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Three Axles and a 454: Mystery Motor Home


It’s approaching noon here on the East Coast. That should mean at least a few of our readers have imbibed in some early snacks and beverages, which always helps to jostle the memory bank. Well, put down your glass and help me figure out what the heck this “big camper” here on craigslist is: all the seller shares is that it’s got three axles and is powered by a 454 big block with a 400 Turbo transmission. I’ve got a guess below – what do you think? 


The seller also has a second R/V for sale, but this one is simply called the “smaller one” and is powered by a 440 mill. Both campers are non-runners at the moment, but the seller does let us know they both “ran when parked,” which is about as helpful as the photos themselves, that don’t show the interiors of these project-grade motorhomes. He will take trades, which yields an equally vague description: “A nice car or truck, or a nice 4×4 ATV.”

Image courtesy of Rasmus Auctions

Here’s my best guess for the later-model R/V: it looks an awful lot like an Apollo conversion to me. I have no proof of this, but if it is, there’s a strong following for this breed of motorhome and looks like it cost quite a bit of money back in the day (as do most higher-end R/Vs). It also has the dually rear axle set-up, which a lot of Apollos seem to have based on my perusal of camper classifieds sites.

Image courtesy of Used RV For Sale

The other R/V reminds me of the Dodge-powered Atlas variants, but that’s mainly due to the angular front end and single round headlights. However, I’ve not found an exact duplicate of either of the unnamed motorhomes listed in the craigslist ad, so please, dear readers: weigh in and weigh in often (not literally, of course – going near a scale on Turkey Day is a horrible idea).


  1. grant

    My neighbor has a large Chinook very similar to the 3 axle.

    • OhU8one2

      The “Smaller One” is a Southwind built by Fleetwood in Riverside,Ca. That model came in 3 different lengths,22,25,and a 28. I know this only because I have a 1978 Southwind. They are nice, but if you need a mobile living space, this coach will get the job done.

  2. Coventrycat

    Road locomotive. That thing is huge.

  3. Dave Wright


  4. Rick

    Two things that triple axle can’t do: go from a flat to an incline (like a driveway) and high crown hills. Geezus… that rear overhang! That long center between axles! Whomever drove/will drive this monstrosity has a hairier set than me…

  5. Dolphin Member

    Rick’s right. Those loooong RVs do have big limitations in addition to using lots of fuel.

    My neighbor has a 35 footer with the 454 engine up front, FWD, and a big rear overhang. He was driving it up to his house, it had been raining, and his front wheels just spun on the grade. Going up even a small hill with that big rear overhang unloads the front wheels, so they can spin unless traction is perfect.

    Part way along the road is my place, with plenty of parking, so he parked there until things dried out.

    If I’m traveling the last thing I want to have along with me is a small house. Those long “campers”? No thanks.

  6. Vincent Stansbury

    Looks like the big one done bumped the rear body up pulling a incline looks like the rear is kinked up.Or got it stuck in a dip in the road.

  7. DW

    The amount of visible *sag* on the back end of that triple axle is worse than my paunch after Thanksgiving overindulgence. Good lawd, wouldn’t be surprised if the caboose end just lays down and dies after the first big bump!

    • Vincent Stansbury

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it it didn’t break in half like the titanic when you tried to load it.

      • John

        We’ve just come across an apollo built in 84. Paid 1800. For it it has 26000 miles on it. If only I could post a pic with the build plate .

  8. Van

    I have a better question that I know is blasphemy but. It’s easy to find an RV from the 1980s with less than 50k miles. What is a 454 with 40k miles worth. It will be low compression with harden valve seats. Add a small cam and headers and drop into a mussel car, or hotrod.

    • ACZ

      Depends if it’s a short deck or tall deck block.

      • Vincent Stansbury

        That is a good point I forgot about that.good thing is most rv eng are 4bolt hd though.

    • grant

      With the cam that’s already in it, it might make a good boat motor.

    • Jacob

      There’s a youtube series called Roadkill. They sawzalled a 454 out of a motorhome and put it in a charger. it was pretty hilarious.

      • Jacob

        oops it was a 440 haha

  9. Vincent Stansbury

    Definantly good running gear for streetrod or truck maybe sell some parts fat money back.scrap value sucks now and moving it would be a pita and say if it did run good running gear worth 1000 1200 easy

  10. Cheato

    The first one looks like the Human Centipede of RVs.

  11. boxdin

    Perfect examples of the junk that was built in the 70s & 80s.

  12. gulfcoastie

    The “later model” (the cream color with brown stripes) is an Apollo. I don’t know the model or year and it is not a conversion. I had a 1976 RB3000, 30 foot rear bath, a few years back. Power was 440 Dodge. The Apollo’s in their day were “top of the line” machines. Most left the factory almost with all options. On one of my tips, I met a former Apollo Southeast Sales Rep. He gave me a full very interesting history of the Apollo. I sold my Apollo to my Step-son when I purchased a 1991 31 foot Gulfstream. P.S. the Apollo is superior of the two machines.

