1976 Toyota Chinook: 1st Attempt

Hi all,

It's time I shared my journey with a classic Toyota camper. It started about 6 years ago, my first year of med school. I saw an ad for a 76 chinook that had been sitting for who knows how long. At $500 I couldn't resist.

Loaded up, ready to fishtail ;)

Nook's initial journey being towed behind a struggling 4Runner over Chinook pass (completing it's destiny).

I had an incredibly large and tall garage at that point. Those were good times :)

More to come.

Last edited:
Sorry for the delay, here are some more from the early days:

The door panels were in great condition.

The original camper to cab gasket = pleather-wrapped garden hose!

Chinook 023-min.jpg Chinook 035-min.jpg Chinook 039-min.jpg Chinook 041-min.jpg
Chinook 043-min.jpg
One way to do it.

Saggy rear step will need to be replaced. A familiar sight for most Chinook owners.

Cut out rotten floor beneath the old, leaky refrigerator

Up next: wrapping up the demo stage and starting to put it all back together.



Last edited:
Finally time for the fun stuff. I had big dreams. Luckily my dad was there to reign them in...sometimes ;).

Before and after shots to give context to some of the progress:

Chinook 026-min.jpg CAM00792-min.jpg
Removed the pop-top before lifting the camper off. Took advantage of this and gave it a good wash + redid all the old flaky silicone over all exposed hardwear. What kind of idea was it to put all these holes in the fiberglass roof?

Chinook 050-min.jpg DSCI0055-min.jpg
Remember the nasty floor-pan? A little angle-grinder with course pad to knock off the rust followed by fiberglass over some pinholes and a can or three of POR15 and it's looking OK!

Chinook 048-min.jpg CAM00019-min.jpg
Sanded and gave the frame and gas tank the POR15 treatment too. Also threw on some nice new wheels and rubber. New rims are 15", stock was 14" all around. Figured I'd need the clearance with how far that camper hangs off the back.

DSCI0061-min.jpg DSCI0058-min.jpg DSCI0065-min.jpg
Floor and rear step repair came out pretty good. Glassed them both into the existing floor for some added strength.

More to come!

Last edited:
More of the fun stuff. I realize I'm posting this in the most lazy way possible, not really going into any of the process details. I plan to stick with this style because it's easy but hit me up if you have any logistical questions. Anyone who has done this kind of work with a Chinook has learned some hard lessons along the way and I'd be happy to share all my mistakes and successes.

CAM00774-min.jpg CAM00775-min.jpg CAM00772-min.jpg
Figuring out a replacement for the original camper to cab gasket was frustrating. I eventually just went with a similar design to the original. Naugahyde fabric wrapped around some stiff foam pipe insulation. This plus some silicon has held strong for 4 years.

The old seats sucked. I found a deal on some Audi TT buckets and convinced myself I could squeeze them in. Also pictured are some super affordable coil-overs ($100 for the pair IIRC) for the rear.

CAM00069-min.jpg New mount beamz from rear-min.jpg New mount beamz front-min.jpg
Sparks flyin! Look at any old Chinook that's been gutted and you can see that the wood floor has bowed down on either side. This is because the camper originally mounted to small posts on the frame, leaving over a foot on each side hanging over without any support. Not good for business. I welded some new steel box beams across the frame to serve as new camper supports, mounting points and frame stiffeners all in one! I'm not the first to do this, basically copied someone else's idea and it works great. Very worthy upgrade. Note the bright red coil-overs in the last pic.

Last edited:

Sanded, treated and painted the cab roof to prevent rust and dropped the camper back into place.

Feeling like we got something done!

Camper work up to this point: fully gutted, pop-top removed and cleaned up/resealed, pop-top lift mechanism repaired, floor and rear step repaired and reinforced.
Cab/truck work up to this point: refinished floorpan, frame and gas tank, new seat belts, new camper mounts welded on, new wheels/tires/shocks, audi seats and new cab-camper seal.

Now at this point I moved to Portland, OR and work on the project slowed down considerably. Mostly because I had no time, was broke and relied on the Chinook as my daily driver. Also, there was no big, beautiful garage in Portland, just rainy outdoor parking and a tiny apartment. I realized immediately that the Chinook is a leaky old thing and with my constant worry about leaks and mold this was a stressful period. I nearly gave up on the project more times that I can remember.

Then I just started working on it again. Dunno why.

I don't have pictures of this period but over the next two years I added sound-deadening material to the cab floor and threw some new fitted brown carpet in there. That made it seem less like a pile of metal and more like a truck. I replaced the two plastic cab-over windows, pain in the butt to fit them back into place btw. After the stock carb died on me I opted for a Weber. I replaced the clutch and installed new brakes and tie rods all around.

At some point after all that, I decided to tackle the interior and started talking with a carpenter buddy....

View from passenger side.jpg View from driver side.jpg
Prior to having any interior work done, I spent weeks poring over different camper designs, Chinook and otherwise. I used a free software called SketchUp to design my ideal setup, looked like this. Highly recommended, can design to scale which ended up being pretty helpful.

CAM00169-min.jpg CAM00170-min.jpg
I decided to insulate the walls with reflectix against the interior fiberglass, then 1in rigid foam board. Take advantage of this time to re-seal your leaky windows!

CAM00177-min.jpg CAM00178-min.jpg
The steel frame of the camper makes for pretty convenient insulation mounting. Re-framed the rear door as well.

At that point I left the Chinook in the capable hands of my friend Nick D. of Jefferson Woodwright down in Southern Oregon. I showed him my design and took it from there...

Last edited:
Interior build out:

IMG_2975-min.jpg IMG_5840-min.jpg IMG_6163-min.jpg
One wall up and trimmed.

Nother wall. Think I forgot to mention the AC/DC chest fridge/freezer I found (grey box pictured here). Have 3 peel and stick UniSolar 68watt panels for the roof to power the fridge and LEDs.

IMG_6930-min.jpg IMG_3316-min.jpg
Kitchen (driver's) side framing and rear wall framed in.

More to come...

One of the coolest camper bed designs of all time here. Not sure where Nick came up with this but it was a stroke of genius:

Bench mode

To storage mode

IMG_20140320_214032-min.jpg IMG_6999-min.jpg
To bed mode!!


Check out Nick's work here, amazing woodworker.

I'll add the rest of the interior build pictures next time I get a chance. For now, let me know if you have any questions about the build so far and check out the sneak-peak of the cabinet build below! I don't want to say too much but I'm in the midst of Attempt #2, which may or may not involve a 4x4 truck swap :) :) :).



Last edited: