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Olaf & Elke
Toyota Coaster Conversion
A diary about converting my Toyota Coaster school bus into a motorhome.
5 Feb 2019There was always the idea in my head to build a tiny house or a convert a van. A tiny house needs a piece of (expensive) land to rest and a van offers not enough space to really live in it. Both ideas were very tempting but somehow not really ideal for me.
I hesitated a little while but then realized that there is nothing to loose here. I could always sell it if it doesn't work out.
Get her registered
18 Feb 2019Because the bus has a maximum weight of 4.99t, I would have needed a special licence to drive it. After a bit of research I found out that most people get it "down-graded" to a 4.49t light vehicle that can be driven with a normal licence. So I had to take all seats out, put a temporary bed in and got an engineer to certify it as a 3-seater motorhome.
First day at home
20 Feb 2019First day home. I took these photos and sent them to an insurance company specialized in motor-homes and camper vans. It wasn't too expensive to get comprehensive insurance.
Not too much rust on the bus either but parts of the paint came off when the previous owners tried to take of some stickers.
Couch and Guest BedHere is a section of the bus where I tried to figure out how to best fit furniture to the walls. I'm using 4 mm plywood sheets and dressed timber. The lower timber is fixed with M 10 screws to the threats where the seats where mounted. This should be very solid. There are also threats on the floor I can use.
The Floor is just a simple 12 mm plywood. I replaced the old vinyl with commercial grade vinyl planks. This seemed the best option. I would have liked to put some real timber in it but the height of the bus was already just high enough for me to stand.
The wood is treated with natural linseed oil. This gives some basic protection and brings out the texture. I might finish some exposed parts with bee wax to seal them off. Bee wax is one of the most resistant substances on the planet.
Floor and Water DamageTurns out the left side tail light was leaking and the last plank had some serious water damage. It had to be replace. Underneath where some patches of rust. Most of the rust just traveled from a few spots and could be wiped away. I treated all the rusty bits with rust converter and painted them with primer and enamel. I should have done that before I put the floor in but I thought I could ignore the rust as there was only a little bit visible inside.The new marine grade water resistant plywood. I also treated it with good old linseed oil. You can see the neat and tidy white metal beams after rust treatment.
I am insulating the bus interior with Earth Wool from Bunnings. A pack is about $ 70 and it will last for all parts. When insulating it's important that you leave no gaps. This type of insulation is much better than solid sheets.
The windows will be either behind cupboards or will have fly screens so I'm not too fuzzed about the tinting.
Starting with the KitchenNow that the floor is in I can actually start thinking about the rest of the fit out.
I used 3ds max to plan the interior. It would be silly to waste any space. Storage will always be very valuable. So I figured out what I need in the kitchen: A fridge, a gas cooker, a sink and a microwave. I decided against an oven as they are very expensive, still look a bit flimsy and take a lot of space.I'm using pine as much as I can. It is cheap and I can get it in many sizes as dressed planks. I don't have proper joiner machinery so I need to rely on screws a lot. The three structures under the bench top are the main support for the kitchen cabinets. They are fixed to the old seat belt threats and to the floor. It doesn't move a bit. Better a few screws too many than not enough.
Test Drive to BrisbaneI did a bit of body work while waiting for the gas bottle box. I closed the whole and treated all little rust bits on this side. Then I used putty to smooth out where the paint came off. It's not the original paint so you can see where I spray painted it. The little things you learn while doing it. I don't want it to rust and hopefully the enamel spray paint will do just that. Let's say it will have a bit of character.
I haven't decided yet if I will use the original paint for the side or the same white enamel. The enamel is a bit harder. The original water based paint will take a lot longer to get hard.
I went to Brisbane to get the shower, toilet and sink as well as the gas bottle box. You can't have any gas bottles inside. They need to be sealed off and only accessible from the outside.
The bus did run very smooth. After all it's a Toyota and with only around 300.000 km on the clock it hasn't traveled too much for a bus.
Gasbox and more Work on the KitchenThe gas bottle needs to be in a sealed box. It can't be inside the bus by regulations. It's a box for 2 4l gas bottles. Probably one bottle would have been enough. I had to cut a pretty big hole into the side of the bus. From my engineering background I deemed it save. Because of all the windows the chassis sits on a strong frame.
