Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reader Ride: SerendipitiBus -1995 Carpenter School Bus

Today's reader ride requires a slightly larger parking spot than the average fact, it needs roughly the orbit of Saturn to do a U-turn.  Parking and maneuverability issues didn't stop 8 recent college graduates from building an old school bus into the SerendipitiBus--something they could drive 8,000 miles and visit 22 states on what must be, so far, the trip of their young lives. The journey is over and now the guys and gals are selling their custom 1995 Carpenter School Bus; find it here on eBay bidding for $15,500 reserve-not-met with 8 days to go, located in South Bend, IN.

We had a chance to chat with Nick and he gave us some insight on this converted school bus:

Year / Make / Model / Trim ?
1995 Carpenter School Bus

How long have you owned it?
Since October 2014

Why did you buy it?
One of our buddies threw out the idea and we all got extremely excited. The idea of getting to travel the country affordably with a bunch of our good friends was extremely appealing but the build ended up being just as much of an adventure.

What do you use it for (commute, fun, racing...etc)?
Traveling the country, seeing all the national parks, cool cities, and small towns America has to offer.

Is it stock or modified? If modified, please list some modifications.
Modified (obviously haha) (DT - see a really well done imgur album describing the build here). Put an entire new interior in with beds for eight, a kitchen, 21' of couch space, and even a roof deck.

What was the most memorable day in your car (proposed to wife, 3rd child born in back seat...etc)?
Probably the day the transmission broke down in South Dakota. It had been a long day - we had been up at 430am for sunrise in the Badlands and during the hike two of us were having some issues with the bus. We drive it to the closest shop (40 miles away), got it all patched up and were on our way 6 hours later. We then went to Mount Rushmore and Crazyhorse and I passed out at midnight thinking everything was AOK. A couple hours later my girlfriend (another rider) woke me up and said the "bus wasn't working." After seven months of reno it's not what I wanted to hear but I figured it was minor like the issue earlier in the day.

It was dark and we were in the middle of the road in Deadwood, SD. We tried to give it gas and the thing wouldn't budge. We were on a little bit of a hill so we were actually able to push it off the road, right until it hit the small dip in the shoulder. We were stuck and every 10 minutes a creepy old trolly would drive by, yet never stopped or asked if we needed help. Very strange. Finally a big truck pulled over and was extremely helpful. Next thing I knew two of us were in the back of his truck with his girlfriend (a butcher that we discovered lived in a crematorium) heading to the only gas station open (20 min away) for transmission fluid. Fortunately we survived, he towed us into the casino parking lot down the street (the source of the trolly) but the engine still wouldn't start. We were able to use our insurance to get a tow the next morning and low and behold the transmission was completely gone. Somehow we managed to keep our spirits high despite the bill being much higher than we expected and after a week waiting for it to get repaired, we were on our way with a new transmission AND one year warranty.

What was the most catastrophic failure of parts/components?
See last question

What makes you want to keep owning this car?
The memories, the amount of work put into it, and the uniqueness of the vehicle.

Will you ever sell it?

Yes, unfortunately as recently graduated grad students who had cover tuition with scholarships and loans, this project emptied our bank accounts so we are being forced to sell her. Hopefully to a great new home that's equally as into the bus as we are.

DT-- Looks like the trip of a lifetime and a great little RV for someone considering a mobile lifestyle.  Maybe Jim Gaffigan needs something for his growing family?


  1. A+ for life after degrees. This is going to be a Goldilocks vehicle. It won't be right for a lot of folks, but somewhere out there (The Partridge Family, The Munsters, or another band of 8 grads from next year) will snatch it up recognizing the hard part and the warranty on the transmission will take them pretty far. No mention of what kind of engine it has or how many gas-illion miles it has on it or what type of mileage they got trying to highway cruise it. These are generally geared very low. If the purchase price is reasonable, the cost of fuel does not become an issue. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be worth a gear vendors overdrive if it doesn't already have one, to conserve on engine wear and tear and mileage.

  2. Having 30 years driving exp. driving a Bus for the city of Seattle this thing has one hell of a rear over hang looks dangerous to me ! Bet it is a rough riding Cowboy up !

  3. "Diesel engine that gets approximately 60mpg and average speed of 55mph"
    er what?

    1. 60mpg was a typo - not sure how we missed it. It got around 10 mpg, which is what we said elsewhere online as well. 55mph speed was correct however.


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