Do you remember the Toyota Chinook? – The little camper who helped start an industry

About 40 years ago the little camper was born.

Someone from Toyota USA decided that it would be a good idea to provide pickup trucks for use by caravan manufacturers. These vehicles were shipped to motorhome companies as a cab and chassis unit. They did not have an attached van. The manufacturer of the caravan put its own body on the chassis of the truck. This became the basis for the motorhome series known as the Toyota motorhome.

Built in the late 1970s, they were small by today’s size.

At first, the campers were small, not much larger than the body of the original truck. One of the most common brands of this type at the time was called the Toyota Chinook. This small caravan consisted of a fiberglass body attached to the Toyota chassis. It usually had a pop-up roof with a vinyl siding.

Inside the caravan, the accommodation was fairly basic.

Along one side of the body was a built-in kitchen consisting of a sink and refrigerator, and a two-burner propane gas stove. On the other side of the caravan a sofa that unfolded into a double bed was placed. This left a small hallway for standing, dressing, and other activities. Typically, the interior of the caravan was designed with the cabinets made of the same material as the body of the caravan, fiberglass.

These little campers will be popular with people who want to travel cheaply.

The small truck combined with a camper body made a very economical unit for weekend trips and vacations. This RV model was very popular with fishermen and hunters or couples who wanted a simple caravan that they could park in the garage. The use of the pop-up hood built into the caravan of these vehicles would allow the vehicle to fit into a stall in a standard garage.

With the pop-up roof extended, there was limited standing space inside the caravan. This allowed the user to move without bending over. The daily activities of cooking, dressing and sleeping were carried out in the warmth and protection of the solid fiberglass body.

One of the biggest difficulties of this caravan was the lack of a bathroom.

For some people this was not a problem as they used the caravan as a very comfortable place to sleep while camping outdoors. When used in forest service camps or in wilderness areas this was ideal, but for use in crowded campgrounds or trailer parks this soon became a problem. Another downside to this caravan was the lack of built-in storage.

While this little camper was great for many people, it wasn’t the best camper for the growing RV market.

Buyers wanted more comforts and features that provided the comfort and convenience of home while traveling. Attracted by sales of the Toyota Chinook type of motorhome, RV manufacturers began designing larger and more comfortable Toyota motorhomes.

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