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8 Students Convert Old School Bus into an Amazing DIY Luxury Motorhome

This is the adventurous story of how 8 students/friends converted an old school bus into a DIY luxury motorhome. They call it the SerendipitiBus!

They bought it from a man who was working on converting it but wasn’t able to finish it. Together, the friends were able to turn the bus into an amazing tiny yet spacious home on wheels that comfortably sleeps 8 people (with privacy, too!).

When you go inside, you’ll see that everybody gets their own bedroom bunkie with ample storage. And there’s plenty of space in the bus to be comfortable throughout their adventurous road trip. Please enjoy, learn more, and re-share below. Thank you!

8 Students Convert Old School Bus into an AMAZING DIY Luxury Motorhome

8 Students Convert Old School Bus into DIY Luxury Motorhome

Images © Serendipitibus

A group of friends and I converted this 20-year-old school bus…

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…into this luxury RV for 8+: The SerendipitiBus!

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Back in August 2014 after the first trimester of our masters entrepreneurship program, the idea of converting a school bus into an RV was thrown out amongst myself and three classmates. We quickly discovered the “skoolie” community online and were instantly hooked.

We kicked the idea around for the next couple months until we found this beauty on craigslist in October: 1995 Carpenter school bus, 40 feet long, diesel engine, killer paint job. A couple emails and a 20 minute drive later and we were suddenly the proud owners of a bus (with nowhere to park it)!

Over the next seven months, we managed to convince four more classmates to join us and spent what little free time we had converting the bus. Our crew was quite worldly (with riders coming from Ireland, Texas, New York, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Virginia) and despite only myself having any formal construction experience, everyone stepped up to the plate and took on significant roles in the project.

From left to right: Amy [marketer/blogger extraordinaire], John [plumber/photographer], Dan [detail carpenter/house maid], Sam [interior designer/videographer], Micheal [roof deck builder/sleepyhead], Nicky K [bus dad/painter], Rory [electrician/group optimist], and me (Nick M) [salty dictator].

This album takes you through the construction process first so if you’re interested in just the final product, scroll about half way down for the finish photos. You can also check out some great pictures from the 5.5 week journey we took with the bus at facebook.com/serendipitibus.

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We bought the bus from Mike (right), an amazing guy who had to put his own skoolie dreams on hold. It was love at first sight for us, and the fact that we could fulfill Mike’s dream for him made it all the more worthwhile.

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We signed away our souls on the spot with way too little thought or hesitation.

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Fortunately for us, Mike had already ripped out the seats, collected some junk furniture, and painted the outside red to change the title to an RV.

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We began with the plan on the left but due to many debates during construction, our final bus looked like the plan on the right. It worked extremely well for 8+ people, providing more than enough common space plus individual private bunks for everyone.

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We first bolted runners to the floor with rigid insulation between to keep out road heat and noise.

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Some of this was done during snowy midwest weather, and despite the smiling faces the rest of us never heard the end of it from Rory and Micheal who “experienced ‘Nam” while tightening the bolts underneath.

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Plywood subflooring secured to the runners with screws and liquid nails.

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We next built boxes around the wheel wells to pack with insulation – again to keep out road noise.

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Followed by the framing for the bunks (which took quite the toll on some).

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Jumping a little ahead, next came the framing for the couches and kitchen. After much discussion we ditched our original booth idea and moved the entire kitchen to the passenger side of the bus, making sure to run our PEX water lines underneath to the driver’s side for RV hookups.

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After a few fireballs during attempts to connect these gas appliances, we quickly ditched them in favor of electric appliances.

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Except for when he was painting the bus, Nicky K was always dressed to impress.

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Next came the electrical system.

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This is with most of the paneling done before the bus’ first big test run to the Kentucky Derby. We designed the bunks to be half the size of a queen bed, bought four 6″ memory foam mattresses on Amazon and cut them in half with a hand saw. With Prime they were shipped for free in two days and it only cost ~$80/person for an extremely comfortable bed – one of our better decisions.

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The prior paint job was done quickly so we chipped away at sanding it back to the yellow whenever we had extra hands during the build.

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It only took us a day to get two coats of white primer on it and the improvement was incredible (even if it looked like a prison bus). We took it like this to the Derby and parked it next to a bus belonging to some of the Notre Dame seniors. Shows how truly massive our bus is.

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One of our proudest accomplishments is not using a single ladder or saw horse during the entire build (including during the steel roof deck installation). The apartment complex’s dumpster got put to good use.

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After the Derby it was back to work painting the interior (for some of us at least…)

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We also started building the roof deck and were lucky enough to get the help of our buddy Mike and his Baja team members who welded the entire thing for us in exchange for a case of beer.

