- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

The words "recreational vehicle" and "adventure" are often seen as mutually exclusive.

It's true that RV adventure takes many forms, from simply heading across a state line to wandering the far-flung backwoods off the beaten track, and each person sees each different level of adventure as great fun. The Baja edition four-wheel-drive Chinook Class C motor home is one of those rigs that makes possible the wildest kinds of RV adventures.

The Chinook RV division of Trail Wagons Inc. in Yakima, Wash., has been building low-profile Class C motor homes for at least two decades. The company's products including the Destiny, Concourse, Premier and Baja lines are well-respected in the industry and among consumers. Top-quality assembly and first-class amenities are hallmarks of the Chinook Class C, which understandably is referred to by the company as "the sports car of RVs."

The Baja edition differs from the other rigs in the Chinook line in that It has a four-wheel-drive feature and a variety of upgrade options designed to help the coach handle the demands of adventure-style RVing.

A Ford cutaway RV chassis is the backbone for the Baja Chinook. The company added the all-Fiberglas body that's manufactured much like a Fiberglas boat hull. It features hand-built construction that accounts for about 25 percent of the vehicle's cost. At the same time, the Fiberglas body is what sets this rig apart from many other RVs. It's strong, durable and requires very low maintenance. It's also sleek, aerodynamic and very good-looking.

A solid front axle and leaf springs, plus a manually shifted part-time four-wheel-drive transfer case, make up the aftermarket drivetrain added by Salem Kroger Manufacturing of Red Bluff, Calif. The new parts lift the coach body about 3 inches more than the stock suspension, but the lift is just about right because it adds ground clearance and muscular good looks without raising the coach too far. Because the parts are added by a certified upfitter, the entire coach is covered by the warranty. Bold custom paint, matching tube steel bumpers and winch mounts, tube steel driving light and cargo racks, plus custom wheels all add up to a functionally attractive rig.

Chinook Baja drivers needn't worry about having enough power. Power plant choices include the potent 6.8-liter V-10 gasoline or 7.3-liter Powerstroke diesel engine, both backed with the four-speed automatic with overdrive. Power steering, brakes, locks and windows keep occupants riding comfortably. An RV is for living, and the Chinook offers complete self-containment features. The coach I drove featured the Dinette floor plan with a street-side sofa/bed opposing a small curbside dinette, a midcoach split galley and street-side rear-corner bath. When the sofa/bed and dinette are folded down into beds, they form a huge king-size bed across the middle of the coach. The main entry door is centered in the aft wall.

Air conditioning and a 16,000-Btu furnace plus thermo-pane windows keep the interior environment acceptable. A six-gallon water heater, demand water pump, 6-cubic-foot refrigerator, microwave oven, three-burner stove, flush toilet and full shower facilities and other amenities provide all the comforts of home in even the most remote campsites. A 4-kilowatt generator provides 120-volt AC power in non-hookup areas, and a solar panel helps trickle charge the coach batteries during the day.

OK, so at just 23 feet long, it's not the largest motor home on the block.

Users need to work with the rig's relatively compact interior dimensions to truly enjoy travel and camping in the Chinook. That said, it's a lot more comfortable than a tent, or even a Class B van camper.

Driving the Chinook tends to inspire confidence. The leaf-spring front suspension is firm and takes the driver back to the pre-independent-suspension days of solid axles in all 4WD vehicles. The coach handles and corners with surprising agility, although it displays some bump steer that takes a while for a driver to get used to.

Off the pavement, no snow-packed, sandy or muddy road seems too extreme for this machine. A pull at the transfer case shifts the rig into 4WD, and the coach surges ahead with aplomb. As long as the driver can fit the Baja down the trail without inflicting excess body damage from overhanging limbs, the coach will take its occupants as far as they want to go.

The Baja Chinook isn't cheap. As described, it's about $120,000, and can run as high as $150,000 with all the options and goodies. That's as much as you'd pay for a full-size Class A motor home, but then you wouldn't have the go-anywhere agility of the Chinook. For more information about the Baja edition Chinook RV or other Chinook products, go to www.chinookrv.com or phone Trail Wagons Inc. at 800/552-8886.


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