Got my Vehicle! (1999 Ford 7.3L Shuttle Bus)

Hey everyone,

So after a lot of research and consideration for what I really needed/wanted, I finally picked up my vehicle! It’s a 1999 Ford 7.3L Diesel Van that was professionally converted into a Shuttle Bus after rolling off the factory floor. With just under 150k miles it runs great and has minimal issues for a 21-year-old vehicle, and I got it at a decent price for just $3,000. I was pretty excited to get the “Ford Million Mile Engine”, with proper maintenance this engine is statistically likely to last well over half a million miles.

So far I’ve removed the floors on either side, which had a lot of rot from a few leaks in the roof, where I also ended up finding some rust. But thankfully I’m fairly handy, and where I’m not I have an arsenal of professional contractors as family members that are going to help me get everything ship-shape.

Going to do a bit of roof sealing, then rust busting, followed by a wee bit o’ welding before putting those floors back in and actually starting the interior. So far the project has been a lot of fun, and I’m excited to get to the “good part” where I get to do the interior. I’ll post more photos here as I go along, for any that might also be interested in this type of vehicle.

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Now comes the fun part! What factors had you decide on this one?

Really I’m aiming for three goals,

Simple (Cheap, Haha)
I’m aiming to avoid all the “fancy” the Youtubers put into their vehicles, but also some of the excess “fluff” that campers and such come with that I just won’t use. I’ve spent the last two weeks re-doing the “foundation”, a series of tasks just to help ensure the longevity of the vehicle itself. Now that I’m on the verge of beginning interior stuff the plan is to just stick to light wood-based structures, I’ll most likely just have an all-wood interior with no extra fluff for the first year or so.

During my research phase, I read from many different people that their “first build” was riddled with mistakes or regrets. Later builds, once they had a better understanding of what they really wanted/needed while out on the road, were much better. So I’m aiming for each section to be modular, when all tied together they are sturdy. But if in the future I decided to redo everything, it wouldn’t be a huge chore, and I could remove each section without a lot of fuss.

Self Sufficient
My biggest thing is being self-sufficient, and having backup systems to further support that endeavor. So solar as my primary power source, but a small generator as a backup just in case. I plan to spend 90% of my time out Boondocking, so the more self-sufficient I am the longer my trips can be. A decent amount of water storage, my filtration system, and as few energy-dependent items as possible.


Got my floor in!

Busted the rust, hit it with loads of Ospho, sealed it with rubber spray, lined the edges with great stuff to help fill exposed gaps, and finally put the floor down with metal screws and wood glue.

Drilling through the steel was a bit of a pain in some spots, but Titanium bits got the project back on track. Cobalt just wasn’t doing it this time.

Got my floorplan laid out so I could see what kinda spacing I’d really have. Still toying around with it, but will either be putting the framework in next month or doing the solar on the roof. I haven’t decided which I wanted to pursue for next month’s project just yet.


Simple, cheap, reliable, modular, & self contained are some of my favorites. Solar not so much…


"Opportunities are everywhere, but only action makes it happen." ~ Van_Dweller

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Ok this is the first time ive seen a taped outline like a potential crime scene. That is brilliant. It looks great so far, cant wait to see the progress. We all have plenty of time right now.

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Hey all!

I’ve made a bit more progress, but not really as much as I’d have liked. Thanks to all the Corona stuff it slowed down a bit for me, between self isolating and trying to order certain things from Amazon, it’s just been a bit slow.

But I do have some progress to share!

In this image, you can see the over-engineered bedframe as well as what originally was going to be a “half shower”.

For the bed frame, I have a bad back and constantly toss and turn. Sometimes during the night I will literally “whale jump” and turn in the air to reposition myself, haha. So I wanted something that I could really put through its paces, so it is a bit “heavy”.

For the “half shower” (the thing on the left in this picture), I really just didn’t want to give up any windows. I wanted the most out of the “360” view I could get, but then really thinking about the setup I had planned I knew I just wouldn’t be happy. So instead the “half shower” is now going to be a cabinet and I’m going with an actual shower stall in a different location with a recirculating system that will super duper filter the same 10 gallons, requiring me to replace it only once a week or so. It will also have a tankless water heater running heating from propane, the whole system should have a flow rate of 1.5 gallons so it will almost be like a shower back at home.

For this part I’m actually having my Father help me, who is a Master Plumber with 30 years of experience and owns a pretty successful plumbing company. Truth be told, for something like this, dealing with water and especially “dirty” water, I would personally recommend getting a professional. Just my opinion. Although he thinks this design is nuts, at least I know the “quality” of the system will be solid, haha.

The whole time I was weighing out the “half shower” or the recirculating one, I kept thinking of something I saw @Van_Dweller say. (Paraphrasing here) “The more complex, the more difficult it will be to fix on the road. The more simple, the easier to just replace”.

