School Bus - The Ultimate BOV?

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by fireplaceguy, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    During the depression, a lot of people lost their free and clear homes and farms to taxes. This time around, it could be even worse. At this very moment, the .gov is working out the kinks in a plan to allow every state to go bankrupt. This is a massive default on state debt and retirement benefits. Counties and municipalities are just downstream dominoes, and their defaults will start up in earnest as well.

    This will crush thousands upon thousands of retirees, and thousands upon thousands of bondholders, which will ripple throughout the economy in ways few understand. For example, insurance companies park a lot of their reserves in bonds and commercial real estate, and the insurance industry will be terribly hurt by these defaults. (Remember, too, that Obammy wants to destroy the insurance industry.) And, trust me - even though you haven't heard this publicly yet, the .gov covets the trillions of insurance company reserves just as they covet the money in our 401k's.

    Bottom line is the government is playing for keeps, and you and I are expendable. We just ain't seen nothin yet!

    That's why I'm very comforted when I look out at my old school bus. I own it free and clear. I stripped the seats out, installed a wood stove and built in beds with futon mattresses. I reinstalled a right side seat on the left wall, facing rearward toward a left hand seat. I built a "dining table" in between them. Next project is a propane stove and a sink - I have all the parts, just haven't finished that work yet.

    An RV will work for this, although I think school buses are better for a several reasons. First, school buses are all built on medium duty truck chassis. You can get RV's built on a truck chassis too, but those baby's are expensive and they're loaded down with luxury features that eat up a lot of cargo capacity, not to mention your budget.

    My bus weighs 18,000 lbs. empty, and gross weight is 33,000. That means I can carry 7 1/2 tons of cargo and fuel (and there's almost room to haul that much!) I've never seen an RV that can haul that kind of weight, although you can really load them up. Anyway, I can haul all my preps and still be well under gross weight. With the hitch I added, I can also tow a 15,000 pound trailer.

    They're also fairly cheap to work on, and extremely durable. (Medium duty trucks share a lot of driveline parts with semi trucks, so they're seriously overbuilt.) The 12-valve 5.9 Cummins in mine has been tweaked for an extra 100 horsepower and over 300 ft. lbs. additional torque, and it's a pleasure to drive. (I recommend that engine over all others. Parts and engines are everywhere, and mods are cheap.)

    Next, the fire hazard in RV's is high, and you'd be astonished how fiercely a fiberglass RV burns. Most school bus bodies are all steel (some have fiberglass roofs, which I'd avoid) and it's a lot harder to catch one on fire.
    It is possible to get the insulation in-between the steel walls of a bus burning, it's not easy. You and your preps are just a lot safer in a steel bus than in an RV.

    It's also a rolling storage locker, and a lot of my stuff is permanently stored in there and ready to go. (If you need to park it in a lot, the rent for that is comparable to a small storage locker.)

    And here's another bonus: We all know bugging out will be pretty dangerous unless you do it well before things get crunchy, and obviously, if I'm still in a situation where I need to bug out it's my plan to try and get out early. But you never know how things will go, so it's comforting that my BOV is a 30,000 pound battering ram. On top of that, I've rigged up anchors for a safety harness so one passenger can hang out the side door, hands free, with a battle rifle if need be! (Harness anchors are in the plans for the back door too. And yes, a stout front bumper is in the works!)

    So, that's the basic idea. At this time, I'm the only one I know who can bug out without leaving a lot of their preps behind. I'm also the only one I know who can carry passengers (and their gear, on the trailer) with room left for them to effectively defend us if need be. With the extra fuel tank I installed, I can drive it anywhere in in the 48 states nonstop, with fuel to spare.

    I think a portable house like this should be part of most survivalist's plans, unless they have very few preps to worry about or they're able to live permanently at their BOL. (Just my opinion, obviously.)

    If you want to add a trailer hitch, I recommend a front engine bus. That way, you have frame rails running all the way back to the rear bumper. Rear engined buses don't have that, which makes building a stout hitch a real PITA. Pushers seem to cost more anyway.

