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 [s]made a mockery of the Olympics[/s] 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.

Join the conversation
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.

  • Wolfwagen IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.
  • Jeffro As I sit here this morning with my 2 day old TRD OFF ROAD 4RUNNER tucked safely away in the garage, my head spins with this weird desire to locate a 85 LTD equipped with the epic 😵‍💫2.3 and the FOUR ON THE FLOOR. THE HOLY GRAIL. Ying and yang baby!The search begins.
  • ToolGuy 404 error on the product link. Which probably isn't terrific marketing on TTAC's part. https://thinkwarestore.com/product/f200-pro-ca
  • ToolGuy Second picture: Do you like pegboard storage? (I don't.)
  • ToolGuy "WHAT???"(old 'I was in the artillery' joke)