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We used vinyl planks from Menards to finish the floor which were light, flexible, waterproof and super easy to install.

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Sam hard at work modge-podging. She found nine early 1900s maps of the Yellowstone online, painstakingly stitched them into one massive map, and printed it tiled across (30) 11×17 sheets. Another awesome addition that changed the entire vibe of the interior.

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After weeks of searching, we found an amazing company in LA that were able to custom cut our cushions and ship them to us in Indiana in only three days! Anyone looking to make their own cushions – contact Josh at Murano, Inc. (info@muranoinc.net or 1-(855) 469-2626). He’s a great guy and really knows his stuff.

My mom sewed all these covers, and then her and Michel’s mom spent a day graciously sewing them onto the cushions while they were here for graduation.

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John starting to install the plumbing system. Our system includes fresh and grey water tanks, two sinks, a faucet that could potentially be used as a shower, an electric water pump, and an external RV hose hookup.

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Amy worked with McDonalds who hooked us up with an amazing sponsorship. Along with allowing us to eat at (way too many) Mickey D’s during the trip, they also set up a sendoff event at the local franchise where we bought meals for unsuspecting guests. It was part of South Bend’s 150th Birthday week so we had the Mayor and several news stations at the event….crazy stuff.

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We were working right up until 4am the day we left and after a quick photoshoot at the famed golden dome, our journey began!

Finally! The Finish Photos!

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Welcome aboard!

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Our phone covers always matched out book covers.

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Rory designed an amazing electrical system with five house batteries and a Schneider inverter/converter that we used to power phone chargers, computers, a mini-fridge, a microwave, and even an AC unit. Along with housing the breaker box, the counter also popped off for shoe storage below.

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Storage under all 21′ of couch.

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Six boards we stored in back spanned the gap between the couches where the couch back cushions fit perfectly to form the “MEGAcouch.”

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Outlets at each end of the couches for convenient charging.

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Books to make us look intelligent and Advil to be realistic.

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The kitchen with space next to the sink for a double hot plate/propane camp-stove.

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The all-important liquor drawer, designed and built by Dan.

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Pull-out trash can with a hole above for easy waste-disposal.

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Storage inside the map wall. All the doors were bought at the Habitat Humanity ReStore for only $2/each, as were all kitchen cabinet doors. This is a great store if you’re looking for reasonably priced building materials/furniture.

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The plywood under each bed is on hinges to allow for access to storage beneath.

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Handles for easy lifting.

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Personal cubbies with an outlet in each bunk.

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Curtains for when the magic is happening.

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The bathroom with a removable toilet.

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The storage unit – above the rod is a bungee cord to keep the hangers from flying off during bumps. The AC unit is installed below this shelf with a collapsable vent pipe to allow us to slide the unit out to the beds.

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Along with six large compartments below the bus for storage, the roof deck also became mainly for storage.

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Somehow we found several incredible parking spots during the trip, like this one on the SF Bay!

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When a thrift store at our first stop had enough different colors for each of us (plus two guests) we couldn’t pass up on these pants. They became our go to outfit at the big tourist spots and never disappointed in getting questioning looks.

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Images © Serendipitibus

The trip was an incredible journey through so many amazing national parks, cities, and landmarks. Unfortunately it has now come to an end as half of us go on to real jobs and the remaining four of us work on securing jobs of our own.

Big thank you’s to all our friends and family, the gofundme donors that helped us pay for our broken transmission and the sponsors who helped make this a little easier (Giddy Apps and their Derby Jackpot app, Interstate Batteries, Murano Inc., McDonalds, and the Notre Dame ESTEEM program).

We highly encourage anyone interested in building their own skoolie to just do it! It may seem daunting at first but when you’re rolling down the interstate with panoramic views from your “living room” you’ll realize it was all worth it. There are a ton of great projects online like ‘Hank Bought a Bus’ and ‘Project Moose’ who were inspirations to us and can help guide you through the process. Instagram #skoolie is also a great resource.

This Bus is For Sale!

OR you could save yourself a ton of work and buy the Serendipitibus! She’s for sale now and we could potentially work out delivery. Shoot us a message at serendipitibus@gmail.com if you’re interested or with any and all questions about the bus. We’d love to help anyone trying to build their own.

Resources

Our big thanks to Jaime Bateman for sharing!

You can share this school bus conversion story with your friends and family for free using the e-mail and social media re-share buttons below. Thanks.

If you enjoyed this school bus DIY motorhome conversion story you’ll absolutely LOVE our Free Daily Tiny House Newsletter with even more! Thank you!

