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Restoration of 70's Toyota Poptop Motorhome!

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309 points · 6 months ago

I purchased two Chinooks for $500 each and used one for parts and the other for the restoration.

Wow, that's terrific! I always notice these Chinooks when I see them for sale on sites like Bring A Trailer and Daily Tourismo. They seem to sell for $6.500 -$7,500 in good condition.

Here is one example featured on DT in 2016

That one eventually sold on ebay for $6.650

Another one on BaT was featured in 2016 for $6,800

I remember these as a kid in the 70s, when I was reading Boys' Life and Field & Stream -- I always dreamed that a Chinook would be the perfect weekend fishing escape for me, my dog, and probably also either Farrah Fawcett or Cheryl Tiegs.

Well done!

Perfect, now this guy just needs to buy Farrah and Cheryl and use parts from one to restore the other!


I purchased two Chinooks for $500 each

When I first read this, my eyes popped out of my head thinking, "How the fuck did you buy two military helicopters for $1,000"

ISIS going out of business sale.

Comment deleted6 months ago(6 children)
6 points · 6 months ago

Haha I know this by heart.

Another BaT feature I am watching closely, is the auction of a "Fall Guy" recreation pickup truck done by students at Vincennes University in Indiana. It's excellent, they did an amazing job. It will sell at no reserve sometime next week at Barrett Jackson.

BaT Feature

Auction info

Walk around video with the automotive teacher at Vincennes

Their recreation is so very good. It even includes the custom bed doors, as seen in the show; that's some really impressive fabrication.

2 points · 6 months ago

That’s an awesome K10.

I'd want to take it out and jump it, then be sad it wasn't perfect in the next "scene".

Sold for $50k at auction.

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

What does this mean? Google shows this is obviously lyrics to the unknown stuntman.

It's from a TV show from the 80s. The Fall Guy.

Wow a 96hp engine? With all that weight??

Original Poster11 points · 6 months ago

I saw a VW van with huge mailbox letter/number stickers that says “86HP” to warn the people behind.

3 points · 6 months ago

1982 VW Vanagon Diesel was 48-50 hp !

They used to build one-ton Dodge D300's with slant 6 90hp engines...low, low, low, gearing.

Highway speeds are way faster nowadays.

I purchased two Chinooks for $500 each and used one for parts and the other for the restoration.

Wow, that's terrific! I always notice these Chinooks when I see them for sale on sites like Bring A Trailer and Daily Tourismo. They seem to sell for $6.500 -$7,500 in good condition.

The Toyota Tax definitely applies here.

Original Poster9 points · 6 months ago · edited 6 months ago

Awesome links! There is a solid crew dedicated to these campers on a s****y Yahoo group.

Nice work.. love me some 76-77 Hilux's ..

Only change I wouldve made to your plan would be to bolt a 22RE in instead of the 20R .. little more displacement and some fuel injection..

Really wanted to get ahold of one of these.. but then got a fullsize truck and an 80's camper with a toilet-only washroom and figured I couldnt bring myself to go backwards..

Enjoy.. nice work.

Original Poster32 points · 6 months ago

Ahhhh, fuel injection.

Yeah, it would appear you're fully capable of doing all the work.. Would be a little mucking about with the fuel system and some wiring, but 80's-90's EFI is pretty simple stuff.. and 22Rs bolt directly into place for 20Rs.. Could do 'er in a weekend if you had all the parts together beforehand..

Original Poster18 points · 6 months ago

I thought about a 22RE swap but was pressed for time. Great suggestion.

The best part of a 22R is that if it breaks down... well, it'll be your great-grandkids' problem by then.

Yeah, or whatever species comes next in evolution after humans.

I made another comment, but for exposure -

If you buy a 22R to swap in, use your existing 20R head. It flows better. Its an old trick used among dirt track cars.

Throw a 22re in there with the 20r head. Adds a bit of power

little more displacement and some fuel injection..

Or a 2TR FE 2.7. Double the horsepower, no maintenance.

Awesome job! I can't help but wish it was the original color with the original wheels but I'm a retro nut. It looks fantastic!

Original Poster31 points · 6 months ago

Thanks! I tried to put a modern twist on the original stripe theme. How are those carburetors treating you? HEHE :)

Oh I don't have one. Just love retro style. My taste in ownership is late 80s earley 90s imports (currently drive '91 mx5 so I havnt had to deal with a carb in years.

18 points · 6 months ago

TIL I should invest in a Toyota

Yes. Always!

Oh, what a feeling!

The only item that concerned me was the couch. It looks very tight in there. What is like to hang out inside the van at night etc?

Original Poster34 points · 6 months ago

You can only lay down. Standing up is really not an option, going outside is though! :)

I thought so after you mentioned you were 6'4'. How safe is it and where do you usually park it at to sleep overnight?

