(originally posted 8/5/2012) Dwight and Sylvia had been married for almost 35 years by 1969. They had known each other since elementary school and each had gone on to do good things in life – Dwight, a lieutenant with the state highway patrol; Sylvia, owner of a successful catering business. Life had been good to them.
For years they had been planning their retirement. The first item on their list was traveling the United States. With Sylvia being tied to the catering business for so long, she and Dwight had traveled very little in their married life. After careful consideration, they opted to purchase a brand new 1969 Chevrolet 3/4 ton pickup, known as the Custom Camper, and also purchase one of the slip-in campers that were popular in the late ’60’s.
The hook for the sale was the salesman telling Dwight the pickup was stout enough to put an MG in the bed and pull three more. Dwight knew it would be a stout pickup for him.
Dwight liked his new, red Chevrolet pickup. It drove well, had good power, and even rode decently when loaded. He thought it was the perfect vehicle for he and Sylvia to travel in.
One day soon after purchasing the Chevrolet, Dwight and Sylvia loaded up their camper and left their home near Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, heading for the west coast. Dwight had always been fascinated with the sound of Eugene, Oregon, a place they wanted to visit on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Dwight’s brother was named Eugene and Dwight had already been to Eugene, Missouri.
The first night, Sylvia and Dwight made it to Hamburg, Iowa. Growing tired, they stopped at a campground for the night. The Chevrolet had performed flawlessly all day and Dwight was quite happy with his purchase.
Overnight, Sylvia awakened to the cool air. She was cold. So instead of getting a blanket from the overhead cabinet in their slide-in, she woke Dwight up.
“Dwight, wake up. I’m cold,” Sylvia said.
Dwight was drowsy and annoyed. “Well go get a damn blanket and leave me alone.”
“Honey, please get me a blanket. I’m cold.” Sylvia repeated.
Grumbling, Dwight stood up and grabbed a blanket. Throwing the blanket on her, Dwight was worried Sylvia might be in talking mode. Great, he thought.
“Honey, I’m cold. Don’t you want to snuggle?” Dwight realized Sylvia may have been in another mode. Time to wake up and find out, Dwight realized.
“Sure, I’d love to. Oh, you certainly are cold. How can I help warm you up???” Dwight asked.
Sylvia was appreciative. She showed her appreciation to Dwight; he reciprocated. Soon, Sylvia was red hot and Dwight was quite happy. Dwight decided this would be a really good trip.
Dwight soon learned the suspension in his new Chevrolet pickup could absorb extended periods of shaking and bouncing with nary a sound, the only tell-tale sign being a distant sloshing of fuel in the tank.
The next day, Dwight had a novel idea. Yet he knew he had to be careful how to approach it or his idea would be deflated.
As soon as they got on the road, Sylvia asked him how he was doing.
“Great, honey. You doing good, too?” Dwight carefully asked.
“Oh, yes! I had a lovely night and I slept great. I do like our camper and I’m so happy to be on our trip.” Sylvia cooed.
“Well, sweetie, I have an idea. We want to travel a lot now that we are retired. We have a good Chevrolet pickup to travel in and I’ve got outstanding company. How about my helping you get a similar good night’s sleep at least once per state?” Dwight was feeling braver by the moment.
“Dwight! Shame on you! How can you think of such things?” Sylvia was deflating Dwight’s, uh, ego. “But I do kinda like your idea…” she said sheepishly.
“You are a fabulous woman, Sylvia! We are going to have such a good trip!”
And a good trip it was. They soon realized the camper gave complete visual secrecy (they were aware gravity and slower metabolisms had affected them) and Sylvia soon had the same realization as Dwight on the superior suspension system of the Chevrolet Custom Camper.
It wasn’t long before such sleeping remedies were happening in the morning (such as at a campground where Sylvia got too vocal and inspired two other couples), in parking lots (such as the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota, and every lodge at Yellowstone National Park), and even in a field full of sunflowers in Idaho.
They really loved their Chevrolet Custom Camper! Trips in later years were just as eventful and more widespread. They did reach their goal of all 48 continental states, as well as Alaska and four Canadian provinces. The Chevrolet Custom Camper never failed them anywhere they went, racking up nearly 200,000 miles in the next five years. The only issue they ever had with their Custom Camper was its frequent need for new rear shocks.
