Spencer's 1985 Toyota Sunrader


A Post by Jon Moore

January 2017

I’ve know Spencer and Carson for a few years now. Since we met, they’ve been talking about investing in an adventure mobile. Something that they could use to explore, camp, and potentially travel the US.

The search for the perfect machine had been going on months and was proving to be a fruitless effort. Just as they started to lose hope.. the 1985 Toyota Sunrader came along.


Me: Wow, this thing is rad. So how did you find it?

Spencer: Thanks dude. Well we found it on Craigslist. Initially, we had planned on buying a sweet, 4-wheel drive Chinook; but over the course of a few months, that whole deal fell apart. So we scrapped that plan and started looking again. We found the ad for this one on craigslist about twelve hours after it had been posted and immediately went for it…

Carson: The whole thing seriously happened in less than 24 hours. We just made the decision to do it.. wired the guy the money.. and went to pick it up.

Spencer: Haha yeah, it was super fast. We picked it up in Tennessee and drove 150 miles back… not a single mechanical issue. The things a tank.

Me: How much did you guys pay for it?

Spencer: Man, this is the best part. We got it for $2,500!

Me: Hell yea. That’s a steal.

Spencer: Oh it was! So it’s an 85′ but the things only got 95,000 on the original motor. It’s made by a company called Monterey Leisure, and they made the Sunrader.. but here’s the cool part, for a couple years they made about 50 Sunrader ‘Adventures’ and it was a similar model to this but it had a pop top. But this is actually the prequel to that model, ‘The Sun Chaser’, and they made less than 50 of these. So the thing is super rare.

Me: Well that’s awesome man. Does it need any mechanical work before hitting the road?

Spencer: Oh for sure! I haven’t dived into it to much yet, but I’m definitely planning on replacing all the hoses, belts, spark plugs, wires, distributer cap, and changing the oil. Annnnd, It was puking coolant this morning, so I might need a new water pump or fan.. but shit man, it’s 31 years old! It’s bound to need the basic tune-up.

Me: So once you got it, was it everything that you imagined it would be?

Carson: Haha We love it, but I will say there’s one thing we weren’t expecting. From the pictures on craigslist we had assumed that we’d be able to stand up in it. Haha but aside from that little spot next to the sink, no standing up is going to happen. But other than that, I’d say it’s definitely everything we hoped it would be.

Me: So I noticed your sound system earlier..

Carson: Ohhh the sound system.. and please also note the 30 year old, mustard yellow, shag carpet. We’ve had to keep an open mind; whenever you buy a vehicle this old, the amount of work you’re faced with can be jarring. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.


Me: Speaking of that, what’s the plan for the interior?

Spencer: We’re gutting the entire thing down to the fiberglass and rebuilding it. The good news is that all the wiring and plumbing is done so we don’t have to cut too many holes.  I’m also planning on putting in some insulation and doing some fiberglass patch-work on a small crack in the cab. No doubt about it, we have our work cut out for us in here.

Me: Right on. Do you guys have any advice for other people interested in the mobile lifestyle?

Carson: Well, as cliche as it sounds, the biggest thing I learned is that you just have to just do it; take the leap of faith. These things sell so fast, and we watched so many of them slip away. It can be disheartening to miss one, but you’ve just gotta be ready when the right one comes along.

Spencer: I totally agree, when the deal went south with the Chinook, we were incredibly bummed. Then, only two days later, we stumbled onto this one, which was cheaper, required less interior work, and had less miles on the engine. Just like that, we got our freedom vessel!

Me: Freedom vessel. Love it. How can people follow along with the process?

Carson: We actually just started an instagram page! The handle is @thesunrader, check it out! We’ll be updating it on a regular basis.

Spencer: Annnnd if anybody out there want to help us build, holler at us on instagram. There’s a ton to be done. If your good with mechanics or woodworking or just want to help, drop us a line. We’re in western North Carolina.

Carson: We can provide beer!

Words, Photos, and Interview by Jon Moore