Original Poster45 points · 6 months ago

Usually near my workplace. A business complex which nobody every visits after work hours. On public streets otherwise. In Portland, you have a very lenient 48 hours to move a vehicle that is lived in.

Save that money! Be safe out there!

A wild /r/vandwellers appears!

Had the same truck(without camper)265,000 miles by 1983 then another Toy.1983 SR5 177,000.Then a 86 with 210,000. 92 with only 85k then wrecked. 95 with 100k,finally to my present 2003 Tacoma with 75k.(Retired and dont drive as much)and a 2010 Camry...Love my Toys

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

I've got a '91 Previa with 360k and the original engine! The locksmith that helped me with a lock on this rig had a very similar story but he called them "Tie-otas". I thought that was hilarious.

about 13 months ago I replaced the original headlamps in my '93 Pickup.

Currently in my garage 250,000 '04 Matrix (daily driver/haul bitch), '94 Celica with 190,000. My SO even had a project '84 Carolla SR5 Coupe 8E86 before he sold it to a teen in our neighborhood who would fawn over it daily and help with some repairs.

My SO was the one who directed me to Toyota and I haven't changed since. He even convinced my brother to get a Tacoma lol.

You sound like cool people

You are one talented mofo.

OP is not talented, OP is skilled. There is a difference.

I do know what you mean, in spite of the downvotes. It's IMO a compliment. The Greek is kinda a neat way of representing the difference... Talent has a greek root in measuring - i.e. I guess we could interpret it today as measuring a soul? It's measuring something you don't choose really. Compare that with skill, which is really well represented by techne: a technical skill, that required a lot of experience and effort. So, I suppose, the difference is between something you were born with and something you worked really hard to get good at. The second of those is worth a lot more, which I'm guessing is what you were meaning? IMO it's a big compliment.

It is absolutely a compliment. Thank you for explaining it so clearly.

perhaps put too simply is that talents are something youre born with... but perhaps the inclination for such things, the pull and attraction for a skill or what have you, will lead you to think and refine a lot over time and can become quite good at something very quickly. (and so someone can be named talented at a particular skill just as a simple compliment)

spitballin over here btw for a more refined meaning i suppose haha...

had a 76 chinook, now running a 78 Newport. these little rigs are appreciating in value. a note to his unit. that overhead is not the is storage or kids sleeping. the right hand lounge folds out to make a small double bed. I migrated from a sailboat to the little chinook. tried a 21 foot class c rv but felt guilty about the amount of gas it ate. the Toyota is a leisure ride, but it can still outrun a westfalia. my pride n joy isn't as pretty as his, but I only restored the camper part inside.

46 points · 6 months ago · edited 6 months ago

Needs a lift kit and bigger tires like this one.

edit: artist's rendering

33 points · 6 months ago · edited 6 months ago

This Toyota showed up to a minitruck show I helped put on about 10 years ago. We gave it a well deserved trophy.

Didn't expect to fall into this thread and find a new dream car, but there we have it.

That thing is bad ass.

Original Poster23 points · 6 months ago

Fair enough. But the grass in the garage is a no go ;)

6 points · 6 months ago

I like it. I mean it's just the next logical step.

Killer job! Put a fire extinguisher in the cab and camper :)

Having made the mistake of buying a 70's Airstream to refurbish I'd like to add a word of caution about buying projects like this.

OP did a wonderful job and knew what they were doing. OP is the exception as many people who go into projects like these will not have this level of success. You will be out money, time, space and will probably be upset at yourself for years to come. Know what you're getting yourself into and be willing to lose all the money and time invested.

I can vouch for that. Bought an old cool car to restore, didn't know what I was doing, and kept getting ripped off by mechanics. Now it sits rotting in my garage.

But I got a Toyota and I'm really happy with it!

Original Poster6 points · 6 months ago

Yes. By the middle of the project I got so sick of it. Not moving a project to a new location really motivated me.

The engine bay may look swish in black, but generally speaking a nice bright colour, like white, is better. When kept clean it means that it is a lot easier to make out individual components and cables against the background of the engine bay, especially if lighting conditions are variable. That said, the whole project looks very cool, nicely done.

And it's much easier to track down leaks and spills with a bright contrasting background.

Came here to say the same. Looks great but leaks will be damn near invisible.

Sweet, now into the wild ya go!

You might want to take it to a frame straightening shop /alignment place.

Original Poster7 points · 6 months ago

Those pictures were before I did that. It was out of whack for sure!

This is great. The super exaggerated eye roll from my wife when I excitedly showe her- proves how good of a job you have done. I had an ‘82 and had loads of great memories in it.

'70s. the apostrophe replaces the missing character(s)

Comment deleted6 months ago(2 children)

What about: '91?

Did you know what it meant then?