So what constituted a Chevrolet Custom Camper? It depends upon the source. Some stated it was nothing more than a badge and a higher output alternator; other sources stated it was a package of stronger front stabilizer bars with heavier springs, shocks, wheels, and tires. Please speak up if you can provide more information.
The previous model year of 1968 was the first time in Chevrolet pickup history that sales of V8 engines exceeded those of six-cylinder engines, by a margin of 410,178 to 269,291. 1968 was also the last year when the 327 cubic inch (5.3 liter) V8 was offered, replaced by the 350 cubic inch (5.7 liter) V8 in 1969. Other engines for 1969 included the standard 250 cubic inch (4.1 liter) straight six or the optional 292 cubic inch (4.8 liter) straight six. Two V8’s of 350 cubic inches (5.7 liter) and 396 cubic inches (6.6 liter) were available.
The asking price on this pickup was $1200, although it needed a flywheel. It had been born with a three-speed manual transmission, although the steering column had been replaced with one from an automatic equipped unit. It appeared to still be a three-speed model, although something about the shift pattern taped to the dashboard seemed a little off…
But it did come with a spare door!
With the lack of engine call-out on the fender, I suspect this particular Custom Camper may have been made with one of the straight-six engines. Please speak up if this is incorrect; I cannot find anything to deny or verify this.
Dwight and Sylvia are fictitious. However, how many of these Custom Campers had similar experiences? I’m guessing quite a few.
Funny how you see an occasional “camper special” pickup from the late ’60s to early ’70s, but you rarely see a slide-in camper from the same era.
If my folk’s experience with a 1966 Reliart tent trailer is typical, RV build quality was a bit primitive, and the campers may well have fallen apart. (The most egregious error was when Reliart–“Reliart is trailer spelled backwards!”–changed wheel bearings without moving the zerck grease fittings intended to ease the bearing packing. Using a grease gun to pack the bearings did nothing, as we discovered just outside of Hobbs, New Mexico. Fortunately, that was a place where you could find welders who could take a boat trailer axle and lengthen it by an inch or two, all in one day.) Actually, my father was well acquainted with the local welders, as the frame needed bits brazed on from time to time. As for water sealing, the seals didn’t.
A 20 year old truck may be fine or spotty, but a 20 year old RV/camper/trailer/manufactured home needs very careful inspection. I’ve seen brand new tent trailers with roof leaks, and the construction of most campers depends on lots of seals keeping water out. Use of OSB and particle board means this water can cause a lot of grief in a hurry.
That’s why I have a fiberglass-bodies Chinook.
Yeah, one reason why Chinooks have a good reputation.
Our Coleman/Fleetwood trailer has a one-piece ABS roof, with the penetrations for the solar system handled with marine fasteners, passthroughs and sealants. (West Marine got a chunk of change out of that project.) 12 years and no leaks. OTOH, the OSB floor needs to be watched, and once we are done with the 2WD Ranger, the Coleman will go back into the garage. Next summer, I think.
For what it’s worth, neighbors lost a camper that had been dismounted. No wind tie-downs and it got clobbered in a storm. (Not the brightest people in the area…)
You do around here. I’ve shot a few, and maybe I’ll have to do a little gallery of them sometime. But i admit, the survival rate is not anywhere near like thata of the trucks.
And some were decidedly better built than others.
Being in the RV industry, the Campers were made of Stick and Tin. Stapled together with a tin seamed together roof. The Roof, Vents and Windows would leak, and the beating these campers took in the bed of a truck loosened up all the staples, especially if the wood was rotting at the same time.
We had a Screwed together, fiberglass (Cloth not panel) Camper from the 60’s that my wife’s uncle built from plans. It was “glassed” just like a boat, so it became a solid piece, and vents and window seams were checked each year. It was sold last year, with a 1973 454 Camper Special Chevy Truck, with holes in the fenders and doors starting to rust, even though it only had 100,000 miles!
That doesn’t sound like very good quality by anyone’s standard of build quality.
Great story; yes, we love our camper too.
