1998 Rav4 Turbo 3S-GTE Stealth Camper Sleeps Two and Cooks Subaru’s for Breakfast

Some of you know about this Rav4, dubbed the “Rav4GTT” from the work I’ve done to Swap in a pretty powerful JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) 3S-GTE Turbo engine, Its a pretty rare concept, and having this 20 year old mini SUV featured in the funky ‘in-your-face’ online Auto Magazine JALOPNIK was pretty awesome, but instead of blabbing on about what’s been done to add performance of this aging Toyota,

I wanted to highlight the interior, the Camping System that I built after years of reading about, and researching stealth campers, tiny homes, and van dwelling.  After selling everything we owned while living in Ontario, we headed to Fort McMurray for work, at the end of my work project I was free to roam Western Canada in search of a town to call home for my Wife, our seventeen year old Kitty named Magic, and myself.  I was determined to “live cheap and free” except for fuel and groceries.  This is the unit I built for living on the road while searching for home. We ended up living/camping/travelling with it for 160 consecutive days, with a cat, from May-October 2016.

The intention all along was to build a Toyota Rav4 based Camping unit, that I could tow a small trailer with all our extra gear, with enough room for us both to sleep inside comfortably.  The goal was a small camping system that could be one day easily parked in a storage unit and used for weekend getaway’s or to travel across the country to visit family, and save on hotels, and fuel.  In our Travels, the summer of 2016 we clocked 50,000km in 160 days pulling a trailer that weighed about 1,250lbs.

It was my test case.  And this unit passed.  Why Toyota didn’t build these this way from the beginning baffles me, as its capabilities are outstanding, considering the engin/driveline swap uses all of Toyota’s OEM Parts, I’d say they really missed the boat.  The small trailer was a converted boat trailer, I bought it off Kijiji for $500, then fashioned it into a “bug out trailer” for our Canadian tour.  The interior was built over the course of a week.

The system sleeps two, and features a flip out extension that’s split in the middle, allow for example the driver, if travelling alone, to slide the passenger seat forward, hop in the rear, flip the extension forward, with a sleeping pad and sleeping bag already in place, you can pull over at a truck stop, hop in the back, and fall asleep fully stretched out without getting out of the car.  In the morning you can jump out, open the rear door, setup a camp stove and cook breakfast with Coffee.

Made out of plywood, it contains two drawers that run under the camping system, a place for cooking gear, and other daily use items like shower kits, camping tools, and more.  The flip outs are secured with wide piano hinge.


The Trailer was 4×8 with steel construciton, I added the Fuel Can holders, toolboxes, and a mount for an Umbrella, which covered the area for another flip up cooking station, which we ended up using daily When the rav4, and the trailer were connected, and the wind wasn’t too bad, the umbrella would shield the two cooking surfaces perfectly.

I really pushed the limits testing the towing capabilities of the Rav4, I took it camping on Crown land in the Monashee Mountains on a Friends Gold Claim, and had to descend some pretty dicey trails.  I was surprised I was able to traverse some of the trails in, but I spent two days down there… in the Rain.

The Flip up camping system works so well, with the drawers under the sleeping platform, we were able to make coffee in line for the Ferry to SouthWestern Ontario within minutes.  Kitty stand’s Gaurd over the Homestead on wheels.  Travelling with a 17 year old Cat may seem like a Challenge, but when your name is Magic, things happen.

Getting ready for “Sleep mode” is as simple as throwing a foil sun deflector on the windshield, flipping the seats forward, and then the flip out bed extensions.  We would usually leave the bed made, and Kitty would find ripples and folds in the sleeping bags to waste her days away sleeping.  She was essentially awake for no more than 4 hours a day at this point in her life, so travelling with her was actually quite fun and even the litter box situation ended up being simple!

When we were camping deep in the British Columbia Mountains, on Crown Land, one of us would wake up, make coffee, and we would jump back in the Rav4, and still have enough room to sit cross legged, side by side, and watch a Movie on the Laptop.  We used clay pot heaters almost daily from september to october.  You can see the window defrosting.  The heat these put off was phenomenal, with adequate insulation, one could spend the day curled up reading inside, without having to start the car once.  Always a window cracked, one must be vigilant, but its effective for such a small space.

This post is just a highlight of an entire summers worth of camping throughout Canada with this unit, if you like this post, please bookmark this website and return!.




2 thoughts on “1998 Rav4 Turbo 3S-GTE Stealth Camper Sleeps Two and Cooks Subaru’s for Breakfast”

  1. Awesome!.

    Looks like there’s a lot of height in the trunk. What’s the height from the cargo floor to the ceiling?

    Does the Caldina transmission have a viscous coupler / LSD?


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