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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
There’s a large facing dinette that folds down to make a big bed back here. Love that upholstery fabric; wish ours had it.
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
Whooo a fellow Dead Head! There was a 2nd gen Chrysler Minivan in a Portland junkyard a few months back with an sweet bumper sticker from the twilight years of the Grateful Dead. The sticker read “A peaceful serene Eugene scene” “Grateful Dead 1994”
This sure is a nice looking Motorhome and does the back of the cab have a cut out so you can walk through? Looks like it is not a dually and hope it is being saved because this would make a good Rubber Tramp rig. However, several Motorhome parks are ageist and do not allow older motorhomes.
Teddy: How about you look at the pictures a bit more closely before asking these questions? The pass-through in the cab to the back is clearly visible, as are the dual rear tires. 🙂
In his defense, there were more than a few SRW 3/4-ton models sold with 10-ft. camper bodies back in the day. But with how heavy those campers tended to be, I’d be pretty antsy with only two wheels holding all that weight.
The reality is I sometimes look at Curbsideclassic.com on my phone which has a small screen. Also, I doubted my eyes especially when it came to the walk through feature since I am used to chassis cabs (U-Haul F-350s, etc) that do not have any access to the cargo area from the cab.
As the title makes clear, it is a C30, which is a one ton chassis, which always came with duals unless someone took two of the wheels off.
Cool motor homes. Check out our 58 Chevy motor home on you tube at “1958 Chevrolet Apache 38 motor home”
Teddy, I wasn’t trying to be hard on you. Here’s a tip: whenever you see those deeply-dished wheels on the front (reversed) or back, it means it’s got dual wheels on the back. Those kind of wheels are necessary to bolt together in the back. And that requires a different hub in the front, to extend out further. This is typical of one-ton chassis, which normally have dual rear wheels.
There are exceptions, of course. Some trucks have been converted to duals in the back, by adding a one-ton axle to a 3/4 ton truck, in which case it may still have the regular type wheels in front. Hope that helps in your truck -spotting.
Thank you for the information Paul. During my evening commute I pedal past a mid 1990s GMC Sierra (or C/K) 3500 with a regular cab, single rear wheels, and a liftgate tailgate. Not a terribly common sight since most 3500s have more features than the one I see.
I should have clarified that a bit more: in more recent times, “one-ton” pickups (F350/C/K3500) have become very common, of course, But that wasn’t the case a couple of decades ago. There were some one-ton pickups then too, with single wheels, like the one I covered here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1965-ford-f350-pickup-top-dog/
My main point was that if the truck had duals, it requires very different wheels, with the very deep offset, so they can be bolted together in back. And those are easy to spot.
Ok and thank you.
HELP!! i have a 63 c30 class c i am unable to find any references to it ever being made… still, i have it.. the legend that came with it is that it is a one off built by northland trailers in Nampa Idaho. i just want reference material and to show him (his name is Elvis) around to people who would appreciate him
I used to drool over these frame-mount campers at the local Ford dealer as a kid. I especially liked the walk-thru passage that slide-in units lacked. No way would my father would have purchased one. He preferred his 327 in an Impala. It must have been the Winnebago craze did away with these.
We agree on the ease/difficulty of service issue, Paul. We have owned several vans, including a class B high top Dodge. I hated servicing them all. That is why the current rig is a regular cab long bed full size pickup with slide-in camper. Driving position is also much more comfortable in a conventional cab than a van.
What a fabulous camper! Plastic roof for no leaks with the rustic aluminum siding.
And although I’m not usually a GM guy I just love that truck chassis. During my welder’s helper summer job the fab shop had a flatbed just like this. Even in 1990-ish it was still the preferred truck in the fleet, nice 283 and you could shift that big lever without using the clutch.
And finally, I think Paul has more veins in his left arm than I have in my whole body..
I drove a bigger C50 or C60 for a construction company one summer, and it had the 283 too. It really sang, and it too shifted effortlessly, clutch or not.
