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1983 Toyota Sunrader Motorhome Renovation By Two RV Newbies

This post was updated on April 18th, 2024

Imgur user Buck and his traveling companion, Penny, decided to invest in a used RV and travel the country while they were still young and unencumbered.

They chose a 21’ 1983 Toyota Sunrader that was “functional” but needed work. It was perfect.

The original owner advertised an exterior with “fresh paint” – but it was house paint!

exterior before

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The couple intended on making a few adjustments to the inside and hitting the road. But as happens so often in these stories, the more they explored, the more they found had to be repaired.

Here’s Buck from his PoorestTourist website,

It started with just our hands, tugging lightly on a wall only to realize it was eggshell brittle and wanted to be torn out. So we ripped a little bit of the wall out. Before we knew it the entire closet was gone. Then we decided that the fridge and other appliances were too large, inefficient and outdated. An old furnace and water heater from 1983 seemed dangerous.  So we tore all that stuff out. Next came the oven and sink, and eventually all of the walls and insulation behind them.

This was the “freshly remodeled and updated” interior before.

bunk before

interior before

They stripped everything down to the fiberglass shell as best they could, although some of the interior wood had become enmeshed in the fiberglass.

They used KILZ MAX, a high performance water-based primer, on most surfaces in an effort to encapsulate any mold or wood rot that might be left behind.

Interior stripped down and primer applied.


Next up they added an engineered hardwood floor throughout the camper (even under cabinets). They liked the idea of not cutting around cabinets and having a seamless flooring surface that runs wall to wall. 2″ x 2″ studs framed in the empty wall panels.

Here the framework and Brazilian Cherry wood flooring is in.

framed and flooring in

Three unusual steps the young couple took in their redesign:

First, they built a unique closet that is half storage, half decorative element. With left over bamboo from a surfboard project, the built in closet has a big curved outside corner, with the bamboo outside of the closet fully visible.

The Interior features coroplast walls and small scale furniture.

cloroplast walls

Next, they used corrugated plastic paneling (sometimes called coroplast) for their interior walls and ceilings. It’s fairly rugged, water resistant and very lightweight. We’ve seen people make bicycle campers from the stuff!

Here’s a panorama of the finished interior, featuring the bamboo closet.

finished interior

Last but not least, they resealed the windows, something we don’t see very often in these remodel pictorials. The original window seals had become brittle and were prone to leaking. They pulled the windows out, rebuilt the wooden frames, scraped down the old seal and resealed the frame with fresh butyl tape. A smart move on their part.

The fresh exterior paint got an upgrade too!

fresh exterior paint

The exterior got a fresh paint job with some custom geometric designs reminiscent of the truck’s 1980’s origins. The interior finish has a neo-gypsy feel with lots of cushions and bright fabrics.

So far the couple has traveled over 10,000 miles in this RV and they seem to be enjoying the journey!

The renovated Toyota motorhome in travel mode.

rear view

The happy couple beside their new home on wheels.

Poorest Tourist

To see more pictures and details about the renovation, visit their website.

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