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(I've edited this to reflect some changes in my plans, based on the feedback of the community! I'll keep doing so as the plan evolves.)

Spoiler

A quick note, before you read on: This isn't an "investment" for me. I do not ever plan on selling it, and if I do decide to, I certainly don't intend to make money on it. It's a learning project, plain and simple. It's also a classic, which I'm committed to restoring on principle, as opposed to just wanting any camper that will serve my purposes. If that were my goal, this Micro would certainly be a bad choice, but when compared to the 20-something bikini Instagram set who drop $50K on a Sprinter build out, this will be a bargain by comparison.

Hi Everyone! Following is a pretty...let's say "thorough" project description. I'm just starting out. This is my first project vehicle, my first RV, and my first project home of any kind in 20+ years of adulthood.

Originally, I was going to purchase a cargo van and convert it, per, well, everyone else these days. Then I discovered Toyota motorhomes, and I fell in love. I had a friend who is a collector, and he was selling this Micro...I had to have her! 

What follows is a highly detailed description of my plans. I'll post project updates here, but I'm also going to have a Facebook Page and an Instagram (@adaringloss) for my friends and family to track the project. No, I won't be doing the typical "#vanlife" thing. I'm not interested in being social media famous. I'm shrinking my life, not trying to further complicate it. 

I'll try to organize this as clearly as possible, in a way that makes sense. I'm posting it for the ultra-curious, the ultra-nerdy, who may actually be interested in a pretty comprehensive description of my plans. Live vicariously through me, if you like, and relive your first project! Offer advice, ask questions, make stray observations. I'm learning as I go, so I welcome input! 

Overview

I've lived in Colorado for 12 years, somehow without a weekender. Yes, yes, I know. Shame on me. I've just sort of used my Subaru for that purpose, but crawling into a back seat to sleep is getting old. 

However, having a weekender isn't my only motivation. I also want a home; yes, I want to live in this camper. At least for a little while. I travel for a living producing triathlons–about 20 per year–and I'd like to work a season from the road, rather than the air. 

My overall goal is to keep as much of the original structure and layout as makes sense while updating this lovely motorhome to meet both my tastes as well as modern aesthetics. (I'd like to continue to be inspired by the coach's original design, of course.) I'll be adding some modern conveniences, and generally making this "camper" a home.

There are some small issues, as is to be expected with any 40-year-old vehicle or home. But she runs. Most stuff works. And she's mine.

Name

"Saoirse" (Pronounced "SER shuh"...it's Irish. It means "freedom".)

Model

1978 Dolphin Micro Mini, 200, 20R

Goals

  • Keep as much of the original design intact as makes sense. 
  • Update the look and feel of the coach interior to feel more like a "home". 
  • Add some features and modern conveniences. 
  • Repair known issues so that both the camper and coach are in good working order.

Desired Features & Modifications (This list is loooooonnng...)

Important to Me

  • Updated to power receptacles that include USB ports.
  • All lights converted to LED.
  • Addition of an inside/outside shower. (Designs and updates forthcoming.)
  • Existing toilet replaced with a DIY composting toiled. (Again, designs and updates forthcoming...let's just assume that, shall we?)
  • Standing platform on roof. After feedback from the community, it's become clear that this is simply a bad idea! Not going to do it.
  • Rooftop cargo box. (After feedback, I will ensure that this is very small, and weighs no more than 50lb/22kg total weight.) 
  • Addition of an awning. 
  • Rear bike rack. 
  • Smoke, CO2, & Gas Leak detectors. 
  • Improved vent fans. Well, currently, all three are missing, so ANY vents will be an upgrade, technically. I just want thermostat-controlled fans.
  • Hooks for bags gear, and tying off lines on both interior and exterior. 
  • Magnetic closures for everything. 
  • Compartmentalized storage solutions for shelves and cabinets. 
  • Table with a roadmap of US glossed on top.
  • Table and benches convert to bed and sofa. 
  • Tinted windows.
  • Removable insert for bunk, to make it a full-size bed when desired. 
  • Retractable clothesline. 
  • Message board. Pretty low-tech, but still...
  • Rear backup camera.

