The one thing you need to know about Toyota RVs is that they could be made from the same mold but come with different model names. Toyota had over 60 model names all produced by a myriad of RV makers using their specs. The following information may apply to your non-Toyota Dolphin RV.
This model started out smaller and more economical. But somewhere in the 80s Toyota changed the length and made them 20 footers. This added a little more space but enough power in its 4-cylinder engine. The Dolphin series was named the 300, 500, 700, and 600.
To learn more about the Toyota Dolphin and its specs just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about to see if this 40+-year-old RV is a perfect fit for you.
This is one of the smallest RVs you can buy. Even at the time, it was in production. This model of RV was made under 20 feet long throughout the 70s and into the 80s. But in 1982, this series of RVs was lengthened to 20 and up to 22 feet long.
Initially, these were very economical vehicles that were affordable. The home section was placed on a Toyota truck frame and chassis and was made from fiberglass to keep the weight down.
Its tapered roof allowed for proper drainage which meant fewer leaks whenever a hole appeared in the fiberglass construction. The big advantage to this brand of motorhome is its small size. It could fit in spaces that most normal-sized RVs cannot and could not fit into.
Then, its drivability made it very popular. It was easy to handle and it could go over different terrain very easily.
The RV class that the Toyota Dolphin is listed under is the Class C category. It is a smaller RV that would not be able to be upgraded to a Class A even at its peak production time.
The frame used was a Toyota truck frame which help give the vehicle a lot of maneuverability as well as easy handling. Not to mention the economy as the 4 cylinder engine saved you a lot of money on fuel.
There were different body styles used on the truck portion of the vehicle. Some models had a raised spoiler opening on the hood while others were simply given a flat hood.
The style of the home section seems to be the same throughout the many different Toyota RV options and models. There was always a cab over sleeping section and lots of windows to create the illusion of a larger space than what was really there.
Toyota merely supplied the frame and the specs for the rest of the RV construction. They did not directly produce the Dolphin nor any other RV in their RV-making heyday.
Why Toyota decided to go with multiple RV manufacturers to produce their line of RVs is anyone's guess. But they did and this led to a lot of duplication among the different models sold by Toyota dealers.
Some models, like the Sunrader and Chinook, were made by one company, the Dolphin was made by several. Those companies included Chinook, RBR, New Horizons, Coachman, Huntsman, and National RV.
It is hard to imagine any legitimate business reason for this multiplicity of makers for one model of RV. But this use of many manufacturers did not hurt the popularity of this RV model and it seemed to sell quite well, lasting into the 90s.
It seems that Toyota’s RV-making days were limited to 20 years. This production started sometime in the 70s and ended roughly about 1994. It is hard to say as Winnebago made a 6 cylinder model for Toyota well into 1994.
One of the reasons why Toyota stopped making the truck frames for their RVs was a safety issue. They had enough of the problem with the longer versions and simply shut down production.
When Toyota went longer with their RVs they created a problem that overloaded the original half-ton axles. They tried to solve this by going to a full 1-ton axle but after this upgrade, Toyota decided to pull the plug on making its RVs.
It took 10 years to pull the plug so other reasons were probably involved as well. RV manufacturing is a very competitive industry and may be Toyota felt it could not keep up.
Not many people are interested in talking about or knowing a 40-year-old price tag. That means that this information may take more time to track down. Most people are interested in the cost of one of these nice rigs today.
The best thing that can be said about the price of a new Dolphin RV is that it was affordable. Affordable does not equal cheap so you would still be paying a nice sum for the new vehicle but not as much as other Class C RVs made by other companies.
Also, the different model years would be different as price increases each year were inevitable. Then, which manufacturer built the Dolphin would probably place a different price tag on their new RVs as their costs may differ.
To buy one today though, you will find the cost a lot cheaper than when these RVs sold as new.
These RVs seem to hold their value after 40+ years of service. We found some models needing work that were selling for more than $11,000. Older versions were selling anywhere between $3000 and $7000.
