Jensenman SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 7:54 a.m.

There was a company which built TransVans, basically a van based small motorhome. Like this:

Sure they aren't the most sophisticated MH out there but it beats an air mattress in the back of a cargo van. Not so much for me but the females in my clan aren't that crazy about really roughing it. Does anyone on the board have any first hand experience with these?

mad_machine SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 7:57 a.m.

no, but they are interesting looking. might be a very nice compromise.

How about a conversion van. After the fuel price problem we had this past summer, I see a lot of nice ones for not a lot of money

ClemSparks SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 8:05 a.m.

I don't have first hand experience with the particualr van you're seeking. However, I do have experience with 20 year old motorhomes and their 10 year expected service life construction.

I had a Toyota based motorhome that was an '84. Chassis and drivetrain were reliable as an '84 toyota pickup should be. The coach structure, on the other hand, was a mess. It was a maintenance trap and I finally just had to unload it (thank you eBay where you can be brutally honest about an items condition and still manage to sell it for money).

So, what I'm saying is: look closely at the construction of the RV. When (not if) the roof develops a leak...how is that going to affect the rest of the structure. how are you going to repair the roof, how are you going to repair the secondary damage that occurs. Typically, these things are strips of plywood stuck together with brads and then filled with foam before fiberglass or aluminum is tacked around it. Many repairs involve adding significant weight.

Bottom line for me: I just didn't feel safe with my family in a rolling foam-filled shell. In the future, I'd opt for a work van that I finish out myself (or a box van would be cool). Failing that, Airstream motorhomes look COOL!

Most of these things have a stove and/or oven on the inside. To me, this is pretty much useless as the last thing I want to do while camping in the summer is to heat up the inside of my sleeping space. However, what I really am looking for in an RV is a permenantly-pitched tent that is water and bug proof. A toilet is a welcomed luxury ;).

Clem

John Brown SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 8:14 a.m.

Crap... I do.

The Trans-Van is a pretty durable piece of hillbilly hardware. Most common chassis was the GM G van but often the Dodge and Ford van chassis were used.

Interior is up to par with Winnebago Mini Winnie and other mass produced vans.

Personally I would completely gut out one and rebuild it to my spec using new lightweight components to reduce weight.

Other than that they are typical 4mpg barges.

John Brown SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 8:16 a.m.

Oh and when working properly the AC systems could reverse global warming... too bad that is not very common.

ignorant SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 8:24 a.m.

Neighbors parents have one of these out front RIGHT NOW!!!! http://www.roadtrek.com/

It'll be there all week and into next.. w00000

pinchvalve SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 8:28 a.m.

Dad has driven a full sized van since they were invented, and we looked at a Trans Van new. (oh yeah, groovy baby) We didn't buy one, but we looked at them every few years on the used market. They seem to hold up rather well, the body is tough fiberglass, and aluminum, not the cheapo-panels used on many RVs. IIRC, they were built on the Dodge Voyager Van platform, which we had VERY bad luck with. (Probably why we never bought one.) The interiors are power-70's, but so are most used RVs.

The Trans Van must have imprinted me because I am still looking for something similar. You should also check out Itasca, Rialta, LeSharo and Roadtech campers. They come up on the used market from time to time. The Rialto can fit in a garage and is VW based, the Itasca one of several Toyota Truck based RVs. You can even get a little dually or 4WD camper!

Of course, if I hit the lottery, I'd go for a modern, Sprinter-Based RV:They may one with an extended roof with A/C units on top. What's the CG of that thing, 10 feet off the deck???

Jensenman SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 8:39 a.m.

Yeah, I've seen the water damaged wood before, that sucks. One reason iwas thinking TransVan is because many of them seem to have a one piece fiberglass shell rather than sheet aluminum tacked over cheap plywood. I too lean strongly toward the GM chassis, I've heard a lot of bad about the Dodge chassis and the Fords all have the tire gobbler twin I beam suspension. A GM would be an easy upgrade to a big block too, since I would be towing the race car with it that's pretty important.

It if were completely up to me, I'd get a diesel Grumman or similar box van and 'roll my own', so to speak. But unfortunately it's not completely my decision. Oh, well.

Cotton Reader
Feb. 24, 2009 8:51 a.m.

