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Old 09-10-2013, 11:31 AM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2013
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Thinking about a Travco - advice?

Howdy folks -

I hope I've put this in the right place - if not, perhaps someone can
advise me.

I'm a long-time camper, but my idea of camping has always been limited
to what fits in the trunk of a car and not much else. It's always been a
fascination of mine to do a little RVing, and a set of circumstances has
arisen that tells me the right time is coming up! I can't quite put my
finger on the exact nature of the appeal, but whatever - most fun you
have in life is based on some intangible, yeah?

I don't have any long-term ownership aspirations. I don't have a place
to store anything long term, and at this point in my life it's probably
not a good use of money to pay someone to store for me. The way my
career has gone, the chances of me having real time in the near term for
further enjoyment is pretty limited, so I'm kind of planning a get in,
get out experience. Find something over the winter, enjoy it in 2014,
and then sell it on.

The smart thing to do would be probably be rent something. The
reasonably smart thing to do would probably be buy something modern. I
don't think that's enough variables, too safe. I'm looking to buy
something vintage, maybe put a little into it, and do this thing in
style. I'm fascinated by ChryCo's contribution to RVing, and by
Travcos in particular - but anything in that vein would be great for me.
I'll note that it's just me and my girlfriend, and maybe our dog. I
realize a Class A Travco is probably overkill for two people, but this is more
about living our a life goal and having an experience than being

Sounds crazy, but what I'm looking for is something older, classy, and
reliable enough that it can handle ~4,000 miles without kersploding.
HVAC isn't important since I don't need to use the thing year round or
travel to places where I don't want to be outside anyway. I do want a
reliable plumbing and electrical system, but I don't anticipate any big
electrical demands. I don't need or want a TV, microwave, or by and
large any real conveniences. A place to charge a cell phone and some
lights that can stay on at night are more than sufficient. I feel like
that's not asking a lot, but am I insane?

Any sage advice, up to and including "you're out of your mind?"
Things/years/models to look for in a 30 or 40 year old RV? Is going back
that far in time inviting a usability or safety disaster? I am very
mechanically inclined (I own & personally maintain several cars going back 50 years) and have an excellent knowledge of chassis electrics and a
reasonable understanding of plumbing. I'm not worried about things that
need to be fixed or require a little extra maintenance - I just don't
want to die coming down out of the California Sierras, or end up
stranded on I5 in central Oregon when an irreplaceable widget
spontaneously fails.

Sorry for the long post, but I think I got it all out there! Thanks!

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Old 09-10-2013, 12:33 PM   #2
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The Travco coaches were need old coaches. But with an RV of that age, be aware that repairs have to be made. How old is the refrigerator, tires, batteries? When was the last engine/transmission service. With any older RV, water leaks are a problem...is the roof and windows tight. Some of the older RV have rims that cannot be matched today.

The Travco used a Dodge chassis and parts can be an issue.

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Old 09-10-2013, 08:06 PM   #3
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As the owner of a 40yo coach, let me tell you that if you are not a real effective wrench on your own, it will break you.

Travcos were not made by Dodge, but they have a very colorful history. There is reasonable support for chassis parts, but some of the coach parts are NLA.

There are support groups for the so afflicted on the web. They can be an immense help with information and part locations.

Be sure before you buy that parts for that vintage chassis are available. I am told that some 440 and 413 parts are getting scarce, but the truck torqueflite is still pretty good.

As already said, all the rubber - Tires, Belts, Hoses, Seals and gaskets may need to be replaced. For sure the fuel system will need to be rebuilt to accommodate the cr*pahol that they sell as mogas these days. The brake parts are also a very serious concern. You should plan to replace all the rubber parts.

Some Travcos had 16.5 split rims. Nobody will touch them these days, but you might be able to find some 16" that will bolt up and then you can also buy tires anywhere.

A lifelong waterman and his bride going dry places for as long as the fuel money lasts.
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:19 AM   #4
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I was considering restoring a Travco, but decided not to because I was afraid of having something that old on the road and being on the wrong side of the country when something let go?