The length and condition of the RV would play an active role in determining the used price. The year of production is also another indicator of price. One 1990 model is selling for $20,000 while some late 1980s are only going for between $10,000 and $12,000 (with some half that price)
It all depends on the seller and how much sentimental value they place on their RV. Then if the Dolphin needs work, you can find them for as low as $1500 to $3000. Condition and working order are just about everything when it comes to buying a used RV.
Ultimately, the value of the Dolphin will be the dollar amount you place on it. (We did come across one SMRP and it was placed at $24,500 in 1985)
It is impossible to list all the specs for all the Toyota models made through those 20 years. Here are the specs for a 1987 500 series Toyota Dolphin:
The engine was a 2.4 liter with an overdrive automatic transmission and fuel injection. It got roughly 14 mpg and could go from 0 to 60 in roughly 26 seconds. The RPM was 4800 with 190 pounds of torque at 2800 RPM. The axle ratio was 4.10:1 and the RV came with a 137-inch wheelbase.
The braking system used front disc brakes and rear drum ones and the gas tank capacity was just over 17 gallons. The exterior length, width, and height were 21 feet 7 inches by 6 feet 11 inches by 9 feet 2 inches.
The frame was made of steel and block foam was the insulation material. The fresh, gray, and black water holding tanks were 17.5, 19 & 19 gallons respectively. GVWR was just over 5900 pounds and if you need more information, just click this link.
This will depend on when it was made. Before the early 80s, the Dolphin may have only reached up to 18 feet long. During the early 80s, Toyota made longer RVs, and some Dolphins were listed at just about 22 feet in length.
A 1978 model is advertised at 16 feet long and is called a Dolphin mini. Its look isn't as good as the later models that were produced by Toyota. That should give you a good idea of how short and long this RV was during its production years.
When Toyota extended the length, they did not foresee the problem with the 1/2 ton axle and they were forced to recall those RVs and upgrade them to a 1-ton axle. Most of the Dolphins we see for sale are from the later 1980s and early 1990s. This means you will be getting the longer RV and not the shorter ones.
This figure will depend on the year it was made, how long the RV is, and what amenities are inside. Some people state an under 5000 pound GVWR rating while the one mentioned in the specs above almost hit 6000 pounds.
It is said that you can pack an extra almost 1000 pounds of cargo, supplies, and passengers inside this RV. It is lightweight in comparison to other Class C RVs made at the time and this helped improve the gas mileage.
Older Dolphins may have been lighter as some models had 6 fewer feet of materials on them. That amount of loss does reduce the weight somewhat. The longer RV models had too much weight for the axle given to it by Toyota and had to be upgraded to a bigger version.
Check the owner’s manual to see if it lists the weight for your specific model and year. Different manufacturers could have placed a different weight capacity on their models.
It is really hard to separate the shell weight from the chassis weight. Most dealers and scales do not differentiate between the two. Even the specs sheet we used for the 1987 model up above does not list the shell weight. Here is what that spec sheet said about the different weights:
(Water, propane, fuel tanks full; no passengers or supplies)
Front axle … 1660 lbs
Rear axle … 3360 lbs
Right side … 2580 lbs
Left side … 2440 lbs
Total … 5020 lbs
Front gawr … 2200 lbs
Rear gawr … 3700 lbs
Gvwr* … 5950 lbs
As you can see the shell weight is included in all weight totals. Since no one is going to be taking the shell off, that weight seems to be a bit redundant. The shell is made of fiberglass so the weight is in all the amenities built into the shell.
In the beginning, it seems that Toyota put a 22R engine inside its RVs. Not just for the Dolphin but for all the models it produced. This was a 4 cylinder model that was capable of producing 4800 RPM.
It wasn’t until 1989 that Toyota gave their motorhomes a 6 cylinder engine and the power it produced helped performance immensely. This new motor was used up until production stopped in 1994. Winnebago was one of the manufacturing companies that used the 6 cylinders in its Toyota models.
The 22R was a 2.4-liter motor that had the power to move that almost 6000 pound RV over steep hills. Its fuel injection system helped a lot as well. This motor was supposed to be one of the better motors at that time and lasted for many years.
One owner reported they bought their used RV with a 22R-E in it and it had only 41,000 miles on it. The performance they got was like a new truck engine.
