GMC motorhomes were way ahead of their time

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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.

##NRV 7-8-04; ##RVT801 ##RVDT1346

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tom
3 months ago

I have owned 2. Both 1975 Avion upfitted 26′ Transmodes. Absolutely the best riding motorhome on the road. They are a bit of an Air Force project – drive for an hour, repair for four hours.
If you do not mind getting into the mechanical side of your RV, these are the toy to own. Parts are readily available, everything came off the GM production lines

Spanky Goodin
3 years ago

We just got home from spending the weekend in our 1974 GMC at the drag races. We only use it six to eight weekends a year anymore and are thinking of selling it, but I’m sure I’d miss it. I was a GM employee in 1973 when these coaches were introduced and wanted one from that day on.

Bev
3 years ago

Saw one of these this morning heading south on 101 on the Oregon coast…pretty!!

John Wright
3 years ago

Harry,
The only thing that the Revcon and the GMC Classic motorhome had in common was the same drive train of a Olds FWD and that lasted only until 1978 when the Revcon had to find another drive setup to use. The design and quality and fit were different too.

Jerry Wheeler
3 years ago

The Charles Kuralt shows I watched used the FMC motorhome, not the GMC that I am aware of. I have owned 4 of the GMC motorhomes and still own a very early 73 23′ and a late model 78 26′.
JR Wheeler

Harry Salit
3 years ago

Chuck, look into the Revcon motor home, it was manufactured before the GMC with the same ring wheel drive train.
You could say that GMC copied Revcon. Built for about eighteen years.

Guy Lopes
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Salit

Harry, How many Revcons were built in that 18 year period?

Billy Massey
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Salit

There are many Revcons and their owners that rally with us GMCers. See: http://www.gmcers.org