Not As Important, Still Desired

  • Adding a solar power option for lengthy off-grid trips.
  • Decent navigation/control center console added to cab.
  • Bumper storage box. (Lighter, so as to not significantly add weight or affect weight distribution.)
  • Multi-configuration audio system.
  • Addition of a TV and media center. This is a big one for me. I'm very excited about my plan for this.
  • Pull-out step and hand rail for people who need a little extra help getting into the coach.
  • Dimmable/color changing LED interior lights. 
  • Loud horn to match her personality.
  • Chalks, jack stands, & jack mounted to bottom of coach. (There is room.)
  • Near blackout capability with velcro-mounted blackout curtains.
  • Cell & WiFi signal boosters. 
  • Skylight above sleeping platform.
  • Add aftermarket auto locks to doors. 
  • Add stuff to reduce engine noise when driving. 

Maybe Someday

  • Swap the current 4-cylinder 20R with a 6-cylinder Toyota engine.
  • 4WD conversion, including upgrades to suspension. A friend strongly recommended avoiding this conversion, and I agree, based on his feedback.
  • Leveling functionality added to suspension. This is probably not worth the investment on such a small vehicle. 
  • Aftermarket cruise control. 
  • Exterior motion-activated security lights over doors.

Design Aesthetic

  • Exterior will eventually be a satin grey, with white detailing. (Better for boondocking; I don't want the camper to stand out.)
  • I'd like to add exterior LED's where appropriate, so that when I want, the camper is highly visible. Switch them off, when I don't want it to be. 
  • Inside, I plan on going white, white, white. With lime green, deep red, and charcoal accents. 
  • The floor will be black hardwood (or more likely, laminate). 
  • I'll be preferring natural materials, as all considerations allow. Form follows function in something like this, IMHO, with weight being my chief concern. 
  • I'd like to throw in subtle flourishes. For example, a tiny hanging lamp over the table, and glow-in-the-dark stars painted on the ceiling.
  • I'm currently reviewing many, many "hacks" to see what ingenuity I'd like to integrate into my home.

Phases

Now, I know what you're thinking: That's a LOT of stuff, Dan. You've bitten off more than you can chew. Seriously, dude. 

Don't worry, I was born, but I wasn't born yesterday. I know it's a lot, and as such, not only have I prioritized this stuff accordingly, but I've also divided it into project phases, to make it more manageable. I also know that my plan is loosely scheduled over 2 years–though I'm aware that these things often take twice as long to complete, as best laid plans are typically insufficient. I'm also aware that some of these things will be easy, some will be difficult, and some will be impossible. Or at least feel that way. Lots of research needed, and if I hit the mark of even 80% of this stuff, I'll feel like it's a raging success.

1. Study

I'm currently in this phase. I'm learning everything I can about the RV. I'm documenting, measuring, writing, planning...hours and hours of just learning. 

2. Phase 1A - Get It Running & Livable (Before Christmas of '17)

The focus is on making sure that the truck itself is running really well. I'm flushing fluids, updating wear parts (pads, belts, etc.), and making sure that the roof doesn't leak. Because it does. Based on feedback, the roof is first, then mechanical, then I'll move on to other stuff.

3. Phase 1B - Get It Running & Livable (Before March of '18)

Yes, I still consider this part of Phase 1, it's just the non-critical stuff to get it "running & livable". Make sure the heat, water, & toilet work, that sort of thing.

4. Phase 2 - Add Some Creature Comforts & Pretty Her Up (Before March of '19)

Several of my functional mods will happen in this part. This is all about making Saoirse my own. 

5. Phase 3 - Trick This Bad Girl OUT (Before March of '20)

My fancy-schmancy, really non-essential stuff happens here. TV, sound system, etc. 

Major Modifications

So, the word "Major" is probably somewhat hyperbolic here, but relative to everything I want to do, these are as "major" as I get.

Bathroom - Add a shower, replace toilet with composting. 

This one's only slightly ambitious, but also rather simple. I'm planning on removing the existing toilet (It will be for sale...), the black water tank (ditto), and building a much smaller, DIY composting toilet against the back wall of the bathroom. Yes, I've heavily researched the ups and downs of composting vs. black water, and I'm sold on the former, though I'm always convincible by a well-thought-out argument and/or the voice of extensive experience. ;)

The space where the black water tank is currently will become the housing for my solar batteries, should I pursue that in the future. 

