with three kids but I kept it in the back of my brain.
Then, I stumbled onto an online community of people who had converted buses into RVs and that was it. I knew this was how I wanted to make it happen. I also started on over a decade of education into the whole idea, learning about the different models of buses, the pros and cons of each, the process of conversion, etc.
From that education, a picture started coming into focus. What bus did I want (or could afford)? What configuration would work best for us? What components did I want to use? What kinds of work can I do myself? What skills does it make sense for me to learn? What things does it make more sense to pay someone else to do?
So, after years of learning, many lists, spreadsheets, project plans, and drawings, I finally pulled the trigger and it’s time for the challenge to begin…