1969 Dodge Travco Motorhome

Why live in a vintage motorhome? Because it's awesome.

We found this 1969 Dodge Travco Motorhome on Craigslist in June of 2015. We drove up to Asheville North Carolina, gave it a quick, in hindsight rather ignorant, once over, handed the owner some money, and promptly drove it 200 miles back to our then home in Athens GA. Two years later we hit the road and never looked back.

What’s it like to live in a 1969 Dodge Travco Motorhome?

Lots of people ask some variation of this question — they want to know what it’s like for two adults and three kids to squeeze into 90 square feet for years on end. Some people seem predisposed to think it’s all an endless epic adventure. Other people clearly have images of us living in the proverbial van down by the river.

Neither of those are entirely accurate. If you really want to know what our life is like, read the site. Sign up for the email list or subscribe to the RSS feed to get notified when I post something. What I try to record here is what our life is like.

We love the way we live and wouldn’t want to live any other way. But we’re not you and this isn’t for everyone. It just works for us.

To answer a few random questions that pop up regularly in conversations with curious people: Yes it’s crowded. No we don’t mind that. Yes, we are close. No, our kids aren’t perfect. Yes, there are days when I wish I lived some other way. Being sick in the bus is awful.

Most of the time though, we’re not in the bus.

When you live in a small space you invert your spacial relationship with the world. You spend your time outside rather than in, and that was one of the main reasons we did this, to be outside more. To be part of the larger world. I wrote about this at some length for a travel magazine, in piece about why we live in a vintage RV.

The best part of the way we live is waking up in the morning and stepping outside. I’m outside from the minute I wake up until I go to bed. We cook outside, we work outside, we eat outside, we learn outside, we play outside. Only the weather drives us inside.

cashew chicken in the bus photographed by luxagraf
We might be out and about a lot, but the bus bookends our days.

I think it’s worth pointing out that everything is not always sunsets and adventures. We struggle the same as anyone living in a house. Our challenges and struggles are just different. For example, when we owned a house I had to mow the lawn and clean the gutters. Now I have to change the oil and maintain an engine, not nearly as much work as it is to maintain a house, but still something I have to regularly attend to.

For me, maintaining the Travco is more challenging, and therefore more fun and rewarding, than mowing the lawn. I’m not an engine expert. I can’t listen to a knock or ping and figure out what’s going on right away. I have to spend more time thinking it through, asking people more knowledgeable than me. But I’m learning, and that’s what I enjoy in life, being challenged, learning, solving problems, getting outside my comfort zone so I can expand it.

Still, the bus is our home and when it breaks down, well, sometimes we camp on a mechanic’s driveway.

Or I spend hours at the side of the road listening to the radiator boil over or getting covered in power steering fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid. To live this way you have to be able to let go of the idea that there is anywhere else you need to be, anywhere else you can be. More than anything else, a vintage vehicle will teach you patience. Or you will lose your mind and sell it.

overheated photographed by Corrinne Gilbertson
Overheating. Again. | image by Corrinne Gilbertson
sign, mousetail landing, TN photographed by luxagraf

You don’t have to be rich.

The other question everyone asks is how can you travel all the time? What am I some kind of rich asshole? Trust fund kid? Thankfully I’m neither. Most of the trust fund kids I’ve known have been pretty screwed up people. We’re not rich, we’re comfortably lower-middle class I guess. But as noted rock climber Eric Beck once quipped, “there’s a leisure class at both ends of the economic spectrum.”

Which is to say that if you discard the value system of upper middle class America, you can find an amazing amount of time and money that you can use to do more interesting things than buying stuff. Yes, you need some money to live the way we do, but not much really. We live on about $36k a year. That’s not much within the spectrum of US earning possibilities.

I do recognize that the ability to make that kind of money while traveling is not available to everyone. There are more opportunities to do it today than at any point in human history, but that doesn’t mean it’s possible for everyone. I happen to be a writer and computer programmer, both which can be done from just about anywhere, so that’s how I do it. And no, we don’t have much in the way of insurance. We have some money set aside to cover the basics, but if something catastrophic happened, we, like many of you I’m sure, would be in trouble. These days I’m not sure that would be any different even if I had an office job. Either way, like I said earlier, living this way is not for everyone.

