Home » Enough Searching! The Motorhome For The Autopian Staff Is Right Under Their Noses

Enough Searching! The Motorhome For The Autopian Staff Is Right Under Their Noses

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There’s that Texas phrase where they say that someone is “big hat, no cattle”; they talk a good game but the fact is they don’t have the goods to back it up. Sadly, it seems like the Autopian staff might be described in a similar way if put it in the context of motorhomes. Our site is well-known for our coverage and expertise on motorized campers but an official, physical Autopian motorhome simply doesn’t yet exist. Believe me, we’ve been looking, and it’s getting tiresome to see the constant parade of weird and wonderful Craigslist and Facebook marketplace examples such as the famous GMC front wheel drive home or even the Corvair powered Ultravans, all of which seem to sell before we can make up our minds or even get out to see the damn things.

Cool Campers
General Motors, VanLife Trader

The unfortunate fact is many of these machines on offer are in need of more than a few things, and with almost any of these we’re talking at least a $20,000 investment to get anything even remotely close to a workable solution (which wouldn’t be an issue if every one of you reading this site would get a membership or upgrade your entry-level status to something more substantial, but don’t feel guilty). Many of the unique motorhomes we dig (like that pictured Ultravan, listed at $38,000) can rival the cost of a new motorhome when fully finished and roadworthy. In terms of fixing up sad examples, we can say that we’ll “do it ourselves” but pumping out a post every hour takes time, and after work we want to chill our families (just kidding, we want to wrench on our OWN personal rides). We might need another solution.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Often, the answer to something is right under your nose and you don’t realize it; that might be the case here. No, I’m not referring to the Nova Bus RTS that Mercedes Streeter owns and, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to donate to the cause. That’s cool, but it would be a whole lot cooler if she did, since we had a pretty dope ass concept for tricking this thing out as the ultimate Autopian tour bus complete with neon undercarriage lights and a PA system.

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NovaBus

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Img20220913 22423031

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There is, however, already a motorhome in the collective Autopian fleet you might have forgetton, or don’t even know about. If you’re a Jason Torchinsky superfan, you might remember that long ago he bought a 1977 Tioga motorhome in Los Angeles while working at a different car website. The purpose of this purchase was apparently to provide comfortable transport for the family from the land of In-N-Out burger across the country to their new home where they give you vinegar-covered barbecue and fried, doughy round things called “hush puppies” (it’s actually good stuff).

The Tioga is a classic “Class C” motorhome, a style of camper that really hasn’t changed much in the ensuing decades. The formula for a “Class C” is a cargo van chassis (in this case a Dodge Tradesman) with the body chopped off aft the front doors and a bespoke cabin stuck onto the frame behind. Jason’s is quite similar if a few years later than the example on the brochure below:

Camper1
Tioga via Ebay

 

If I were to say “1977 motorhome interior,” what picture would appear in your mind? I already know; take a look at that Harvest Gold goodness below:

Camper12
Tioga via ebay

 

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Jason’s example completed the nearly coast-to-coast trip, but then like the Bluesmobile (also Chrysler 440 V8 powered) it simply collapsed when its job was done. Jason’s rather scientific explanation about what transpired was that “it just cut out on the road one day.”  His solution was to have it towed back to his house, where it has been parked as a guest cottage likely since the Obama administration.

He thinks it “might be a timing chain or something” but it’s rather clear that he just doesn’t know, and the lawn furniture and ivy surrounding it says he’s in no hurry to find out. Still, there was reportedly no giant bang or smoking connecting rods on the ground when it “failed to proceed” as the British say so one would assume that getting an old Mopar up and running again would be a rather simple, or at least it wouldn’t be like getting a long-dormant nuclear sub running or- worse than that- starting up a VW Phaeton or E32 750il. Now, things like brakes and power steering really benefit from sitting outside for a decade, so once the engine is fired up it’s likely that this Dodge motorhome will stop and steer like a 911GT3 immediately. Right. Anyway, here is sits:

Tioga (1)
Jason Torchinsky

 

Having never been in a snow-and-salt environment the Tioga still looks remarkably clean, the dangling rubber trim channel being the only out-of-sorts thing visible on it. Jason did say that extensive work was done on the plumbing system since apparently bears shit in the woods but automotive writers do not. Paint and chrome appear to be in great condition, and with a power washer, buffer wheel, and interior scrubbing (mold remediation?) it would likely clean up a treat. Mechanically, I’m sure a camper service center would charge thousands to get it going again, but a little elbow grease from somebody who knows what they’re doing would likely get it going in short order (incidentally, a person named S.W. Gossin lives in the same state as Jason, and this motorhome looks like a Pebble Beach winner next to some of the hopeless stuff he’s rescued…just sayin’).

