Toyota Dolphin RV – What You Should Know

The Toyota Dolphin RV is a popular RV that has something of a cult following or, at least, a firm fan base.

It’s a C-minus Class RV, which is the same concept as a B+ Plus RV. They are compact and the price reasonable. 

Toyota Dolphin RV – What You Should Know

The Toyota Dolphin RV is a micro-mini motorhome. It has a cab-over design. The cab-over design has the bedroom in the front and above the cab. This means there’s far more spaciousness in the back than you might expect.

The Toyota Dolphin RV is one of the only micro-RVs ever made. If you want to be able to go where you want, taking your living quarters with you, and you don’t want to break the bank on fuel, then this RV is a good option.

Furthermore, a self-contained motorhome means you needn’t fret about having a tow vehicle.

Models Of Toyota RV

There are 600, 500, 300, and 700 models. The models are very similar but with slight variations in specifications.

The models are: Dolphin, Chinook, Sunrader, Winnebago, and Itasca. 

History

The Toyota Dolphin RV didn’t start out as a motorhome. They started as small Toyota pickup trucks. Mini motorhomes were built by a number of different camper manufacturers throughout the USA.

The manufacturers then placed their motorhomes on the Toyota chassis, a pickup chassis.

Dolphin​ – Class C was Toyota’s first micro-mini motorhome. It was introduced in 1976. In 1986 the company name changed to National RV. New Dolphin models were produced right up till 1997.

The Toyota Dolphin RVs were manufactured by National RV from 1979 to 1990. The company was hit hard by an axle recall due to some of the campers that were being produced being too heavy for the axles.

In 1982, the Toyota Dolphin RV was upgraded to a 20-foot model and used the same engine as the Toyota 22R.

Dimensions

These RVs are small. They can fit into a regular parking space.

21 ft long and 7 ft wide. 

They weigh around 4825 lbs.

Construction

There’s fiberglass insulation within the walls and also the roof. The roof slants with drainage in mind.

Chassis Section

The chassis for the Toyota Dolphin RV has four-speed transmission. The rear wheels are dual in nature. The RV has gas shocks and the springs are strong so the vehicle is very good on a variety of road surfaces. It doesn’t easily get sand bogged. 

The large radiator cools the RV efficiently.

Pros

Pet-Friendly

You have sufficient space to take your pet with you on your adventures.

Compact

The Toyota RV has a compact size that makes it very popular among many campers. These RVs are manageable in size. The compact size puts it in the category of a mini-RV.

The RV can be parked almost anywhere, including most residential areas and they can fit into most driveways. You can also camp anywhere, which is not the case with larger RVs.

Payload Capacity

The Toyota Dolphin RV offers 775-pound payload capacity with full fuel, propane and freshwater tanks.

Optional Extras

Roof and dash air-conditioners, cruise control and AM/FM stereo.

Amenities

Light for the porch
Fire extinguisher
Battery charger
Clock (low voltage)
Drain horse for the sewer. 
Refrigerator
A couple of waste holding tanks. 

Living Space

Stainless steel sink
Side lounge that can seat five people and can be made into sleeping space for a further two people to that of the separate over-the-cab double bed.
Convertible settee
Small bathroom with built-in shower.
Small kitchen
Double bed
Cushions
Large wardrobe with wooden drawers.
Carpeted floor
Flush toilet
Basin
Water heater
Fresh water tank

The fact that there are separate areas for sleeping and chilling out is great. The main bedroom has a permanent bed, so not having to fold the bed away every day.

Further sleeping can be accommodated by converting the couch into a bed. The living space means you have ample room for camping equipment and all the necessities. 

Mechanical Reliability

Even although Toyota stopped manufacturing motorhomes a good few years ago, there are still lots of these Toyota Dolphin RVs out and about and that’s because they are so reliable.

The Toyota Dolphin motorhome is reliable and offers longevity if you look after it. Inspect it regularly for damages and deal with them quickly. The chassis is strongly built, as you’d expect from the Toyota Hilux.

Repairs And Replacements

Parts for the chassis are generally not hard to find for repairs and replacements and shouldn’t be costly. Breakdowns are not common. Easy for mechanics to work on.

