*Off-highway large family overland build*
I’ve been reading this forum for a few years now and a few months ago I decided to purchase an 11 window International 3800 school bus to convert into an adventure rig. I hate calling it an RV, motor home or camper. Is that weird of me? The reason I decided to use a bus for a starting point for the build is my disdain for the disposable manner in which most RVs and motor homes are built.
We are a family of nine and enjoy camping and exploring the National Parks. I like primitive tent camping, but my wife and young kids enjoy bathrooms and showers and such. A rugged vehicle capable of supporting our family with a kitchen, sleeping areas, and a functional bathroom while off-grid was the goal. I started a build thread over on skoolie.net, however, I feel that our intentions for the bus are more in line with those of this community as opposed to the tiny-home group.
The bus is a 1996 model with a P-pumped DT466 and an Allison AT-545 transmission. It has 200K miles, air brakes, and tires with about 25% life left in them. I purchased the bus for $2500 a couple hundred miles away from home and drove it the 4hrs back through the Ozark mountains of Arkansas.
The seats and flooring were already removed when I got it. I removed the interior wall and ceiling skins for installing better insulation. Also removed all glass except the windshields and raised the roof 12”. I took it to the scales and it weighed 14,700 lbs, equally balanced, when fully stripped. It now sits at 11’ high overall. I will clean, tint, and reseal all but 4 of the windows and reinstall them after I paint the bus olive green.
I have this winter to finish all of the exterior sheetmetal and body work, skylights, roof deck mounting points, etc. before painting it next summer. My plan is to rebuild the rusty stairwell with 4” additional ground clearance and provisions for insulating every surface on them. I will likely be removing the excess side-skirt material and doing a reverse dovetail behind the rear axle to help with the departure angle.
I would like anyone who is willing, to critique the build to point out the rig’s weaknesses for overland travel and perhaps point out ways to solve each problem. I have decent fabrication skills and do not shy away from major modifications or thinking outside the box. This build will take years to complete and will be a one-of-a-kind when I’m done with it. It will probably only loosely resemble a school bus when finished.
More to come...
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