Aaron DiManna
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California Man Builds Huge Camper out of a Chevrolet Suburban

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2021 Chevrolet Suburban
Photo: Chevrolet

At this point, we’re all familiar with the term “Florida man,” which is usually followed by a headline that’s something like “uses skateboard to fix public fountain,” “wakes up next to alligator wearing Abraham Lincoln outfit,” or “accidentally harpoons stepmother in search for lost TV remote.” What’s less common is the “California man” lead-in. In this particular case, the California citizen in question turned an unassuming 2009 Chevrolet Suburban into a full-fledged camper.


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The California man in question is Parker Onufer, who lives in San Diego. He was originally inspired by an uptick in the van life movement while digging into rock climbing. He saw the appeal of traditional campers, but eventually decided to build his own after observing that they were either too expensive or had “a piece that was missing.”

Eventually, Onufer found his camper canvas: an affordable, unassuming 2009 Chevrolet Suburban. He started out by removing a section of the roof with the intention of building his own roof shell. Once the roof-build turned out better than expected, he realized that this was a project worth pursuing to its end.


The unimposing exterior

To the untrained eye, Onufer’s Suburban might seem like an exclusive trim with a higher roofline and a more imposing set of headlamps that the public doesn’t know about. In a sense, that’s correct; Onufer’s modifications aren’t exactly OEM-approved. Official endorsements aside, this camper is a marvel.

To begin with, the custom-built pop-top roof significantly increases the vehicle’s height, but doesn’t seem out of place with a fiberglass shell and a full inch of insulation to keep you comfortable, regardless of the weather. Furthermore, the pop-top boasts LED lights, and the light bar just above the classic Chevrolet bowtie can put out 21,600 lumens; more than enough to make the road ahead of you visible.


The mind-boggling interior

Turning a three-row SUV into a full-fledged camper, no matter how spacious the original vehicle is, is a tall order. Somehow, though, Onufer turned this family hauler into a wildly-effective home on wheels.

To begin with, the rear of the vehicle can easily fit a queen-sized mattress. The one currently installed is made of latex and foam, and looks to have been cut to fit the other interior appointments. To make things even more convenient, it’s situated on a removable platform to facilitate cleaning and open up more cargo space if needed.

Looking for a place to stash your gear? Open one of the custom-built storage drawers and toss it in there. Really want to stand up straight in the cabin? Just do it; the pop-top reveals a maximum height of six feet and four inches. Wondering where to store your skis, poles, snowboards, and other assorted outdoor gear? Toss them into the six-inch-deep under-bed storage compartment. Desperately craving a chill treat while you drive to your destination? Fear not, the refrigerator is within reach of the driving seat.


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If you really want to drive this glorious monstrosity, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that the Suburban Camper’s original Craigslist listing is over. The good news is that, at the time of this article’s posting, Onufer says it’s still for sale.