Since you’re talking about a decade, even if it were through possession it’d technically be “This is a 70s’ car” then since it belongs to the decade and therefore ten separate years (plural possession vs. singular possession). Really though, you’re trying to narrow down the time period to let the reader better visualise or understand the thing you’re taking about with the implication that by giving its decade of origin, it possesses something unique that other decades don’t have. It is a car from the ‘70s, not a car that is owned by ‘70s.

But in actuality, as with almost every single grammar/punctuation/spelling correction that Reddit likes to throw at people, these are usually unimportant unless your writing is for professional purposes. Everyone knows what you mean when you say 70’s instead of ‘70s. Just like people know what you mean when you say “Your cool” even though it’s the wrong you’re. The only time those things matter in coloquial environments is when it significantly alters the meaning of what you’re trying to say.

Original Poster58 points · 6 months ago

A spelling error shouldn't get more points than the post that took 1 and a half years to create!

Well, you're not even wrong, it just seems to be the older way of doing it. You used to use an apostrophe to say 1970's, and then shorten it to 70's. Now the more common way to do it is 1970s, so you would then shorten it to 70s or '70s. There's no "right way" to do it; 70s, 70's, and '70's are all in common use. So the real question is, who cares? ¯\(ツ)

Some sources:

Grammar Book, Punctuation, Rule 6

You're right. Unfortunately, the internet is full of losers who have nothing better to do. Love your Chinook!

Internet is full of young elitist Uni grammar Nazi boy's, pay no mind



I live in South Jersey and I frequently see one of these parked behind the Lawnside Home Depot. Never saw one before and never knew what it was. Now I do.

These are my favorite kinds of DIYs. I always tell myself I'd like to do something like this but just never seem to have the time (or money or know how). It looks awesome though, and is a total inspiration for me to get out and do something like this!

Amazing- good to see that someone is doing something good for old cars..

I had forgotten about these Toyotas! My high school had an art teacher who bought one of them and lived in it behind the school for a few months, next to the auto shop. Same vintage stripes and all.

Holy shit has someone tagged you over at r/vandwellers yet?

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago


My daily driver was a '79 toyota long bed that my dad and I "restored" (twice). I am almost literally misty-eyed looking at your work. I bet it smells like an old truck too... Love that smell.

Fucking nice.

Needs more Ghostbusters decals

2 points · 6 months ago

My best friend down the street had one! We would always camp out in the driveway, he'd bring his TV out there and we would hook up my Super NES and play Mario Kart all into the night.

Good times.

I honestly wish I had a vehicle like this, so I could just occasionally take off for the mountains overnight ... or an entire weekend. Very nice job, OP.

Somebody call Jack Rebney!

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Totally forgot about that dude! LOLZ

I love a good After & Before.

I never understood why people with finished garages don’t take the last step and apply a coat of paint?

My garage was the same way, built 50 years ago, and now all the drywall tape is peeling and cracking.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Not sure either - or why they put HVAC/water heater/laundry in the garage.

Space/noise. I have both the water heater and laundry in the garage. It’s hot here so it’s a good place for the water heater. If it ever leaks it won’t damage anything. Laundry for the same reason and a space saver.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

But it takes up my precious garage space :)

It looked better in first pic tho

Super nice and detailed write up, take your upvote!

2 points · 6 months ago

Now you can sell it to some Toyota fanboy for 10x too much and buy a luxurious and spacious class C.

Love it, great work! Hope you enjoy life on the road.

Love old vehicle motorhome/campervan restorations like this one! Great job!

This is really excellent

Just needs a cowcatcher attached to the front.

Wow. Extremely good job bro. Idk how you did it lol Toyota all day though

Nice job

Fucking amazing handy skills.

Dude! Awesome!!

I absolutely love your attention to detail on this rebuild. I’ve seen several camper rebuilds, particularly with friends (and helped them more than a few times), and this is the first I’ve ever seen someone replace the frame. You were absolutely right to get rid of the plywood and go with steel. That rig will give you years of enjoyment back for your hard work.

The only piece of constructive criticism that I can offer is; once you’ve gotten a couple of hundred thousand miles out of that engine, I’d highly recommend replacing it with a rebuilt Hilux Diesel engine. The added torque, less engine parts, and ease of maintenance will let the next several hundred thousand miles of use be even more cost effective.

What is the stove connected to?

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago


would you mind sharing your budget for this project? if you have already shown it and I missed it, apologies. beautiful job btw.

A. I'm so very impressed dude.

whats the poptop for

So you don't have to cut yourself off at the knees.

This is awesome! Great job all around. Thanks for sharing!!

One thing, I would have stuffed a 22RE in there, but that is just the Toyota fan boy in me.

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Yeah. Should have. Fuel injection would be nice.

I think I'm missing something. I don't see any finished interior shots.

Original Poster0 points · 6 months ago

Check out the blog post link. There are a bunch more pictures.

