Home » This Dodge Ram Camper And Its Legendary Cummins Diesel Engine Will Probably Outlast The Universe

This Dodge Ram Camper And Its Legendary Cummins Diesel Engine Will Probably Outlast The Universe

Unkillable Cummins Camper Ts3
ADVERTISEMENT

Just over two decades ago, Dodge and Cummins produced a nearly bulletproof combination. The iconic second-generation Dodge Ram got the now-legendary Cummins 5.9-liter turbodiesel engine. How do you make one of the coolest trucks even better? Pair it with a sturdy camper to hopefully end up with a rig that might outlast the death of the universe. That’s what you’re getting here with this 2001 Dodge Xplorer Xcursion motorhome.

It’s no secret that RVs are sometimes built like garbage and sometimes motorhomes double down on the bad. Remember, there was a time when Winnebago sold the LeSharo motorhome built out of the finicky and slow Renault Trafic, then tried it again with the Volkswagen EuroVan-based Rialta. Then there was that deadly Goodyear scandal involving motorhomes wearing tires they should not have been rolling on. Today, you can still buy a small motorhome based on platforms not known for their longevity, and that comes on top of whatever other quality problems you have to deal with.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Perhaps the answer can come from the past. This 2001 Dodge Xplorer Xcursion pairs a GOAT engine with a good transmission and what appears to be a solid motorhome on the back. Okay, saying it could outlast the universe is obviously an exaggeration, but I bet this will be around when my parents’ pile of junk camper won’t be.

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

The Man Who Coined The Term “Motorhome”

This camper is a descendant of an important figure in motorhome history. In the early decades of RVs, self-propelled campers were often called house cars. Then Raymond C. Frank came around and changed the industry, from a previous retrospective:

As the story goes, Frank was the owner of a trailer manufacturing company. In 1958, he decided to take his family from their Brown City, Michigan abode down to Florida for a family vacation. While there were certainly many campers to choose from, Frank decided to design his own take on the house car formula. Teaming up with his son, Ronald, Frank custom-built his camper in a barn.

Vintage camper club Tin Can Tourists notes that at first, Frank’s camper–called the Motor Home–was built solely for his family to travel in. Frank’s coach was also distinctive for the day. It wasn’t a motorized trailer or a camping unit bolted to a truck. Instead, it was designed from the ground up to be a camper. This isn’t the first time that someone purpose-built an RV–it could be argued that J. Roy Hunt did the same two decades earlier with the Hunt Housecar–but it was still outside of the norm for the day.

Frank then took his Motor Home on the road, driving it around the country with his family. Along the way, the RV proved to be popular, and people asked where they could get their own. Of course, at the time there was just the sole example out there. There was enough interest that Frank decided to put his Motor Home into production. He teamed up with his son and wife to make a business out of building the Frank Motor Home. They were able to make six more units in 1960 from the trailer manufacturing business, but Frank soon looked for outside help.

eBay

Frank paired Dodge chassis with his attractive and well-furnished RV bodies, creating a purpose-built rig that Americans all over the country wanted. The Frank Motor Home would later become known as the Dodge Motor Home. These coaches were a sensation, first starting with hybrid aluminum and fiberglass bodies before moving to full fiberglass. What made the Motor Home a home run was not just the enduring construction, but the fact that they were perfect for suburban Americans who wanted to travel but stuck their noses up at travel trailers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Certainly, Frank’s motorhome design and interior layout made such an impact that the term “house car” eventually faded away in favor for “motorhome.”

1963 Dodge Motor Home 1963dodget
Bring A Trailer Seller

Frank Motor Home Inc. was sold to PRF Industries in 1963 or 1964 with Frank’s coach design becoming the Travco. How do you follow up an industry-changing RV? Frank decided to take his self-contained motorhome idea and apply it on a smaller scale. First came the Cruise-Air Inc. two-person coach. Just a handful were built before that venture shuttered. Frank didn’t give up and instead tweaked the small motorhome idea.

This time, he’d design a small motorhome that could fit in a standard American garage. Xplorer Motor Homes was founded in 1967 and its first RVs was the Xplorer 21, a converted Dodge van. They were more than just vans with a bed, too, as Xplorer vans featured raised roofs, extended rear ends, and sometimes actual standing height all while being able to fit in a garage. Frank would later expand the line with Class C and Class A motorhomes, but the company’s usual focus was on smaller RVs.

