Volvodemort - A Volvo B10M Motorhome Project
A few notes on bus hunting...
This can take a while! We inspected coaches and/or motorhomes based on Austral,
Bova, Denning, Domino, Hino, Leyland, Mercedes, Scania, even a Silver Eagle,
before buying our Volvo. In all, we spent over a year inspecting coaches and
motorhomes across a fair fraction of Australia — from Perth to the Sunshine
Coast (the running joke at the time was that by the time we found our coach
we'd have seen most of the country anyway!)
The worst problem with long-distance converted coach-hunting is that the fitout always looked
better in the photos. After a particularly disappointing inspection (in Perth,
as it happens) we just about gave up on other people’s conversions (especially
if they claimed to have done it themselves), and started looking at just-being-retired
coaches instead. There's more of them, and sometimes they even come with a
service history (an idea that doesn't seem to have really taken off with converted
coach owners, for some reason).
We used a spreadsheet “database” to track approximately 280 motorhomes
and approximately 300 coaches during this period. We found this useful for
- A vehicle can appear on multiple websites, sometimes at different prices.
Telephone numbers, photos or vehicle registration details are a handy way
to identify duplicates.
- We tracked vehicles that looked interesting even when outside our price
range as their asking price could decrease over time plus our rubbery budget
for the vehicle increased. Sometimes vehicle prices moved down, and more
surprisingly, sometimes up.
- Some sites appear to inflate the number of vehicles for sale or their activity
by failing to indicate sold status, or remove in a timely fashion advertisements
for vehicles that have sold. A couple of Motorhomes For Sale sites (and its
very tempting to name them) were eventually written off as worthless for
- A spreadsheet style layout with fields for desirable attributes means its
easy to highlight all vehicles in a given area that could be worth inspecting,
and makes it easier to compare vehicles.
- In summary, it's easier to determine reasonable market values (and pick
the bargins, should there be any) if you collect the data.
In no particular order, our mandatory requirements were:
- Underfloor bins — handy for motorhome facilities
(water tanks, batteries, etc) plus storage. Essentially means an touring
coach, since city/suburban buses have limited or no underfloor storage.
- Diesel motor due to fuel efficiency and size of vehicle.
Standard for coaches of course; though there are other conversions running
- Rear engine — neither of us is fond of the smell
of diesel (the result of childhood travel sickness in old-style front engined
coaches). The idea was to keep the engine as far away as possible when travelling.
Also the rear-engine configuration is
a lot easier to work on!
- Current engine brand — Detroit, Scania, Volvo, Cummins
etc. Buses powered by motors made by companies that went bust 20 years ago
were right out.
- Highway diff — don't really want to be flat out
at 80 kph! Back to interstate coaches.
- Tag axle — allows higher Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)
— can lug more “stuff”, with a bit less room to do it in.
- 12.5m/40ft long — decided this after looking at
a couple of smaller motorhomes and deciding they were too small for our needs.
- Price was determined by the level of customization required.
Initially, an unconverted coach up to $70,000, or a motorhome conversion
that included most of our wish list up to $120,000.
- Nil or minimal body rust — neither of us can weld
and the starting point for a basic frame rebuild by (for instance) Geelong
Coach Works was $20,000 plus — especially if the news was bad after
removing the external skin! Naturally, a complete inspection with final quote
can be performed only after the coach is stripped, by which time
you're sorta stuck with it...
- Headroom to suit a 6ft person. Given our budget we figured
we'd have to make do with a small recessed aisle, but even so a lot of otherwise
acceptable coaches ended up being knocked out at this stage — in many
a 6ft person can't stand up straight even in the aisle!
- Ventilation — opening windows aren't a feature of
coaches, so large roof hatches were a must.
Things that would be nice (but we didn't really think we were in the running
- Flat floor
- Raised roof
- Air conditioning
All this refinement of our search criteria eventually meant we ended up concentrating
on 1980’s era Austral Tourmasters (they met all the other criteria, and
can just be stood up in), and became, briefly, very minor experts on the rear-mount
2-stroke Detroit Diesels nearly all of
these Australs are fitted with. Dennings in general had not quite enough headroom;
just slightly less than the Australs, so were less favoured (even though they
are a much prettier bus IMHO!)
And then we bought a mid-engined Volvo that no-one can work on unless they
have a pit, a humungous lift, or are
6 inches high. Cause it had a “downstairs” kitchen
with rear door, a mostly flat floor, and (very important, this) is,
except for the chassis, constructed almost entirely of aluminium. Woo-hoo!
Some coaches we didn't buy
- Denning Mono — had an automotive LPG cylinder supplying the stove
and hot water heater. The seller thought being able to fill from a pump at
a service station was a positive selling point (kaboom?)
- Denning Jumbo with a mid-engine — had a large boot but the driveline
ran through the underfloor bins area, so bin space was limited, and no
through-bins at all.
- Austral Tourmaster — owner died before we could fly interstate to
inspect. The vehicle couldn't be sold until the legal formalities were completed.
Fell into the too hard basket.
- Mercedes O.305 — had a disconcertingly deep recessed aisle (seemed
to be a feature of the Mercs), but still insufficient headroom.
- Bova Futura — many things to like about this weird-looking creature — a
flat floor, high ceiling, huge through bins... sadly it seemed to be a quasi-permanent
resident of the workshop where we first saw it... hmmm
- Scania Tourmaster — looked like it had been gouged by a tree branch
on the roof at the rear and that created a channel which had directed water
through a large gap onto the frame. The firewall above the engine and directly
below the gap had rusted out. Although the gap created by the creased roof had been closed off with
silicone to keep the water out, the damage had been done.
Moral: take a folding ladder for vehicle inspections!
- Denning Landseers — tended to be out of our price-range.
- And so it went on... until we were down to Austral Tourmasters and not
Bus, Coach, Motorhome Search Links
This 2008 list below of Australian links is just a starting point and skewed towards
large, heavy vehicles or motorhomes. As conversion of a working coach to a
motorhome was one of our options, the list included purveyors of Recreational
Vehicles (RVs), motorhomes, used coaches, plus bus lines that had coaches for
For Motorhomes/RVs the best sites were CMCA, eBay,
RVPoint and the Trading
For unconverted coaches the standouts for us
Nance, Greyhound, Omnibus and RVPoint.
Heavy Vehicle/Bus/Coach/Motorhomes for sale websites:
Bus companies that list from time-to-time: