By on May 8, 2012

The Dodge Motor Home was one of Chrysler’s best-kept secrets but it did get quite a reputation for reliability and function. This is a very rare 1964 version, and its owner is now an expert on this Mopar RV.

Ms. Capri is the current owner of this 64 Dodge Motor Home. Her pursuit of this iconic RV was no trivial task.

Capri saw a 1963 version of this Dodge in her hometown and immediately started a harassment campaign with the owner. She met with limited success. In fact, the guy was so sick of Capri that she thought he might consider a restraining order.

Undaunted, Capri expanded her search into Montana where she located this classic 1964 Dodge Motor Home. The owner “was in over his head on it” Capri explained because, “it had no heat and mushy brakes so we drove it home that way.” Once it was home, Capri located a shop manual and she laughingly added, “not many women get excited about a shop manual, but I’m one of them because it’s been a godsend.”

Capri’s first mission was to personally take on a thorough detailing for the old Travco. The results are spectacular. This RV is nearly 50 years old, but it looks like new inside. There were some issues with the floor and seats, but generally the work has been minimal. Capri focused on a period correct theme for the Dodge Motor Home: This RV has dishes, curtains and cutlery that would look right at home in a 1964 home. The only thing that would add to the ambiance would be a portable turntable playing a mint condition 45-rpm version of Please Please Me by The Beatles.

Guys don’t notice curtains, but Capri had a closet full of magazines including Mechanics Illustrated and Popular Mechanics from 1964. Those definitely did set male reference points for time and place far better than a knife and fork set. This RV was built long before a portable satellite dish could pull in the world on a unit the size of a pie plate. Reading material, not CNN, was your window to all outside events back in 1964.

This is a 27-foot version of the Dodge Motor home so it has a very rare rear door option. This was the last year for the pushbutton transmission. This old RV has that option to shift its 318 cubic inch poly V-8 through the gears.

Capri added that she is “surprised at how little gas the old Dodge needs to go back and forth,” but many older car guys know how much torque is produced in the 318 poly. They’d like a little more punch so Capri’s husband is researching the value of a 6-pack carb upgrade. No word on how that might affect the MPG rating. The only part replaced to this point was a cracked exhaust manifold.

Parts are expensive for these old Travcos. Capri explained that this example was well looked after because it came with a full array of the difficult to replace things like factory lights and shades. Clearly this RV didn’t spend a lifetime hauling kids on vacations. Lamps are usually the first casualties in a long list of things that urchins will break.

Capri is the only member of her family who “likes old things,” so this ancient RV is an enigma to them. She counters their skepticism by pointing out that “new trailers blow over, these things are more solid.” The other thing is an intangible feature that you’ll find with old trailers and campers. They are comfortable in a way that no new trailer can equal. They make you feel like you’re going back to a time when a vacation was a huge adventure and not an expectation. These old units smell like wood not plastic. If you want to experience anything close you have to find a house built in the 1950s, not a condo built last year.

Capri gets the philosophy better than most people twice her age, and she protects the heritage of this unique vehicle better than the original owner.

She’s made a few concessions to the 21st Century. This RV now has smoke and CO detectors plus a full array of fire extinguishers. They’ve also replaced the original low back driver’s and passenger’s seats with newer ones from a diesel push RV because some things should stay in the past. Those tiny factory seats are a great example.

They have more plans ahead with the Travco. The windows were resealed. Now, the sliding ones won’t open and as Capri explained, “ you get a lot of people who want to talk to you about the old Dodge.” For now, the 64 Dodge is fully functional. Everything from the toilet to the furnace works perfectly and that’s rare in new RVs.

They’ve done some significant trips in the Travco. The longest journey has been 600 miles and many more are on the horizon. For now, Myrtle the Turtle is in great hands. Incidentally, Capri gave the old Dodge that name because “it looks like a turtle and it brings its own shell.”

Give an old ride a name and it becomes part of the family and Myrtle is clearly part of Capri’s family.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com

 

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28 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: “Myrtle the Turtle” A 1964 Dodge Travco Motor Home...”


  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    OMG, this is fantastic, and my eyes lit on those fabulous curtains, fer sher. :-)

    Love it and my mind played a little scene in my mind’s eye of a little 45rpm record changer playing Please, Please Me on a, you guessed it, 45, low Fi and all!

    but I then had to switch to a mobile phone with the Moody Blue’s first hit, Go Now playing through a larger built in sound system.

    I so appreciate such things like this, and that Mid Century period most especially.

    Great post!

  • avatar
    redliner

    WOW. That’s a beautiful period piece. I’m so happy that it has found a caring owner instead of disintegrating away in some junk yard.

    Her husband should be proud to have such a mechanically inclined wife.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Ok this just walked into Cool territory.