00d0d Bh7fxixuj7d 0ci0t2 1200x90
Craigslist Seller

While Frank didn’t build the first Class B camper vans, he was one of the figures who helped popularize compact self-contained RVs in America. Reportedly, Frank retired in the 1970s and his family kept Xplorer running to 1995. The company was then sold to Joe Murray and Dave Bockstanz. It was sold again in 2004 to Startracks Custom Vehicles, a company owned by Robert Helvie.

Helvie’s Xplorer announced new models, then the company seemingly fell off of the face of the planet. The Explorer Motor Homes website is still live today, but the majority of it appears to be stuck in 2005. I say majority because some parts of the website seemingly made it to the early 2010s and the copyright shows as 2024. So, someone is keeping the lights on.

ADVERTISEMENT

This 2001 Dodge Xplorer Xcursion

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

When Xplorer opened its doors, Frank wanted to build the kind of compact motorhome that didn’t really exist. The Xplorer 21 was supposed to be a better fit for American buyers than a Volkswagen while retaining the important ability to fit into a garage.

In 2000, Xplorer decided to move the needle even further. Class B and Class C motorhomes were popular and Xplorer wanted to do something to stand out. The result was the Xplorer Xcursion. Xplorer noticed that the majority of Class C coaches of the day were based on domestic van cutaways and the company felt there was a space in the market for one based on a heavy-duty pickup.

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

Xplorer stuck to its roots and built the new Xplorer on a Dodge Ram 3500 chassis. The company said that in going with the Ram as the donor vehicle, the Xcursion would gain features not found in other compact Class C coaches. Buyers of the Xcursion were able to get RVs with four-wheel-drive, manual transmissions, and a mighty diesel engine. Xplorer also kept the length a short 21 feet to 25 feet, too, so that the motorhome drove more like a pickup truck rather than a hulking bus. Xplorer also advertised a best-in-class fuel tank size of 52 gallons.

The 5.9-liter Cummins straight-six turbodiesel engine was a big deal. I’ll let David Tracy explain why:

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

To help tell the tale of the “five nine,” I reached out to Cummins’ marketing director David Goggins, who told me that the engine’s durability is rooted in its design for grueling industrial applications, saying: “A lot of the reason that engine is as durable as it is is because we designed it to be a heavy duty, commercial kind of engine.”

He went on to say that the 5.9-liter engine actually originally started as a joint venture between the Indiana-based diesel engine company and Case Corporation, which builds tractors and construction equipment. And indeed, starting in 1984 (well before the 5.9-liter engine ever found itself powering a Dodge Ram), Cummins offered three different variants of the 5.9-liter called the 6B, 6BT (turbocharged) and 6BTA (turbocharged, aftercooled), which served duty in tractors, combines, excavators, road graders, pavement rollers, boats, field sprayers and even school buses.

[…]

But perhaps even more impressive than its factory torque numbers is the engine’s reputation for longevity. Once you start looking at the mechanical bits, you begin to see just how overbuilt the B-Series engine really is. The block and head are cast iron, the crankshaft and connecting rods are forged, the seven main bearings are massive, and like many heavy-duty diesel trucks, the crank and cam are connected by a steel timing gear—not a chain or belt like you’d find in normal cars and trucks. The Holset turbos are also known to last until the end of time.

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

The engine in this motorhome is the 24-valve version of the 5.9 Cummins, which isn’t as popular as the even more bulletproof 12-valve, but this is still a rock-solid pre-emissions-era diesel engine. The biggest change, aside from more valves, was a move from mechanical fuel injection to electronic injection control with a Bosch VP44 pump. Output raised to 235 HP in 2001 or 245 HP and 505 lb-ft of torque in the High Output option.

ADVERTISEMENT

Xplorer says the RV body is made out of fiberglass and is supported with an aluminum superstructure. The floor is also made out of aluminum rather than wood to prevent rotting. Xplorer’s top features included the option for four-wheel-drive, and also a 15,000 BTU floor-mounted air-conditioner, a Motoraide hot water heater, a 4.0kW Onan generator, and R18 urethane foam insulation.