Once the toilet's replaced, I plan on adding a freshwater tank to the top of the camper, and running a gravity fed shower line into the bathroom running a line from the freshwater tank, and pumping water to a shower head in the bathroom. I will, of course, waterproof the entire bathroom. My plan at this time is to drain to the ground, and only use the shower where that is appropriate, and also only use biodegradable, environmentally safe cleaning products. I can easily be convinced that this is a bad idea, of course, and instead plumb my drain to the grey water tank. 

Table, Benches = Bed, Sofa

This is actually not an original idea, and there are multiple plans and products to make this happen. From my photos, you can see the configuration in the rear, with to benches on either side of the coach, facing each other. The original floorpan design called for a shelf-mounted table between them. 

Instead, I plan on mounting a telescoping table base, on top of which I'll affix a solid plywood table, with a roadmap of the US on it (should I expatriate my camper, I'll swap table tops) for dreaming and making general route plans with wet-erase markers. With the flip of a switch, this table will then lower, forming a solid contiguous base with the benches. The pads on the benches will slide forward, creating a cushy bed. Add some throw pillows, and you have yourself a sofa for viewing...

Media Center, My Magnum Opus

I don't have a diagram (yet), as it's all in my head. So words will have to suffice until I tackle this project, which will likely not be for another year. So patience is a virtue, even though I'm incredibly excited about it! I can't wait to share it with you as I'm building it. 

Imagine a track, perpendicular to the camper, mounted and centered above the sleeping compartment, starboard side. 

Attached to that track is a hinged TV mount, on a swivel. The TV, once mounted, can be swung to the ceiling, slid forward and backward, and also rotate. 

The idea is that if you are in the sleeping compartment, you can lower the TV, and slide it against the starboard wall for watching movies. 

If you have a guest, and would prefer to watch from the sofa mentioned above, it can slide forward, and rotate to face the rear of the camper.  

My sound system, mentioned in the desired features above, can be configured for either viewing scenario. 

The TV can also be stowed securely against the ceiling, and I will be designing a padded, waterproof sleeve for the it, for cases of possible leakage. 

This entire system will be powered by shore power, obviously, though I could run it off of batteries in case of emergency. Like, if I absolutely must watch the rest of a Stranger Things episode. 

I love this concept, because it flies in the face of going completely off-grid, somewhat. I'm very outdoorsy, and spend the vast majority of my time outside playing in the snow and the mountains I love. However, I love, when the time calls for it, curling up and watching a movie. This gives me that option, and will be completely unexpected in a retro, compact motorhome. 

Known Issues

Despite being in very good condition, there are some known issues that will need to be addressed. 

Important AND Urgent

  • Some water damage on the interior of the coach.
  • Because of vandalism after I bought it, one of the side windows and the rear window are broken out.
  • Not currently lockable (seriously). 
  • No ignition key on the steering column. It's currently rigged to be hot wired each time you start it. 
  • All three roof vents are missing. 
  • At least one of the batteries is bad. Both may be. 
  • Both the fuel level and temperature gauges are broken.
  • It's burning oil. I've been informed this is a coolant leak! 
  • The driver's side mirror is missing. 

NOT Urgent

  • Seat upholstery in the cab is torn.
  • Light rust and small dents on body.
  • Small cracks in windshield.
  • There are synchro issues when shifting. 
  • Idles just a tad high.
  • There's a leaky fuel filter. 
  • Windshield wiper motor is very weak. 
  • The headlights are super dim. 
  • Engine noise isn't mitigated well.

Conclusion

Yes, this is a beast of a project. Each of those bullet points above will potentially require hours of research, hours of planning, and hours of implementation. I have no delusions of being able to do this in a weekend or 5 weekends or 50 weekends. I know that this is a multi-year project, but it will be a labor of love that I enjoy immensely, even when I hate it. 

The camper is currently parked at my parents' house in rural, eastern Ohio. I have access to tools and materials here. I travel for a living, so I'm able to be here often, between gigs, focussing on the renovation. I'm going to knock out Phase 1A from above before Christmas...as well as Phase 1B if the gods look kindly on me. 

I've attached a series of "before" pictures, that I've taken over the last couple of days. Enjoy, if you like. :) 

I said it above, and I'll say it again: Advice, observations, and questions are welcome! 

