GMC motorhomes: Oldie but goodie still looks good

GMC motorhomes: Oldie but goodie still looks good

Most motorhomes built more than four decades ago are badly showing their age — if you can even find one outside a junkyard. Not so with the GMC motorhome, which first rolled off the production line in 1973 and is still very visible on the highways today. Sleek with a low center of gravity, the GMC coaches were the first to be tested in a wind tunnel.

When the GMC coaches were built, most motorhomes were boxy and aerodynamic disasters. Not so with the GMC, which was as modern-looking as coaches being built today. GMC was well ahead of the rest of the RV industry with its then-futuristic design.Eight thousand of the sleek motorhomes are thought to still be on the road, an incredibly high percentage of the total ever built, about 13,000. More than a dozen enthusiast clubs exist, and they get together in local chapter meetings and in national rallies.

GMC motorhomes were available in 23- and 26-foot models, and featured front-wheel drive. The drive train and front suspension were the same design that had been used in the Oldsmobile Toronado since 1966.

Coach bodies were innovative, consisting of fiberglass and aluminum panels, which eliminated rust problems and allowed the bullet-train shape. With its air spring suspension and other innovations, the GMC motorhome provided a very smooth ride.

The motorhomes were so sleek and glamorous that Mattel sold more than 40 versions in its Hot Wheels series. Barbie had her own GMC motorhome. 

Two factors combined to doom the GMC motorhome to RV history. The fuel crisis of 1978 was severely impacting the health of the entire RV industry and inflation was high. General Motors decided that it would be smarter to use its motorhome plant for other purposes. And so, in 1978, the last GMC motorhome rolled off the assembly line and the factory geared up to manufacture pickup trucks. 

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7 thoughts on “GMC motorhomes: Oldie but goodie still looks good

  1. Tom

    If you ever owned one and have moved on, you will miss the excellent, non-truck, ride comfort of the GMC. Far superior to my current truck designed chassis.
    The size enabled one to use many sites that the ‘big boys’ will not fit into.
    Do to age, it is kind of a ‘govt project’, one hour driving, four hours maintenance.

  2. Cheryl

    I love seeing a GMC motorhome on the road. I see them around New England. Some of them are being used by radio stations for on the road broadcast.

    1. Mike Sokol

      I’ve snooped around a bit and Manny Trovao actually makes a modern diesel engine conversion for the GMC motorhome, as well as a disc brake kit for the rear, transmission rebuild for the diesel engine, etc… Looks like for less than $20K you could completely upfit one with a modern drive train. Interesting possibility: http://www.mannystransmission.biz/products/

  3. Spanky Goodin

    We have a 1974 GMC and I use it 5 or 6 weekends each summer to tow my Nostalgia race car. My previous 2007 Newmar Mountainaire required just as much maintenance as the GMC.

  4. Mike Sokol

    I’ve always wanted one of these, but I’m not up for maintaining a motor vehicle that old. But very close to where I live there’s one sitting on the blocks behind our local radio station. I think they used it for remote broadcasts for many years, but it’s been sitting in the back lot for a decade or more. I’ll snap a few pictures of it the next time I’m in the area.

  5. Billy Massey

    Charles Kurault used an FMC motorhome. Not a GMC. But we owners appreciate the coverage. 🙂

    1. Ron Hoogewerf

      The GMC motorhome was taken to New Jersey along with a current Corvette.and both were tested in a wind tunnel. The GMC Motorhome had a slightly lower coefficient of drag than the Corvette The GMC was built in a truck production line in the Pontiac plant. The GMC did not have an air conditioner or storage pod on the top, and did not have an awning on the side, or ladder on the back, which accounted for the lower drag

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