Home » This Vintage Toyota Sunrader Camper Has An Engine That Will Probably Outlive You

This Vintage Toyota Sunrader Camper Has An Engine That Will Probably Outlive You


Buying a used motorhome can be a huge gamble. It can look great at the time of purchase, but years down the road cost you some big money. That’s exactly what happened to my family with a used travel trailer! One way to reduce the chances of catastrophe would be to buy a camper that was built on a durable platform to start. This 1986 Toyota Sunrader is based on a Toyota truck chassis, features a bulletproof 22RE engine, and has a camper body made of fiberglass. That’s a vintage camper and a classic Toyota for $17,500!

When you flip through the pages of motorhome history, you’ll often find RVs powered by the engines of domestic brands and riding on their chassis, too. That cheerful Winnebago F-17 from last month is a Ford P-350 underneath. The Clark Cortez from earlier this month uses either Chrysler or Ford power. It’s the same deal with the FMC 2900R, which houses Chrysler firepower. When it comes to Class C motorhomes, you’ll still find a ton of domestics. Take a look at Mark Tucker’s July 1 Shitbox Showdown, which featured a battle between campers built out of Dodge and Ford vans.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

Import Truck-Based Campers

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For a period of time in the United States, you could also find a camper riding on the back of a Toyota truck. This 1986 Toyota Sunrader comes from a time when a bunch of different small Class C motorhomes used Toyota power.

Toyota says that it opened up its first dealership in America in 1957. Sales commenced in 1958 with 287 Toyopet Crown sedans and one Land Cruiser. The pickup truck version of the Land Cruiser landed in 1963 and was joined by the Stout in 1964. Then came the Hilux in 1968. The Hilux pickup would bear the Hilux name until 1976, when it was given the simple name “Truck” in the North American market. Toyota’s Hilux and Truck have gained a reputation for durability through the decades.

As I’ve covered before, the rise of Toyota truck-based campers started in the 1970s and, at its height, there were perhaps 60 different Toyota-based campers out there:


In the early 1970s, a number of RV manufacturers chose the Hilux as the backbones for their Class C camper models. Famed motorhome producer Chinook built fiberglass campers out of Toyota pickups starting in 1973. But Toyota wasn’t exclusive to Chinook, and offered its half-ton chassis to a number of manufacturers. Eventually, the market of Toyota Truck-based RVs was crowded with offerings from Chinook, Coachmen, Dolphin Sunrader, Warrior, Winnebago, and many more. Some enthusiasts estimate that there were up to 60 different styles and models of Toyota-based campers.

Sadly, it’s difficult to confirm just how many companies were out there slapping campers onto the back of Toyotas. Other import trucks became mini campers as well, including options from Subarus and Datsuns to the Chevrolet LUV. RV history is chock-full of companies that came, produced some campers, then disappeared without a ton of surviving documentation.

A Short-Lived Camper Producer


Sunrader is one of those companies, but I’ve been able to gather some information. According to a filing, Stewart E. Gardner incorporated the Gardner-Pacific Corporation in November 1973. Gardner was known in the RV industry at the time as the owner of Amerigo, a manufacturer of fiberglass campers. In 1974, Gardner patented a fiberglass truck bed camper with large front windows.

Gardner would also file a trademark for Sunrader, the brand name of campers that his company would sell.

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Sunrader campers were built out of a fiberglass shell and found themselves as slide-in truck campers or built directly onto the back of a Datsun or Toyota truck. Sunrader shuttered in 1992 after producing small Class C campers as well as fifth wheels and, reportedly, even a Class A motorhome.


During research for this, I found that Sunrader dealers advertised these campers in a bunch of local newspapers around the country, claiming the Toyota-based campers as returning 20 mpg.

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Popular Mechanics

If you flip through the pages of Facebook, you’ll find a number of Toyota Sunraders for sale. You’ll find them in 18-foot and 21-foot lengths and if you’re really lucky, you’ll even find a Toyota Sunrader 4×4 for sale. I found just one of those, but it was in such a sorry state that it wasn’t even running. Most of the others have been overhauled so much inside that you have no idea what they originally looked like.

This Toyota Sunrader

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This 1986 Toyota Sunrader is a 21-footer with an original interior, making it one of those time capsules that makes my heart skip a beat. I’ll show you that in a moment, but let’s just enjoy the exterior. The fiberglass body of the camping unit is made from two pieces of fiberglass that are overlapped, screwed, and sandwiched together to make a one-piece unit. The roof gets foam insulation and plywood for additional strength while the floor (a sandwich of plywood, foam, and aluminum) is fiberglassed into the rest of the body. Sunrader advertised a maintenance-free exterior and I believe it. These sound pretty well-built.

Something else that I like is that the Toyota cab sits nice and low. I passed by one of these on the highway in the past and my Volkswagen Touareg practically towered over the cab of the camper. Indeed, these sit just 8 feet to 9 feet tall, not counting the additional height of an air-conditioner. In theory, this means a driving experience that isn’t like trying to sail a ship down a highway.

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Inside, this Sunrader is noted to be in original condition. There’s a lot of wood in here and some of that deep carpeting that you’d expect from a camper from the 1980s. Directly behind the Toyota’s cab is the camper’s combination living room and dinette. Situated over the cab is a bed with two sizable windows looking outward. When the camper’s in motion, a cushion from the bed can be removed to make the cab airy.

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All of the facilities can be found behind these seating areas and you’ll find a kitchen complete with a four-burner range and a twin-basin sink. I’m actually quite impressed with this, as many modern campers give you just one or two burners and a single sink. A refrigerator sits on its own attached to a small pantry and across from that is a wet bath with a shower and toilet. While the seller doesn’t state tank sizes, these commonly had 21-gallon tanks for fresh water, 18 gallons for shower and sink wastes, and an 8-gallon tank for the toilet.

Power comes from a Toyota 22RE 2.4-liter fuel-injected inline four. The brochure says that in this configuration, the engine is pumping out a ravenous 116 HP.

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This isn’t going to be a fast camper, but one where you can rest easy knowing that you have a dependable engine. Toyota fans practically shout from the rooftops about how durable these powerplants are. That’s good, as it’s one thing you won’t have to worry about breaking. The engine in this camper has about 70,000 miles, so it’s barely broken in.

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Power reaches the rear wheels through an automatic transmission and, if you’re lucky, this is one of the Sunraders with a cruise control unit. The seller states that work has been done including an upgraded radiator, new belts, new hoses, new water pump, new main seal, and a new head gasket. Amazingly, mostly everything works inside; the seller just notes that one of the drains into a holding tank needs work.

Thus, what you’re looking at is something practically turn-key that you can take to vintage camper rallies. Plus, it looks a bit different than what you would buy new for a lot more money. This camper is up for grabs for $17,500 in Concord, California. That’s a lot for an old camper, but not that bad if vintage rigs are your jam. Personally, I love how well it’s been preserved over 37 years and 70,000 miles.

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benita Gibson
benita Gibson
10 months ago

Is still available for sale?

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