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DIY VW Camper Van Featured in Popular Mechanics and the Movie Total Recall

This post was updated on April 20th, 2024

No matter how odd the design, if it’s an RV there are bound to be folks who love it. We think that’s certainly the case with this DIY VW camper van featuring a custom made backend that expands in pop-up camper fashion. It featured some of the most futuristic styling at the time. Originally discovered in the March 1978 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, the camper was later seen in the blockbuster movie Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

DIY VW Camper Van


This DIY VW camper van comes from the mind of Robert Q. Riley. An accomplished author, industrial designer, and mechanical engineer, he has been heavily involved in product design and development consulting over his decorated career.


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Riley created the “Phoenix Van” as he calls it, to have the look of a sleek, modern sports van. It has a curb weight of 2,000 lbs which makes it just a fraction of the weight of many of today’s vans. The Phoenix Van is built on a VW chassis that gets a startling 25 mpg fuel economy, quite a feat at the time. The cab features a pair of bucket seats to allow for easy access from the cab to the rear. The rear compartment has bench seats along each side that lift up for storage when the fold out sides of the back are stowed for travel.

VW camper van plans
DIY VW camper van plans

Once parked, the DIY VW camper van expands like a pop-up trailer to create a significant amount of space – enough to fit a standing 6 foot tall person. At this point the bench seating folds down to become part of a bed on each side of the cab. The back of the cab features the appliances such as a sink, freezer, and stove.

RQ Riley camper van plans

It seems that many traditional auto design professionals like to take a crack at designing an RV. It’s a great thing because it makes for some very interesting examples over the years. You can see more about the Phoenix DIY VW camper van – and order plans for $75 – at Robert Q. Riley’s website.

WATCH NOW: This Brazen Volkswagen Doubleback Campervan Is Built From Aircraft-Grade Components

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