A Couple Converted This Massive Double Decker Neoplan Skyliner Bus Into An Incredible RV

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For more than two years, I’ve been diving deep into the world of RVs. One of the more fascinating things is seeing what people can come up with in custom builds. Annoyed that you can’t get a rooftop firepit in an RV from Indiana? Someone’s solved that. Sad that GMC no longer makes the innovative Motorhome? Someone had one modernized. Heck, someone even had a Smart turned into a micro camper. Here’s another awesome idea, and it takes a weird double decker bus and turns it into what looks like a rather cozy home on wheels. Check out this 1992 Neoplan N122/3 Skyliner turned motorhome!

This morning, fellow big wheel lover Adrian Clarke sent me a link to a cool bus. The thumbnail had me hooked from the start. The bus in the top image is from Neoplan, a German manufacturer of distinctive buses. I could probably identify a Neoplan design from a quarter mile away. And at least for a short time, even Americans got to enjoy the weird things. But the Neoplan that Adrian sent was more than just a cool bus, as it was converted into a home, too. After watching videos about the build and visiting its website, I’m blown away. This thing has more thought put into it than a game of Jeopardy!

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Alternative House

As Neoplan’s engine supplier, MAN, notes, Neoplan was launched in Stuttgart in 1935 by Gottlob Auwärter. His small shop produced bodywork for bus and truck chassis. After World War II, the company began building bodies with an all-steel construction. Then in 1953, Neoplan moved away from building bodies for existing chassis to building its own buses. These new buses had partial monocoque designs featuring tubular steel skeletons.

MAN says that Neoplan means “New Passenger Transport Vehicle or the New Plan.”

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Neoplan

Neoplan’s engine supplier continues, pointing out innovations from Neoplan. In 1957, Neoplan was reportedly the first bus manufacturer to announce that its buses would have air suspension and independent front wheel suspension as standard. MAN goes on to note other innovations like a predecessor to today’s low-floor city bus, rear engine buses, and even the first bus to have passenger-adjusted air nozzles, not unlike what you’d find in planes and buses today.

In 1967, Neoplan introduced the ancestor to the bus we’re looking at today. Neoplan claims that the NH 22 Skyliner was the first long-distance double decker coach. While the concept of the double decker bus dates back over a century, [Editor’s Note: I’d argue even earlier! – JT] Neoplan claims that building a double decker for the long haul took until 1967. As far as I could tell, this appears to be true.

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Neoplan

And Neoplan didn’t stop there, and in 1975 it introduced the Jumbocruiser, a double decker articulated coach capable of carrying 170 people. For a while it held the record of the largest bus in the world.

The Jumbocruiser didn’t stick around for very long, but the Skyliner did, becoming a success story for Neoplan. Skyliners were sold in America and assembled with American engines and transmissions. A 29-foot Skyliner in Japan became the shortest double decker bus in the world while a massive 47.5-foot quad axle single unit used by the NASA Kennedy Space Center became the longest. And while this bus and Neoplan itself are no longer in America, the Skyliner has been so successful that they’re still on sale today as the flagship of the Neoplan line.

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Neoplan

This 1992 N122/3 Skyliner was originally a coach built to carry 90 people. It’s 39-feet-long and housed in the rear is a 255 HP Mercedes-Benz V6. The builders don’t say what the engine is, but visually, it appears to be an 11.3-liter OM441 diesel, which was an option for the Neoplan Skyliner.

This engine was apparently rebuilt in 2015, and delivers power to the rear wheels via a semi-automatic transmission. YouTube channel Alternative House checked out the rig where the builders, Byrke and Ron gave the channel a tour.

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Alternative House

Things start off in a mechanical room near the engine. Here, Ron goes through the camping gear that he added to the bus. It has a 158-gallon fresh tank, a 52-gallon gray tank, and a 79-gallon black tank. To put these numbers into perspective, Ron says that you can flush a toilet about 100 times before the black tank will be filled up. That gives this bus better longevity than most campers out on the market today.

And Ron didn’t stop there, as he added a city water connection for when the bus is parked at a campground.

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Alternative House

Also in the back in that mechanical room is a 26-gallon LPG cell with an external filler. This powers heating as well as the four-burner stove. That’s joined by a 2.2 KW generator contained in a wooden box and a 3000W inverter. Ron wired up extra electrical systems in the bus. There’s the original 24V system from the bus, which has two 220Ah batteries. The house portion of the bus gets a 24V system consisting of four 220Ah batteries. The inverter gives out 230V and there’s another 230V circuit when connected to shore power.

The whole rear end is pretty clever, and I love how Ron replicated a typical RV as much as possible. Dumping the black tank works from a valve, just like a regular RV.

