2004 Chevy Express 3500 Partial Conversion

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by Archived
Published: March 9, 2022 (2 years ago)
3500 Express Mid Bus Guide MFSAB
VIN Number

Sorry this is so long — This build is about 70-75% complete so I’m trying to be as informative as possible on what’s been done, purchased, not purchased, what’s been installed, and what still needs to be installed.

All items were purchased and installed during last summer (2021). Everything has been used minimally, yet, used enough to know it works stellar.

I took this bus on a 6000 mile road trip in its current status to test the build, everything went smooth, nothing collapsed or broke, the bus runs like a beast.

On a side note; I’ve taken the bus on multiple cross country trips since purchasing it Nov 2020, but this last 6000 mile trip was to test all the electrical and furniture structures that had been built. IT’S SOLID!

Purchased this bus with 64k miles on it and it now has 82k to give you an idea of the road time I’ve had in this beauty. From Northern Cal, Colorado, New Mexico, to Far West Texas.. This baby has spirit!

This engine is a work horse and got me through all terrains with no struggle. It’s easy / cheap to fix and everyone knows how to work on these engines. Chevy is so reliable. Parts are easy to find, etc etc..

It breaks my heart but I do not have the space or time to complete this build currently. It makes me so sad but hopefully someone sees the beauty and is inspired to finish this big baby.


-2004 Chevy Express 3500 (5 window) Skoolie
-Engine is 6.01 L V8 (NO ENGINE LEAKS!)
-Automatic transmission
-82k miles
-Uses regular gas only
-30 gallon tank
-AC and HEAT works for comfort while driving
-Dually back tires  – All 6 tires are 1 year old with approx. 10k miles on them

Gets good gas mileage with about 300-350 miles a tank depending on interstate or city driving (hills or flat). Depending on gas prices it can cost anywhere from $65 – $85 to fill up. I’ve never been able to calculate city miles exactly per tank because I’m usually driving long distances.

I comfortably drive 65-70mph on flat straight roads. In Colorado going up and down and round and round I like to hang around 55-60mph. Uphill, you may want to come down a gear getting up when it’s super steep. She’s a beast though and has handled all the terrains like no big deal. Very good engine and condition.

Note: All WINDOWS were taken out, cleaned and resealed.

TX REGISTRATION STICKER is good until 01/2023 (just got it renewed 01/22)


Clean TITLE in hand.

Fits in a regular parking spot just barely but I do it all the time. =)

My friend who’s 6ft tall stands in the bus without bending over at all and there’s still space for the ceiling to be installed without them bending over.

Bus has NO RUST because of the history of it and the region it spent most of its life in (no snow, not much rain, not a lot of sand, not too dry or humid, just proper conditions).

I did however take out the original floors completely (which really had no rust but I wanted a more secure foundation). I replaced floors with lightweight / sturdy aluminum (riveted in) before insulating and building the subfloor.

OVERALL AESTHETICS:  Other than the subfloor and the roof deck wood (which was purchased wood)— *ALL the wood used throughout the bus is reclaimed, repurposed, and recycled for a unique, vintage, hand done / airy aesthetic. Giving off that perfectly imperfect by hand vibe. <3

This is a little more than a $3000 electrical system. Just FYI…

ELECTRICAL SYSTEM has 3 ways of charging battery bank:
-Shore power for hookups (125 v / 30 amp)
-Alternator charging (charges when vehicle is running)
*Wired for AC and DC appliances.

BATTERIES: 400ah total – There are 2 Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Batteries 200Ah each.

SOLAR PANELS: 300 watts total – There are 3 Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panels Compact Design on the roof.

INVERTER: Renogy 2000W 12V Pure Sine Wave Inverter Charger w/ LCD Display

BATTERY CHARGE CONTROLLER: Renogy Rover Li 30 Amp MPPT Solar Charge Controller

DC-TO -DC ALTERNATOR CHARGING: Renogy 12V 50A DC-DC On-Board Battery Charger with MPPT

*DULY NOTE THE NEXT FEW ITEMS BELOW: I have not finished installing the Blue Sea System AC Panel with 6 positions / 120 v AC — The wires are already routed throughout the bus but just needs to be hooked up completely to the panel and outlets. I have a temporary outlet system from the inverter until this is completed.

There are 4 GFCI 15 amp outlets are included with the bus but again, not installed yet, but the wires are routed throughout the bus already. Just needs to be all hooked up and installed fully.

DC Panel is a Blue Sea System (6 slot) Panel that has some stuff hooked up already. It still needs to be connected to DC devices of your choice (wires are already run through the bus). I’ve labeled the wires so they are not confusing. As of now, the vent and water pump are connected only to the panel.

