Home » The Six-Wheeled Four-Wheel-Drive Revcon TrailBlazer Camper Is A Ridiculous Way To Explore The World

The Six-Wheeled Four-Wheel-Drive Revcon TrailBlazer Camper Is A Ridiculous Way To Explore The World

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If you want to travel the world and bring your house with you, there’s an entire class of motorhomes just for that purpose. Expedition vehicles pair a four-wheel-drive off-road platform with a camper, usually self-sustaining. You’ve probably seen what today’s beasts look like, but here’s what an expedition rig looked like three decades ago. The Revcon TrailBlazer 4×4 is a Ford F-350 with six wheels, four-wheel-drive, and an aluminum camper body inspired by Airstream.

Expedition vehicles are fascinating campers. They’re usually designed to get you farther off the beaten path than any regular motorhome can. They often cost more than some houses and the RVs are loaded down with so many luxuries that it’s sort of like bringing a hotel with you wherever you go. We’ve written about a few of these before from EarthCruiser’s creations to the gargantuan $1 million 27North Ascender 30A. Thirty years ago, this monster motorhome was pitched as “the world’s only all-terrain motorcoach” capable of getting you through rocks, water, sand, dunes, mountains, or anywhere else you were crazy enough to take your home. And technically, this camper starts with the stepson of Airsteam founder Wally Byam.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

All Terrain

 

Revcon’s Origins

Launched in 1972, the GMC Motorhome is a fabled classic coach known for the innovation it introduced into the motorhome industry. The might of General Motors produced a motorhome that rode low to the ground, looked like it came from the future, and was something that wasn’t a total penalty box to drive. One trick in the GMC Motorhome’s toolbox was its Oldsmobile Unitized Power Package. The camper used the Oldsmobile Toronado’s front-engine, and front-wheel-drive powertrain, which allowed the low and sleek platform.

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General Motors was far from the first to make a front-wheel-drive motorhome. Clark, the forklift company, had a front-wheel-drive motorhome in the 1960s. The Silver Streak Matador was another 1960s front-wheel-drive RV creation that predates GM’s creation. John Hall’s Revcon was another manufacturer that would beat GM. According to the vintage camper club Tin Can Tourists, Hall was the stepson of Airstream founder Wally Byam. Apparently, Hall was like many camper owners and was dissatisfied with how motorhomes drove. Back then, much like it is today, motorhomes rode on truck chassis. This made them tall, ungainly, and with the driving dynamics of a truck. Hall wasn’t amused with the harsh ride quality and how hitting bumps jostled interior fittings loose. Worse, the wooden roofs and walls eventually leaked, which led to expensive damage.

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In response to this, Hall decided to come up with his own motorhome in 1968. Hall reportedly worked at Airstream for 20 years before this, where he took on roles as an engineer and then a marketer. His camper would lower the center of gravity through the use of a front-wheel-drive powertrain and wouldn’t have those horrible quality problems because it would be built out of aluminum like an Airstream. The Revolutionary Concept was born, or Revcon. His motorhomes would be built like an Airstream featuring aluminum framing and aluminum sheets riveted to the vehicle’s shell, eliminating the comparatively flimsy plywood.

As far as power goes, Hall’s Revcons borrowed from Oldsmobile and used the powertrain from the Oldsmobile Toronado. Other ideas came in the form of cabinets of an aluminum honeycomb core sandwiched between Formica. Interior walls were also just sheets of aluminum with a vinyl covering and wallpaper on top. Another claim to fame for Revcon coaches were their bathrooms. They weren’t wet baths but instead residential style where the shower stall was separated.

A Different Kind Of Revcon

Revcon

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Revcon production ended in 1990. According to an archived article by the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, before production ceased, Ray Novelli of Off-Road Motorcoach Inc. was working with Revcon to develop an off-road camper called the Goliath. In 1992, Off-Road Motorcoach Inc. purchased Revcon, establishing Revcon Motorcoach Inc. in Irvine California. This version of Revcon wouldn’t be an innovative front-wheel-drive coach. Instead, the new Revcon TrailBlazer 4×4 would be an off-road beast. Watch this promotional video calling the TrailBlazer “the greatest thing to happen to the automotive industry since the Model T:

If you thought that statement was a reach, later in the video the narrator says that the Revcon’s “equal in the book of achievements” would be the Concorde or the M1 Abrams. If you somehow weren’t sold yet, the narrator says that the Revcon is something “almost anybody can afford.” Well, the starting price was reportedly $180,000 in 1992 dollars ($393,414 today) so I’m not sure about that.