Old school busses were more prevalent where I grew up; I remember one couple about the age of Dwight and Sylvia had one with a big sign on the side saying “Jake & Jane’s Playhouse”.
A good friend of mine has one of these, He inherited it from his grandfather, who ordered it new and passed away in 1991. Since my bud has owned it, it’s been in three bad wrecks, countless fender benders, lunched three engines, two transmissions, and one rear end, and burned up its headlight wire harness.
At this point the only thing original left is the frame LOL .
I don’t know the specifics about the GM Custom Camper package, but over at the Ford and IH camps their Camper Special packages included things like “one up GVW” for higher capacity rear springs “increased cooling” for a larger radiator, sway bars, auxiliary transmission cooler for AT equipped trucks, larger and/or power brakes, and other things to make the truck more capable of handling the load.
Eric, have you ever seen an overload situation with the trailing arm like I describe below. It would only apply to a trailing arm suspension and I haven’t seen it before or since.
Yes I’ve seen that style of overload set up on the “truck arm” suspension as it is called by NASCAR today. The first time I saw the underside of a Chevy truck with the trailing arm coil spring suspension I couldn’t believe my eyes and did not think it could be stock. Of course I later learned it was stock, when I saw the exact same set up on other trucks including the overload leaf, which again at the time, thought was an aftermarket set up.
It looks like it as Hugger Orange juding from the dashboard color, these were really good looking trucks, still collected and played around with today. I have always had an interest in municipal vehicles, something was only made and bought with the expressed purpose of work only, factory radio deletes, no chrome, base interior etc.
My college used to have(might still have) a 1980 Ford F250 work truck parked inside a maintinance area with a 3 speed column shift and no options, it only had something like 3800 miles of on campus driving, I think the original tires were even still on it, I always was interested in it, it was like a brand new tool than had hardly been used.
I had a friend in high school whose ’53 Ford had that kind of shift pattern.
It was actually his dad’s car. His dad decided (for some reason) that he’d rather not occupy his right hand with shifting so he flipped the column shift lever 120 degrees counter clockwise on its separate shaft and bent the turn signal lever out of its way. Naturally, this flipped the shift pattern upside down. I drove it once. It took some deliberate thought.
That was done so when you where cruising with your lady friend your right arm could be used for more important things then moving the gear shift.
Great story! My daily driver is a 66 C-20 and it too was converted to floor shift at some time. Here’s the scoop. The linkage on the transmission is upside down for the column shifter. When you put the floor shifter in, you have to take the linkage off the tranny and flip it over. Then your pattern will be ok. My truck is the same way. I haven’t changed it and there has been no hassle. Even when hopping in my wifes 5 speed econobox I haven’t screwed up yet.
Come fall my truck will be getting a new floor pan. At that time I will be dropping a late 50’s vintage 4 speed that still has it’s factory shifter in place. At the same time it will be getting a 3:73 rear end out of a 3/4 ton Suburban. With the 4:56 rear gone hopefully I will get away from the 50 mph top end and get better than single digit fuel economy.
Thumbs-up on your truck. 4.56: wow…that’s a heck of a low gear!
Funny story about the low gears. I aquired the truck in mid may. It had sat for a year and it took a few weeks to get the bugs out of her. I heard of a cruise in a few towns over. The wife went along. We were going 50 and that old six banger was screaming. The line of cars behind us was getting longer. We came to a slight down grade. I pulled half onto the shoulder to let cars see around me to pass. Just as I did the truck started engine braking even though I hadn’t let off the gas. My wife turned white as a sheet because she thought we were broke and were going to have to walk ten miles home. The place we were heading was at the bottom of the hill. I didn’t help matters at that point killing the key and coasting the 1/4 mile left on our trip!
I feel these were the greatest of all pickup trucks. The air force bought tons of them, as we didn’t use jeeps, or “mutts”, which is what the renditions were referred to at the time.
I will echo John on the floor shift. I had the same thing on a 73 Ford and knew it was the linkage. Didn’t really know why. Left it as a theft preventive measure.
