Hot!Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought.

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VenusPaw
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2011/03/12 17:41:02 (permalink)

Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought.

   I have the opportunity to purchase a 1962 double-decker bus. It is such a unique vehicle aesthetically that it draws lots of gawkers and picture-takers and would advertise itself.  Though I know there loads of other variables, how would you answer the following question: if a step van could be built turnkey for $20,000 but the bus would cost $40,000, would the attention the bus attracts (increased sales) be worth the higher cost and risk? The top floor would be a dining area which I feel would give me a leg up on the competition, particularly in inclimate weather. I go into every venture with an escape route in mind and think the bus would be easier to sell than the van should the business not be successful, so that factors into my decision, too. The uniqueness of the bus would be great for business but it also presents challenges with installing equipment because of its shape: where to put the generator and propane tanks, for instance. 
   Not to sound rude, but unless you have personal experience with these buses, there is no need to say "be careful" or "where are you going to find parts...?", etc., I just want your opinion on whether you, as a consumer, would be intrigued enough to purchase from such a vehicle. Step one was viewing it, now begins my long process of speaking with fabricators, health departments, and the like. If anything, I tend closer to "paralysis by analysis" than "knee-jerk buyer" so I have already thought of the endless ways the bus won't work. If you do have first-hand knowledge and/or experience with double-decker buses and their idiosyncrasies, I'm all ears. It seems to be structurally and cosmetically sound, but mechanically, there are question marks that will be resolved before I go any further. Thanks, all.
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    BackAlleyBurger
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/12 22:15:28 (permalink)
    if thats a '62 model, its has a top speed of about 35 mph, and drives like a horrid tank....
    are you planning on setting it up in one spot, or going place to place ?
     
    that bus also has a lot of wood structure underneath the skin, so you need to really get in there and dig around looking for rot
     
