Most motorhomes built more than 40 years ago are badly showing their age by now — 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.
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.
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.
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.
Their 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. Charles Kuralt showcased the GMC motorhome in his popular “On the Road” series for CBS TV. Although Kuralt and his crew did not actually spend the night in the motorhome (they opted for motels), most Americans received a glamorous glimpse at motorhome travel in each of Kuralt’s reports, as his motorhome rolled down a beautiful highway.
Two factors combined to doom the GMC motorhome to RV history. The fuel crisis of 1978 was severely impacting the health of the entire recreational vehicle 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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