For most people the difficult part of living this way is letting go of that value system that says you need to own a house, have amazing health insurance, a nice car, a bunch of stuff, and a huge savings for some perfect future when you can stop working. For me that ideology never really took hold for whatever reason, so I never had to escape it, but I watched others escape it and it did not look easy or fun.

I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to figure out why I never cared about that stuff. Maybe I read Thoreau too young. Maybe I listed to too much punk rock. Maybe it was that I took those people at their word, that I accepted their values at face value: that complaining does no good, you do what you need to do, and you do it yourself. You do it yourself so you can do it exactly the way you want, the way that works best for you, not the way someone else thinks you should do it, and in the end it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks so long as you’re able to look yourself in the eye at three AM and know that all is well.

It’s hard to write about these things without coming off like a jerk to some people, but I suppose that’s okay. You can’t please everyone. I’ll assume since you’ve made it this far that you’re good with it.

The problem is a lot of people see other values as a comment on their own. Like I am somehow sneering down at people from the top of the #vanlife heights here. Again maybe this doesn’t come off right, but really: I don’t care how you live. If you love living in a house, that’s awesome. I am glad you have found what makes you happy. If you hate living in a house and want to escape it, well, I guess to some extent I’m here to say it can be done. Maybe.

Why live this way? Because the worst part is going home.

The why part two: I wanted to give my kids something close to the childhood I wish I’d had.

Which is not to imply I didn’t have a good childhood. I’ve had an incredible life. I have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure this isn’t a dream (which now maybe you’re thinking oh god, what an asshole. And I know, I know it sounds cliche, but really I have nothing to complain about. My life has been grand. If I die tomorrow, I will miss my family, but I would at least feel like I had lived deliciously well).

I grew up traveling a lot, something I’m very grateful to have experienced because those were always my favorite moments. Mostly I remember camping and hiking. The mountains, the beaches, the deserts. I remember being outside, the smell of pine needles, the dust in your nose as you step out of the tent to see what was for breakfast. I remember living outside for a week, sometimes two, and then going home. It was always such a drag to go home.

I wanted my own kids to have that life. I wanted them to live outside, but I didn’t want them to have to go home. I wanted to spare them the pain of watching the real world fade in the rear windows as they headed back to suburbia. I wanted to go out into the wilds and never come home. I wanted that to be home.

The Travco was a way to give my kids that.

The 1969 Dodge Travco Motorhome

Really, do you care that much about me? Probably not.

Let’s talk about the bus. It’s way cooler than I am. Let’s face it, we live this way because of the bus.

They do not make vehicles like this anymore. I never even liked motorhomes until I saw a Dodge Travco. The sweeping curves, the 1960s electric blue, no other vehicle ever made was quite like this. Even the Travco is really only the Travco from 1966 to 1970. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow this thing got made and a few survived.

I spend just about two years gutting and refinishing ours. You can can checkout an older post on how it looked when we got it (complete with Velvet Elvis). In the end we had something vintage on the outside and livable on the inside. All the wood paneling inside and vinyl seats coverings are new, but the layout, shape, design and cabinets are original.

To say the Big Blue Bus, as our children named it, stands out is an understatement. There is nothing else on the road that even remotely compares.

Ours is not pristine. I hit a tree stump in northern California and did some damage to the fiberglass on one side. Fortunately it’s low enough that you don’t notice it unless you’re really looking. The paint is faded in places, but it has that nice, vintage patina that things get after 50 years in the sun. We’ve talked about repainting it, but so far that’s not made it to the top of our list.

As cool as the outside is, the inside is my favorite part. The way the sunlight streams in the windows in the mornings, there’s a warmth to the wood and the curve of the window and the pine trees on the other side of the window, it gives you a kind of joy I’ve never had from any other home I’ve lived in. We live in a magical blue and white tube basically. I mean, who doesn’t want that?

The 318 LA Engine

I would call the Chrysler 318 the best engine ever made. But then, I’m biased. Still, almost every person who asks, the conversation goes like this:

What’s that got in it? 440?

Nope, 318.

318?! Damn. That’s a great engine. Bet it’s slow up hills though…

It is.

