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Looking for some guidance on 1978 mini mirage purchase.


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Greetings everyone. I have been looking to buy one of these Toyota rv's for about 15 years. There is one for sale near me that appears to be in great condition. I am an auto mechanic by trade, but admit i know little about these. He said its a 2.0L 4 spd manual. 104,000 miles. He said the only thing it needs is the radio antenna and there is a chip in the windshield. There is no generator. I asked about the rear axle because I read they have problems in these years and he said he's pretty sure it's the original 5 lug with the fake dually 2 tires on one wheel setup.  Does anyone know if this RV would have the axle problem? Is there anything else I should look for? Is there any newer generators that fit on these with how much work? Is there any other questions I should ask or anything I should look for when I go to see it? He's asking 6000$. Thank you in advance.

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 These are pretty cool and pretty easy to work on and while with some of the smaller ones I would be less concerned with the fake dually but $6000 for one this old and not having the good rear end seems a bit pricey. I passed on one a few years ago because of the axle issue. I'm not one to stress over things but I've seen the damage when one of these wheels break and as far as you know they are over 40 years old. They have lasted over 100,000 miles but...................

 

 With the newer inverter generators you can fit them much easier. Mine doesn't have one either but I'm pretty sure an inverter generator will fit in the rear cargo hold. It's not as convenient as one built with the unit though.

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2 hours ago, Pcbisnice said:

Greetings everyone. I have been looking to buy one of these Toyota rv's for about 15 years. There is one for sale near me that appears to be in great condition. I am an auto mechanic by trade, but admit i know little about these. He said its a 2.0L 4 spd manual. 104,000 miles. He said the only thing it needs is the radio antenna and there is a chip in the windshield. There is no generator. I asked about the rear axle because I read they have problems in these years and he said he's pretty sure it's the original 5 lug with the fake dually 2 tires on one wheel setup.  Does anyone know if this RV would have the axle problem? Is there anything else I should look for? Is there any newer generators that fit on these with how much work? Is there any other questions I should ask or anything I should look for when I go to see it? He's asking 6000$. Thank you in advance.

Way too much money. If the rear axle has 5 lugs and duel wheels it’s unsafe and will need to be replaced. Cost could add anywhere from $2-4000 depending on how much work you can do yourself.

The 20R engine and 4 speed transmission are pretty much bulletproof.

The odometer is 5 digits. You could have 204 or even 304 thousand miles.

104 seems a little lite for a 42 year old rig.

I would offer at most $2500 for it. These older rigs are always needing work done to them. New tires can easily run $800.

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As a mechanic, stop and think about putting tires on a 2 tire single wheel....  About the only one I have dome that was worse in 25yrs, was on a Humvee with the automatic air...  And balancing them???  Yeah, good luck.  6k is a bit steep, but prices on all these are through the roof right now too.  Take a good look at it.  For 6k realize that it needs to be PERFECT inside.  No water leaks.  Make sure it all works.  

 

Don't bother with a generator, go solar instead.  Unless you need ac off grid, that is a whole other discussion.  

Edited by thewanderlustking
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Oh and have him park it on a level spot and turn the fridge on several hours before you look at it.  But yeah go over things in the house and have him show you everything, how it works, etc.  Figuring that stuff out was my biggest struggle.  The chassis and engine mechanics parts are pretty simple.  

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Posted (edited)

Thank you everyone for the responses. I would like to add that it has seven new tires and roof was resealed last year. Supposedly never leaked.  It looks really nice. I am going to look at it next week. I just wish it had the 6 lug rear axle :(  the thing is, I have not seen many of these online for sale at all. And for some reason they all seem to be over $8,000 in the same condition.  How risky is the rear axle? Is there something I can check or a daily maintenance routine to keep it running like it is?

Edited by Pcbisnice
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31 minutes ago, Pcbisnice said:

Thank you everyone for the responses. I would like to add that it has seven new tires and roof was resealed last year. Supposedly never leaked.  It looks really nice. I am going to look at it next week. I just wish it had the 6 lug rear axle :(  the thing is, I have not seen many of these online for sale at all. And for some reason they all seem to be over $8,000 in the same condition.  How risky is the rear axle? Is there something I can check or a daily maintenance routine to keep it running like it is?

