Sunrader, Mopar Style! 1979 Dodge Aspen Camper

We’ve all seen the Toyota camper conversions, featuring a miniarture home on wheels attached to a tiny Toyota four-cylinder. Despite the small cabins and smaller motors, the ‘Yota campers always seem pretty popular, and good ons fetch good money. However, I have never seen a Dodge Aspen Sunrader conversion like this one here on craigslist, where the seller is asking $2,900 for this truly unusual camper project. 

I have so many questions about this! Is this a one-off, or did Sunrader fix up a batch of Mopars to be its Toyota alternative? Can’t say I’ve ever seen another. It certainly looks integrated cleanly enough that I could believe the conversion took place in a factory, somewhere, but I found virtually no evidence supporting large-scale production of any kind between Sunrader and Dodge (on Aspens, anyway). Do any of our readers know if the two companies collaborated on car-based RV projects?

It’s not all rainbows and dandelions, though – you can see this conversion was not exactly a high-finesse job, as the rear doors on the Aspen are effectively just cut in half to enable the R/V component to attach. Plus, the lack of door trim to continue the theme of the front doors to the rear is disappointing, and really only serves to draw attention to the aforementioned halved rear doors. I would have expected the belt line trim to at least continue, even if the actual piece had to be adjusted for the shortened door.

On the inside, it’s all RV. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on the level of funk you find! This Aspen is definitely one of a kind and will be a hit at Mopar events and camper congregations alike. But as always, you’ll want to see just how “lived in” the accommodations are before committing to buy, along with what the parts availability is like for Sunrader conversions. Who wants a slant six with a camper in tow?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Just as I thought, someone took a Toyota motorhome and grafted an Aspen wagon onto it. At least it has the dual wheels in back, which convinced me it was a Toyota, and greatly stabilizes the unit. The down side of that, is you have to carry 2 different spare tires ( Toyota 6 bolt rear, Aspen 5) I’d think the slant 6 would have ample power ( better than the 4 cyl. Toyota these had) and would still give somewhat decent mileage ( maybe 10?) I’d like to see the chassis connection to make sure that was hunky-dory, but otherwise, I think it’s a great deal.

    • jaygryph

      I know you’re sorta the king of down votes on this site, but this is a case I agree with you on this one.

      I’ve owned a bunch of Toyota RV’s and yeah, this has the floating 1ton axel out back which is key with early toyota RV’s as the stock toyota rear dif, while a good small truck rear end, was never intended to have a constant weight on it like what a camper van body would have.

      The pop top Chinooks got away with not using that rear axel, but the larger Chinook Omega and Newport fixed roof models which are lighter than the Sunraders, but not by much, used a custom toyota based rear wheel that is wider by a considerable margin while using the stock steel wheel center. I have a set of four of them I’ll put on something eventually, and it took owning two Omega’s to get them. Pretty uncommon, which is kinda the case for any of those late 70’s early 80’s toyota RV’s because once wheels started divorcing themselves from the axels due to sheer loads rolling around the road with campers on them, many weird things got made like the six wheel variants you see on craigslist sometimes where they took a tag axel and mounted it behind the rear drive axel so you get a tiny duece and a half lookin’ setup to try to distribute the weight.

      Many of those small camper companies went out of business due to being forced into replacing the axel at their cost with the heavier 1ton’s when accidents started happening due to mechanical failure.

      If you’re looking at a Toyota camper from this era, the rear axel is the thing to look at first as there are many variants of different rear wheel and tire setups that look like a duals set, but are actually mated rims. It’s quite possible to have three pairs of different rims. A five lug front, five lug rear with tabs welded to it to mount a huge five or six lug secondary outer rim, is a pretty common setup and is not ideal.

      This rig with only two types of rims is not that bad. Not ideal, but not that bad. I’d probably carry a full size for the rear and a small spare for the Aspen wheels since the 5 on 4 1/2 pattern is jeep/chrysler/ford and is pretty easy to source in an emergency.

      The Toyota 20R and 22R are both great little engines, if somewhat slow to drag an RV, and typically get 18 to 20mpg. If the slant got about that and had more power and more leg room and comfort, this wouldn’t be a half bad idea. I wager what happened is someone had these two reasonably new, wrecked vehicles, a case of beer, and a good idea and this was the result.

      From a cost standpoint, it’s very hard to find a Sunrader camper for under 5k, as they’re a nice all fiberglass body and have held up well, and are small and agile as far as RV’s go so they tend to demand a higher price than others larger RV’s. Look at what a new small airstream costs, it’s outrageous.

      It wouldn’t be all that bad an idea to buy this and yard the body off it to put onto a more modern Tacoma or light truck of your choice. As far as I know from messing with the Chinooks there was no frame stretching involved, they were simply designed to bolt onto a long bed Toyota pickup frame with a frame extension bolted in place of the rear bumper. Used the stock bumper mounts and everything to do so.

      Being a Mopar there’s probably some aftermarket parts to improve handling and performance of the Aspen half.

      Frankly I’d really consider that monster if I had the room and cash on hand. If it was built well enough to be safe and not leak it’d be a heck of a fun conversation piece and would look great cleaned up. Only shame of it is that it’s post smog, but that can be dealt with by either not living where they smog test or just keeping it in nice working order.

      This would part out for more than the whole vehicle is worth. The camper body would be worth almost the 2k to the right person, maybe more depending on condition, and that 1ton Toyota axel typically goes for 1k by itself, and I’m sure that Aspen would part out for at least the cost of the case of beer required to take the rest apart.

      I dig it.

  2. Bingo

    wtf!!!