And it is, but it’s a nearly bullet proof engine. I’ve dragged its 50-year-old self over 16,000 miles across the United States and all the way to 10,000 feet. We did blow a head gasket once, which destroyed a cylinder and required quite a bit of work. Otherwise though we’ve replaced the things you’d expect to replace driving an older engine around for years.

One of my favorite parts about the 318 is that you can walk into just about any auto parts shop in the western hemisphere and find nearly every part you’re going to need. The only thing I’ve ever had the hunt down in a wrecking yard was an exhaust manifold.


I’d be lying if I said I loved every day in the bus. I love almost every day though, and as long as the view from the front door looks like this:

Or this:

And as long as my kids continue to love calling it home, home it will be.

  1. For the record, this is the first image I ever saw of Travco. Yes, I remember it. 


William August 25, 2019 at 3:23 a.m.

Looks like fun but the RV design seems to have been done without thought about accident survivability. An over cab design gives practically no crush zone for protection in a frontal crash as many owners of old VW buses can attest. Another unfortunate hold over from this era is drum brakes which are notorious for fading in downhill braking or wet weather but I assume you have adapted to this by now. Were trucks exempt from seat belt laws back then? One safety upgrade you have control over is fitting safety belts. I see no signs of them in the pictures either on the front seats or living area. Good aftermarket seat belts are not expensive and easy to fit. If shoulder straps are not practical then at least fit lap belts as there are no armrests or anything else to prevent you from being knocked off the front seat in a side impact. I would doubly urge you to have seatbelts for the kids in one of the sitting areas as a blown tire and impact into a barrier could turn them into projectiles with little chance of survival. Don’t mean to be a buzzkill but basic safety precautions should be at the top of the list during a rebuild.

Scott August 29, 2019 at 9:37 a.m.


Thanks for stopping by. If you read a bit of the main jrnl section of the site most of your questions are answered. But the short story would be I think there’s more to life than making sure you have a helmet on at all times.

And yes, RVs are exempt from seatbelt laws, other than the cockpit. I actually find this strange, but hey, who am I to argue? That said, I put in seat belts at the table for the kids.

As for drum brakes. Given that for 60 or so years of automotive history they were the only brakes that existed and somehow a surprising number of people survived the years of 1910-1970, I’ve never worried about them. You maintain them, like anything else.

Fifty year old vehicles are not something you just hop in and drive. You have to look after them on a daily basis. This is part of why I say they’re not for everyone, not everyone has that kind of time or discipline, including me at times. But every time I’ve been lazy, bad things have happened. If you take the time, have patience and do everything methodically, my experience has been that you will have no problems (we’ve been through three modern cars in the time we’ve had the bus, the bus keeps running).

Rich September 10, 2019 at 1:29 a.m.

Oh, the joy of old RV restoration stories! The delights of the celebratory highs and the dejected lows as the owner discovers the water damage, removes the broken cabinet door, or paints over the vinyl wallpaper only to have it all slough off and create a patchwork quilt of paint and primer and sweat. But you have denied us those pleasures, Scott! You must have dozed through the YouTube channels of RV renos, as some call them. About as popular as popcorn at the movies, and as expensive, at least for the producers.

We want to know what you did to the Big Blue Bus (3B) in those two years of restoration. What did you keep, what did you change, how did you fix this or that? What did you find out about Travcos and who did you meet while finding out about them?

What does the wife think? What are her favorite parts of the 3B? What would she, or you, change after your nearly three years on the road? You write too much for Wired (to which I have subscribed for years - and if I could I would add a Gladwellian footnote of near epic proportions, detailing how I also subscribe for my son, in prison here in Texas, who considers Wired as required reading. And then a footnote within that footnote to detail how I discovered you after reading Jason Kehe’s delightful Gladwellian review of Talking To Strangers. At the end of his essay was a link to your piece on exchanging your oven for a waffle iron. The serendipity of the internet. And, of course, some italics for those two titles, and more for just general manuscript dressing) and not enough for the other audience who would enjoy your reflections - people who either live along the road, or are preparing to set out into the mobile lifestyle, or those who envy those who are doing the aforementioned.

