This Cute City Bus RV Build Is A Nicer Home Than Your Apartment

Once a bus has served its life as a people carrier, it sometimes ends up in the hands of an ambitious custom motorhome builder. Most bus conversions in America are done on school buses, but sometimes, a builder gets a little weird and turns a city bus into an RV. This Gillig Low Floor was once a workhorse of an American city, now it’s a rolling home that looks better than many of the apartments I’ve seen up for grabs lately.

I’ve long been an advocate for transit bus conversions. That’s not to say that a school bus build is a bad idea. School buses are practically a dime a dozen and are often easier to repair than transit buses. But it’s hard to make a school bus look like a real RV and not a backyard project. School bus floors also tower high off of the ground and builders also often need to raise school bus roofs so they don’t bang their heads.

Vidframe Min Top

Vidframe Min Bottom

The transit bus fixes so many of these problems. Their floors are usually low to the ground, they have high ceilings from the factory, and they blend in a bit better than a retired school bus. As a bonus, buying a former transit bus means getting a cushy air suspension and sometimes an overpowered air-conditioner. Running costs might be higher, but for some, a transit bus is the way to rock. Additional good news here is the fact that this conversion is based on a Gillig Low Floor, a common platform that has reliably gotten countless Americans to work. It’s still in production, too, so parts will be less of a headache.

The Workhorse

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I’ve written about Gillig before, but here’s a quick reminder of the company’s origins:

Gillig’s history dates back to 1890, when the Gillig brothers started a carriage and wagon shop in San Francisco. Jacob Gillig was a carriage builder and upholsterer by trade. His brother, Leo Gillig, was a shop foreman before becoming a business partner. Their shop was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but the brothers rebuilt the shop and added a third Gillig brother, Chester, as a bookkeeper. The rebuilt shop was named the Leo Gillig Automobile Works and in 1914, the Gilligs expanded into a three-story factory. Now, the company would get a fitting name, Gillig Brothers, and the business expanded quickly into car bodies and various commercial vehicles. The company even built a car top that was designed to enclose a convertible in two minutes’ time.

Gillig Brothers diversified its line when released its first school bus in 1932. Since Gillig’s other products weren’t performing well during the Great Depression the company shifted its focus to transit. At the same time, Gillig was also a distributor of Superior Coach professional cars and a builder of ambulance bodies. The company continues to build all sorts of buses today, long after its founders’ deaths.

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Gillig

The Gillig Low Floor was introduced in 1996 as ‘the bus of the future.’ As the story goes, Hertz, the rental car company, wanted a shuttle bus to get people to and from rental counters and airport terminals. At the time, transit buses were known for having somewhat high floors, which required passengers to step into the coach, dragging their luggage with them. The Gillig Phantom was like this and Hertz wanted something better. Hertz and Gillig worked together on a low-floor bus, one that would be far better for passengers in wheelchairs or had a lot of belongings to carry with them.

I’m going to paste a snippet of Gillig’s press release here because how often do you get to read about buses?

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To further accommodate its passengers, the H2000LF employs a waist-high luggage rack across an entire side of the bus to alleviate the need for customers to store heavy bags above their heads. Another enhancement is the multi-level seating, which offers customers an elevated seating area at the back of the bus for better visibility. Whether seated on the lower level or in the “lounge,” customers are offered a fully carpeted bus that provides the smoothest bus ride possible today. Other enhancements include anti-skid brakes, a unique sound dampening floor over the engine compartment, an electronic announcement system, and full bus kneeling, which lowers the bus closer to the ground for easier boarding.

In addition to the above advancements, Gillig put its new bus on a strict diet. Now, we are Americans, so that means measuring things in weird ways. Gillig says these buses, which are made out of an aluminum alloy, weigh “two full-size Ford Tauruses” less than the previous Gillig Phantom transit bus.

This RV Build

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This particular Gillig Low Floor is the smallest available, an adorable 29-footer. To give you an idea of what you’ll be working with, this bus has a GVWR of 30,000 pounds. The seller says the bus is a “2020,” but this must mean when the conversion was completed. Based on the front door design, this coach is older than 2008. Despite the age, the coach is said to have just 80,000 miles.

Starting with the exterior, the bus was modified to have a few windows removed. The rear door was also swapped out from the original bus door to what appears to be an RV-style door. It’s unclear what transit authority this bus used to belong to because the body has been given a stylish bus wrap. Also unclear is what happened to the front right turn indicator, but that’s a part that shouldn’t be hard to replace.

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The real cool part is what’s inside. The seller says the bus was converted into a motorhome capable of sleeping four people. The conversion was extensive and included covering up the basic bus interior with paneling that’s a bit easier on the eyes.

Yet, not all evidence of this Gillig’s working past have been deleted. Those wheel well bumps are a clear nod to the coach’s transit history, as are the grab rails in the hybrid primary room and dinette in the back.

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Moving back up front, there’s a small living room type of area with a convertible couch and a TV hanging from the ceiling. Across from that is a kitchen featuring a small apartment-style fridge/freezer, a dual basin sink, and some cabinetry. There’s an additional cabinet behind the driver. The seller doesn’t say anything about cooking equipment, but there’s more than enough room there for a portable cooktop. The bus is also wired for shore power, too.

Barrelcamper6

Barrelcamper7

Finally, in the middle of the bus is a stand-up shower room featuring an RV toilet. There is no mention of tanks, but the bus does appear to have some holding capacity. The build is capped off with soft perimeter lighting in the interior and a Rheem instant hot water heater. More good news comes from the fact that the coach still has a working wheelchair ramp, which is great for mobility and possibly helps you bring some heavier gear for the ride.

All of this is backed by a platform running on a Cummins diesel engine, an Allison transmission, and an air suspension. Sadly, the seller doesn’t say what exact Cummins is back there and the Gillig Low Floor had quite a few Cummins options over the years. One common configuration was the 8.9-liter Cummins ISL. It makes about 280 HP and 1,260 lb-ft, feeding that power to the rear wheels through an Allison B400R transmission.

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One thing you’ll want to watch out for is top speed. Many transit buses are geared for not much better than city speeds, which isn’t great for going on a road trip. Others would hold legal highway speed just fine. I would hope this bus is geared for higher speeds.

The next question is if the asking price of $28,000 makes this bus worth it. Being generous, the bus itself is likely worth about $4,000 on a good day. So, do you see about $24,000 of work here? I could sort of see it.

What I do see is a different way to hit the road. This is something a little different than the common school bus build and while it’s not perfect, it looks nicer than some of the apartments I see out there. Certainly, it makes my apartment seem like a shack. If anything, a $28,000 bus is cheaper than some of the broom closets you’d find in New York City!

(Images: Facebook Seller, unless otherwise noted.)

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