From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: 87 Toyota Mini-Winnie?
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 14:38:00 -0400
Patrick O'Grady wrote:
> I've been shopping for a Toyota-chassis RV for some time now, and I'm
> looking at two: a 1987 Winnebago with the 22RE fuel-injected engine, an
> auto tranny, and no air conditioning, air shocks, or air bags; and an '84
> Dolphin with the 22R carb'd plant, 4-speed manual, cab air, coach swamp
> cooler and air-bag-enhanced suspension.
> The Winnie's EFI has more power, and its coach is in better condition,
> with the rear bath/shower setup I prefer, but the unit has 150,000 miles
> on it. The Dolphin's cab and coach are pretty beat up -- a family lived in
> it for a spell -- and it has the bathroom behind the driver's seat. But
> it's only got 50,000 miles.
> Prices are comparable -- $5500 for the Winnie, $4,500 for the Dolphin --
> and frankly, I'm stuck. The Winnie looks better, but I don't want to be
> walking across the desert after a breakdown, and my wife wants a swamp
> cooler or air conditioning. My '83 longbed Toyota has 250K on the
> odometer, but it hasn't been dragging a coach around with it.
I'd ignore the odometer and buy the rig that I liked. Here is my
* On a Toyota engine, the mileage isn't that high. If it doesn't
use oil and the compression on all cylinders is OK, then that would
be the end of my concerns. A quick check of engine balance is to
remove the coil wire and crank the engine while listening. If the
cranking sound is smooth, then the engine is probably OK. If the
starter speeds over one cylinder, then that one either has bad rings
or valves or a valve is stuck/out of adjustment. These heavy duty
iron blocks on the japanese engines (toyota and datsun/nissan) are
tough as nails. I routinely see 200k on these engines. I have a
Datsun Z (engines are similar internally) that I bought new in '75
that has 360k miles on it and is still running well.
* The EFI protects the engine from wear during abnormal conditions.
This is a little-appreciated aspect of EFI but is the major reason
modern engines last so long. There is no cylinder wall washdown
during cranking, no flooding, no hot weather leaning or any of the
other stuff that carburetors cause.
* You'll probably spend much more time in the house than behind the
wheel. Get what you like in the coach first.
* You can add AC to the house for oh, $500 if you can install it
yourself. My experience with a Keystone MH built on the Toyota
chassis is that a roof-top AC and generator will provide enough
cooling that the lack of dash AC isn't a big deal. If it becomes a
big deal, backfitting factory AC using salvage yard parts isn't
* If the engine eventually does wear out, replacing it with a
salvage yard engine is easy and cheap. And because the engine is so
tough, finding a good engine with relatively low mileage is easy.
* Fixing up a beat-up house is a lot more expensive and a lot more
hassle than repairing or replacing an engine. It would be
reasonable to assume that if the cosmetics are beaten up, then
perhaps the support systems (electrical, water, sewage) and
structural items are too.
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Cost of doing business?? For older RV's
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 19:26:27 -0400
Deborah Tucker wrote:
> One thing I've learned from reading this newsgroup is that replacing an
> older RV with a newer one is certainly no guarantee of a problem-free
> situation. How do people decide when it's time to stop putting money
> in, and make a change? I ask all this because we really like our RV's
> layout (78 25' Southwind, 2 dinettes), lots of bugs worked out, but
> surely more to come over time.
I'd say that it depends on your temperament more than anything
else. If you're the type who has to out-Jones the Joneses, then a
new RV every year or so is the norm. OTOH, if you like to get
comfortable with your environment and DON'T need to keep up with the
Joneses, then there's no logical reason to get rid of an old RV that
is reliable as long as there are no structural problems such as
fatigue cracking in the frame. I'm of the later type. I still have
the second car I ever bought (we won't talk about the first one!)
When I bought my motorhome, I bought it for the long term. I've
probably spent much more money getting it like I want it than I
could get out of it but I'm happy. I didn't buy the thing based on
what I could get when I sold it. I bought it to enjoy.
I don't believe in credit so I save for my purchases. If you use
credit, the same principle below will work for you, substituting
"payment" for "saving".
I put aside a fixed amount of savings each month into a fund for
luxuries, typically for a new RV but perhaps for a new car if I find
a 59 Caddy I like :-). I base this amount on my calculation of what
a monthly payment would be on a rig in my price range. The
difference is, I GET the interest instead of paying it. I pay for
RV repairs and upgrades from this fund. I have an arbitrary
threshold of 50% of my monthly contribution to this fund. If my
maintenance/repair expenses exceed this amount on a regular basis,
then it's time to consider a new RV. This is the same
logic/procedure I use with my cars.
