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GPSGary 04-24-2010 03:45 PM

Custom chicken bus
I thought I'd start a separate thread because my original thread about the radiator conversion has begun to deviate too much.

We full time in our 1984 Wanderlodge and came down here (Mexico Central America) to investigate the winter alternative to AZ. We had been to Costa Rica by plane a few times and intended to go all the way there for possible wintering territory.

We've had such a good time so far we're not in a great rush to get to Costa Rica. The necessity of fixing my roof and generator brought me to the chicken bus capital of Central America and I'm glad I'm here. What these people can do from NOTHING is amazing.

There is a drawback to a 17 ton, 35 foot Wanderlodge. It's underpowered for the hills and too long for easy maneuverability on smaller roads. A few times now, I've toyed with the idea of selling the Lodge and having a custom RV made powered (300hp) and sized (28-30ft) like a chicken bus.

I had a good interpreter today and got to ask Jose if he bought Bluebirds on spec and resold them. He said yes and had a 1990 and 1992 "in stock".

The next question obviously was how much?
Out the door, completely gone over mechanically, guaranteed, was $8,000 - $10,000US.

Down here a good cabinet maker will build me a custom interior for less than $3000.

I'm figuring about $5000 to $10,000 worth of specialty RV parts shipped from the states, like water heaters, pumps, valves, propane refrig, etc.

New paint and chrome $2000.

Am I crazy? If I decide to do this, can I count on your help and guidance?

Pura vida,

Crit Bliss 04-24-2010 05:16 PM

How 'bout some pics?

Frank W. 04-24-2010 06:02 PM

First, I love our Wanderlodge...just as it is and for what she can do.

But I've often dreamed of "over the horizon" trips on the roads less traveled (and less maintained). My first exposure to Mexico and Central America was when I was 10 and my father drove me and our red Chevy Corvair from San Salvador to our new USAF home at Amarillo, TX. What a trip! Sections of the new Pan American highway were not finished & paved...just tree cleared and barely graded. Great sights and great people all along the way.

Take that experience, and then add what I have learned from working and riding in our BB...and I can see that a well made & shorter bus with good parts availability and simplified RV systems would be a great platform for more rugged exploring. BB even makes some 4x4 buses!

OK, it's not a Wanderlodge....but you likely would not want the complexity...just the basic strong chassis & body to go down the road reliably and when resting be comfortable and secure. Something a bit bigger and more carrying ability than a pickup. Perhaps a handicapped lift equipped bus to use as a motorcycle/ATV lift into a secure "garage".

You should check out the "Expedition Portal Forum" for a lot of discussion related to this type of travel.

GPSGary 04-24-2010 06:38 PM

Chicken bus remodel and photo album

Originally Posted by Crit Bliss (Post 54150)
How 'bout some pics?


Pura vida,

Crit Bliss 04-24-2010 09:26 PM

what a trip

Randy Dupree 04-25-2010 09:20 AM

i will help all I can,being I'm a long way from your location!
It sounds pretty cool,i wish i was there to see those guys work.

doszorros 04-25-2010 10:13 AM


Where are you at in Mexico?

susanmarycamilleri 04-25-2010 11:39 AM

I would be tempted to get all sorts of work there where the price is right and the workmanship looks good. Did they give you a price to re-power the Wanderlodge? Also just out of interest what tires do those buses run?
Keep the pictures coming, I am really enjoying your trip.

Steveinthesticks 05-01-2010 01:07 PM

Thanks for the pictures, my parents were in Antigua for holy week again and love seeing their pictures. I want to get down there some day. I have only been into the interior of Mexico a little ways Monterrey and Saltillo, enjoy the interior alot more than the border towns.

I'm still bummed I didn't bid on one 20 or so, 30' BB TC2000's with handicapped lifts, that one of the D/FW school districts dumped last year- I don't think any of them went for more than $2K, most about $1.5K. Would have made great chicken buses. Pull the seats install a potty & sink for the trip down...

GPSGary 05-01-2010 11:42 PM

Central American full timing
We've loved our trip so far and our brief self imposed non-mobile casa rental.

We're so enamored with this climate, life style and cost of living, we're devoting quite a bit of time to figuring out how best to become full timers in Central America.

Our 1984FC35SB is fine for touring if we stay near the major roads but I've had two incidents that have shown me that its not appropriate for real adventuring (and I'm not talking 4X4 stuff either). There are too many places that are very attractive to visit where 35 feet, 17 tons and only 225 hp just doesn't cut it. First class chicken buses are about 28-30 feet and 300 hp and they go anywhere.

Once we finish our trek to Costa Rica we likely will be looking to sell the FC35 and have a school bus converted to a more suitable length and power. My experience with the workers here has been fabulous. With a little supervision and some good drawings they do amazing things at a very affordable price.

I'm not 100% sure I'm going to do this yet but if I do I am sure I ca count on the members of this forum to help me make a WonderLodge. That wasn't a typo.

Pura vida,

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