Why has the Autopian staff ignored this thing? Maybe it’s just too “normal”? That’s fair to say, but it’s a not-too-big-not-too-small size, easy to work on, and would have lots of power (440 V8!) if it ran. Do the Autopian staff really want to try to drive through the mountains in an air-cooled underpowered camper that looks like a big bean? What if the Toronado drivetrain gives out on your just-refurbished-$40,000-investment GMC Motorhome in the middle of nowhere?

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I do wonder if a stock, vintage home might be a good look with some simple graphics. I mean, it is a classic design with period graphics, in brown naturally:

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Musick Auction

 

Yeah, I know that’s a non-starter. You guys want more, something outrageous and unexpected, and I’ll give it to you for a minimal investment.

Vinyl wrapping (combined with those one-way graphics on the windows you see on buses) can give us pretty much whatever we want on the seemingly acres of canvas the Tioga gives us. We need some inspiration, and as a GenXer I have to use appropriate cultural touchstones from my formative years. For example, we’ll start with a Stephen J. Cannell classic:

In 2022, a crack team of writers escaped the New York interwebs to the Los Angeles interwebs and started a new site. Today, they survive as champions of the underdog car. If you have a car subject nobody else cares about, and if you can find them, maybe you can contribute to… “

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1977 Dodge Tioga Motor Home Rv 33416641 B
Easy Auto Sales

 

The beauty of the pre-1979 Dodge van is the flat, rectangular grille that could fit other noses rather easily, such as a 1971 Charger front end with covered lights.

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Bring A Trailer

We could even add matching ’71 Charger bumper and taillights in back. Note also the electric dumb waiter- do you really expect us lazy asses to lift lawn chairs, beer and burgers to our rooftop deck? Of course not. As George Peppard said, I love it when a plan comes together.

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What about another favorite from Magnum P.I.? No, not the 308GTSi, lovely as it is, but T.C.’s “Island Hoppers” 1980 VW Vanagon paint scheme? I think a Type 3 van grille would work.

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1977 Dodge Tioga Motor Home Rv 33416641 3a
Internet Car Movie Database screenshot

Lastly, let’s represent the Golden Era of sports car racing with the Gulf livery on our Tioga. As luck would have it, the famous made-for-NASCAR-homologation nose of a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona is about the same width as the van, and there’s one for sale on ebay right now. I mean, that would have to improve gas mileage by a good twenty percent or so, too, right? I’ve also added a makeshift spoiler below to direct airflow up to the slot below the nose for cooling, and recesses for driving lights.

1977 Dodge Tioga Motor Home Rv 33416641 2
Hillbank

 

We can work with the inside later, with options ranging from just cleaning up or reupholstering seats all the way up to making some of the ideas for the RTS bus like VW Beetle taillight chandeliers a reality (Jason CAN weld, you know).  Up front, I can see maybe adding digital gauges or a touch screen infotainment system with Carplay to bring up Jason’s navigation directions or favorite tunes from William Shatner’s The Transformed Man album. With an initial purchase price of zero dollars, that will leave a lot of money for modifications.

[Editor’s Note: The problem is that the RV is on the wrong coast, and 2500 miles divided by 9 MPG times $3.50 a gallon is… actually, that’s only a grand. Maybe this IS the move?! -DT]. 

So what’s the verdict? Does the endless search continue, trying to get what we think we want instead of wanting what we already have? Please, dear readers, tell us what you think!

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Relatedbar

Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Ultimate Autopian Tour Bus – The Autopian

How Our Daydreaming Designer Would Turn An Old Mail Truck Into An Amazing Mini Camper – The Autopian

Does A Daydreaming Designer’s Semi Sleeper Concept from 1990 Make Sense? – The Autopian

The Daydreaming Designer Shows How To Make A Budget Tiny House From A Broken RV – The Autopian

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Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
5 months ago

I love the A-Team one.

If you have an obscure car
If no one else gives a shit
And if you can draw their attention away from Facebook Marketplace
Maybe you can hire …
The Autopian Team.

Myk El
Myk El
5 months ago

Reviving a dead RV is IMHO the correct play.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
5 months ago

Just convert the RTS already!

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
5 months ago

Sounds like a good plan,I am sure the 440 will clean up nicely and with a A-team livery and red velour interior you will have an awesome little rig.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
5 months ago

Bishop: the interior design and accents are brilliant. Especially the light fixtures.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
5 months ago

As a rabid Torch fan from the “Old Site” era, I’ve been waiting for the Tioga to be resurrected for like, ever.

Doooo iiiiiiit! It will make the RV enthusiasts among you happy, and you’ll finally have a mobile base for Tioga parties!

