IT ALL STARTED with watching a video where a guy bought an old, trashy, mostly-gutted Class A RV just to get its relatively low-mileage engine for a hotrod he was building. The next thing I knew, my brain had set off on a journey to nomad Crazy Town.

Let me back up a bit in this story. I love my 2007 Chevy Express. It has been perfect for my needs, but with over 320,000 miles on the clock the engine is getting tired. Plus there are some front suspension issues. So I’ve been thinking about my options. The leading choice — because it’s the most budget-friendly one — is to get a heart transplant for the van, along with new ball joints and wheel bearings. But I still spend part of my quiet hours contemplating things like a newer van, a box truck, a step van, a minivan, one of those land yacht sedans from, like 1970… (Do you remember the size of the trunks on those things? A family of four could sleep back there.) But an RV was never on my list.

Sorry, RV lovers, but motorhomes just, um, rub me the wrong way. It’s a personal thing. They’re huge and seem to be trying too hard to be mobile apartments. And there’s the complexity. I sometimes call them “boxes filled with systems about to break.”

That brings us back around to the old gutted Class A. I thought, “Hmmmm, I’ve been living happily for nine years without a bathroom, holding tanks, climate control, a generator, a complete kitchen, or any of that other stuff that differentiates an RV from a moving van. I wouldn’t need to install any of it into an RV I might gut. It could be as bare bones as my van. The result would be simpler, lighter, roomier, less expensive, and more reliable.”

Visions formed in my mind of something like a vintage 19-foot Winnebago Brave. Or a more modern (but pre-slideout) Class C.

I watched some videos from folks who had started by gutting their RV, but in most cases they just revised the layout and updated the same group of systems. Not what I had in mind.

Then a previously ignored part of my brain finally broke through. “You know, when it comes to a blank slate, a gutted RV is like a step van or box truck, but with a greater chance of leaks, mold and rot.”


“And with a truck you wouldn’t need to do all the work of ripping out that unwanted stuff and hauling it to the dump.”


“Or patching the now-unused holes.”

“Yeah. But RV insurance is less than truck insurance. And, although it wouldn’t be a true RV, I would be able to slip unquestioned into campgrounds that require fully self-contained rigs.”

“You avoid campgrounds anyway.”

“Yeah. But there’s the Rincon Parkway, right along the beach, near Ventura.”

“It’s too crowded.”

“Yeah. But, come on, a bare bones RV is a delightfully contrarian, norm-rejection thing to do. It’s 180 degrees from what most people want an RV to be.”

“Ah, now we’re at the truth of it, aren’t we. You’d go to all that trouble just to tweak a few noses.”

“Um, yes.”

“You always need to be the weird boy.”

“Embracing my weirdness is what got me through life.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Then you also know I act on only a fraction of my crazy impulses.”

“Define fraction.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve decided to just replace the engine in my van. Hey! Maybe with one from an old RV!”