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How to Convert a Bus Into an RV

Publish date: September 2021

What does it take to ‘gut’ a 6m-long circa 1960s Austin bus and completely remodel it?

Travelling couple Chris and Laurie Brown – on Instagram as @thestuffbus – tackled this ambitious project.

Their results make for inspiring reading, as shared in this insightful Q&A.

And just wait until you watch the video at the end...

All smiles: Chris and Laurie deserve to be chuffed with their reno result.

What have you done exactly?

The interior of the bus hadn’t been renovated since the 70s, so we completely stripped it and started from scratch. Everything inside the bus was built, fitted, and painted by us, except for the fibreglass shower cubicle that was already installed.

Firstly, a 'before' shot. And no dogs were harmed in the demolition. 

Where did the inspo come from?

We wanted to keep the bus in theme with our business – Just Stuff – so we went for an industrial but cosy décor, like the products we make.

Most materials we used were recycled and repurposed, so it was a case of using whatever we could find and adapting from there. We wanted the bus to look and feel like a house, rather than a bus.

Another 'before' shot, just so you get the picture.

Where did you find the vehicle?

In Melbourne on Facebook Marketplace. Chris was online every day for months searching for the perfect old bus and this 1968 Austin popped up one day.

He flew to Melbourne that night to have a look and ended up buying it straight away after falling in love with it. He then drove him 3500km back to Darwin where we were living at the time to get acquainted!

The bus has seen a lot of road in its time.

How long did the project take?

Longer than expected! Covid halted our renovation, but from buying it to hitting the road, it took 18 months.

There was minimal exterior work, but even here the difference is noticeable.

In a nutshell, what you have done?

We kept the vintage exterior the same, as it was the exact aesthetic we were hoping for. The only thing we kept from the original build was the shower. It is a full-size shower and was fitted perfectly in the back corner of the bus behind the wheel well. Everything else has been built again. 

The shower was saved. And, hey, even the loo looks flush.

What did you learn along the way?

Some things take way longer than expected! Paint is never the same colour as it is on those little cards, so always get tester pots first. A little goes a long way, too! And there will be a million and one trips to Bunnings, no matter how much you plan.

Magnificent finish.

What was the hardest thing/s?

Finding second-hand materials in Darwin was difficult as was completing the majority of the reno during the build-up and wet season. Sometimes the heat was unbearable!

The sliding doors were the most challenging to put together, but we really wanted this feature, so with a bit of perseverance we got exactly what we wanted.

What was the easiest?

Ripping it apart. That took no thought whatsoever and was satisfying to do…and watch back! 

What surprised you?

Jobs that we thought would take an hour would take a day, or sometimes longer. It felt easy to give up some days.

The amount of Bunnings trips and money spent on silicone and screws was another!

Conversely, we learned how you really can do anything if you put your mind to it and give it a go. Now when we lie in bed, we still can’t believe that we did all of this ourselves.

That feeling of satisfaction.

With hindsight, you would have…

Organised ourselves a bit more with our trips to Bunnings. Luckily, we lived only 5min away from a store! We are really happy with the layout and what we have done; we wouldn’t change any of it.

The couple wouldn't change a thing.

What is Chris’ biggest tip for a project like this?

Note: Chris is a qualified electrician.

It’s the small things that make a big difference, so try to make sure everything has a place. Our hidden towel rails and full-length mirror are some of the small details that we use daily.

You really must motivate yourself to keep pushing on at times when you feel like giving up. The result is definitely worth it.

Perseverance pays off.

Any other handy hints?

  • Don’t be disheartened when things take longer than you anticipated.
  • Plan what you’re doing so you don’t end up doing it twice.
  • Get one thing completed before you start the next.
  • Measure six times, cut once.
  • You can never have enough storage. 

What has the reaction been like?

People seem to love it! We have a lot of people come over to ask what year he is, and they are always keen to see what we have done inside. At times it’s hard to get any work done from the trailer because of people coming over, but we love that it’s a conversation starter.

He's a bit of a head-turner. 

You’re permanently on the road. How has that experience been?

We absolutely love bus life! We are so surprised at how easy it has been to adapt to tiny living. We don’t miss a thing about living in a house. Well, maybe having a long, hot shower when we aren’t plugged into water.

The beauty of Australia - there is so much to see.

What are some of the best things you’ve seen?

We’ve travelled 5000km so far through the tropics, the bush, and the outback and we are now on the east coast.

Seeing the difference in the landscape has been amazing – and we’ve only touched a small portion of the country! We love Australia; there is a bit of everything here.

We have met a lot of lovely people on the road, too. Everyone is willing to help each other out and we have been overwhelmed by people’s kindness.  

Bus life can be a good life.

See how it all came about...

Follow Chris and Laurie’s epic adventures on Instagram @thestuffbus.

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