CC Capsule: Two Old Dodge Motorhomes – A Study In Contrasts

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I’ve been very negligent about keeping up with posting all of motorhomes and RVs I shoot. I’ve seen this Class C on the left parked here at Lowes for months now, and almost stopped the other day. Then I realized that I’d shot it a couple of years ago; it’s a fixture around town. But when another old Dodge buddy stopped by to visit with it, I had to pull over and shoot. They make such a study in contrasts, despite their similar front cabs. And a chance to talk about their representative eras.

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Not even ten years separate these two rigs, but they look worlds apart in terms of their design. The older one is a Sport King, and has a very old school look, like something concocted in the late fifties or so. I strongly suspect that it originally used a conventional truck chassis-cab, as was common before the Big Three came out with their bigger vans around 1971 or so.  But the other one, which didn’t have a name, is soooo late seventies, with its sleek fiberglass body and paint job.

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The Chinook revolutionized the small motorhome industry, with its 1971 Chinook 18+ (that’s my 1977 version). It had a rugged and well insulated fiberglass body that was decidedly smaller than the lumbering Class Cs with their attic sleeping loft over the cab. Chinook reasoned that there was a market for a smaller rig that was suited for two, and would be much more pleasant to drive with its lower center of gravity and size, suitable as a second car, even.

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The Chinook inspired a huge raft of competitors, all variations of the same theme (Class Bs), and a category that has become very popular in recent years again. I couldn’t see a name on this one, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. The RV industry had a mammoth boom in the years 1977-1980, before the second energy crisis practically wiped it out. There’s no doubt this one is from that era, and that its builder went belly up like almost everyone else in those dark years of the early eighties. It has a hell of a rear overhang, much worse than my Chinook, which drags its easily enough in some of the rough terrain I take it on.

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It also doesn’t have as much headroom as the Chinook (6’2″), which allows me to stand with just a bit of a nod of the head.

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The Sport King sits on the same short wheelbase (129″, same as the longer Dodge van), and has a pretty impressive overhang too. And a rather unique butt. It’s representative of the previous RV boom, which really picked up momentum in the late sixties and had its spectacular blow-out during the first energy crisis. Motorhomes tend to really boom and crash, as they’re totally dependent on disposable income and cheap fuel prices. There have been several crashes since, the most recent one in 2008-2009 was truly epic. A slow but incremental recover seem to be underway, but I wonder if it will ever regain the boom it had before this last crash. All those HELOCs that were so easy to come by financed so many of them.

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That brings us back to where we started. What a couple of well-kept time capsules.