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1976 Dodge Sportsman Help

aussiebrewerinc
Explorer
Explorer
Hello All, I came across an old post with oldtrucker63 and Lo Lo and I hope they or someone else that can help is still around.

Here's the situation, yesterday I bought a 1976 Dodge Sportsman motorhome at auction that has very low miles (6k), upon getting it and trying to drive it home, i'd get up to about 35 mph and it would start puttering. It was described with old gas so I got some new gas and sea foam to put it in it after leaving it on the side of the road an hour from my house. It wouldn't go more than a mile or two without puttering (and popping occasionally) so I pulled it into an outdoor store and asked the manager if I could leave it there overnight.

I know nothing about RV's/Motorhomes but always dreamed of owning an older classic camper but now i'm not so sure I made the right decision. I'm on the edge of thinking this thing was a good deal with low miles and a good engine and possibly being worth putting some time and $ into to get it going nicely and clean it up vs. wondering if I made the wrong decision and just bought a problem.

I would love to get anybody's advice on the few things I should do to try to get it home. i.e. putting fuel stabalizer etc. in it which I have done. Any big things that I can do myself? possibly replace fuel filter, oil change, etc?

Thanks so much!
25 REPLIES 25

MinnieMe
Explorer
Explorer

I also had similar issue with my 76’ Minnie Winnie 20’. Spent $3k on the mechanical parts to get it all good. But it kept completely dying after driving 7-10 miles. Had put new 2 Barrell Hollie Carb on it because it had warped over the years along the bottom and gaskets weren’t sealing it up from sucking air. So I had it gone over by my mechanic front to back top to bottom and fix everything he saw that was going or was gone. He said the ceramic wire junction connectors can cause multiple issues so I should get some to keep on hand. Starter was a beast but someone had at some point drilled an hole through it to put an 8” long cotter pin through it to keep the stator up instead of having it rebuild or replacing it. Even dropped the gas tank and had it emptied and cleaned after putting see foam in it. The gas was like molasses. Ended up my actual distributor was bad. It rare that the bottom of it goes bad but it had. It was catching when tried to go in to higher gears on the coil and burning it up.  

CarbTech
Explorer
Explorer

Replace the fuel pump and fuel filter

While I am sure the OP would appreciate the response, the post is 10 years old and he hasn't been on the forum since.

 


Jeff - 2023 FR Sunseeker 2400B MBS

aussiebrewerinc
Explorer
Explorer
Argh looks like my priorities have changed on this RV. Being inexperienced and stupid driving one of these, I caught the corner of the garage and tore a nice size whole in the siding! So that will be priority 1, then the power steering. Being snowing a bunch here so hard to work on but been researching how to repair. Seems there are a few standard patterns you can purchase new siding in. Then there's the option of trying to find some at a scrap yard. Has anybody here replaced a sheet of siding one one of these things? Currently have it taped down with plastic to keep dry till the snow goes away for a few days and can work on it.
Thanks for any advice.

falconbrother
Explorer II
Explorer II
I had a 1977 van with the 318 V8. I converted it to a camper and we had lots of awesome trips in that old van. It was awesome. My wife and I still reminisce about the trips we took in that van. It was cold natured as all get out. The 440 has a good reputation. It's a big powerful engine. If I was in your shoes I would do a major tune up including a rebuild of that carburetor, new distributor cap and button, maybe new distributor parts as needed, new fuel pump (which is a mechanical on the block--cheap). I would change the fluid and filter in the transmission and the differential fluid. I think the MOPAR trucks of that era required an additive in the differential.

The Dodges of that era are great. The motorhomes from those years are great too. I see old Dodge chassis motorhomes in campgrounds all the time. People buy them and restore them. They were well built and have some options that I think were better than what's on the modern RV's, like a metal roof. That sucker is easy to seal and will last a very long time. And, you can use off the shelf products from Lowes or Home Depot to fix a metal RV roof. I wish I had one. Also, check your brake master cylinder. A rebuilt one from Advance or Auto Zone will probably be less than forty bucks after core exchange. Don't trust your life to a 35+ year old master cylinder. Switching that thing out is a super easy job. When I bought my 1990 model the first repair I made was a new remanufactured master cylinder. Now I have brakes as good as they can be on a GM P30 chassis. Old motorhomes aren't great stoppers anyway.

