Built on a VW Van chassis, the Phoenix Van (also known as the Renegade Van) expands tent-trailer style into a large camper. It was featured in Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated magazines. It also appeared in the movie Total Recall. Plans include 11 large drawings and a photo-illustrated book. Plans are instantly downloadable and in PDF format.
Closed up for driving, the Phoenix has the sleek look of a modern sports van. Its low frontal area coupled to a curb weight of 2,000 pounds makes it a low-rolling-resistance featherweight by today’s standards. The original Campmobile tipped the scales at about 3200 pounds, and the other VW vans weighed 2500 – 2800 pounds. That, along with its VW van chassis, translates into 25-mpg+ highway fuel economy, nimble handling, and lively acceleration.
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 like a tent-trailer 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 when expanded. The seat area is covered with three-inch-thick foam padding, which then serves as a built-in mattress when the camper is expanded.
Plans for building Phoenix were originally introduced under the Popular Mechanics logo. Hot VWs also ran Phoenix on the cover. Later on, it was given a facelift and introduced as Mechanix Illustrated’s Renegade. Changes were mostly cosmetic. Notice the slight difference in the side-windows and the addition of foam-filled front and rear bumpers on Renegade. The side-strip is an automotive trim-shop item. We also installed an aftermarket RV cooler on top which ended up giving the van a more modern look.
Driving either model is a dream. The fiberglass/foam sandwich body provides lots of sound-deadening and gives the vehicle a solid feel.