The Truth About Cars » rv http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:57:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » rv http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New or Used? : A Road Trip… Geo Metro Style http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-or-used-a-road-trip-to-munchkinland/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-or-used-a-road-trip-to-munchkinland/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743577 Click here to view the embedded video.

We want to go on a road trip this summer.

There are four of us. Myself, my wife, a teen and a tween. The wife and kids are thin and I’m about average sized.

Why do I mention this?

We are looking at getting a normal-sized vehicle that can potentially sleep four.  A minivan, crossover, or even a large SUV would be perfectly fine for us. We think that there will be times when we can’t use a tent, and I would rather get away from the overpriced state parks if it’s at all possible.

Our budget is $10,000. We don’t want anything funky to maintain. For us that means no VW vans. We will consider most anything else.  All domestics and imports are on the radar so long as they allow us reasonable sleeping quarters for our family.

Any ideas?

Steve Says:

Yes, rent a trailer or RV first.

A lot of folks think that they can take a big swig of the great American road trip in one feel swoop. But the truth is that close quarters will turn even the slightest of irritable personalities into a smorgasbord of communal hate and vitriol.

A week’s worth of traveling will help you figure out your own family’s tolerances real fast.

Your kids are young? They will want some space. The adults will want some space. Trust me. Whether you chose to give them real space or imaginary space via video games and movies is your call. But if this were my call, I would take the big bite that is the rental of a trailer (if you have a vehicle that can already haul one), a pop-up,  or an RV, and make the most of your time.

Most normal sized vehicles can’t sleep four unless you are willing to do some serious customization.  There are built-in tents and conversion kits for Azteks that can sleep two. Astros with third seats that can be made into a bed… that sleep two. There are even full-sized vans that supposedly seat four. Although the sleeping space me be a bit claustrophobic for some.

Heck, if you were creative enough, you could probably pull off sleeping space four in a stretch limo. But the truth is the only real games in town for road trips that can house four living souls comfortably are the camper conversions, trailers and RV’s.

What’s the cheapest route? Not going cheap.

In the long run your best decision will likely be trying one of these options out and figuring out what would best suit your family’s needs. Long-term road trip vehicles may be the one area where renting first actually makes sense. So rent something you like. Live it up a bit. Then, when you find the right size, make your investment in mobile living.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Renault Encore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1985-renault-encore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1985-renault-encore/#comments Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=646930 12 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile the US government decided Chrysler was too big to fail and bailed out the company with loan guarantees in 1979, American Motors was judged just the right size to fail and had to get bailed out by the French government. This led right to the weird history of the Renault Alliance, which included a Wisconsin-ized Renault 11 hatchback called the Encore. The Encore wasn’t a huge seller in North America and the car tended to deteriorate quickly under American conditions, so today’s Junkyard Find is a rare one.

Can you see yourself in, or maybe as an Encore?

Driverless, stretchy Encores bend lysergically about the nation’s mountain roads!
13 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car spent at least part of its life being towed behind a giant RV.
05 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s no telling how many of these miles took place under the Encore’s own power.
02 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin23-channel CBs had been obsolete for quite a few years before this car was built, so this Surveyor rig was an antique even in 1985.
08 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJanuary 10, 1985 was a fine day in Kenosha.
03 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinKenosha or not, this HVAC control panel has a suspiciously foreign look about it.

03 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Renault Encore Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Curbside Classic: Ultra Van – Cross An Airplane With A Corvair For The Most Radical RV Ever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/curbside-classic-ultra-van-cross-an-airplane-with-a-corvair-for-the-most-radical-rv-ever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/curbside-classic-ultra-van-cross-an-airplane-with-a-corvair-for-the-most-radical-rv-ever/#comments Sat, 27 Nov 2010 18:38:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=374511

In 1959, David Peterson, a professional aircraft designer, had a dilemma: he owned a travel trailer and a boat, but couldn’t tow them both at the same time. He dreamed of putting an engine under the floor of the trailer, and towing his boat with it. When the Corvair appeared that year, he decided to act on it. He rented a large garage, tossed out the trailer, started from scratch, and four months later out rolled the first Ultra Van, weighing a mere 3,000 pounds. It was way ahead of its time then, and it still is today. Which probably explains why it was a commercial flop.

To help put the UV into perspective, here are a few basic stats: it’s a “full size” RV, 22 feet long, 8 feet wide with full 6’2″ stand-up headroom, yet it’s only 8′ tall overall. It has all the usual amenities of a Class A RV, including a large bedroom in the back, full galley, bathroom, etc. The production versions weigh about 3,400 lbs (dry), about the same as a new Camry. And it can get up to twenty mpg on the road.

It’s a brilliant marvel of space and weight efficiency; if Colin Chapman, Buckminster Fuller, Ferdinand Porsche or Gordon Murray had been asked to design an RV, this is what they would have come up with. David Peterson deserves to join their ranks.

If you’re getting the drift that I rather like the UV, you’re right.  And finding this one in a church parking lot the other day is my biggest CC find to date: I love stumbling unto cars like the Packard and Caddy, but I wasn’t really looking for them. I’ve had an eagle eye out for an UV for years. As much as I can wax eloquently about big Detroit iron, fundamentally I’m a Chapman/Fuller/Porsche/Murray sort at heart. And as an RVer, the UV is my dream rig. Here’s the history and the details of my heart throb:

Peterson didn’t just transplant a Corvair engine under his travel trailer. He started from scratch, and designed the only RV (to my knowledge) that was built just like an airplane, where light weight is paramount. The UV is a true monococque (self supporting) structure of aluminum ribs with an aluminum skin riveted to it. The aerodynamic front and rear caps are fiberglass, and those bumpers are made of foam.There are four aluminum tanks for gasoline, water, gray water and sewage carefully integrated under the floor, and the bottom of the coach is fully sheathed in aluminum skin as well.