I have submitted an article on a 68 Chevy. You can see the tail of it in one of the 41 chevy photos from today. The camper special had a welded spring steel super thick leaf welded to the frame that contacted the trailing arm when it depressed. I understand the C10 and C20 had that suspension. The C30’s and the GMCs did not. I loaded Dad’s truck with bricks to rebuild a fireplace and the truck didn’t care. It was much more than a decal.
You will find a similar breakdown of engines in the article I submitted. I agree that you could very likely have had either the 250, or more likely the mighty 307 boat anchor. Either way the gas mileage reeked and the suspension was probably great. Don’t see why the rear shocks would have worn out. BTW, this data was for the 68 but I think the 69 (which I owned) was exactly the same except for some minor chrome stuff. When you read about the C10 you will probably get a real sense of Deja Vu.
I always heard the 307 was a bit of a boat anchor but was reminded just how bad it was when I found this ad for IH trucks at Pop Sci today. http://goo.gl/DNYD1 Lots of people like to rag on the 302 from the smog era for it’s net HP and how low it was but it looks like the 307’s net numbers were very bad at 135hp compared to the advertised gross of 200hp and this is before the first big round of emission controls, outside of CA.
In regards to that shift pattern yes it has to do with flipping the shift levers on the transmission when going to a floor shift. I once converted a Maverick from the column shifter. The only way I could make it all work was to flip one lever but not the other. If I remember correctly the pattern ended up like this
Trying to make it “correct” ended up with linkages binding and hitting each other so it would then try to engage 2 gears at the same time. Many years later I had a customer who wanted me to convert a GM pickup like today’s subject and I said no thanks based on the experience of fighting with said Maverick.
This would explain the result on the early 1970 Falcon that a friend’s dad had converted from column to floor shift. He had a local shop do the job, and it came back as
Now I understand why. It took a little getting used to.
I put a hurst floorshift into a OZ 71 XY Falcon and got the same reversed pattern it worked fine once I was used to it.
I’m glad several folks have mentioned swapping to a floor-shift; I didn’t explain which it was. It still has a gear shift on the column.
Anyone know the brand of the slide in in the yellow truck pictured? I have a ’71 Custom Camper and would love to get a slide in for it. I haven’t seen one like that and I like it a lot. Thanks for any help.
Answered my own question, stumbled across the Silver streak name in a forum and looked it up, I guess very few were made. I’ll have to look at Avions…
I came across this and had to share! Note the picture of their 1969 GMC pickup with slide-in camper being loaded onto the boat to head to Europe!
This may deserve a post of its own!
Link: The Keisers
My 1970 C10 had the base 307 V8, but no call out on the fender badge. I’m pretty sure it was available on the ’69 as well, so it may be so equipped. Mine served me well for 30 years. Lots of overloading, but with wider rear rims and overloads (little coils u clamped to axle tube and resting on the frame), she did well. It was total stripper except for “custom trim and gauge package” which gave it chrome front bumper and stainless steel trim around windshield and back glass, as well as cloth and vinyl seat, full gauges and fancier door panels with fake wood insert, but still had rubber floor mat. The only other option was “heavy duty rear springs” which were still coils. The owners manual stated the 307 was 157 net hp, 200 gross. I never mounted a camper, but it towed a 21 ft travel trailer and later a 29ft 5th wheel trailer without complaint. Except for the time the electric brakes failed at the top of the Sisku’s. Backing in to tight spaces was no fun with no power steering.
Nice old rig .
These were made mostly the trailing arm & coil rear suspensions , the 3/4 T ones had a boxed trailing arm and heavier coil springs , I’ve forgotten how many different coil choices there were but quite a few like 7 or 8 depending on how it was ordered .
The neat thing is : the heavier trailing arms bolt in to the 1/2 ton chassis . not a fun job but very do – able DIY when you’re Hot Rodding and old base model .
My current Shop Truck is a ’69 C/10 base model Ranch truck from Texas ~ i6 , TH350 , short bed stepside .
Handles well and rides nice now that I’ve tweaked the suspension a bit .
Sadly these ’67 ~ ’72 trucks rusted like _VEGAS_ as GM not only used crappy sheet metal but they didn’t dip the bodies in the usual Phosphorus bath after they were jig welded , little primer too .
I don’t think these rusted near as fast as the next gen GM trucks did. That was a bigger sin than the gas tank fiasco to me.
