Blog Post

DEC
23
2013

Introducing the 1966 Dodge Travco

In the dark early hours a couple of days back I set off with Ali’s dad for the road trip south to pick up the bus. It was about 270 miles away—too far to travel with the kids, in the cold, in an old motorhome—outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

We pulled into the driveway and there she was under a light layer of snow, shivering like the rest of us. I gave her a cursory inspection, but knew I wasn’t going home empty handed. A 1966 Dodge Travco pretty much in its original glory. The outside looked like she could use a good wash and wax, but that it would clean up really nice. Inside was a little rougher than I’d hoped, but the fact that everything was in such original condition made up for it. At least it hadn’t been hacked up and “renovated” by somebody else with a questionable eye for design.

The engine was running smoothly. It’s a 318 v8 which has always been a popular engine, so parts shouldn’t be much of an issue.

We shared a cup of soup and a bag of cash with the owners and then hit the road. New brakes and master cylinder smoothed the nerves as I rolled out onto the highway. I quickly gathered speed and soared along at 60 m.p.h. feeling like I was driving a much larger, much more comfortable, much quieter, and much smoother version of the ’58 VW bus. Seriously, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to drive. I took my hands off the wheel and it steered straight down the lane for ten seconds at least. It braked smoothly, and accelerated zero to sixty in somewhere under sixty seconds. I was well pleased with the performance. Unfortunately the heating system is basically the same as the bus, meaning just a couple of vents letting some engine heat make its way onto my feet. Not having had time to delve into the actual RV furnace, I had to make do with chattering my teeth together and sitting on my hands—one at a time—for heat. It was fifteen degrees and dropping.

We are the fourth owners of the bus. The first owner had it for many years. The second for quite a while as well. The last owners only a year or so before they realized they weren’t going to find the time to make everything work again, and to actually get out and use it. And then there is us. All of its life has been spent in and around Cedar Rapids, Iowa, so the mileage hasn’t climbed much, only clocking 66,300 miles before we took it on a three hundred mile jaunt through the snow and ice.

We got it back to MN, parked it in the driveway, and that is where it has sat for the past couple of days. It’s so cold here I have no idea how we’re going to get any work done. I can forget about washing and waxing this thing for the time being, that’s for sure. And unless I can get that furnace cranking out some heat I won’t be getting much work done inside either. I tell you our timing on all of this really sucked. If our house in Mazatlan had been available we would have hung around there at least until February or March when forty degree days are at least a possibility up around here.

Anyway, here are some shots of our big dirty beast. No interior shots just yet though.

Dec23 1

Believe it or not that massive bumper extension was an option. There are three large boxes built in, one of which holds the battery bank. I’m not too keen on the aesthetics, but I’m afraid the practicality of it may outweigh that. We’ll see.

Dec23 2 Dec23 3

The previous owners say they don’t even know how the canopies roll down. So they couldn’t tell me the condition. My fingers are crossed that they’re in good shape, but I’m not about to unroll them in freezing weather for the first time.

Dec23 4 Dec23 5 Dec23 6

We’re not planning on towing a vehicle behind us, so the Willie Nelson fringe is going. The massive diesel generator that sits in that rear compartment is still sitting on a pallet in Iowa. The second owner removed it some years ago, and says it has a knock. We’ll be tossing a new Honda in there instead, which should also leave us a ton of storage space. Tires have full treads still on them. Unfortunately they are eleven years old and have some weather cracking. They’ll have to go too. Entire exhaust system is new and shiny from three years ago. Roof air conditioner is coming down. This thing actually has two good sized air conditioners. The other may or may not work, but either way the roof unit is going. That’s the one thing that I crack my head on inside.

Dec23 7

Anyway, overall first impressions are that I really love the size and how easy it is to drive. I’ll have to constantly remind myself that there is twenty-seven feet of me out on the road. I also love the style and the overall look of it. It’s a fun vehicle and one that was already drawing lots of thumbs-ups on the road and conversations at the gas pump (8 m.p.g. by the way). From the looks of it I’m sure it’s going to buff up real nice. The interior is going to be more work than I’d hoped, but we had already planned on redoing a lot of it to make it our home, our style, anyway. The key is going to be finding out just how many of the systems onboard can be made to keep on ticking, and how many will just have to be replaced. Again, we’ll see. But from the looks of things, it doesn’t appear that it will be too difficult to work on. Because so little has been done to it, I won’t be dealing with a bunch of jerry rigged nonsense. Instead I can start with my own jerry rigging nonsense.

  1. avatar
    Jared Reply

    That is so retro. Cant wait to see it fixed up

  2. avatar
    Mary Lynn Mauer Reply

    How awesome…it is an oversized Glamper! I can hardly wait to see it all fixed up.

