Watertight and Ready: 1978 Toyota Chinook

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When it comes to R/V’s, I’m reminded of one of my favorite catch phrases: You can drive your car and you can live in your house; you can live in your car but you can’t drive your house. I don’t know why, but I’ve never forgotten that little piece of wisdom, which makes this 1978 Toyota Chinook here on eBay all the more interesting. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Chebby for the find!

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As of this writing, there’s some light bidding activity but the reserve remains unmet. It’s hard to see why, as the interior of the Chinook looks pretty clean for an older R/V, right down to the sleeping quarters that appear to be a new set of sheets away from being fair game for road-side sleeping. These Toyota conversions often came with a manual transmission like this one, making the slow climb up steep grades all the more interesting.

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The seller has removed the toilet from the Chinook but all other elements of home remain. Surprisingly, the wood paneling appears presentable and the stainless steel elements don’t look tired. The seller points out that in the time he’s owned it, the Chinook has remained water-tight, a big selling point as this can be a key culprit in these old R/V interiors turning downright funky. Power comes from the can’t-kill-it Toyota 20R motor with under 50K on the odo.

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I dig the bright side-stripes and still present “Chinook” lettering on the camper shell. The company that built this unusual Toyota shuttered many years ago, but its legacy lives on in survivor-grade campers like this one. Finding a vintage R/V in such clean condition is hard to do, and gives the next owner a starting point that doesn’t involve gutting the living quarters. It will need an updated propane tank but otherwise appears ready to use.

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Comments

  1. DrinkinGasoline

    The seller mentions nothing about the mechanical condition of the chassis cab vehicle itself. Tires?, brakes?, maintenance? No reason given why the commode (toilet) was removed. This would be a cool project at 3K all in. The reason it’s watertight….it’s a molded living compartment. Kinda like why your molded plastic bathtub doesn’t leak :)

  2. Doug Towsley

    NICE! I wonder if the frame and brakes were upgraded for these? Pretty dated style wise but I would rather have this than many RVs and much more maintenance and user friendly and far less money. Be honest, How many times a year do you use a RV? Most of the time they sit.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      From the research that I have done, they were upgraded as Toyota offered a dually option in quarter ton capacity. This would be a serious candidate for the empty nester couple looking to get away now and then with little effort.

  3. DrinkinGasoline

    When I worked EMS in the city, we responded to many calls to low income housing. There were Cadillacs parked outside and one day I had to ask: You live in a housing project but you drive a Cadillac?
    The answer was….I can live in my Caddy……I can’t drive My house !

  4. Steve

    About the toilet. I don’t know why he did it but I know why I did it when I was roaming around in the mid 70’s. When there are plenty of trees around outside and plenty of truck stops and plug in campgrounds (back then 7-10 bucks a night) a small enclosed space can become unpleasant pretty quick. Even if the toilet is clean and sanitized. Just unnecessarily smelly.

  5. Dave Wright

    These Chinnoks while exhibiting there typical high build quality were poor performers. They were so heavy for the Toyota chassis they got poor fuel economy and were as slow as a VW bus. Many components were built lighter than for typical full size class C Chinnoks and did not hold up well. Contrary to popular myth, fiberglass is heavy when designed for every day use, things like race car bodies are light because they are built egg shell thin, fiberglass boats are heavier than either wood or aluminum and in boats over 30 feet or so even heavier than steel. We have owned chinooks for over 40 years, knew many people that worked at the factory, I still have the one my dad owned since 1978. Built by real craftsmen in Yakima Washington, there slide in campers, class A and C motor homes are the best of there time but when they attempted to compete for fuel economy with these small units, they damaged there reputation badly. Another micro version they built had a roof that you extended with canvas sides a bit like a tent trailer, also built on a Toyota chassis, they were lighter but with water, camping supplies, fuel and food…….they were still overloaded.

  6. pappy2d

    Before you pull the trigger, do the research on failed rear axles. These were great little trucks, but we’re overloaded way beyond design parameters. Bearings seized, axles broke…..

  7. boxdin

    This is the rare Newport model, not like the pop up Toyota Chinooks you usually see. Toilet is removed because they stink. Most people now say only #1 in the RV, #2 somewhere else, its just a pain to get rid of the odor.

    Chinook is well known for one piece moulded fiberglass RV bodies, the majority were like this Ford but some were these small ones, and most of the small ones were pop top models. Not really suitable for a couple, I want a real refrig, bath, etc. Mine is like this Ford/Chinook;

    • Dave Wright

      Mine is a bit older but the same model as this with a Dodge dually chassis. Before my brother rebuilt the 360 and installed a more aggressive cam, milled the heads a bit, put headers and a straight through exhaust…… dad would get 13-16 MPG, it has dropped a bit with the engine mods but it doesn’t even know the boat is behind it on the highway. It actually lops at idle a bit like a hotrod motor now. They made a few on Chevrolet chassis too.

  8. Doug Towsley

    I know several people who went on tour with Rock bands, and they all said no matter how nice of a tour bus you have its like living in a confined metal tube and its only so big and so wide. I heard a lot of stories that its common on tour that there are strong penalties for going #2 while on the bus. You are told to time your bathroom needs for stops. One tour
    (lovehate-Motorhead-Ozzy) you were told its a $500 fine to go #2 in the bus.
    The idea of an outhouse on wheels does not appeal to me. The full size van (Ford) looks like a better set up but I do like this little Toyota.

  9. scooter8

    on the # 2 subject,couple of yrs ago the Dave Matthews? bands’ bus was crossing one of chicagos grated bridges when they dumped their waste. a tour boat was going under at the same time! YUCKO.hell of a tour! now you gotta’ dodge bullets/tax bills! RVs looking better all the time!

  10. angliagt

    You also might not be able to put one of these on a lift,
    as there’s too much weight behind the rear axle,causing it to tip
    backwards.
    I was also told that these were really hard on clutches/-
    transmissions,due to the weight.
    Plus,you can’t tow almost anything behind it.

  11. Dave Wright

    Plywood floors often delaminate around toilets as well. We changed the center plywood floor in our Chinook about 5 years ago but the bathroom is molded fiberglass so no delamination there.

  12. kim

    Hey guys stumbled upon this Chinook thread while researching my old rig. I’ve had a gutted from the floor up 1978 Toyota SR2 for 5 years here in Washington and would love feedback as to how I can get her on the road asap or maybe sell it well see.
    If covid quarantine has anybody that sort of bored I can share pics via email or text. Hope to hear from anyone lol thanks!
    Kimberlee

    My email:
    Motokim03@gmail.com

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