A Study of Art, Adventure, Engineering and Enterprise
Category: School Bus
Welcome to the home of the El Dorado school bus conversion. We know we want a beautiful place to live while we travel around northern America building our online business. Even though the idea is exciting, the execution is full of fearful questions.
Ian and V’s School Bus Conversion
Is this legal? What challenges does owning a 30,000 pound vehicle bring about? Is this something for crazy people? Will I end up wasting too much money?
To be honest, I still don’t know the answer to these questions. But we’re doing it. Here’s our bus:
Left to Right – V, Ian & Jamie. Jamie (of Whole Foods) sold us the bus.
How Much Does a School Bus Conversion Cost?
We don’t know yet. That said, you can see our expense spreadsheet as they happen. Once we’re done, you can look at the below spreadsheet to get a great idea for every expense. That said, we’re in it now, so the spreadsheet just shows you how much we’ve spent this far. Feel free to check it out:
But I’m not 100% confident about that. Also, I’m not sure if I recomend this solar system yet.
It seems to be working fine for small loads at this time but I can’t say for certain that I think it’s a great system.
Basically, I don’t know anyone who knows about solar so I just had to buy stuff and plug it together. We’re still parked under a tree so we haven’t had the chance to give it a great test.
It’s working fine for lights, charging power tool batteries and fans. If we try to run the refrigerator on solar AC power right now, I find the system can’t keep up.
But again, we’re parked under a tree in the forest. If we were parked in a place that doesn’t have shadows from trees or clouds (ideally a empty Nevada desert), I bet we would have dramatically better results.
Solar power is really cool when it works. I’ve got battery powered tools and I can charge all of them using my solar kit. I’m cutting wood and drilling holes and cutting metal with solar power nowadays. It’s kinda awesome.
This one is mostly about school bus floor removal.
The video starts off with a traditional title screen made in physical space on the project. Then I start working on cleaning the rust off a small part of the floor to get an idea for how the process will go.
For some reason I wanted to make the gas cap look really good. I think I was zoning out listening to something and I just kept working on it until it looked great.
Existing School Bus Floor Removal
After fluffing around with the gas cap, I cleaned out the bus so we could remove the floor. The floor was attached with steel nails. We pulled all the black existing school bus material up with the plywood. No need to pull up the rubber first, just go straight to the plywood.
The key is to use what I call a decider.
A decider is a giant prybar. Something like this. It’s really expensive to buy one, so if you don’t have one you can use a giant steel pipe over a more regular sized pry bar. The one I had is a friends who has had it in the family for a long time. It was amazing.
One thing that made a big difference was preparation. Because we took great care to remove all the metal trim from around the plywood, the floor came out with some heavy pry work. If we hadn’t spent much of the day preparing the floor to come out, it would have been a nightmare.
Floor Removal Process:
Remove all metal that overlays the floor
Insert sharper prybar between steel floor and ply wood at the rear of the bus
Use the gap to insert a decider pry bar (meaning a really big one)
Hold it like you’re doing a dead-lift (straight back, lift with hamstrings)
Once flooring is raised to be perpendicular from floor, have someone use a razor knife to cut the black existing bus flooring
Take the floor board out of the bus to maintain a clean working space
Remove all floor boards, then go around cleaning up left behind screws and nails
Shop-vac everything, clean shops are critical to success
Knot Brush – Put this on a cord grinder and you become a rust killing monster. I used one of these brushes to remove all the rust on the sub-floor of our 40′ 2001 Thomas School Bus
Blue tooth head phones – These are way more expensive than normal ear protection, but I love these headphones. They cancel noise, but you can listen to an audiobook or music while doing something super loud
Vise grips – Multi-use, great for removing exposed screws with stripped heads
Shop Vac – I like the Ridgid for the lifetime warranty. This one is the perfect size for this small project.