Road Tripped: 1977 Toyota Chinook

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Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing these camper-converted Toyotas in wrecking yards, usually the victims of extensive rust. The disintegration of the fragile Japanese tin is far more likely to be a death sentence than any sort of mechanical malady for these old Toyotas, but this Chinook camper here on eBay seems to have avoided most of these issues all together.  

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As someone who thinks it’s more than a little crazy that you can walk into any RV dealer you want and drive home in a new rig, I like the car-like interior on these Toyotas. It’s entirely manageable, like you were just jumping into any other single-cab, short-bed pickup, except you have the awesome versatility of a camper box stacked above your head. The manual transmission will be welcome here, considering how much weight that 4 cylinder has to move – but you’ll also appreciate the fuel economy.

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This Chinook is shockingly clean. The seat covers on the couch look mint and the cooking station appears to be merely aged and not filthy or broken. The wood-paneled floors retain a dark and finish and don’t appear to be scuffed up. Even the covering around the bulkhead below the sleeping quarters seems free from stains.

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Based on the seller’s photos, I’m guessing they enjoyed many miles of exploring and camping with this Toyota Hilux camper. It comes with an Alaskan registration, so I suspect many of the photos are from that region (it currently resides in California). It’s rare to find one of these with a body in such good condition, so I’m sure it will find a new home – and new ranges to explore.

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Comments

  1. George

    Rotted particle board is also a big issue. I was looking at one years ago and the floors were rotted out.

  2. Alan (Michigan)

    The condition of the canvas for the pop-up top is pretty important, I’d think.

    Lots of good things about these little rolling houses.
    But Americans used to traveling in big or heavy duty motor homes would feel very cramped here. Essential for anyone considering using this or one like it, is the recognition that weight is everything. Like the so-called “Tiny Houses”, these campers should only be outfitted with the absolute necessities. Stuffing one with everything that someone might need when out on the road would significantly raise the strain on the chassis and drivetrain.
    A single person, traveling light, would be happy here. So could be a couple, but twice as much stuff is…. twice as much stuff.

  3. Scotty G

    Dang, I’m going to have to start a roving photo service for people selling their vehicles. There is no question that having better photos than these (some of the worst that I’ve seen), which are more typical than not, unfortunately, would help tremendously in selling a vehicle on the internet.

    • JW454

      Scotty,

      While you’re at it you may also get them to include if their offering runs, stops, turns, and all the other stuff vehicles are supposed to do. There’s no mention of any of that in this listing. Also very common.

    • Keith

      Sadly these are some of the better pics I’ve seen!

  4. Steve

    For small people only

  5. JW

    I remember seeing these on the highway during the late 70’s early 80’s but somehow just slowly disappeared, rusted away I’m sure being in the Midwest.

  6. Howard A Member

    I always thought these made the most sense. Anybody that has had a camper of any kind, knows fuel is a big concern. While the Toyota 4 cylinder is a good motor, you’ll have your foot in this thing ( especially in a stiff head wind) thereby reducing any fuel economy you might gain with a 4 cylinder.( I think the V-6 would be better) For short jaunts though, this is perfect. Could also benefit with dually’s on the back. Very tippy. Great find.

  7. MountainMan

    Way cleaner than most of these. The small size is a great benefit due to the ability to”boondock” much easier by fitting in a single parking spot. If you can manage with the limited space to carry along the things you need this little RV will reward the owner with the ease of driving a vehicle with a smaller footprint than a Honda Civic. The simplicity of this little rig has its advantages

  8. piper62j

    Junk.. If it’s not rotted out now (which I doubt) it will rot out as soon as you register and insure it..

    Nahh!

  9. Bob's your uncle

    I’ve got a Chinook on a 77 Dodge 1 ton chassis. They’re actually better than most for rot since they are one-piece fiberglass. No rust, less chance of water intrusion. The camper part actually looks almost like the one on the Toyota less the popup. Unless everything’s scaled down, I can’t imagine how that little Toyota moves it around, knowing how hard my Dodge has to work to move it. OTOH, the Dana rear and frame in it probably weighs as much as the whole Toyota weighs.

  10. Matt Tritt

    Very nice, but a lot of money for a 2 wheel drive version. On a 4X4 chssis this would sell in about 5 minutes.

    • boxdin

      There are guys who specialize in removing these old toyota/chinook bodies from the older toyota and re-installing them on later model 4×4 toyotas. They look real good since the basis truck hasn’t changed in 30 years.

  11. Leon

    I’ve got a NOS hubcap hanging in sons room. This week I spotted a Toyota Dolphin with tandem axles

  12. MikeG

    I recall my Dad and I going on a fishing trip with our neighbor who had one. Heading up to Snoqualmie Pass we were doing about 40 mph. It took us about 3 hours to get to Eastern Washington!! Pack light and have an extra day of travel time.

