First the mechanics, then the décor
Although Martie was keen to get the decorating done, the bus framework had been badly neglected and battered, and the floor was virtually rusted through. This had to be addressed first.
“Before we could do anything, Gert had to make sure the bus was waterproof, rust-free and structurally sound. This in itself was an adventure. We all got stuck in – even Gerrit, who was only eight years old at the time,” recalls Martie.
“The renovations were supposed to take three months and my very capable and talented husband assured me there’d be no drama or problems.” Unfortunately, these things always take longer than expected – whether you’re renovating a bus or a house. With the bus, three months turned into 18 months of extensive mechanical repairs, rust removal and spraypainting, plus furnishing of the interior.
Meanwhile, the bus was given the nickname Wange (‘Cheeks’), a reference to the distinctive rounded front fenders of a Bedford bus – and Gert got his code 10 driver’s license.
Gert tackled all the mechanical repairs himself and now its ADE Mercedes 352 engine is as good as new. “The engine block, crankshaft and sump are all that remain of the original engine,” says Gert, who also did the spray-painting with two friends. The only time he called in professional help was for the refurbishment of the engine’s sub assembly and the prep work for the spray-painting.
With all the necessary repairs done, Gert and Martie could start equipping the bus to suit their needs.
“The quotes for built-in cupboards and furniture were simply beyond our budget, so Gert did it himself,” says Martie. “I got the white Swedish-look living space I wanted, even though the project required quite a bit of prayer. I think the prayers were more about me needing patience than anything else!”
The family’s first trip on the bus was to Struisbaai in September 2015. Although it guzzles a litre of diesel for every 6km, Gert wasn’t joking when he said it was a bargain. The bus is currently insured for about R350 000 – more than double its purchase price and repair costs.
“Three years on, we have a beautiful mobile holiday home. It goes where we want it to go and the kids really enjoy family vacations,” says Martie. “The best thing is that we can stop wherever we want to and I have my own space with my utensils and pretty things, no matter where we end up.
“On every trip, I’m creating my own little world. It wouldn’t be the same if we’d paid someone else to do the renovations.”
Gert had to replace large sections of the steel panels, so he removed the windows too. Entire side panels and rubber seals were also replaced.