@ Bob ;
Amazingly , they did .
I’ve owned both .
Both were damn good trucks and rode nice blah blah blah , both had cheapo sheet metal , the ’73 ~ 87 trucks had worse designed in sediment traps .
One more bean counter black eye for Generous Motors Corporation .
It makes it hard for me to be a Fanboi but I still am .
My dad had a ’74 and a ’79. Both rusted like it was an Olympic sport.
This ad for the ’66 seems to say what the goodies (and option packages) are. For a couple late-60s years, Chevy’s ads say coil springs all around are standard–but you can have leaf springs in the rear if you want ’em:
I don’t know about the 60’s era trucks but my Dad’s ’75 C10 had a terrible cramped driving position. The wheel was too close to my chest. My old 1966 Ford f250 was somehow more spacious with more arm room. My access cab F150 has enough seat track travel and space behind the seat to recline the seats when needed. I don’t ever want to go back to the standard cab bench..
Fords have always seemed to have the biggest cabs, and starting with the ’97s, they got bigger yet so that the SuperCab/6.5′ and the regular cab/8′ were on the same 139″ WB. My grandpa’s regular cab ’97 had enough room behind the back seat to store a rolled-up heavy blanket.
And in 2004, the regular and SuperCabs got 6″ more space (crew cabs followed suit for the ’09 models), enough for a little door to be added on the back of the regular cabs, though it was removed in ’09. Apparently that was actually too much space, because the brand new ’15 regular cabs now sit on a 4″ shorter WB than their SuperCab/SuperCrew counterparts.
I own a 1987 Chevrolet, and I’ve never had that complaint. Of course, mine is a Custom Deluxe, meaning that there isn’t a tilt column. It’s position is high enough for me.
Fords deflintely felt larger, but my Ford trucks have been the 1992-1996 version. For some reason, I feel like I’m on top of the truck, while my Chevrolet and Dodge trucks make me feel more “In” them.
Same shift pattern in my ’25 Dodge Brothers touring car (floor shift). Not a conversion though…
I had the C-10 version of this in the mid 70s. Basic truck, the only option was the AM Radio. It was a great 2nd vehicle, work truck. Rust was its biggest enemy in salty NE Illinois.
Jason, nice travel story. Reminds me of the our 1968 adventure with a brand new pale yellow 1968 GMC 1/2-ton 2wd pickup equipped with a canopy similar to the one shown on the blue Chevy pickup. We bought the truck in Seattle Washington and then drove all the way to Alpine Texas via Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. Stayed at state parks and motels along the way. After finding Texas not to our liking, we drove back to Washington State and eventually wound up in Los Angeles, California.
Couple odd things about the GMC. According to the spec sheet, the truck was a base model, 292 straight six, SM420 four-speed manual transmission, 3:54 Spicer 44 rear axle, 8 ft wideside bed with wood floor and 5000 lb GVW. The front fender badge however stated Custom V-Eight and I recall the 1968 brochure catalog stating the optional four-speed transmission was SM465, not SM420. I suspected we had one of the early 1968 production model that used leftover 1967 components.
My dad preferred the GMC over the Chevrolet because of the rear leaf springs and four headlights.
I noticed the 1969 Chevrolet/GMC models differed from the 1968 in having a more upright front hood slope, very carlike 2-spoke steering wheel, foot-operated parking brake and automatic choke. Still prefer the 1968 model with the 3-spoke steering wheel and horn button, hand brake and manual choke, which made it feel like I was driving a much older truck, sort of a throwback to the 1940s.
And this Chevy is equipped with Ford 3/4 ton hubcaps, like mine but with the black paint faded into oblivion or removed…
I still see these old Chevy and GMC trucks being driven.
My brother inherited a 1969 Chevrolet Camper Special / 20 396. The bed measures 8 ft. We are in the process of getting the carburetor rebuilt. Would like to get this on the road from my brother. It looks like the motor had some work done to it. It has Mickey Thompson valve covers which are bit pricey in themselves. Would like to turn this into a Farm Truck like the one featured in Street Outlaws. Need a camper shell for it.
If U Still Have this Truck or Any Similar, Can U Contact Me @ the email posted, Please?