One would hardly guess that Phoenix was designed and built nearly 20 years ago, long before downsized vans were fashionable. Closed up for driving, Phoenix has the sleek look of a modern sports van.
Its low frontal area coupled to a curb weight of only 2,000 pounds make it a low-rolling-resistance featherweight, even by today's standards. That, along with its VW van chassis, translates into 25-mpg highway fuel economy and nimble handling.
Nitrogen-cylinder-assisted gull-wing doors provide easy entrance into the low-profile cab. Two bucket seats in front allow central walk-through space into the rear. The rear is set up with bench seats along each side. Each bench seat has a lift-up top so food, clothes, and other bring-alongs can be stored underneath. Storage area totals about 14 cubic feet per side.
Phoenix expands tent-trailer style into a large room with stand-up height in the center for a six-foot adult. With the camper expanded, the section along each side that normally forms the back of the bench seat now extends out horizontally to become part of the bed (one bed along each side). Each bed measures 72 x 59 inches. Overall, the unit measures 12 feet wide across the bed area. The seat area is covered with three-inch-thick foam padding, which then serves as a built-in mattress when the camper is expanded.
Appliances are located across the extreme rear, above the engine cover. A sink is on the right, a mirror-faced ice box is in the center, and a two-burner propane stove is on the left. The stove uses disposable cylinders, which are the only kind legal in the absence of a power-vented stove hood. Water is carried in a 9-gallon plastic tank located under the ice box.
The cost to build Phoenix is about $2,000. For more information on how to build the body, click on One Off Construction Using FRP/Urethane Foam Composite.
Phoenix was first featured in Popular Mechanics magazine, in March, 1978. Mechanix Illustrated magazine featured a restyled version called "Renegade" in their March 1984 issue. Phoenix/Renegade was used as a background vehicle in the movie Total Recall.
(source: text and images - RQ Riley)
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