I have a 76 GMC Casa Grande. I've had it on the interstate several times and with the 3.73 gears and 31 inch tires it'll cruise along at 65-70 just fine. The 4wd is a plus and it came with a good hitch from the factory, but the bed is tiny. We camp in it a few times a year, but now it's getting to the point of needing a good frame on restoration...they are prone to rust like the rest of the GM trucks from that era. The top pops up so you can open up two top bunks for a total sleeping capacity of 4. , More information can be found here: http://www.blazerchalet.com/

daytonaer Reader
Feb. 24, 2009 9:02 a.m.

That "Mirago" looks awesome. Never seen one before.

I like the VW's but the market always seems to be garaged (perfect condition) and expensive or affordable but fall into the how can anyone let something get this bad category.

I've been in the market casually for a toyota pickup rv, many variants. Sometimes you can get a great deal because some models came with a weak rear end that would not put up with the weight. Most rv owners are not mechanics, so its just "broke." I have had someone tell me they got 20 mpg with their yota rv. I'm not quite sure I believe them, but its got to be better than a 3/4 ton v8 conversion van. Most yota's Ive looked at are painted with silicone on all the seams. Ugly but probably works. A full frame 'merican v8 conversion won't notice hills. The 'yotas don't go much over 60 on level ground.

My latest interest is DIY converted greyhound type buses. This will probably be more of a retirement project than a travel necessity. But the more I look into rv stuff the more I think " I can do that, better..." I'm still undecided about fixing up a crappy rv or starting from scratch.

Right now I have a 89 dodge caravan with the "convert-a-bed" factory option. Beats the tent but will not muster female approval.

Let the decision makers know they are allowed to decorate the interior with new fabric on the seats and curtains, maybe even go buck wild with paint. That may let them overlook something that initially would not be up to their standard if they are excited about decorating.

Good luck.

NYG95GA Dork
Feb. 24, 2009 9:18 a.m.

I've always been a fan of the early TransVans. There are a couple of them still in good condition that I see around here. I had a chance to buy a larger one w/Dodge platform/318 for cheap, but the interior wasn't in very good shape so I passed on getting it. As much as I'd love to cook burgers while stuck in a traffic jam (remember the original TV commercial for them?), I'm gonna stick with the air mattress in a cargo van format for the time being. A Jerry can full of water,12v cooler, propane stove, and 5 gallon bucket has served me well so far. And it's cheap. And grassroots.

ignorant SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 9:58 a.m.
ClemSparks SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 10:10 a.m.
Jensenman wrote: Yeah, I've seen the water damaged wood before, that sucks. One reason iwas thinking TransVan is because many of them seem to have a one piece fiberglass shell rather than sheet aluminum tacked over cheap plywood.

Yeah, you're aware of it and that's what counts.

On the chassis discussion: If I had a dodge based one (I always thought an old barn-aero Winnebago would rock) I'd be REALLY tempted to put a Cummins in one ;)

Clem

ClemSparks SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 10:16 a.m.
daytonaer wrote: I've been in the market casually for a toyota pickup rv, many variants. Sometimes you can get a great deal because some models came with a weak rear end that would not put up with the weight. Most rv owners are not mechanics, so its just "broke." I have had someone tell me they got 20 mpg with their yota rv. I'm not quite sure I believe them, but its got to be better than a 3/4 ton v8 conversion van. Most yota's Ive looked at are painted with silicone on all the seams. Ugly but probably works. A full frame 'merican v8 conversion won't notice hills. The 'yotas don't go much over 60 on level ground. My latest interest is DIY converted greyhound type buses. This will probably be more of a retirement project than a travel necessity. But the more I look into rv stuff the more I think " I can do that, better..." I'm still undecided about fixing up a crappy rv or starting from scratch. Right now I have a 89 dodge caravan with the "convert-a-bed" factory option. Beats the tent but will not muster female approval. Let the decision makers know they are allowed to decorate the interior with new fabric on the seats and curtains, maybe even go buck wild with paint. That may let them overlook something that initially would not be up to their standard if they are excited about decorating. Good luck.

My '84 had the standard pickup rearend. In the middle of Illinois, it roasted a bearing and spit the axle out alongside the road. Lemme tell you, retrieving a 5000+ RV on three corners off the side of the interstate took a few years off my life expectancy. I upgraded to a full floater dually from a later model (I actually bought the whole truck just for the rearend. These rearends are not plentiful...so I'd try to find one with the real dually rear to begin with IF I was going to buy one again.

Mine got 13 mpg. The terminal velocity was 70 mph...down a mountain. I might have hit 71 once. Uphill? Forgettaboutit! Make sure you have working hazzard flashers 'cause you'll be going dangerously slow.