    i always thought the idea of an open double decker, nice spring day, customers upstairs eating lunch while the bus turtles around scenic areas
    #2
    Dr of BBQ
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 01:18:52 (permalink)
    You asked "if a step van could be built turnkey for $20,000 but the bus would cost $40,000, would the attention the bus attracts (increased sales) be worth the higher cost and risk?"
    My first thought is hell yes, but I would most likely not use it as an event mobile food vending unit but instead use it as a upscale mobile restaurant. If you must do short tours, do them of botanical gardens, historic neighborhoods, vineyards, historic sites, the list of possible tours is endless. And I'd serve top of the line  food, with a great chef. If you choose to go to the other end of the spectrum, you could do pub crawls, and special event dinners. and change the menu according to the event.
    1 A holloween party tour.
    2 A Christmas Party (depending on weather) or a Christmas shopping tour. (Yes it'll be cold but people will dress for the weather)
    3 Ice skatting party
    4 Ice fishing event.
    5 Spring garden tour
    6 political fund raising event
    7 chilli cookoff event
    8 BBQ cookoff event
    At any event that involves alcohol customers are reluctant to drive  so you become the limo and the restaurant all in one.
    My list is short and I apologize for that but I just finished a long day and we killed them at the annual St Pats Parade. Just 3 people  two employees and myself  served more customers than any restaurant in Springfield serves any Saturday night on average. We worked out tails off. but it was well worth it. Go for it if this thing is structurally and mechanically sound you'll have a win win situation.
    good luck
    #3
    Tony Bad
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 10:23:27 (permalink)
    Just keep in mind the height of that rig. If you are planning on roaming around scenic areas a 14" or more clearance could be an issue. Just a thought.
    #4
    VenusPaw
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 11:06:28 (permalink)
    You're dead on about the speed BackAlley. The owner said it's geared for urban driving and mentioned 45 mph but I feel he was probably being generous. He drove it from Key West to KY when he first bought it and said it took three days. Yikes! I had intended to only drive it a few miles per day but now I'm open to leaving it stationary, just because of its tank-like qualities.
    I'm with you Dr., my mind was racing a mile a minute thinking of the possibilities this thing offers.
    I believe it's 13'3", Tony, so that's an excellent point. Height was one of my first thoughts because I owned a 10-car hauler and that is something I always had to be diligent about. In my part of the country, 13'6" is the legal max so I'm concerned that installing A/C is going to present problems.
    #5
    PointGeorge
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 11:16:10 (permalink)
    I'm sure your HD will bring it up is relevant but around here as soon as you add seating you also have to add rest rooms and even the possibility of having to be ADA compliant.
    #6
    indycarver1
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 13:20:25 (permalink)
    It would sure get my attention.  If the food is good then you have nothing to worry about getting people to come and eat. 
    I was watching a show on one of the food networks awhile back about the food trucks in LA and remember seeing one that had a dining area on the top and I think it was an old double decker bus.  Very cool.  Something like that would work very well in a tourist area or in a big city such as LA, NY, Chi but here in Indy it would do okay.  Shoot large corps would want to book your ride for their "team building" outings,  to wine and dine there guests.  The possabilities are nearly endless.  Just think of all of the things and places you can go with this.  Great idea. 
    #7
    BlackOak
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 16:09:48 (permalink)
    I saw one out in california once.  Very cool rig, and awesome dining area on the top.  Top speed was like 40 to 50 mph though.  Its a great gimmick to have one and surely will attract people.  good luck with it!!
    #8
    localnet
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 17:36:18 (permalink)
    Are you in Elizabethtown KY?
    post edited by localnet - 2011/03/13 17:37:21
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    localnet
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/13 17:36:19 (permalink)
    Are you in Elizabethtown? I would buy the bus and turn it into a local/tourist attraction. Set her up by one of the truck stops and make some coin. Not off of the truckers, but the 4 wheelers and RV'rs. I-65 is the mecca of travelers with money to burn coming out of Chicago and Indy heading south. Just my .02 cents.
    #10
    VenusPaw
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/14 11:48:50 (permalink)
    I am in E-town, localnet. I have concerns that E-town is large enough to support my business so I'm thinking I need to be in Louisville. At a top speed of 45 mph, and it being 50 years old, that's going to be too much of a strain on the bus so I would need to find a place there to store it, plus. now I'll have to commute. Ugh.
    #11
    BackAlleyBurger
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/15 03:07:07 (permalink)
    as far as your top speed goes, it might very well be 45, but it wont be 45 for long, those buses are extremely heavy and built to carry a load effectively through city streets on top of it...... i bet you its got at least a 5.13 gear if not shallower in the rear end, that being said, i think a more realistic "real world usable" top speed is a lot closer to 35mph......
    i studied and researched these buses for 6 months while i was looking for what i was going to use, i settled on a step van, small, 5k empty weight, and with a big american v8 it is screaming going down the highway trying to keep up with traffic.....
    lol, as it is, i suck it up, stay in the right lane, and do 45, it kills me, but i figure worst case is i get more eyeball time on the graphics(well, when they are done)
    not to mention the fact that between 35, and 45 in that thing your looking at, will probably be the difference in 10mpg(if your lucky) and 3-4mpg....... i dont know about your area, but here gas is already 3.54 a gallon, and that makes an amazingly huge difference on operating expenses.
    also not to mention parts and repairs, your not going to run over to advance auto and pick up a leaky wheel cylinder........ small simple things like that will end up being huge logistical nightmares......
     
    but.....to be totally honest about it, if there was one here in town, and it was in good enough shape, i would seriously consider turning it into a pub crawler on weekend nights, and a busteraunt during the day.....maybe even strategically placed concert/festival seating with an open kitchen downstairs
    #12
    VenusPaw
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/16 12:26:58 (permalink)
    BackAlley, you and I are on the same wavelength. I could have written your entire post. But just like your final paragraph says, I can't let go of the second revenue stream that goes with the bus. I shared my plans recently with an ultra-successful (in business) family member who is urging me to go the route of the top-notch bus. We come from two different stations in life so it's hard for me to relate sometimes to his position because I've never played on that level, so to speak. He is convinced that a large city in our area will throw out the red carpet for me and allow me to park anywhere I would like, but only if the vehicle is pristine. His logic is that since there are no food trucks here I would start a new trend in the area, creating a vibe downtown, but that the city would want me to "look the part" if they are to be so accommodating. He feels that if I go "low-tech", I'd be missing a golden opportunity. Btw, he also encouraged me to get a beer and wine license, something I hadn't considered but would obviously be supremely profitable and I'm looking into that, now.
    When I first began researching a truck build I thought on a smaller scale: inexpensive vehicle, (very) few employees, etc. My analytical side tells me the bus is a "can't-miss" and to go for it, while my upbringing screams the opposite. This whole process has made me come to the realization that I'm afraid to fail and so I think small-scale, though I've always thought of myself as "careful". At the end of the day, I agonize over how much out of my comfort zone I'm willing to step.
    #13
    BackAlleyBurger
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/16 13:20:35 (permalink)
    lmao....dude, i could have written your post as well !
     