 

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Edited by notbadbutgood
made small changes to plan, based on feedback

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First thing to do: Your rig appears to have the old 5 lug "foolie" rear axle. This is a "must change" if you plan to do any serious travel.

If it were mine to do, I'd concentrate on getting any mechanical issues resolved before going into cosmetics and wish list.

Tires are a big thing. Your looking at $600 or more just for those. Now add a rear axle replacement at $2-4K. Engine burning oil is not a good thing. If your mechanically inclined, that will save you some money by doing much of the work yourself. If you have to pay a mechanic for all the work it will be very expensive.

I don't mean to rain on your parade, but you're looking at some serious $$$$ to make your vehicle roadworthy.

Edited by fred heath

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I've squinted and have only had half of my 1st coffee of the morning, but I can't be sure from the pictures if you've got rear 'foolies' or 'wide singles'. A 1978 should have been shipped with 'singles' if you trust the Dolphin brochures. It's only in 1980 that foolies make their 1st appearance.

1980 Dolphin 600 Micro Mini.pdf

1979 Dolphin 500 Micro Mini.pdf

1978 Dolphin Micro Mini.pdf

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Welcome Not! Unfortunately like Fred stated your in for a shock! The rear axel needs to be upgraded to the 6 lug if you can find one. Big Bucks!! Engine repairs, tires, shocks, etc. will be very expensive. When I bought Grannie her coach was sound but all the repairs required to the engine and chassis costs me and extra $2500! She had very low mileage but dry rot took its toll over the years. There’s the possibility that the extensive repair bills will be more than your rig is worth. Something to consider before you get too involved. My guess is you could find another Toy with EFI in Much better condition than your current rig for less money after all the necessary repairs. So Good Luck and Enjoy whatever you decide. 

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Just read Derek’s post. Good news for you regarding the rear axel! 

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Weight.

Weight is your enemy. Anything you can do to keep it low (or lower) is good for performance, fuel economy and handling. In 1978 the GVWR was only 4600lb, far(?) from the 6000lb of later years.

A rooftop box, viewing platform, solar panels and water collection/storage on the roof will add weight plus not really where you want it. Gravity fed showers might work, but I'd keep the original water tank and pump. A water pump weighs next to nothing! :)

 

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I love waking up to all these comments! 

In response to some of the feedback so far...

@Derek up North: You are correct! I researched the "foolie" fiasco prior to purchasing the Dolphin, and the 70's Micros did indeed ship with the single. :) The engineering geniuses who came up with that faux dually did so to compensate, in their minds, for the extra weight of the larger coaches. So I'm safe on the rear axel.

Water Tank for Showers: As much as I've been considering weight as a factor, I wasn't thinking about that in regards to the added water weight on the roof for even a small tank...not to mention, now that I think about it, the sloshing effect it would likely have when cornering in this relatively small vehicle. I think that's an idea I may back off of...

Tires: Good news! You can't tell from the photos, but the tires have less than 500 miles on them. So that's en expense I won't have up front, at least.  

Mechanical Fixes: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a car genius and 1 being someone who can't even change their own oil, I'm somewhere around a 4. However...and this is the good part...both my dad's best friend and my uncle have been certified Toyota mechanics, and are willing to lend a hand with the repairs to the truck. Granted, I'm still going to be using mostly my own elbow grease, and I have a lot to learn, but this project is thankfully something I view as a learning experience, and I'll not be going it completely alone!

Oil Burning: I agree, this is the scary one for me. However, one that didn't scare me off completely. ;) I'm okay with doing major repairs on this one, for the sake of restoring what is ultimately a "classic". Rebuilding an engine isn't completely new to me, though I'd likely instead lean toward taking the opportunity to upgrade my engine to one of Toyota's straight 6 options for more power, as I would like a little more climbing ability.  This, I'm afraid, is going to be my biggest necessary expense as well as my toughest project.

This is all great feedback from you guys! 

 

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So, out of curiousity, do you have the tire sizes currently installed? I assume the front rim is standard Toyota truck (14"x5"). Any idea of the rim width on the back? That will limit the tires you can 'properly' fit. The centers don't look like the front, so I'm guessing not Toyota (though the hubcaps still fit? They're still 14" diameter?