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!

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{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Pam Heckel November 1, 2015, 3:52 pm

    This is just GREAT … the big smile I have on my face hasn’t left!!! Congratulations on this wonderful undertaking … just pure joy to read! Best wishes to you all–here’s to projects, good friends, youth and travel … may you always remember fondly as you all move on to the next chapters in your lives!

  • Janp November 1, 2015, 4:22 pm

    I have to laugh. I thought the first picture was the conversion and said. What the???
    But what they did is amazing and will be of great memories. Kudos. I would love to see the remaining 23 states in this country where I have never been . good luck and have fun!!!!

  • Jay Pierson November 1, 2015, 4:35 pm

    What a great idea for the end of school, beginning of careers. This will be a lasting memory that you will be able to tell your children, grandchildren. Congratulations on a great adventure.

  • INVSBLTY November 1, 2015, 4:58 pm

    This has to be the most enjoyable school bus conversion story yet!
    Good to see eight people cooperate and complete a project like this!

  • Sharee November 1, 2015, 5:50 pm

    Now this is a tiny house college students can be proud of!

  • Brandi November 1, 2015, 6:00 pm

    Love, Love , LOVE this story. I’m sitting here with my cheeks hurting from all the smiling I’ve done while reading this amazing story. Thank you soooo much for sharing it and WELL DONE!!!! I haven’t seen the asking price yet. Please share that info. Thank you. Brandi

  • mr. lonnie November 1, 2015, 6:17 pm

    i thoroughly enjoyed this entire presentation!
    best of the best to you all!
    cheers,

  • Don November 1, 2015, 6:48 pm

    First off thank-you to Alex and your team for all the work you do in delivering a fabulous news letter. What I see here more than anything is the spirit of cooperation and partnership. although the girls were greatly outnumbered 6-2 you can see they played a big role in this project. Three cheers to all of you for coming together in designing and producing a wonderful product
    Don

  • Heidi November 1, 2015, 10:15 pm

    Nicely done !

  • BrownLuster November 1, 2015, 11:13 pm

    Not only was this such an inspiring tour of these eight creative, energetic and fearless young adults taking on a huge investment of their lives and time, this was also a most entertaining and chuckle worthy presentation! Kudos to all eight of these talented young adults on the AMAZING transformation of this HUGE bus (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bus this big before…maybe a Greyhound bus but idk) but also on the ingenuity of securing funding and finding materials at a bargain to boot!! I AM SO INSPIRED RIGHT NOW…

    I do agree with Fb poster Cheryl Hamilton (above) it would be a great gesture to allow Mike (the guy that sold the bus) to keep it for a while and maybe he could find a buyer for the SerendipitiBUS.

    Once again, that bus is so functional, beautiful and a labor of love. Thanks for sharing this one Alex!! Consider this page bookmarked!!

  • Joanna chanin November 2, 2015, 8:04 am

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • georgia buckley November 2, 2015, 9:36 am

    Thirty years ago my brother and I did the same thing with a Greyhound bus. He has now passed away and the memory of the fun we had will always stay with me. This brought back so many fond memories…Thanks.

  • Liz November 2, 2015, 12:05 pm

    SHUT THE FRONT DOOR; ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! Don’t you kids go off on to your individual jobs. Stay together and build your own company. Wonderful work, great updating and so fun to read the information about the work you did. It must have been an awesome experience. Well done!!

  • Brad November 2, 2015, 6:20 pm

    How much for the bus $$$ ???

  • Gmh November 3, 2015, 12:19 am

    If I buy the bus, can I have all the pants, too?

  • Mimi November 3, 2015, 8:27 pm

    Oh my gosh you guys are so freakin cute! This is the best and biggest re do that I’ve seen so far! How awesome! :) Good for youz!

  • Gord. November 3, 2015, 11:47 pm

    Well,Must say that there is 8 Kids that will always have wonderful memory of doing some so spectaclar that will always be there for them.I hope that they made bunch of photos and a Diary of the daily trip from start to finish.Probably could make a movie. ;)

  • Gail Garra March 2, 2016, 8:28 pm

    Would any of you be interested in working on a quote and potentially connect us with yourselves or anyone who would convert buses to a STEM mobile for our Academy? We have idea of what we want to travel to locals schools but need pricing soon for conversion for our grant writer. We would potentially contract for the conversion.

  • Carole Lord June 25, 2016, 12:43 pm

    Hi,
    Totally amazing work!!! Is your bus still for sale? If so, what’s your asking price?

    Thanks!

    Best regards to all of you from Toronto, Canada

    Carole

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