If there’s one area where vintage rigs beat modern RVs every time, it has to be style. In the past, you could get an epic little Toyota pickup-based camper dripping with character. I found what has to be the coolest Toyota pickup camper to grace this planet. This 1989 Toyota Hilux is a JDM diesel 4×4 camper with a dually rear axle and a ritzy interior.
Japan’s classic RVs offer a quirky alternative for those who want to camp a bit differently. I’ve featured a number of glorious JDM campers here, from a Mitsubishi Delica turned Class C RV to a bus made into a rolling hotel room. A lot of Japan’s campers are pickup trucks with a fibreglass shell over the back. That’s what you’re getting with the Toyota Hilux Galaxy we’ll examine today, but this one is even better than usual.
This camper started life as a fifth-generation Toyota Hilux LN106. These trucks are known for being extremely durable. BBC Top Gear once subjected a Hilux from this generation to fire, a wrecking ball, a dunk in the sea, and a building collapse — and it still ran and drove. These are classic trucks with cockroach-level durability. A perfect platform for a camper.
The best resource I could find for information on the Galaxy camper we’re viewing here is Ottoex Adventure Vehicles, a U.S. importer of JDM vehicles with a knack for camper vans. Ottoex explains that the Galaxy shell is 100 per cent fibreglass and doesn’t have a wooden subfloor like you’d find in many campers.
You’re probably wondering about those dorky protrusions coming off of the truck’s doors. The base truck doesn’t have them, so why are they here? Ottoex says they improve aerodynamics. And this little barn probably needs all the help it can get.
Information on these campers is surprisingly scant. Some sources — like Bring a Trailer — state that around 80 of these things were built in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Normally, these campers have a standard, boring RV interior. But that’s where this one strays from the rest. Check this out:
I spoke with the seller, Derek, at Northeast Auto Imports, the New Hampshire dealership where this camper is currently listed for sale. He says the interior was refurbished using reclaimed wood from a barn that was over a century old. I was blown away by the sight of this interior.
The camper was imported from Japan in 2020 and Derek got right to work overhauling it. He told me the man responsible for the interior work was given a pass to do whatever he wanted. The result is seriously impressive.
Just for reference, here’s what the interior of a stock Hilux Galaxy looks like. Cosy, efficient — but a world apart from the truck Northeast Imports is selling.
The interior overhaul includes reupholstered door cards and seats. Out back, the living area includes a new stovetop, sink and composting toilet. Additional amenities come in the form of solar panels and an awning. And yep, the bed is brand new too.
This camper has another trick feature: The front portion pops up, providing extra room and ventilation in the sleeping deck.
Backing it all up is a Toyota 3L 2.8-litre diesel four-cylinder powering all four wheels through a manual transmission and a two-speed transfer case. These engines are rated at 90 hp and 63 kg-ft torque in factory form, but this one is far from stock. The list of mods includes a Garrett GBC20 turbocharger, Snow Performance methanol injection, a water-to-air intercooler, an aluminium radiator and ARP head studs.
This thoroughly hot-rodded engine now puts out 111 horses and 105 kg-ft torque at the wheels. This 2,858 kg RV isn’t fast, but the seller says it will happily cruise American highways at 121 km/h without any drama. All that extra power hasn’t hurt the fuel economy: it still averages around 20 mpg, roughly what a stocker would do.
So, what will something like this cost you? It failed to sell on Bring a Trailer when it was bid up to $US27,010 ($37,495) earlier this month. Now Derek has decided to offer it at his import dealership for $US67,500 ($93,704). Ottoex sold theirs for $US49,995 ($69,403) while a newer one crossed Bring a Trailer for $US36,500 ($50,669). Given the wonderful interior on Derek’s truck, I think it’s worth it!
I’ve reached out to Toyota in hopes of getting more history on these campers, and especially those external door attachments. I will update if I hear back.
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