I know this system is most definitely the first one, it’ll have more “doodads” than the original design, but I just had to give it a shot. Worse comes to worst, if it dies I’ll just rip it out and toss that sucker. :laughing:

This is after I got the side panels onto what was going to be my half shower with a fold-down top, now it’s going to be my main storage spot for “day to day”. I literally only own a bag of clothes, my toiletries, a laptop, and a set of cast iron pots right now so it’s actually more than enough space. The Shuttle Bus may be new, but I’ve been minimalist for awhile now. Although I am also considering making it a dog house for the pet I hope to adopt before I get on the road… Really just depends.

This last guy is just a shot of me trying to add some “pretty” with birch panels. I’m hoping to do all the walls, as well as the ceiling with them. Might even use them to cover up a bit of the plywood from the other structures. But even though I’d like a little bit of “pretty”, it’s really not my main focus.

I’ve already made the call that so long as the required “systems” are in place by the end of June, I’m out! I can always do some work on the road, but I can’t get back time spent “waiting for things to be perfect”.

For anyone interested in, or researching recirculating systems, this is the design I will be using. I would like to point out two things though.

A - This is not purely my design, I borrowed the “base” from a Youtuber who did the original design. I did however, remove what I considered to be “fluff”, so this is modified from his original plan.
B - While I am giving him credit, I will not link his video because I feel like (pure opinion here) he over-engineered it so that you would use his Amazon Links and spend tons of money. If you google “Vanlife recirculating shower” it will pop up though. He seems like a smart guy though, so it’s also possible that I’m just being cheap. XD

I can/will provide “royalty-free” Amazon links to the stuff I am using at some point, but it’s late and I’m tired / being lazy so I’ll edit them in later. :laughing:

So that’s my update! I hope some of this might someday help someone, like so many others have helped me figure out things during my research. If anyone ever has any questions I’m always happy to share, but just know that I am not a “professional (insert any kind of trade skill here)” and my experience on the road as of this point is zilch.

I hope everyone is doing well and safe during this crazy time of Corona, until next time! :wave:

If you wish to maximise space, you don’t really need to build a shower stall inside.

That’s a Canadian company that does van conversions, I’ve seen others make similar shower pans too but usually the pictures aren’t that good. I had this pictured in my mind for my own van before I even saw the first photos online. Pretty much every idea that you can come up with someone has already made similar… :smiley:

btw, check out “hour shower” in youtube. That guy made a filter system from regular parts you can buy from hardware store or amazon, with a replaceable filter. Just an alternative to fancier stuff.

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My solution to preserving my 360° view was to use a hula hoop for a shower curtain, and hang it from the ceiling. It is also my toilet surround. When not in use, I just unhook it and it rests on my toilet.


"Stay home, stay safe, and remember social distancing." ~ Van_Dweller

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Youtube isn’t totally useless.

That is pretty nice work. I alter/add two things: metallic sides for the shower pan and sew/glue magnets into the shower curtain bottom edge so it holds on to those shower pan sides.

Hey everyone!

So it’s been a bit since I last posted, between RL 2020 being crazy and just not making a lot of “visual progress” for a while I just haven’t had much to post.

The last few months have been more “mechanical” than anything, I had the engine looked over, and all the fluids/filters replaced so I could have the start of a logbook for the vehicle. Then I had the AC unit fixed up, new compressor and had some old hoses replaced, runs like a Champ now.

But during that time, I really took a step back to consider the progress that I had made, and what moving forward would look like. It was because of those thoughts, that I ripped everything out and decided to start over! :laughing:

Now, honestly, there wasn’t really much progress inside anyway. I had built a very over-engineered bed, and what looked like a dog house? Truthfully it was because I had rushed trying to get to the “fun part”, actually putting furniture and stuff in. It showed in the quality of the work, and in the safety of the vehicle itself. There would have been very few anchor points (if any at all) and anything about 4 feet up would have been unsecured and a bit of a hazard.

Then there was the matter of the “stuff on and in the walls”, after finding a few leaks I knew there had to be some damage to underlying material beneath the plastic wall covering. Plus, I wanted to find where the ribbing ran along the cabin so that I could build and secure a deck to the roof for the solar panels.

Essentially, I was rushing instead of finishing things appropriately. I started pulling a thread, and then stopped halfway in because I was being lazy.

So I took everything out and began the tear down over again. Then I took the time to create a frame for the walls, and switched to Cedar Tongue and Groove rather than the underlay I was trying to use before. I’ve covered the two outboard walls so far, and built the wall that is behind the drive seat. I still have to finish the wall that is in the rear, and then I will be moving on to the roof rack! Hopefully, I’ll be finishing that back wall today, and come Monday, I’ll be on to the rack.


- Fun Side Note -

So the last three months (-ish?) I’ve been over at my parent’s new house while I finish getting ready to take off this October. (Fingers crossed) So while working on the Bus in their driveway I noticed something big under their dock. At first, I thought it was a big ol’ Turtle stuck on the pilings, but then we realized it was a Manatee! Someone told my Mother they like freshwater so we turned on the hose, and sure enough, this guy popped up! There were like 10 of them in the area, but he was the only one brave enough to come over for a drink. :smile:

- 8/29 (Friday) Update -

Got the back wall finished today (Saturday), so now I’m finally done with all the walls and will be starting on the roof rack on Tuesday! Yay, slowly coming together!

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Looks great! I’m looking forward to seeing your progress.