Las Vegas shop revives old school buses into colorful luxury campers
A group of French expats in the US Southwest believes the school bus camper (skoolie) is more than just a DIY RV solution, and it seems to have good timing. With the COVID-19 pandemic having sidelined the tourism side of their business, the entrepreneurs behind Mybushotel have turned their attention to selling school bus campers. Their "B-Hotel" conversions debut as compact camper buses roomier than camper vans, more mobile than chalets, more maneuverable than Class A motorhomes, and loaded with features like rooftop decks, rainfall showers and smart TVs.
The original Bus Hotel, Natasha, came to be just like many a homebuilt skoolie, conceived and crafted by a couple of young DIYers with serious wanderlust. Visions of an epic road trip around the Americas drove their every saw cut and bolt turn, and Mybushotel founders Benoit Lafond and Paul Aubert transformed a 1994 Ford B700 school bus into that roving home they called Natasha.
After enjoying their own road trip, Lafond and Aubert decided to share their joy and expertise with likeminded travelers, using Natasha as the foundation of La Brigade du Voyage. This tour operation invites customers to embark on four-wheeled journeys much more scenic and adventurous than the average bus ride and has racked up nearly 50,000 miles (80,500 km) through 18 countries.
La Brigade du Voyage was motoring along happily when the COVID-19 pandemic stormed in and pulled the parking brake on Natasha, casting uncertainty on the tour's future. Rather than wait around for government checks to roll in, Lafond and Aubert turned their attention to creating Mybushotel, a spinoff business able to proceed a little more steadily through the choppy waters of 2020. In fact, given that the pandemic has led to invigorated interest in RV travel, it's a spinoff business that might just have impeccable timing.
Mybushotel sizes the B-Hotel concept down from Natasha and gives it a foundation on retired 22-foot (6.7-m) school buses sourced from AAA Bus in Phoenix. That mini-bus format gives the rolling tiny home the compact length of a large camper van with a larger interior that comes by way of the wide, rectangular school bus body, a package Mybushotel reckons hits the sweet spot of living space vs driving maneuverability.
The floor plan Mybushotel installs on its debut B-Hotel, Leon is a classic rear-sleeper with front dinette. The cozy rear bedroom has a queen-size bed with memory foam mattress and a 32-in smart TV mounted on the wall.
Leap out of bed, and the wet bathroom is just to the right. Here campers enjoy a rainfall shower set in a skylight/window combination for a more natural, outdoorsy feel. The Girard on-demand tankless water heater ensures that the water stays steamy until the camper's dual-tank water storage runs dry. A composting toilet completes the bathroom space.
The front of the Leon cabin houses a dining booth behind the driver's seat and a kitchen on the passenger side. The kitchen packs a dual-burner LPG stove, rectangular sink with high-arched faucet, and fridge/freezer.
Leon carries a full, off-grid-ready electrical system with Goal Zero Yeti 1250 power station (battery/inverter), three 100-Ah Renogy deep-cycle batteries, and three Renogy solar panels mounted on the roof. That system powers the LED lighting, electrical outlets and other onboard electrical equipment. There's also a separately powered 15K-BTU A/C unit.
Leon's crowning feature, in more ways than one, is its spacious rooftop deck. Mybushotel takes advantage of the long, straight mini-bus roofline by installing the full-length wood deck on top. The rear of the deck is eaten up by the solar panels and air conditioner cut-out, but the front offers plenty of space for the RV's two or three occupants to sit or lay out under the sunny sky. A driver-side ladder offers access up top.
Mybushotel does a nice job delivering the homey ambiance of a rolling tiny home for a US$58,000 price tag that's lower than all but the smallest, simplest American camper vans. The Leon B-Hotel seems an intriguing alternative for van lifers who value indoor comfort over the smallest drive vehicle footprint. The conversion comes atop a 2003 Chevy Express 3500 with 55,500 miles (89,320 km) on its odometer, so not a new vehicle, but Mybushotel says that the V8 engine and transmission are in excellent working order and all fluids have been drained and replaced.
Mybushotel also does custom builds, and it plans to get B-Hotel rentals up and running later this year. We'll keep an eye out for its future creations.
Source: My Bus Hotel
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