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Is This RVer Too Cool for a Skoolie Bus Conversion Project?

A school bus conversion project (known as “Skoolies”) isn’t for the faint of heart. Only the most ambitious RVers with the construction skills to complete the job ever see their skoolie dream become reality.

This fixer-upper project is about to become a skoolie bus conversion RV.

1999 Thomas SafTLiner MVP DIY skoolie bus project
William Bailey

Each day there’s a RVer somewhere who buys an old school bus with the most sincere intentions to fix it up and go on the road. And every other day you’ll find another skoolie dreamer who surrenders to a dwindling budget or a spouse who wants it gone.

A skoolie bus conversion project is a never-ending To-Do list that isn’t for everybody. But for Bill Bailey in Maryland, this bus conversion is right up his alley.

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William Bailey Skoolie Bus Conversion DIY RVer
Rene Agredano

Do you have what it takes for a skoolie bus conversion project?

Bailey is a computer geek by day, a skoolie fanatic by night. He lives, breathes and eats all skoolie, all the time. He’s dubbed his project “The Journey Visvi” and says:

For those who don’t read Cherokee “Visvi” means Journey. I gues that means my title is the Journey Journey. Kind of redundant I know.

No stranger to RV conversion projects, Bailey has attempted other DIY RV projects in the past, like his white Ford E350’s van conversion:

Ford E350 DIY Van Conversion
William Bailey

He learned some lessons with that van conversion that are serving him well as he dives into his bus conversion project:

I thought, I have skills, I can do this. So I started looking for a van to buy. I think I was in to much of a hurry to escape and made many mistakes. I should have known to take a step back and think things through when I bought the van.

This time around for his upcoming skoolie bus conversion project, Bailey did his research. His current rig was a diamond in the rough at a school bus auction. It only had 140,000 miles and 147,000 hours on the Allison engine. Before giving the winning bid, he inspected the maintenance records which he says were the best out of all 14 buses at the auction.

I’m now the proud owner of a 1999 Thomas Saf-T-Liner MVP ER SCHOOL BUS, CAT 3126 7.2L L6 DIESEL with the Allison MD 3060!

What did he pay for this 34′ long skoolie dream in 2013? $2,605!

Bailey driving 1999 Thomas SafTLiner MVP bus
William Bailey

Bailey’s blog, The Journey Visvi, his Journey Visvi Facebook page and detailed posts in discuss some of the unexpected hurdles he’s encountered. For example:

  • In order to drive his bus on the highway from the auction to his hometown, he needed to get temporary tags.
  • But to get the tags, state law required him to cover up the yellow school bus paint.
  • To change colors, he had to drive it to his workshop.
  • The only way to get around this dilemma was to tow it around!

But Bailey doesn’t give up that easily. He hasn’t let convoluted bureaucratic problems get to him, and although funding shortages have slowed down his Journey Visvi, he hasn’t given up.

Money helps when you’re fixing up a skoolie bus.

Raised roof 1999 Thomas SafTLiner Skoolie DIY project
William Bailey

Ran out of money last spring, seems to be an important item. 🙂 I do have a refrigerator and 6′ sofa. Stated to install walls for the bathroom. I will post what was done and give an update. I plan to rip out what I did and redo it.

A skoolie bus conversion project is an ongoing adventure. See more of Bailey’s project at The Journey Visvi and check out these other cool skoolie conversions:

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