Hooked by a Chinook

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Sep 7, 2012
Edmonton, Canada, T5E-5R9
This may be new to some of you, but some already knew. Two months ago I bought a 1977 Toyota Chinook off a guy (a great guy, I found out) here on Mud. And due to our schedules I could not take possession until this past weekend. My brother and I flew down to Portland on Saturday morning and were back in Edmonton Monday evening. It was a very long three days but it drove the 1000 miles with no issues.

More to follow after I've recovered from the trip.


IMG_20160605_0510412 Crop.jpg


I've been pining for a Chinook for quite some time now. I guess ever since I saw the infamous brown "Nolan's" Chinook. It just seems to be an awesome platform for a 4WD camper. If you are not aware, the Chinooks did not come in 4WD so many people will take the shell off the back and place it on a newer Toyota 4WD. I thought it would be sweet to take one of these shells and put it on a 75. In fact, I think that you could make it a bolt-on/bolt-off affair with the removable 75 top. So, I've been keeping my eye out for some cheap Chinook shells thinking that maybe if there was a good deal I would pick one up. I've seen a few but never pulled the trigger because buying the shell would only be the first step and then I would have to buy more and store more and find space to work on the project.

However, I was lucky enough to just be going through the "New Posts" on Mud and found this in the camper classifieds. It didn't take me long to decide it was for me. And the reason it is "the one" is because this Chinook is already a 4x4.


The story has it that back in the day, when Toyota did not make a 4x4 pickup truck, you could take your truck into a shop and get it converted into a 4x4 and that is what happened to this one. The conversion was done by a company called Low Manufacturing.

It drove well for the 1000 mile trip so I think it is mechanically sound. The Engine seems strong and didn't really have an issue except to keep it from overheating but it was a really hot weekend. The drivetrain seems ok, but there is a strange vibration type noises at 65 mph so I'll have to look into that so I can go at least 110kmh. The drivetrain is very different from my cruisers too. I think I read somewhere that the front axle is a Dana of some sort and I found it odd that it has CV joints and not Birfields. The Tcase is also set back a lot! it is like mid-truck, but it does have a massive skid plate.




The interior was gutted by the previous owner as his plans were to rebuild it but he did not get to that. My plans are similar in that I don't think I am going to make too many mods to the engine or drivetrain yet. I will fix up the camper portion and make sure everything is running well and safe and use it for a while as is. Depending on how well I like it and how well it performs based on my needs, I will move on from there. If it works out well, I may very well be putting a Chinook shell onto a 75 some day.


The body is in great shape and the canvas as well. The previous owner, Gus, is a super guy and went above and beyond to make sure that the rig was ready to go for me. My hats off to him.

I think it won't take too much to get this back on the road. ... or trail.
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Thanks Jason.

Now onto tackling the issues and getting the Out of Province inspection. I think that's all I will require even though I bought it out of Country. If anyone knows how detailed these are, let me know. Right now I think that there are only 2 issues that would not pass. Rust holes and non-working headlights.

For some reason, no matter how good the Toyota, it always has rust issues and this one is no different. The body on this thing is in spectacular condition. For the last 5 years it was stored literally right next to the ocean, but inside, and there is some surface rust starting in on the hood which can easily be taken care of. But when the previous owner got it, the floors were already rusted out.

Driver Side Floor

Passenger Side Floor

Passenger Side

And because it is raining today I got to find out why the floors are rusted out.

Driver Side

Passenger Side

Somehow water is leaking in and down the door frame. on the passenger side you can actually watch it running down the door and dripping onto the floor. Good thing there are rust holes there to let it drain otherwise it would be a swimming pool! There were remnants of shag carpeting in here so I am guessing that that acted as a perfect sponge to sop up all the water and keep the floors wet and rusty for many years.
There is a gap on the windshield rubber seal on the bottom of each side and I wonder if that is the point of water infiltration, but the area doesn't look like it has been rusting so I'm not sure. But then again, if the water drains that freely, it may dry up quick enough to not allow it to rust. Either way, it will have to be addressed.

Passenger Side Bottom

Passenger Side Top

And of course there were also some other leaks on the inside of the camper as well. The largest being above the cab in the bunk area.


The others are around the door, which is almost expected


and the lights which are pretty minor and shouldn't be too much of an issue to fix.


Anyway, it's a good thing it was raining so that I could discover these leaks before I got too far in.
I don't know what's going on with the headlights! I have everything apart.

All the other lights work but the headlights do not. I have power at the fuses but then there seems to be no power going to the switch for the headlights. I just noticed this morning this "box" coming from the fuse box and think perhaps this may be my issue. I guess I will take it off and see what it is.
Remove the wiper arms, and remove that cowl vent panel. My experience has been rust along the seam welds, and where
the heater outside air source is. It seeps along the panel joints.
Great find, I always marvel at these when I see them. My friend in Nanaimo has a conventional 2 wheel drive camper version that took
them cross Canada for 3 months without a hitch. The 22r did it all.
For some reason someone here in Honolulu owns one....less than 100 total miles of road here.
At least with modern technology you will be able to reduce weight when you start to install the interior.
BTW, in BC for some reason the heater has to function to pass the inspection, and headlights, wipers. Don't know
about any more mandatory items.
Thanks for the advice cruiserpilot. Unfortunately, there is no cowl vent panel to remove. When I thought about fixing up that surface rust I thought I would just paint the hood and cowl vent cover as well, but it is not a cover, it is one piece.


