At 11,542 feet above sea level, Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge, Colorado, is not the place to be to drive an unfamiliar motorhome, especially in the middle of a snowstorm. But alas, that’s where I ended up just two hours after I bought an unseen 1990 Toyota Sunrader sight on Craigslist in the fall of 2014 from a retired Air Force pilot named Bill in Colorado Springs. I had to do 1,100 miles to get home to Verdi, Nevada, and although I sent $ 12,000 to a complete stranger after only seeing a dozen photos of the rig, that seemed like too much. good deal to let it pass.
Hope it wasn’t too good to be true.
As soon as we got to Bill’s place after he picked me up from the airport, I laid eyes on the Sunrader and knew it was a big score. Not a scratch or dent, only 68,000 original miles, every accessory and device in working order, and an interior that looked fresh from the factory, it took a bit of self-control to play it cool and contain my excitement. As a bonus, Bill drove the entire vehicle to make sure it was ready for the trip home.
Miniature house on wheels
Although at times it was a white punch that went through the Hoosier Pass and the Vail Pass in near whiteout conditions, the Sunrader came out of the Rockies before 2 feet of pre-Thanksgiving snow temporarily cut through the Interstate 70. It was an incredible feeling of freedom having a whole miniature house on wheels. Suddenly, I was no longer in a hurry to go somewhere. If I was tired or there was traffic, I could just stop and take a nap. Or I could hike up a secluded mountain road and camp in seclusion, which I ended up doing in Lamoille Canyon, deep in the Ruby Mountains, south of Elko, Nevada.
This 18ft fiberglass hull Toyota Sunrader on a 1 ton truck bed with a boat anchor 3.0 liter V6 (aka 3.slow) is an extremely rare bird, even rarer than the coveted Toyota Sunrader four-wheel drive manufactured between 1985 and 1988. With barely a dozen 18 foot V6-powered Sunraders, this is the most perfect habitable, affordable and reliable adventure platform that’s easy to drive and small enough to handle. park anywhere. And the “piece de resistance”: a full-size rear window for looking out while enjoying a soapy drink after the ride.
Equipped with a furnace, air conditioner, oven, stove, giant three-way refrigerator, two sleeping areas and a wet bathroom with shower and toilet, the Sunrader is much better than life in a van. convenience. There is nothing better than coming back from a wet and cold run and being able to take a hot shower inside. You can poop in the woods if you like, but having your own private toilet on hand is pretty nice, especially in the parking lot of a bike race when all the porta-johns are full. And guys, a word of advice, if you have a loved one and are looking for a minivan or motorhome, buy one with a bathroom. You’ll thank me later. I almost passed on a motorhome with a bathroom. I’m glad I didn’t, and so was my lady. It’s the clutch.
An all-terrain vehicle in the snow
Even though this particular Sunrader isn’t a four-wheel drive, I’ve taken it on many rough dirt roads that pretty much any other RV wouldn’t. For those familiar with South Usal Beach on California’s Lost Coast, the steep, narrow, washed-out dirt road of Highway 1 can be completely white, even in a pickup truck, especially when it’s wet. Thanks to its BF Goodrich off-roader and double rear axle with a ton of weight on it, my two-wheel-drive Sunrader made it to the south of Usal without a problem, providing a seaside home for the night. without a single neighbor other than a herd of Roosevelt’s elk. The Sunrader is surprisingly capable off-road in the snow, and it will go as deep into the bush as any two-wheel-drive van or pickup truck with a cabin RV.
Sunrager, Pantyraider, Moonraker, these are all nicknames my friends have given to this remarkable little piece of engineering. My lady, Swan John, calls her Bitty Bertha and gives her words of encouragement while driving to help her climb mountain passes faster, a practice most former Toyota truck owners are familiar with. But whatever you do, don’t call it a dolphin, an entirely different Toyota RV that was built with wood-frame construction that leaks versus tight-clamshell molded fiberglass. construction of the Sunrader. While the roof can’t leak, the windows certainly can, and after spotting moldy woodwork last fall, I had to rip off part of the interior and close the rear window. This is the only repair I have had on the Sunrader in 20,000 miles of ownership.
Gibraltar Rock Reliability
Since buying the Sunrader two years ago, we’ve already had dozens of amazing adventures, and none of them have involved a crash in the middle of nowhere. Since I own and work on four vehicles built in the 1980s (including three Toyotas), I’m not a fan of unreliable machines. I don’t see much character in a vehicle that continually breaks down when you need it most. I’d much rather spend my vacation on the bike than under the hood tackling the myriad issues that seem to plague many other adventure rigs. Since the Sunrader is a Toyota truck, the reliability of the Rock of Gibraltar is one of its many advantages.
And despite the 3.slow V-6 having notorious head gasket issues, the first mod I did after purchasing the Sunrader was to put Doug Thorley headers on it to remove exhaust heat from behind. the rear cylinders, the cause of its head gasket problems. Although this is a complete bitch that cleans the exhaust pipes around the two-wheel drive suspension, I’m sure there is now only one 18-foot V6-powered Sunrader in the world with Thorley headers. I only wish the Sunrader was as fast as it looks when the exhaust rumbles like a V-8 at a red light.