Some people with 'wide rear singles' upgrade to wide white spoke steel rims to have the look (but not width) match front and rear. 7" wide rear with a big offset?

Though not nearly as bad as a set of foolies, wider rims with a big offset (and tires) will load the axles and bearings more that a standard rim, so I'd say it's a good idea to maintain them more than you would if you were on standard Toyota rims

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Well there you go ‘bro! Your lucky to have the resources you do. Sounds more doable now! Ever hear of a solar shower? It’s portable and you hang it on a branch or something. It gets really warm if you can lay it in the sun for awhile. I’m 6’4” so cannot use my shower inside. FYI.

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Well first off what you want to do for a life style is very doable, BUT, not meaning to be a Debbie Downer, you have chosen the WRONG instrument. There several here who do your life choice but they do it in 20-22 ft rigs.

Your about to pour a ton of working capital (parts and labor) into a rotting clunker. Before you start scour this web site for people who have rebuilt messes. It looks like you have a rotted roof and a rotted cab over. Both of these problems are common in older stick built RVs. The repairs will require sheltered work space

IMHO you need to THINK HARD and research things and weigh cool against practical. 

Clean up the mess under the hood and with minimum investment, get it running as good as possible, seal the roof and sell it to somebody who wants a daytripper.

Haunt E-bay and Craigs List looking for a better unit. This time of the year $5-7000 will buy a drive off unit.

Some repairs similar to what you will be doing

 

 

 

No rose colored glasses allowed.

 

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I'm thinking a Mercedes Sprinter in decent shape maybe cheaper in the long run. 

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I'm with WME. You're going to be spending thousands of dollars on a rig that's not worth $500.00.

 

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why cant i see wme's posted pictures. links?

also,i am with the rest. dont go there if you dont have to.

 

you dont have to.

 

so, dont.

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neubie are you signed in to the forum or just viewing??

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47 minutes ago, WME said:

neubie are you signed in to the forum or just viewing??

signed in on a mobile device. There might be a big image size limit but otherwise none of your pictures show. Original poster's pictures are visible.

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While I think some of his expectations are beyond what this little camper can deliver, I do think it's a very cute, and worth restoring. Please do take one project at a time. This is a big one and if you tear everything apart we have just seen too many times people just gave up and the rig ended up getting junked. That Dolphin clock in the rear is fabulous. Make sure you save it

Linda S

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1 hour ago, linda s said:

While I think some of his expectations are beyond what this little camper can deliver, I do think it's a very cute, and worth restoring. Please do take one project at a time. This is a big one and if you tear everything apart we have just seen too many times people just gave up and the rig ended up getting junked. That Dolphin clock in the rear is fabulous. Make sure you save it

Linda S

Most people just dont get a good sense of how much time, effort and money something like this can eat up. I am now god-knows-how-many months into it. I dont have his mechanic friends/resources -- but thats not something that was even needed in my case. At least not yet. The roof was far better than seen here and I am still chasing leaks. After a complete replacement.

There is no lack of understanding of matters and still I have no end date in sight. Why would someone try a much harder project given his work/time constraints. I have seen no one claim less than several months of effort. You will end up with an unhappy compromise.

A better starting point would really save so much frustration. And lost time. For doing things that may not be possible/relevent with a sour mind from all the renovation.

 

Edited by neubie

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Unfortunately, many body and mechanical parts for these early generation Toyotas are no longer made or difficult to source. This can become a major issue if you have a mechanical breakdown while traveling.

 

 

1975-78 was a unique 3.5 year run for Toyota. Body parts from earlier and later models will not interchange. If you break an axle shaft on the GO82 rear axle you can forget about getting it fixed. The parts are no longer available and other models will not interchange.

I love these old Toyotas. The point I'm trying to make is you want to be sure mechanically your toy is good for long distance travel. This is why I emphasis mechanical over coach body.

Later model 1979 + are much easier to find parts that fit.

Edited by fred heath

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21 hours ago, Derek up North said:

So, out of curiousity, do you have the tire sizes currently installed? I assume the front rim is standard Toyota truck (14"x5"). Any idea of the rim width on the back? That will limit the tires you can 'properly' fit. The centers don't look like the front, so I'm guessing not Toyota (though the hubcaps still fit? They're still 14" diameter?

