Saturday, November 26, 2022



Don’t look a Class B white elephant in the mouth

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

One half of this writing crew, who shall remain anonymous, is prone to the use of mixed metaphors. Needless to say, she is a source of great humor. But on this occasion, the titled mixed metaphor is far from a laughing matter. It all has to do with our friend John and his Class B motorhome. Actually, we wish we could say “his” and mean it. Now the motorhome is ours.

It all started when John had the audacity to, as Shakespeare put it, “shuffle off his mortal coil.” Our friend’s humor outlived him, because not long after we learned of his death, the estate’s executor notified us we had come into possession of his 1988 “Custom Camper” built in Spokane, Washington. Normally, as an RVing family, we’d have been gratified that John thought so highly of us.

But here’s where that “white elephant” thing comes in. Some time back, John was making his then-annual snowbird migration down from Washington state to Quartzsite, Arizona. Somewhere north of Parker, the faithful motorhome’s transmission turned up its toes. And towed into a shop in Parker, John waited around while repairs were made. The ride from Parker to Quartzsite is but a mere 40-mile trip, and John happily got behind the wheel to finish up his interrupted journey.

Alas, somewhere between Parker and Quartzsite, the blue steed started to smoke. John told us he was just certain that the tranny job was more of a problem than a fix, but somehow, he managed to get the rig into Quartzsite, shut it off, and there it sat for uncounted years. Until that fateful day when we heard from the executor. Since John lived in an RV park, we contacted the park managers to make arrangements to wind up his estate – including the classy van.

Classy it is: A nice, extended-length Dodge van, with the custom popped-up roof. Wet bathroom, galley with stove and refrigerator, heat, convertible bed. But with that one small problem – parked with the wind out of the tires in the storage area. And that, for the park manager, was a major bone of contention. That van had to be out of there, pronto. Possessing little in the way of the skills of a professional mechanic (we’re good for an oil change, maybe even a brake job, but that’s about it), we were hard pressed to do anything much. A friend took a shine to the motorhome, and at his own expense, hired a tow company to move the rig to the dry wash next to our house.

And there it stayed. Our friend loved the interior of the rig, had visions of a spiffed up Class B smoking down the highway – but that historical smoke from the drive to Parker to Quartzsite haunted him. The dreams turned into a nightmare, and our little blue/white elephant sat in the wash.

We decided something had to be done. Why not at least start the thing up, prove that the engine ran? There was penetrating oil to be shot into the cylinders, a battery to be installed, a key to be turned! And just what kind of sounds does a white elephant (or a gift horse) make, you ask? Not a bellow. Not a whinny. A click. A simple click that sounded as though it came from the starter. And that turn signal that had been blinking reassuringly when we turned the key? No blink, no more. The whole contraption sat there as silent as the proverbial sphinx.

What’s to be done with a silent elephant or horse of unknown condition? The latter might be sent to the glue factory. But this horse isn’t even up to staggering to the glue factory. The nearest scrap yard – about 150 miles away, but “You’ll have to bring it to us, we couldn’t possibly come all that way to pick it up.”

So then what’s to be done? Put it on craigslist as a “project” for somebody who has time, energy and inclination – all of which we are of short supply? We toss it open to your suggestions.


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3 years ago

Sell or give it it to one of those curb rancher types in Portland, he’ll need it to replace the one he just bought that some doper bum made uninhabitable within one week.

Thomas Becher
3 years ago

Put it for sale on craig s list. Don’t just do it locally but a wide area. Somebody IS interested in it. Price it reasonably. I have friends that travel halfway across the country to buy farm tractors for restoration. When all else fails, put an ad on Craigs list CURB ALERT and give it away. Somebody will take it away for free.

3 years ago

I think I’d get a Cutting Torch and start salvaging what you can and the rest, CUT UP and take it to a metal scrap yard and get a little money out of it.

If it doesn’t run or has major engine and tranny problems, time for it to become a thing of the Past!

4 years ago

Kars for Kids. Donate it. They’ll even tow it for you.

4 years ago

I think selling it on Craigslist as a project vehicle is a good idea. Being up front about its condition, along with pricing it accordingly, should bring you hordes of interested parties. Lots of folks are living full-time in vans nowadays, so there’s a market for sure. Best of luck, whatever your decision!

4 years ago

1.) Fix it up enough to use it as a guest house.
2.) Fix it enough to use it for an Air BnB. You’d be amazed at the weird things being rented out as Air BnB accommodations! Even someone at Slab City uses a beat-up trailer as a guest rental. Come up with a catchy phrase to differentiate your “unit” from most other common rentals.

Bill Bateman
4 years ago

yard art!

Patrecia Shaw
4 years ago

Update us when you decide what to do. If we could come out there, I’d love that challenge. But alas, we are in NY. Maybe my brother in law, who lives in Chandler AZ can come get it….lol!!! They do head up north to camp in their 5th wheel.

Gregory Illes
4 years ago


After years in the AZ sun, that van will have every non-metal thing in it baked to a crisp. Under the best of conditions, the van is not likely to be worth what it would cost to get it into usable running condition. It’s a “hobby project” for someone with a lot of time and a few thousand bucks to invest.

Unless you can find “that guy”, I’d suggest trying to find a towing outfit that will accept the vehicle (parts value) in exchange for towing it away.

There’s another possibility, maybe cheaper than towing: Find a guy with a big earth-mover, dig a hole and bury the thing. Drain fluids first of course.

Funny — I’ve had to explain to many people over the years, why junk cars and trucks tend to pile up in remote/rural locations. Your story is emblematic of this problem.

4 years ago

Living along the NW coast. That is commonly called an emergency earthquake kit.

Patrick Granahan
4 years ago

Here is a simple suggestion…..if you can’t sell or give it away then have it towed to a good automobile mechanic….first address the engine starting problem….then the transmission….get it running…clean it up the offer it for sale as a restored class B motor home to recover your costs and expenses plus perhaps a small profit.
There is a market for clean used Class B units….no one wants a project parked in a dry wash ! ( what is a dry wash ?. …I always use soap and water to wash )

Al in Seattle
4 years ago

The “no start, click” condition could simply be a loose ground wire from the battery to the frame. Make sure the negative cable is intact at the battery end, find the other end where attached to frame; wire brush any corrosion away and then firmly reattach to frame. If it cranks, remove air cleaner and spray a bit of starting fluid into carb. Should start. Next problem will be old gas in tank; drain and replace with fresh. If all that doesn’t work, donate to homeless shelter.

Bill Forbes
4 years ago
Reply to  Al in Seattle

Click could also be due to bad or misaligned neutral start switch on transmission – try starting it with the transmission lever in different positions BUT BE CAREFUL, IT MIGHT MOVE.

Peter McDonald
4 years ago

There has to be a mechanic that wants a class B motor home. Aren’t those things in demand? I would advertise it as a decent rig with major mechanical problems for a very low price. Low priced stuff seems to go better than free stuff. Must be some psychology there! Good luck.

4 years ago

Donate it to a school. Consider a technical college with an automotive repair course. Our oldest teaches at one and would love to have that kind of project for his class.

Tommy Molnar
4 years ago
Reply to  Goldie

Good idea Goldie, if there WERE any colleges with auto repair classes. Hard to find today. Seems like kids don’t take any interest in ‘fiddling’ with stuff anymore. If you can’t make it work with your “smartphone”, who needs it?

4 years ago

Russ and Tina,

Donate it to a charity you really don’t care about.

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