I know that was a long and in some ways brief introduction, but it leads you to the beginning of what this renovation series is all about and that is Mr Pemberton. In the lead-up to selling the caravan, we had been searching for a bus. We loved the idea of seeing vans and buses just pull up to a beachside spot and cook up some lunch and be all set up without the need of unhitching, levelling and reversing a caravan.
The bus was owned by a mechanical engineer who had it hired out for the past 10 years as a school bus. He had sold his mechanics shop where the bus was parked and so it was the next thing to go. We bargained hard and took him for a test drive and decided that mechanically we were not going to find a better bus in the current climate. We purchased the bus and had to leave it in New South Wales for over a month, while the border to Queensland was still closed.
We took photos, a video and plenty of measurements with us back to Queensland and started the process of design. It actually turned into two and a half months before we were able to start work on the bus at a friend’s property. They had a huge shed and we worked and lived in there during the entire build. The time apart from Mr Pemberton in the very beginning served us well. We made detailed plans and shopped up a storm in the pre and post-Christmas sales.
We also spent the time researching every single aspect of the build. Building a bus is actually a lot simpler in many respects than the build we did with Hunter. The frame of the bus was straight as a die and if we measured one side, we knew that the other side was the exact same measurement. This was not the case with the vintage caravan and while the frame was made of aluminium, years of being on the road and movement, meant that nothing was no longer square or straight. Measurements seemed to be in an old imperial system, consistent with his age of nearly 50 years, while the bus was merely 20 years old and the Japanese certainly know how to build a product that lasts.
Our research had us following others online that had already completed similar builds both here in Australia and overseas. We eagerly asked many questions, went away and did more research and then asked some more. There were more than a dozen people who were an instrumental part of our build and we watched hours and hours of YouTube videos. There was a folder on my computer full of screenshots, diagrams, inspiration pics, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube accounts.
We were staying with our son and one of the spare bedrooms in his house became the storage warehouse for all the bus build items. We purchased our entire electrical system set up, the kitchen (a flatpack from Ikea), the bedframe, mattress, linen, crockery, flooring, plumbing items, roof racks and even the tap and kitchen sink. We saved thousands of dollars buying online and comparing between retailers to get the best deals and often free shipping.
My previous career in design and our experience in renovating houses, apartments and caravans put us in good stead to know exactly what we wanted. My moodboard remained largely unchanged during the build and since completion, I have only updated soft furnishings. All purchases were logged on a spreadsheet that listed the cost, supplier, warranty details, date of purchase and website.
We moved into our friend’s shed at Stanthorpe just before Christmas of 2021, spent a little more time with our son in Brisbane and then went back to start in earnest on 1st January 2022. After so many months of planning, we were so excited to finally start (well I was super excited, Herb was a little nervous and took a little coaxing). Our first task was to strip the inside of the bus.
(Pictured: Mr Pemberton in the shed)
Now in theory, that sounds super easy to just remove everything from the inside. However, that bus was so well built that there were several things that proved very challenging. The seats were initially easy to unbolt, however, there were brackets that were left behind that had been bolted from underneath or what seemed like externally from the bus before the outer layer had been added. These all needed to be ground off with an angle grinder. There were diesel floor heaters which also proved challenging and were connected to the vehicle's coolant system, which we had to reroute underneath the bus.
The lining itself came down fairly easily once we had unscrewed what seemed like hundreds and hundreds of screws. The next challenge came when we had to remove the ceiling insulation. The type used was highly flammable and we were advised to remove it. It initially pulled off in large chunks, but we soon realised the remainder was actually glued to the ceiling and it was super itchy as it fell on our bodies. We engaged the help of a wire wheel on the end of our drill and after a few hours, we had a relatively clean ceiling.
The floor was in amazing condition, so we decided to leave it and only plug the hole that had come about from the removal of the diesel heaters and some of the seats. It had a waterproof vinyl that would become our first layer of protection over the timber floor.
That demolition phase took us an entire week, so I thought this would be a great time to leave you here to ponder how on earth we went from this now vacant shell to the bus conversion we live in today, in just over three months. Until next week…
(Pictured: Mr Pemberton before)
(Pictured: Mr Pemberton after)