The FOOL BUS
The FOOL BUS
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Specs:
Chassis: 1975 Ford B-610
Body: Sheller-Globe Corp Superior school bus shell
Capacity: 54 passenger
Length: 30' 10"
Weight: Title says 12 tons
Height: 107" ground to top; 6' headroom
Width: 91" inside
Engine: HD for "Heavy Duty" 330 ci big block V8
2-barrel Motorcraft carburetor
Miles: 104,000+
Tranny: Split-shift 5-speed Clark Heavy Duty 285 w/ Eaton something 2-speed rear axle.
Dual-line power brakes, Eaton Medium Duty Power Steering
Purchase price: $125
Color upon purchase: sky blue
Age of owner: 18
Vida: Loca.
All Your Base Are Belong To Us

We don't need no education; we don't need no thought control.
A fool doth think he is wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. ~ Shakespeare

Hoo-haa and welcome to bus-land. A converted bus is all things to some people, and nothing to most people. Converted buses live at the edge of reality, at the edge of the law. Many people think me crazy, especially the members of my group. My group, you see, consists of my friends who say they are willing to pitch in money, time, and advice in return for a stake in my bus conversion project. I've been told that I think too much and I try too hard. Do you? I hope so. "Only those that attempt the absurd achieve the impossible." C y b e r sAM once told me, "People will either love you or hate you for owning a school buss."
There are many types of buses out there. Many of those on the Internet are listed on the links page. You can get a new bus or a used bus. You can get a transit and be a "transient" or a school bus and be a "sKoolie" or you can buy a greyhound and be known as "way too rich." One thing that really irks me is people who make webpages solely devoted to fancy custom-made $300,000 coaches like Prevosts, totally ignoring school buses and transits. I saw a site that listed the brands of fancy buses, and then in the "Other" category I found a Flxible, another tour bus! You can convert a bus into a house or you can make a hippie/party bus. You can live full time or just take groovy trips in it. You can go somewhere nice but normal, like a national park, or you can go somewhere totally mind-bending like Burning Man.
I've chosen to convert an old school bus into a groovalicious funkmobile. You could call it a Pimpmobile. Or you could call it Castle Grayskull. Or you could call it a tractor in a fish's mouth. What I'm trying to do is set a record for least cost, most luck, and most fun. And most insanity. On the group page you'll see a menagerie with the highest concentration of insanity you'll ever see.
In my quest I have faced a few obstacles. The first one, easily banished, was the pessimism of my family. My parents believe I am powerless to do anything interesting. I beg to differ. I can do anything I put my mind to. Can you? Lack of money is an obvious drawback to the situation, but not nearly as great as the lack of chicks. So far I haven't gotten any girls to commit to the project. The money situation is not nearly as bad as it might have been. At one point I was prepared to buy a $1500 bus. Ha! In my attempt to set a lower limit on expenditures, my main opponent is the G. The G tries to stick its paws into every honeypot it can find. Did you know that horse-and-carriages didn't need to be registered? Did you know they didn't need license plates? Did you know they didn't need driver's licenses? We are all cash-cows for the G.
Why did I start writing this, you ask? Did I want to help people become a sKOOLie like me? Yeah. Did I start writing my thoughts down because my friends won't respond to my emails? Yeah, that too. Did I run out of things do do one night? Yes. Ooops- I said "do do"! That's why the English language is the best; we can say something that sounds like feces when you're not actually referring to feces.
In the past, I had thought vaguely about having a school bus and furnishing it and going on trips, but I never thought it was in my price range, so I forgot about it. Once I wrote down some ideas for a Fool Bus. I wrote that I wanted 10 forward gears and 2 reverse gears. Wow, I guess I got that now! I also said I wanted hydraulic doors like on a Delorean.
What brought me into this strange underworld of wonder? One day I bought a classic car selling magazine, looking for neat cars. Eventually I got it in my head that I wanted a '65 Mercury Comet Caliente for $4000. It seemed like a good deal, so I went down to see it with Dan Humphrey. It was 60 miles away at a used car lot/classic car dealer/junkyard called Austen Auto Center. When we got there it had already been sold, so we looked around. One thing there was a 1979 International school bus for $1695. It was pretty cool, but I didn't give it much thought. I lost interest in the Caliente, but in my search for it, I got on the car place's email list, so I got updates every week or two.

Day One
One Friday night, November 12, 1999, I checked my email and looked again at that message. I realized that I had everything in the purchase price except the 1, if you know what I mean. I talked to my sister and my cousins, and they were enthusiastic. My sister and I both had 2-seat couches and stereos.

Day Two
I got a driver's manual book to see what kind of license I'd need. It seemed like I'd need a chauffer's license. I planned a trip to see the bus I'd seen before.

Day Three
As soon as I could, I sent an email out to a bunch of my friends. By splitting the cost five ways, we would each spend only $339, and it would cost less if more people joined. I got out my Best of The Doors CD. In "The End" he says "Da blue bus is callin' us. The blue bus is callin' us. Driver where you takin' us?" Only one of my friends responds to email readily, that's Jordan, so we exchanged lots of emails about all the things we would do and what we would need for insurance. I printed out my first email to show to people the next day in school. Jordan told me of a bus a guy in town was selling for $800. I looked down in my basement and found that I had some stereo equipment. I had a high-quality tape deck with lots of features, two large floor speakers, two smaller speakers, an 8-inch bare cone, and my sister and I both had stereos with detachable speakers. I also found that I got two turntables and a microphone. To this day I am not tired of saying that I got two turntables and a microphone, just like in the song. It seemed as if everything we needed was already lying around waiting to be used.

Day Four
I talked to a bunch of friends and some were interested and some weren't. That week I did lots of stuff. I decided to split it ten ways so it would cost less.

Day Something Later
I found out that the guy with the $800 bus would be selling it for $700 and that one with shot brakes would go for $200.

Day Something After That
I talked to the people at the driver's license station and they were talkin' shizzt about commercial driver's licenses and pig-hauling and silliness like that. After that I went to talk to a guy that runs the music store and owns a bus used as an RV. He told me he got it registered as an RV with no muss no fuss by just walking into the courthouse and asking for it. He didn't need a special license. He didn't need special insurance. His only justification for this was a jubilant exhortation of "It's a camper!" which he repeated a few times. I've later found out that it is indeed fine to register it as an RV and that makes the license OK too. It turns out that to get a bus insured as an RV requires a little bit of "not volunteering information" and saying the bus is an RV. This guy may have had it converted, so I'll have to ask him what his insurance company and policy are.

Day Some Other Day
Some of us talked to the guy with the $700 bus and set up a time to go see it. He wasn't able to make it so he canceled later.
At one point we figured out that the price of the $200 bus plus $200-300 for brakes would add up to less than $700. The $700 bus, though, had a new engine.
When I talked to the guy with the bus he said that he could sell it to a junk yard for $150 and that it would cost $25 to have it towed, so he would sell it to us as-is for $125. I thanked him for his generosity. My gosh, I thought, this bus just keeps getting cheaper and cheaper! The guy recommended a mechanic who lived near there that had bus experience so we wouldn't need to have it towed. BTW, the owner of the bus didn't know which it was at the skating rink. It later turned out that he couldn't possibly have driven it at all, according to the title and the odometer.

Day 18-21 or something
I talked to the mechanic and he said it's not the brake pads, it's the brake lines that needed fixing. That would be $100-200.

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Send your comments (or comets if you have a cold) to Cole Petersburg (colep at iastate dot edu)