Nice work! I picked up a shitpile '71 chinook for $450 and had the intentions of swapping it to 4x4 and remodeling it, but then o realized I have 4 kids and that couldn't work.

So I got it running and got a title and sold it for $1200. 👌🏻 now I have a '79 ford van based chinook constellation I'm finishing up a half assed Reno on.

Dude, awesome!

Maybe this isn't everyone's style, but man this build just makes me want to quit my job and live on the road.
I won't - but it's a good feeling!

Yes! I fell in love with the Chinook when I saw an abandoned one pit in Glacier National!

I thought you had put a google home mini in your truck but that just turned out to be an ad. Ah reddit..

Does it have a PTO? What's that funny transfer case/PTO looking thing for?

edit: PS Nicely done.

Original Poster3 points · 6 months ago

Nope. The gear shifting mechanism is kind of funky looking.

Great work. My one suggstion is to put some kind of rubber mat under the water pump and water lines. I know the water pump is mounted on a rubber base, but the vibration of the pump AND water lines will become very annoying.

Sweet! You have one hell of a set of skills.

Why does it look like it's about to break in half?

Impressive! I’ve always wanted one of these. Alas, I know exactly nothing about restoration. And I’m lazy.

The side stripes are really necessary for thinning out and connecting the camper! Too bad you got rid of them.

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Gotta have a modern twist. The blue stripe does that now.

That's pretty damn sexy. Tacos are magic machines... they should have had a show similar to the Magic Schoolbus - only with a dude like Bob Ross taking the wheel.

This is very cool. Quick question, how do you use the gas stove safely? You should invest in a fire extinguisher. Be safe out there!

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

Just open a window. I definitely have a extinguisher.

This is awesome work..... Been looking fo a project for a while and this really appeals to me!

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Because there is a huge white box on a tiny truck. Lol.

1 point · 6 months ago · edited 6 months ago

Where did you find the popup roof?

I want to retrofit a roof like that to my utility trailer, I haven't found it.

Original Poster2 points · 6 months ago

It’s stock. Just google Toyota Chinook.

I did and all searches return the partial Poptop like this one:

I'm looking for the replacement hardware for the Poptop including the roof.

I gotta ask, what happened to the parts truck? Did you junk it?

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Gave it away after I stripped what I needed.

Ah, fair enough. Hopefully it didn't go to waste.

Hey awesome! I happen to be in the middle of refurbishing a blazer chalet which is the same camper as a chinook. Can you tell me what you put on the walls? Also looking for someplace to rebuild the canvas.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Those chalet’s are awesome too!! Just a light stain and polyurethane.

How did you attach the panels to the fiberglass body?

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Just regular screws mostly. Some needed a reinforcement clip on the inside.

Old Toyotas and Hondas are the shit.

Pop top Drop top

All it needs is a staircase on the back

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Not sure of any retail online sources but a good bet would be searching Craigslist for one of these rigs and use it for parts.

At 5'7, that thing would be perfect for me! xD

Bloody good work there, old chap!

Might be practical, but man is that an ugly vehicle by design!

Y tho

It’s beautiful...... 🤓

This is pretty awesome, I just wanted to mention swapping that 20R to a fuel injected 22r is super simple. Also a common mod on the dirt racers were to build a 22r with a 20r head for better flow. It may help the camper scoot a little bit more.

Looks a little different

Did you replace the carrier bearing on the drive shaft while you had everything out?

I had an 85 'yota and the bearing was shot, but the way they designed it most shops wouldn't touch it since it was damn near impossible to get off. It had a good inch of play in all directions, really nasty.

Might wanna consider switching to a custom built one piece shaft or replacing that bearing before too long.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

Already replaced. It wasn't difficult to get off. Just need a good ole Bertha.

Good stuff! Always wanted to drop a Chinook shell onto an '83 with 4x4, I'm kinda jealous.

Where did you get that couch? Does it have a brand name? It's perfect for a van conversion.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

It’s from an Alfa See Ya motorhome.


SO DOPE. I love Toyotas but I love DIY more. This is so rad

Nice build. You are very talented. Also looks like you may be a Detroit Lions fan with the Honolulu blue and silver color scheme. This would look awesome at a Lions tailgate.

Original Poster1 point · 6 months ago

It’s actually the same blue as the new mustangs! Grabber blue is the name. Just picked some colors at random really ;)

I was wondering what blue that was. Thought it looked a bit like my grandparents 1979 Datsun p/u, but a bit darker.

While you had the motor out, why not replace it with a 22r? If it was mine i would have also replaced the camshaft with a comp cams cam, and a header for the exhaust. The extra power is nice.

0 points · 6 months ago

Can we just talk about the fact that that's powered by a four cylinder engine?

-5 points · 6 months ago(0 children)

The mere fact that you call it Poptop tells me that you're not ready.

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