  13. Francisco

    Another motorhome with no mention of hot/cold pressurized water or air conditioning. This one doesn’t even mention a toilet. I would guess there’s an onboard port-o-potty. I have been told this 4 cylinder is much more superior to the v-6.

  14. boxdin

    While Chinook made some toyotas and nissans like this one, the vast majority of Chinooks coaches were just like this Ford. Another reader commented on his Dodge w the same one pc fiberglass body. These are some of the finest rigs on the road and have gone up in value in the last few years. Its now hard to find a Chinook Concourse at a good price.

    • Keith

      That’s freaking sweet!

  15. Dave Wright

    The last Chinooks on full size chassis listed for well over 100,000. Most were on Fords but the earlier ones were mostly Dodges and a few Chevies. I just inherited my dad’s 76 Dodge that he bought new at the factory in Yackima Washington. I have no idea how many miles are on it, but it is truly like new. Off course, he owned a large automotive shop and it has always had perfect maintenance I think it is on the third engine, and second transmission. He replaced the floors and decals 3 or 4 years ago. He always kept it tuned perfectly. We drove it last week from the ranch to California for my daughter to use while she coaches her soft ball team this spring. If the speed,is kept down, it gets 16MPG. These were really the best built RV’s for several decades. The Toyotas always seemed to be built cheeper……probably to save weight. My brother took ours to Canada last year and ran it through his shop before he left. New heads, carb, manifold, chrome wheels, tires, brakes, new polish on the fiberglass body…….these were considered the sports cars of the RV world. It has towed boats, snowmobiles, classic cars, Airplanes, just about anything you can imagine. They are magnificent machines.

  16. Bob Deveau

    I bought a 1976 Chinook in 1986, it had 117k on the 20rc 4cyl motor. Blue cab with blue and yellow stripe on camper. Being in Nova Scotia Canada rust(and a worn out motor) made me retire it in the early 90’s. I put the camper on a 86 Nissan(the 4 cyl model with eight spark plugs) and drove it down to Florida a half dozen times. The remains got hauled to a local scrapper this past fall! It was a lot of fun… cold water and a porta-pottie.

  17. Mark E

    I was seriously looking at these awhile back and I’d accept the lack of performance as a trade off for highway mileage but you can’t get around the lack of a bathroom. And air? Do you mean the stuff that comes in from the fan in the window??

  18. TdF83

    Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue ox in Humboldt county in the back ground at the Trees of mystery, wet up there.

  19. Doug Towsley

    I agree that is one craptastic FeeBay posting. No wonder they have zero bids. I have seen a few of these over the years. Think there was some Nissans too? I love the general idea instead of a monster truck, And could be awesome for road trips, But I agree stock it would be a problem. Tippy? Underpowered? I would think so. However, Put a 4×4 chassis and upgraded motor and drivetrain AND brakes! And you would have an awesome little rig. I have had a number of RVs, campers and pop up tents. Heres my $0.02. One, bathrooms inside? NO THANK YOU! That means tanks and plumbing you dont want. (Think about it) When on tour with bands in tour buses,, many will tell you as well, you do your #2 business during stops. Some bands i know will fine you $200 So you learn to time your business. But in general, a porta potty on wheels is just dumb. Same deal with a shower. Sooner or later, you are going to have to maintain it or repair it. Also, cooking INSIDE is again, not a brilliant idea. Heating up coffee, heating something in a microwave is A-Okay, But go trout or salmon fishing and cooking on that stove, ALL your clothes and bedding is gonna stink like what you cooked the day, the week or the month before. That smell just doesnt go away. Even burgers, chicken, anything,,, it just absorbs into everything including the cupboards, walls, everything. Same goes for cigarettes. You can wash, clean, and scrub but once that stink is in there, its always in there. No amount of pine tree air fresheners will ever cover it up completely. But, I in general, These little RVs are super cool. I am seeing some really cool small RV ideas on the roads, and smaller is a big growth market so I expect you will see a resurgence of smaller RVs like this. The big Battle wagons on wheels are not fun to drive, and fuel economy is laughable.

    • Francisco

      The stove on my RV has this thing called an exhaust fan. As far as odors are concerned, have you smelled the public restroom at a gas station lately? I’ll do my business in my own private cubicle. It’s clean, there’s always paper, and no used syringes or tampons on the floor.

  20. Howard A Member

    I think people are kind of missing the boat on this. We’ve become accustomed to camping in motorhomes that are fancier than most regular homes. Go to any campground today and it’s “slide-out” this, and “extended that”, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just this was for a simpler time, when the camper was really just for sleeping, and the great outdoors was the real attraction. I’ll agree, with what public bathrooms are like today, I’d probably want my own bathroom too. We did a lot of camping years ago, and there was no A/C, or cable TV, or bathrooms in the camper. My old man had one of those fold out “porta-potties” ( with the plastic bag, good heavens) and that’s where you went in crisis. Man, things sure have changed.