j-d
Explorer II
Explorer II
Some of them have a power steering pump with a big O-Ring between the sheet metal reservoir and the cast iron pump. And of course a shaft seal behind the pulley. You need a steering pulley puller (borrowable) to get at that seal, but the O-Ring is straight forward (and messy). Any time I've had steering box trouble I've gotten a reman exchange unit. Other'n that, two hoses, high and low pressure, connecting pump to box. I don't think there's a Power Steering Cooler.
If God's Your Co-Pilot Move Over, jd
2003 Jayco Escapade 31A on 2002 Ford E450 V10 4R100 218" WB

aussiebrewerinc
Explorer
Explorer
Thanks for the advice all, was able to do some of these things and get it running. Got fresh fuel it, replaced fuel filter and oil filter, greased the chassis and managed to get it home. Unfortunately the power steering fluid is leaking so will have to look at how to fix that and then figure out how to work the inside lights etc, check plumbing. Thanks again!

phinphilly
Explorer
Explorer
Had the same problem a number of years ago with an RV that had not been driven. Our problem turned out to be contaminates in the old gas. Twice we had problems along the road. We changed the fuel filter each time. After that we changed the fuel filter with the next two oil changes. Problem solved. Suggest you carry a spare fuel filter

Bordercollie
Explorer
Explorer
Me again, there is probably an "automatic" choke setup that is actuated by a bi-metal spring and pushrod inside a chamber in the exhaust manifold. This may be bound up with exhaust carbon and may need to be cleaned out and freed up. You may be able to install a control cable with a knob on the dashboard to operate the choke manually instead. We drove our Dodge van conversion as a camper and utility vehicle from 1972 (new) until 2000. Oh yeah, the oil dip stick tube broke off inside the block, don't try to remove broken piece get professional help, don't ask!

j-d
Explorer II
Explorer II
Let me try to help from my memory archive filed under "Distant:"

FROM 1971 DODGE VAN WE OWNED 20 YEARS

If Distributor is in the FRONT of the engine, it's a Big Block, probably a 440
If Distributor is the BACK of the engine, it's a Small Block, probably a 360
Our 360 had "360" cast into the bottom edge of one side of the Block

A weak Fuel Pump will let it start COLD and it'll let it run under Light Load

The magnets in the Distributor Pickups weakened over time and it might not start if you couldn't crank it fast enough, as in with a fully charged good battery

The ceramic ignition/charging circuit Ballast Resistor (on firewall near the ignition module) failed frequently
Replace but buy two
Have one as spare
Leave the Mounting Screw LOOSE - reduces chance of resistor cracking as it heats

Rear Engine Mount (the one on the back of the Transmission) didn't last long and when failed sends vibration throughout the vehicle

FROM EXPERIENCE WITH RENTAL CUBE VANS ON DODGE CHASSIS

They tended to sling belts - Hopefully this was only on the chassis JARTRAN bought without factory air conditioning

The Carter ThermoQuad carburetors would leak

When they leaked they caused engine compartment fires - I am serious about this - JARTRAN lost MANY trucks to this - When they catch fire you have SECONDS to get out - I saw them where the door handles no longer worked because the plastic linkage clips had melted

Chrysler designated the engines -1 -2 and -3 - A 440-1 would be a passenger car/light truck engine and very likely what a Class C would have - 360-1 or 440-1

Transmission is probably a TorqueFlite "727" series called LoadFlite being in a truck chassis - DIFFERENT from a Car - More rugged components

Torque Converter from CAR will FIT and it will BURN OUT - A Truck Converter has much less slippage than CAR version - On the Highway under load (like towing a trailer or simply being an RV), CAR version will run Very Very HOT and burn out the entire transmission
If God's Your Co-Pilot Move Over, jd
2003 Jayco Escapade 31A on 2002 Ford E450 V10 4R100 218" WB

aussiebrewerinc
Explorer
Explorer
DrewE wrote:
aussiebrewerinco wrote:
Thanks Bordercollie, ouch!

It appears (or was told) that the engine is a Chrysler 440, does that make any difference?

Also, is there no vin check for RV's? I tried to look it up but usual vin check sites say invalid VIN. I'm just wondering if this is all original parts or if something major has been replaced.