  3. nessy

    Oh geez, this is almost as bad as that pittyful gold and brown basic Plymouth station wagon from a few days ago. I would rather look at a monkey’s butt. At least this thing is not gold and brown like the wagon. What were people thinking when they built these things?

    • Woodie Man

      Nessy: The best! I’m laughing so hard. Thanks!

    • Brian

      People make these things just so Nessy will rant about them.

  4. Bingo

    Notice that the ad says “not for anyone…”. LOL

    This thing is bazar.

  5. DrinkinGasoline

    Yep, the Toymotor done rotted away and this here was the solution.
    “Hey ?!..what about that Aspen ?? Let’s git-r-done ! I just got me some fresh cuttin’ tanks too ! Yee Haw ! And then one day they was shootin’ at some foood…and up through the ground come a bubblin’ cruuude..oil that is, black gold, texas tea.”

  6. Bingo

    I’d love to pick up my kids from school in this turd, the embarrassment would bring them down to earth.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      A little humble pie…lol.

      • Bingo

        It’s delicious.

  7. andrew m

    too bad they kept the worst bits of the equation, the Toyota rear end and suspension. There was a reason Toyota stopped making the chassis for these, the failure rate of the weak rear ends was too high. Couldn’t handle the actual weight these rigs approached after being loaded up by the user.

    • jaygryph

      The 1 ton rear axel was the solution to the stock half ton axel being snapped by moronic American coach builders constructing RV’s like they were on full size pickups and not bothering to mention to the people buying them that they were near weight capacity dry, let alone loaded full of people and camping gear.

      That rear is a proper floating axel 1 ton dif. They’re small but remarkably strong and sell for a decent price, sometimes more than the rest of the vehicle is worth.

      Part of the reason a lot of small RV builders died off in the 70’s and 80’s was due to being forced to retrofit at their own cost the failing 1/2 ton axels.

  8. DrinkinGasoline

    Jeff said it all, and I quote: “the ‘Yota campers always seem pretty popular, and “good ons” fetch good money. :) For some reason, I picture paddling past this, in a canoe and there is an image of a mongoloid,sitting in a rocking chair, playing Dueling Banjo’s, on a banjo on a front porch…..

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Then I hear something about a perty mouth and i paddle faster and faster but can’t seem to get away ! The paddle moves the water but the canoe doesn’t move !!

  9. Kevin

    It begs the question, WHY?!?

  10. Rustytech Member

    I think it’s pretty obvious this was not a factory job, Howard that was a nice catch on the wheels, a factory job would also have separated the car body from the r/v body just behind th doors. Unless my memory is failing me, wasn’t the Asen on a unibody. The Toyota was on a frame. Sure would like to see how they mated them. I love r/v’s, but not this one.

  11. whippeteer

    I’m nuts enough to drive it. Definitely one of a kind.

  12. erikj

    “G” Wizz what a sight!!! lol at least why keep any of the back doors aspens are uni-body so I think the closer you bring the half’s together the better. And then its easier to tie the front to the back, frame wise.
    I don’t do that kind of stuff it just seems logical-just my thoughts but it sure hits my wtf are you thinkin. I think it would be a riot to know the real story and thoughts about building this and talk with anyone that had a part in doing this. I bet it would be a very entertaining. Do they know something that we don’t!!! sorry if I’ve been too whatever about this thing. It pushed a button.

  13. Jim S

    This time of year and no reference to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation yet? You guys disappoint me. Lol!

    “Clark, that there is a RV!”

  14. Rob

    This this is the second cousin twice removed to Johnny Cash’s Psychobilly Cadillac.

  15. JW

    This kind of creativity will become more common as pot becomes legalized across the US !!!

    • Howard A Member

      Right at home at “Burning Man”.

      • jaygryph

        Man this thing is tame for Burning man. If you’ve seen the opening of the first episode of Grand Tour on Amazon, you’ll see some of the vehicles from there. That huge VW bus is named Walter and is built on a Walter airport fire truck chassis with possibly the largest gasoline engine I’ve ever seen in person. There’s a bedroom under the driver platform that easily swallows a king size bed. They bring that sucker in on a lowboy behind a semi truck.

        My favorites from out there are the old fire trucks, where someone managed to slide a pickup truck camper into the back of them. Nothing looks larger and weirder than a neon green American LeFrance with a 70’s Huntsman camper slid in the back and a flamethrower in place of the roof mounted in place of the water cannon. I bet the MPG is amazing driving that thing from Reno or god knows where. And I’ve seen more than one. Insanity is contagious.

  16. Rando

    Another idea for what to do with the Rolls.

  17. Mark S Member

    I looked at all the pics and that grille is the deal breaker for me. What a POS this kind of stuff is what gives the DIY guy a bad name. I say take it on one last trip right to the local wrecking yard where they can crush it.

  18. Kerry Glenn

    Remember the old TV commercials for the Dodge Aspen done by Rex Harrison?

  19. ROTAG999

    Wow for a custom one off i think this looks pretty dam good not sure about how it would drive.But somebody had a pretty good idea and i have seen much worse from backyard butchers.

  20. Elliott

    I owned this for over a year! Fun to drive and got a lot of attention!!

  21. John

    Bought it from Elliot, couple years ago. Kinda cool, highly strange unit. Runs out and drives just fine. Super crazy. May be persuaded to sell her ,but I doubt it. Shipped here from his place in the s. West to me in s. West Florida, where it awaits further investment in a resto process,……. when it’s complete, like another guy mentioned, gonna get me a hat and a hound like Jed clampitt and drive it to the bank. C ya out there !!!

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