    if the family member is saying the double decker is low tech, i think he is missing the point..... that bus would be a magnet for most anyone to come and check it out, and well...if ya wanna sit up top, ya gotta order lunch :)
     
    it would i think need to be in pristine condition to get the biggest bang for your buck out of it.......
    might better check on the beer licence, i have never seen a "moving bar" before, and even then, i think you would be restricted to one county or city limit if set up like it is here....
    are you a college town ? if so, i dont think you could loose with the bus.... set it up for good cheap drunk food and pub crawl it till it breaks, lol ! find a nice pretty spot downtown for the weekday lunch crowd, and give them a great unique view no one else in town can.....
    if your HD, and town, will let you serve and move, shuttle people across the downtown area back and forth, while feeding them on the run so to say....that one might be pushing it, but its an idea, lol
     
    maybe you could find a second one, just for parts in case you need something, i found one down in georgia basically for scrape weight a little while back.
     
    they are so few and far between here in the states that i really dont think you could go wrong, if just for the "wow, look at that" factor...... and "oohh, its a food bus!!...lets chow" !!
    but in the end, only you can decide if they pitfalls would be worth the cool factor it has...
    #14
    VenusPaw
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/03/16 16:35:27 (permalink)
    Thanks for the encouragement, BA. I should clarify, he wasn't calling a DD bus low-tech, to the contrary, he's trying to convince me a DD is the only way to go if I'm going to do this thing and forget the step van option. I found a rough DD  that I am considering but I have little faith in it mechanically and would never dream of hiring it out as a driver, it would be a restaurant only. Aesthetically, it's a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 but I thought its uniqueness would make me profitable. As usual I was thinking low-key, setting up in my smaller town, which wouldn't get me much, if any, chauffeur biz. When I told him of my plans, he suggested I should buy a nicer bus predicting it would draw larger crowds, including higher-end clientele who would be turned off by the appearance of the rougher bus and that I should set up shop in Louisville, where there are lots of opportunities for a limo service. His reasoning is that it could become an icon in Louisville and would warrant the additional cost of a nicer vehicle. I must admit, I drool when I think of the business I could do at Derby time when money is no object around here, both in food, and as a transport. I'm probably looking at $70,000 vs. $25,000, beauty vs. beast. I know what I should do, I need to convince myself to just do it.
    #15
    SouthernEats
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/25 14:53:45 (permalink)
    Owning a DD bus is not so bad, our 78 Model VRT can go anywhere a Semi truck can go, has over 300 Square feet of usable floor space and 100 sf of shelf/stowage space.  It would make an ideal mobile restaurant.  We were contacted by a food truck manufacturer a little while back about purchasing it to convert into a food truck.  You could have a upstairs dining area and downstairs food prep stations.  We originally had plans to use this for a Wine tasting tour bus in our town, but alcohol and moving vehicles are not a good prospect for us at this stage.  We're selling our bus right now under 30K.  If you do go with a DD bus, just be sure to self educate yourself with service manuals and parts houses in England.  It's not that hard, it took me 30 days, but I finally found people in London that can get me any part I need and local mechanics can perform any work that I don't want to tackle myself.  Top speed is 42MPH for us and thats because the engine is governed by RPM.  This isn't something you want to drive 1000 miles at a time, these buses were designed for local commuter traffic, starting up steep hills from a dead stop.  We got lucky to have a good engine and transmission, the exterior part was the hardest because it's like having to work on a two story house on wheels!  Cheers~

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    post edited by SouthernEats - 2011/08/29 00:37:33
    #16
    CajunKing
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/25 19:54:56 (permalink)
    The bustaurant idea is an interesting one.
     