This was a 2.4-liter engine that was very durable under the right conditions. Its 4800 rpm was outstanding and its overdrive automatic transmission made the Dolphin very driveable.
It was made with a cast-iron block, a straight 4 cylinder line up and its compression rating was 9.0:1. The cylinder bore was 3.62 inches and the piston stroke was 3.5 inches.
The 22R-E was made between 1983 to 1995 and was placed in many of Toyota’s RV models. Before that, the 22R was the Engine of choice but when Toyota made the change, many of the 22R-E parts were not compatible with the 22R engine.
The 22R-E could produce between 105 and 113 HP. There is no word on the HP production for the 22R at this time. The 22R-E was the superior motor and it made the RV much easier to drive and maneuverability was very good.
This will range depending on the year, model, and weight of the RV. If you take care of your motor, then you should be able to get anywhere between 13 and 17 mpg. The range will depend on driving conditions, the hills, road as well as wind and weather.
Some people have complained that they could not get over 10 1/2 mpg but they may need to slow down some and tune their RV up as well as change some filters. To get the best gas mileage you need to stay around 60 mph.
Driving faster than that, like 70 mph, would produce that 10 1/2 mpg reported by one owner. It shouldn’t matter if you have the 4 or the 6 cylinder engine. The same factors will apply but the 4 may get slightly higher mpg than the 6 will.
These figures are fairly standard among the vehicle’s different lengths.
The towing capacity of the Dolphin RV is not that great. With a small 4 cylinder engine doing the pulling, you may be lucky to pull an additional 1000 pounds. But that is an estimate only.
Toyota has said no towing with this model of RV. the reason for their words of caution is that other components, not the engine, were maxed out and could not handle more weight.
Those components were the transmission, the brakes, and the rear frame. You might throw in the 1/2 ton axle as well here as it had problems with too much weight. However, with this said, some owners have successfully towed 16-foot boats over flat roads without any trouble.
Steep hills may be an issue and you may not have the success as that owner had. Tow at your own risk and make sure to have a good braking system on the trailer.
The tank size seems to be about average for the era and the size of the RV. The freshwater tank could hold up to 17 1/2 gallons which gave you enough water for short periods. How long the tank lasted depended on how many people were using the fresh water.
The gray water tank and the black water tank were slightly larger. They held 19 gallons each, which gave you lots of room for boondocking. Regular fill-ups of the freshwater tank and regular emptying of the two other tanks were needed.
This may have been one of the weaknesses of the Toyota Dolphin and its many RV incarnations. It is possible that when Toyota went larger that they upgraded the tank size. One 1990 model, not Dolphin but close to it, had a 26-gallon freshwater, 30-gallon black water, and a 14-gallon gray water tank.
The floor plans would be altered a little bit when Toyota changed the size of their RV but the basic one is as follows. The main bed was at the rear of the RV and the bathroom was next to the master bed. A shower was in the bathroom as well.
Then the wardrobe was across from the fridge, with the =dinette next to it. The kitchenette was across from the dinette. Next to the kitchenette was the access door and the dinette could be transformed into a bed if the space was needed. The overhead bed was above the cab or doubled as a nice storage area.
While there was a lot of duplication going on between Toyota RV models, there may have been some alternate floor plans available. The shorter versions may not have had a master bed in the rear as that space was taken up by the bathroom and shower.
It seems that the location of the gas cap could be flexible. The location may have been in different spots depending on the company that made the Dolphin RV. Several different manufacturers made this vehicle.
In many images, we saw small locking doors on both sides of the RV. Any one of them could house the gas cap. Plus, the length of the RV would determine the exact location of the gas cap.
We won’t go into a long list of places where you can find one of these RVs for sale. It seems that quite a few were made and the different used RV dealers have more than enough on hand. The question is how valid are those ads.
The different RV forums will also have many for sale and a good internet search will turn up more results than you can handle in one night. What you need to be cautious about is that there is a different manufacturer called Dolphin and you may have results for that brand show up as well.
The Toyota company did not do itself or its customers any favors by contracting their RV production to many different companies. While they had a very good idea in this RV style, this has led to a lot of confusion about their vehicles.
Even 40 years later they are good RVs to drive and use on some great RV vacations. They are still economical.