  3. avatar
    Jenny Mills Reply

    Another awesomely unique Bum ride! Merry Christmas to you and looking forward to hearing about the next chapter in detail…

  4. avatar
    Andrew Reply

    That genset on the crate is probably a 5k Onan. Its a good unit and may fetch a fair price.

  5. avatar
    Terry Taylor Reply

    Welcome to My World! Congratulations.

  6. avatar
    BKC Reply

    Travcos are too cool. NY Times ran a article recently about one that’s kept on the street in front of the owner’s apartment. The Travco and apartment have roughly the same living space, ha!

  7. avatar
    svtrim Reply

    It’s fantastic!

  8. avatar
    Gail Zimmerman Reply

    I love the new rv. I am also checking out craigslist for a rv. I saw a 1964 Travco and thought real hard about it but decided it was more work than I wanted to do. It wasn’t in near the shape yours is. Good luck and have fun.

  9. avatar
    Pam Reply

    I’m excited about your new adventure. I’ve lived on a boat and in a motorhome and I prefer the latter. I’ve been hoping you would make this decision. It will open up a whole new world.

    If your looking for some RV blogs that may have some relevance, check out Technomadia. They’re a young couple that started out in a small trailer and then purchased an older bus a few years ago. Nick and Terry Russell of The Gypsy Journal did a major bus conversion when they first started out and he still has a section on his website about that project. The Wheeling It blog has good info about boondocking in a bigger rig.

    Good luck. The new Bum ride is beautiful. Plus, you can always make a side living driving to festivals and painting those awesome butterflies on kids’ faces.

  10. avatar
    Pam Reply

    Oops, “you’re” not “your.” I hate when I do that. That’s what I get for teasing you about your face painting skills.

  11. avatar
    Jonathan Caldwell Reply

    Hey Pat,
    Just like getting to know a “new to me” boat!
    Please….. a little more backstory on how you picked out the Travco. Had you always wanted one, serendipity, size, sort low to high?

  12. avatar
    jody Reply

    Very cool bus. You need to drive down to the Texas coast and fix it up here in Port A. Warm weather, the beach and good vibe!

  13. avatar
    Joe Homich Reply

    Congratulations. That is such a cool rig. When you first said you bought a 1966 rig, I wondered why. Now that I see the pictures I know why, it is so cool.

    In about six months I would like to hear if you spend less or more time/money on maintenance when compared to a sail boat. Not counting the renovations to the land yacht. Just the day to day stuff.

    Good luck, we will be following you. Happy Holidays

  14. avatar
    steve samry Reply

    The Awning appear to be Zip Dee’s from the photos. Parts available at Awnings By Zip Dee
    awningsbyzipdee.com/‎
    Have fun with the Bus.

  15. avatar
    Chris Reply

    Very cool new adventure vehicle. Can’t wait to read about your new experiences once you hit the road again. In the meantime enjoy your families and the season for what it’s meant to be enjoyed for, family, friends, good times, peace, love and dreams of what the New Year will bring. I have no doubt the Bumfuzzle New Year will be filled with some great new adventures. Thanks for letting us all live vicariously through you! Peace, love.

  16. avatar
    Sherlene Reply

    You might check into the new bunk heaters used on semi’s. The ones we’ve used in the winter draw very little battery and use a fraction of the diesel and are fairly quiet, best of all they will run you out of the cab in short order! Keep our cab toasty warm.

  17. avatar
    Lisa Reply

    :-)

  18. avatar
    ROGER Reply

    Keep the Willy fringe it’s cool. Extension cord, electric heater and you are good to go..for fix up in the driveway..also good to have a spare non RV installed heater to use in camp grounds.

    The RV is cool retro..I like it. Now if you could get some gray hair, grow a pot belly and some red suspenders you’d look like it was yours..:)!!!!

  19. avatar
    ROGER Reply

    oops not grow suspenders but get some..

  20. avatar
    Emily Reply

    It’s very cool! Can’t wait to see how you fix up the interior. LOVE the exterior color.

  21. avatar
    Casey Reply

    I think you’ll really like it. I know I would. It’s a lot like driving a cross between a boat and the bus. The bus is because of how you sit up front. The boat in respect to the size and the fact that the family can walk around, cook, sleep, play. I’m looking forward to the adventures.

  22. avatar
    Michael w. paul Reply

    Have been following your adventure and living vicariously…have had a wonderful life boating, flying and camping all over the country. Recently purchased an RV and find it just one more adventure. Good luck in your renovation and travels…the people you met along the way are so very special.

  23. avatar
    Ernie Reply

    More fun than the Modern Family remake:

    http://www.tv.com/shows/the-donna-reed-show/watch/the-caravan-22732/

    “Look, a refrigerator. It works!”

