Junkyard Find: 1978 Toyota Dolphin Mini-Motorhome

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1978 toyota dolphin mini motorhome

The third-generation Toyota Hilux pickup (called the “Toyota Truck” in the United States) was a legend of reliability and frugality well into our current century, and plenty of small motorhomes were built on its sturdy platform. You’ll still see them occasionally today, but the skin-crawling ickiness of tenth-owner RVs tends to mean the end comes quickly when they wear out. Here’s one that took nearly 40 years to reach that point, now residing in The Final Campground: a self-service wrecking yard near Denver.

It hasn’t quite been everywhere, but this Dolphin has visited all of the West and Deep South, plus a whole swath of states between Colorado and the Atlantic.

This parking pass indicates this Toyota was in Alberta in 1988 when Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican Bobsled Team made a mockery of the Olympics achieved their triumphs.

Stick-on mailbox letters are magical things. We know from this that Carola owned this Toyota, and that she liked Led Zeppelin.

Inside is about what you’d expect from a billion-mile Colorado RV (I’m guessing the mileage, as someone had already pulled the instrument cluster before I got there): a stench of sweat, excrement, dust, and rodent piss, plus cannabis-dispensary stickers everywhere.

This is true.

The final owner of a vehicle like this generally tries to do some $1.99 spruce-ups.

Think this 20R still runs? I’ll bet it does. With 90 horsepower, though, this thing must have been a poky little puppy climbing steep grades.

Dolphins were built by National RV Holdings in Southern California. The company went out of business in 2007.

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2 of 22 comments
  • AJ AJ on Nov 12, 2017

    I remember seeing these in RV shows back in the day, and wondered how the little truck would drive on the highway with a good headwind, or even with a hard wind hitting it from the side? Still, I also admired the idea of a small RV, touring the country with no schedule to keep. It is the Class B of its time.

  • Destruxxx Destruxxx on Mar 12, 2018

    I'm about 50% certain someone bought this whole RV from the scrap yard and is turning it back into a pickup truck. It was posted on one of the Toyota pickup pages on facebook a few months ago I think. The only reason I think it was this exact RV is.. well you don't forget a paint scheme like that.

  • RICK Lou, not sure about panthers and Cougars , BUT at 76,I now consider myself a vintage Rolls Canardly. I roll down one hill and Canardly get up the next! Wishing you a Very Happy, Merry HanaKwanzaMas. 🎅🎄
  • Lou_BC The dealbreaker for me is the $80k starting price in Canada.
  • Zipper69 The Grenadier was designed ground up to be a "better Land Rover" and by most press accounts comes close.What little we know about the Quartermaster it's clear that it's intended for serious off road work without additional aftermarket fettling needed.The price is clearly a barrier, but IF it's the real deal, it will have a slot in the market.
  • Michael Charging more for less. Hmmmm
  • FreedMike Meanwhile, over at Nissan, you can get a perfectly nice, well equipped Frontier four-door that has a V-6, 4wd, and is capable of all the "truck stuff" you could ever want for $36,000. And unlike the "pay over sticker or go f**k yourself" nonsense you get at the Toyota place, the Nissan store will probably happily make you a nice deal.