I do have veins, but the angle of the light in that picture makes them look a bit…scary. Let’s just say that nurses are always happy to see my arm when they have to draw blood. 🙂
My wife’s a nurse – she used to kid me she just married me for my veins!
“You’re So Vein”
Which was the final model years of a RV based pick-up truck chassis? Seems then Ford had continued to offer it a bit longer from what I saw on these photos
However Ford seem to still offer it for overseas markets.
Ford is still selling pickup chassis to RV manufacturers; I saw a completed one the other day. However, they have been rather thin for a number of years and it seems as if the number of them is on the upswing.
Since last year the Ford Transit is available as a cutaway RV platform in the US.
Example of a 2014 Transit motorhome:
For those few cases when only a Class 5 will do, a few F-550 chassis can be found with camper bodies, but most bodies are light enough that an E-450 van will take them. Particularly among Rent-a-Campers, the increased difficulty of maintenance and repairs is an acceptable tradeoff for the shorter length and turning radius.
An E-550 (Class 5 van) was made for a few years in the late 90’s, but I’ve only ever saw them on box trucks. Think of a normal E-Series with flared fenders like an F-Series.
This is a terrific find. While I’ve never stepped into the RV pond, my preference would be for a pickup based unit.
The chassis brings back memories; my father-in-law had a ’65 C30 cab/chassis on his property for years. It was 283 powered with a three-speed on the column. The frame had been stretched to make it into a car hauler.
I’m interested in the c30 your grandpa had. i have a 63c30 that i cannot find any reference to at all. it is a class c 25ft and quite well equipped. it has the 283 with 3 on the tree and is quite custom. ill post pics as soon as my kid gets back lol
I can’t help but notice the boyish grin and mischievous twinkle in your eye while driving your RV. 🙂
Units like this Chinook and the popular Open Road that used regular 1 ton truck chassis were common in the 60’s and late 70’s before the cut-away van chassis became popular. The van chassis allowed more ‘living’ area on the same wheelbase. Paul, if you think the 360 in yours is had to service, take a look at one with a 440!
That’s a cool RV. I’d restore the interior to look as original and 60’s as possible but would try to swap the old gas engine for a Duramax diesel with the 6-speed manual. That might save a mpg or two. It would at least allow a nice big boat to come along.
Agreed–functional mods are best mods.
Had a one ton cube van and hated working on it. The 58 Chevy bus was easy. Sold it last year because it was tough finding people who weren’t intimidated working on it and I was getting old. Had I kept it my next step was to use my welder and make a flip front.
I have come to believe I prefer to have a pull RV. Park it and leave your troubles behind when you get somewhere. My 4Runner will pull 3500 and that includes a batch of small ones and popup. Truth be told, however, the chances are that I will just be watching now. Happy trails.
I’ve always thought the attraction of a slide-in camper or camper body on a truck (esp. “back in the day”) was that everything was contained in one vehicle, even if it would be more convenient/easier to drive/less damaging on a road to have a tow-behind.
When I see my friends struggle to back travel trailers into campsites, Im glad I have a slide in. Also, I can fit in much shorter space, opening up more possibilities. In addition, I sometimes camp far from paved roads. Towing on dirt/gravel trails in Death Valley, for instance, is a challenge.
In California, and maybe other states, the speed limit with trailer is 55mph, 65-70mph without, and towed vehicles are prohibited from the #1 (left) lane on many freeways.
That was also much of the attraction when paired with, say, a Jeep Gladiator–that you could take “all the comforts of home” into the wilderness. I know I wouldn’t be completely averse to finding an inexpensive, good-condition camper and pickup of a similar vintage, and just going out and living on the road for a few months or even a year, particularly while I’m still young, strong and foolish.
Hardly ever see these chassis mount motorhomes anymore. The old class A Winnebago Brave we had did have good access once the inside engine cover was removed, but agree a lot of noise and heat came through. With only a 318 and Torqueflite, it made a 40 hp VW bus seem powerful. It had an Onan generator and roof air, no dash air. My dad used it to tow his 65 C10 up to Oregon from Washington, it must have been really slow. It did the job, however. The only mechanical problem from the drivetrain was U joints. He loaned it out and the driveshaft fell out. I had a 74 Pioneer fifth wheel that had a fiberglass roof, end caps and tip out. It was a lot less leak prone. Nice find.