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Alternative House

Moving inside, Byrke explains that 10 of the original 90 seats were retained. As the couple’s blog explains, when this bus was built in 1992, it was optioned out to have a larger interior. Usually these buses sacrifice some interior room so that there can be a sizable luggage space. The bus bounced around a bunch of different bus operators in Europe until 2011, when the final operator, Van Gerwen, upgraded to Van Hool buses and put this one up for sale. Ron and Byrke picked it up and began the conversion from coach bus to tiny home. It took the couple five years to do it, and its first trip as an RV happened in 2016. When the couple picked the bus up, it had 497,000 miles on it. They did a great job, because you can’t even tell it’s 30 years old with a half million miles on it.

On the lower level, Byrke shows off the seating arrangements, which consists of a dinette with bus seats, a couch that can be used as a bed, and two seats next to the driver seat. Behind them is a full kitchen with a pantry. The shore power circuit is said to power the air conditioners, microwave, dishwasher, and central vacuum cleaner system.

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Alternative House

Byrke shows off two staircases that lead up to the upstairs bedrooms. There are two impressively large bedrooms up there. The adults get a pretty sweet pad to sleep in, and their boys get an even cooler room, complete with a panoramic window to see the world pass by.

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Alternative House

A bathroom divides up the two rooms and they’re accessible with their own staircases, offering everyone some privacy. Byrke explains that the bathroom came first, then Ron built the bedrooms around it.

Other goodies include full closets, Wi-Fi, functional emergency exits, and a number of fire extinguishers all over the bus. Even though this is the work of two people, it looks so professionally done that it could have been done by a company. Out of the many custom RVs that I’ve seen, it’s definitely one of my favorites! It sounds like the one thing Ron missed out on was better insulation, as apparently the bus isn’t built to handle the deep cold of winter. But honestly, most of the campers coming out of Indiana aren’t either.

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Alternative House

Of course, this beauty isn’t for sale, but you can watch its journey through Europe on its website and YouTube channel. And if you want to make your own, you actually could! The Skyliner was sold in America in limited numbers, but you’ll likely have to wait to find one. I found just a single Neoplan currently for sale in the United States, and it’s a bizarre thing apparently built to haul both people and intermodal freight. I’ll have to check that thing out. Kudos to Ron and Byrke for a fantastic job, I bet this bus will still be rolling after many RVs here in America get parked due to some horrible issue.

(Top photo credit: Onrust! on YouTube)

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16 Responses

  1. My class A motorhome is just over 12 feet tall. I wonder what this double decker comes in at? The length in the article was stated as being 39′ which isn’t that much of an issue, mine is 38′. I was in downtown St. Louis by the ball park and had to go under a 13′ bridge which obviously I fit under but my point is that I know with a double decker, or any large vehicle, you have to be height conscious when planning your route.

  2. A double decker is a good way of getting more living space if your travel patterns allow it. I have seen some English double decker city busses converted, although this the first long distance double I’ve seen

  3. Neoplan USA started building transit buses in Lamar, Colorado, in the 1980s. Unfortunately, they developed a reputation for having issues with structural cracks, which, most likely, led to their ultimate demise, here, in 2006.

  4. “you can flush a toilet about 100 times before the black tank will be filled up.”

    Surely more than that. RV toilets use hardly any water, and that would mean you’re flushing nearly a gallon each time. I guess if you’re _extremely_ well hydrated that might be possible. 😉

    I do wonder why they sized the tanks that way though. Generally you want a larger gray tank since showering uses up a lot of water in a hurry, and even a small black tank will last a loooong time. You also generally want the black tank to be pretty full when you empty it so any solids get swept out with the rush of water. With an 80 gallon black tank you’re never going to fill it up, unless you just never dump it, in which case you end up hauling a lot of sloshy weight around when you’re driving which seems less than ideal.

    Anyway, I’m just nit picking and overall this thing seems really well done.

    1. Well there is a method to dumping tanks to ensure the black water tank is cleaned out. First after hooking up you dump lines you pull the main valve and black water valve open. After the tank dumps you close the main valve but leave the black water valve open then you pull the grey water valve. The gray water will flow into the black tank. Close the grey water valve then open the main valve, after it stops close the black water valve and open the gray water tank. Nice clean tanks.

      1. Interesting. I have to admit to a knee-jerk “nope” when it comes to mingling the black and grey tanks, but I suppose that would be a way to get a lot of water into the black tank quickly. Come to think of it, they might have a black tank flush connection that could help with this too.

  5. Ever the curmudgeon, my first question was, “Is there a ‘commercial bus’ setting for the gps in there?” Tooling around Europe in that thing is surely amazing, but I’m betting there are plenty of areas where you simply can’t go due to height & length.
    Regardless, the level of this build is nothing short of aspirational.

      1. I figured there had to be. I well remember an afternoon(late 80s) spent trying to help a neophyte semi driver exit our neighborhood which had been built in the 20s & 30s. Once the cops showed up, I retired to the porch to drink beer and watch the show. Good times-but I’ll never forget that poor guy’s face: a stark white rictus of “Oh, I’m fucked now!”

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