There are two (2) 250amp Blue Sea System West Marine Bus Bars (1 positive and 1 negative) already grounded and wired up. They both have 6 slots (though you can add more than 1 device / lug to each slot).

*More info, detail, and specs for each product can be found on the Renogy or the Blue Sea System websites.


-Deck wood 4’ wide x 13’ long for stargazing, napping, stretching, tanning, etc.. Easy access to solar panels. I hang out with 2 and 3 people up there and enjoy-enjoy. =)

-Welded secure ladder to get up and down

-Deck frame is securely welded to strongest parts / ribs on bus


-Bosch 4 Gallon water heater
-Shurflo water pump – 12 v pump (3.5 gallons per minute – 45psi)
-Shurflo filter for pump
-Shurflo pre pressurized accumulator


WATER TANK (2 options both from RECPRO): I had a 40 gallon tank fully installed then swapped it for the 21 gallon. I will provide both unless you specify one over the other. I couldn’t decide, more water or more storage space.

For now I just have the 21 gallon shown in photos but have not locked it in fully or anything like I had the 40 gallon fully installed. Both have the same exact fitting sizes so you can just reattach the fittings to whatever tank you decide to use.

Opt 1) 21 gallon specs – The tank comes equipped with a 1.25″ water fill inlet and 3/8″ NPT connections with each water tank. 39 1/4” x 16” x 8” – NSF Certified and BPA Free


Opt 2) 40 gallon specs – Tank is 39″ x 18″ x 14″ NSF Certified and BPA Free  – This tank is equipped with a 1 1/4″ water fill inlet and 3/8″ NPT connections

*3 outlets on this tank makes it so you can use the tank in different configurations if desired.


SHOWER: Panther RV products 23” x 23” Shower Pan / Tray (Left Drain) – Has not been installed or used yet. Shower drain has not been purchased yet either.

Shower head included but not installed yet.

Kitchen sink / faucet included and has been installed already. The faucet can extend out the window for outdoor shower options. Yes the sink is glass, it was donated and it stayed completely secure on the nastiest of roads, lol…

Toilet has never been used: There is a compost toilet with bucket, pee diverter, all accessories needed, compostable bags, and a variety of compost / soil products.

Easy clean up using the bags (they are optional though). You can just bury the bag in a hole somewhere and it will cause no harm to the earth. It basically just disintegrates and does it’s thing.

Also including a variety of compost soil products that eliminate flies and unwanted odors. It has all you need and is easy to get set up for use.  I have not fully set it up yet due to maybe someone else would want it in a different spot than me.

The top part closes fully to become a chair or whatever when not in use, also mainly to just keep everything concealed within a full inclosure.

STOVE: 1 burner camper stove takes propane or butane (can be used forever or until you install the stove of choice). Has a full propane bottle included (16.4 oz bottle).

FRIDGE: Lift top Portable 53 QT –  Comes with 12V cord and AC adapter.

Compressor fridge / freezer that uses maybe not even 1 KWH per 24 hours (very low energy consumption and holds a lot of food). Matte black, tilt proof.. This thing has been awesome to use.

COUNTERS: Counters are all recycled / reclaimed wood. I wanted to add some butcher block oil to them but never got to that yet. Still need to add shelves for storage and cabinet drawers (or a sheet or whatever)

Side note: The 2nd counter closer to the bed that does not have the sink, it could be swapped out for a storage bench / couch. I originally needed extra work space but it could totally become another chill out area, that would be sweet!


BED: Can sleep couples and / or good friends.

Super comfy 6” Memory Foam Mattress 80” x 39” x 6“ included.

Note: I had an idea to make this bed extend to be a bit wider but never got around to it. We could discuss my idea if you wanted to widen the bed potentially and were curious about my design for that.

Storage space under bed (also electrical system under bed).

I never wanted to close off the back of the bus, loved being able to walk through the font and back to keep it more open. Someone could still change the orientation of the bed to be the standard across the back design most other skoolies do.


Entire floor front to back was completely covered with a combo of Rattle Trap and Dynamat (sound reduction and temp insulator for cold and heat).  Over that I put Home Depot RMAX Pro Select R-Matte (1 inch rated R6) foam insulation board (with reflective tape to seal), then the wooden sub floor over that.

Side note: Instead of adding more flooring over what’s there now, I thought it could be cool to put down a “Satin” or “Semi Gloss” finish Polyurethane (water based) of some sort to seal it (maybe a nice runner rug if anything down the middle of the bus).. It’s super minimal and looks sleek.  Less is more and face it, bus floors are made to get super dirty. You just want something easy to clean and the sealant will provide that. Just my opinion here!

