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The Ultimate Willys Hauler

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Nick_ View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 Mar. 2019 at 10:57pm
Alight, I've really outdone myself this time.

July 1st my buddies and I are embarking on a classic journey - visiting the nation's best 4x4 trails. We graduate in May. This is the only opportunity for some to complete a 2 week trip without worrying about vacation time. We are leaving from Indiana -> Colorado for Black Bear Pass -> Utah for Moab -> California for Rubicon Trail -> Las Vegas for celebration -> back home.

Our Dilemma
We are bringing:
-Submarine Jeep
-Wrangler LJ on 40's
-All spare parts, tools, camping gear, clothes etc

Since my buddy is not enlightened in the ways of our lord and savior the 1/4-ton 4x4, he's building (current tense) a Wrangler LJ on 40's and it's too big for any normal tow setup. Basically we don't have access to a 1 ton truck and 30+ ft gooseneck trailer. A rental estimate was over $5,000. This is essentially throwing money away at a critical time in our lives.

Cost Effective Transportation
So a truck/trailer rental is too expensive. Shipping the vehicles and flying out isn't possible with multiple destinations. I needed to find something cheap, versatile, heavy duty and legal for us to drive. The redneck answer is.... a surplus school bus.



Why a School Bus?
The question is actually why not a school bus? For about $2,500 you can find a 2000's ish bus sitting in the mud, moss growing on the side and sitting in a meth head's front yard (true story). Or, you can spend $5-6k and really get your money's worth. I've done a ton of research and I settled on a 2008 Thomas C2 66 passenger.

-First body redesign since 1962
-Modern flat roof that retains overall height across the sides (78" ish)
-6 cyl CAT C7 diesel
-Allison 2500 trans with overdrive
-Electronic engine braking
-Air brakes, air ride suspension
-About 9.5 mpg empty due to body style and overdrive
-Drives smooth and comfortable
-26' interior space
-Under body storage

Basically, older buses (and newer Bluebirds) are 4 speeds, old body style, shorter roof, less modern overall. For an extra $2,500 you can buy 10x the bus.



Conversion
I want to maintain most of the bus' overall value. The Submarine is 73" high and 11' long, which is why I found a 78" tall bus. We're going to cut the rear off the bus and make it a swinging door, then I can drive inside. The wheel wells are 10' from the rear door so I can just barely clear with a roll cage, but a CJ2A without a cage can drive over and past the wheel wells. We're installing e-track along the floor for strapping down vehicles. 



Indiana Laws
-Title change: Since the bus has a GVWR over over 26,000 lbs, you either need a CDL or convert it to an RV. Basically I need less than 14 passenger seating capacity, remove all bus decals, stop sign and front swingy stick. Then I'll have a police officer inspect the bus and sign form 39771 which changes the titled body type from a bus to RV. 

-Since my Jeep is inside the skoolie, we can tow the LJ on an 18' trailer that I own. Indiana requires RV's towing trailers to be 60' or less overall. This 66 passenger bus is around 35'. The trailer is 22' overall with the tongue. Add an extra 1' for the trailer hitch and we're looking at 58' overall setup.

-I'm just waiting on insurance to specify if any additional changes must be made on the interior.



Overall Trip Cost
Instead of wasting $5k on rentals, we spent $5k on a bus with retained value. We paid $350 in tax and another $300 for (3) new batteries. With insurance and general maintenance I will estimate $6,500 total on the high side. Driving 4,000 miles at 7.5 mpg and diesel costing $3 a gallon, that's $1,600. Say $2,000 on the high side. Total capital for embarking on this trip with a toy hauler we own outright is $8,500.

Remember a truck/trailer rental was $5,000 on the low side plus the $2,000 in gas. So that's $7,000. Not to mention nowhere to sleep, basically no room for spare tools/parts (or they'll easily be stolen). Thus, depending how you look at it the skoole only costs $1,500 more than the rental if you outright keep it, or $5,500 less than the rental if you resell it immediately after the trip. Overall trip cost: $1,500.

Here is where it gets good. I said earlier the bus has 26' interior space. My Jeep takes 11'. We have room for (1) more Willys Jeep. The ideal goal is to buy a nice, rust-free Jeep while out west and bring it back to the Indiana rust belt where its worth more. Our gas could be completely covered, and the bus can be resold for nearly what we have invested (I may decide to buy-out my buddy if I want to keep it). Thus reselling the bus would have a total savings of $7,000 over the rental. Overall trip cost: "$0."



