Felix, The Escapologist's Caravan A.K.A. his 'Skoolie'.
  Felix the Caravan  

Escapologist's Felix the caravan page.

I'm thinking about taking an old school bus and turning it into a caravan. I believe that is called making a "Skoolie."

My first steps were:
  1... Get a subscription to "Bus Conversion Magazine" busconversions.com,
  2... Start reading on "The School Bus Conversion Network" A.K.A. skoolie.net,
  3... Start reading on "The Good Sam Club Forum" A.K.A. rv.net,
  4... Take a trip down to Rocky Mountain Bus Sales rockymtnbus.com to look at all the different
type of busses and which one would be best for what I wanted to do.
I have read:
  "If you want a 'GO FAST BUS', buy a bus with a Cummins 8.3 engine, a MT643 or MD3060 transmission and a 4.10 rear end. End of discussion"
  "The DT466 is a great engine, and the MD3060 is the best trans you can get in a bus."
First bus I looked at and liked.
Felix the Caravan
Year Of Mfg 2003
Model RE
Capacity 42+5
Engine 3126 CAT
Brakes AIR
Miles 87,591
Price $18,000
Description Very nice high capacity special needs Western bus. 250 horsepower 3126 Cat engine, MD-3060 transmission, air brakes, 78 inch headroom, air drivers seat and air entrance door, full acoustic ceiling, two roof hatches and four push out windows, Midship Ricon lift, Q=straints tie downs, heated mirrors, cruise, block heater. 1874 total hours, 33000 GVWR. Strong running bus.

For the inside I was thinking something simple like this, for either a weekend trip, or when I'm performing and going on the road for a month or more. I like it livable; having room for me to relax, sleep, eat, and work in, yet still having room for my larger escape equipment to be tied down.

I don't need a multimillion dollar recreational vehicle or something luxurious, just somewhere to stay dry, fed, and cool or warm, depending on the season.
  Before I forget, some people are asking me, why am I using a bus, and doing all the work to convert it and not just getting a premade caravan? The answer is not that simple.

1... I need room for my magic and escape props. I've looked in a lot of caravans. They have very tight living space, and very little storage; not to mention a very narrow door that my trunks would never fit through.
2... The water closets are usually the size of a phone booth, and I don't want to sit on the porcelain throne as I take my shower or brush my teeth.
3... and last school busses are built like tanks.
The start of Felix the Caravan.

In making my plan of attack, I first needed to get a bus, and then completely clean out its interior.This way I'd have a blank slate to start measuring and planning. Of course, you need to have a basic idea what you want long before this.

My floor plan will be: bedroom in the back, bathroom/wet room next, and in the front the kitchen, eating, and living area, with a lot of space reserved for my escape equipment, supplies, and costumes as well.

This is where my plans and sequence of when I do what to the bus, changes from most bus converters. It seems I'm going to be hitting the road running, so to speak. Once the bus is emptied and cleaned out I'll be using Felix as a makeshift caravan/living space while on the road; I know I'll be roughing it; it will be just a step or two above a tent at first, but I will be dry and off the ground, at least. I'll be leaving the original interior walls and insulation in place for now but will be changing them later on. My first priority will be the proper sizing and permanent installation of the fresh, gray, and black holding tanks, and possibly a propane tank as well. I’ll also be installing a temporary water closet to make it livable for now, because you can't live without a loo. I will be using a extension cord, A.K.A shore power, for my 120-AC needs at first, at least until I can decide what inverter/charger with a solar controller would work best. Yes, I am still facing a dilemma between using a backup propane generator, or using solar. Either way, I have to install some house batteries, but that is way down the road. During the first month on the road and living in Felix, I'm hoping to shakedown and tighten up my ideas, fine-tune them, then finalize my floorplan, get most of the utilities installed, and install a tow hitch so I can tow my car behind me.

I will also be removing some windows and skinning over the holes to give me a little more privacy. I'm hoping to be using the help of some of my friends who have a plasma plate cutting machine with this endeavor.

Picking up Felix. Picking up Felix the Caravan
Once I had chosen my bus, the first real step was going down and doing all the paperwork to make Felix mine. I made sure all the Colorado safety and air emissions requirements were passed, then had to get familiar with how to start, run, and drive her on the road, not to mention find out what the 150 switches that are in the driver’s area do. Then off to make her first appointment to get something done. That “something” was getting a “Class 3” trailer hitch installed. As I have said, I’d be hitting the road in just over a month after getting the bus, and I need to have a car when I’m on the road, seams McDonalds or other drive though restaurants frown when you pull a forty foot lorry into their parking lot, so I’ll be towing my VW Jetta Wagon behind me to use to runabout the town once I set up the caravan where I'll be staying.

Felix the Caravan I planned to go to American Car Dolly.com and get a dolly. Nice thing about them is they deliver FREE anywhere in the 48 con!guous United States, and even better is that they are the manufacturer and sell wholesale direct to the public, so there are no dealer fees. Felix the Caravan

One thing I needed to do before my first road trip, which was coming up very quickly, was to install a bed. So I built a bed platform out of 2x4's and plywood. Luckily I found plans online, and it turned out very stable for $30.00+ of wood.

First road trip part one was Denver, Colorado to Muskogee, Oklahoma. Did it in two days, did not rush, and even stopped to see a few things along the way. Everything worked fine, thank goodness. Later on, we would be going to Eminence, Kentucky, Durant, Oklahoma, then back to Denver.