The rear axle is “UNSAFE”. No easy way to put it out there. Plenty of information in the archives of this forum. The fake duel wheels cause the axle shafts to break off, usually near the bearing race allowing the entire wheel assembly and brake drum to detach from the vehicle. You can imagine the results if you’re driving down the highway. There is no prior warning, it just happens. And additionally, these axle shafts are no longer made or available for aftermarket.

If you decide to purchase this vehicle you should include in your budget the cost of an axle upgrade.

If your vehicle is light enough, you can install a non-Toyota single wheel full float rear axle. Early GM truck( single wheel axles )are an excellent choice.

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Try to think of the rear axle like this. Toyota and the motorhome manufacturers spent millions of dollars to correct the BAD axle. On what planet would you ever expect big companies to spend that kind of money if it wasn't urgent and needed. Not this one I guarantee you.

Linda S

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1 hour ago, Pcbisnice said:

Thank you everyone for the responses. I would like to add that it has seven new tires and roof was resealed last year. Supposedly never leaked.  It looks really nice. I am going to look at it next week. I just wish it had the 6 lug rear axle :(  the thing is, I have not seen many of these online for sale at all. And for some reason they all seem to be over $8,000 in the same condition.  How risky is the rear axle? Is there something I can check or a daily maintenance routine to keep it running like it is?

 

 I had the same issue looking for one. I would see one and it would be sold long before I could get there. I had hoped to buy one a little nicer than I did but mechanically including the rear axle this one was pretty nice. The "nearly new tires" were dry rotted really bad. The one you are looking at is cleaner than mine from the sounds of it but I paid  half that. I think I have the leaks sealed. LOL I just put new tires on and the guy who did it said he remembers one of these coming in with the rims you describe and he said never again. 

 

 Replacing the rear end shouldn't be difficult for a mechanic but the issue is trying to find one. Now try finding the fake dually rims/axle when one breaks. But yeah, it's hard to pass one up if you are in an area that not many pop up. 

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It depend on what it is the little ones were ok and did not need a big axle, but if it is a small one the fake dual's it makes it worse because it increases the leverage on the axle bearings. So if it is a full size you have no other choice that a dual one ton setup to be on the safe side.

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If I remember correctly the wheel(s) is offset all the way to one side.  It is a steely wheel too.  So unlike a proper dually setup where the inside wheel is offset to the inside, and the outside wheel is flipped to the outside perfectly splitting the difference, this one has two wheels stacked to the outside and the joining is on the edge of the rim, and not the center.  So hit a bump, and the leverege is compounded against the inside hub attachment, that is already a too weak to begin with.  Heaven forbid if you bend a wheel...

 

And they are impossible to balance.  

 

This issue was so detrimental to Toyota and these RV builders, it took almost every single one of them out of business.  

 

So if you are planning on basically parking it, maybe living it in sitting in one spot until it is fixed, safe enough.  But don't plan on taking it out on the highway or driving much/any around town until you do so.  The tires are likely the same size as used on the upgraded axle, but also make sure they are correct load range.  I think it is load range c or better.

 

With all that said, Toyota motorhomes are getting hard to find.  While kinda expensive, sorted ones are getting 10-18k on a pretty regular basis with "special" ones commanding a LOT more.  On the east cost especially up North, you are going to pay a lot more than say Pacific North West prices.  $6k is actually not too bad, when considering where you are hailing from.  As a mechanic, you should know what to look for on that beast.  Check it over, take cash.  See if he will take less of course, but I wouldn't expect to get it for much under $5k.  

 

The axle problem will take some creativity to solve, or having a 1 ton Toyota one shipped in.  The wheels aren't cheap either, if you don't find a whole donor vehicle.  I have four of the 6 hand wheels I can ship you if you find the rest.      

 

Take the axle issue seriously, but if the rest is up to your standards and the additional expense isn't a problem, GO FO IT!  Just realize, sourcing the axle upgrade probably won't be easy.  There is one local to me...  Just missing all the wheels HAHA!!!  