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

This example has been restored and modified into an overland vehicle. The seller, Johnny, states:

• Professionally Rebuilt nv4500 transmission with paperwork, less than 100 miles since rebuild
• Professionally Rebuilt transfer case with paperwork, around 2000 miles on rebuild
• New Clutch rated to 550 Horsepower
• 4″ turbo back exhaust
• “RV” injectors
• Upgraded turbo
• Banks intake system with new grid heater and new relay
• Aluminum oversized radiator with new water pump and thermostat
• DPS exhaust manifold
• FASS fuel system
• Edges juice with attitude (no hot tune, just for efficiency and monitoring)
• All new fluids
• Rebuilt front drive shaft
• EMF Ball Joints
• Alignment
• Valve adjustment
• Custom suspension from front to back, Long arm conversation, Synergy progressive lift springs, Heavy duty adjustable trac bar, HD redhead steering box, rear air springs, etc.
• ABS and BRAKE light are on, does not affect drivability

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

The work continues inside, where the RV got a modern renovation. This includes 8020 aluminum and plywood cabinetry, a large refrigerator, a full bathroom, quartz countertops, and a three-burner stove. The equipment is also pretty neat with a forced-air furnace, an instant hot water heater, 400W of solar, a 300Ah battery, a 3000W inverter, and heated tanks. Speaking of those tanks, Johnny says the fresh tank holds 32 gallons and you even get one of those neat Purple mattresses.

Durable And Expensive

4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

All of this is wrapped in a package painted in bedliner and riding on 35-inch off-road tires. The truck looks okay from a distance, but closeup shots included in a Google Drive link show somewhat sloppy bedliner work. Johnny says that this truck is free from rust and has just 120,000 miles on its odometer, so in theory, this rig is ready for a lifetime of travel.

Now I must tell you about the bad part. Johnny, out of Lockport, Illinois, wants a hefty $105,000 before you can start its next adventure. On one hand, that’s cheaper than the most popular new camper vans on the market, which are smaller than this, aren’t four-wheel-drive, and are often Ram ProMaster vans. It’s also half of the price of Winnebago’s off-road camper, which again, is smaller.

ADVERTISEMENT
4 23 24 Johnny Kringas Camper
Johnny Kringas

On the other hand, other Dodge Xplorer Xcursions have sold for less than half of this one and don’t look like they were spray painted in someone’s backyard. So, you’ll have to decide if the interior renovation and the off-roady bits are worth the price hike and the obnoxious bedliner.

It’s way too rich for my blood, but I do love the idea behind this unit. It’s not much longer than a camper van but has the capability of a big pickup truck. Overall, I bet this RV is a monster and that Cummins will probably keep turning long after the planet stops.

Popular Stories

 

ADVERTISEMENT
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
36 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott Ross
Scott Ross
11 days ago

unkillable my ass, diesel bros find a way, and when they do they’ll complain about the price of the injectors

Gubbin
Gubbin
12 days ago

Prices for Cummins 6BT trucks are crazy high, and I can see why the seller would be holding out for some trust-fund kid with stars in their eyes and a yen to impress their favorite VanLife Overlanding Boondocker forum.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
12 days ago

“ABS and brake lights on, does not affect driveability”

Personally, I like to troubleshoot those particular lights when they come on.

Americanitis
Americanitis
12 days ago
Reply to  Speedway Sammy

Seems like it might affect stoppability at least

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
11 days ago
Reply to  Americanitis

“Runs and drives fine, never said nothin’ ’bout stopping!”

Church
Church
12 days ago

I love the two-tone paint job, if nothing else.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
12 days ago

It certainly looks cool but having done a bunch of 4 wheeling in the Northeast I have a hard time figuring out how this rig would be useful around here. It’s too big for most woods trails and would probably tip over rock climbing. 2WD motorhomes manage to get over the dunes and out onto the beaches of Cape Cod. I guess you could play in the mud but who could pull you out if you got stuck?

I’d be much happier with an old Dodge Cummins pickup and slide in camper for way less than half the price.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
12 days ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

Yeah I have a first Gen with the mounts for a side in now just need the slide camper. Which I paid 7500 for my truck a few years back and you can find nice older slide ins for under 20k. So yeah much cheaper then this and as I stated below much rather have a 12v.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
11 days ago

Once in a rare while I’ll see a first gen around here in beautiful shape. Probably owned by an old guy who goes to steam engine shows. The rest have rusted out long ago

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
11 days ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

Yeah mine was in really nice shape when I got it paint was faded but that was about it. It has more dings and dents now but still really clean as I don’t drive it in winter but it also did come from Wyoming if I am not mistaken. So there are still some clean ones out there.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
12 days ago

Why do people still paint cars with bedliner? Its been long enough that we can see how poorly it will age.

Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour
12 days ago

Unkillable engine, eh? Marketing director name checks out.