I could expatiate for hours, but with an expected audience of one, who is only reading this to decide whether to allow it to sully your otherwise wonderful pages, I will trim things to shape. It may not be the bonzai of essays, but I hope these few words ‘ >) may at least elicit a few moments of editorial interest, if not new levels of verbal nirvana. And perhaps it will encourage you to write about what you did to 3B! All America, and at least one Canadian, wants to know! (we also want to know why the box for URL above is working in right to left not left to right mode, and therefore making entry almost impossible for western thinkers. Which would be a worthy topic for another essay, I am sure!)

Tina Reinartz September 13, 2019 at 12:03 a.m.

Just brought an RV I plan on doing my bucket list. I am kinda scared to be by myself, as a female on the road. Should I be scared? I know I will love rv life I have a fear of that.

Henry Johnson September 26, 2019 at 5:28 p.m.

We sort of inherited a 1971 Travco 227 that looks very much like yours. The paint job is reversed but otherwise very similar. I would love to talk sometime and pick your brain about restoration. I’m totally new to this and can use all the info I can get. I do know that the design for this RV was inspired by “Doc” Tommy Scott out of the Toccoa Ga. Area. Thanks in advance for any questions you might be able to answer.

Scott October 04, 2019 at 8:11 a.m.


Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you liked the waffle article. As for the restoration, I do have an article that covers a little bit of what I did. It was written after the fact, but it has some pictures of the blue bus as it once was: 1969 Dodge Travco Before.


Congratulations on your RV and pursuing your bucket list! I think your question is a very good one and deserves a longer reply than just a comment. So I am working on a longer answer that will be its own page, but my short answer would be: don’t be scared.

Now I am a man, so I can’t speak from experience to what it’s like for a woman alone, but I do think that living on the road is quite possibly the safest way to live in America. And if you stick to established campgrounds (which would be my suggestion, at least in the beginning), you’ll rarely be by yourself.

That said, it is always wise to take precautions and be aware of potential dangers. I’ve seen some very clever ideas from other women traveling alone, which I will put in the longer answer. There are also some very helpful Facebook groups for women traveling alone if you use Facebook (if you don’t it might be worth signing up just for that, I signed up just for the Travco group, which has been very, very helpful). Anyway, I will come back and update this answer when I finish the longer version.


Hey congratulations on the Travco. I will email you separately, but sure, I’m happy to answer any questions about restoring a Travco. I’d be interested to know what you mean by the design was inspired by Tommy Scott… is it a very rockabilly/country looking interior or is there something else to it?

Dave October 07, 2020 at 11:45 a.m.

I’m looking at a 27’ ‘69 Travco for restoration. Any advice? Primarily on tires, since it’s a couple hours from home and the tires hold air, but that’s about it? Another option would be to have it towed here, but I don’t know how it could be transported. You must have SOME experience with that, right? 😁

Scott October 09, 2020 at 9:18 a.m.


I would probably tow it. We’ve only had it towed once, but it wasn’t an issue.

It’s not the tires I’d worry about, though that can be an issue too, but the brakes. Unless you know the previous owner has recently had the brakes done, I would make that the number one priority. And be careful about who you take it to for brakes if you’re not doing it yourself, there’s a lot of brake parts that aren’t available anymore.

Otherwise, you can certainly stick with the split rims. It’s not that hard to find tires, though you will be getting them from truck tire shops, your typical consumer retail tire place won’t have them. I opted to replace the wheels with some 5 lug 19.5s (old UPS trucks use them, so they’re still around), not cheap though.

Car Nut Tacoma February 11, 2021 at 9:27 p.m.

Awesome looking RV. I’ve heard of the Travco motorhome, but I’ve never seen one in person. I’d buy one if I had someone to share the experience with. Among the upgrades I’d give it would be seat belts for all occupants, disc brakes for the front wheels, a Cummins six cyl. Turbo Diesel engine.

Scott February 12, 2021 at 9:19 a.m.

@Car Nut-

Those would all be nice things to have if I were just waving a wand. (Travcos have seat belts, but the others are nice). But the Cummins requires significant body modifications. You have to extend the doghouse into the walkway, which makes the living space awkward. I think there might be a 4-cylinder Cummins that fits if you fab new mounts. Too much investment for me though. I’m happy with the 318 as long as it lasts.

Car Nut Tacoma February 20, 2021 at 8:08 p.m.