Fuel Efficiency

These RVs get excellent miles per gallon. Toyota Dolphin RVs gas mileage compares really well with its competitors. It’s around average to get 15-16 mpg from a Toyota Dolphin RV.

When you consider that many RVs only get 5-6 mpg you can see how you benefit. The mileage is similar to a small campervan. Gas mileage like this helps you to save money. If you want to RV regularly, you should consider Toyota Dolphin RV.

Safe

Heavy-duty springs and gas shocks mean you can go off roading safely. The reliable engine is also a big factor in making you feel safe as you travel about.

Good Drivability

This RV drives like a large truck. It copes well with asphalt, sand and gravel roads, which makes it a superb option for the open roads.

Great Flexibility

The small size means these RVs are highly flexible. Short and more lightweight than standard RVs they can handle steep roads that larger RVs can’t handle. This means you have far more camping opportunities due to their manoeuvrability.

The fact that they are lightweight, weighing less than a standard RV, makes them very attractive.

Perfect For ‘Boondocking’

Boondocking is when you pull off the highway and stay at free locations in your RV. These free places will have zero or limited facilities, but if this is what you crave then this RV is the answer. You’ll save a lot of money.

Excellent Floor Plan, Design And Use Of Space

The over-cab bedroom gives this RV about a quarter more space than a campervan. The efficient use of living space is due to a unique floor plan. It has its own bathroom at the back, which you wouldn’t get in a campervan.

Engine

2.4-liter engine. Fuel injected electronically. Capable of propelling a 2.5-ton rig. They can run 200 000 miles on their original engine. This is amazing. They have one of the longest running engines ever produced.

Maximum horsepower of 4,800 RPM. Torque of 129 pounds. Four cylinders. Fuel delivered through a carburetor. Overdrive automatic transmission

Storage

There’s more than enough storage area to store camping equipment.

Toyota Camper Community

Toyota Campervan owners look out for each other on the road. They also have an active online presence in forums and social media groups, such as the Toyota Motorhome Club.

There’s a wealth of information to be gathered by joining the forums and you can find out about parts and other very useful practical information.

Cons

Toyota Dolphin RV

Slow

The Toyota Dolphin RV cannot reach the speeds of other RVs due to the V6 engine. The maximum speed on flat roads or down a hill is 65mph. This gives you a chance to really take in the views but can make long journeys longer.

Repair Issues

Being over twenty years old it can be difficult if there’s a need for repairs or there are issues with the RV. Getting the layouts in their original form can be hard. Getting parts for fixes and repairs is harder than for new RV models in the market.

Prone To Water Damage

Water damage to the floor and the carpet can be an issue.

Wider

The Toyota Dolphin RV is the widest of the Toyota motorhomes. This can be frustrating when driving in places that are more compact and on narrow roads.

Finding A Toyota RV to buy

To buy a used Toyota Dolphin RV it’s best to find a reputable dealer. Ensure you know the manufacturer’s year. Most used models from the 2000s are much more reliable than those from the 1980s. Inspect the roof, the walls, and the overall condition of the RV.

You can also try Googling ‘Toyota RV/Motorhome for sale’, use your local Craigslist, look on eBay and on RV forums.

Renovation Tips For Toyota Dolphin RV

These RVs usually require some renovation because they are over 20 years old. Water damage is an issue quite often and you need to check the roof for leaks and the floor for holes. Some highly recommended renovations are:

Reseal the roof.
Replace roof vents.
Fill in holes on the floor. Scrap wood can be used.
New curtains and curtain rods will make it look better.
Paint surfaces, including the ceiling
Get new seats and a new couch.
Get a new carpet. 

Conclusion

The Toyota Dolphin RV is a supreme example of an oldie that’s a goodie. The fact that this RV remains as popular as it does and has such a thriving following is a testament to its status as a reliable and highly adaptable RV.

It offers everything you need for a compact life on the road. It’s size and flexibility give you access to places other RVs cannot venture into and its reliable, stalwart engine and chassis mean it can take you camping in remote areas with more difficult terrain.

It really depends on whether you are comfortable with compact living and what your priorities are.

If you’re hankering after the open road to get out there and explore with your living quarters right there with you wherever you go, then this RV is definitely worth looking into.

Madeline Cooper
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