Jump to content
KathyF

Thinking about '89 Dolphin, nervous!

Recommended Posts

Hi, I'm just entering the RV world and am excited and nervous. I want something small that I can easily head out in by myself (with my cat) for a night or two here and there. I'm used to driving smaller cars (have a Prius now), so will need to learn to drive again! From the reading I've done, here and elsewhere, the Toyota chassis 18-22' RV's seem good.

I'm currently looking at an '89 Dolphin with 26K original miles. The original owner has all paperwork, and it looks like it's been well maintained mechanically and otherwise (there even appear to be records for every oil change!). Oh, it's the V6, automatic.

I don't want to own a project, I want to own a functioning home away from home. I do know that a 20 year old RV will need some looking after and my husband will probably help with maintaining and fixing some things. I will certainly take it somewhere to get professional repairs/maintenance done when necessary - although I don't have an endless pile of money.

Does this vehicle sound like a good fit for me, given my lack of experience with owning/driving large vehicles or RVs and my lack of interest in having an RV be a major project?

Are parts generally available when things do break?

Are there any things I should be particularly concerned about?

Any tips or pointers?

Are there other RV's I should be considering instead of the Dolphin?

Thanks for any and all advice,

Kathy

Edited by KathyF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kathy,

Welcome to the forum! You will be right at home with all of us here in the Toy motorhome world as we generally stay both excited and nervous about our Toys! :lol: They are easy to drive and park. Just be sure to keep an eye on what is behind you by watching your side mirrors frequently. They don't stop on a dime, so leave lots of space to stop if someone pulls out in front of you. Since you already own a Prius, you know the quality these Toyotas are built with; they are sturdy little machines especially if they have been well cared for down through the years.

Sounds like the '89 Dolphin with 26K original miles is one of them that has been taken care of by the original owner. That's a big plus because he/she can answer lots of questions you will have and also be able to show you how everything works in the coach.

There will be some things that you will probably want to change/fix, but more than likely they won't have be be projects that go on and on. With this motorhome only having 26K miles, it most likely doesn't have a lot of wear and tear on things. Some people like to keep their coaches the way they came from the factory and some like to totally change them and update to a more modern look. That's up to you and what you like and dislike about the coach. This is something you can take your time doing so it doesn't have to consume all your time and money at once.

Parts are generally available when things break or don't work. You will find lots of info here on this forum that will help in that area.

Look for leaks around windows and ceiling vents. Check inside cabinets also for signs of leaks. Check for soft spots on the floor. Check the roof. By having the original owner walk you through all the areas, you should be able to see if the propane is working, the fridge is working, the a/c and furnace, the gray and black tanks and toliet are working as they should, etc. Ask how old the coach battery is (this is different from the battery for the truck) and you may need a new one if it is really old.

Check the tires for the date of manufacture and any weather checking. Even if they have lots of good tread left, if they are old tires please get new ones. This is a major safety issue that should not be overlooked. The '89 Dolphin should have the full-floating heavy duty rear axle so that shouldn't be a concern.

You may want to ask the present owner if they have a transmission cooler installed on the transmission. Our Dolphin is a 4 speed manual so we don't have that. Someone on here that has an automatic can explain it better to you.

Dolphins are very popular MHs, but all the others have their charm and it just depends on what you are wanting and what shape it is in. If you find one that fits most of your needs, you will most likely be happy with it and enjoy it.

Since it will be you and your cat getting out and about, you will have lots of room to relax and learn about traveling in a Toy. There are lots of them around so don't be afraid to go for it. We travel with our three small dogs and have a great time. Hope this answers some of your questions and hope you have found your Toy!

Best wishes,

Dianne '84 Dolphin "The Little Puppy"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When you mentioned the driving part the overdrive shouldn't be used if it starts shifting in and out to much their's a button to cut it off, on mine I use it on level ground and no wind. with only 26000 it might be in really good shape.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kathy,

We're really excited to have you join us here on the Toy Forum. Welcome!

I completely concur with Dianne on all points especially regarding the rearend.

I don't know what models had what rearends originally, so I'm going to suggest you attach a picture of the home or back wheel assembly on your post. (Maybe just for my peace of mind.) I purchased my '81 Sunrader 18' toy prior to learning about " the recall". Sadie had the "bad" rearend, but I felt I got such a good deal on her, that I didn't flinch at the investment of "safety".

If you attach a picture, most of the owners on this forum can tell you at a glance if the toy in question has the dreaded 5 lug-light duty welded back dually wheels, or if it is a heavy duty one ton single/or dual rearend.

I honestly feel the satisfaction and freedom of owning one of these little babies is incredible. Your kitty will love it, and so will you.

Best Wishes on your quest for Toy Harmony.

shanda

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm all for the Toyotas, but if you are not looking for a project I would stay away from ANY 20 year old vehicle even if it has been well taken care of you will always find something to fix. Alot of us here work on our own motorhomes. And as you mentioned you will need to learn to drive again, The toy is tall and light so when you are driving down the road and a 18 wheeler drives by or a strong gust of wind comes along, you will feel it. Im sure all of us here has felt that. It is controllable but if you are not comfortable with driving, It could be scary. Depending on the kind of camping you want to do I would look into a pop-up trailer or a small pull along that you feel comfortable towing. I have told people who have asked me about the Toyota Motothomes different things because they might have driven a motorhome before or have experience in driving far, but because of the things you have said I would not recommend a toy for you. I dont think it would be fair to tell everyone I talk to to go and get one unless I know more about the person and what they need from a motorhome. But personaly I love mine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the welcome and the input/advise. They are both deeply appreciated. I hope to go try driving the Dolpin tonight, and see how it feels and what my confidence is in getting comfortable with it. When I said I need to learn to drive again, I meant I imagine driving a Dolphin vs. driving a Prius will be really different. :) I have been driving for over 40 years (how is THAT possible?!?!?!), and have in my past driven a Dodge van and a VW bus around the country. I'm comfortable with smaller cars; what I need to learn is details such as how much of the road it takes up, what the turning radius is, where all the corners are, weight distribution, (as mentioned) what happens when it's windy or I'm passed by a big truck, etc.

I'm glad to know there are so many friendly and knowledgeable folks out here - if I take the plunge, I have no doubt I'll be "seeing" a lot of you!

Thanks,

Kathy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

welcome to the home club .i 2 have 89 toy . 13to16 mi to the gal not bad . :hyper:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These babies are a labor of love. But they are a labor none the less. Unless it has been kept in a museum for the past 20 years, there will be issues. If you have to take it to an RV or automotive business when things happen, you will watch a large chunk of your money disappear.

These things are like a boat. When you're out there, you have to rely on the systems to be operating reliably - and you have to rely on yourself to know what to do to ensure they operate correctly. Particularly driving.

I've put about 200,000 miles into driving ambulances. Big overloaded topheavy vans and boxes that need to get somewhere fast as a matter of life or death. My wife and her mom call this thing "the Toy" and that is a description I despise because, in my experience, these things are as challenging to drive as an ambulance. I've heard people call ambulances names like "bus," "rig," and "gut wagon," but I've never heard them called "toy." Not even once. Of course other drivers make it harder.

So yes, even driving it is a job. But have you ever heard the saying that if you love what you do, you'll never have to work a day in your life? I did say it was a labor of love, didn't I?

Be reasonable about your expectations from a 20 year old vehicle, be ready to learn a lot of mechanical systems. And beware that even though this is a small motorhome, it requires the same driving techniques you'd use for, say, a garbage truck.

Then, you'll be able to make a more informed choice as to whether or not this is for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to clarify something, When I call the Toyota a Toy. I am using it as an abbreviation, not being descriptive. But I thought everyone did that. And im just taking a guess here but I dont think ambulances are made from a Toyota frame. Thus the reason no one would call an ambulance a toy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The biggest concern is structural damage from leaks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would like to clarify something, When I call the Toyota a Toy. I am using it as an abbreviation, not being descriptive. But I thought everyone did that. And im just taking a guess here but I dont think ambulances are made from a Toyota frame. Thus the reason no one would call an ambulance a toy.

I've driven VW camper vans for many years and can remember when I first bought a 69 vanagon how difficult and big it felt, within a few drives I had it down..The Toys are not difficult to drive and you'll soon get the feel of the size and speed and how to manage it. I've always bought older vehicles

and the payoff has always been, even a new engine is cheaper than a new vehicle by far. Fixing then up is half the fun and even a day and night at the beach is priceless imho... Give it a try, if you don't like it, you can always sell it. They sem to be like VW's and hold their price well...at eleast in los Angeles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×