President of Off-Road Motorcoach, Ray Novelli, said that he was an off-road enthusiast and was tired of his motorhome getting stuck on California’s Pismo Beach. He wanted to design a camper that could get you right to the action. Instead of parking a Winnebago on the side of a highway, you’d be able to take your home out onto the beach or wherever your off-roading action will be. Novelli pitched the camper to anyone who loved ATVs, skiing, fishing, motorcycles, and off-road racecars. Reportedly, the engineers behind the new Revcon were involved in the original Revcon company, too.

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eBay via Bring a Trailer

The first Revcon TrailBlazer 4x4s (originally called the Revcon All-Terrain Motorcoach) were based on Ford F-350 XLT 4×4 Crew Cab trucks with 7.5-liter V8s making 230 HP and 390 lb-ft torque. Grafted on the back is an aluminum camper. It adds up to a 17.8-foot wheelbase, a length of 30 feet, a height of 10 feet, 6 inches, and a width of 8 feet.

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There’s a lot going on here, so I’ll start with the exterior. The Revcon TrailBlazer 4×4 retains the donor truck’s four-wheel-drive system but adds a third, unpowered axle to carry the extra weight of a camper. This axle rides on an air suspension that can be adjusted using buttons on the dashboard. Family Motor Coaching explains how the camper portion is built:

Welded

A welded tubular steel subfloor frame is added to the chassis. On top of this subfloor sits a welded aluminum tubular frame, with an exterior sheet of .050-inch thick aircraft aluminum added to seal the coach’s interior form the road. A layer of thick rubber is installed between the aluminum frame and the tubular steel frame to absorb noise and prevent galvanic corrosion form occurring between the two dissimilar metals.

The construction of the walls and the roof is nothing short of high-tech. Using jigs to ensure consistency and guarantee close tolerances, craftsmen assemble prestressed aircraft style ribs fabricated by aircraft manufacturer. These are welded together using horizontal cross members that act as locking devices between the lower and upper sections of the wall. The result is a monocoque, aircraft-style fuselage. Herein lies the strength and the ability of the coach to flex when off-road adventures are in progress and return to its original shape once the flexing is complete. This infrastructure is covered with .050-inch thick aircraft aluminum sheeting.

Inside, the Revcon TrailBlazer 4×4 was built to be luxurious, like bringing a high-end hotel wherever you went. Check out this tour:

It’s unclear just how many of these were built, but the YouTuber above places production at just 67 units. The newest model that I could find Revcon advertising was a 2004. The website advertised 2005 models until it finally went offline in 2009. The sad thing is that even in its 2004 brochures, Revcon depicted images of the 1990s ninth-generation F-Series-based campers when its new models were riding on first-generation Super Duty trucks.

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A Rare, Ambitious Camper

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Revcon Seller

Apparently, Revcon’s Novelli was so proud of the camper, he openly pondered taking one on the Baja 1000, from Dirt Wheels magazine:

However, this amazing scenario gets even wilder. With Some heavy duty suspension mods (which will become standard on all the production units), Ray actually plans to run the Baja 100. “If the big trucks can do it, we can,” Ray says. “The Revcon isn’t that much wider – but we won’t be going terrifically fast, and when we finish, everybody else will be probably be back home!” Regardless of this overall finish position, Ray can be secure in the knowledge that he will be first in his class: Sixteen-Thousand-Pound Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles with Shower.

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Revcon Seller
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Revcon Seller

If you happen to find one of these, you’re going to get more than just an off-road beast with a camper strapped on the back. You get a 35-gallon tank for fresh water, 80 gallons to hold gray water and wastes, a 32,000 BTU furnace, 13,500 BTU roof air-conditioners, and a 10,000-pound tow hitch. Inside, you’ll find pleated shades, a porcelain bathroom sink, and oak cabinets. Novelli wanted these to be luxurious inside and I think that mission was accomplished.

Intrev

Power in later models came from a 6.8-liter Triton V10 making 310 HP and 425 lb-ft torque. No matter which Revcon TrailBlazer 4×4 you choose, you can expect to ride the struggle bus when it comes to fuel economy. Reported mileage gets at low as 6 mpg. It weighs 12,020 pounds empty, too, so it’s a heavy thing to take out into the wilderness. Sadly, the idea of just about anyone affording this was never true. In 2004, the starting price was $134,850, equivalent to $219,776 today.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found exactly zero of these for sale and very few archived listings. If you find one, consider it a white whale. If you have owned one, I’d love to hear all about it! Drop me a line at mercedes@theautopian.com

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(Images to the manufacturer unless otherwise noted.)