And old greyhound-type bus conversion would be cool. Someday ;).

Next female that hangs around that long WILL be into tents. An air mattress in a box van will be considered luxury, I hope ;).

Clem

JFX001 HalfDork
Feb. 24, 2009 10:16 a.m.

http://columbus.craigslist.org/cto/1048135668.html

These things are growing on me. I would like to find an Open Road or Lil' Dreamer for an early Bronco half cab one of these days.

wlkelley3 HalfDork
Feb. 24, 2009 11:32 a.m.

Having grown up around RV's, dad always had a motorhome and after us kids left he and mom changed to 5th wheel. Always wanted to get one myself but just couldn't justify it. Almost got one of those Blazer-Chalet. Needed some work though. I've wanted to take the camper part off of a Toyota Chinook camper and put it on a small/mid-size truck with some umph in the motor. The Toyota based ones were usually severly underpowered. Transplant the camper to a V8 dakota or big V6 S-10. That ways it could tow a trailer.

Always thought that VW had the best design van-camper, too bad it was severly underpowered.

I rent one from military rec-services when I want to camp nowadays.

Mental SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 11:41 a.m.

Not to be "That Guy"

But everyone;s favorite magazine did a "How to buy a Used RV" article about 5-7 years ago. I wanna say JG wrote it but I don't know why I think that.

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
Feb. 24, 2009 11:43 a.m.
Mental wrote: Not to be "That Guy" But everyone;s favorite magazine did a "How to buy a Used RV" article about 5-7 years ago. I wanna say JG wrote it but I don't know why I think that.

Yep. I remember the article. it said not to buy a $3,000 Dodge Motorhome from the 70s, right after I did exactly that.

Xceler8x HalfDork
Feb. 24, 2009 11:54 a.m.

I had a friend who used to trailer a car to Summit Pt with a motorhome. He later confided in me that with gas costs, upkeep, etc it was cheaper to tow the car with a truck that got moderate mileage all while staying in a hotel. He said he did miss camping at the track as all his buddies were doing just that.

Another story..

Mom bought an early 70's motorhome to drive to the Outer Banks one year.

Pros:

  • lots of room for the drive up.

  • generator and such was nice at the campsite

Cons:

  • it was old and broken down

  • drove in a very unsafe manner possibly due to ill designed suspension that had been neglected since it was bought new

  • amenities broke often.

A lot of that could've been rectified by buying a newer model. The one other pro was that as stuff broke I could look at it and think "that's not a very complicated system to fix..."

Jensenman SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 12:10 p.m.

I pretty much decided to avoid the '70's versions for the reasons mentioned. I went to look at a $3000 Winnebago a few years ago, mostly out of morbid curiosity. When I got there, the thing had the front wheels on ramps. I asked the owner why; due to the aforementioned water leaks the roof was sagging and if you parked it level when it rained water would pour in around the roof A/C unit.

A late '80's to early '90's might not be such a bad deal, though. Particularly with a one piece fiberglass shell, much less chance of leakage. I'd probably yank the stove and fridge (more interior room) and go with a propane camp stove and a big cooler.

Plus, I'd be able to do this:

ClemSparks SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 12:29 p.m.

A propane fridge is pretty cool to have...(they're typically "3 way": 12V, 120V, and Propane)

Clem

ignorant SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 12:45 p.m.

E36 M3ter was full

Woody Dork
Feb. 24, 2009 2:26 p.m.
ddavidv SuperDork
Feb. 24, 2009 4:57 p.m.

I despise RVs, because I have to occasionally do insurance claims on them. I'm curently cursed by a mid 80s Winnebago that you can't get parts for. Like a window, which is pretty important. I much prefer when they either catch fire and burn completely or a tree falls directly through it's mid-section.

Some real advice: if you simply must destroy your life by buying an older motor home type vehicle, buy one with a recognizable van or pickup front end. This will assure a much easier time getting parts like bumpers, grilles, glass and HVAC controls. When you buy one that is a camper on a chassis...just assume it's all made of unobtainium after 8-10 years.

Goldmember New Reader
Feb. 24, 2009 5:57 p.m.

Not very "Grassroots" in the budget sense, but it is a BMW:

http://jalopnik.com/cars/novelties/what-th-bmw-motorhome-edition-164615.php

This thread reminded me of a strange RV like critter I saw 8-10 years ago in the next town over from me. It stayed in a driveway for a month or so then dissapeared. What originally caught my eye is the "M" badge on the nose that some enthusiast applied themselves, I'm sure.

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