Built from 1973 to 1978, the Chinook was Toyota’s entry into the world of recreational vehicles. Customized by Chinook Motor Coach, the small camper used a fiberglass shell built on top of Toyota’s sturdy truck chassis. In all, Toyota and Chinook built approximately 15,000 campers, but with the oldest ones going on 50 years old, they are somewhat rare today.
This 1976 Toyota Chinook listed on Bring A Trailer was refurbished not long ago. Keeping with the 1970s decor, it received new brick-patterned wallpaper, woodgrain flooring, and a folding Naugahyde sofa bed. Yet it was also tastefully updated with solar panels, a concealed Porta-Potti, and a backup camera.
Inside, the pop-top camper includes a small kitchenette with a sink, a two-burner cooktop, and a 12-volt refrigerator. Despite its small size, there is abundant storage in the form of cabinets, space underneath the couch, and shelves that line the underside of the pop-up roof. Large sliding windows give the camper an airy feel to what would otherwise be a claustrophobic space.
Toyota trucks of the mid to late 1970s used a carburated 2.2-liter 20R four-cylinder engine, typically mated to a four-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic. The stout engine proved extremely durable but only produced between 90 and 97 horsepower and about 122 pound-feet of torque. The dearth of power meant that the approximately 3,500-pound camper could only make slow and steady progress as it roamed the countryside.
Even though the Toyota Chinook pop-top camper is smaller than something like the Dodge Ram pop-top or even the Chevrolet Blazer Chalet, it makes the most of its usable space. It’s closer to the size and performance of a vintage Volkswagen Vanagon camper and just as livable. Recently, Volkswagen announced it would start making a camper version of the Multivan known as the T7 California.
In 2021, Toyota revealed a Toyota Tacoma overland camper concept at SEMA. Inspired by the original 1970s Toyota Chinooks, it was dubbed Tacozilla but, unfortunately, never made it to production.