~ Woman learns how to convert a shuttle bus into a tiny home from TV, Google and YouTube. ~
Interview By: Brock Butterfield ~
Shuttle Bus Conversion By: Tabatha Marie
-Model: E-450 Shuttle Bus
-Motor: Super Duty
-Interior Square Footage: Well, 25 Feet x 7 Feet
-Current Location: Long Island, New York
-Purchased From/Location: New York
-Cost in materials for the conversion: Endless
What made you want to complete a bus conversion?
After converting a vintage travel trailer and vintage pop up, I needed more space and the freedom to pick up and go. Being able to drive off with everything you need and the ability to customize a home on wheels, was all I needed to convince myself a bus conversion was for me.
What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself along the way?
I knew the basics from watching shows on television, searching Google and YouTube. As I went along in the conversion, I learned solar, electric and utilization of living space and storage.
What was the hardest part of the bus conversion and what guidance would you give others for that part?
The hardest part was removing the wheelchair lift and the rows of seating. I went through so many saw blades, drill bits and fingers. A commercial bus has extremely hard flooring and thick metal. Which needs to be considered when having to use tools.
We’ve learned that you also helped your daughter convert her bus. Tell us about that experience.
Yes, we loved traveling together, and I saw her desire to go out on her own. She was so interested in watching the process. I decided she was turning 18, she had some driving experience, and just graduated high school. I knew a vintage skoolie, would be perfect for her to adventure and find herself before she committed to college or adulting. We worked long hours to turn her bus into a reflection of who she is. Lola is a dream come true for Lex, and I am so stoked that she takes off with a brave soul to discover all the beauty that's out in this world.
Lola the short bus conversion was created by Lexi and her mother Tabitha.
Where do you mostly park the bus?
My bus is parked where I live. As most bus lifers know , conversions attract a lot of attention, especially ones with huge silver feathers and curtains everywhere. For safety reasons, and privacy I prefer to keep my bus close by.
What make and model did you end using for the following:
- Solar panels: 165 watt Renogy TILT kit/ roof mounted and a 50 watt flat panel for rear system that I hang off the back window with a suction cup when parked so I can move it as needed.
- charge controller I purchased a few before I finally found one that had all the features I needed - this is still a lesson in progress,
- batteries : (3) Interstate Marine Deep Cell Batteries and adding more as I go
- I have 2 battery banks, 3 inverters and 2 solar chargers - one in the rear and one in the center.
- Kitchen stove - I absolutely adore the Butane single burner stove, it lasts for 100’s of cookings and butane is cheap. However, my plan would be to get a Camp Chef Stove so I can use the 1 lb can propane and be able to have an oven.
- Kitchen sink - This is a clever creation, I don't do standard or off the shelf type of decor, my sink was a melamine bowl that I cut and made into a perfect size sink for my kitchen counter.
- Refridge - I have 2 - Coleman 12 volt for off grid and a larger 110 when on grid.
- Faucet that's another area of creativity I chose a 12 inch swivel faucet, and installed it by my kitchen window, so that I can also use it as an outdoor shower, sounds crazy but it works. I can swivel it out the casement style window that shuttle bus have that lift up and when the water is on it is the perfect height for outdoor showering.
- Pump I used a small 12 volt water pump and hooked directly to my center battery bank, I also installed a on off lighted LED switch that I mounted to a piece of barn board and made a backsplash so with a flip of a switch, I have off grid water.
- Toilet - I am not a fan of compost and I'm not a fan of flush, so with that said I chose Stansport Easy Portable Toilet the best $50.00 I spent. I use colored scented small garbage bags knot the bottom, do the deed, bag it, knot it and toss it. Done. no mess no spills, no hassle.
- Shower creativity strikes again, I used a vintage galvanized 24x24 round basin as a tub, I set a drain in the center that drains under the bus with a flex hose. The shower head I did get fancy, I went with a rain shower head. I do have the shower setup for on and off grid. I use a 12 volt submersible pump and 5 gallon water tanks.
- Hot water source: I have set up a in demand water heater that I hardly use.
- My conversion is somewhat different than any I have seen on the internet, that my bus is not a build out. I did not like the idea of being committed to a floor plan and tons of walls and cabinetry. I wanted a open feel with all natural light. But mostly the freedom to alter my floorplan as the seasons change on my many travel adventures. I used threaded large Eye Hook bolts and L brackets that countersunk into the many threaded pre drilled holes in the floor along the rails of the walls. This gives me the ability to still move my couch, bed etc but, secure all my furniture to the floor. It is something that should be considered when doing a conversion. Its nice to move your table to the front or back of your bus.
What is the most unique feature of your conversion?
The most unique feature is the gypsy style decor that I use in all my conversions. I divided up a 4 wood hand carved room divider into walls for the bathroom and 2 I used as closets in the rear of the bus, I also use mixed fabrics, linens, lace and cottons. The more romantic and dreamy the better is how I see things.
What do you do for income?
I presently am an Account Executive for a technology company, while I continue to tweak my conversion, and my youngest son Billy Lee, finishes out high school. I live in my bus part time. Once he settles into school or life, than I can make the transition to full time, and all while paying for the conversion on a full time salary. It's a win - win.
So when the time comes, I'm off and driving.
What is the plan now that your bus conversion is road ready?
I have a list of to see places, and can't wait to be free from life's restraints. To be able to drive from state to state stay as long or as short of time as I want. You can't put a price on that. My daughter and I have big plans.
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)
I presently have a website : www.TinyMobileLiving.com
My instagram is: @the_boho_bus
Facebook page: Extreme Glampers Club
All with a variety of mobile conversions.