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Old 01-30-2020, 01:57 PM   #1
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Van-Size Class C

Would a van-size Class C similar to this old Winnebago work today, except preferably on a Ford or Chevy chassis instead of VW?

I was intrigued after seeing it on RVTrader and looked it up (did not recall them). It was functionally very similar to my Coachmen except much smaller, lighter, and fuel efficient — reported 14 MPG on gas. At 21’-4” should be easy to park most places. Could an RV like this compete with van campers?

https://library.rvusa.com/brochure/02Vistabro.pdf
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Old 01-30-2020, 02:46 PM   #2
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My guess...NO. IMO, this falls in the same category as a regular Class C since everything behind the front seats have been manufactured by an RV builder. When I think "van", it's more on the lines of a Travado style, wherein the entire outer "shell" comes from the chassis manufacturer. It would be a great weekender as you could take it most anywhere. I assume it's front wheel drive since it's a VW? If so...there's probably lots more room back there than a normal Class C, as the floor can be dropped much lower.
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Old 01-30-2020, 03:29 PM   #3
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Yeah, for me a VW chassis would have been a deal breaker. It was FWD but the floor was not particularly low because it was built on a custom chassis that had significant underfloor storage. See picture below.

Gritz, to be clear, I was thinking more about a Ford with 158” wheelbase (about 6” longer) which would make it about 22-ft long overall. Width and height could still be about the same, although GVWR and GCWR would be much higher. With a RWD Ford or Chevy chassis outside storage would likely be less. For reference, building a similar motorhome today on a Ford (or Chevy) chassis should make this kind of difference.

2002 VW:
21’4” long
87” wide
10’2” tall
152” wheelbase
7,275 pound GVWR
9,275 pound GCWR
14 MPG on gasoline

2021 Ford:
~22’ long
87” wide
10’2” tall
158” wheelbase
10,050 pound GVWR
18,500 pound GCWR
~ 12 MPG on gasoline
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Old 01-30-2020, 04:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance View Post
Would a van-size Class C similar to this old Winnebago work today, except preferably on a Ford or Chevy chassis instead of VW?
I believe the answer to your question is on display at every TV show and in every dealer's lot across the country. If folks wanted them a manufacturer such as Thor or Forest River would be making them and they would be selling. It may be a case of the manufacturer could already have the designs for one but marketing and sales data says its a no go.

Small RVs have come and gone. There were the class c units that were on the (I believe) Toyota pickup chassis and then Winnie tried doing the smaller Class A with the Bravo retro for a year or two.

Bottom line, aside from folks wanting some nostalgia no one else wants the crap. For those that aren't satisfied with the mainstream there are the custom builders that will gladly take their money and whistle all the way to the bank.

Personally, before I would even consider something like a "van sized" class c I would consider a F-150 with a slide in camper.
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:36 PM   #5
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We owned a true “van” camper, a 92 Class B Coachman on an Econoline chassis. We also owned a 22’ Gulfstream BT Cruiser a B + (C without the cab over) on a a Chevy. We owned that rig for over 10 years. These small rigs are great weekender or 2 week vacation units as that is what we used them for while we were working. After retiring and hitting the road for 4 - 6 weeks at a time the smaller rig required the beds to be made up every night and morning. Though the smaller rig was nice to drive and sightsee in ( think driving through Yellowstone with your bathroom available ) it also had the drawback of still being not allowed on certain roads. Couple that with the hassle of making the beds eveynight and breaking camp everytime DW wants to go for dinner and the convenience of a smaller rig diminishes drastically. First couple years of retirement the BT Cruiser was acceptable but as the trips got longer it was quickly apparent if we were to continue our travels the smaller rig needed to go. We needed a rig that could tow a vehicle.
Long story short we looked at lots of C’s and realized that most smaller C’s are still weekender type units and there are not that many available and it would be pushing the limits of the vehicle to be hauling 4500 toad. If we hadn’t got such a good deal on our used ACE I would have went with an AXIS on a 450.
Most families these days are buying the C’s in the 28’ -30’ range with bigger baths and more sleeping options. There is still a market for a true class B on the Mercedes chassis or a Dodge but for what you pay for those you can get into a decked out C or an A with a whole lot more room
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Old 01-30-2020, 07:29 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by EA37TS View Post
I believe the answer to your question is on display at every TV show and in every dealer's lot across the country. If folks wanted them a manufacturer such as Thor or Forest River would be making them and they would be selling. It may be a case of the manufacturer could already have the designs for one but marketing and sales data says its a no go.