I did notice this rust hole on the passenger side above the AC, but as you can see in the pic, it is bone dry so I guess it is not the culprit.


Thanks for the OOP advice. Everything appears to function well except for the lights. I know holes are an issue, but I wonder what the minimum is that I can do to pass. I've heard that they just have to be sealed up from exhaust, so a piece of tin and some tar might get it past inspection and then I can work on proper repair patches at my leisure.
OK. Headlight issue solved. It was a bad connection in the headlight relay. I thought that there might be some relay or something else in the circuit, but I'm no electrical expert so I didn't know what to look for or where to look. I ended up hotwiring the lights directly to the battery and luckily after I did that, when I turned on the headlights I could hear a clicking under the hood. After I found out where it was coming from, I wiggled it and the headlights work!

Removed it and cleaned the connections and if need be I will replace it.


Talk about hard to get at though.


The arrow pointing the right shows where the relay is. The arrow pointing down shows the captured nut. The bolt is inside and I could barely get a 10mm stubby in there. I guess the whole thing is supposed to come off to accesss the relay.
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Nice find Larry.

I had an OOP done on my 2006 Chev van last year and had to repair a pinion seal leak (it was a weep really, no drips at all), just because the flange was wet. I also had 2 power steering lines that showed dampness at the ends that needed to be changed to pass.
Ouch! That doesn't bode well for me. There's quite a bit of oily goodness under the truck.

Are there special places that do the inspections or can any shop do them?
Not every shop can do OOP. My insurance company (State Farm) gave me this number when I got the 81 inspected. Was just a mechanical, not OOP but you could ask. He was all of 10min getting it done, on my driveway too. Alberta Auto Inspections at 780-984-2426 does it for $75 plus GST. They come to your house.
Ouch! That doesn't bode well for me. There's quite a bit of oily goodness under the truck.

Are there special places that do the inspections or can any shop do them?

I`m not sure Larry.
I had it done at my son`s used car dealer employer. The mechanic was fairly young and maybe still going strictly by the book. Or maybe used car dealers are scrutinized closer by the DOT. I had budgeted a grand for OOP repairs and it came in much lower so I was happy with the outcome.

Other guys in our club have had good experiences with Pro-Active, a Calgary mechanic shop that specializes in LCs and JDMs. Ask the question on the RMLCA mailing list. A few have gone to Canadian Tire with mixed levels of reasonableness.

There is an AB gubmnt website that lists the criteria somewhere. Peter Straub posted parts of it several years ago.
I did a bit of research after reading your post and found the manual that lists the criteria for rejection.

In the case of oil leaks
  • 7.10a. Any engine compartment oil leak exists that, in the opinion of the inspecting technician, could be a potential fire hazard.
  • 11.3a. A transmission, transaxle or transfer case oil leak exists that, in the opinion of the inspecting technician, could cause a fire.
  • 11.4b. A Differential leaks.

And for rust
  • 6.2c. Rust perforation affecting the structural integrity of the vehicle or perforation allowing exhaust gases into the passenger compartments exists (refer to page 22 for clarification).
  • 11.6b. Any floor pan repairs have been completed using a method not meeting OEM or industry standards.

And the other thing that gets me thinking now is all of the dried out rubber bushings, however, there is this
  • 8.11 Control Arms, Trailing Arms, Radius Arms, Strut Rods, Sway Bars, Etc.
***Weathered bushings may or may not be a reason for a vehicle to fail...refer too the "Method of Inspection" note at the beginning of this section***​

It seems that the standards are more geared towards newer vehicles that may have had shoddy repairs done to them and are now being sold to a place where they have no history (out of province). On an old vehicle like mine, I think it really would depend on who inspects and what their opinion is. I don't think I will be taking this to CT or any other large facility. I think I want to take it to someone who understands that this is a 40 year old vehicle that may not be perfect, but is safe.
And here is the inspection manual.


  • amltmanualdec2009.pdf
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so frigging cool larry…. serious envy right now… wonder what that axle is….

OOP's suck. I'd risk canadian tire…but leave them things to fine and feel good about…. We did that with steves 74 and had luck..
Thanks. I hope it turns out to be as cool as I think it can be. Once I get the interior done, I should be able to replace my small camper with this. And I actually think my wife will like it better.

I need to talk to you more about the OOP. I'm a bit surprised that CT passed Steve's old 74. I really thought that they would take advantage of an old vehicle like that. Although I can see oil on the underside of the truck, I haven't yet seen any oil drips on my driveway in the week that it's been there so maybe just a good underside wash will fix that.

I hope that I don't have to do anything to the driveline just yet, as I have no idea what the driveline is or how to determine the parts necessary.
Here are some more pics of that front diff. From what little I can find out, Low Mfg was big into converting mainly Datsuns into 4x4's in the 70s.

It appears that the /t-case may be a Dana20 or if very rare, a combination of a Dana 20 and 300. The front axle they say is a Dana 30 or may at least house Dana 30 innards. Who knows for sure.






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