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote berettajeep Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Mar. 2019 at 11:16pm
Very cool. Clap I remember seeing a converted bus in a 4x4 magazine that hauled a CJ7 years ago and thought it was genius.   Looking forward to see how you build this. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick G Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 12:34am
Kid, I like your style! Can’t wait to see where this goes...literally.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joe DeYoung Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 8:45am
That's a great idea. Looking forward to seeing jeeps in it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rocnroll Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 11:19am
I've always had a 'want to' to doma bus project....I think it would be really easy for me to get too carried away with it though.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nothing Special Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 12:01pm
Originally posted by rocnroll rocnroll wrote:

I've always had a 'want to' to doma bus project....I think it would be really easy for me to get too carried away with it though.

Me too.  But if I started on it, the "carried away" would be what the medical examiner would be doing with my body after my wife was done with me!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote greenlakesgary Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 12:22pm
Awesome!
Please show us in another video how you are making the rear doorway. This trip will be epic!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RICKG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 12:34pm
Nick has certainly studied the financial aspect and the dollars make sense (pun intended). Nick will you do my taxes next year??
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nick_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar. 2019 at 6:54pm
Thanks guys! I think we'll have room for a mobile TurboTax station in the bus.

I am open to suggestions on how to seal that rear door back up. I'm thinking a piece of weather strip that gets pressed between the cut sections.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GJCJs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Mar. 2019 at 3:46pm
Nick-

Was waiting for someone more clever than me to chime in. My immediate thought is the seal on the bottom of a roll up garage door would work well and perhaps be budget friendly.

Will be following this build with interest as well!

Additional thought, the bus needs a shakedown run before you depart to the west. Why not load the Sub in it and ride over to Aurora, OH for the Spring Reunion in mid-May? Surely someone will write you an excuse if it interferes with Finals.....

Greg
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nick_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Mar. 2019 at 12:50pm
Originally posted by GJCJs GJCJs wrote:

Was waiting for someone more clever than me to chime in. My immediate thought is the seal on the bottom of a roll up garage door would work well and perhaps be budget friendly.

Additional thought, the bus needs a shakedown run before you depart to the west. Why not load the Sub in it and ride over to Aurora, OH for the Spring Reunion in mid-May? Surely someone will write you an excuse if it interferes with Finals.....
That's a great idea. Anything flexible rubber could be an easy way out.

I try to attend at least 1 Willys reunion a year, but my plate is too full this summer. We have to finish the LJ build, prep the bus, rebuild the 'Sub, completely rebuild my 6x6 racer, I'll be working full time... man we'll be lucky to not be working on the LJ all the way out to Colorado. 

The bus' test run will be the weekend before Colorado. I'm taking it to Ashtabula, OH for the 50th anniversary of 6x6 racing. Figured we can fit 4 machines inside.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flatfender Ben Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Mar. 2019 at 1:47pm
Awesome  project. 
 My dad is doing something similar with an older bus. 
 One concern he mentioned is getting too much weight to the back of the rear axle, which in turn takes the weight off the steering axle.
 Just wondered if you had thought of that in your calculations especially when hooking a trailer to the back of it with a heavy jeep on it, don’t want the tail to wag the dog.
I guess you could mount two Agri weighs to the front bumper Willys styleLOL

 Keep up the good work.
 
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1946 cj2a bulldog
1948 cj2a blue jeep
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1956 willys pickup boomer
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nick_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Sep. 2019 at 7:19pm
Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of updates. Graduating from school, prepping for this trip, and work took 100% of my free time. I haven't even had time to edit video from the trip.

I'd love to write all about the bus here, but how about I link you to... Jeep's official website! I wrote a Navy Jeep article and off hand mentioned this trip to the editing team. One thing lead to another, and I ended up with an awesome opportunity to become a regular content contributor. This means I'll be writing articles for their website on a frequent basis. 

There's a school bus, cut in half, with a Willys Jeep sitting inside right on the front page of Jeep's website. I'm still wondering if this is real life.





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mbullism Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Sep. 2019 at 8:26pm
Two thumbs up!!! Thumbs UpThumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flatfender Ben Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep. 2019 at 5:58pm
Sweet!!
Your awesome Clap
1946 cj2a desert dog
1946 cj2a bulldog
1948 cj2a blue jeep
1953 cj3b yard dog
1955 willys wagon
1955 willys pickup
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nothing Special Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep. 2019 at 6:27pm
You're going to be talking about this adventure for the rest of your lives!  Great job!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark W. Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep. 2019 at 8:24am
Keep in mind the GVW of that bus is only 30,000 and to run at that weight you will need a CDL. 26000 for a regular license.I drove school buses both for contract carriers like First Stundent and the largest dealer in the PNW for 5 years. As a private vehicle you will be subject to State scales. They also will require an air brake endorsement.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pope891 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep. 2019 at 10:07am
That thing is awesome.  Well done!
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