Small RVs have come and gone. There were the class c units that were on the (I believe) Toyota pickup chassis and then Winnie tried doing the smaller Class A with the Bravo retro for a year or two.

Bottom line, aside from folks wanting some nostalgia no one else wants the crap. For those that aren't satisfied with the mainstream there are the custom builders that will gladly take their money and whistle all the way to the bank.

Personally, before I would even consider something like a "van sized" class c I would consider a F-150 with a slide in camper.

Thanks for expressing your views. To some of your points; it only took Thor 6 years to determine there was a market for Class B van campers, when other companies jumped in much earlier. I’m not particularly impressed with their marketing and sales talent as far as being able to predict the next trend.

For what it’s worth, there are smaller Class B+ on gas Transit in same 87” width as the VW Vista, so someone out there is buying and thinking small. There are even more Class B+ and C on Sprinter and Transit diesels that are only 90” wide. However, they start in the 24’ and over length range which makes parking and maneuvering in tight traffic a different ball game.

Also, Thor manufactured the 20-foot-long 19G (still does for Cruise America As far as I know, which is even shorter than most modern vans. Being so small means a wet bath and only a dinette (not much better useable space than vans). At least the VW Vista at only 1’ longer had a real bath and both a dinette and couch, plus overhead bunk. And it’s essentially the same length as a ProMaster van and 3’ shorter than most Mercedes Sprinter Bs.

Anyway, you obviously like huge motorhomes, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, just because it’s not your thing, it doesn’t make small motorhomes “crap”.

Maybe I should have worded the question differently since there are already small Class C motorhomes. Something like: Is it worth giving up permanent beds/bedroom in a small Class C in order to get length close to 20 feet so it can be driven and parked similar to a van?
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Old 01-30-2020, 07:47 PM   #7
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I'll be in the market for "crap" in a couple years. Soon as we tame the Wild, Wild West we are downsizing to a weekender version of RV...along the lines of an expanded "van" camper. It's a great concept and it's not going away anytime soon. Jumping from the yacht into the dingy and not looking back.
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Old 01-30-2020, 08:56 PM   #8
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.....cut.... Couple that with the hassle of making the beds eveynight and breaking camp everytime DW wants to go for dinner and the convenience of a smaller rig diminishes drastically. .....cut....
That’s a great point. Thanks.

Our Class C was about 24-feet in actual length and almost 8-feet wide, but did not have a permanent bed either. We still had to make beds and break camp as we do with our van, so not a big difference. For its size the living area and kitchen were roomy (which came at expense of no beds). I would prefer a motorhome/van with Twin/King permanent beds if possible, but we’re OK with making beds every night as long as they are comfortable if it allows for a smaller “go-anywhere” footprint. I really don’t want to have to tow a car to get around, although being able to tow whatever I want is a big plus. My van can tow 9,000+ pounds.

Actually, what’s more important to us than beds is a dry toilet area. I would much rather have to make a bed every night than have to deal with a wet bath. That’s one thing I really like about the old Vista. That and that it had much more exterior storage than my larger Coachmen C, and also better fuel economy.
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Old 01-30-2020, 09:38 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Chance View Post
...

Anyway, you obviously like huge motorhomes, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, just because it’s not your thing, it doesn’t make small motorhomes “crap”.

Maybe I should have worded the question differently since there are already small Class C motorhomes. Something like: Is it worth giving up permanent beds/bedroom in a small Class C in order to get length close to 20 feet so it can be driven and parked similar to a van?
It's not that I like huge motorhomes but more along the lines of I don't like retro versions of the garbage that couldn't get out of the way of it's own shadow. Some of those smaller units you like to refer to were death traps hitting the roads way over loaded before loading them for travel. The smaller class c versions on the Toyota truck chassis were so far under engineered that Toyota had to quit supplying them and would not assume responsibility for any chassis related warranty work. That massive mistake was made by a number of manufacturers and they were offered under about 10 or 12 different brand names. The DW's uncle owned one of those POS items and on a 1 percent grade it was singing "I think I can, I think I Can". Going across the desert to visit us in El Paso he couldn't get above 45 MPH because of the 2 MPH head winds. Hence, my statement about crap. I lived it, I experienced it and I'll name it what it was, crap. Now, some of the custom builders are doing some neat stuff that I do not consider crap. But for that you will pay a lot more than I paid for my current rig for something 1/4 the size and 1/8 the comfort.

