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.”
“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.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve decided to just replace the engine in my van. Hey! Maybe with one from an old RV!”
This was delightful!
Oh this story was so much fun to read and it has me thinking…
you had me going till I go to “more reliable.”
That was a fun read and full of so much information. Thank you for sharing your thought processes. Hugs,
Awww, here I thought things were gonna get interesting.
How’s your carpentry skills? Picture this: a van front rv like the second pic. Either gutted or burned out; as long as the cab and chassis are good. Strip it to the frame, then construct a cabin on the back. Maybe even with log siding. Definitely unique. Could be lots if fun.
Love that! Lol 😆 pics please even photoshopped would be so fun!
Embrace your weirdness!
I had a ‘74 Winnebago Brave.
When I got it it had 29k on it.
It was a museum piece. It was all original right down to the Hank Williams in the 8 track. It got 6mpg no matter what I did. Unless I was going downhill in a tailwind, then it got 6.5mpg, no matter what I did.
Everything on it was dead simple.
While I’ve thought about getting something like that again, there would be a lot of work and I don’t want to do it or pay someone to do it , so, I ain’t going to do it.
I got a ‘06 Duramax express van after the RTR this year (since I didn’t win Bob’s van) with 300k on it. (Lots of life left in it.) Was in a beetle that got 60+mpg….but it was way cramped.
I’ve taken my time and meager monies and have gotten it checked out and everything that needed to be repaired or replaced, done. Mostly done by me.
I haven’t done one thing for a build out other than clean it out well. I’ve hung my hammock in the back. It takes up less room than a bed and it’s substantially less heavy. I want a van not a house. I don’t want the extra weight or the extra static between my ears having to think about stuff and things that will break down.
I have always wondered why someone would take a great van and try to make a house out of it.
I’ve let go of the attachment of making my van a house.
But living in a beetle and then being in the van, it’s like the Taj Mahal going down the road with a nap waiting for me in the back, anytime and just about any place I choose.
I’ll eventually put a floor and insulation in, and maybe some e-track to hold everything down and hold the hammock up. But when I want to use it as a truck, just move stuff aside or take everything out, shift and use it to haul things.
Al, that’s a great little article that I greatly enjoyed. Keep it up.
Yes! Awesome ideas/plans James! Thanks 😁👍🤗
E track is a good idea. If you decide on a bed frame and cabinets in the future, they can be mounted to the E track. Two load bars across the back with some plywood would make a quick sleeping platform.
Love the way the little guy on your shoulder talks to you. He’s got some smarts.
Sounds like me talking things through with my inner self.. lol.
We think alike
What fun this was, not only the original story but the comments too. Thats why I love Van lifers/ Free Spirits. I am from the UK, I love VW campervans in particular owning 3 during our time travelling for holidays etc. With a large awning to acommodate 3 teens plus their friends, the UK was our Oyster as we say. Last year we were invited on a camping trip to Wales, my husband doesnt do camping, he’s scared of spiders, so with 2 days left to our camping trip we bought a 2005 Peugeot Boxer Dreammaker Motorhome almost as big as its name suggests. It had 32,000 miles on the clock and the worst paint job inside we had ever seen, it just made us laugh to look at it, However “Dreamie” went like the proverbial clappers, If any of you have ever been to Wales you will know what I mean when I say, 500 miles on motorway plus 200 miles on a switchback to our campsite perched at the top of a very steep hill with stupendous views of the sea and back again ,but “Dreamie” handled it beautifully. We had the best holiday ever, sitting around a firepit in soft rain bonding with our fellow campers.
Since then we have spent weekends travelling around our area of Kent between repainting and refurbishing and we love her. We had visions of travelling across Europe in her on those autobahns & motorways. However thats not to be for the forseeable future with the closed borders in Europe so we are debating whether to sell Dreamie and buy something more practical for UK ‘s long & winding roads, parking is horrendous especially in UK supermarkets , 2 parking bays make us unpopular. It is as you all say, ” a home on wheels” but as a couple we are attached to showering daily and having a decent bed to sleep in. I still hanker after a VW campervan, but they are well out of our price range since TV chef Jamie Oliver made them popular by travelling around the UK showing us all how you can cook gourmet meals in a campervan, adding an extra nought on to any old VW. I thank all of the van lifers out there from the bottom of my heart for making van life popular again, weaning us all off swanky hotels with plush facilites,swimming pools & poor food, into the freedom of life on the open road. Now we can not only buy new engines and motor parts to refubish our vehicles but all the other internal parts too, showers sinks, electrics , cookers fridges. You all paved the way! Long may it continue!!
Love to see pictures! 😆. Sounds so fun! Thanks for sharing.
Fascinating stream of consciousness sample. Mine less definitive and congested with more complex, heavier, expensive, city life, hurry. Clearly time for free, open space life in any vehicle… CheapRVLiving!
I love the monologue.
Ha, I bought on old Motorhome for the 454 motor and trans for another project. However, the tides turned on me once I spent time in it with both Air Conditioners running in the Texas summer while I was BBQing ribs in my smoker. These days I have fallen in love with the 5 mpg monster and it has never let me down. I have made if more complex with solar panels and such. But it was all done to allow me more enjoyment. Stripped out or fully fitted as mine is. The best investment I have made in the last 10 years. By the way, it took me 7 years to go through the first 100 gallons of gas as I rarely move. Next she heads to my 40 acres in Southern Arizona for my retirement and perpetual hunting trip. I converted a cargo trailer to come to the next RTR. Cheers all
I still love my rebuilt Toyota Prius from Auto B Yours in Scottsburg IN. Steve gave me a good price $ 5,800.00 with a one year warranty. In my mind the best car/RV ever made. Set the temperature you like and the car keeps it there. Great mileage….. Just take a look before you buy, they are great.