  13. Howard A Member

    The smaller one was pretty “standard issue” motorhome. My parents had an “Escapade” on a Dodge chassis and a 440. It sucked.(gas) The big one, looks to me like some home made deal. I can’t find any motorhomes with that rise in the middle. The smaller one, I suppose could be used, provided you plan your gas stops accordingly The best thing for the bigger one, drive it to a vacation lot, level it out, put it on blocks, take the wheels off, and put a mail box out front. This thing just looks unsafe to drive. ( oh, and put the 454 in a Nova)

    • Wildfire

      The ‘rise’ in the middle looks to me like a design flaw because the frame is bent in the middle ~ have it checked out very carefully by a RV shop or Camping World dealer
      Giant Red Flag !

  14. Wildfire

    The Big one looks like a Pace Arrow and as a former owner of a POS Pace Arrow they are JUNK and were nor built with that hump in the middle the frames flex VERY much and cause problems with the roof and leaking and requiring to replace the roof twice and repair the windshield several times I love the Big RVs and Campers ~ and would own and drive one just not one built by Fleetwood (who owns Pace Arrow and a few other brands ) I would rather have a 45′ Fifth Wheel with a International or Freightliner Built to pull a 5th wheel Camper My Grandfather pulled his 45 ft Fithwheel Camper all over the country with a 1975 International 2 wheel drive P/U until he was 88 years old (drove his truck until he was 92 and had a mini-stroke and finally quit driving )
    I recommend Staying away from PACE ARROW at every chance

  15. John

    The large one is likely as built, though not high end examples as the Apollo is. If you look closely at the Apollo, you will notice smooth fiberglass sides common to the upscale RVS of the time. The larger one listed has corregated metal sides, so it is likely the largest offering of a lower level manufacturer such as Pace Arrow. Some did have the rise in center, often to give some basement storage underneath. Judging by the wavy lines of the rear I am thinking there is some serious structure issues so pulling drive train to repurpose is likely best case.

  16. Mark S

    Strip them both down to the bare chassies pedal controls and steering columns. Scrap the rest of it. Then wait for the right vintage trucks to come along, then shorten these chassies to fit the wheel bases of the trucks of choice. Then cut off what is no longer needed off the back of the chassie. Now that would be a good start to two restomods now of course there will be a bunch more restoration needed on both bodies and chassies but in the end you’d have a fantastic couple of big block vintage trucks on the cheap. Que the naysayers.

    • Van

      I like your idea. How about a 46 chevy COE with a Spartan camper on the back.

    • boxdin

      Same idea around here in TX/NM we take class C motorhomes on nice Ford and Dodge chassis and remove the camper body and buy a fiberglass cab back, throw on a stake bed and you have a nice low mile truck w AC, Cruise etc.

  17. tank

    I swear I saw it on the last thunderbirds I watched with Penelope driving
    Tank from aus

  18. Ck

    The big one is definitely a GRAND BEHEMOTH….Homer Simpson had one.

  19. S Ryan

    Don’t get to attached they are leaving with me when I leave next month.

  20. CarNut from Winnipeg Member

    The big one reminds me of a custom built one I saw and toured in Prince Edward Island in the early 1980’s. It was built by an acquaintance of a family friend. He owned a factory that made potato harvesting equipment. Still in business. Allan Harvesting…something. Anyhow, his had 7 axles, 3 front and 4 rear, 45 feet long, front drive! to all 3 axles, which all steered. 900 cube rear diesel from a bus, king bed over top, washroom in front of that with full tub, kitchen and living in front of that, with a corner waterfall IIRC, then step down in front of the axles to driver compartment. Corvette seats. Roof had 2 step ups – 1 behind driver area and another around washroom area. Unbelievable machine to let a 14 yr old run around in!. He said he hardly ever left the Island with it. Cost too much to take it on the ferries. Should be some pics somewhere on the internet maybe if anyone has time to look.

    • Sking

      Is this it?

      • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

        Yes indeed. Where did you find the pic?
        I forgot to mention before, this was built by the manufacturing team at Mr. Allan’s potato harvesting equipment factory.

      • Sking

        Not too many 7 axle motorhome pics on the internet. I was actually looking for info on the posted motorhomes and this pic came up on a Weird RV site. I remembered your comment and put the two together.

  21. DW

    Danica’s team has already snagged that big beast. No need to dream about it any more.

  22. Loco Mikado

    The picture is lousy and distorted. The part everyone says is bent is actually the tip out if you look carefully.

    • DW

      Nope. When the metal siding has a big wave like it does under the rear window that’s most definitely because the sidewalls have let go, usually from water damage, old glue or the body stressing/sagging.

  23. Doug Towsley

    My guess is Methlab ala “Breaking bad” or a moonshine roost. I think the idea to strip them for the donor chassis/drivetrain is brilliant and then fit some sort of 1930s or 1940s cool retro body work on it is the way to go.

    Repurpose and rebuild is cool. Here in PDX Oregon the micro house and ADU housing is all the rage. You could build a very cool micro house/RV out of one of these and you get a title and registration so you can bypass many codes and restrictions. We have a vacation property up in the hills. Small gated community and many site holders have RVs or converted trailers and gets away from the code restrictions.

    I need a flat bed trailer for hauling my tractor and car projects on. I bought a old RV trailer (20ft) for $300 and up until recently was using it as parts storage. Scrapping the trailer body and a few braces and decking I have a very nice flat bed at a fraction of the cost of a comparable double axle Flat bed. Dont overlook a project if it can be rebuilt-repurposed.

  24. Fiete T

    I’ll stick to my re-vamped Travco 320 Travstar…

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