Some people with 'wide rear singles' upgrade to wide white spoke steel rims to have the look (but not width) match front and rear. 7" wide rear with a big offset?

Though not nearly as bad as a set of foolies, wider rims with a big offset (and tires) will load the axles and bearings more that a standard rim, so I'd say it's a good idea to maintain them more than you would if you were on standard Toyota rims

I do! Tire sizes are: 

Front: P215/70R14

Rear: P225/70R14

So yeah, looks like they are wider in the rear, though only 10mm. Visually it doesn't look like that big of an offset...I haven't measured, though, admittedly!

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Yours would have originally had "10" wide L60' crossply tires installed on the back. I'm guessing on 7" wide rims. Not easy to find a tire with the same dimensions these days. For example, in BFG T/A you can find up to 245/60x14' (9.8" wide) on a 7" wide rim.

https://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires.jsp?gclid=Cj0KCQiAjO_QBRC4ARIsAD2FsXP-y01873drdpdn03GsmPvmCAAsNznRzFaYoDb-ktGk8zsoE4LHyvIaAnorEALw_wcB&tireMake=BFGoodrich&tireModel=Radial+T/A&partnum=27SR4RADTARWL2V3&affiliate=IT2&s_kwcid=AL!3756!3!201921903968!b!!g!!&ef_id=WPlmbAAAARHE7yHr:20171127144131:s

Just looking at your pictures, the rear rim is obviously wider with a deep offset. Possibly 'banded', possibly a 1-piece rim.

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18 hours ago, WME said:

Well first off what you want to do for a life style is very doable, BUT, not meaning to be a Debbie Downer, you have chosen the WRONG instrument. There several here who do your life choice but they do it in 20-22 ft rigs.

Your about to pour a ton of working capital (parts and labor) into a rotting clunker. Before you start scour this web site for people who have rebuilt messes. It looks like you have a rotted roof and a rotted cab over. Both of these problems are common in older stick built RVs. The repairs will require sheltered work space

IMHO you need to THINK HARD and research things and weigh cool against practical. 

Clean up the mess under the hood and with minimum investment, get it running as good as possible, seal the roof and sell it to somebody who wants a daytripper.

Haunt E-bay and Craigs List looking for a better unit. This time of the year $5-7000 will buy a drive off unit.

Some repairs similar to what you will be doingNo rose colored glasses allowed.

 

(First, I'm having the same problem as @neubie: I can't see the photos!)

I love the feedback on this, and appreciate the pragmatism completely! :) This is why I wanted to join a community like this! 

For one, yes, definitely...no rose colored glasses please, as I already have to take mine off regularly to approach my plans for this rig. ;)

Second, I think based on @Derek up North's feedback, I'm going to rethink my plans for the roof. Definitely going to eliminate my water tank idea (Well, it's not my idea...I have some friends who did it on an Econoline van.) @markwilliam1 Have you ever heard of this product? It's what my design was based on, only I was going to build it out of black PVC. At any rate, I think I'm just going to pump out of the existing fresh water tank...I don't want to add water weight. :) 

Third, point taken from the community: Focus on the mechanical. As noted, that (thankfully) is something that I can (and want to) handle largely myself with the help of friends and family, even to the point of replacing or rebuilding the engine. I enjoy mechanical work, and purposely chose an older model car because I enjoy the frustration of working on cars. Not that I WANT things to break or for this to be constantly in disrepair; not at all! More that I enjoy the process of making something old run well again. 

Finally, just some clarification on my motivations. I purposely chose a classic/retro/older camper exactly because I didn't want to drive something off the lot that's turnkey. I wanted to get in, rebuild, restore, repair. However, yes, I'm going into this with fresh eyes, and yes, I have to take those proverbial rose colored glasses off from time to time (That's what you guys are here for!), but I purposely chose this camper because A. it's nearly as old as I am, B. I have access to Toyota mechanics, and C. its compact size makes repairs slightly more affordable. The roof, for example, is considerably smaller than the 26" counterpart.

