Some of the coolest RVs in the world are not ones built out of factories in Indiana but are crafted by the hands of people making their dreams come true. These creations often cost a ton of money, making them unattractive for other buyers. That’s what makes me excited to show you another cool custom RV that I’ve found. This Gillig Phantom is not just a transit bus turned into a sweet-looking RV, but one that’s nowhere close to what these usually cost, either.
This Phantom made my eyes light up long before I saw its price. Popular platforms for RV conversions are school buses and coach buses. Some transit buses get converted, too, but I often find those to be based on buses like the GM RTS or an old Flxible. Rarely will you see RVs built on the blocky, more utilitarian buses of the Gillig Corporation. That’s why this bus looks just a little awkward. I love it!
The Gillig Phantom’s story begins in 1976. Back then, Gillig teamed up with Neoplan, a German manufacturer of oddball buses. Gillig would build Neoplan’s bus in America until 1979, when Gillig would decide to make its own transit bus. That bus would hit the road in 1980. The Gillig Phantom was a high-floor bus entering a market dominated by GM with stiff competition also coming from Flxible. It looked a lot like a predecessor to the buses you see doing work around cities today.
In fact, Gillig even uses those half-octagonal wheel arches on its current buses.
The exterior of the conversion does a lot of work to hide the bus’ transit roots. The silly RV-style swoop graphics do a decent job of it. On the right side, you’ll see that the front door was deleted and the rear door was converted into an RV-style door. Your best clue to its transit history is the intact glass for the destination sign up front.
Inside, the interior looks like it was ripped straight out of a Class A RV.
The layout makes sense, and there’s nothing that looks like it’ll fly across the bus when you hit the brakes or take a turn. That deletion of the front door really enhances that quality look.
It has everything you’d expect from a coach, like big, comfy seats, multiple beds, a working kitchen and bathroom and more.
The bus is powered by a 9-litre Detroit Diesel 6V92 two-stroke V6. These made 210 to 282 HP depending on the year. That’s paired to an Allison automatic. The seller says that highway gearing has been installed, so it cruises right at 113 km/h.
There isn’t a model year provided, but the seller says it was a transit bus in Missouri before it was purchased in 2003. It was then converted into an RV by Bob Roswell of H.B. Industries of El Cajon, California over two years. Sadly, Roswell is said to have passed years ago, but I did find their old website.
Judging from the short wheelbase, this bus is a 9.14 m Phantom. I searched lists of retired buses for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and St. Louis Metro. While both cities had 9.14 m Phantoms, none of them are said to have had Detroit 6V92s. It could be that 6V92 units aren’t counted on these lists or this bus was used for smaller transit systems.
Either way, Roswell did a fantastic job giving this transit bus some new life. The seller says that the engine was given a $US9,000 ($12,494) in-frame overhaul and the air braking system has also been refreshed as well. Unfortunately, while it appears to be mechanically sound, the exterior pictures are 12 years old, which is a bit weird.
Either way, this thing is just $13,500 on Craigslist in San Diego, California. That’s dramatically cheaper than a number of the custom RVs I’ve featured and this one looks pretty good. I’m glad my bank account would be really mad at me if I tried to buy this.
This article has been updated since it was first published.