The Ultimate Hunting and Fishing Mobile – Our School Bus Conversion

That’s right, one of Olivia’s many dreams came true. She bought a school bus. It’s going to be a big project converting it, but it’ll be really fun.

Olivia thinks the main purpose of the bus is for her to live in while she is in grad school, but we all know that the main purpose is to have a hunting and fishing machine – It’ll have a big enough freezer to freeze an entire elk. It will have kayak racks. It will have bike racks. It will have a special spot for our raft. It’ll have a huge barbecue. Welllllllllllllll these are some things that I hope for, but more realistically it will have a bed, a kitchen, a shower, a portable toilet, a couch, a desk, and a big enough freezer for a good day of ocean fishing and mayyyyybe a whole deer. We’ll see.

It is, after all, her bus for school. I am so happy and excited to help her turn it into a safe, comfortable living space. And it’ll have a fish-cleaning station. And maybe some rod holders on the ceiling. It’s long enough even for my fly fishing poles.

Olivia picked it up and drove it home a couple weeks ago and so far we’ve just ripped it apart and cleaned it. Soon we’ll get to the fun stuff, but first we have to do a little more of the boring jobs – caulking, ordering stuff, planning, blah blah blah.

I’m just kidding. Every night I sit at my computer looking at school bus stuff. It’s so fun. Backup cameras. LED lights. Sweet cabinetry. Bamboo floors. Home Alone meets James Bond – style security. Beware creepers, Olivia might just be shooting pepper spray in your face with a remote control button from inside of the bus.

We went back and forth for a while about whether or not to bother sharing the bus conversion on our blog, or what we would share if we did put it online. We ended up deciding that we’ll just share generally what were up to and anything we think is worth sharing that’s not already covered online. School bus conversion stuff is already covered in exhausting detail.

Anyway, without further ado, here she is:

school bus

It’s a 22 foot, 5-window short bus. Inside, it has about 13 by 8 feet of open space in the back. It’s a little over 6 feet tall in the middle, and it’s a beautiful 70,000 miles young.

You might have noticed the words “Navajo Head Start” on the side. Olivia bought it from a bus sales company in Phoenix and it came to them by way of a school in New Mexico. By law in some states, you have to repaint a converted school bus, so that’s on our to-do list this spring when we have good enough weather to do it. I’m thinking camo would be best but I think Olivia probably has other plans.

Here are a couple “before” photos of the inside of the bus.

For our first weekend, we got in the bus with a bunch of tools and ripped it all apart. We had to be careful in a couple of areas but for the most part it was just a lot of aggressive hammering, prying, cursing, and destroying drill bits. The bus came with one passenger bench seat which we removed and might reuse.

We thought the bus would have either Phillips-head screws or aluminum rivets holding all of the paneling on, but it had steel rivets that were difficult to drill through and really hard to pry out.

My main advice for choosing tools for demoing a school bus would be to have lots of bits for different fasteners – ours mainly had rivets but there were plenty of other fasteners too (T25s, Philips, flat heads, and a large variety of bolt sizes).

Other than removing fasteners and prying with a flat bar, we did do a little bit of cutting with the angle grinder and sheers to speed things up.

By the end of the first weekend we had finished removing all of the paneling and the floor as well. We did decide to keep some of the original white metal paneling in the cab. You gotta keep some of the original stuff to properly honor the bus’s previous life.

This weekend we decided to take the time to do a good cleaning. It turns out that when 20 kids go in and out of a small space for 15 years, every day, they leave some dirt behind.

It’s ok, dirt isn’t toxic. We just washed the whole floor out with a hose and it’ll be ready for caulking and paint as soon as it’s dry.

We also started a little bit of investigation into the existing electrical system. There are a bunch of alarm switches on the doors and emergency hatch and other alarms, and the bus won’t start if the back door is locked with the deadbolt.

That’s a big problem because if, for whatever reason, we were to feel unsafe where we were parked, we don’t want to have to unlock the back door in order to drive the bus away. This will be an easy problem to fix and it’s one of the first things we’ll take care of next before we start building.

Stay tuned for some (hopefully) more exciting posts about our bus conversion coming soon!

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