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Hey folks! I am the very proud new owner of this 1986 New Horizons Nova Star, recently rechristened Delilah Jones. I am going to do a bit of work to it so I thought I'd start a thread here to ask questions and update progress. This is my first RV and I just know how knowledgeable these online communities are so I am here to learn. 

 

Here are some pics:

 

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I've been hunting for a Toyota motorhome for about a year. I knew I wanted fiberglass so I was looking for a Sunrader, and I wasn't even aware of this model until I saw the ad. It's basically a sunrader with more headroom and an aluminum frame! I bought a plane ticket within an hour of seeing it for sale. :)

 

The previous owner is an incredibly cool guy. He picked me up from the airport for the 45 min drive back to his place. Really above and beyond stuff considering the dozens of other interested people and other offers above asking price. He also took great care of the rig and fixed a ton of issues that would have given me headaches. It was all ready to go for the 7 hour drive back to Portland. 

 

About me: I am a 28 year old student in the medical field. My goal is to have an in demand job where I can do short term contract work at small hospitals around the country, traveling and outdoor recreating between gigs. It makes a lot of sense for this lifestyle to be on wheels so I plan to live in the Nova Star on and off for maybe the next 10 years.

 

The last year of my academic program starts in October and is a pretty intense 5 day/week schedule. I plan to camp part time in the parking lot at school for as long as I can get away with it. The final 3 months of the program are working at a hospital out of state and we are required to find our own housing.

 

DIY experience: My mechanical knowledge is pretty much limited to rebuilding dirt bike engines. I'm excited to learn the ins and outs of the 22re. I built out a Chevy Astro as a small camper so I have installed solar and have an okay understanding of electrical systems. I've also renovated a food cart and done your standard home maintenance tasks over the years. I can sort of weld. I've never worked with fiberglass.

 

Build goals: I want to preserve the original character of this rare model as much as possible while recapturing some interior space with more modern appliances. I would like to pretty up the exterior enough to avoid some attention being parked on campus. As it stands everything works in the RV so I will just live in it for a bit to inform what I want to do, but I think these two things would make it a lot more livable in the short term:

 

  • Remove the rear AC: I will very rarely be plugged in and I would much rather have the headroom over the kitchen and roof space for solar.
  • Composting toilet: again, I'm not planning on campgrounds or RV parks so a more off grid set up would be ideal. Bonus points for weight reduction and environmental benefits.

 

With school and other projects I don't have much time to work on it right now, and I am backpacking for 3.5 months over the summer, so even these two tasks might be more than I can do anytime soon. Updates will probably be slow, but I wanted to establish a connection here to make use of this great resource. It's great to be here and thanks in advance for the help.

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Great find. The Nova Stars have the nicest interior of all the Toyota motorhomes in my opinion. 

I don't think you're going to like the price of newer appliances and they are going to take up the same amount of room. Best case scenario would be removing the stove oven and replacing it with a 2 burner cooktop only. A lot of work for a couple square feet of storage though

DO NOT get rid of your fridge. You're going to be off grid and propane is your most economical source of power. 

A composting toilet would allow you to get rid of your black tank but then you wouldn't be able to take a shower either. Since you're going to be going to work a shower might be important. Composting toilets are also very expensive. Remember your not going to need to dump everyday. A single person should be able to go a week no problem. A guy who can pee in bushes longer. There are many places that have dump stations too. Some gas stations, truck stops and you can usually pay a small fee at an RV park to use their dump station. My tanks are way smaller than yours and I have never had a problem even when I used my camper for work in a big city. 

Your in Portland. Was way over a hundred for days last year. You pick up a temporary job in Redding it can be 110 plus. I consider these to be emergency situations and paying for electric at an RV park can be a life saver. If the air conditioner works well keep it. 

So basically what I'm saying is don't mess with your new beautiful RV. Drive it use it and you'll learn what you really need. 

Linda S

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Posted (edited)

Composting toilets are not a big resale point, Anywhere you can stash the flush unit until that time?

Replacing the AC with a Maxx-air or Fan-Tastic unit will cover about 80% of your cooling needs. But they won't cool below outside temp and 100 degrees is not a good sleeping temperature. You have a working AC, think about keeping it, instead of having to buy a new one in a year or so if you end up in a place like St. George UT in Aug

Look at the black water tank and see if you could connect it to use as extra gray water tank, if you do go to a composting toilet.

Your limiting boondocks factor is your fresh water tank.

Propane refrigerators are amazing things, they will run for weeks on a tank of propane.

Replace ALL the light bulbs with LED bulbs.

100w of solar will do, 200w of solar and 2 T-105 6v batteries are akin to perpetual motion.

NEVER  NEVER delay roof maintenance, or leak fixing.

For repair stuff, remember you have a Toyota Pickup not a Toyota Motor Home. You have a Nova Star motor home

I see Linda types faster than I do, her point about using it stock for a year or so is a VERY good idea. Some times ITS HARD ($$) to undo some things

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by WME
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Thank you both the reply. I hear what you're saying and I do value the original and unmodified character of this rig. I do plan to use it as is to inform what, if any, modifications I would like to do. Resale value is not a concern to me as I plan to keep it for a while.

