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“My first car was a ’74 Ford Gran Tornio,” recalls Dane Thompson of Norco, California. “On my sixteenth birthday my step-dad handed me the keys to it and said, ‘Here’s the car – the parts to get it running are in the shed.’” Although he hadn’t worked on cars before, Thompson had grown up wrenching on dirt bikes and go karts, and that was enough to get the ball rolling. “Fixing my own stuff has always been sort of a necessity for me, and with cars, it just grew into a passion.”
Thompson’s interests initially gravitated toward kustom kulture and a chopped shoebox Ford project, but performance soon became a bigger priority for him. “I realized that the car show scene is about opinions, and the race track is about facts.” That in turn led to a Ford F-100 project that was built to tear up the autocross as well as a turbocharged and LS-swapped ’64 Chevy Malibu intended for the drag strip. “I wanted to get into land speed racing, but my wife wasn’t crazy about that idea,” he explains. “So the next best thing was drag racing.”
That Malibu build would end up inspiring Thompson to take on something entirely different for his next project. “When we brought the Malibu to LS Fest back in 2019, and we rented an RV so we could stay at the track with our friends and party after hours. We really enjoyed having it for the event, and on the way home from LS Fest, my wife and I started talking about potentially getting one of our own so we could go camping and do more events.”
But with a limited budget he turned to YouTube for inspiration, where he found Fuel Injection Sucks and their turbo-LS Winnebago project. “I was watching them do fly-bys in this thing and I was just giggling my head off,” he says. “I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.” After getting his wife’s blessing, Thompson started hunting for a suitable candidate for an RV hot rod. That search led him to a listing for a 1972 Winnebago Indian in classic “ran when parked” condition.
“It was owned by an older gentleman that used to take his family camping with it regularly,” he says. “But it had been sitting for a while, and at some point his dog had gotten underneath it and chewed up all of the wiring, so it didn’t run.” Although the exterior was sun baked and the mechanicals needed to be sorted out, Thompson says that the interior was in remarkably good shape. And at a mere $600, the price was definitely right.
Once it was home he immediately set to work making his vision for the RV a reality. “I had plan for it,” he says. “I took some inspiration from the Fuel Injection Sucks build and a Ring Brothers project as well, but I wanted to do something that was bit different from those. One of those was a single turbo and the other was supercharged, and I realized that if I used two turbos, we could call it the Twinnebago. And to be honest, that kind of led the direction of the build.”
After pulling the original big block and transmission and swapping in a junkyard-sourced 6.0-liter LS and a 4L80E, Thompson focused on getting the RV road worthy by installing new wiring and rebuilding the brake and fuel systems. After that it was on to the suspension, which he lowered by three inches up front and two inches in the rear.
The Twinnebago’s LS is currently outfitted with Mahle pistons, a Sloppy Mechanics Stage 2 camshaft, GM "243" cylinder heads, Crower valve springs, a Trailblazer SS intake, and a pair of 62mm turbos that Thompson scored off of eBay. “It’s sort of a ‘jewelry’ setup – I put the turbos in front of the radiator so everyone could see them, and I stacked them on top of each other on one side just because I liked how ridiculous it looked.” Set at a conservative 10 pounds of boost, he estimates the combination is good for about 600hp at the flywheel.
The unconventional setup made cooling a challenge early on, but with reliability and ease-of-use high on the list of priorities, it was an issue that Thompson was determined to resolve. “That was probably the biggest hurdle – there’s just a lot of weight behind this thing.” He added external coolers for both the transmission and power steering, and the Holley Terminator X Max ECU that Thompson selected for the project has also played a role in keeping temperatures in check.
“It allows me to control the motor, the transmission, and the boost, along with this custom water sprayer system that I put in,” he says. “I tapped the fresh water tank and I have windshield washer sprayers installed in the engine bay that spray on the radiator and transmission cooler for additional cooling when needed. The Terminator X Max just had all of the features that I wanted, and it had the inputs and outputs that I needed in order to do things like flex fuel and this water spray system.”
After applying candy gold exterior accents, installing a custom stainless steel visor and a custom front grille, and applying the finishing touches to get everything dialed in, the Twinnebago was deemed road trip-ready just a day before this year’s LS Fest West event. “LS Fest is one of my favorite events – I go every year,” Thompson says. “I really enjoy the diversity of vehicles and builds. And I loved the reactions that the Twinnebago got from everyone. We took people out for rides in it. I think it got a lot of attention for the fact that it’s truly functional.”
Thompson says that creature comforts like a new stereo, lighting, and a water heater are next on the list for the Twinnebago – upgrades that will certainly come in handy during the trek out to LS Fest East next year. “We wanted to go this year, but the gas prices got me, so the plan is to check it out next year. I’d also really like to take it out to Rocky Mountain Race Week 2.0 and run it – you know, just for the fun of it. And in the meantime we’re definitely going to take it on plenty of camping trips.”