I often write about custom-built RVs that most of you shudder and run away from. I admit, I’d be perfectly happy to drive a janky bus/motorhome. But I just stumbled across an RV conversion so good that it looks like it could have rolled out of an Indiana motorhome factory. This 1993 GMC RTS-II started life as a transit bus, but now it’s the perfect RV.
The Rapid Transit Series (RTS) is General Motors’ swan song transit bus, capping a long history of distinctive people haulers. It also happens to be one of my favourite vehicles in the world. I even drove one 1,930 kilometres home from Texas.
The RTS was meant to be the bus of the future and its prototype had a funky interior layout and was powered by a gas turbine. The turbine was dropped, but other innovations like a stainless steel unitized body built in five-foot sections stuck around. It also had plastic body panels and acrylic windows.
Admittedly, I haven’t gotten started on building out my Nova Bus RTS, but this one comes pretty close to what my dream bus build would look like.
This 1993 GMC RTS is older than my 2002, but it still hits all of the right notes. The seller says that the bus was remanufactured in 1993 and given a fresh title. GM built them until 1987 before passing the RTS on to different manufacturers. It isn’t said what year the bus was originally built, but a 1993 would have been built by Transportation Manufacturing Corporation.
The conversion to an RV was completed in the early 2000s and the seller says that it was the third conversion that his family has done. For a conversion the fit and finish looks really good.
The floorplan looks pretty open and has all of the normal amenities of an RV.
There are handcrafted wood cabinets, a queen bed in back, a pull-out couch and a full bathroom. You even get a nice-sized kitchen. Onboard is an 303 l fresh water tank, 208 l black tank and 151 l grey tank.
A 3,600-Watt propane Onan generator takes care of power. This isn’t an overland build; you’ll scrape its face, back and underbody on everything, but it sounds good enough to park somewhere for a bit.
Powering the bus is a Detroit Diesel 8V92 12.1-litre two-stroke turbodiesel V8. This engine makes 360 hp and 446 kg-ft torque, both healthy bumps over the 250 hp Detroit 50 8.5-litre four-stroke turbodiesel inline four housed in my Nova.
But it probably isn’t any faster as it delivers power through a three-speed Allison V730, a clear step down from the five-speed ZF 5HP592C in my bus.
It also seems to get worse fuel economy at 6 mpg compared to my 7.5. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but on the bus’ 379 l tank that’s the difference between 966 km and 1,207 km.
There’s also a tow hitch hanging off the back and I’d be curious to see how the builders of this have accounted for the possibility of the engine cradle cracking.
Overall, I really dig it.
I do wish it had far more windows because RVs without much outside light can feel cramped after a while. But the polish is so good that it looks like a factory job.
This article has been updated since publication.