Classic Camper: 1974 Toyota Chinook RV

Seeing this incredibly clean 1974 Toyota Chinook gets me right in the feels as I knew of where one of these was hiding and in very restorable condition. This nicely preserved example is listed for $25,000, which blows my mind as for years, they were total throwaway vehicles. Of course, this example is a serious outlier, with a colorful history as an outdoorsman’s getaway vehicle, and today the Toyota has just 72,000 miles on the clock while remaining in incredibly original condition. Find it here on craigslist in Reno, Nevada, and thanks to Barn Finds reader Gunter K. for the find. 

The Chinook RVs made motorhome ownership a reality for many drivers who didn’t have the desire to pilot a gigantic, gas-guzzling RV around crowded campsites. It’s slightly ironic that we consider the modern fully-kitted Sprinter motorhomes to be a revolutionary concept considering the Chinook was a very similar idea, just one that was executed in 1974. The trouble is very few of them remain in this sort of condition, as they went from a weekend getaway vehicle to a literal home on wheels that someone lived in full-time. This example is said to remain completely authentic, looking exactly the way it did in 1974.

The Chinook always struck me as an incredibly well-executed design. As the seller points out, with the pop-top down, most passers-by wouldn’t know it was capable of expanding into a full-blown camper. The ample daylighting offered by the skylights in the front of the camper shell makes the compact shell airy and bright. Unlike a VW Westfalia of the same era, the entirety of the roof pops up, not just a small center section, so taller folks like the seller who clocks in at 6″3′ can stand up inside. The seller notes the canvas on the roof is in great shape with no rips or tears, and the bodywork appears to be sound, too, no doubt helped by its longtime residence in Wyoming.

You can tell the gentleman who was the first owner was a fastidious one, as the listing notes the sheets had sheepskin covers on since new and the original upholstery remains in mint condition. The 18R engine is known for being incredibly durable, but this one has clearly been loved as the seller reports seeing 27 miles per gallon on a recent trip from Whitefish, Montana to Lake Tahoe. The only thing really missing is the lack of a fridge or a heater, which are two features most of us would want for living on the road for weeks at a time. Still, there are workarounds for those sorts of things, and the bigger challenge is to find a Chinook that remains as clean and as original as this one. If you find a better one, buy it.

Comments

  1. robj Member

    I had a ’73 Toyota pickup, same engine, that was absolutely bullet-proof. I often wondered how these handled with what I presume to be added weight in the rear and taller sides, especially in cross winds. I think air bags, or something of that nature, over the springs, would steady things up some. This one is really in amazing condition!

    Like 4
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    I had a ’72-1/2 RN22,& it wasn’t all that powerful.
    I’m wondering how this would do on the road?
    A friend of mine who worked in the shop at the local
    Toyota dealer told me that they had a Toyota pickup based
    motor home that started falling backwards off the lift,due to
    all the weight on the back.
    My parents had a neighbor with a Chinook motor home
    just like this,& said that they had a lot of transmission problems
    with it.Not sure if that was common.

    Like 4
  3. Bob C.

    I’m kind of surprised the listing says it would cruise comfortably at 70-75. I remember hearing these were hard pressed to go over 60.

    Like 8
  4. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking Toyota. I’ve known people who have owned Chinook motorhomes. I don’t know exactly how fast they’re capable of going. I reckon it depends on what powers it and how it’s gearbox is geared.

    Like 1
  5. GregM

    Sheepskin covered sheets? Color me impressed….:)

    Like 3
  6. Gary Thompson

    We’ve got a 90 Chinook – excellent condition,same price..gmilesthompson@sbcglobal.net.

    Like 2
  7. Howie

    A bit pricey and no engine photos, posted 8 days ago.

    Like 1
  8. Steve

    If you do a gvw on these it reveals they are so maxed out from the factory that you can’t even pack much, fill the fresh water tank and groceries and you are over loaded. 70-75 mph is irresponsible BS.

  9. Slomoogee

    A much better choice than a VW camper at the same price point they are now going for. Cruising comfortably at 70-75 seems a bit of a stretch if you ask me. Bulletproof engine for sure but more suited to leisurely 55 mph blue highways.I would love to have this rig.

    Like 3
  10. chrlsful

    just gunna say I’d rather this than the ve dub, oh well.

    I like it – stripped down AND a hight lowering ‘tent’. I
    might convert the back skin to a “lift gate” w/hide-under
    ramp. This would allow even more ‘conversion’ so as to
    still use as ‘truck’ for haulin @ times needed. Even way
    to mount a dirt bike or 4 wheeler in there? to really get
    into the out back (way I like it anyway. ) Also I travel solo
    so a porta pot, colman stove, ele 6 cu ft fridge/frezer and
    storage of exterior hang-a-shower is all I need. Too old to
    sleep on the ground/ina tent but love to get out above the
    tree line (11 western states) as remote as possible…

    We service one (2 post lift) never hada issue with “falling off the lift” !!!

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