Best Pre-Computerized Old RV's

Hi everyone! I’ve pretty much had my heart set on being patient for a good deal on a used promaster but VanDweller has me seriously reconsidering this. An old pre-computerized RV might not be as pretty or modern but the more I think about it the more and more practical it seems.

The main things that concern me is I want to be able to park in cities and not have to worry about being run off by the policy and I have no idea where to start as far as which models are reliable/best bang for your buck.

Much love and thanks in advance to any kind souls who want to help!

Greetings & Welcome!

The Dodge 318 drivetrain, prior to the implementation of smog devices in 1975-76 ish, have been the most reliable vans and motorhomes I have ever owned, and also got the best gas mileage. Beginning with the smog devices, the reliability went downhill, maintenance went up, and gas mileage went down. The slant 6 225ci engine was good, IF it had the cast iron block (some were aluminum), but it was underpowered for motohomes. 1976 Dodge drivetrain motorhomes were the sweet spot for me.

The 1987-1990 Dodge Grand Caravans & Plymouth Grand Voyagers, with the Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 engine and TorqueFlite automatic transmission was possibly the best minivan ever sold in America. Great, reliable, FWD drivetrain that included great handling in all weather conditions.

With Fords, the pre-smog, 1976 and older with the 390 engine was the sweet spot.

For Chevy/GM, the carbureted 283, 305, and 327 engines were pretty reliable. Anything bigger not so much. The biggest problem with Chevy/GM vehicles newer than the 60’s is the lack of quality and high maintenance costs. Vans had roof leak problems, and motohomes had overheating, transmission, differential, and brake problems, even IF they had one of the good engines. The gas mileage sucked on the newer 350 and up engines, and when smog controls went into effect it made everything just that much worse. I read somewhere that the last good chevy’s/GM’s rolled of the assembly line in 1964 with the single exception being the classic GMC Motorhome in the 70’s.

Leaks are always problematic. You want to make sure you have no current leaks and no moldy/mildewy smell inside. I don’t worry about older repaired leaks provided they were fixed, even if telltale signs remain, but no foul smells. After the drivetrain/driveability aspect, leaks are my biggest worry. Double check to make sure the tires aren’t outdated, as they often are on motorhomes. They can look brand new, but be very dangerous to drive on. If in doubt, buy new properly rated ones. Safety is important.

Be wary of propane leaks, they can kill you. Propane, solar, owner modified wiring, and more recently lithium batteries are among the top causes of RV fires, explosions, and deaths. Often RV repair people and shops aren’t even competent with these problems. BEWARE!

Everything else is pretty easily fixable, and relatively cheap.


"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller

You may not have to get something pre-computerized, they started making fuel injection in the early 80’s. Carbureted engines while simple can be a pain. Consider altitude, if you live on the coast and your carburetor is tuned for that don’t expect it to run well when you get to Colorado. At least this was my experience as I had to adjust both the air/fuel mixture and the vacuum advance for it to run properly at elevation and the mechanics actually suggested rej-etting them. So expect to see a mechanic when you get up high for that and then again at the coast. Granted we had a carter thermoquad which is a nightmare of a complicated carburetor. My advice on these is to buy an older one that is a two barrel you can buy and put a modern holley carb on for $300 or so. Don’t make the mistake of letting someone rebuild it for you unless they really know what they are doing. In my experience every mechanic I spoke to “knew” how to work on carburetors but hadn’t done so for 20 years. Finding someone that really understood how they worked was difficult and also expensive as their services came at a premium.

I would also take a look at a site like rock auto as well before you make a purchase of an older vehicle. Browse around and see what you can still buy and what you cannot. While our original van was carbureted, it still had emissions/smog parts to the system. These were basically impossible to find for our 83 b350 conversion.

As far as being run off by police, that is really dependent on location and you. Some places and people are fine with it, some are not. Arrive late, leave early, don’t make waves and you’ll probably be fine. Of course if your RV screams I’m sleeping in here, people may have an issue with that. Also some RV parks may simply deny to allow you to stay there if your rig is too old.


I ended up getting a 2018 promaster with 37k miles on it for 20,599 after TTL, thanks guys!


Congrats! Keep us updated on your progress.


"Be a trendsetter and support yourself !!!" ~ Camp4Ever