Dueling Campers: Chalet & Casa Grande

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

Take off your shoes, get up on the porch, and grab your banjo, these dueling campers are a 1976 Chevrolet Blazer Chalet and a 1977 GMC Jimmy Casa Grande. The Blazer Chalet is on eBay in Olive Hill, Kentucky with a current bid price of $4,250 and the Jimmy Casa Grande is on Craigslist just east of Houston, Texas with a $3,500 asking price. For the car hoarders, er.. I mean, collectors among us, it would be fun to own both of these things!

The 1960s and 1970s were really the heart of the golden era of camping, as far as I’m concerned. That was when things were really blossoming in the recreational industries in the US, and around the world. Snowmobiles and motorcycles were hot, and everyone seemed to want a camper or a motorhome. Something about being free and having your own personal home-on-wheels to roam around in really struck a chord with Americans. GM gave those antsy consumers a few choices, but two of the more interesting ones were these 4×4 versions by Chevy and GMC. The GMC Casa Grande seen here has 44,000 miles on it and has a very motivated seller, it may be the best buy here and it seems to be the more seldom-seen of the two.

The Chevy Blazer Chalet is a “barn find” with 35,000 miles on it and it will need restoration, as you can probably tell from the photos. Unfortunately, there aren’t many photos (go figure) in either ad, and the Chalet only has that one, lone, not-useful-for-much interior photo showing part of the front seat backs, a padded bench, and some assorted trash. I would have at the very least taken the trash off of the bench, but I’m funny that way. There are no engine photos in either ad, of course, but the Chalet has the optional 400 cubic-inch V8. There is no mention of the engine in the Casa Grande other than that it has 8 cylinders. A 350 should have been standard for either truck and with fewer than 1,800 of them being made, they are a rare sight. Have any of you owned either the Blazer Chalet or Jimmy Casa Grande? Which one of these would you pick?

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Comments

  1. motoring mo

    Squeal like a pig!




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  2. Rustytech

    My father bought his first camper in 1968, I was 12 at the time. I was so impressed with the lifestyle my family andI did it until just a couple years ago. Dad started with a camper much Iike this ( it was a slide in ) much larger than this though as they had four kids. My sister and her husband are full timers now. I’d love to have one of these, would be great for weekend fishing or hunting trips, or just parking at one of the near by state parks. I hope someone rescues both of these.




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  3. RoselandPete

    I’d like either one.




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  4. Steve R

    My gut says the GMC might be in better shape. That’s the one I’d inquire about first.

    Steve R




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  5. D

    I had never heard of the GMC version, either would be an eye catcher!




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  6. John

    Towing capacity of just 2,000 pounds, which still a whole lot: (1) for that short wheel base; (2) with the trailer ball so far from the rear axel; (3) with the hitch bolted to an auxiliary frame extension; and, (4) with the potential for crosswinds to alter the stability (which is hell to experience when towing).
    Course, I could leave the boat at home and just enjoy a cheap vintage camper experience.




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  7. jdjonesdr

    How about buying either one and tossing the camper. Still seems like a good deal for either 4 x 4




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    • Russell C

      Exceedingly bad idea, especially if the Casa Grande is in salvageable shape. GM confirmed to me there were 1,555 Chalets made (they didn’t have figures for the GMC), and if the one other assertion out there about 1,780 of these produced overall is correct, that means there were only 225 Casa Grandes made. As rare as a Yenko Camaro, in other words. Fix it up to factory original while keeping the costs under budget, and you could sell it to collectors with enough of a profit to go out and buy a cheap standard old Blazer.




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  8. Howard A Member

    My old man bought one of these,( very cheap in the 80’s) rolled, in an attempt to repair it. He got it at an auto auction that he visited every other week. It was too far gone. These were inherently tippy, and should, at least, have dual tires on the back. The old man scrapped the camper, in an attempt to make it into a Blazer, but the rear, behind the front seats, is reconfigured to accept the camper, and a stock Blazer top wouldn’t fit. These, and those Chinook Toyota campers came through from time to time, all rolled. It’s a good concept, just watch those high cross winds, or that sharp, decreasing radius curve. Neat find.