    There is an open air double decker that tours around the L.A. area, it offers upscale worldy food.  (World Fare)
     
    There is another in RI that has upscale foods. (Jullian's Providence)
     
    Another in Portland Oregon that does grilled cheese in a mobile diner theme
     
    They are starting to pop up around the country.  It is a good mix of food truck and mobile restaurant.  The grilled cheese truck in Portland's diner theme was quite interesting and fit with the food too.
     
    post edited by CajunKing - 2011/08/25 19:57:21
    #17
    nom nom nom
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/28 10:12:34 (permalink)
    The Eat. St. series has an episode that shows the double decker that is in Cali. The topside dining looks like a fun thing to experience. He's hired a chef so the cuisine warrants a heftier price to cover his overhead.
     
    The guy said that his total investment was 200K +.
    post edited by nom nom nom - 2011/08/28 10:16:20
    #18
    SouthernEats
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/29 00:34:02 (permalink)
    That makes sense.  Got a call the other day from a nice lady who asked if the bus was already a busteraunt and I explained that it was just a RV that wants to be a busteraunt !  She said it would cost $40K to convert it to a food truck....$200K sounds steep, but I'm sure it has massage chairs installed :)
    #19
    Parrot Cage
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/31 13:25:14 (permalink)
    Also, you may have to look at getting a commercial driver's license in order to operate it. It depends on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the bus.
    #20
    lornaschinske
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/31 16:59:00 (permalink)
    Parrot Cage

    Also, you may have to look at getting a commercial driver's license in order to operate it. It depends on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the bus.

    Actually it depends on the state laws. Look under the exceptions in the licensing part of your state regs. After all,we didn't need commercial Dr license/tag for our Eagle Coach despite all the folks who said we did because it had air brakes and we don't for the skoolie. The Eagle was titled as an RV, therefore exempt. And the skoolie will be titled as an RV as well and is also exempt. So you need to LOOK for the exemptions. I don't think you will need a commercial license if you are not hauling passengers. But not sure. CDL's come with their own problems.
     
    As for cost... How much can you do yourself? You are looking at getting the running gear in shape plus getting the body (particularly the floor) solid before you start thinking about other things. Double Deckers have little under belly space as some of the folks over at www.skoolie.net have found out. So that leaves you having to build waste & water tanks into your interior cabinetry. Doable but takes a little planning. As for the upscale aspect... why must it be upscale? What is with everyone and "upscale"? Why can't you just offer GOOD food. I feel like slapping the next person who slurps out "upscale" like it's the Holy Grail of food and a guarantee of success... until the next "trendy" "upscale" thing comes along.
    post edited by lornaschinske - 2011/08/31 17:06:19
    #21
    Dr of BBQ
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/08/31 20:38:48 (permalink)
    "Why can't you just offer GOOD food. I feel like slapping the next person who slurps out "upscale" like it's the Holy Grail of food and a guarantee of success... until the next "trendy" "upscale" thing comes along."
     
    Now that's funny and I agree. Good post
    Jack
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    Foodbme
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/01 04:04:13 (permalink)
    If it's a true British bus, you may have issues with the Steering wheel and controls on "The Other Side" to be allowed on the roads.
    #23
    Foodbme
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/01 04:33:06 (permalink)
    localnet
    Are you in Elizabethtown? I would buy the bus and turn it into a local/tourist attraction. Set her up by one of the truck stops and make some coin. Not off of the truckers, but the 4 wheelers and RV'rs. I-65 is the mecca of travelers with money to burn coming out of Chicago and Indy heading south. Just my .02 cents.

