As a joke on my fellow Cadillac V racers, I decided to prove I could build an RV/Toy hauler cheaper than their truck/ flatbed trailer combo because I refuse to haul my car on an open trailer. The bus is a 39' 1987 Wayne Lifeguard 67 passenger 5-speed manual gasoline 366HD Chevy motor. It started life as transportation for the Carbondale, Il school district. The roof raise and modified rear end (dovetailed floor and hydraulic door) was added by the previous owner who used it to haul a sled pulling truck from state fair to state fair.
When I bought it from him, it was a neglected mess, hadn’t been used for years, and smelled like he brought home the worst of the state fair with him.
Evidently, he bolted in a couple recliners for traveling; had hammocks he’d sling from side to side inside the bus for sleeping; threw in a microwave and TV from the 60s and was happy.
Why did I buy it? I could see the potential, especially sinse the rear door was already done. The motor and transmission were in great shape given its dormant past. It was already registered in Illinois as an RV. And the price was right. I also thought creating a Mad Max style vehicle would be a great contrast to the Cadillac it would be hauling. So I have no intentions of improving the looks of the outside of the bus. I’ll leave the rust spots and add more patina. I’ll keep the broken windows to make it look one step short of the junkyard. I even like the dull dingy, half assed paint job that allows the schoolbus yellow to show through in some spots - it adds character. The wheels even have the original paint flaking off all over, but have been checked thoroughly and found sound. The gigantic front bumper adds intimidation to the overall look and is just bad-ass if you ask me. I think it’ll be a unique vehicle that I expect to keep for at least 5 years.
Getting it home was uneventful except it overheated because there was a leak in the radiator and then we ran outta gas cause the cross-over between the 40 gal tank and the 60 gal tank was obstructed enough that the two tanks didn’t equalize.
But we got it home. My lil brother was not happy about stuffing my Mustang inside for the ride home,but I knew it would fit.
I initially budgeted $10K for the conversion and have yet to exceed that amount... but I still have a long way to go. The initial plan was simple: garage in the back, RV up front. Everything since then has been a challenge - I know absolutely nothing about vehicle restoration, insulation, 110 or 12V wiring, let alone plumbing or carpentry. So here was version 9 of the plan:
The top is furniture/floorplan with a shower across from the toilet and a see-saw ramp in the garage that was supposed to go level once the car drove up far enough. The center is the storage layout for water and gas tanks underneath the bus as well as overhead storage compartments. The third is the layout of the electrical outlets, lights, and heaters. Needless to say, that’s not quite what I ended up with.
First step demolition - the fun part. Tearing out all that the previous owner installed revealed rust everywhere.
The demo and cleanup took months, but I got it done. In the midst of it I decided to remove some of the windows at the rear of the garageto use as spare parts and to better insulate that section. Then painted the floor and ceilings.
Then it was time to run wiring and install insulation.
I knew long ago I would wall in the garage with aluminum diamond plate and get anti-fatigue matting in the same style for the floor.
The next step was designing and having the see-saw built.
Once that was in I could build the dividing wall between the garage and the RV. Andsomewhere about this time I came to possess an abandoned motorhome complete with 6.5KW gas generator, 3-way refrigerator/freezer, convectio/microwave oven, 2 rooftop air conditioners, all electrical and junction boxes, furniture in great condition, etc.
So plans changed again. I had to ditch the shower cause the fridge was so large and move a bunch of stuff around . Luckily, I found an RV salvage and repair company up in Bunker Hill, IL willing to barter the carcass and the pieces I didn’t want for the install of the fridge, generator, RV door and Air conditioner.
The final product didn’t turn out too bad. I have lots of finishing details to work on but the basics are in and working.
The garage is done except installing its front wall. I have two 500W halogen spotlights up front and an 4000 lumen LED shop light in the rear. Six 27 gallon tubs are installed on the ceiling for storage. Race Ramps built my entry ramps to my specs. The see-saw, tie-downs, and hydraulic winch are in place and bolted through the frame.
Up front, the drivers seat has been replaced with top-of-the-line high-back swivel recliner that matches the navigator’s seat.
Along the passenger side is the dinette and infotainment center. On the other side of the wall behind the TV is the bathroom.
Along the drivers side is the jack-knife sofa sleeper, the kitchen and the refrigerator/freezer.
The fresh water tank is hidden under the couch
OBTW, the top drawer of the above cabinet hides the induction cooktop that replaced the stove and the convection oven above bakes as good as any oven. If you look closely above the garage door is open showing the front of the car in its transport position.
Speaking of transporting the car, on and off-loading requires three sets of ramps.
Once loaded, the front tie-downs must be cinched, the winch is used to level the see-saw, and then the rear tie-downs are connected and tightened
.Ramps get stowed and the door closes smoothly.
Well thats the jist of the build. We’ve been slowly traveling farther and farther from home getting comfortable with the RV lifestyle and gaining confidence in the drivetrain. When we first got it, 60 MPH even downhill was a major milestone. Last weekend we cruised with the car on-board at 70MPH and hit over 80 on the downhill legs. Uphill is still a struggle, but as long as it doesn’t slow below 50, I’m good with cruising the Interstate highways. The real test will be next week when we join the Hot Rod Power Tour with the bus as our tour vehicle.
And the best thing is I got my gal involved and she loves it. She picked out the flooring. She is organizing the storage usage. She had suggested several mods that I incorporated. She even wants to drive it on our trips, so I can relax. She’s a keeper too.
With that, I’m open to answer any question from fellow Oppos.