Maybe the question should be why doesn't someone start going back to the days of the Conversion Vans. That appears to be what you are asking for. 20 feet long, Ford E series chassis, no slides. But then again, they already make that in the B and B+ units so it is already there.
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Old 01-30-2020, 09:41 PM   #10
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Roadtrek makes a sweet B with all the bells & whistles. They are a beautiful rig ride and handle like a Buick. My brother owned one for quite a few years. BUT they are pricey.
Gritz, I get the idea of downsizing, I am already thinking about getting out of the ACE and moving down to an AXIS 24.1 or 25.2 . Getting under 28’ and a foot less height makes getting in and out of National Park & National Forest campgrounds quite a bit easier. Though after all the years in a B+ and now having the room of a bigger MH I don’t see my better half going any smaller. Actually the 24.1 is about as small as I would want to go
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:02 PM   #11
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Aren't E-350 and E-450 essentially VAN chassis?
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:41 PM   #12
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I have owned two Class B’s (first and current, a 21’ Class C and both an E350 Vegas and E450 Axis. While the E350and 450 are “essentially van chassis” they really fill in between the Class C’s and F-53 chassis Motorhomes like the ACE and larger. Chance’s point about giving up the separate bedroom for a 21’ long 6.75 Class B which I can park in a regular parking space and drive in a city, is exactly why I just traded my Axis (I had a Vegas and Axis for 6 years) for a Travato on a Dodge Promaster chassis. I loved my Vegas and Axis and took them on 3 and 4 month trips to Alaska, out west and to Canada. We no longer go on multi month trips in our RV, but we still enjoy traveling between our homes in Key Largo and
Nova Scotia and visiting the National Parks and sights along the way. We are willing to give up the space and storage of the Axis for the easier driving and traveling aspects of a Class B. The new Class B’s like the Winnebago Travato and Thor Sequence are much different than my 2005 Pleasureway both in their use of interior space and upgraded amenities. So far, the trade down has worked well for us. We will have a better idea after I first trip back to Nova Scotia in May.
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:55 PM   #13
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There are some decent class B RV's based on Ford or MB chassis. I believe some of the new ones offer twin beds, that can slide together to be a king, and a dry bath. I too would not want to deal with a wet bath.
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:58 PM   #14
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That’s a great point. Thanks.

Our Class C was about 24-feet in actual length and almost 8-feet wide, but did not have a permanent bed either. We still had to make beds and break camp as we do with our van, so not a big difference. For its size the living area and kitchen were roomy (which came at expense of no beds). I would prefer a motorhome/van with Twin/King permanent beds if possible, but we’re OK with making beds every night as long as they are comfortable if it allows for a smaller “go-anywhere” footprint. I really don’t want to have to tow a car to get around, although being able to tow whatever I want is a big plus. My van can tow 9,000+ pounds.

Actually, what’s more important to us than beds is a dry toilet area. I would much rather have to make a bed every night than have to deal with a wet bath. That’s one thing I really like about the old Vista. That and that it had much more exterior storage than my larger Coachmen C, and also better fuel economy.
Sounds like the smaller AXIS / Vegas 24.1 might fill your needs. Not a van but on the van chassis and separate bath and bedroom.
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Old 01-31-2020, 12:21 AM   #15
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It's not that I like huge motorhomes but more along the lines of I don't like retro versions of the garbage that couldn't get out of the way of it's own shadow. Some of those smaller units you like to refer to were death traps hitting the roads way over loaded before loading them for travel. The smaller class c versions on the Toyota truck chassis were so far under engineered that Toyota had to quit supplying them and would not assume responsibility for any chassis related warranty work. That massive mistake was made by a number of manufacturers and they were offered under about 10 or 12 different brand names. The DW's uncle owned one of those POS items and on a 1 percent grade it was singing "I think I can, I think I Can". Going across the desert to visit us in El Paso he couldn't get above 45 MPH because of the 2 MPH head winds. Hence, my statement about crap. I lived it, I experienced it and I'll name it what it was, crap. Now, some of the custom builders are doing some neat stuff that I do not consider crap. But for that you will pay a lot more than I paid for my current rig for something 1/4 the size and 1/8 the comfort.