Thanks!


VINs were not standardized in format across manufacturers before 1981. It's probably just the age of the vehicle that's giving you trouble in looking it up online. RVs are vehicles and thus need VINs like any other vehicle. For motorhomes, the VIN is assigned by the chassis maker rather than the maker of the house part of the motorhome (assuming they are not the same company, which is nearly always the case).


Thanks Drew, very helpful! Your response is much appreciated.

aussiebrewerinc
Explorer
Explorer
tatest wrote:
aussiebrewerinco wrote:
Thanks Bordercollie, ouch!

It appears (or was told) that the engine is a Chrysler 440, does that make any difference?

Also, is there no vin check for RV's? I tried to look it up but usual vin check sites say invalid VIN. I'm just wondering if this is all original parts or if something major has been replaced.

Thanks!


The VIN was not standardized until 1981. VIN check sites usually assume the standard form used later.

The 440 will have the same fuel and ignition system issues as the Chrysler smallblock.

From my antique and classic experience, I've learned I can't usually just shut off a car or truck to let it sit 30+ years, and expect it to start and run like it did the day it was last driven. If I'm really lucky, it might run well enough to get it back the shop to start working on it. Often, though, the project starts with a tow.

There are a lot of rubber and plastic parts that degrade with age, which would normally be replaced every 5-10 years in continuous use. Just sitting, they've degraded anyway.

The late '70s to mid '80s era is one of the worst because the first stages of emission control involved "lean burn" with barely usable fuel-air mixtures managed by mechanical interconnections of fuel and ignition systems, lots of hoses to sense vacuum at various points, and control vacuum servos adjusting settings for different driving conditions. All the connection hoses rot and leak, servos can leak or freeze up. Exhaust gas recirculation valves also frequently lock up or get blocked. Someone who knows the engine needs to get under the hood and check it all out, replace all those little hoses, and maybe some other parts. It is a whole lot messier than engines from the '40s and '50s, or late model engines where every thing is controlled by a computer and the sensors and servos all connected by wire. I'd much rather work on something from 1960 or earlier, than something from 1972-1990.

Not familiar with the big Chrysler, but some engines from 1966 into the 80s had air injection into the exhaust manifold, some using a pump and a check/diverter valve (with a vacuum sensor), others using an aspirator valve at the manifold to pull air from the intake side (PulseAir). Chrysler may have used the reed valve system on the 440, which means there is some air plumbing to the exhaust to be checked out.

Then there is the problem with the carb gumming up. But that's just part of it, because there are gaskets in the carb that have probably dried out and leak. In the fuel system, there are also a some metal pieces that can corrode when not kept wet with fuel. Fuel pumps and filters can be a problem.

For example, right now we are discussing how to deal with carb leaks on a '86 El Camino that belonged to a friend who died three years ago. He had it for 22 years, drove it every week, worked on it every week. It has now been sitting three years. It started and ran well enough to back out of the garage, but gaskets have dried out and it leaks fuel from the carb. To get it ready to sell, his family will most likely replace the carb, because it doesn't cost that much more than a rebuild, and if the rebuild doesn't take care of the problem you are buying again anyway.

If the motorhome has been sitting for a really long time, I would also be worried about oil seals. These parts are kept in condition by the oil splashing against them, dried out they can fail quickly. I remember a couple of cars we bought from the junkyard that started OK and ran well enough to drive to the shop, but blew oil seals on the way to the shop. An oil seal is not something you would want to replace as preventive maintenance, as the labor is non-trivial, but something you need to be aware of, so you can watch out for it and stop soon enough to avoid major engine damage. Seal problems also apply to automatic transmissions.

Since these are car/truck issues, rather than RV issues, you might try connecting locally with car club, a group of people who restore and drive old cars. The knowledge and skill levels for your vintage will be higher than you can expect to find at most service shops. Most service techs today are too young to have been trained to work on something built before they were born.


Thanks Tom for the informative post. It is truly appreciated! I just wish I lived closer to you!!!

I do own another vintage car in Australia that was my pops, a 1967 Holden HR Wagon, I really want to get my hands dirty and figure out how these things work. But don't want to put more $ in than it is worth. I will hind your advice and update you all on progress. Can't thank you enough!

tatest
Explorer II
Explorer II
aussiebrewerinco wrote:
Thanks Bordercollie, ouch!

