DIY RV conversion -- perspective - Ford Transit USA Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-29-2016, 08:21:PM Thread Starter
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DIY RV conversion -- perspective

Over 3 or 4 decades, I had sometimes toyed with the idea of converting a bus, to have a big project, and a personalized RV. I eventually realized it was not practical for me, for most of the same reasons Class A motor homes are not practical -- with fuel use, and coach storage chief among them.

So, it was nice to settle upon a more modest van project, which is a practical daily driver.

Camping in Florida this weekend, I met a guy that had converted a 199x Greyhound bus. He wanted to talk, and I wanted to listen.

His coach now has over 2.2 million miles on it! The engine -- a 6 cylinder, 2-stroke diesel of almost 600 cubic inches -- was rebuilt by Greyhound at 1 million miles, and at some point, the bus was sold to a regional carrier in Vermont. The Vermont carrier rebuilt the engine again, when the coach had 1,850,000 miles on it. They sold the bus at 2 million miles.

This guy had bought the bus on an Ebay sale, for $5,500. The engine was "fresh," with only 150,000 miles on it. The bus had sat for a year or two, and the 8 tires were not roadworthy, so, they got replaced before the multi-state drive home. There was no rust. Much of the undercarriage is aluminum. The interior had been gutted. The drive home, with the light-weight interior netted him 9 MPG.

Apparently, a lot of bus conversions raise the roof by a foot or so, largely to hide AC units on the roof. This bus was not raised. This guy has 2 AC units, but, says he could use a third.

The bed sat over the engine. I asked if the bed was hiding a protrusion of the engine compartment. No, he said, and then explained that Greyhounds were built with an inclined floor, to gradually make height to accommodate the engine... he showed me how there was less headroom at the rear, than there was at the front. This also gives a "theater seating" effect to passengers on a Greyhound.

Conversion cost was an additional $55,000. The exterior looked very nice, like a respectable charter coach, plus RV awnings and such. Most of the interior was well done. It had a galley kitchen and open floor plan, except for the bedroom, bathroom, and utility/laundry. The floor was marble tile. He said that was to get back some stability that was lost due to weight of the passenger seats being gone. I brought up the freshwater tanks and whatnot, but, he said those were too changeable to provide the stability he had sought.

He gets 7 miles per gallon, whether towing a car, or not.
asdrew, airmengarrettm and atoine like this.

Transit 250 Cargo MR LWB 3.5L w/3.31

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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-12-2016, 07:50:PM
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Considering we're in the TRANSIT board I'll add about a smaller, class B type conversion. Haven't begun yet, still in planning stages...just about to order. I am a minimalist at heart. At first the thought of disposing of all my stuff in one way or another was full of anxiety but I found the more I gave away, the freer I felt.. and feel.

I'm a camp type person, or so I have been so much of my life. Living in an RV 14' x 5' could sound daunting..but it's just me and my dog. I couldn't imagine driving and parking something as big as a Class C, personally, but a 20-22 footer sounds just fine.

How do you like the medium roof? I have to order the high roof as I'm not short and have a touch of claustrophobia (tent camping is fine because the wonder of getting up out of the tent in the morning is special.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-12-2016, 09:29:PM Thread Starter
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How do you like the medium roof? I have to order the high roof as I'm not short and have a touch of claustrophobia (tent camping is fine because the wonder of getting up out of the tent in the morning is special.
I'm fine with it, at 5'9". I have 5/8 inches of floor over the bare metal, and 1/4 inch of ceiling under the roof supports of the cargo van. Standing in shoes, my head barely grazes the ceiling -- only when looking straight ahead... which, you don't do in a van; you're always looking down at something. All I really wanted was a tent on wheels. The headroom beats the heck out of a backpacking tent, or a classic Chevy/Ford/Dodge van!

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-13-2016, 02:53:AM
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I'm finding the challenge of building out my transit is quite the project. I can't really imagine taking on the task of doing a bus. But there's a vehicle for all of us out there. I love my transit because it is my daily driver and I love the simplicity of it. I think if I had a bus it would just sit parked in some RV park only to be taken on the occasional trip. With the transit I can take it anywhere any time. I can see the appeal of the bus with the smooth ride and almost unlimited space and cargo. I would take one over a class A almost any day of the week.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-13-2016, 08:25:AM
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We're in the middle of a Transit conversion on a med roof new van. I'm about 6'1" and love the roof height. I can touch the roof (unfinished at this point) with my head but it works well. A famous sailboat designer once said (about cabin height) , "that most sailors he knew slept lying down and ate sitting down." I agree.
We got a 'stripped' passenger van (no extra seats) off the lot and have covered the back side windows but have left all of the others 'open' with a heavy tinting. We have inside covers (reflextex sp) for all of them for heat, cool and light management. With the removeable covers off and even some of the doors open at times, its very open. Our bed is across the back of the van and several times we've had great water views out the back all night.....like sleeping on the screen porch at the shore.

Being minimalist also we made a decision early that showering and cooking in the van was not in the cards so we shower at campgrounds and cook with a microwave or get take out and eat at a picnic table. We do have a nice table in the van and both front seats swivel to face it (the table folds in half). A third seat works well for lounging and playing board games, etc.
Traveling with a large dog and just two of us is really pleasant.....we're hooked. After years of trying to park a 50' sailboat this is a dream come true.

Keep it simple. We're going to add a Coleman heat pump for heat and AC, and a small fridge. But the rest is most done except for insulation of the roof and cosmetics.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-13-2016, 10:17:AM
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Like that quote! I will keep it in my stock ("that most sailors he knew slept lying down and ate sitting down.") My dad was a Merchant Marine... one of his sayings along the same vein was, "how pairs of shoes can you wear at one time?" hahaha

I am going to buy the high roof for two main reasons: I'm a touch claustrophobic, and I want to put the bed on pulleys and stored on the ceiling! I do fine with inside a tent but to live in one, not so much, and just can't crawl in and out of one any more.

I'm curious about the not looking forward in a van... thinking about that one.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-13-2016, 02:54:PM Thread Starter
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I mean that there's really nothing that you want to look at, at eye level. you are usually looking down at the counter or down at the sink or down at your storage units or down at your bed...

And, you're just a little bit shorter when your head is cocked downward, than when looking ahead.

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-14-2016, 12:18:PM
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When I was ordering my van I went back and forth over the MR or HR. In the end I realized that neither one would fit in my garage and that the HR didn't take up any more room while driving or parked then the MR van. It was just taller. So with all things being pretty much the same I went with the HR for the extra height. I don't have to worry about how much I build up the floor or insulate the ceiling because I have enough space to work with and still stand up. Aesthetically I think the MR van looks a little nicer but they both fit the same in a parking spot and they drive the same as well. For me it was an easy choice to make because I don't feel like I was giving anything up to go with the taller van but might have regretted not being able to fully stand up in the MR van.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-14-2016, 12:36:PM
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I tried to make the medium roof work because it looks better. I am 5'-10" tall so to make the medium roof work I could not have added a 2 1/8" thick insulated floor so went with the high roof.

Have found two more reasons for the high roof. I have a 30" high bed platform and overhead cabinets on both sides above the bed. The high roof lets me sit up in bed without hitting my head on the overhead cabinets. Both the medium roof and high roof have the same height slider door. With the high roof the wall space above the slider allows for a shelf for additional storage.

A negative to the high roof is the roof supports are not all at the same elevation. The one at back of cab is lower than the rear supports. This makes adding a ceiling a bit more difficult. Finally figured a method to make the ceiling work in that area.

2015 high roof 148" WB 3.5 Ecoboost 3.31 LS rear cargo.
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