Chinook ad for sale on eBay just now (there are a couple, actually):
Lets see, a Chinook Custom Camp Coach on Curbside Classic, or
CCCCCC for short.
One more, from 1970:
Based on the fender emblem, I would say this is a ’64 model not a ’66. They had a rectangular emblem with the bow tie on top with the series number on the bottom portion. Also, the a/c unit appears to be aftermarket. The factory unit was built into the dash, with the air outlets replacing the ashtray, and 3 knobs to the right for the controls.
This unit reminds me of my uncle’s ’63 C20 pickup and camper. It had the 292 six cylinder with 4 speed. We went on a few camping trips with him back in the day in Alaska. It was no speed demon but certainly held it’s own.
Quite right; It is a ’64. I should have checked more carefully. Thanks for being our fact-checker!
I love these RV stories. They always put me in the mood to find a vintage RV of my own. OK, back to reality.
My first thought on seeing this was that it looks like an old Winnebago and an old Chevy truck rammed backwards into each other.
Cool old truck; it’s rare to see ones this old. I recently attempted to photograph what looked like a late 50’s Apache with a body similar to this one, though just slightly smaller, but the photos all came out horribly as it was night. I wasn’t sure whether the camper could be original or if it was a later conversion; no fiberglass but looked vaguely similar otherwise.
This one looks in great shape but they need to do something about that back window. Not much good having a non-leaky roof when there is a 2 foot by 6 foot hole in the back!
Here is my 1966 Dodge W300 Power Wagon Chinook. One of the first 4×4 Motorhomes built and one of two known to exist n a W300 chassis. 318 Poly engine and PTO Winch.
It is 24 ft long, 8 ft wide, 10 ft tall
Very nice! What a gem; I hadn’t thought about these being mounted on a 4×4 chassis. Looks like it’s in very good hands.
Thought you might enjoy a few pix of a recently completed renov/update of a 1968 Jeep Gladiator J3000drw with a Chinook coach. Found near Mt. Ranier, WA about 4 years ago in rough shape.
That’s awesome. Feel free to join my Chinook Camper and RV Facebook Group.
Hi I have a 1967 Chinook motorhome on a f350. Love all the pictures you have. Would like to join.
I would like to join. I have a classic also.
Can’t find your Facebook group. Can you put up a link? We own a 1970 GMC Chinook 1 ton. It has the awesome wrap around windows in the back. Got a ton of memories of taking my kids camping with my parents who owned it before my husband and I.
I saw you on i90 a few weeks ago. Thats a cool looking set up. Never seen one on a Jeep chassis.
Hi-lift has special fitting to go into leveling tubes mounted to the frame.
Jim and Aaron, those are both nice rigs. Here’s a 1972 Chevy Cheyenne c30 Chinook I have owned for a few years. Hopefully this year I will get around to restoring it
Hi Eric, I saw the chinook on Curbside Classics. Any interest in selling it?
Hi Erin, do you still have this rig? I just bought one in Northern California that is almost identical. Mechanically it’s in great shape, but the motorhome needs some love!
My 1976 F350 chinook. Love this thing. I have worked and fixed up the inside. My wife and I just drove to Utah from Oregon in it. Old school is way cool!
Has anyone seen another motor home like this with an auto transmission ac ps pb from the 60s or 70s? Or is there possibly a Chinook RV camper similar to the one here from the 60s that can be customized to a 1960s Chevy C10 pickup? I just started looking for something like this and appreciate any info. Looking for a DIY project with the Chinook fiberglass roof. Thanks.
most of the Chevy Chinooks are built on C20/C30 chassis, and will be too heavy for a C10, especially when the holding tanks and gear is loaded. If you are on Facebook join Vintage Chinook Truck Campers and Motorhomes. I am finding them frequently and post them on the site. Majority are still in the PNW where they were built. As far as transmission goes, many of the Class C Chassis Mounts have auto transmissions.