  24. avatar
    Lou P. Reply

    I second the suggestion re: a diesel heater. We have an overlanding vehicle that has a number of appliances that run off diesel fuel. They are reliable and super efficient. Check out the Webasto catalog for heaters, water heaters and stoves.

  25. avatar
    Jeff & Daile Engle Reply

    Those are Zip Dee awnings, and more than likely they are in good shape.. they last forever. Daile and I bought a 77 airstream…. you have some goodies in your in box…

  26. avatar
    JeffWalt Reply

    I’m curious about one thing… I’m assuming that the engine was originally designed to run on leaded gas. Did one of the subsequent owners convert it by installing hardened valve seats or did they use a lead additive? We’ve been tossing the retro camper idea around and we think your new home is beautiful.

  27. avatar
    Jessica Reply

    I am so excited to follow along with the reno. The RV is gorgeous. I remember your VW renovation and how amazing that was. Looking forward to all of your posts!

  28. avatar
    Andreas Reply

    Congratulations. I love the old Dodge RVs, beautiful.

    The awning looks like a Zip Dee – they last forever and then some. I’ve got the original ZD awning on my 1984 Airstream and it looks like new. When we bought it it was green and overgrown by moss, I could not believe how well it cleaned up. We used a pressure washer at the time.

    You might very well be aware of these, but Nature’s Head composting toilets work extremely well in both boats and trailers. Installing one could free the black tank for either additional grey or fresh water, giving you an extended range outside of civilization.

    If you’re interested, there are a number of really great blogs of families travelling with their kids full time out there. http://malimish.com has to be one of my personal favourites.

    Looking forward to the restoration. I assume kid’s bedroom at the back?

  29. avatar
    Jeffrey Carter Reply

    that thing is OOOZING TEH AMBIANCE! Most excellent for the next adventure. I cannot wait to see it. WOOOOT!

    And the next chapter begins. Merry Christmas Schulte family.

  30. avatar
    Shawn Reply

    That there Clark, is an aaarrrrr veeeee…..

    I looked at Hondas a couple of years ago. Cheap, easy to use, portable, available in several different sizes, and super quiet. The reason I didn’t buy one is that I have a compartment like yours, and opted for push button operation and never having to fill the generator with gas (it draws off the chassis fuel tank). Spent a whole bunch more money on an Onan. No noisier than the honda, but we can start it at a moments notice to run the AC or microwave, etc. I’ve seen fairly new 4kw gas Onans on craigslist for under $1k, sometimes less than $500.

    Similarly, I just bought a “big buddy” propane heater. Costs about $120 on sale at amazon or northern tool, etc. The built-in propane furnace in the camper is loud, uses a lot of battery power, and has a pretty broad temperature swing between when it turns on and off. Oh, and it wastes a fair bit of propane in exhaust heat. Not a deal killer… But it’s a fair point. The big selling point for the buddy heater is that it’s silent and needs no electricity. The “big” buddy heater also has an unregulated propane quick connect in the side, so you can plug it in to the camper propane system with a special hose. The smaller ones have hoses that will connect to a regular grille tank, but they still use the internal regulator, so they don’t work when connected to a regulated source (like the inboard system most campers have).

    Well, first night out, we pulled in at about 1:30am. It was 30f outside and about 40f in the trailer. I cranked the buddy heater to high and turned on the furnace. By the time we got the kids out of their car seats, it was in the low 60s. I shut off the furnace, and a few minutes later turned the buddy heater to low. It maintained 70f all night long.

    Might be helpful for keeping the camper warm enough to do some work until the great white north thaws out, too.

    Anyway, maybe this is helpful, if only to help you decide what you don’t want. I was reading a forum thread by some “overlander” guys in South America… They were talking about what they brought along and didn’t end up needing. They almost all agreed that a refrigerator was a waste. I can’t get my head around that – one of the biggest reasons we bought a camper was the refrigerator. Like anything else, it’s just a question of individual priorities.

  31. avatar
    David Reply

    We used to travel in a old 1969 Ford club wagon. There’s some thing very comforting about traveling in a very low tech vehicle , knowing that with a flat screw driver and a pair of pliers you could fix most anything and 30 bucks spent at Canadian tire could buy you parts for a major tune up. But getting south is a high priority now when living in a motor home. Have a Merry Christmas.

  32. avatar
    Garth Reply

    I hate to admit it, but when I read that you were becoming land lubbers again, I thought I was losing a blog to read. But I have to say, your style of writing and your attitude have hooked me since day one.

    I love your “minimalist” style of living – your ability to pick up everything you own and relocate. And I love how you do it in STYLE! This rig already looks pretty cool and retro on the outside – I can’t wait to see how it looks inside and out when you’re done.