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    • Ed

      You said Chinook; this 2000 V10 has been my everyday driver for 8 years now and the same for a new one in the 90’s.
      work play hot or cold town or country I’m comfortable during or before my day or week. I’m not a camper. These two would be great except this Chinook model is known as the Sports Car of RV




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      • Ed

        Why do my photos turn 90′?




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  9. Jay E.

    At the time I loved the concept of a Chalet. Grab your rig and drive to the snow, 4×4 capable. Ski all day, have your own place in the parking lot. Reality wasn’t quite like that. It was the little things, like heat, toilet and shower when its 10 degrees outside.
    So the Casa was probably more practical in a warmer climate.




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    • Dean

      I had a 76 Ford F 250 Supercab with a 9.5 foot camper, and skiing is exactly how I used it. Back then they let you park in the parking lot of the ski hill (or at least they did at Sunshine and Lake Louise) and you didn’t have to deal with traffic. Have breakfast, clean up in the bathrooms at the chalet/lift house, ski the morning and back to the camper for lunch, same thing in the afternoon and back to the camper for a nice supper and a couple of libations, then a really good sleep. Used quite a bit of propane to keep the camper warm enough not to freeze, and my wife wasn’t impressed with the arrangements, but for a couple of guys it was a cheap way to get in a weekend of skiing.




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  10. Mark S

    First of all the way the modern truck is made has killed the camper industry. These useless five foot tuck boxes and over sized cabs are nothing more than cars on a truck frame. That said these two GM’s are a lot like that,they have jammed a camper body onto a vehicle that was never engineered to handle it. This bad idea leaves these trucks back heavy and handling would be terrible not to mention the FUGLY factor. Back in those days there were plenty of trucks around that would do a better job of hauling your home away from home. I would not want this half a$$ed attempt that GM put out. If GM was serious about this format they would have lengthened the body and wheel base to something that would be more functional and safer.




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  11. Rustytech

    Hi Mark The problem with these wasn’t as much a design issue as it was a lack of driver education. Even my 9 1/2 footer in the back of a 77 F250 had a tendency to be a little unstable, especially in high winds. They required some finesse to keep them under control. You can’t drive them like a sports car! I always kept my speeds under 55 mph when hauling the camper and avoided rapid steering wheel movement. We used it for many years without any problems. I don’t think these would be any different.




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  12. Steven

    Saw one of these in a barn with chicken shit all over it , I said welcome to the coop as grab a shove.. It wasn’t any good anymore for how long it set there!




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  13. doug

    I Think a Camper was involved in some type of accident on almost every episode of CHIPS




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    • Steven

      Yeah as one episode with Actor Dan Blocker son in a Winnebago as they were smoking marijuana and made Homemade Marijuana Brownies then pasted them out at the CHIPS fund raising.. What ever happened to Dan Blocker’s Son as he looked just like his Dad




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  14. Russell C

    Second listing attempt for the Chalet on ebay, but the seller did not answer either time my request for photos of the camper serial # plate. I used to own Chalet #1747 ( http://67-72chevytrucks.com/vboard/attachment.php?attachmentid=304299&stc=1&d=1191541312 ), and I’m the other moderator at the Chalet/Casa Grande owners’ & enthusiasts forum: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ChevyK5BlazerChalets/info There’s usually 50 or so for sale around the country in one form or another.




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  15. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

    Update: the Blazer Chalet “sold” for $4,400 on eBay, but the deadbeat seller (actual term; no really) didn’t pay for it so it has been relisted.




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    • Russell C

      And relisted for a 4th time now: http://www.ebay.com/itm/252940631631

      In the space of time between the 2nd and 3rd relisting when a non-payment supposedly happened, the time span was only 13 hours. But what bugs me is the seller has not yet posted a photo of the serial number plate on the back of the camper.




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  16. Fiete T.

    I know where one is in Snoqualmie, Washington just up from the Falls on Tokul Road…




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    • Russell C

      Any chance of sharing a photo here? I’m the guy trying to track down all of these. What I look for is both the VIN for the truck whenever possible, and the serial number plate with the build date on the back of the camper, as seen on the plate for my former Chalet #1747.




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