Robby Roadster
Robby Roadster
12 days ago

It wouldn’t be a 2nd gen ram without a light bar stuffed in the lower grill. Sigh..

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
12 days ago

ABS and BRAKE light are on, does not affect drivability”

Maybe, and maybe not. And it could be a $50 fix to make those lights go away, or it could be $2000.

Alexk98
Alexk98
12 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

And you’d really hope that a 23 year old Ram priced at six-figures would have no issues, but here we are.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
11 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Having 2000 Ram 2500 myself, I can say that just about anything in the braking system can trigger the ABS light, including just needing to bleed the brake system some more. After doing brakes and changing fluid, mine’s never been happy unless it’s been bled once or twice, had the pedal stomped a few times while fully sealed back up, then bled again some more for good measure. Just a simple brake job with no fluid change will still make the ABS light come on. Stomp the pedal a few times until the system is happy that the fluid level isn’t changing rapidly, shut it off, restart, and it will go away. There’s just something janky about how the whole system works.

Likewise, 24-valve Rams are also known for the phantom throttle-cut out, where the engine will go to idle and pressing the pedal will have no effect until the engine is stopped and restarted. It’s widely thought to be caused by a dirty or worn-out position sensor on the pedal linkage up on the engine. But — I’ve found on mine, which is a manual, that putting the clutch in, which also activates the cruise control disconnect, will make the throttle linkage responsive again. So, it may be linked to a fault in the cruise control circuit or the clutch interlock switch. Either way, janky electronics are the bugbears of these trucks.

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
12 days ago

Why is it the color of a hearing aid?

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
12 days ago

I call that color “prosthetic leg beige”.

Sklooner
Sklooner
12 days ago

I thought bedpan

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
12 days ago

Let me count the ways how bad bedliner sprayed trucks look IRL

In my mind (and times I’ve seen it) it’s done to hide moderately-to-bad cosmetic issues like rust, dents, holes, scratches, etc… Like a bad wrap job that’s right over the rust.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
12 days ago

With Jeep’s current paint woes, it could be argued as preventative.

Lardo
Lardo
11 days ago

It must add a lot of weight?

Rippstik
Rippstik
11 days ago

“The bank called, and they are asking about the modifications you’ve made to their truck”

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
12 days ago

I would have preferred a 12v much more then a 24v. I have had next to no issues with my 12v and being a first Gen it is all mechanical so less electronic bits that can go wrong. Also being mechanical you can make truck run with out needing active 12 volts unlike the 24v which needs voltage for injectors, fuel pump and so on. Oh there were 24v that did have a flaw in certain blocks manufactured, think they had the number 53 on them if not mistaken, that were prone to cracking which caused leaking coolant.

So short answer 12v FTW hah

Alexk98
Alexk98
12 days ago

One Hundred and Five Thousand United States Dollars… Really?

I’m genuinely curious, does anyone actually, seriously think this will sell for 6 figures? Are these actually worth that? This just seems like dude-bro glamping.

Alexk98
Alexk98
12 days ago

That was my thinking, good/bad paint really can make a huge difference on an otherwise nice/valuable vehicle. My guess is the guy bought this at the peak of covid camper craze pricing and is convinced its still worth the same. Throw in the “you can’t build one for less” attitude that people love to hold onto after spending too much money on mods and you’ve got a recipe for a sale-proof vehicle at asking price.

V10omous
V10omous
12 days ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I gotta think the manual transmission is not helping matters.

The potential pools of buyers who like shifting trucks for themselves and who want to spend 6 figures on a 25 year old camper are small enough on their own, trying to find someone who meets both is going to be really tough.

Sklooner
Sklooner
12 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

And the manual is better on real technical off road bits but how many of these will it go on ? oddly the automatic can tow more too

Jatkat
Jatkat
12 days ago
Reply to  Sklooner

I don’t see how a manual is better on technical off road bits… I do prefer it, but I wouldn’t say its better!

Loren
Loren
12 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

Automatics of the era are known for not being up to the task, but the NV4500 manual won’t have to ever be pulled out of BFE with a tow truck due to trans failure and can be rebuilt by any idiot (such as, me). If you tie the fuel valve open you can even jump-start a manual 12-valve with no electrical power, something that saved my tail once this year.

Loren
Loren
12 days ago
Reply to  Loren

Meant “bump-start”.

V10omous
V10omous
12 days ago

That is a good point, but I must say that a bit of transmission work is probably less of a big deal for someone in the market for a six figure toy.

36
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x