I’ve long said that if you want an RV that has character and style, you have to look to the past. Rewind your calendar back 50 years and you could find a bevy of striking designs from a number of manufacturers. A tired and rusty Dodge on Facebook has reminded me of another marvel of half-century-old motorhome design. For a short time during the 1970s, DayStar Motor Homes sold a motorhome with a design so odd that it looks like it was created by AI. Even weirder, sales from the DayStar St. Tropez coach were allegedly supposed to be used to build church halls.
Every day of every week, I add something new to my massive list of vehicles I’d love to own. This list spans over five years of for sale ads and the vehicles for each week’s Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness often comes off of the list. Along with pretty motorcycles and the Smart Fortwo of the week that I want, I also put motorhomes and travel trailers on the list. Last week, I stumbled upon this “1974 Dodge Daystar” for sale on Facebook and after a weekend of digging, I still haven’t quite unraveled the history of this thing. What I did find was pretty intriguing.
DayStar Motor Homes Inc.
The DayStar motorhome was the work of DayStar Motor Homes Inc. Most sources report that DayStar Motor Homes was established in Compton, California. Reportedly, DayStar Motor Homes was created to generate income to build Christian church halls. According to automotive history site Coachbuilt, DayStar apparently partnered with a manufacturer in Taiwan with a name translating to “Phosphorous.” From what I could find, the coaches were designed in America but utilized a Cor-Ten weathering steel body with a prefabricated teak interior from Phosphorous in Taiwan.
Over in America, DayStar hired Wellington Everett Miller as its chief engineer and designer. Born in 1904 in Los Angeles, W.E. Miller was known for his streamlined designs. You could see the DayStar St. Tropez’s heritage in the Gilmore tankers that were reportedly designed by Miller. Like this motorhome, those trucks sported bulbous cabs with curved windows.
Not much is known about the DayStar St. Tropez coach or what happened to DayStar itself. According to Coachbuilt, which sourced its information from books, just 16 DayStar motorhomes were built before DayStar had to close as a result of an alleged money laundering scheme involving Phosphorous’ directors. Apparently, the parties involved were all connected through a Christian fellowship.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to independently verify the allegations, but I did find historical records linking Miller to the company as its designer. I also found the website of Witness Lee’s “Local Church.” According to the site, Lee was one of the men involved and the Local Church fellowship was unsure of the financials of DayStar. Local Church put together a complicated web that seems to suggest that a church in Boston loaned money to Lee and two other men, who called themselves the Overseas Christian Stewards, who gave money to Phosphorous, who was supposed to provide the parts to DayStar. It’s unclear what happened here.
The DayStar St. Tropez
What is clear is that DayStar at least produced a handful of coaches before going under. Reportedly, the DayStar name is a reference to the Star of Bethlehem, the light that was said to have led three wise men to the birth of Jesus. This appears to be reflected in the design of the coach. Some examples appeared to have been adorned with a star in that weird grille.
The DayStar rides on a Dodge RM400 chassis and reportedly has a body of Cor-Ten weathering steel. What is weathering steel? I’ll let U.S. Steel, the trademark holder of Cor-Ten, explain:
Weathering steel, best-known under the trademark COR-TEN® steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to obviate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years. Weathering steel has increased resistance to atmospheric corrosion when compared to other steels. COR-TEN® resists the corrosive effects of rain, snow, ice, fog, and other meteorological conditions by forming a coating of dark brown oxidation over the metal, which inhibits deeper penetration and negates the need for painting and costly rust-prevention maintenance over the years. In simple terms the steel is allowed to rust and that rust forms a protective coating that slows the rate of future corrosion.
While Cor-Ten is designed to have a natural rusty patina, it’s also able to be painted just like mild steel. While it’s reported to have a Cor-Ten body, there are zero surviving brochures or any documentation confirming the use of such steel. The gaping rust holes would suggest that at the very least, this example may not be Cor-Ten.
It’s also said that DayStar St. Tropez coaches came with lavish equipment from a Norcold DE-828 full-size refrigerator to a full kitchen, a full bathroom, and even an Aqua Magic self-cleaning toilet. The interior was also said to come with power-operated sofas, a teak dresser, a central vacuum system, an Onan generator, 35 storage compartments, and cab seats with their own suspensions.
Further, the St. Tropez was said to come with skylights, two air-conditioners, and a trunk for golf clubs. All of it was wrapped in leather, teak, brass, and built to the customer’s desires. With features like that, a DayStar would be the peak of 1970s luxury. Your mobile palace would come with 440 cubic inch Chrysler RB V8 power backed up by a LoadFlite three-speed automatic.
The reported standard price for all of this was $70,000, though I did find one listing from DayStar itself quoting a more reasonable $42,000. At least one of these coaches made it over to Australia and the interior is about as luxurious as it sounds. It’s rare to find these for sale. I remember seeing one pop up for sale a few years ago before I even started writing about cars, motorcycles, and motorhomes.
Sadly, the one up for grabs today is worse for wear.
This DayStar St. Tropez
This 1974 DayStar St. Tropez popped up in my feed when I was looking for a BMW airhead (more on that tomorrow). It’s for sale in Grand Marsh, Wisconsin and I’ll warn you, it hasn’t survived nearly 50 years of life that well.
The wild Miller design still shows through the peeling paint, gaping rust holes, and broken glass. The coach is absolutely covered in rust and one particularly rough area is right next to the destroyed windshield, which shows holes large enough to reach your hand through. Some of the holes look like they could open up into literal caverns if you’re not careful. The rust damage is substantial and I have no doubt repairs would require an extensive rebuild of the body. A torn piece of tarp dangling from the roof is also not a good sign.
Things don’t get better inside, where it looks like the elements and critters have torn and worn down every single surface. There appears to be a trash bag taped to the driver seat and the dashboard is beyond cracked. The seller doesn’t even provide other pictures of the interior and that’s probably a good thing because the poor condition will probably make me sad.
Still, there are some interesting things to note about this coach. Check out those weird gills along the side and the roof air-conditioners. This coach is about 26 or 28 feet long depending on who you ask. In its prime, those air-conditioners probably kept the DayStar icy cold.
The seller says this rig ran when parked in 2021. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was parked because a baseball-sized something went through the windshield, but the seller says it was parked because the engine had an overheating problem. The seller says they never bothered to check out why the engine was overheating, so should you buy it, you’ll have to solve that issue on top of everything else wrong with the coach.
The price for what’s left of this weird motorhome is $10,000, which may be a bit much since you’re getting maybe 40 percent of what this thing used to be. Though, one thing’s for sure, if you do buy this and restore it, you’ll have one of the weirdest motorhomes to ever hit the road. If you know any additional information about the DayStar coach or the company, I’d love to read it! Drop me a line at email@example.com.
(Images: Facebook Seller, unless otherwise noted)
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