One thing that comes out in this analysis is just how much money one
tosses to the banker with a new vehicle and just how many repairs
one can make to equal a new vehicle. For example, a $100k rig for
15 years at 10% interest produces a monthly payment of $1,078.61.
Call it $1100. I can do a LOT for $1100!. One month's payment
would buy a fine high end inverter. Three months would buy a new
generator. For three months' payment I can buy a brand new crate
motor from Chevy. Add a couple more months and I can (heaven
forbid, in my case) pay someone to install it. For 5 months'
payments I can have the whole exterior redone with epoxy paint and
custom graphics. (to get rid of those hideous 70s and 80s colors and
graphics!) I had all the upholstery and carpet replaced in my rig
for under $500 (very cheap but then I shopped :-) Now the fabric is
what my wife wanted and not that of some factory designer more
worried about cost than looks and durability.
Some folks would claim that I'm wasting money on an old rig. I see
it otherwise. I have my rig customized almost exactly like I want
it. I have a custom bed that fits my 6'7" frame. I have 300
amp-hours of battery capacity, a 175 amp alternator and a large
inverter. I have a refrigerator with NO electronics to go bad or
quit working if the house battery dies. I have custom shelves in
the cabinets to hold exactly the stuff WE (as opposed to the factory
designer's notion) want to carry. I have the engine tuned where I
want it. I have a large, oversized vehicle air conditioning system
fitted because I like to be COLD, not cool, in the summertime. I
have custom-made gaseous discharge tube (neon) lighting inside and
out that produces lovely light and never wears out. I have a full
power microwave oven in the rig instead of the whimpy little 600
watt units most mfrs install. In short, the rig is now customized
almost exactly like I want it.
The analogy to hotrodding is exact. I can't stand the notion of a
factory-stock car and I love the way the old cars drive and ride.
If you like your rig the way it is, then by all means keep it.
Keeping it running is a LOT cheaper than buying a new rig even if
you have to pay someone to do the work. Start putting those
"payments" in a mutual fund and let 'em start earning interest.
Then, after you get a couple hundred thou in the bank and you see a
rig you just can't live without, wellll......
An amazing thing is, I find that rolling out $10k or so in cash
(can't really tell how much is there without counting when you get
that much in one pile.) tends to make both the salesman's knees and
the price get all wobbly :-)
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Cheap RV travel,good idea?
Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2000 14:37:15 -0400
> Im from the UK, and myself and three friends are going to travel across
> the US for 3 months, and are considering buying a cheap RV for about
> $4000 to do this. Is this a good idea or not?
> I have RVed before, and know my way around an engine but need some good
> Could anyone recommend a model of RV that has a good reputation, as I
> have looked through the classifieds and it looks like the RV will be a
> 1970-80 model.
> Any links to good websites would also be appriciated, and please as
> many replies a possible.
While I'm a big fan of buying well-cared-for older rigs and fixing
them up to like-new condition, I think that this would be a bad idea
for you. You're going to be in a foreign place with strange
customs, without a home base where you can bring your rig to in
order to work on it. You WILL work on it. On a 20 or 30 year old
rig, you will replace everything that wears and everything that has
a polymer that moves. This means all rubber under the hood in the
case of a motorhome, the water pump, valves, hinges, window seals
and so on. For someone who has a base to work from, this isn't a
big deal because most of the stuff that requires replacement doesn't
constitute an emergency. You can change the offending part when it
is convenient. It is difficult to do this when you're also living
in the thing.
Mine is a best-case example. I bought an 82 motorhome that was
cared for about as well as I could imagine. The previous owner had
built an enclosed, heated barn to store it in. There were NONE of
those niggling little problems that everyone seems to let slide.
The rig had only 22k miles on it. Nonetheless, I've replaced almost
everything that moves and a lot of stuff that doesn't in the time
I've had it. I went into the deal knowing I'd have to do this,
having vast experience with antique cars. I've never been left on
the side of the road by a breakdown but for the first 6 months of
ownership, I worked on it almost every night during the week. And
before I took it out the first time, I changed tires, all hoses on
the engine, all belts, the fuel pump, the alternator, the black
water valve (sticky and leaking) and several window seals. I should
have changed the water pump too but the front of the rig has to come
off to access it so I'm gambling....
I don't really have any encouraging advice in that price range other
than perhaps trying to secure a rental unit for the duration. You
might find some outfit that would rent you a rig for around what you
planned to spend. The major advantage of renting is that the rental
company is normally responsible for maintenance and roadside care.