Family to transform yellow school bus into camper van – with cinema room and kitchen

The couple have bought an old school bus and are changing it into a luxury campervan (Image: @ukbuslife / Caters News Agency)

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A couple are planning to go off on their travels – in a converted school bus.

Adventurous pair Jonathan Allen and his wife Jess bought the bright yellow vehicle from the States and now plan to revamp it.

After spending £12k on buying the bus from a dealership in New York, which included shipping costs to the UK, the Allen’s now plan on converting it into the campervan of their dreams and traveling around the UK in it.

"We were put in touch with a bus dealership in New York state through our UK based contact, Shred and Butta,” explained Jonathan, 47,a civil servant. “We told the dealership what we had in mind, and we fell in love with the first bus he showed us.

It took three months for the yellow bus to be shipped over from New York
(Image: @ukbuslife / Caters News Agency)

"We got it inspected by a private company and bought it! After it was shipped over and cleared customs, it went straight to a garage to get its MOT. Up to that point it had cost us £12,000 and we hadn't even seen the bus yet.”

With a budget of £5,000 the couple, from Paignton, Devon, have dedicated all their spare time to the conversion project since the 30-seater GMC Savana school bus arrived at their home from the United States in February.

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They plan to include an open plan living space with includes a cinema room, three bunkbeds, kitchen and bathroom.

Along with their two children, they plan to travel across the UK to visit scenic spots, visit family and friends, with planned stops at the Lake District, Scotland and Kent if all goes to plan and the bus is ready in late July.

“It was very much a labour of love during the demolition but now it’s something I really look forward to,” added Jonathan.

The couple have been working non-stop on the bus since it arrived in February
(Image: @ukbuslife / Caters News Agency)

“Life’s too short, you need to take these chances sometimes.

“Most of our friends think we're insane for doing this but you have to do these things, put yourself out there and reap the rewards afterwards.

After a long year as key workers and suffering a bereavement in the family Jess, 42, and Jonathan say the bus has made all the difference.

“Around 18 months, ago my mother-in-law passed away and during covid, we needed something to do together as a family,” Jonathan said.

The inside will be ripped out and replaced with bunk beds and a cinema
(Image: @ukbuslife / Caters News Agency)

“Both my wife and I are key workers as she's a veterinarian surgeon and worked the whole way through, it was really hard to do so this was something nice to do.”

He added: “We used to travel a lot more, going to lodges and cabins around the country. We usually try to go every year, most recently to Canada to visit family but now we want to travel here more.”

The couple unsuccessfully attempted to import a bus five years ago but were inspired to try their hand at a conversion again after visiting friends who had done the same with a Volkswagen van.

The bought the bus in November last year and its revamp is now a third complete.

A fridge will provide the family with food and drink on their journey
(Image: @ukbuslife / Caters News Agency)

It cost £4,400 to purchase with the remainder of the £12,000 cost comprising shopping from the US to the UK, MOT, road tax and transport costs – with an additional £5,000 set aside for the renovation work.

They diligently tracked the bus as it was carried past the UK to Germany and the Netherlands before finally arriving in Portsmouth.

“The biggest milestone was just this last weekend, when we put it back together. This meant the ceiling is going up, the kitchen is in and that's all a big step as the demolition was really hard,” said Jonathan.

“It can break a lot of people and they don't carry on afterwards, it's really hard graft. They weren't meant to be taken apart.”

Along with a gas oven and antique sink being installed in the kitchen, the bus will have bunk beds, sofas, a projector and a cinema screen added to keep the family comfortable as they travel across the country.

Having grown up catching school buses as a boy in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, before moving to the UK, Jonathan knew which one to look for.

The family say working on the project has brought them closer
(Image: @ukbuslife / Caters News Agency)

“It was the right one we wanted – the shape, a perfect engine and easy to maintain. It felt right too, we didn't want a huge 72-seater that you couldn't drive on any of the roads over here, so the short five window bus we have is big enough so a family can sleep in it and it’s small enough to get down lanes,” he said.

“It has been so important that we do it as a family, so we're all involved, and everyone has a say. Part of getting it done is so we have something that we’re working towards and looking forward to.”

If all goes to plan, the completion of the bus will coincide with the couple’s 15th anniversary in August, when they plan to set off for the Lake District.

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