Looking back on my totally insane school bus project


In early 2005 I was surfing the web when I stumbled upon a random website about a guy who converted an old, yellow school bus into a motorhome. I was intrigued. The project was cheap, creative and a little bit crazy — all words that could be used to describe me.

Later, while driving near my neighborhood in the Nashville, TN area, I noticed a used school bus for sale at a very reasonable price.  After a quick mechanical check and test drive, I was the proud owner of an old, yellow school bus of my own.  I immediately began the process of converting the bus into a recreational vehicle.

This shot was taken the day I got the bus, March 15, 2005. I couldn’t wait to start removing some of the junk that I hated. The old, rusty school bus mirrors and windows were the first of many things to come off.

Believe it or not, there are lots of people who have converted school busses into all sorts of things. School bus conversions are collectively called “Skoolies” around the Internet. I liked the name, but wanted to personalize the idea a bit, so I decided to call ours the Skewly. To complete my conversion project I creatively “borrowed” ideas from lots of people and even came up with a few ideas of my own.

The main reason I wanted to do this little project was to have a hotel room on wheels that would allow my family to travel across the continent in style, for as little money as possible.

I bought the bus from a church and it looked as if it had been waiting to be purchased for quite a while since it had a nice coat of rust and mildew over every square inch. I wasn’t sure on first glance if the bus was going to be a keeper, but I jumped in, turned the key and the motor instantly started.  The engine and chassis were in good shape, so I overlooked some of the more glaring body problems.

I spent several months prepping the bus and removing anything I didn’t think I would need. I only wanted the empty shell of the bus, the engine and the drivetrain — everything else had to go.

I probably should have taken more pictures of this process, but I was having way too much “fun” doing it. What a pain! I estimated it would take me about a day to get all of the seats and other junk out of the beast. Three days later I was finished. Rusty bolts, creative aftermarket engineering and other interesting time wasters were a large part of the process.

I can tell you one thing, though. I don’t think any RV out there is built as tough as a school bus. This thing is steel EVERYWHERE. It is built like a tank. I pity the standard fiberglass and wood motorhome that tries to go head to head with this baby.

I used professional automotive paint and techniques to paint the bus and it actually looked pretty much like a factory paint job. With air conditioners, an auto-tracking direct broadcast TV satellite dish, an awning and tour bus mirrors, the bus looked quite different than the average old, yellow school bus. This photo was taken Sept. 3, 2005.

After months of engineering and tinkering, the final bus was ready to take on the road. For our first trip we had traveled through 5 states: Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Washington D.C. We traveled nearly 2500 miles.

We had the bus for a few years, but I decided to sell it to another bus conversion hobbyist after taking a job overseas.  It was an incredible project that I will always look back on with fondness.

The finished interior
The finished interior
The driver's seat
The driver’s seat

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s