    If this interests anyone, you'd better jump on it. Federal grant money for school districts has dried up, so they can't afford new buses. That means used buses in good shape are becoming rare.

    (And that's the crux of survivalism today: We're in transition, from a period of incredible abundance to a period of severe scarcity. Everything is becoming rare, in ways we're only beginning to understand.)

    As I keep sayin, it's later than you think!
  2. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Awesome. +++
  3. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    A Bio-hazard Bus???

    It seems like a well thought out concept. Change the colour scheme from safety yellow to something a little more concealable, such as a drab matte green or brown colour. If you are still wedded to a school bus yellow colour scheme...just smother it with big black bio hazard decals, with a good supply of biohazard suits hanging from the handholds, and a pile of black body bags in plain view. It should keep the more casual nosey parkers a respectful distance ; )
  4. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Down here in sunny Florida, we do see converted buses on occasion. I have noticed the newer school buses are lower to the ground - less ground clearence than the older type that would see rural road duty. I have seen older buses literally driven OVER large logs! Accounting for their length, they can very nearly go anywhere!
    With my height, I'd likely want to raise the roof on at least some of the body. No way I can stand in a school bus!
    I'd like to check out availability of the 'short bus' though. Would be a bit easier to park in my crowded 'half acre of lower-sloburbia'...... And I wouldn't need too much space. Better maneuverability too.
    Another possible source for buses is local churches - many are cutting costs, and they may sell their old ex-school buses.
    Some school districts have buses intended for longer road trips, and include more stowage compartments under the body. Newer regs mean more doors and escape hatches too.
  5. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Here in Colorado schools can keep a bus until it's 20 years old. It looks like they're all going to be doing just that, from now until the collapse. (It's a deck chairs/Titanic kind of thing. Everyone's bitching about the $1 billion budget shortfall this fiscal year, but you don't hear a peep about public pensions being over $20 billion underfunded, or the looming muni collapse, etc....)

    Back on topic, I thought about the kind of "short bus" that's built on a truck chassis. That would be an incredibly agile machine. At the end of the day, I wanted the extra space more.

    My bus is a Blue Bird flat nose model. Flat nose buses look a lot nicer, and have the most interior room, but they're certainly lower to the ground than I'd prefer. Also, the flat nose buses all have automatics.

    If I had the chance to do this over, I wouldn't get a flat nose bus, and I'd definitely get one with a manual tranny. Then I'd swap in a 9 or 10 speed gearbox just as soon as I could find one.

    But, the bus I have is very nice. Even though it's well over 20 years old, it only has 64,000 miles on it, and the low mileage shows everywhere. Being at the base of the Rocky Mountains, buses around here sometimes have electric driveline brakes called retarders (no short bus jokes, please) installed locally. Mine does, and I know from putting one in a race-car toterhome that it's a $6,000 retrofit. Retarders make for very smooth braking, and they're a nice backup to your air brakes should the compressor fail on you, which happens once in a great while.

    Mine also has a Webasto diesel fired auxiliary heater with a circulation pump, meaning I can run the heaters when I'm parked if I want to. I can also use it to pre-heat the engine on a cold morning, although the 12 valve Cummins has always fired instantly, even at five below zero. Webasto diesel fired heaters are exactly how mid-six to seven figure luxury RV's are heated, and there are all sorts of components including a hot water heater that I can add to this if I ever want to. (A guy I used to race with has a Prevost coach that cost nearly 2 million, and he leaves it parked at his place in Vail during ski season. It heats itself, keeps the holding tanks above freezing, keeps the fuel warm enough it doesn't gel, the cargo bays above freezing, etc., etc., etc. All run by computer. The generator kicks on automatically to charge the house batteries to keep it all going, and someone comes by and fuels it on a regular schedule.)

    All those extras lessened the sting of having to replace the Allison automatic transmission for $3100. (A used one goes for well under $1000, but given that the engine now makes more power and torque than the tranny's rated for, and my intent to run heavily loaded and with a trailer, I wanted an Allison factory remanufactured tranny in there. Everything inside them is new, period.) Last thing on the list for the driveline is to double the transmission oil cooler capacity so I can run it hard. As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the driveline is quite overbuilt for the loads I'm talking about, so tranny temps are my only concern.