As for dwelling in the camper for an extended period of time, the tiny size doesn't really intimidate me. I've done long stretches (2 months being my longest) living out of my Forester, which is a broom closet compared to the Micro. And I spent nearly a year living more or less out of a backpack on deployment, so when I compare this to that, it feels like a mansion! ;) Do I plan on living in it indefinitely? No way. I'll also have the advantage, with my job, of having access to hotel rooms at my job sites, giving me a break from the RV.  (Assuming I do take it on the road, which I'll respond to concerns about that in another comment.)

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3 hours ago, fred heath said:

Unfortunately, many body and mechanical parts for these early generation Toyotas are no longer made or difficult to source. This can become a major issue if you have a mechanical breakdown while traveling.

1975-78 was a unique 3.5 year run for Toyota. Body parts from earlier and later models will not interchange. If you break an axle shaft on the GO82 rear axle you can forget about getting it fixed. The parts are no longer available and other models will not interchange.

I love these old Toyotas. The point I'm trying to make is you want to be sure mechanically your toy is good for long distance travel. This is why I emphasis mechanical over coach body.

Later model 1979 + are much easier to find parts that fit.

Yeah, what I'm hearing from this and others' replies is that maybe this will make a great project to learn on...and to take on short weekend trips in Colorado, as opposed to driving it around the country on my job circuit. 

Perhaps I'll back off on my plan to make this my country-wide touring vehicle and JUST have it be a weekender...

The parts thing did make me a little nervous, before buying it. I asked my uncle (the Toyo mechanic) prior to purchase and he agreed that parts might be difficult to find, though he seemed to have a plan for modification on certain things. 

The good news is that I'm viewing this project as a giant learning exercise, so any money and time I pour into it is an investment in that. For the price I paid for it, I won't be too broken up if I end up with a cute little stationary cabin to park somewhere. ;)

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7 hours ago, neubie said:

Most people just dont get a good sense of how much time, effort and money something like this can eat up. I am now god-knows-how-many months into it. I dont have his mechanic friends/resources -- but thats not something that was even needed in my case. At least not yet. The roof was far better than seen here and I am still chasing leaks. After a complete replacement.

There is no lack of understanding of matters and still I have no end date in sight. Why would someone try a much harder project given his work/time constraints. I have seen no one claim less than several months of effort. You will end up with an unhappy compromise.

A better starting point would really save so much frustration. And lost time. For doing things that may not be possible/relevent with a sour mind from all the renovation.

 

@linda s Thanks for the compliment she'll be even cuter when I'm done with her, even if she doesn't run for long hauls! ;)

I agree, though, @neubie, that these projects feel manageable in the beginning, and nobody–myself included–really knows how much they've bitten off until they'r elbows deep in it. Still, when the goal is to learn how to restore a classic motorhome, there's really no way to learn without experience. Choosing a tiny, older rig gives me something smaller and something simpler (when compared to later/larger models) to cut my teeth on. 

I'm sure there will be days and weeks when I just want to pour kerosene on it and light it up. But the entire experience will give me knowledge to carry on to the next one...or teach me that I really dislike these projects. (I suspect the former will be the case.)

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12 minutes ago, Derek up North said:

Yours would have originally had "10" wide L60' crossply tires installed on the back. I'm guessing on 7" wide rims. Not easy to find a tire with the same dimensions these days. For example, in BFG T/A you can find up to 245/60x14' (9.8" wide) on a 7" wide rim.

https://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires.jsp?gclid=Cj0KCQiAjO_QBRC4ARIsAD2FsXP-y01873drdpdn03GsmPvmCAAsNznRzFaYoDb-ktGk8zsoE4LHyvIaAnorEALw_wcB&tireMake=BFGoodrich&tireModel=Radial+T/A&partnum=27SR4RADTARWL2V3&affiliate=IT2&s_kwcid=AL!3756!3!201921903968!b!!g!!&ef_id=WPlmbAAAARHE7yHr:20171127144131:s

Just looking at your pictures, the rear rim is obviously wider with a deep offset. Possibly 'banded', possibly a 1-piece rim.

So what's the protocol on maintaining the rear axel, then? Just avoiding long hauls? Obviously reducing weight as much as possible...is there anything else? Repacking/greasing? 

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Agreed on sorting the mechanical stuff 1st, but also sealing any water leaks before rot gets worse. As long as it's not moldy, you can still start using with a 'mushy' house pending repairs.

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