A Super Tidy School Bus RV Conversion

Many of us have seen an old bus for sale for a tantalizingly low price, and begun thinking about the possibilities. [EpiclyEpicEthan1] is someone who took the next step, bought the bus, and got to work converting it to an RV, with impressive results.

The bus in question is a 2002 International RE3000, which in its former life had helped move school children and barrels of pool chemicals to and fro. The project began, as many do, with a full teardown of the interior. With this done, the floor was treated to remove rust and repainted. Insulation and new plywood boards were then installed, and the fit-out began.

The amount of work involved in the build is immense. There’s a master bedroom, auxiliary bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen area. It’s a fully featured RV in every sense of the word, and yes, there is hot water. There was also significant work done to improve the driving experience, with switches relocated, lights added, and a reversing camera installed for easier parking.

Overall, it’s an impressive project that should serve as great inspiration to anyone wanting to attempt something similar. Then again, if your means are a little more limited, you could always go for a Corolla build.

18 thoughts on “A Super Tidy School Bus RV Conversion

  1. Now for the extended road trip to proof and test your design. I would have gone less wood (weight and space) and another AC for the warmer stays in more southern areas of travel. Cranking the diesel other option of course. Not seeing enough covey holes. 50Amp service shore power becoming more common fwiw. Lack of grey and black tanks? LP gas tank may need some extras and some places may refuse to fill it. Good choice on the conventional mini fridge.
    Assum!ption :Dont see venting. They dont last as long in this service but they work well compared to conventional ammonia/reefer units which are waaaay overpriced and last only slightly longer with more hassle and more space and weight. Reefer units running lp and venting and…. Ya. Helps to turn off lil fridge when on road. They really dont like to be bounced around or titlted. Helps to let settle for half hour before cranking up again too.
    Love to read findings in road test. Where did settle the Onan?

    1. Three way refrigerators in RV’s are great things. They run off AC, DC, or gas. So when going down the road they can be switched to DC. Park where there’s a plugin and run them off AC. No plugin? Switch to gas, or use a generator or solar.

      1. Even though they’ve got better since my grandparent’s era, three way refrigerators are horrible things. They’re inefficient, require large punch-out vents through the vehicle walls, demand leveling the vehicle for proper operation, and not very powerful. I’ve had two: an under-counter size one that gobbled twice as much energy as a modern full-size electric-only fridge, and a full-size that would drink a whole 30lb propane bottle in a couple of weeks.

        No, these days, there’s no excuse not to go all-electric, on generator if needed, with battery/inverter for backup/solar assist. All-solar operation still needs a prodigious amount of solar panel area though.

      2. Some do run three way. Some dont. Most work best on LP gas and not so well on electric.
        Other RV Reefer (ammonia evaporative) notes:
        The manufacturers count on cyclic short term use. Suggested reading : warranty. Note the term Years. Not actual hours of operation. House fridge is on 24/7/365. How long will RV fridge be on? When it does fail assuming have recorded the actual time it was on then compare to an average household fridge.
        An hour meter comes in handy. Not likely to have been installed by manufacturer. Better unit$ will. Trully commercial units will too not only for recording longevity but scheduled maintenance and inspection.
        Temperatures above 82-85F also kill performance. Humidity is a factor. Dont expect to be freezing ice cubes any time soon assuming has a freezer compartment. Many require several hours to come to useable temperature and are easily overloaded..
        Price and cost to run compare to average house fridge of equal volume. A real comparison would require fridges to die completely but a first time to repairable critical failure probably good enough.

  2. Interesting project. When I was healthy, I always thought I’d like a longer skoolie. To be used as a mobile amateur radio command pos with comfortable living quarters for two. No doubt they exist, but I’m suprised I don’t see “tiny”-whatever” constructed with pull outs for more room while parked. A person doing their own custom work, should be to get a better result, with less cos.

  3. Is that really a school bus? I though it was required by law to be an at least 70 year old design, frame, stiff axle, leafs springs, NA diesel and devoid of any safety feature known to man?

  4. A lot depends on where you are planning on staying. I never plan on staying anyplace I have to pay which means never having mains power so a 3 way fridge would make sense for me, if you plan on KOA hopping all electric may be a better option. I certainly would have used a lot less wood. But, again that is just me. People have different expectations and desires. One thing I got a chuckle out of was the level in one of the pictures. Make sure the thing is parked in a perfectly level spot or you have meticulously leveled it or all bets are off on that one.

    I hope it works out well for you, and does what you want it to do. Happy trails.

    1. Yeah… I give him an A for effort here, but material choice is way overkill. Nice for a house, but not something you have to pay to move constantly. Thing looks heavy AF.

  5. He installed a carbon monoxide generator in the sleeping area and defended this on Reddit by saying, “But I installed CO alarms tho.” A truly terrible idea.

  6. re: ammonia evaporative fridges and levelling.
    Some of tehe comments above are way off my real world experiences. You’d think the thing must be spirt level straight.
    Not my findings wtih 2 differnet fridges from different eras (70’s, 90’s)
    All did duty wedged in my car boot at an angle, and hooned around mountain roads, but worked well enough to give a cold beer at the end of the day after putting up the tent, and keep the bacon from going off.
    Just fine off the running car (spare battery for ign off) then gas for camping with as no electric hookup.

    Only reason I have 2 is due to freecycle and getting ever bigger ones / family.
    Now we have one dedicated for beer and another for food.
    And they make ice just fine with a cube tray on top of the evaporator.
    Adding a very small DC fan inside the box helps cool them faster.

  7. I know I’m late with this message, but make sure to consult the laws of the state you are going to register your vehicle in. In my state you can not ‘convert’ a bus to an RV, so it is still treated like a bus. This means you need special DOT approval to drive it, and you do not get the benefits of being an RV (moving about the cabin while vehicle is in motion). I looked into doing it and was bummed to figure this out.

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