Also I don’t care if some think it’s boring, the brown stripes paint job is iconic. But if you must change it, you must embrace the 70s and go full custom van with every aspect of it. Wild garish tape-stripe-era graphics and airbrushed murals of things like bears riding unicorns breathing fire at the moon, as well as chrome rims (I’d say Cragar SS or slotted mags for the style, but I don’t think those have the proper weight ratings. Maybe 3D-printed hubcaps that look like one of those options?), side pipes (note that they don’t have to be functional side pipes, most weren’t), fender flares (at least up front), and shag carpet inside. On all the things. Except the toilet, shag toilets were a mistake. Everything else though should be shag carpet.

Last edited 5 months ago by Austin Vail
Austin Vail
Austin Vail
5 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

I have now checked, and slotted mag rims apparently exist in Dodge 8-lug bolt patterns, so… yeah it’ll need a pair of those for the front axle at the very least.

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
5 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

If this van’s a-rockin, don’t come a-knockin

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
5 months ago

the torch mobile as the a-team van wins.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
5 months ago

If you think you hate it now, wait till you drive it !
Lyrics
I found out long ago
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
It’s a long way down the Holiday Road
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Take a ride on a West Coast kick
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Holiday Road

Last edited 5 months ago by Hoonicus
Hoonicus
Hoonicus
5 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Early promoter of Futurliner, and you did a great job on the concept, as usual. Continually impressed by the prolific effort you and your co-conspirators expend for our edification and amusement. You all ROCK!

CUlater
CUlater
5 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Yeah, don’t get yerself too attached there Torch, ‘cuz that beauty’s leaving with us next month…

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
5 months ago

Can the RV be wrapped to look like Project Cactus? Can Laurence fly in from Dubbo to help wrench on it? Can the team come up with some arbitrary deadline ensuring hilarious content?

Gee See
Gee See
5 months ago

I would vote for a Dennis Loline double decker.. constant mesh gearbox.

Large enough room for even a decent sized shower + spagehetti

Last edited 5 months ago by Gee See
Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
5 months ago
Reply to  Gee See

How about a spaghetti dispenser in the shower.

Root
Root
5 months ago

Pimp my Ride revival?

Those turbine wheels from the A-Team van look awesome. Whatever you do, please spend at least 35% of your total budget on some kick-ass wheels (but only 0.0001% of the budget on tires).

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

I am not liking the basic RV design with a wrap. I do appreciate the economical aspects. I sent in a suggestion for 3 unique RVs all for $6,000. On the East Coast so cheaper to ship to where they are to be refreshed. Hey 1 for parts 2 for covering different events or a visitor writer instead of a overpriced hotel room. As for interior I think the office /traveling concept needs a totally different than normal design. But get a few ideas and do a poll.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
5 months ago

I’m completely over the Gulf livery at this point. It’s played out.

We need more Martini, Alitalia, Castrol. They’re just as iconic and classic, but not nearly as boring as Gulf at this point. Warsteiner, Parmalat and Benetton all would be recognizable but not dull. I’m intentionally avoiding tobacco brands, but don’t let me stop you if you really love them.

However,

I think there’s more than enough design talent here to create their own livery, which I would apply to any Gambler or LeMons car I ever build. Maybe even to my lawn tractor or my next motorcycle. We could make reader photos of their rides in Autopian Livery a thing here.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
5 months ago

On the forbidden side, I like the John Player livery as a sorta Brit version of the equally iconic Marlboro – it was subtle, not as visually dramatic, but easily as memorable.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
5 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I was just going to suggest JPS. Good stuff

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
5 months ago

Also a couple dozen CIBIE lights

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
5 months ago

I’m partial to the Calsonic livery of Skyline GTR.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
5 months ago

I rode in one of these as a kid. Many a fond hour was spent by my sister and I in the sleeping area above while my dad drove for hours at a time. It definitely is not a looker either inside or out, but works well for what it is.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
5 months ago

David has certainly taken bigger risks on his selection of cross country conveyances. I bet this it totally doable.

No matter which livery you go with, I love the staff photos on the sides. It keeps this site personal even as you grow.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
5 months ago

It’s an old Dodge, it’ll probably kick over with no more than turning a few screws back and forth, hitting a couple things with a hammer, saying ‘that’ll do it’ and throwing a bunch of starting fluid at it.

Personal opinion though, none of those liveries, it needs to look straight out of the 70s. Various shades of brown, similar to original stripes but obviously with the logo worked in, then you could shine it up, throw some white-letter tires on it and hook up a small trailer full of merch to pass out on your trips! I have space in my yard if you need an overnight stop.

That guy
That guy
5 months ago

A-TEAM ……. I love it when a plan comes together.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
5 months ago

WHERE’S MY PICTURE ON THE SIDE OF THE VAN?

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

They don’t want to freak the squares.

Drew
Drew
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

These were all decidedly too colorful to include our cool goth uncle. You’ll get your picture on the black car running behind this to go on parts runs for inevitable breakdowns.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
5 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Parts runs for the RV, beer runs for me as a result of dealing with these bozos.