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2 hours ago, fred heath said:

The rear axle is “UNSAFE”. No easy way to put it out there. Plenty of information in the archives of this forum. The fake duel wheels cause the axle shafts to break off, usually near the bearing race allowing the entire wheel assembly and brake drum to detach from the vehicle. You can imagine the results if you’re driving down the highway. There is no prior warning, it just happens. And additionally, these axle shafts are no longer made or available for aftermarket.

If you decide to purchase this vehicle you should include in your budget the cost of an axle upgrade.

If your vehicle is light enough, you can install a non-Toyota single wheel full float rear axle. Early GM truck( single wheel axles )are an excellent choice.

Thank you. By early gm truck, do you mean similar year?

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55 minutes ago, Pcbisnice said:

Thank you all. A lot off great information here. Kinda breaks my heart though, lol.

 

I wanted one for probably about as long...  Pretty much anyone you find, is going to have something major that needs addressing.  If the axle is the only issue and it is the only opportunity you have come across, grab it and then deal with the axle soon as you can. 

 

Realistically, only ones at the crazy top end of the price spectrum are going to be get in and take on long trip worthy.  I know how hard it is to find ANYTHING up there that isn't rusted out...    

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5 hours ago, Pcbisnice said:

Thank you. By early gm truck, do you mean similar year?

Yes. My GM 14 bolt came out of a 1977 Chevy 2500.

Axle width with single wheels gives you the same track as duel wheels on Toyota axle. R&P on GM is 4.10, same as your current axle. Any early full size GM truck axle will work 1977-86.

I have a build thread on this site somewhere.

Edited by fred heath
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4 hours ago, fred heath said:

Yes. My GM 14 bolt came out of a 1977 Chevy 2500.

Axle width with single wheels gives you the same track as duel wheels on Toyota axle. R&P on GM is 4.10, same as your current axle. Any early full size GM truck axle will work 1977-86.

I have a build thread on this site somewhere.

Thank you! Would this axle work? I can't see how many lug it is in the pic. Do i need to change the front to have matching wheels and tires?

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/233977377705?hash=item367a2373a9:g:odIAAOSwGSpggI2k

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10 hours ago, thewanderlustking said:

If I remember correctly the wheel(s) is offset all the way to one side.  It is a steely wheel too.  So unlike a proper dually setup where the inside wheel is offset to the inside, and the outside wheel is flipped to the outside perfectly splitting the difference, this one has two wheels stacked to the outside and the joining is on the edge of the rim, and not the center.  So hit a bump, and the leverege is compounded against the inside hub attachment, that is already a too weak to begin with.  Heaven forbid if you bend a wheel...

 

And they are impossible to balance.  

 

This issue was so detrimental to Toyota and these RV builders, it took almost every single one of them out of business.  

 

So if you are planning on basically parking it, maybe living it in sitting in one spot until it is fixed, safe enough.  But don't plan on taking it out on the highway or driving much/any around town until you do so.  The tires are likely the same size as used on the upgraded axle, but also make sure they are correct load range.  I think it is load range c or better.

 

With all that said, Toyota motorhomes are getting hard to find.  While kinda expensive, sorted ones are getting 10-18k on a pretty regular basis with "special" ones commanding a LOT more.  On the east cost especially up North, you are going to pay a lot more than say Pacific North West prices.  $6k is actually not too bad, when considering where you are hailing from.  As a mechanic, you should know what to look for on that beast.  Check it over, take cash.  See if he will take less of course, but I wouldn't expect to get it for much under $5k.  

 

The axle problem will take some creativity to solve, or having a 1 ton Toyota one shipped in.  The wheels aren't cheap either, if you don't find a whole donor vehicle.  I have four of the 6 hand wheels I can ship you if you find the rest.      

 

Take the axle issue seriously, but if the rest is up to your standards and the additional expense isn't a problem, GO FO IT!  Just realize, sourcing the axle upgrade probably won't be easy.  There is one local to me...  Just missing all the wheels HAHA!!!  