  21. Jubjub

    I saw one of these about the same dimensions but a late 80s or early 90s Toyota with a V6. Very neat rig. Wasn’t big like a Dolphin.

    I remember climbing around in these when they were new. The concept of these, VW campers and the Astro Tiger need to be revisited via NV200, Transit Connect etc.

  22. Bryan Cohn

    We used a Nissan version of the Chinook as our race team motorhome in the mid 80’s. I know, its hilarious to think of this today but then just having a team motorhome was a much bigger deal!

    As you would expect it was a rolling party to and from events. no one wanted to drive the tow rig. I wonder why??? Nothing like passing “cold” beverages out the side window to the guys in the tow rig while cruising I-70 toward Lime Rock!

    The only mod we made was to hot wire the A/C so it didn’t kick off at WOT. That way it stayed cool inside while going as fast as the little Naps-Z engine would go.

    Fun times indeed.

    I’ve looked at a few over time and one day I’ll own one as our family weekend escape machine. Perfect for 3-4 days of camping fun for the three of us.

  23. van

    Saw one of these in the mall in 1977
    We thought it was great, small economical.
    This is the perfect candidate for a restomod
    Modern diesel, new everything, customize the crap out of it and go.

  24. Wayne S.K.

    I have some serious concerns about the first picture. Isn’t Paul Bunyan’s ox supposed to be blue instead of white?

  25. Doug Towsley

    It IS Blue! Adjust your computer monitor. Light blue with a white underbelly. Or go to ebay and look at the pictures in better detail. Admittedly the pictures on feebay are not that great. As to the question of AC, There also IS a AC unit on the truck, look at the interior pictures again, theres a unit on the passenger side under the glove box. But lacking a lot of details theres no pictures of the engine bay or details about the accys so no idea if it works or not or if all the parts are there to make it work.
    As to “Trees of mystery” assuming thats the same stop along the California Northern California area (hwy 101?) Ive been there a few times. (How many giant Paul Bunyans and Blue Oxs are there?) Its an interesting little stop in a very beautiful area. However last time I was there it was looking a little run down. Back in the 1970s we stopped once there and I recall it being busy and much better condition (But it was the 70s so who knows?) and it was a booming tourist stop with gift shops, food, souvenirs. At the time I was a obnoxious annoying kid ampped up from probably too much sugar and trapped in a car for too long. There was an employee with a microphone talking to kids pretending Paul Bunyan was real. (Might have gave a few nightmares). I started giving him a hard time. “You arent real!” “Yes I am” “If you are real then walk over to the parking lot!” After a bit of this, my mom heard the booming voice of the alleged Paul Bunyan over the speakers “Kid, wheres your parents?” She was mortified and knew it just HAD to be me causing problems. Right down the road from there is the Pet Rock place. Some remember the Pet Rock craze in the 1970s. Some guy started a Pet Rock place where if you were tired of your pet rock and couldnt care for it anymore, for a small fee you could mail it to him and he would take it in. If your Pet Rock was a really bad Pet rock, he promised to institutionalize it in a secure facility. My buddy used to live in Port Orford and claimed to have met the owner and at one time said he made a lot of money. Last time I drove thru there the Pet Rock place was still there. Didnt stop but did see the signs along the road. Anyone who has never been in that area should make a plan to drive up from the Bay area and along the Oregon coast as well. (or vice versa) One of the most scenic areas in the US.

  26. Wayne S.K.

    @Doug, don’t have apoplexy. It was a JOKE!!! (and it’s “oxen” not “oxs,” whatever they may be…) Seriously man, be cheerful… ;) I loved reading about your childhood memories. I have a million trillion of my own, vacationing in New England during Summer vacations. And to think we couldn’t wait to “grow up.” WTH were we thinking?

  27. Doug Towsley

    no worries! Maybe that “Old Blue” could use a paint job anyway! (Jason Houston would complain it wasnt “original” though). As for memories it sure was interesting driving thru that area after so many years. Sometimes things sure seem different than the way we remember them though right? Vintage vehicles are often a connection to the past and nostalgia but not all of them live up to our impressions. Any high school reunion will illustrate that.
    That area where the Paul Bunyan and Blue ox is is also part of an Indian reservation. Im not sure I still have the picture but some years back they had a big billboard along the highway with Schwarzenegger on it and some sort of rant about Him and California Govt. (The Govenattor) That area sure seems a lot more run down than I remember as a kid. But that whole stretch is still very worth while going to see. Maybe buy this thing and make your own “Further” bus and find your own merry pranksters?

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