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Kenneth Olsen
November 1, 2023
71 views

The Restoration and Conversion of a 1969 Volvo

Why choose a bus instead of an RV?

Well for me I have to say I’ve always dreamed of a special place, and I love a challenge. I also love vintage stuff like old cars and caravans. I wish I grew up someplace in the U.S. in the ‘40s or ‘50s. After doing some renovation projects with old caravans I was aiming higher. I needed a bigger challenge.

One night it all came to me. I was scrolling through the marketplace on Facebook when an old rusty bus showed up. It was quite rough, but the lines and style ticked all my boxes. It was a 1969 Volvo bus. It said it ran but needed some work to get it roadworthy and was approved by the Norwegian State Highways Authority. Neither my fiancé nor I had a bus driver’s license, but it didn’t bother me.

The bus as it looked when we got it.
Rear view of the bus when we got it.
Minutes before we begin to rip stuff out.
The roof is getting a most-needed power wash.

My thoughts were absolutely spinning at high speed. You see we have quite a big lot where our house is and instead of only cutting the grass there, what if I bought this bus and parked it there whilst renovating it? The bus was only like 20,000 Norwegian kroner, that’s like 2,000 dollars in the United States. I was a bit worried about what my sleeping fiancé would think of my stunning plan. I’d already got a lot of whining about the three caravans I’d already hoarded. Things went fast from there, the same night I’d already paid for the bus including the delivery to my home country.

Irene doing some touch-ups.

Soon enough my fiancé was told and eventually shared my vision. She really had a hard time seeing it. With my day job as a carpenter, I have no problem seeing the end result in my head and I hoped she would come around. Things got worse when the bus got home on our parkway, my fiancé absolutely freaked out, “OMG, what will the neighbors say and think of us?” Yeah, she had a lot of anxiety about the bus. To help calm her nerves, we decided to paint the exterior as soon as the bus was driven down in our backyard, before doing any work on the inside.

With all of that done, came the next obstacle. When stripping the bus, I realized the ceiling was going to be way too low on the inside if I was going to insulate it. At first, I imagined that we were going to renovate the bus and sell it but quickly my vision ended with the bus begging me to keep it… Stripping the bus to literally a shell of nothing scared my better half for weeks. The bus was kind of only my project now. It was around this time that I decided it was going to end up as an Airbnb bus.

Here you can see the bus with insulation and subfloor. Throughout the whole underside of the bus, we installed a kind of flexible stone facade panels to mouse secure the bus.

The reason it would now be an Airbnb, was because the time, work, money, and layout weren’t worth it. To do this, I had a plan that was irreversible. I decided to remove the probably 500kg engine. With the engine gone, it would give a lot more space in the front of the bus. Maybe give room for an air conditioning unit for the hottest Norwegian summer days.

As soon as I began to close up and rebuild the bus my dearest showed up to help with the bus. We were now sharing the renovation and we were at full steam. We both have day jobs, so working on the bus could only take place in the evenings and weekends. It took us roughly five months with everything on the inside including some wood decking, planting hedges, and getting a wood-fired tub for our coming guests.

Much of the conversion is built off lots of used and old stuff bought on the Facebook marketplace. It was on a strict budget as with all our builds. With the bus being stationary we drained all fluids out of everything. The engine is removed so it won’t be an environmental hazard. The bus got “summer“ water, hot and cold, as well as a shower and toilet. It also got a queen-size bed and a daybed that turns into a 120cm (3ft 9in) bed.

We also got a freezer, fridge, oven and a TV. Nothing operates on gas, it’s all-electric from the regular power supply. We have some fun features for children if they’re staying in the bus. We have an authentic bus bag that was used at the time the bus was a school and city bus. 

A Norwegian bus bag with a coin machine, filled with 1969 coins of the time.

It has a coin mechanism that makes you press out real coins from the same year as the bus (1969). We also have some old bus hats. The bus ignition is also partly working. You can switch on lights over the dashboard/ bus driver. Turn on and off the stop light. And turn on all the outside lights at half power.

The interior queen dreams of summer.
The real boss on the sight checking every step of the build.

A lot of people reacted a bit strangely and were skeptical about the bus, but I can assure you most of them were impressed by the finished project. Throughout the conversion our Instagram grew from a couple of thousand followers up to now 250,000 followers and one of our reels was viewed by 6.4 million people.

It seems we’ve been an inspiration for many of them. Now that’s quite a bonus and boost. The bus is now finished and is bookable on Airbnb, in Larvik, Norway. Just a couple of hundred meters from the nearest beach, the “Stavernfestivalen“ a famous Norwegian music festival and stunning Norwegian nature as well as city life. Larvik is about 100 kilometers (not even a mile) south of Oslo our capital.

The relaxing patio space outside the bus.

If you would like to see the Airbnb listing for this bus, click HERE.

Article written by Kenneth Olsen
Kenneth works as a carpenter in Polygon. Irene has two jobs, she’s an auxiliary nurse in a nursing home and a dental assistant at her parents’ clinic.They have four grown children. And a beautiful cat “Lusen“ in English it means “The Lice.”Between their regular full-time jobs in Norway, Kenneth and Irene are renovating tiny homes on wheels. Small vintage caravans are their favorites.Kenneth acts as the rough-working handyman and she is the interior designer. She’s also the general boss as Kenneth sometimes needs someone to calm down his crazy visions.Their latest project has been the 1969 Volvo city bus converted into a stationary tiny home that will be an Airbnb destination.

You can follow their projects on Instagram.

Click HERE to read other articles by this Author
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