Could you show me the wheels you are taking about? I found this rear axle and i want to try to find out if it will work, and what wheels i would need.  https://www.ebay.com/itm/233977377705?hash=item367a2373a9:g:odIAAOSwGSpggI2k

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28 minutes ago, Pcbisnice said:

Thank you! Would this axle work? I can't see how many lug it is in the pic. Do i need to change the front to have matching wheels and tires?

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/233977377705?hash=item367a2373a9:g:odIAAOSwGSpggI2k

If it’s out of the truck in picture it should work. They’re known as corporate 14 bolt axles. Gearing is correct. They use 8 lug wheels. You’re going to need to carry 2 spares. You’ll have to upgrade to 15” wheels on the back as no 8 lug 14” wheels are available.

Make sure it includes brakes, drums and hardware.

 

 

Edited by fred heath
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Thank you Fred. I found your post about the axle swap last night and I read through it. I think it's something I can handle. These campers are fine with 15 inch rear, and 14 inch front wheels right? I assume the different size tires offset and make them a similar rotational size, anyway. Do all the GM 8 lug 15-inch wheels have the same offset? Or do I need to be careful which Wheels I get also?

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11 minutes ago, Pcbisnice said:

Also, would I need to replace the drive shaft? Will everything else hook up?

The 14 bolt takes a spicer 44 u-joint. My machine shop could find no adapter to convert the Toyota driveshaft to the spicer.

Had a new shaft fabricated. Cost about $300 back then.

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4 minutes ago, Pcbisnice said:

Thank you Fred. I found your post about the axle swap last night and I read through it. I think it's something I can handle. These campers are fine with 15 inch rear, and 14 inch front wheels right? I assume the different size tires offset and make them a similar rotational size, anyway. Do all the GM 8 lug 15-inch wheels have the same offset? Or do I need to be careful which Wheels I get also?

No special offset. Regulator wheels work fine. Summit racing has the 15” 8 lug wagon wheels for about $60 each.

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6 hours ago, Pcbisnice said:

Could you show me the wheels you are taking about? 


The four spare wheels I have are for the Toyota 1 ton axles. They wouldn’t bolt to a GM axle conversion. 
 

Your simplest and probably cheapest  solution, is finding a whole rv or Toyota Uhaul in the scrapper and getting everything at once. If it has the 6 lug in front, grab those too. The GM conversion is a good idea too, but keep in mind brake bias will be off somewhat. I wouldn’t get one with rear discs, drums are more forgiving.  You could also do front adapters with the GM axle conversion to get matching wheels all around. 
 

So you have some ideas of solutions and fixes. Take a good look over the vehicle. Take lots of pictures!   Do some real shopping around. These guys are all over eBay right now.  I would be hesitant to buy without seeing in person, but when you get to the nicer end of things, maybe.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you are buying one just for the parts...  

 

Also, what are your use goals?  Are you looking for a longer term project?  Are you looking for something that is "move in ready"?  If your buying one to park and be nice enough to live in for a bit as you fix it up, VS if you need one that in a couple weeks can go on a long road trip... 

Edited by thewanderlustking
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I strongly recommend you wait and find a motorhome that doesn't need so much work. They are out there. Search a wider area. 

Most of us have gone quite a distance to find what we wanted. Says your in south central Pa. You missed this one which looks like a steal.

Sale pending but it just shows the rigs are out there.

Toyota RV - rvs - by owner - vehicle automotive sale (craigslist.org)

So many first time buyers have bought fixers and finally just given up. If your looking for a second full time job buy it but if you want to 

enjoy all the fun of a Toyota motorhome find a better rig. 

Linda S

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On 6/11/2021 at 4:51 PM, linda s said:

I strongly recommend you wait and find a motorhome that doesn't need so much work. They are out there. Search a wider area. 

Most of us have gone quite a distance to find what we wanted. Says your in south central Pa. You missed this one which looks like a steal.

Sale pending but it just shows the rigs are out there.

Toyota RV - rvs - by owner - vehicle automotive sale (craigslist.org)

So many first time buyers have bought fixers and finally just given up. If your looking for a second full time job buy it but if you want to 

enjoy all the fun of a Toyota motorhome find a better rig. 

Linda S

I was on vacation last week and couldn't look much. I clicked your link an hour after you posted it, but it was already deleted. Thanks for trying.

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