Had a bunch of experience with them when I was working on RV's back in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's, and still have a soft spot for them (as well as the class A GMC's!)

I would caution you on the earliest ones. They were powered with 318ci engines and common sense would tell you they're totally gutless. Then they put 413's in them, and finally th 440. I would look for one of the 440's. Most of them are 270's (27ft long), but there were a few 290's, which is another feature I would look for as the floor plans were a little more modernized.

Appliances used were nothing special so you should have no issue servicing the coach section of the coach. The original furnaces are likely rusted out and would need to be replaced.

Chassis problems were few, and the coach was built in 2 halves then joined in the center. Roof leaks were unusual because of that.

All that said, thinking if you're interested in this short term, this may not be a good plan. Unless you can find one that's been recently restored to your satisfaction, you may spend at least one entire season doing one yourself? If your "window" is only one season long that's not going to leave you a lot of time to use it.

Knowing what I know now, suggest you consider an older diesel pusher. They're comparitively inexpensives, and hold what value they have well as there's good demand for them. Usually loaded with features you pay little for, coaches and chassis are generally well built, and if it's got a good service history, you should be able to put quite a few miles on it with little expectation of trouble.

Best of luck!
1997 37' HR Endeavor, 275hp Cat, Freightliner
03 CR-V Blue Ox, Ready Brake
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:10 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies, folks.

Any Travco I'd be looking at would probably have a 413 in it. That was a superb motor, that really didn't leave much on the table vs. the 440. A 318 would definitely not be an option - living in California, getting just about anywhere requires heading over some mountains and I'm not keen on a 25mph climb.

I'd *not* be looking to do any restoration - I'm up for some repairs or maintenance, but given the narrow window I'm not looking for a project. I'm looking for something close to turn-key that I can enjoy and hopefully sell in a year without losing too much money. I gotta believe that these big behemoths are just like cars - eventually they are either bottomed out due to depreciation, or they've been taken care of to the point they're (somewhat) desirable classics.

ahicks, I share your enthusiasm for the GMCs. Beautiful trucks at every level - I'm just not quite willing to throw $15k+ at this short-term hobby. (Though I won't lie, the thought had occurred - if anything is going to hold its value it's probably a GMC or an Airstream!)

I'm not dismissing a Travco at this point, and I'll look around for a diesel. Any thoughts on something from the '80s, along the lines of a Pace Arrow? Something GM-powered - 454/TH400 or the like? It's in my best interest to skip the late '70s and early '80s, as vehicles of those years can be smog nightmares in California, and I just don't want to go down that road. It's gotta be pre 1975 or a decade newer!

Thanks guys, I sincerely appreciate the feedback. I have a great circle of friends who are automotive enthusiasts, but nobody with any experience in this area - save my buddy the ex-bus driver who is pushing me towards a Flxible or New Look bus conversion. Just to reiterate, I am very comfortable with automotive systems and traveling in decidedly un-modern vehicles. A couple years ago I bought a '67 Fleetwood in Colorado, threw some tools in the trunk, and drove it 1400 miles home. My daily driver duties are split between a 1985 Saab with 250,000 miles and a 1962 Falcon with a helluva lot more. As long as whatever I end up with doesn't kill me, I'm okay with some bumps in the road.
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:04 AM   #6
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I would avoid an early Fleetwood without good to very good skills regarding finding water leak damage in it's infancy. Finding one without any would be unusual to say the least, though I'm sure if you focused long and hard enough you might find one? Chassis are fine. You would want one with the four speed turbo which became available around 92? These are still narrow wheel base coaches though. Wide became available around 98-99? Much less "wallowing" going down the road.

Blue Birds, if you can find a well preserved one, make fine classic diesels. Barths, same story, and of course the early Holiday Rambler diesels? There's a bunch of others. Those just come to mind.

I would caution that the reason many of these "more experienced" coaches are priced so reasonably is because financing on them is nearly impossible. Easy to buy (assuming you have the cash), not so easy to sell....

1997 37' HR Endeavor, 275hp Cat, Freightliner
03 CR-V Blue Ox, Ready Brake
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