Mothership of Motorhomes: A Retro Beauty

Russ Moen’s concept was to build his Tourliner like it came out of the 1950s but with today’s technology hidden beneath the classic body and coachwork.

1954 Chevrolet COE Tourliner. Russ Moen made his cabover camper from a stripped motorhome chassis, a ’54 Chevy cab, and a 12-valve Cummins diesel. (Source: Vancouver Sun)

1954 Chevrolet COE Tourliner. Russ Moen made his cabover camper from a stripped motorhome chassis, a ’54 Chevy cab, and a 12-valve Cummins diesel. (Source: Vancouver Sun)

The camper cues came from the aerodynamic aluminum Bowlus Road Chief travel trailers of the mid 1930s.

Moen’s camper truck has received awards at every show since the amazing highway home was completed in 2010, reports the Vancouver Sun.

This eye-popping 1954 Chevrolet cab-over-engine (COE) truck from Vancouver Island (British Columbia) took five years to build with an estimated 6,000 hours spent by the Port Alberni industrial electrician and a lot of help from his friends.

He calls it the “mother ship” because it has so much modern technology.

1954 Chevrolet COE Tourliner. The hand-formed aluminum RV section features birch cabinetry.  (Source: Vancouver Sun)

1954 Chevrolet COE Tourliner. The hand-formed aluminum RV section features birch cabinetry.
(Source: Vancouver Sun)

“It’s not the type of vehicle you just get in and go,” Moen told the Vancouver Sun.

“There is lots to check out to get up and running, like a new motorhome.”

His trophy case is filled with awards from shows all over Vancouver Island, Washington, and California. Among the most notable are the People’s Choice Award at the Peach City Cruise-in (Penticton, British Columbia) and the Art Morrison Builders’ Choice Award at the Good-guys Show (Puyallup, Washington).

There is always a lineup of people 20 deep waiting to look into the vintage camper truck at shows.

“It is entertaining to watch the reaction of people checking it out as they are not sure what to make of it,” Moen admitted.

“I am frequently asked if it is a restoration or a custom build.”

Russ is no newcomer to building and restoring special interest vehicles. They include a 1955 Chevrolet with a 454 LS7 engine; a stock 1973 Camaro Z28; a 1966 Corvette convertible with a 425 horsepower 427 cubic inch engine; and a custom 1957 Chevrolet hardtop with full Corvette suspension and running gear, the Vancouver Sun reports.

His current ride is a 1934 Ford three-window coupe hot rod with a 383-cubic-inch engine and six-speed manual transmission.

Moen agrees that he could have bought a brand new motorhome for less money and no effort. But he likes to do as much as possible himself.

“Believe it or not, my wife and I are not campers,” he said.

“I built the Tourliner for long distance travel and so my wife and I could go to car shows in comfort.”

Some of the features of this hand-built rig that is used to travel long distances and stay in at car shows include:

  • Modified motorhome chassis
  • Re-engineered Cummins diesel with 400 horsepower and 800 lb.-ft of torque coupled to an automatic overdrive transmission for maximum fuel economy
  • Full air-ride suspension
  • High output stereo, three rear-view cameras, heated seats, air conditioning, and leather upholstery
  • Camper made from aluminum with fiberglass rear fenders
  • Birchwood interior with cherry trim and teak floor with soft surfaces in dark saddle leather
  • Diesel stove, refrigerator, shower, toilet, rear air conditioning, inverter, flat screen TV, LED lighting
  • Carries 70 gallons of fuel and 70 gallons of fresh water
Under the skin of this 1954 Chevrolet Tourliner is technology ranging from a Cummins diesel engine to rear-view cameras and air conditioning. (Source: Vancouver Sun)

Under the skin of this 1954 Chevrolet Tourliner is technology ranging from a Cummins diesel engine to rear-view cameras and air conditioning. (Source: Vancouver Sun)

The Tourliner will be a feature attraction at the Vancouver Collector Car Show Sale and Auction taking place at the Pacific International Exhibition June 22-23.

There will be more than 500 special interest vehicles on display from owners and car clubs along with an estimated 120 collector vehicles going across the auction block.

The theme is “100 years of cars in Vancouver,” with vehicles displayed over 12 acres at the PNE utilizing the Agrodome and Forum buildings along with large tent space.

Worth Pondering…

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
—Maya Angelou

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