The time has finally come for me to find a new home for my beloved first bus conversion, a proud Motor Coach Industries model 5A Challenger from 1967, The Summer of Love.
I love this bus, and I’ll no doubt shed some tears when the happy new owner drives off into the sunset to start building their golden dreams on the open road.
The story behind this bus is worth sharing. This story was related to me by John Ridley, the former owner. He said in about 1992 six Arizona fireman retired at the same time and all bought passenger buses for themselves. Together, they all converted these six buses to motorhomes, or ‘bus conversions’. Then, after a period of time, the fireman all sold the buses at the same time and all bought boats. The story ended there, but something tells me they later sold the boats and all bought some new toy at once.
John Ridley bought one of these fireman converted buses. John served for the US in the Vietnam War, where he was injured. He could walk for many years after the war, despite his injuries. Later in life, after a career as a truck driver, he was confined to a wheelchair. This didn’t stop him from maintaining and driving his bus conversion. He had hand controls installed for the accelerator and brakes, and a cruise control so he could relax on the highway and not have to apply constant pressure with his hands on the hand controls.
His wheelchair was manual and snapped apart into four pieces easily. He could back the chair up to the passenger door, use his arms to shift his position from the chair to the bottom step, where he could sit while he snapped apart his chair and hoisted its component pieces over his head to place them inside the conversion. Then he would use his arms to ‘climb’ the stairs, back first. He could then scoot across the floor to the driver’s seat and pull himself into position by grabbing the steering wheel. He wasn’t going to let his disability interfere with his love of buses.
Once he got to his destination, his wife, a school bus driver by profession, would unload their Harley Davidson motorcylcle with sidecar from the trailer they towed behind the MCI. Then they would go motorcycling together with his wife driving the Harley and John riding in the sidecar. This all worked out for years. Sadly, John’s disability progressed to the point he couldn’t do routine maintenance on the conversion any more so he felt he needed to find a new owner for it. I was thrilled to buy this vehicle from John, and he spent two days showing me how to drive it well. He also hand printed an instruction book telling me how to operate the systems. He also had the original MCI owner’s manuals, and I will include all of this material with the bus when I sell it.
The above picture shows the kitchen area. The range is fueled by propane, and it features four burners plus an oven. There are pull out cutting boards to the left and right of the range. The sink has two bowls, and there is a sprayer for cleaning up with. There is an exhaust hood over the stove which vents to the outside, and the hood has a light in it. There is a microwave oven to the left of the range hood. The cabinets doors are solid oak and were custom made for this conversion.
The photo immediately above shows the television set for the living room, inside the cabinet. The cabinet wall also has the room thermostat for the forced air furnace. There is also one of four stereo speakers, visible just above the thermostat. The refrigerator runs on 110 volts AC or propane. It has a separate freezer section, like a home refrigerator.
This is a full size mattress in the bedroom. The reading lights have three way bulbs in them, for reading or mood lighting. The nightstand cabinets are custom made and the door fronts are made from solid oak and match the rest of the cabinets throughout the rolling home.
The photo above shows the toilet and vanity. The vanity is custom made and matches the rest of the cabinets. The Formica matches the front of the refrigerator. The sink is real ceramic, not plastic like you would find in some RVs.
The photograph above shows the bathroom in the center. The shower stall is across the hall from the bathroom, behind the TV, which is in the closet. Again, this cabinetry is all hand made. One of the two air conditioners can be seen on the ceiling over the hallway. The kitchen can be seen in the distance.
The photo above shows the driver’s seat. There is a propane heater to the right of the seat, which can be used alone or with the forced air furnace. The handle to open the passenger door can be seen to the right of the steering wheel. This handle still works. There is a fan for the driver to the right of the door handle. The conversion has an automatic transmission, and the shift knob is to the driver’s right, next to the seat cushion.
This is the view from the driver’s seat. You can see my blue BMW 525i right above the driver’s fan. The view above the traffic from this seat is outstanding, and one feels very secure driving this vehicle, as it’s rock solid and dependable.
The engine is a Detroit Diesel 8V-71. It’s in good shape, and I welcome potential buyers to take the bus conversion to their own mechanic for inspection prior to purchase. I’ll even let your mechanic keep the vehicle overnight so he can attest to how easily it starts when cold.
In 2002 I drove this conversion from San Francisco, California to New York City, New York, over a 2 1/2 month period. The only trouble I had was two flat tires, but that was to be expected since the tires that blew were old. I had no mechanical trouble with the rest of the vehicle, which was comforting.
There is a gas Onan 6,500 watt generator with about 600 hours on it. That means it has a lot of life left in it. It starts right up even if it’s not used for over a year. This is a non-electronic model, so it’s much more reliable over the long term than a modern electronically controlled model. The bus engine is also mechanical, so it’s likely to run forever, if maintained. There is nearly a full tank of diesel in the 100+ gallon tank, and I always stored it with a full tank, which is recommended for long term storage of any diesel vehicle.
There is no inverter, but it’s wired for a large inverter, and there is a 500 pound capacity battery slide installed as well. I moved the inverter to my RTS conversion, so that’s why there isn’t one included with this vehicle. However, the previous owner used the conversion the entire time he owned it without an inverter, so one is not needed since there is a very capable generator on board, with inside the vehicle remote start.
This vehicle is a pleasure to drive. There is very little play in the steering, since it has ‘new’ steering. You won’t grow tired correcting the steering like many other old buses. The air conditioning is powerful, and will keep the inside cool even in Las Vegas when it’s 107F out. I know because I stayed there a few days under such conditions.
Please contact me if you’d like to schedule a test drive. You don’t need a special license or training to drive this, believe it or not. If you don’t know how to drive a bus conversion, I’ll show you. That’s how I learned, while in the buying process, so it can be done.
If you want to learn more about bus conversions, visit the two primary bus conversion websites in the United States, BusNut.com and BusConversions.com. I am asking $5,000 for this bus conversion, which is a steal, as I paid $33,000 for it in 2002. The market for bus conversions was much stronger then, and the prices were much higher. Today they are really depressed, thus my low price. You’ll have a great time with this bus conversion.