CC Capsule: Toyota Chinook Pop-Up Camper – Suddenly It’s 1978

Chinook Toyota 1

As we were walking back from our evening walk down to the river last night, this little pairing could not be left unshot, even if it was on Stephanie’s phone since I forgot my camera. Suddenly it’s 1978, and two of the more iconic vehicles of that era are sitting back-to-front: a VW Diesel Rabbit and a Toyota-Chinook pop-up camper.

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We’ve done several diesel Rabbits here in the past (here’s one), so let’s take a quickie look at this little brother to my Dodge Chinook. This must be one of last in the series that went from 1973 to 1979, because it’s labeled Econo Concourse, a name Chinook only started using in about 1978, typically as just Concourse for the bigger ones. It’s the first time I’ve encountered this name, and there are quite a few of these still in Eugene.

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They were built with Toyota’s involvement and blessing, and sold in Toyota dealerships, starting in 1973. Toyota had to beef up the rear end after a year or so, because folks had a habit of overloading them. They were essentially a competitor to the VW Westfalia camper-buses, and were sold with the idea that they could be used during the week as a reasonably economical vehicle and then taken camping on the weekend. Given that Toyota trucks are rugged, and Chinook’s fiberglass construction is pretty solid, these are long-lived vehicles and became favorites of a certain crowd a long time ago, and still have a bit of a cult following.

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My headline “Suddenly it’s 1978” isn’t really accurate , as this Rabbit is a 1981 or later version. There’s a rather eclectic collection at this house, when the two cars in the driveway are factored in: a Toyota Corolla All-Trac wagon and a Mercury MGM with vinyl top. I’m guessing someone inherited Great Uncle Dick’s car. Or someone is being very ironic, given the neighborhood.

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As I said, there’s a number of these in town, my favorite one being this well-insulated one. I posted it a year or so ago, and recently, it’s owner found the post and left this comment:

This is my vehicle. It has 4″ of sprayfoam, including the undercarriage. I have camped in -20 degrees and stayed comfortable with no heater, and I have stayed in the desert at 115 degrees and stayed cool. The windows still open I just had them spray over the section that was naturally stationary. The roof still pops up as well, I just had them spray a lip for the roof to drop into, reducing drag from wind. I rebuilt the entire inside, tearing out all the ugly carpet, and cheap prefab wood. I replaced everything with real varnished wood and tile. This camper has been across country three times, to Mexico, and everywhere else you can think of. My mom was the original owner and it still runs strong today.

I just love it when folks find their cars here and leave a comment telling their story. It’s the essence of CC.