    I'm also thinking seriously about mounting my PV modules on the roof and putting the batteries and electronics underneath. That way, if I bug out, my PV comes with me automatically. In the meantime, I would backfeed the power to the house using a "reverse shore cord" and run my high-load circuits off-grid...
  6. hank2222

    hank2222 Monkey+++

    sounds like a plan and i never knew what those style of brake systems where called that most of the western states put on there bus because of the driveing in the mountains ranges with the bus
  7. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Hey, veck! Haven't seen you post lately...

    I've thought about painting it. I think it would look sharp in a metallic gold (not coincidentally the color of dirt, meaning fewer washings) with black trim and aluminum wheels. The gold could be brownish, for sure, helping it blend with nature a bit better than yellow. That's a lot of surface area, though, and automotive finish prices have soared.

    I've also thought about a kind of camo, although not what you suggest. (Our state security apparatchiks are too humorless for me to want to fake something like that. This is Region 7, after all...) I'm leaning toward something of the church bus variety, complete with a little white collar for yours truly...

    Nice to see you check in...
  8. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    I can stand up straight with about an inch of headroom left. Still, it would be really sweeeeet to raise the roof. The vertical frame between each window is standard square tubing, so it would be easy to add height. That would be a whole lot of work, but it's quite straightforward as fabrication goes.

    Of course, that would be the time to put in double pane RV windows where you actually wanted them, and then you'd have to buy or make new front and rear caps, and paint it, and then re-do the interior...

    You can easily spend six figures and years of your life working on a bus conversion. I have to keep reminding myself that this is just a BOV and a last ditch roof over my head.

    That same six figure budget will buy you a nice used high-end coach, too. Several years back, my buddy offered me his older Prevost, an early 80's model with solid walnut everywhere, for $125K. I was tempted, but couldn't figure out how to put a stout hitch on a pusher. Since I couldn't afford it without selling my toter, it never happened...

    And, for about the same money, I know where there's a old Learjet 23 with about 110 hours left in the engines, per the schedules. Can't carry quite as much, but that's a BOV the babes would really like...
  9. Disciple

    Disciple Monkey+

    I have looked these things up on the net You can pick up a bus for under 4,000.00 and you can get it with either an automatic or a standard tranny. For a little under 5 grand you can have a very mobile survival vehicle. If you want a guy could eliminate those windows and add in floor to ceiling storage cabinets. 4-5 of those things and storage is situated. the homemade table is a great idea, as is the heater, just hope you can find fuel for it after the shtf..............I am now very seriously thinking on getting a bus and add a little beefier suspension Say from an old 6x6,if I can find one.
    work that motor over along with that tranny and throw in a bed, and some 2 door lockable cabinets, a table with benches, Maybe even flatten that roof out a little bit a put a frame system for solar power electrics and a Rv Generator and add two upright freezers and a fridge, an electric stove could be a viable set-up.Have to speak with Nadja about the set-up.
  10. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    One of the best BOVs I ever saw was a Korean War era, Military Ambulance. It was built by Dodge, with PowerWagon Military Running Gear, and was a 6X6 configuration. The fellow that owned it had installed the PTO Winch on the front bumper, and installed WARN HUbs on ALL six axles, so you could disconnect any two sets, for highway driving. It came with a Box, built on the back, for stretchers, that he had converted into a bunk, and had storage shelves above on both sides. What originally was a Dodge Flathead 6, had been swapped out for a Detroit Diesel 6V53. What I wouldn't give, for that rig today.
  11. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Disciple - I've seen a few 4x4 school buses for sale over the years, and plenty of 4x4 medium duty trucks. I'm sure the necessary parts are in the truck wrecking yards if you're serious about this. Be sure to start with a manual trans if that's the direction you're going.

    To anyone who is planning on doing this - do it now. Most of the buses for sale today have some life left in them, but the financial mess pretty much guarantees that used buses will 1) become scarcer, and 2) be worn out, due not just to higher mileage but reduced maintenance budgets as well.