    I was in the Truckstop business as a Director of Merchandising and Distribution for a chain with 35 locations.
    We had several along I-65.
    Spent big bucks on research and marketing.
    We tracked travel habits and sales and many other things including the types of bread the customers liked.
    Most travelers don't have money to burn.
    Our research told us if they did, they would be flying instead of driving.
    Non-truckers spend far less than truckers while on the road.
    Land cost to buy or lease at Interstate intersections is outrageous.
    Unless you were there when the road was built, you need major corporate bucks to acquire land.
    To build a truckstop today along a major Interstate costs anywhere between $2 to 10 Million $$ for the land.
    To have enough parking for RV's and other vehicles would be cost prohibitive.
    A truckstop operator is not going to let you anywhere close to their truckstop if they can prevent it.
    You're a competitor.
    Would you like to reconsider your comments?
    post edited by Foodbme - 2011/09/01 04:45:59
    #24
    SouthernEats
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/02 21:42:51 (permalink)
    Well, in Bumblescum, Alabama, I know of a few 'under-developed' truck stops that would indulge a roach-coach for the simple attraction of something different, but you would have to pay them to use their space.  One such truck stop in Tallapoosa charges rent for a t-shirt vendor and other numerous vendors to sit and offer services on their property.  They advertise on the cb and some of them make money.
     
    To address the underbelly of these British buses, there is no room to speak of for holding tanks, such things have to be installed over the floor and under sinks/counter tops.  It's difficult, but not impossible. 
     
    As for Right hand drives, I can't speak for other states, but Alabama and Florida don't care which side of the bus you drive on, so long as the bus is on the right side of the road
     
    Upscale is pretty divisive, you could say, "Unique", but what the heck...how many restaurants on wheels can you go to the second floor and look out over the city?  County two lane roads, low overpasses and tunnels are the only real worries when you go to a new place, but if you are in a city, chances are you rarely depart from your regular routes.  The only CDL that I know of needing is if you drive people around on the bus.  Stop and serve, you don't have to have CDL's...atleast not in Coondoggy, Alabama~
    #25
    BackAlleyBurger
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/06 07:11:31 (permalink)
    yea, unless your serious about driving for a living stay far away from CDL's... 
    if you get a driving infraction with a CDL, even if your driving the family sedan, you just doubled if not tripled your fines and costs..... and dont even think about drinking a frosty one at the end of the day before heading back to the commissary... most states are .08 for a DUI.... with a CDL, most states are a zero tolerance, again, even if your in the family sedan...
     
    and i agree with Lorna on the "upscale" issue.... i think unique is a better term, people throw around terms and abuse the true meaning way too much these days.....
     
    bottom line, your serving food out of a bus, with a stinky diesel engine, you are always going to be in someones way, whether on the road, trying to navigate city streets, or sitting taking up 4 parking spaces, nothing upscale about that....... unique yes, awesome yes, coolest damn thing most customers will do that day, absolutely!........... but upscale, naaaa
    post edited by BackAlleyBurger - 2011/09/06 07:15:47
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    BackAlleyBurger
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/06 07:22:20 (permalink)
    and dont forget your height issues, lol, i dont mean your clearance for bridges and tree limbs and the such as the bus sits....
    but what is it with people sitting up there, and occasionally standing to wave to friends...... would hate to hear about you clipping some drunk college kids with a city landscaping tree limb because they wouldnt stay seated, lol..... that would be funny though, but tragic....
    #27
    chefbuba
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    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/07 23:21:17 (permalink)
    This one is for sale.......
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    • Status: offline
    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2011/09/19 11:38:56 (permalink)
    In reference to the height issue, the maximum legal height of any vehicle (without EXPENSIVE state permits and a variety of restricted routes/operating hours) is 13'6" MAXIMUM. I used to haul oversized loads as a truck driver and those state/county/municipal laws can be a bear.
    #29
    Augusto
    Junior Burger
    • Total Posts : 15
    • Joined: 2012/03/21 14:43:00
    • Location: Brasília, XX
    • Status: offline
    Re:Advice on building a food truck using a British double-decker sought. 2012/03/23 13:02:08 (permalink)
    I'm from Brazil, and would make a restaurant in a bus. I count on the help ofmembers of this forum.
    grateful
    #30
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