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Things and stuff
Things and stuff
11 months ago

The marketing video didn’t show that thing going anywhere my WK2 couldn’t drag my travel trailer. If it ain’t 6X6, what’s the point?

Zelda Bumperthumper
Zelda Bumperthumper
11 months ago

Revcon is like the Vector Motors of RVs, except they actually managed to build and sell some vehicles. Sooo ambitious, but not really the best way to get the job done in the real world. My favorite is this 33 footer that was featured in Four Wheeler magazine in 1989. 4×4, two speed transfer case, and 4 mpg on the highway. If I remember correctly, they got 2 mpg offroad. The full read is cool if you can find a copy of it somewhere: https://www.motortrend.com/features/1808-trails-end-rad-and-regal-testing-revcons-4×4-motorhome/

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago

Phileas Fogg would approve.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
11 months ago

It’s too bad its a tag axle. The better solution to this would be higher load rated singles, but I think this was done because of axle limitations. My experience with 6 wheeled vehicles is that they are not always better than 4, even if all 6 are driven. Too little ground pressure when you start to get into undulating terrain.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
11 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Too LITTLE ground pressure? I’m pretty sure that on a 12k lb motorhome, less ground pressure is always going to be a good thing. I say this with the experience of somebody who has done hardcore offroading in a 50k lb ten wheeler. They sink really bad.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
11 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

While floatation is a thing, traction is a function of the pressure the tire puts on the ground. My experience with 6 wheelers is that the “wheelbase” of the back 4 is so small that it’s impossible to have enough wheel travel to keep 4 wheels on the ground with usable ground pressure in anything but mild terrain. When you close couple the back 2 axles, one of the axles will be stealing the traction from the other.

86-GL
86-GL
11 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

I think the 6×6 configuration makes sense if you consider the creator’s original intention- An ‘off-highway’ motorhome that wouldn’t become stranded on soft but mild terrain like beaches, dirt roads, camp grounds, etc. Here, less ground pressure could make all the difference.

At some point they let hubris take over, and started trying to market it as an extreme off-roader. I think the low uptake and ultimate failure speak to the insanity of that premise- Nobody risks an asset this expensive off-road unless they’re getting payed to do it. The only similar off-highway vehicles I can think of all earn their keep in construction, resource extraction, utility maintenance, etc.

Ego flexing aside, the actual solutions to keep motor homes and other vehicles like this from getting stuck are pretty straightforward.
-Locking diff
-Boards, chains or other traction aids
-Winch
-Tow strap
-Buy a smaller vehicle
-Don’t drive places you shouldn’t

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
11 months ago
Reply to  86-GL

Yeah 6×6 is great for floatation and to increase load capacity. If they had stuck to the script it would have made more sense.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
11 months ago

And yet you’ll still be living in a van down by the river.

At least this can get you just a bit further upstream from all those other vans also living down by the river.

86-GL
86-GL
11 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Forget BY the river, have you ever tried IN the river?

Larry
Larry
11 months ago

Having no idea RV furnaces were that large, I learned something. My modest midwestern house’s furnace was less than twice that powerful.

JumboG
JumboG
11 months ago
Reply to  Larry

Most car AC systems are powerful enough for a house.

CPL Rabbit
CPL Rabbit
11 months ago

I’m sure it’s relatively good off-road, but I can only imagine that being true in an open desert environment with its turning circle measured in football fields.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
11 months ago

I can’t help but note the GM van taillights on the Ford-based RV. Gotta focus on the important things!

V10omous
V10omous
11 months ago

I wonder why these weren’t offered with Powerstrokes….seems like that would be a better match for the size and weight.

Maybe payload concerns? But you have a whole other axle.

JumboG
JumboG
11 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Given the amount of miles typically traveled in a RV, the additional expense and maintenance may not have been worth it.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
11 months ago

Is that “travel” the world, or “trample” it?

Data
Data
11 months ago

From the people that brought you the Wagon Queen Family Truckster comes the Trail Queen Family Truckster.

Stacheface
Stacheface
11 months ago

What a land whale! It’s probably too large to take most places, but still very cool.

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