    Merry Christmas, good luck, and keep up the great blog! I’m hooked for life!!

  33. avatar
    Paul Thomas Reply

    Oh my!!, this brings back some memories. In 1975 we bought a new Ford F-250 Super cab pickup with a 390 cubic inch engine and 4 speed manual transmission, everything was “heavy duty” in the trailer towing package. Put a fairly large cab over camper on it, total vehicle/camper weight of about 8,100 lbs. It got 8.0 MPG no matter where or how we drove it. We tried everything imaginable to improve the mileage, different carb jetting, water injection, large diameter dual exhausts, wind deflectors, & so on. It got 8.0 MPG no matter what we did.

    At about 60,000 miles it was burning a quart of oil every 500 miles so we had it rebuilt, including a special “RV, low profile” cam & other “trick” items. It got 8.0 MPG

    We used to keep our vehicles a long time. Had 3 of them have their fuel tanks rust through, not good. If your tank(s)? have drain plugs, suggest you drain them. It is likely there is water in them, especially after sitting for a long time. As mentioned above, if the engine is stock from the factory, you might consider using a lead additive to save the valves. Keep us posted.

    Paul Thomas

  34. avatar
    baron Reply

    THAT’S SOME PIG!

  35. avatar
    Rex Reply

    The original color is a “must keep”. My mother owned a 1965 T-Bird in the same hue. Cool!

  36. avatar
    Dave Reply

    We use a portable Mr Heater with a 5 gal propane tank as our main heat source, much more economical and comfortable than the RV furnace, get one of these and you can get to work inside asap – http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Heater-MH18B-Portable-Propane/dp/B0002WRHE8

  37. avatar
    Shawn Reply

    Dave’s amazon link is for the same buddy heater we just bought.

  38. avatar
    Amy Reply

    I love your lifestyle and attitude……just the way life should be. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures….first thing I read every morning. Hope you write more books….they make wonderful Presents. Merry Christmas to you four.

  39. avatar
    Erik Reply

    She looks fantastic! And congratulations.. As they say, “A change is as good as a rest.”

  40. avatar
    Voyagevixen Reply

    Love that you’ve rescued a travco! We have a 1964 travco in the same color scheme named Myrtle; http://Www.myrtleandme.blogspot.com

  41. avatar
    Mary Moerbitz Reply

    She’s beautiful! We also have a Buddy Heater, works almost to well! You’ll be working in your t-shirt and flip flops! Welcome back and thank you for the new adventure:0)

  42. avatar
    Ken Reply

    Suh-weet! I say leave the Willie Nelson fringe. That’s rockin’, yo!

  43. avatar
    Andreas Reply

    The Buddy Heaters are superb – also great as backup heat if you live in an area of frequent power outages.

  44. avatar
    Dean Reply

    Almost the same color as my ’71 Dodge D100 225 Slant 6 and 3 speed auto. It’s been a stalwart truck for 20+ years. Oh, it takes a little service here and there, but nothing too dire or staggeringly expensive.

    Looking forward to seeing how this adventure evolves…

  45. avatar
    Dan Reply

    Love the look of this RV, really would like to get something like that but I am worried it would be like the boat and require constant maintenance. We are in a very similar boat (or RV) we have our 42′ sailboat up for sale and are expecting child #2. We are planning on moving to an RV and spending some time traveling on land.

    I had a few questions though. Where do you plan on having the kids sleep? And why not tow a small vehicle, it would make running around and seeing those ruins a lot easier.

    Best of luck getting that unique RV fixed up and ready to travel.

  46. avatar
    Kristy Reply

    Wow you two – it’s absolutely perfect. I’m jealous. We bought a used 27′ motorhome this summer but nothing like this. Ours isn’t retro yet, it’s in that middle stage between old and older. :)

    Can’t wait to see where y’all go with it!

  47. avatar
    arly ross Reply

    Hiya,

    I have an 1968 dodge travco too, a 210 you can see from the site. Some of the pitfalls I think you will have (ie those split rim tires) I think you should look at my site for parts sources etc. Also, I have 4 spare split rims with new tires (though you will need new tubes) if you are interested. I moved to 1 piece rims.

    Feel free to contact me anytime. I am working on mine as well. Good luck with your monster.

    Arly

  48. avatar
    arly ross Reply
  49. avatar
    John Reply

    You’ll have to find a bug to tow along, so you will have a way to get around, while your home is parked.

    • avatar
      Pat & Ali Reply

      We haven’t had a car for the better part of a decade and yet we’ve managed to get around okay. :) Seriously though, we’ve talked about it and I hate the idea. Turns a reasonably sized vehicle into a behemoth. But I won’t rule anything out.

  50. avatar
    John Reply

    Man, she’s a beaut!

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