    Can you imagine showing up to a car show with this thing? What would the judges think? Heck most of them probably wouldn’t even know what is correct and what isn’t on it. That just makes it more cool to me.

    I wonder how much they cost….

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      I dont recall the figure, but these things were very expensive new. It wasnt until Winnebago figured how to cheaply build motorhomes that they became popular. Even more unique than the Travco were the FWD Clark Cortez and Corvair-powered UltraVan motorhomes from that era. At least the Travco sits on a conventional Dodge truck chassis.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’d have thought that a swap to a 360/Magnum 5.9 or a 383 would be the way to go, but this website says otherwise:

    http://www.1962to1965mopar.ornocar.com/poly318.html

    Apparently, there is a fair amount of Poly know-how out there.

  • avatar
    MusicMachine

    Holy God. What a massive turd.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    That thing is beautiful. Crazy beautiful. Tuesday Weld beautiful.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    The US Navy establishment where I used to work had one of these, painted in somewhat faded international orange and without any windows. I was told that it was used for testing sonar gear – they’d take it out and park it in various locations near the sonar testing areas. The bright color was so the sub crew could find it through the periscope.

  • avatar
    old fart

    totally cool , never saw one before

  • avatar
    cstoc

    Wow, what a beautiful old machine. I love machinery from that era, they have a certain simplicity and honesty about them. I had no idea that Dodge built things like this. It reminds me of the GMC motor home from the late 1970′s, another great design from a major car maker that somehow wasn’t built for very many years.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    IIRC when these were new they were one of the few if not the only fiberglass motor home available, every thing else was aluminum. A good family friend had one of these in the same color combo and it served their family well for many years. Not sure if it was the same size and I don’t recall the second door. These were very modern when new owing to the rounded coach design when everything else was square.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    Holy Cow. That is the coolest thing I’ve seen today.

    I wonder if a Cummins 4BT swap would be workable in one of these. If so, then the trade-off in torque and fuel efficiency would be much better than a 6 pack on that wheezy 318. It would be spendy for sure.

    Or even better, a period-correct Detroit 2-stroke diesel???

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I would be leary of a 6 pack without the cam to go with it.

    I wouldn’t call the poly head 318 wheezy, it probably had 300/350 lb/ft of torque in that application.

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    I love the old converted busses, and even better are the first, or at least “streamlined”,generation of purpose-made motor homes. This one is a real beauty and I’m very impressed by the condition, and the story of its owner. She sounds like a very astute and determined lady with an unexpected mechanical leaning and a supportive husband!

  • avatar

    Capri is a young woman born long after her Travco, but she is absolutely the right person to own and respect her motor home’s legacy.

  • avatar

    This. Is. Magnificent.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    @bigDuke6 – certainly you may.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Awesome. The style puts today’s crap to shame. I love that a woman with one of the coolest names took it upon herself to save this thing – and did it properly. Too often, stuff like this rots away to nothing.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I saw a video of a coach with a Cummins TD conversion. I’m pretty sure it was a Travco. With the Cummins, that old thing would really scoot. But, as noted, that would probably end up costing way more than it would be worth.

  • avatar
    beach cruiser

    The only other one of these I have seen is one my in-laws bought new and still own. I don’t know how old it is, but it came with a 440 cubic in engine and a three speed automatic. Is this accurate? It was so ugly, it was hard to look at straight on. Light beige body with dark brown trim. My wife and I married in 1978 and it was well used by then. It has been sitting in a storage yard for at least 30 years due to a connecting rod size hole in the oil pan. My father in-law has told me that he has left it to me in his will. Joy.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    These thing may look cool now, but when you are stuck behind one on the highway in a no passing zone, you will think twice.

  • avatar
    roger628

    This brings back memories of the very first big road trip I went on as 6 year old. We lived in Western Canada and went east to Montreal for Expo 67, then on to the Maritimes , then back west, thru US & Canada routes. It was a dusty construction detour somewhere where I first saw one of these. Pickup Campers or trailers were pretty much the only choices then, then seeing this bus-like thing move under its own power, that was cool.
    I’m not much of an RV guy, but IMO there are 3 great US Motor Home designs, this, the GMC Front-drive home 10 years later, and the Vixen, about 10 years after that. Here’s a link to the latter.
    http://www.vixenrv.com/vixen_history.php
    No wonder it flopped, it was just too damn efficient and rational.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    My parents had a ’68 Travco 27 foot RV. I travelled all over the US in that RV. We upgraded the 318 to a 413 engine and BOY WAS THERE A DIFFERENCE !

    I miss that RV. It was totally cool, but VERY HARD to find parts and repair. I wish her the best.

    I sold the RV off about 6-7 years ago after their deaths to a guy who was going to restore it.


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