A 2002 Chinook Class C 24-footer is a perfect match for one happy motorhome owner
This article is part of a continuing series looking at motorhomes that have stood the test of time. They may have miles under their wheels, but they can still make dreams come true. Each has earned the right to be called “the classic ride.”
Imagine a little Texas cabin, snug and cozy, with warm, polished woodwork, soft furnishings and Southwestern art decorating the walls. Now picture it on wheels. In this era where tiny houses are all the rage, Jeff Deneen’s Chinook is evidence of just how much home you can fit into 24 feet – and still take it wherever the road leads you.
The former automotive technician did not have a Class C in mind when he started looking for a motorhome. In fact, he didn’t have anything in mind. Though he had camped all of his life, his experience had been limited to tents and pop-ups. He started by researching what was out there through the pages of magazines like MotorHome, and also the internet and RV shows. He came to the conclusion that no matter how much information you have, “You don’t know what you want until you’ve actually used it.” With that in mind, Deneen set out to rent a variety of units of all classes and sizes, from a 37-foot diesel pusher to smaller Class B and C motorhomes.
“There were good and bad points to all of them,” he says. “But I am a backpacker, and I love state and national parks, and some of the larger RVs just couldn’t fit.”
Then, in 2012, he saw a 2002 Chinook Destiny, and he fell in love. The 24-foot length made it perfect for the kind of camping he liked to do, and for parking just about anywhere, making a towed vehicle unnecessary. But it wasn’t just the size that attracted him.
“The build quality of this motorhome is phenomenal,” Deneen says enthusiastically. “It has a one-piece fiberglass shell, a 1½-inch fiberglass-bonded floor, so there are no seams, no leaks.”
The motorhome was also well-equipped for long-term travel. The Chinook’s 4K Onan generator, two deep-cycle batteries and a 100-watt solar system make it suitable for dry camping, while the heated holding tanks, ample insulation and Dometic Penguin 13,500-Btu air conditioner/heat pump could extend the camping season in almost any climate. Certain he had found the perfect blend of convenience and comfort, Deneen purchased the 10-year-old unit with only 59,000 miles on the odometer for a very affordable $30,000.
While it was essentially in good condition, there were elements both inside and out that needed upgrading. Deneen started out by buying new tires and gas shock absorbers to facilitate safe travel. He also found that the driver’s seat was stiff and uncomfortable after a few hours on the road, so he had both front seats stripped, replacing the padding with a firm foam before reupholstering. The carpet was worn and in need of replacing as well, so Deneen chose a thicker padding for noise reduction and a neutral pattern that matched the muted tans and browns of the Chinook’s interior.
Trade-offs are made in the design of all smaller units when it comes to space for eating, sleeping and showering. In the Chinook, bedding consisted of a jackknife sofa and a dinette that could be converted into a full bed. Deneen didn’t like the thought of breaking down the table each night, nor did he find the sofa particularly comfortable. He decided to replace the sofa with a wide twin memory-foam mattress with an upholstered slipcover, and had two removable backrests custom-made with matching fabric. The result is a seating area that can be transformed into a bed quickly and easily, leaving plenty of room to walk around.
To optimize the floorplan, the Chinook’s rear entry door allows for an unexpectedly spacious galley and lots of storage space. The unit includes a 6-cubic-foot Dometic RV refrigerator as well as a three-burner LP-gas cooktop and 1,100-watt Sharp microwave. Deneen was concerned at first about the lack of an oven, but notes that there is plenty of space on the Corian countertop for his toaster oven. Should the microwave need replacing, he will upgrade to a convection microwave oven.
The other challenge in a smaller unit is having space for a full bath. We have seen some creative bathroom solutions over the years, including foldout sinks and telescoping walls, which help achieve additional space, but require conversion for use. The Chinook designers employed the traditional marine wet bath, a room with an essentially waterproof interior that uses the floor space as the shower stall. It is the one thing Deneen would change if he could, but he understands that creating a separate shower space would decrease storage or living area, so he accepts it as a minor inconvenience that is offset by the flexibility of having a small, versatile motorhome.
One trick to living in a small space is organization. The interior of Deneen’s motorhome is sleek and devoid of clutter, something that he attributes to the unit’s abundant storage areas. His choice of a few well-placed nature-themed pieces of art, including works in both metal and wood, add to the sense of depth and space. In addition to the decorative touches that have made “the Nook” feel like home, Deneen also added a new 20-inch flat-screen television, DVD player, Pioneer stereo and four-speaker sound system.
Thus far, Deneen and his miniature schnauzer, Roxie, have shared adventures across the country. In addition to trips to visit family in Buffalo, New York, Deneen and his sister have a “bucket list” plan that involves visiting all 50 states. While she prefers to fly, he and Roxie drive out to meet her in his motorhome. He has been pleased with the Chinook’s power, especially over mountains.
“It has 450 pounds-feet of torque – that’s quite a lot for an engine in this size motorhome,” Deneen points out. “Going up and down hills, it barely downshifts.” The fuel economy has also been a solid 12.5 mpg when driven between 50-60 mph, making the unit economical to drive when compared to larger units.
Deneen has put about 46,000 miles on the motorhome since he purchased it, and has enjoyed traveling in the Chinook so much that he has placed his house on the market and plans to live in his motorhome full time. He doesn’t think he will miss the traditional lifestyle.
“After our last trip of 2½ months, I pulled back in and I was unloading and, to be honest, I was almost overwhelmed by the size of everything,” he says with a laugh. Instead, he has found great pleasure in having everything in a compact and comfortable space – especially since it comes with ever-changing views.
Like many converts to the RV lifestyle, Deneen is enthusiastic in encouraging others to follow their dream. “Don’t rush it … but don’t wait too long!” he advises.
After all, there is a lot to see, and many roads to travel. The 2002 Chinook Destiny is proof that you don’t need a big rig or a hefty bank account to find your freedom – all you need is a house on wheels to enjoy your very own classic ride.
Is it Your Destiny?
If you think a Chinook might be in your future, you are in luck. A recent search found dozens of these compact and comfortable motorhomes on the used market, though one dealer cautioned that they tend to sell quickly. Prices ranged from a low of $14,950 for a 2002 unit with high miles to $40,900 for the same year but with low miles and refurbished interior.