Walls are Havelock Wool (see their website for more info on why this stuff rocks for many reasons). The bus walls are  90%-95% covered but a few small areas still need a bit more. I have plenty left over that I’ll include so you can add to those areas.

Walls are covered with all reclaimed / recycled wood.

Driver area note: I have insulation on the floor in the very front cab area (driver area) but have not purchased the top layer carpet (or maybe fake grass, rubber or whatever, I could never make a decision, maybe you can). I do have more insulation leftover from this area that could be used maybe in other areas on the bus.  Just FYI…

No ceiling insulation yet, no fur strips on ceiling or anything has been installed yet, nor have the supplies been purchased yet. I was planning to do this last with the upper storage throughout the bus. Also wanted to use reclaimed wood to keep the overall aesthetic going.

REPEATING MYSELF HERE, OVERALL AESTHETICS: Other than the subfloor and the roof deck wood (which was purchased wood)— *ALL the wood used throughout the bus is reclaimed, repurposed, and recycled for a unique, vintage, hand done / airy aesthetic. Giving off that perfectly imperfect by hand vibe. <3


-Bus AC and HEAT run perfectly when the vehicle is on / driving.

(when parked the below options)

-1 MaxxAir 6” Round Dome Vent to suck hot air out (not a fan, it’s a vent to suck out hot air)

-1 rechargeable / mountable 12” fan  I include that pushes air towards the vent and out the bus. This also moves air around nicely as needed. Random but the fan has a light on it and it’s totally come in use, lol..

NOTE: Had plans to install a Chinese Diesel heater (approx. $150-200) but never got around to purchasing it. That would make it even more cozy in cold temps, I’ve heard many success stories using those. Easy install as well. Although I’ve snuggled up and slept well on the bus in 30 degrees like no big deal.


Please duly note: When it rains there’s a small pinhole leak in the ceiling that will need attention. It’s not bad so could be sealed with butyl tape or another sealant of choice from the inside (which I’ve used to seal things around the bus as needed and it works stellar).

It’s small, it won’t cause rot or mildew damage, but in tornado style heavy rain like Houston, Tx, you’ll notice it. But if you’re in Cali or desert climates (or places with light / normal rain), you’d never know it’s there. This is my disclaimer that you’ll need to seal it. I haven’t done any work to the interior ceiling yet (only the exterior deck).

*Also because this was originally a day care bus for kids, there’s a built in safety feature that if you go over 75mph, the check engine light will blink until you slow down.

I’ve looked at this with MANY of my LONG TIME mechanics, and we found nothing. Nothing acts weird or goes wrong, as soon as you slow down a bit, it stops. It’s a safety feature to alert the driver when going too fast while hauling children. We did not hunt out those wires to clip.


Various types of wood for all purposes in build, misc leftover insulation and random stuff you’ll probably need, lol…~TBD but if you don’t want it, I’ll remove it from the bus.


Serious inquiries only. I’m taking offers.

The below methods of payment are to protect both of us during the transaction.

1) If you pay with cash I’d have us do the transaction at a Chase Bank so it can be counted on a machine and directly deposited to me.

2) If you pay with a Cashier’s Check, I would have the transaction done at your bank’s location.

3) If there’s a potential to do a direct transfer of some sort, I’m open to discuss.

*Once the payment clears, we can arrange the best way to get you the title safely. Obviously if it’s a cash payment, you can leave with the title in your hand (and the bus).

For other payment arrangements; I’m *maybe potentially open to you taking the bus if I have a copy of your driver’s license and etc info (but the title would not be sent until the payment fully clears). ~TBD but we can work out a master plan so everyone is happy! Really depends on multiple factors obviously. We will figure it out!


Currently the bus is at a RV storage in Dallas, Texas.

Depending on your location, pickup is best for me, or if you want me to deliver it, we can maybe work something out potentially. Gas would need to be paid to me for any delivery arrangements (and a cheap way back).. ~TBD

Again— Depending how we handle the transaction, we can work out a master plan so everyone is happy! =)


Regarding budget: On the minimal end you could spend $500-$1000 and this thing is done. On the most expensive end you could spend around $3000-$4000. *Depends on how fancy you want to get with some things.

So considering if this bus was complete, it could sell easily for $35k-40k or more.. So this could be a full home for around $25k (and a bit of work always makes you bond with the environment).

This bus engine and year, if you Google it you’ll see how valuable / pricey this model is before it’s even gutted or converted. They are not cheap because they are made great *and to last.  




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