    Also, if at all possible, I'd suggest buying your bus from an area where they don't salt the roads. Working on a truck chassis with rusted fasteners can't be much fun.

    For cooking, I would strongly recommend a propane stove over an electric one, for two reasons: fuel efficiency and noise. (In a bug-out scenario, I probably won't want to be making much noise, but I know I'll want to eat regularly.) You'll probably want bigger burners than you get with little RV stoves, too. I found a nice Bosch cooktop on Craigslist for $100, and the LP conversion was dirt cheap. I believe the two large burners are 14,000 BTU's, and the smaller ones are 9,000. That way, I have both the room and the heat to cook a large pot of food for a group, and there's a whole lot of room under the body for propane tanks.

    I'd guess one gallon of gas will run an electric stove for two or three hours. That's if the generator is highly efficient, and there will be a lot of unavoidable noise. With a propane stove, you could cook for weeks on a gallon of fuel.

    For refrigeration, I'd be right back to the 12 volt Sun Frost fridge, for it's extreme energy efficiency and the ability to run it off the buses electrical system without an expensive inverter or generator. That's a bit of coin, but with a few house batteries and a PV module or three, you can refrigerate and freeze food for the rest of your life without fuel or noise concerns.
  12. jasonl6

    jasonl6 Monkey+++

    An rv fridge would be the ticket. You could run off the 12v ,120 or propane if you don't want to run the bus engine to charge the batteries.

  13. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    I've been lurking for a little while, but will be making more frequent appearances here. Thank you for the welcome and kind thoughts FpG. : )

    As you will appreciate my earlier response was semi tongue in cheek. Keeping the schoolbus yellow colour scheme will be fine when times are peaceable...but a colour change might be in order once SHTF, and you decide upon a reasonably permanent retreat location. Such measures don't have to be pretty...just serviceable. Camouflage from the ground and air would be highly desireable.

    An alternative deception measure might be to give the BOV the impression of being a high security prisoner transfer vehicle. Who wants to pillage a bus of hardened criminals??? : O

    I like your suggested deception plan for concealing your BOV as a Jesus Bus....the dog collar is a nice touch....a devious plan of diabolical ingenuity indeed. A cuppola mounted on the roof with a .30 / .50 cal combination would make it a truly god fearing BOV! Who doesn't respect the very Reverend Browning?? ; )
  14. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I always thought a large cube van with (Side graphics) "Bob's Septic and Sewage Service" stenciled above a caricature of a hairy, obese man with his head in the toilet and plumber crack in full glory would make a pretty tamper proof vehicle.
  15. Disciple

    Disciple Monkey+

    [lolol][lolol][lolol][lolol][lolol][lolol][lolol];;;;;; Oh Snap feel bad for the plumbers in the forums Wow melbo..............LOL,LOL,LOL.

    Heres one for ya a honey truck cleaned out and sanitied real good with a hidden accsess to your goods in the tank LOL...............
  16. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Smear some black gasket grease around the door handles --
  17. BAT1

    BAT1 Cowboys know no fear

    How about a bobtail truck running off a Carbonizer?
  18. Ajax

    Ajax Monkey++

    Would you be able to put enough solar panels on it to be of much use for lighting, cooking, battery charging and running a radio and/or TV?
  19. Disciple

    Disciple Monkey+

    I would believe so I mean a bus is usually 40', some a little longerSurely if a person could get the roof somewhat flat you could build a base that that would hold the panels in just the right position. and with the inverter inside along with a good size Battery box I don't see why not. and I don't believe you would have to run RV appliances to do it. Even with an rv generator as a power backup. I would say though ask someone whom is deffinatly more knowledgeable on the subject than I.
  20. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Easily. My array consists of 10 175 watt modules, and they'd all fit on the roof no problem. There's room underneath the body for far more batteries than I presently have.

    I'd be running a fridge, and delete the cooking part. Personally I'd rather cook with propane or the wood stove. Running an electric stove's heating elements with off-grid PV isn't a very efficient way to do the job.
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