It’s important to understand that Peterson wasn’t just trying to build the world’s lightest RV. His goal was that the UV could also be used as a second car too, unlike the large and unwieldy RVs that were (and still are) being built on truck chassis. The UV was not that much longer than the big land yachts at the time, and its steering allowed a 50 degree inside wheel angle so that it was also very maneuverable.  And of course, its fuel efficiency played into that too. Even if it wasn’t exactly going to be used daily,  in any case, there certainly was no need to have a dingy car towed along behind.

In my obvious enthusiasm, I’ve jumped ahead of the story a bit, because originally Peterson had no plans to build his invention for others. But he got pestered about it enough that he found some technical school apprentices, and built fifteen of them. They were priced at $7,000 ($50k adjusted). And those early ones had all of 80 hp, which feeding through the two-speed Powerglide meant a leisurely ride, especially with a boat in tow.

In 1964, a Wichita Kansas company bought rights to build the UV, in an attempt to properly commercialize it. But only some 330 Corvair powered UVs were ever built before production ended in 1969, for several reasons. One of them was that the Corvair was known to be ending its production, meaning no new engines. But the biggest reason by far was Winnebago.

In 1966, Winnebago revolutionized the RV industry by offering Americans the equivalent of the Big Mac Value Meal, an family-sized RV for half the price of the going rate. They did it the Henry Ford way: it was the first mass-produced production-line RV. And it was the polar opposite of the UV in every way: a cheaply framed box sitting on a cheap truck chassis; heavy, gas-sucking, ill-handling; and Americans snapped them up as fast as Winnebago could make them. Cheap, big and inefficient: the American mantra for success whether it’s with cars, houses, or a cross between the two.

The UV’s brilliance was also its downfall. Its airplane construction was intrinsically more expensive.  If gasoline had always been at European levels here, there would likely be an UV dealer down the road today.

After 1964, Ultra Vans came with the bigger 164 CID Corvair engine, in both 110 and 140 hp tune. Since a shift linkage was out of question, they still pumped through the Powerglide. For those more leisurely times, the Corvair engine did the trick, cruising happily up to 65 mph (on flat terrain). But by the late sixties Americans were getting power-hungry, and even with their RVs.

So after the Corvair engine went bye-bye, Ultra engineers tested several alternatives. The Olds Toronado FWD power train was promising, and versions with it in the front and back (not both at the same time) were tried. These experiments led to an offshoot, the Toro-powered fwd Tiara, which if there are any left in the world today, would be quite a find. But the Ultra experimental department kept at it, and finally hit on a solution to replace the weak chested Corvair: “Corvette” power!

But not in the Corvair-like configuration. As best as I can make out from the iffy descriptions, the small block Chevy sits in the back under a bed, and then sends its power to the rear through a Powerglide, then a marine V-drive sends it back forward to a Corvette independent rear suspension with disc brakes.

These so-called “Corvette” Ultra Vans have sparkling performance wit their very un-RV like power-to-weight ratio. Mileage dropped to a still respectable 12 -15 mpg. Only 47 of these were made, of which some are still prowling the roads of America looking for stoplight drags with Chrysler 440 powered Winnebagos in order to settle an old score.

It was all in vain; the UV was getting even more ultra-expensive, and Ultra shut its doors in 1970. Peterson tried to revive it with another fwd Toronado version, saying that if the Toronado had been available in 1960, there never would have been a Corvair UV. His ideas were picked up by others, including the second-most radical RV ever built, the GMC Motor Coach (above).

Ultra Vans have an enthusiastic and loyal following, and some 200 of the 370 ever built are still on the road, or hoping to be soon. Obviously, there are challenges and limitations to Ultra Vanning: one has to travel lightly, since its total wight capacity is limited, especially with those little 14″ tires (early ones had 13 inchers!). This UV has obviously and wisely had its rim widened. There’s no air conditioner. The brakes are little unassisted drums. The tanks and complex sewage system can become problematic. At least there’s no power steering to get leaky. You get the drift: this is for minimalistic RVers, which would suits me fine.

When I was young, I shared Peterson’s dream: whenever I saw an Airstream trailer, I imagined turning into a self propelled sleek and low RV. I became aware of the UV in the early seventies, and have played out many re-powering scenarios: a Porsche air-cooled six with a TipTronic with 911 suspension and brake upgrades was a long favorite.

Now I lean more to maximum mileage: a Subaru turbo-diesel boxer (sold in Europe) is the current candidate. But how to change the rotation, after flipping the drivetrain 180 degrees? I’m convinced an UV would hit 30 mpg with a modern tubo-diesel. Its low clearance and lack of off-road capability, as well as the huge amount of time and energy it would take has so far kept me from Ultra-insanity.

I’m rather intrigued with the idea of whether a modernized update on the UV would be able to find a market today. Perhaps one using the Prius’ hybrid drivetrain, or even an all-EV version, since every campground has electric hookups. No more fuel cost whatsoever! With a 100 mile range, one would be forced into leisurely excursions, but isn’t that the point? Solar panels on the roof and on a pull-out awning for charging batteries in undeveloped sites. My imagination runs rampant, like David Peterson’s. The trick is knowing whether to act on them, or not.

For more info. head to the Ultra Van section at Corvair.org

Click this link to check out the 200 other Curbside Classics.

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