Curbside Rolling Wreck: Dodge Extended Wheelbase Motorhome Chassis – So That’s How They Did It

You may not be nearly as interested in this unusual find as I was, and that’s understandable. But it answered a long-simmering question as to how these extended ’70s Dodge Class C motorhome chassis were built, since the Dodge cutaway chassis is unitized. I sort of guessed at the solution, but was a bit shocked at the execution. I shouldn’t have been.

Dodge vans (and cutaways) came in 109′ and 127″ wheelbase lengths. Some Class C motorhomes were built on the short 109″chassis, like this one.

Most were built on the 127″ chassis. In both cases, the cutaway chassis still had the center section of the van body’s floor, since the frame rails and floor were welded together as part of the unibody van structure.

But there were also these extra long Class C rigs, and I’ve long wondered how that came to be, as I’ve never seen any reference to Dodge actually building a chassis this long. And how would they, with the unitized structure?

The answer is starkly in front of us, in the form of this thing I found parked at a gas station by the freeway. It clearly didn’t get here under its own power, with that tow hitch in front. But it gave me the perfect opportunity to examine its skeleton.

Here’s the stark (and painfully crude) answer: a rough extension welded to the frame halves after they had been cut. Oh my; it looks so crude, but then these fly-by-night RV manufacturers during the great RV Boom in the mid-late ’70s were notorious for flimsy construction. The frame side rails to support the floor and body have been freshly cut off. This is the driver’s side.

Here’s a shot from the passenger side. This looks a wee bit cleaner. Obviously it was good enough, as it’s all still intact.

Here’s the back end of that splice.

And the section of the original van body floor (white) that has now been moved back is visible here, under the other frame and stuff strapped to its top.

The rear frame extensions have of course also been welded on. This was a mighty long motorhome, on a chassis that started out as a unibody van.

That raised section was the housing for the generator.

Here’s the front end of what used to power it: a 440 big block V8.

It’s so wonderful to have a big, hot throbbing V8 inches from your calves.

From the new-for ’78 dash, this must have been a ’78 or ’79, as Dodge killed its motorhome chassis business (and the big block 440) in 1980, in the recession/energy crisis that essentially killed the rv industry for a couple of years.

But thanks to this tow bar, this Dodge has at least one more final trip to make. To where is anyone’s guess, but the junkyard would be the obvious one.