In Muskogee at the Hidden Valley RV Park. They were very nice people, although I did not completely fit in. It was an eye opener to things I need to do to start fixing up Felix to turn her into a caravan from a bus.

Drilled a 2.25 inch hole

Installed a 50amp RC plug.
Pluged Felix into shore power.
One thing I needed to do was add power or 120 volts A.C. to the inside once I got to Muskogee, OK. It was okay using power cords at first, but leaving them laying over the floor made great trip hazards, and I was limited to only 15 amps, which was just enough to run my portable room air conditioner, or the ice box and a light. So I decided to add a 50amp RV plug to the outside of Felix and put in a fuse box with GIF circuit breakers. So now I have all the power I want or need. Plus it has given me a good insight to where I truly need the 120 volts A.C. and some USB plugs when I redo the walls and put all the wiring in permanently.

  I added a hardwired 50amp surge guard power protection from TRC to my caravan. They come in both 30 and 50amp, as well as hardwired or portable, I chose to get the hardwired one because once it is installed I can forget about it and it will always be protecting me. The portable one is simpler and less expensive because you just need to do is plug it in and there is no installation fees, but you have to plug it into the power line everytime.  

Privacy, A.K.A. sheeting over the windows.
Have you noticed I live in a glass house, people from all sides can see in and see me inside it. Not to mention it is a giant green house letting all the sun and heat in durring the day making it impossable to keep cool.

So I frosted a few windows so people could not see inside, and to see if that would help me decide what windows I wanted to remove and replace by reskining there holes.

After living in the bus for a month I decided to replace 17 of the 26 windows with steel panels. I went to YOUNG'S SHEET METAL, INC. and ordered 18 steel inserts to replace the windows. They were very helpful, they even came and measured the window openings then made one insert to test fit. they had to cut, bend, and weld the steel to the same size and thickness as the old bus windows and there frames. By the way they are not just square. ,
, After that I took them over to a friends house and they helped sand, prime, and paint them with a Almond color paint. Actual we used Majic Tractor, Truck, and Implement paint and the color was "I.H.White". I was very lucky they have a spray gun and someone knew how to use it.
, After everything dried, the fun began. I moved all the freshly painted panels into Felix. Then we removed all the windows I wanted to replace. I thought that be the easy part, but I found out each window was screwed in at four places then caulked both inside and out. So after they were taken out we had to go back an scrape and clean all the old caulking off. Then it was a simple matter of applying new caulking, pressing the panels into place, then fastening the hardware to hold them in. ,
, And behold after a week of work, on and off of course Felix is now partly window free, when we were installing each panel we made sure to caulk the top, bottom, and sides with the proper RV caulk. Once it was finished you could tell it was cooler inside and that Felix had a lot more wall space. , ,

Even though I got rid of 17 of the 26 windows to stop some of the "solar green hous" heating problem, and believe me that helped a lot, but I was still living in a large tin can. Where it got rather warm, near toasty inside I'd say, so I added some 3/4 inch foam; that is an R4 or so they say, to where the steel window plugs were installed. Once again you could drastically feel the heat drop again to a tolerable level, that is if I use some fans. This has taught me that when I get ready to put in the permanent interior exterior walls I will first be removing all the inside walls and the original installation and having some professionals come in and spray foam a good 3 inchs over every part of the inside of the outside skin. This will drastically help keep the heat out in the summer and better yet keep all the wonderful cold the air-conditioner makes inside.

Bare steel cleaned and ready for paint.   Primer coat applied.   2 coats of RUST-OLEUM paint.   3/4 inch R4 insulation installed.

Paint: Some places don't like "School Bus Yellow"
Believe it or not I've found out some Towns, Citys, Countys and States have rules, ordinances dare I say laws about having a bus and it being "School Bus Yellow" if you are not a school bus that belongs to a school and is working for a school. I can understand that, guess they don't want the little tikes loading into someones caravan when it stops at a red light.

So I've decided to give Felix a new paint colour. Been trying to think of a good colour and if I wanted just one colour, or two, maybe a stripe or two to liven it up. I'll be using Felix when I'm on the road perforning as well as just going to some events durring the year so I was thinking something colourful but not obnoxious or from the 70's like the Partridge family bus. Being from Colorado I already have a stigma that I'm trying to forget, live down, and stay away from.
I plan to take an idea from the English Circus lorrys from the late 30's, early 40's. I found this photograph on a Danny Kaye movie called "Merry Andrew" (1958) it is a colour scheme from a by gone age and it looks like a simple one to duplicate. The two colour I pick was from a truck I saw at a car show Almond and a Medium Olive Green.

What do you think?
Felix the caravan's floor plan

  Trying to work on the floor plan for Felix. Bedroom with a closet and dresser in the back of course . Storage room, bathroom, laundry room on the center. Kitchen, eating area, in the front.

One thing I'm thinking about is a traditional wood or coal boat cook stove with a oven. Good heat, easy to fine fuel, and it will help with the humidity inside the caravan. Since they are designed for marine use they are built small and for a small craft.


   First look under the bus, starting to think about waste water tanks both gray and black. Then a caravan Propane-LP tank-horizontal of course, and a generator.

  Big day has come, I've ordered both my black and gray tanks from Tank Mart They are just a reseller like a few other companics and sell a plethora of stock tanks or they could custom order and have one built from one of the manufactures in the United States for you, so they had anything I wanted. They were very friendly talked to me for a long time answering all my questions. They also check back with me a few time to see if everything was just right before I put in my order.


End of page for now, more to come.