Curbside Classic: 1964 Chevrolet C30 Chinook Class C Motorhome – Let’s Hit The Road

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If you’ve been around CC for a while, you know I have a thing for old pickup campers and motorhomes. Especially so this time of year, as thoughts of boondocking along a remote gurgling mountain river predominate. As the owner of a ’77 Dodge Chinook Concourse, I particularly notice other old Chinooks, and just have to document their existence. I’ve shot and posted on two old Chinook pickup campers (here) and (here), but this is the first Class C Chinook, and it’s mighty appealing.

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Chinook was a pioneer in using fiberglass  for its RVs, which probably explains why so many of their old ones are still around. These early Chinook campers/motorhomes still used the common aluminum “siding” for the sidewalls, but the roof was a single fiberglass molding. The overwhelming reasons old RVs die is through roof leaks, which soon render their interiors a stinking, moldy mess. Keeping an RV (or house) dry is the most important thing of all, and there’s nothing better than a fiberglass roof for that.

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I’m particularly drawn to this type of motorhome with a pickup-type cab, rather than the van-type cab, because access to the engine compartment is so much easier.

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My Dodge gives me the willies every time I even have to think about fixing something in the engine room; access to the front is through the tiny hood, and the radiator is very close to the engine. Here I am having to replace the fan clutch and water pump on our maiden journey to Mexico in 2003, in front of SIL’s house in San Mateo. She loved me for that; not. I hadn’t painted the fiberglass repairs I made before heading off.

How many times have I had to pop off the big fiberglass interior engine “hood”, and carefully lay it across the two bunks behind the front seats. And heat pours through that cover, as well as noise. Every time I open the hood on my Ford F100, I smile; not so with the Chinook.

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This rig even has air conditioning, which was quite uncommon on trucks at the time. Chevrolet started offering it in 1965, as well as the 327 V8, in a 220 hp version. I’d like to think this one has it, which teamed up with the four-speed stick would make quite a nice powertrain. Bet it sounds nice winding out on a mountain grade in third. (Update: this is actually a 1964, so it might have had the 283 or even the 292 six).

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My Chinook is the only V8 in the Niedermeyer fleet, and it has a husky low-restriction truck muffler and a big single pipe exiting on the driver’s side ahead of the rear wheels; hearing its 360 V8 grumble and bellow a bit is one of the joys of driving it, although my damaged ears can’t take the rest of the noise on longer highway trips anymore; sound-cancelling headphones are a must. But they come off once we got to the slower back roads.

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Not surprisingly, this rig is presumably owned by a Dead-head. Was it used back in the day to follow the Dead on their tours?

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I’ve shown you the good end of this rig, but here’s the sorry ass end. The big panoramic rear windows are gone; good luck finding replacements for them.

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There’s a large facing dinette that folds down to make a big bed back here. Love that upholstery fabric; wish ours had it.

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This is of a roomier interior than ours, which is a bit smaller all the way around and doesn’t have a cab-over bunk bed. Looks like it’s seen better days; too bad, as these are quite rare now. I saw a really nicely-restored one somewhere a while back; old campers are very hip/cool, and this is a very practical one. If I happened to find one like this in better shape, I’d be tempted. In the meantime, writing this has given me the urge to get mine out of hibernation. It always starts right up, with such a nice bellow, and a big puff of smoke to go with it….


Related reading: Auto-Biography: Glacier and Bust – Zen and the Art of Roadside RV Repairs    1965 Ford F-250 with Chinook Camper       1968 GMC Pickup with Chinook Camper