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1997 International Harvester - The Chool Bus

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  • 1997 International Harvester - The Chool Bus

    In 2016, myself and a few members of our mountain bike race team (Team YEAH!) decided we needed a rig to haul the team and our gear to races across Texas and Louisiana. The choice was clear. We needed a school bus.

    A few days later we found a 1997 International Harvester Crown 3800 for sale in a government auction, owned and operated by Lubbock Independent School District.

    We won the auction and a few days later two of our teammates were on the way home with the new bus. A 7 hour drive home in a 20 year old school bus we bought on the internet was quite a gamble. There’s a whole lot of nothing between Lubbock and Austin. Luckily, the bus drove like a champ and arrived in Austin with zero problems.

    About the bus:

    1997 International Harvester Crown 3800
    7.3L Ford V8 Turbo Diesel
    242k miles
    22,000 lbs curb weight

    It’s illegal to have school bus signage on a personal vehicle, so we removed the S from all of the decals and call it The Chool Bus (not the cool bus).

    The day we bought it

    When we got it home we got straight to work.

    Found a message waiting for us behind an interior panel. Apparently Bubba done this bus.

    Ripped out the useless AC and installed some audio and a separate marine battery and inverter wired in series to keep our phones, lights and bicycle head units charged when camping out. More importantly, we can run a box fan at night.

    Putting the wheelchair chair lift to use

    We quickly realized that putting the dear mount behind the driver was a terrible idea, and moved it to the back of the bus. The antlers come in handy for hanging heart rate straps and helmets.

    We built this futon later on

    The bunks all have the same folding memory foam mattresses on the futon. Plenty of room, even in the top bunks, but we’ve all smacked our foreheads on the ceiling. I’ve seriously had some of the best sleep of my life in those bunks. The bus sleeps 6 comfortably, as long as you can find a level parking surface, which is a challenge at mountain bike race venues.

    Kitchenette with OE first aid and body fluid cleanup kits ​ It’s usually cluttered with jugs of electrolyte mix, energy gels, and cookies.

    Wired up some more speakers, mounted to the ceiling with magnets. When parked, we can mount the speakers to the exterior of the bus. We also caulked most of the sheet metal joints, which eliminated virtually all of that classic school bus interior noise.

    Putting the bus to use

    Old bike rack

    New shuttle rack from Recon Rack Co. This thing screams quality. Greatly improved bump clearance.

    This thing is beautiful. Securely fits 5 29er mountain bikes with very little fuss.

    We keep this portable stove stowed under one of the bunks

    My race bike

    This bus has seen nearly every corner of Texas, from Big Bend to Palo Duro Canyon, even to northern Louisiana. All things considered it’s been fairly reliable, but c’mon, it’s a 23 year old school bus with 250k miles. It’s given us its fair share of trouble.

    Idler pulley completely disintegrated 10 minutes into a 9 hour voyage home from Big Bend on a Sunday. That was a fun experience. Seven of us had to cram into an extended cab F150 for the long trip home.

    I really love driving this thing. It’s as fun as driving my E36, in a completely different way. Thankfully for everyone there’s a governor at 65mph; things get super sketchy going down long grades.

    This bus has been absolutely perfect for racing bikes. It makes long drives across Texas comfortable and relaxing, which is key for having a good race the next day. More importantly I can get a solid night of sleep the night before, even in warm weather, which is arguably the most important part of race prep. That usually doesn’t happen in a tent. Not to mention cruising around in a school bus with your friends is, simply put, fucking rad.

    So fucking rad, in fact, that Mountain Bike Action magazine wrote a feature article about it in their September 2019 issue. Digital version can be found here.

    That pretty much brings ‘er up to speed. She’s currently with our mechanic getting some issues sorted out, but we’ll be back on the road in time for a few summer trips. I don’t think we have any major additional work planned, so I’ll probably add a few pictures at the races over time.
    Last edited by Evtron; 03-28-2020, 10:32 AM. Reason: Fixing links
    1997 M3 Sedan Journal

  • #2
    Hah. That is pretty damn cool. How's the fuel economy and reliability so far?

    MSportParts | Braymond141


    • #3
      The fuel economy is terrible, right around 10 miles per gallon. It has a 55 gallon tank IIRC so we get decent range out of it. We didn't have any problems with it for the first 3 years but lately it's been giving us headaches. Our mechanic is working on it right now.
      1997 M3 Sedan Journal


      • #4
        The want to take this to Big Bend is real.

        Past: '99 Hellrot/Dove M3/2/5 | '97 S14 1JZ | '06 Triumph Daytona 675 | '01 330I M-Tech I | Current: '96 Estoril/Black M3/2/5