Since I bought the bus back in January, a lot has happened; only now have I reached the stage when I can stop taking things out and starting putting things back in again. So I thought I'd better bring you all up to speed before we go any further...
First up, a bit of advice: if you buy a bus, make sure you have found somewhere to put it before you commit to the purchase. It will make your life a lot easier. Living in the countryside, surrounded by farmyards, I didn't think it would be too hard to find a small bit of land to rent. The only place I could get my hands on in time for the bus to delivered was the corner of a very wet sheep field - full of sheep - at the bottom of a narrow but incredibly busy country lane. It had a few things going for it - like the fact it was directly opposite an industrial estate with a welders shop, mechanics, and carpentry workshop, and that it was half way between my Dad's house (where I was staying) and my work, and that it had a beautiful view. It wasn't, however, a particularly practical space for doing a bus conversion. The bus driver who had driven down from Cumbria to deliver it helped me get it through the small gate and halfway up the field before it sank in the mud and got stuck. Very stuck. He gave me a quick five-minute theory lesson on how to drive the thing and then left me to it. Oh dear. Long story short, with the help of a tractor, my Jeep, some grounds mats, some carpet, three guys, a lot of expletives, and some very upset sheep, I eventually decided and then somehow managed to get it back out of the field. Shortly after, I was very kindly given permission to keep the bus in the yard next to my office at work where I'd been living in a caravan the past two years - so we moved it there.
That whole nightmare took two and half months. In that time, progress doing the conversion was very slow indeed. To be honest, I'd been planning to wait until late summer to do the bulk of the work anyway as I was meant to be going on a four-month bicycle trip. We did, however, achieve one major milestone: we got the seats out - all 53 of them! Before that had happened, it was hard to imagine how this thing was ever going to become my home. As soon as the seats were out though, it was clear. It's pretty spacious indeed. I recruited my friend Jake to help me remove the seats and it took us the best part of a day. Most of it we were able to do with a ratchet spanner, but from time to time we had to get the angle grinder out. I'd never used one before, but 500 beautifully cut bolts later, I'm fairly handy with one now. We also got the luggage racks down.
Back at the yard, work could properly start. Next up was the walls and ceiling and boy was I glad when that was finished. It was lined with this grey fibre glass sheeting that was riveted into and glued onto the inner aluminum skin of the bus. Making it even more difficult, the wall panels were overlapped by the ceiling panels, but the screws to get the ceiling panels out were inaccessible without getting the walls off first. It took two sweaty days of drilling, levering, circular sawing and angle grinding to get all the panels out and by the end my ears were ringing, my hands were cut to shreds, and god knows how much fibre glass dust I inhaled. Top tip #2: get yourself a face mask, some gloves, some ear protection, and safety goggles before you get all excited about ripping the bus apart. With that all done, I labelled up the newly exposed cables for speakers, lights, ventilation, and heaters, and started work on the floor.
I was nervous about the floor. It was made from a gigantic 18mm plywood sheet covering the whole surface of the floor (with disgusting plastic liner on top) and had been there for 30 years. It was pretty solid and I wasn't sure it would be a good idea to rip it up. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to scrap the old floor and see what I was dealing with underneath. I'd be able to give it a good clean, sort out any rust issues, and put a new fully insulated floor back in without ever again having to worry about what might be lurking beneath. The plastic liner came up easily enough, just having to drill out rivets in the aluminium beading holding it down and pull it free. To get the floor up, I just thought it would be a case of crawling underneath the chassis, undoing all the bolts, and then using a crowbar to level the floor away from the base of the bus. How wrong I was. I got all the nuts off the bolts underneath, but the plyboard just wouldn't budge. I tried everything and everything failed. Eventually, I decided to get radical. I'd wanted to preserve the plywood to use again so was anxious about cutting it into pieces, but this turned out to be my only option. It still wasn't easy. For two days, I toiled away singlehandedly cutting the floor into bite-size pieces and removing each section bit by bit. By the end, it was barely recognisable as a floor. And I was almost broken. None of that mattered though because what I found underneath has had me smiling ever since. This bus that I bought for £1800 on eBay in a moment of pure impulse has turned out to be in impeccable condition! Aside from a few tiny spots of rust, it is in almost mint condition. This is a very good thing.
Since I got the floor up, I've been working out where things like the plumbing and gas pipes will go, and marking all the positions of the joists on my floorplan so I know where I can and can't drill when the floorboards are down. Now I know what I've got to work with, I've been ordering wood (for extra joists) and stud walls, and have just today picked up a trailer full of insulation. I also hired a hot water pressure washer/steam cleaner yesterday and spent 12 solid hours deep cleaning every joist, every engine component, every inch of Nick's Leyland Tiger I could find. So now it is not only in almost perfect condition, it is beautifully shiny too!!
The demolition stage is over. The construction stage begins tomorrow. First jobs are: rust-treat the chassis, lay aluminium flashing at base of floor joists, cut and fit all insulation, construct stud walls, seal everything, lay plywood floor in bedroom and kitchen, lay oak floorboards in living room, cut holes for hatches in floor. That should keep me busy enough...
Please let me know what you think in the comments box below, and share to anyone you think may be interested. Thanks!