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

B-double-E-double-R-U-N

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

It’s on the other side, where it says “FREE CANDY INSIDE” in Sharpie

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

What about a small bust of you as the hood ornament?

Bram Oude Elberink
Bram Oude Elberink
5 months ago

Why choose if you can have both? I totally dig the design for Streeter’s NovaBus, love it. So the only logical solution is to both convert them and have two motorhomes at your disposal. Think of the possibilities; compete against eachother in the built, in dragraces across the campsite, etcetera. Cue the music!

Root
Root
5 months ago

Didn’t Top Gear do a race with RVs?

Sklooner
Sklooner
5 months ago

The big issue is the outstanding build quality of the coach area, 1×2 construction using the finest 1970s adhesives and sealants, I would suspect that water damage has occurred not to mention insect activity. I owned a similar unit and it essentially was shaking itself apart every trip. I would look for a cheap one in the LA area that has not been stored out in the wet areas. People practically give them away at this time of year when they can’t find affordable storage

Strangek
Strangek
5 months ago

A Team theme for the win! Mercedes’ bus is cooler, but if that’s not an option, I think this is an excellent idea.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
5 months ago

Not gonna lie, there’s a REASON I didn’t bring up Torch’s Tioga. Fixing up RVs is… not a fun experience. It really is not. Especially since you have to be both mechanical and interior decorator.

That said, I mean, it absolutely leaves you enough money to convince me to help you dump the lump of iron and install a modern 5.7 Hemi instead. (Which will get you a whole, uh, probably 3.5MPG! Or maybe a whole 4!) Plus a big upgrade in the torque department. Also oodles more room in the engine bay.
You guys wanted a manual. Well, I mean, it’s a 5.7 Hemi. Charger 6 speed won’t work (too much GVW) but we could figure something out.

The brakes are definitely screwed, but the stock brakes suck ass and we all know it. It’s a very common axle setup. We can definitely put together a brake upgrade. 13.3″ slotted fronts (that’s stock diameter!) and 10″ rear disc to make it nice and safe. Plus, a 1970’s RV with 4 wheel disc? Can’t deny that’s odd.

Wheels, it’s 5×4.5common Dodge 8 bolt. Take your pick. Could even put new AR Outlaws on it (but let’s not, AR wheels are cheap junk now. We can do better.)

I mean… it honestly kinda does work.

(second edit because first duplicated everything, WTF.)

Last edited 5 months ago by RootWyrm
Sloppy McHackpants
Sloppy McHackpants
5 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

You could get a G56 6-speed manual with a mid-2000s hemi-powered ram 2500. That should be good for enough weight, and obviously could be sourced as a complete drivetrain.

That said, you could also trip over another complete, running, 440 powered motorhome for $500 or so on the bookface placemarket.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
5 months ago

It’s super not enough on the Tioga. I’m VERY intimately familiar with those Rams; the Tioga, like many properly built RVs, is on a seriously heavy duty chassis. The 440 is laughably underpowered, but it’s the biggest Chrysler had at the time. These things pack a 650-750cfm TQuad on a low comp. And they are DOG slow.

Being a 440 means it’s an M400 or above, which is pretty much a 2-ton. And the G56’s were notorious for blowing up under towing loads. And I do not mean the clutch. I mean those things literally exploded in the ‘gears all over the highway’ sense. I wouldn’t recommend a G56 in anything unless you’re ready to drop $15k+ on a billet case and full custom gearset that just happens to match a G56.

Any “running” 440 motorhome is beyond tired out as well. It’s going to be as bad as the current situation or worse. These did not get 440’s because they were good. These got 440’s because it was all Chrysler had, and Chrysler wasn’t just flat fucking broke, they were bankrupt. And RB tooling was long past worn out (’78 was the last year for it,) so they’re often really, truly bad.

The advantage however is that the 440’s were always mated to A727’s. If you put a 727 next to a 618 (AKA 48RE,) well, there’s a REASON they look so similar. Which also covers the 47RH, any of which can be converted to the super heavy-duty version through the addition of clutch plates. Well, the 5.7 uses… the A/LA bell housing. Which was used on the LA V10. Which was always equipped with… the 47Rx/48RE.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
5 months ago

I had to turn Shatner off halfway through Rocket Man. JFC! I bet Elton has a case of the cramps every time he has heard that…good for a laugh, but so painful to watch.

A. Barth
A. Barth
5 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

He also sings a song about Bilbo Baggins; there’s even a video! It’s from 1968 so the resolution isn’t very good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7o4ZQ4v7pg

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

“Singing” career.

David Escargot
David Escargot
5 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Proud Mary is in his back catalogue somewhere, I’m sure of it

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