Maybe the question should be why doesn't someone start going back to the days of the Conversion Vans. That appears to be what you are asking for. 20 feet long, Ford E series chassis, no slides. But then again, they already make that in the B and B+ units so it is already there.
It’s funny you mention the Toyota “death traps” because we rode in one of the smaller ones quite often traveling to football games when in our 20s. I drove it many times and they were indeed underpowered. If I recall correctly it had a 2-liter (or maybe 2.2L) 4-cylinder with 4-speed manual. Much under 100 HP. The house was tiny — much smaller than my present 20-foot extended Econoline.

When I first saw the Winnebago Vista I was on RVTrader looking at Thor 19G on E-350. Wife says that if we have to end up with wet bath anyway, she’d rather have a van. The Vista would be a great size and floorplan for us, but I’m not touching anything that old or odd. Not to mention there isn’t a VW dealer in every small town like there is Ford.

Using present technologies, a longer version of 19G is very possible. The 20-ft is just a little too short for a separate shower, and a wet bath is a deal breaker for many buyers. Instead of 138” wheelbase, they should bump it up to the 158” WB which is very close to ProMaster vans (159”) and provide a real bath (albeit small) like the Vista has. A total length of +/- 22 ft is still easy to park.

In case you don’t recall, pictures are of a 19G.
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Old 01-31-2020, 12:46 AM   #16
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As a previous owner of a Toyota based class c, I wish a manufacturer would resurrect the concept built on a modern little truck. It was a great weekend getaway platform and we got 12 years and 68,000 miles with one breakdown, threw a fan belt on last trip. Sold it to a man in Georgia and last we heard it was still providing quality service. Being small, it was easy to drive on the back roads of America. It easily fit into the smallest campgrounds or parks. It was easy on fuel, but had a small tank so range was limited. Three coaches later and we still miss the little bugger. Newer technology would make it even better, but I doubt Toyota or Nissan would want to tarnish their reputations by having an American RV manufacturer like Thor touch one of their chassis.
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Old 01-31-2020, 01:23 AM   #17
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As a previous owner of a Toyota based class c, I wish a manufacturer would resurrect the concept built on a modern little truck. It was a great weekend getaway platform and we got 12 years and 68,000 miles with one breakdown, threw a fan belt on last trip. Sold it to a man in Georgia and last we heard it was still providing quality service. Being small, it was easy to drive on the back roads of America. It easily fit into the smallest campgrounds or parks. It was easy on fuel, but had a small tank so range was limited. Three coaches later and we still miss the little bugger. Newer technology would make it even better, but I doubt Toyota or Nissan would want to tarnish their reputations by having an American RV manufacturer like Thor touch one of their chassis.
https://www.motor1.com/news/300274/t...tom-camper-rv/

https://newatlas.com/toyota-proace-l...per-van/53551/
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Old 01-31-2020, 12:57 PM   #18
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Definitely shows there is a market (albeit limited) for different motorhome sizes and types.

For us anything based on a minivan-type chassis like second link is out of the question — way too small. However, I’ve seen some DIY low-roof ProMaster camper vans that looked great and were garageable (8’ door) yet short adults could stand inside without having to stop and raise a canvas pop-top.

What I noticed over last couple of years watching Tour de France is that small Class C (B+) motorhomes about the same length and not much wider than a van are becoming increasingly more popular in Europe. I imagine that switching the back of a van body for a rectangular box makes it much roomier, and also less costly to build the motorhome. The downside compared to a van are significant though. You give up factory paint, large doors, automotive look, some safety, a little fuel economy, etc. Tough choice if we had the option.

Anyway, we can see that even in smaller MH sizes where a longer van could have been purchased from Fiat or Mercedes to make up the volume, manufacturers like Hymer offer Class Cs that are not much wider than the original van/cab. I’d like to see a US manufacturer try the same design approach but on a Ford E-350 SRW Cutaway, with emphasis on small, simple, and light.
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Old 02-05-2020, 09:22 PM   #19
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My first RV was a 1995 Chinook Premiere. It is a class C (some would say a B+.) 21’, built on a Ford E350 Frame. It had the V8, the V 10 came out the following year. I restored it and loved it. There is a very vigorous and involved group of owners, with more than one Chinook owner’s forum. They were well made and are still pretty pricey for a used MH of that size. You’ll see them in the parks and on the road. All the owners wave to each other, chat about their rigs.
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Old 02-06-2020, 12:56 AM   #20
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It seems to be in our nature to always want more...

Something in that size category will always be bypassed in favor of "bigger, better, better-equipped, and fancier"...
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