The freedom of the open road—lots of people long for the exploration that comes with having an RV. For many, however, owning one seems out of reach. The cost of a new motorhome varies widely based on the brand, the size, and the number of amenities, running from $24-thousand to as much as $1-million. You can drastically lower that estimate by opening your search to include used models of reputable brands.Consider, for example, the GMC RV. Between 1973 and 1978, GMC produced sleek and stylish motorhomes that were comfortable and easy to drive. Before that, if you wanted a home on wheels, you either got a travel trailer or something akin to a bus. General Motors changed that, which is one reason that their rigs are some of the most popular to restore or renovate today.
First, They Have a Formidable Foundation
Mounted on a steel ladder-frame chassis like those found on trucks, with an Oldsmobile Toronado front-wheel-drive transaxle, this "hot rod" came in models either 23 or 26-feet long. With a unified power-plant package, larger than usual front wheel rake, and front wheel drive, passengers get a comfortable ride while drivers enjoy extreme maneuverability. The self-leveling rear-wheel air suspension means setting up your campsite is a breeze. This was innovative for its time.But, What's Under the Hood?
With labels like "rocket" and "turbo" under the hood, the RV's power is obvious. The GM features a 7.5-liter Oldsmobile, 455-cubic-inch Rocket V8 engine combined with a 3-speed Turbo-Hydromatic, 425 automatic transmission designed by GM.
The aerodynamic design of this RV looks modern even today. Fiberglass and aluminum sheets cover the welded aluminum frame, and a wrap-around windshield add to its somewhat futuristic appearance.
Unique on contemporary roads, the GM exterior—when restored to its original paint—grabs attention with the pallet that was typical for the 1970s. Plus, the larger than usual windows that GMCs became known for revolutionized the cargo-style enclosed campers that were popular at the time.
Unlike other RVs, GMC's interior was exclusively designed (and built) at the company. The goal was to create an apartment on wheels, so the floor plan for the living space was "homey" providing a full kitchen with mini-fridge, stove range and oven, 2-basin sink, and an eat-in area with bench seating and a table. With a den-like arrangement, the living-space in the back doubles as the sleeping space. The restroom is in the back for privacy. With new fixtures, the interior can be entirely updated or you can totally restore it to its former glory.In Conclusion
The GMC motorhome has become something of a cult-classic with renovators due in part to its durable materials and practical style. With its smooth and powerful ride coupled with the innovative interior, you can likely find a "preloved" version for a fraction of what a new camper would cost. With a little care, these vehicles often hold-up better than new ones, and they can make a great project for a hobbyist.