Sunday, January 8, 2006


Welcome to the tale of the Redneck Express! From here on in unfolds the tale of my adventures with the cantankerous creation I call the Redneck Express.

He or perhaps It, depending on your perspective, is the combination of a retired 1992 Dodge 3/4 4x4 extended cab Power Wagon (Dodge's fancy name for a 3/4 4-wheel drive Pickup Truck) from the Oregon State Parks fleet, and a mostly-restored 1974 KIT 1106 Kamper slide-in Truck Camper.

I say mostly restored on account of the fact that that old truck camper is one never ending project, just like any 34 year old rig that gets used on a full-time basis. If something isn't wearing out, there's always something that needs improving or fixing up!

He was named the Redneck Express back around January of this year (2008), when I got the idea for the name from an old specialty pickup truck that Dodge used to make called the "Lil' Red Express Truck."

Before that, he had a less than publicly utter-able name given to the him by my wife-to-be from the more than one occasion that the faulty fuel level sensor would give an erroneous reading and promptly strand us on the side of the road, leaving me with a short hike to the nearest gas station.

Think of the parentage of a male puppy born from a female dog in very literal terms and you'll immediately come to understand what the rig was called in the past, at least up to the point where I finally dropped the gas tank and replaced the entire fuel pump assembly.

This is what the Redneck Express looked like when I first drove her home with the camper on the back.

And this is what she looks like now:

Now, tell me that the name isn't fitting? She's even got the shotgun rack behind the seat, though its rare to see a rifle or shotgun in them, vs fishing poles.

Hence, Redneck Express.

Now, that we've covered the basics of why I call my rig what its called and why its in the name of this story, perhaps I should move on to a bit more about me, the Redneck operating the Redneck Express.

I was born in the jolly year of 1979, to a crisp, wet Oregon morning at the tail end of April. During the first few years of my life I traveled around America with my parents in a 1980 Dynacruiser 10' Slide-in Truck Camper on the back of a bright red 1979 Chevy C20 regular cab Camper Special pickup.

My folks later sold the camper when I was about 2-3 years old when my father lost his job during Carter's recession, and I missed that camper every day since. I still miss it, it was a great camper and I've never seen one like it since.

Even though its time in my life was short and as an adult, I remember very very little of besides brief blurbs of image and events, I've always wanted one of my own ever since.

My pursuit of owning a camper didn't really blossom until I bought my first pickup truck, a 1990 Dodge Half ton long bed with the 5.2L V8. My mother let slip the concept of finding a camper to put on it, and fatally set off my desire to own one of my own.

However, my income level (which was always fluctuating because of the unpredictability of hours working for Safeway Food & Drug), didn't allow for me to take up the pursuit.

Instead, I made due by taking the old aluminum canopy that used to adorn the back of my parents 79 Chevy (sold on a cold winters day in 2004) and converting it into a truck camper of sorts.

From my old Truck Topper Camper's Website

Click the Image for Full-SizeThey say all great things are inspired by something that was even greater than themselves. Back in the year 1965 there existed a company by the name of Downey Steel. Amongst their many products they created one unique item that caught my eye the moment I saw it. This product was the "Downey Pullman Camper."

Click the Image for Full-Size I am thankful that Frank_EP on the RV.Net truck camper forum posted his pictures of this rig. This "Antique Camper" was a great inspiration to me when I built my own version of it .

Frank's combo was a 1965 GMC 3/4 Ton V6 with the 1965 Downey Pullman Deluxe Slide Roof on the back.

Click the Image for Full-Size

Click the Image for Full-Size

Some of the features that I liked in the Pullman was the cabinets by the rear end of the camper, allowing access to them while outside of the truck. In the original Pullman, it also had a cooler on the driver's side by the tailgate, making access to your chilled food fairly easy. Besides the rear cabinets you also have overhead cabinets running along both sides of the camper, giving you even more space for your belongings, while leaving room for the folding bed that made into a bench seat.

Click the Image for Full-Size

One of the major things that made the Pullman facinating was the slide roof on it. This extra roof would slide out over the back of the truck andallowed for a canvas wall to be added, giving you a nice enclosed area for an outdoor shower.

Click the Image for Full-SizeThis combined with the big swinging backdoor/cabinet, you had a full campsite ready to go in just a few minutes after arrival, making preparation for meals or doing personal hygiene fairly quick and easy. One thing I get a kick out of is in the right picture, the hand cranked can-opener that swings out of the inside of the door cabinet.

Its amazing to look back at how things were built back in the 1960s and on, as there was a lot of smart inovation out there if you knew where to look. Thank goodness for the Pullman, what an inspiration it is!

My version of the Pullman

Click the Image for Full-Size
Click the Image for Full-Size
Click the Image for Full-Size

Click the Image for Full-Size

This was how I went camping for about 2 years. My pursuit of a truck camper became more driven after one very wet and cold camping trip in 2006 when we got snowed on the last day.
After that, I swore I was going to get myself a real truck camper.

Since then I've made several attempts (3 in total) at getting a truck camper, the last one being the success. The first camper I tried buying as a 1972 8' Dynacruiser that was nice and fully self contained, but wound up being a rot box. Second camper was nicer, a 1973 KIT 10' Slide in, but it really was way too much for the half ton truck and I sold it 4 days after buying it.

Not too long after that, the transmission on the faithful half ton started making distressing sounds and I decided it was time for another truck.

Enter the 3/4 Ton Power Wagon, and the Redneck Express.