I agree. Depending on the engine size and size of the doghouse, a six cyl. Cummins probably wouldn’t work.

Scott February 22, 2021 at 5:05 p.m.

@Car Nut-

Well, the one person I met who had done a cummins swap had to enlarge the doghouse. They did have a Travco 220, but I don’t think the doghouse is any different in though. There’s also luxshak, which is a diesel conversion, don’t think it’s a cummins though.

Car Nut Tacoma March 21, 2022 at 4:27 p.m.

I reckon one could install either Duramax Diesel if one could afford it or a 6.5 litre Turbo Diesel V8 engine.

Car Nut from Tacoma Washington November 26, 2022 at 6:33 p.m.

I’d buy a Dodge Travco if I had someone to share the experience and responsibilities with. I’ve always been interested in pre-1970s Mopar vehicles. Anything between 1965 and 1973.

John Morse February 10, 2023 at 5:38 p.m.

Sweet! living the dream. Travco’s the Coolest. My wife will not make the leap, she does not want to be trapped is the small space with me.

Michael D Jones April 15, 2023 at 8:45 p.m.

I have the opportunity to pick up one of those 1969 Dodge Travco motorhomes for a pretty good price, but it will need to be gutted and rebuilt like you did yours. Could you give me an idea of what the rebuild cost you. I would like to know this before I buy this motorhome.

Mike 208-695-8900

Scott April 16, 2023 at 9:07 p.m.


I will email you a slightly more detailed answer, but I’d budget between $10-$15k to completely build out in the interior and engine. Assuming you do the labor yourself. Triple that if you’re hiring out.

We are sitting at a little more than that, but we were building it out to live in full time, so we spent more than you’d need to if you’re only using it a few weeks a year. We also added things most people don’t need, like solar, which is expensive.

But yeah, it’s not cheap. Like the saying goes, the most expensive RV you’ll ever have is the one you get for free.

Daniel May 08, 2023 at 10:49 a.m.

This is a very nicely written article. Some questions that plagued my mind were : Do your kids go to school? How do you maintain that? What happens when it’s really harsh weather? How tough is it to maintain apt water supply for the bathroom and kitchen? Do you guys roam around the city in familiar places? I’m not from the US, so are there govt allowed places where you can park and “live” for extended periods of time? I apologise but I’m curious since this is the first I’ve ever heard of someone actually living like this with kids. If you’ve answered these questions elsewhere, I wanna read them.

Thanks, Daniel

Scott May 10, 2023 at 3:42 p.m.


I’m putting together an FAQ of sorts. Maybe a video, we’ll see. But to answer a few of your questions quickly. The kids are homeschooled, mostly by my wife, who is a teacher. When it’s harsh weather… we live with it. Our water tank holds 65 gallons, which gets us through about 5 days of boondocking. When we’re out west and doing that a lot we also carry water jugs which gets us a few more days.

In the US there is a lot of public land, everything from very primitive BLM land which has no services, to state parks that provide power, water, and sewer. We use all types. In most cases you can’t stay more than two weeks in one spot, which is why we move around.

I’ll drop a link here when I get something more detailed written up.

Ana November 15, 2023 at 10:33 p.m.

What an inspiring read. Thank you for sharing the view with which you face the world. I’m thankful to have stumbled upon it by serendipity; with the expected resulting resonance following!

May all your travels be expansive and nurturing! Be well!

Nina & Chris Gig Harbor WA December 09, 2023 at 1:16 p.m.

So here we are at the Oregon Inlet Campground, Outer Banks and curious about the blue bus next to us! Looked up a Dodge Travco and what came up but this couple with theee kids, 2 girls and a boy! Wow we are right next to you in our Outdoors RV. Loved reading your stories and so happy you are living the dream of travel and teaching your kids to love the beach. The beach when on the west coast and now the east is our favorite place.

Scott December 12, 2023 at 3:40 p.m.

Nina and Chris-

Thank you, that’s very nice. Sorry I didn’t see this until after you’d left, but glad you enjoyed some of our stories. I hope we weren’t too loud. We’re stuck here while I work on the Jeep, hoping to leave this week. But if you have to be stuck somewhere, this is a great place to stay. happy trails!


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