SolarThe power centre in the back of the bus. The very heavy batteries at the bottom and the solar regulator and a inverter above. Nothing connected yet.I only put 2 solar cells onto the roof as a start. They have 160 Watts each and are connected in a sequence. The other 2 will be connected in a sequence too and then both pairs go parallel into the MPPT regulator.
Toilet and ShowerThe shower module I bought from a company in Brisbane. It's custom made to fit into the Toyota Coaster.It is not very heavy but I fixed it to the chassis and floor on at least 6 points. The door will also stiffen it out.
3D DesignI'm using 3ds max for figuring out how to construct some of the parts of the bus interior. Other parts I figure out as I go.
Water, Bed and Storage AreaNow with the shower module in I can finally start working on all remaining parts.
The fridge seen on the right side has been working on solar for weeks now. So did the ceiling fan which is a live saver when the sun comes out.
I had to replace some of the original ceiling after cutting a hole on the wrong side. It is quite confusing when you have to mirror the cut-outs. It does look good though and breaks the monotony of the long ceiling panels. I used 3 or 4 mm plywood from Bunnings.This is a hot water unit that runs on 12 V or 220 V. I won't connect the 220 V for now. I am trying to run as much as possible on solar power. The unit is meant to use 25 Amp on 12V for about 30 min to heat up 10 l of water to 75 degrees.
StorageUnder the bed will be the main storage area.
The gap on the right side of it will be filled with a small cupboard I have. I left the gap for it but it is very tight and I may have to cut some parts off the top of the cupboard.
It would be good to use this cupboard. It has 2 drawers and some space to hang clothes. And it is very light weight.
Something I wanted to have is space around the kitchen bench for food containers, cups or anything else. The board is fixed to the old seat-belt screws. Super stable.
The brand new mattress and some overhead cupboards. I first wanted the cupboards all the way to the back but it turned out it makes the sleeping booth a little bit claustrophobic. I wanted at least be able to sit there. This is a good compromise I think.
I bought another battery. You can really only use half of the capacity of AGM batteries. Now I have 420 Amp/hours nominal and I can use 210 of them over night or on grey days. I Hope that will be enough. I finally put the 2 other solar panels on the roof.
The 2 departments are closed off now with fly-screen doors. The upper door needs to be a bit easier to open or close.
Getting finishedThe current view with 90% of work done.
I added a little book shelve and a food cabinet for olive oil, vinegar or cereals to the shower wall. It will get a door.
Two drawers under the stove and another under the microwave compartment.
Curtain rails are in partly and I all parts for them arrived.
Opposite the bed is a little cupboard I got years ago from Vinnies. It has hanging space and 2 drawers plus 2 open shelves. And it is super light. I had to cut the top a bit to make it fit.
The other great little helpers are the telescopic hydraulic mounts that keep the overhang cabinets open or closed. Only $ 2-3 per piece from China like most good stuff these days.
Now I have a double bed at the end of the bus like almost everyone else who converted a Coaster.
The walkway was nice but it's not necessary at all. I left a bit of space to the back door if I ever would need to open the door from the inside. I can stand there and it's also a good spot for the dirty laundry.
The cupboard is a lot smaller but holds almost the same amount of clothing. The rest went into the top drawer. The bottom drawer is high enough to hold all the bottles for cleaning etc. It's a good idea to figure out what exactly to store before you build any storage.
The drawers are 60 cm deep. I could have made them deeper but I didn't want to spend the extra $230 for the sliders. I used old sliders instead. They still hold almost the same amount of things that the old drawers. The rest went under the bed or in the bin.
The most difficult thing was to build the bed on top of the existing water tank and electrical appliances. I figured it out with the help of 3ds max.
- I added a swivel table recently to not ruin my back when I have to work on my laptop.
- Another fan at the front.
- Block-out curtains everywhere for stealth and to keep the sun out in summer.
- I moved the 2nd speaker to the front. It sounds much better now. The speaker holds just on one large bolt screwed in where the seatbelt used to be fitted.
- I removed the 3rd seat. It was wasting space and I can store the bike where it was.
- There is some wood to cover the engine access. Looks nicer. Below of it I made a show box and a slightly hidden box for the laptop.