It appears (or was told) that the engine is a Chrysler 440, does that make any difference?

Also, is there no vin check for RV's? I tried to look it up but usual vin check sites say invalid VIN. I'm just wondering if this is all original parts or if something major has been replaced.

Thanks!


The VIN was not standardized until 1981. VIN check sites usually assume the standard form used later.

The 440 will have the same fuel and ignition system issues as the Chrysler smallblock.

From my antique and classic experience, I've learned I can't usually just shut off a car or truck to let it sit 30+ years, and expect it to start and run like it did the day it was last driven. If I'm really lucky, it might run well enough to get it back the shop to start working on it. Often, though, the project starts with a tow.

There are a lot of rubber and plastic parts that degrade with age, which would normally be replaced every 5-10 years in continuous use. Just sitting, they've degraded anyway.

The late '70s to mid '80s era is one of the worst because the first stages of emission control involved "lean burn" with barely usable fuel-air mixtures managed by mechanical interconnections of fuel and ignition systems, lots of hoses to sense vacuum at various points, and control vacuum servos adjusting settings for different driving conditions. All the connection hoses rot and leak, servos can leak or freeze up. Exhaust gas recirculation valves also frequently lock up or get blocked. Someone who knows the engine needs to get under the hood and check it all out, replace all those little hoses, and maybe some other parts. It is a whole lot messier than engines from the '40s and '50s, or late model engines where every thing is controlled by a computer and the sensors and servos all connected by wire. I'd much rather work on something from 1960 or earlier, than something from 1972-1990.

Not familiar with the big Chrysler, but some engines from 1966 into the 80s had air injection into the exhaust manifold, some using a pump and a check/diverter valve (with a vacuum sensor), others using an aspirator valve at the manifold to pull air from the intake side (PulseAir). Chrysler may have used the reed valve system on the 440, which means there is some air plumbing to the exhaust to be checked out.

Then there is the problem with the carb gumming up. But that's just part of it, because there are gaskets in the carb that have probably dried out and leak. In the fuel system, there are also a some metal pieces that can corrode when not kept wet with fuel. Fuel pumps and filters can be a problem.

For example, right now we are discussing how to deal with carb leaks on a '86 El Camino that belonged to a friend who died three years ago. He had it for 22 years, drove it every week, worked on it every week. It has now been sitting three years. It started and ran well enough to back out of the garage, but gaskets have dried out and it leaks fuel from the carb. To get it ready to sell, his family will most likely replace the carb, because it doesn't cost that much more than a rebuild, and if the rebuild doesn't take care of the problem you are buying again anyway.

If the motorhome has been sitting for a really long time, I would also be worried about oil seals. These parts are kept in condition by the oil splashing against them, dried out they can fail quickly. I remember a couple of cars we bought from the junkyard that started OK and ran well enough to drive to the shop, but blew oil seals on the way to the shop. An oil seal is not something you would want to replace as preventive maintenance, as the labor is non-trivial, but something you need to be aware of, so you can watch out for it and stop soon enough to avoid major engine damage. Seal problems also apply to automatic transmissions.

Since these are car/truck issues, rather than RV issues, you might try connecting locally with car club, a group of people who restore and drive old cars. The knowledge and skill levels for your vintage will be higher than you can expect to find at most service shops. Most service techs today are too young to have been trained to work on something built before they were born.
Tom Test
Itasca Spirit 29B

DrewE
Explorer II
Explorer II
aussiebrewerinco wrote:
Thanks Bordercollie, ouch!

It appears (or was told) that the engine is a Chrysler 440, does that make any difference?

Also, is there no vin check for RV's? I tried to look it up but usual vin check sites say invalid VIN. I'm just wondering if this is all original parts or if something major has been replaced.

Thanks!


VINs were not standardized in format across manufacturers before 1981. It's probably just the age of the vehicle that's giving you trouble in looking it up online. RVs are vehicles and thus need VINs like any other vehicle. For motorhomes, the VIN is assigned by the chassis maker rather than the maker of the house part of the motorhome (assuming they are not the same company, which is nearly always the case).