I figure if I am in a scenario where I really need A/C I can pick up a portable unit for temporary use. It really doesn't benefit me to lug that thing around and bump my head on it for the 99% of time when I can't or don't need to use it. On a philosophical note, I believe in adapting to the environment rather than trying to change it. If it is 100 degrees out I'd rather be forced to find a mountain to climb or a river to play in rather than sit inside an RV blasting 1000 watts of A/C. At worst I'll go visit a friend or hang at a library. I am more than happy to sacrifice some level of creature comfort for the lifestyle I wish to live.

Noted on the fridge, I know they can be crazy expensive and this one works great so no need to change it. I mostly was referring to removing the oven for a 2 burner like you suggested. Again, this would be sometime far in the future.

I've seen some plans for homemade composting toilets that look very doable. I definitely do want to keep the shower so I guess I would need to look into replumbing it to the gray tank.

I am going to take this slow and I don't want to scare anyone that I am set to desecrate a rare vehicle. I really do appreciate the advice.

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😳 You did say travel medical, don't know to many hospitals on mountain tops in deep forests

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Posted (edited)

There are plenty of small towns with great outdoor access, I've already got a list! Cities are awful for my mental health and I can't wait to leave Portland.

 

I'm not trying to knock the use of A/C and I apologize if I came off that way. I'm sure for some people it works great. Just knowing myself I don't think it's that big of a benefit. I have lived in a van before (in the desert without A/C) so I'm not entirely new to this.

Edited by softmachine
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Just so you know replumbing shower to gray tank requires a pump to get water over the drive shaft. 

I also use a small portable AC unit. Roof one didn't work. Mine is smaller than most available now but weighs only 40 lbs and I move the passenger seat all the way forward and bungie it to the seat. Sits on a shelf I made just for that so it's stable. When in use I roll it more to the middle and vent out the front passenger side window. They do need to be vented. The privacy curtain that hangs from the overhead keeps all the cool in the back. Lots of state parks have electric available if you need it for low camping rates. If you stay in Oregon they have the nicest ones. Better than RV park for half the price

Linda S

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2x on Oregon State parks. 

I misspent a lot of my youth living in tents, sleeping in the daytime in the jungles of SEA. This was pre ecotourist. My current view of things, when I speak of roughing it. I'm talking about B&W TV.

I'm on the info/endless E-mail list for a portable,  battery powered 4,000 btu AC. When something actually happens I post info here.

Here's is some entertaining reading when your bored.

  

https://www.boundfornowhere.com/blog2/amelias-before-tour

 

Good Luck

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How big are the water tanks on these? Does anyone have a link to the brochure for this model? I saw it in another thread but the link was dead.

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I don't know if that worked. It's from the IO group and you might need to belong to open it.

Black tank is 15 gallons

Grey is 23 or 22

fresh is 24 or 22

Depending on which floor plan but it doesn't say which is which

Linda S

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the fresh  water tank is almost twice that of my dolphin witch is 16. as for the dump tanks i can do a week . in fact i just went for a week in the mtns . two 18 gallon waste tanks.and i would never part with my oven.

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Had an 87 Nova Star very well built and designed MH. See If you can find a 6 bolt front wheel setup that would finish it.

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Okay so there are a few issues I want to address that might indicate structural damage somewhere.

The roof sags almost an inch at the A/C. This causes water to pool in the center of the roof. There are some water stains on the ceiling here but no rot that I could see. Surprisingly it seems the aluminum frame has bent down from the weight of the A/C. Most of this water damage was probably caused by the gaping whole where the TV antennae used to be. 

 

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I'm gonna remove the A/C tomorrow and fill in the hole with fiberglass. To correct the sag I am thinking I'll lay plywood across the floor and ceiling and press the roof back up with a bottle jack.

 

More puzzling is the issue with the countertops. The lower cabinets on both sides seem to be lifted up about half an inch in the front. The screws holding them into the walls have been pulled into the wood.

 

Here's the passenger side counter:

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And the driver side:

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Lastly, and I wonder if this is related, the floors are a bit soft in some places. They have been replaced with engineered wood but apparently whoever installed it didn't address the subfloor. I have been under the rig and the steel frame for the coach is in good shape.

I can't imagine the subfloor swelled to push the cabinets up a half inch but I can't seem to think of how else it happened.

 

Any thoughts on how to proceed?

Edited by softmachine
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 I think what I would do..........I'd address the ceiling sag and then see how the rest lines up then. Also........on mine I had some soft floors but it was simply a matter of age not rot. I added an additional brace under the floor. 

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I'm betting you are right about the subfloor swelling. A combination of swelling subfloor and years and years of bumpy roads. My roof was saggy at the AC on my Escaper with aluminum frame. I permanently removed the AC from the roof because of this. My camper has a steel support across where the AC goes but still a slight sag. The aluminum frame is not strong alone. My roof system was compromised by water damage so the wood was no longer assisting with supporting weight in spots. I think your idea for jacking the ceiling gently is a good one. I also had a large hole in my roof where the TV antenna had been.  I've seen a number of ideas on here about repairing subfloor in patches here.  You'll have to decide whether resolving the water intrusion and addressing the resulting cosmetic issues is enough. Many of us do that and camp. Some do a full gut and rebuild. 

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I don't know how the Nova Star is built, but the Sunraider's have a problem of not enough cross support in the floor. After time and miles the weight of the shell pressing down on the unsupported floor would cause the floor to sag at the edges. That maybe what your seeing, not the floor swelling up.

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