Nov 202012
Vintage GMC Motorhome

Produced in the 1970s yet looking thoroughly modern even today, the GMC motorhome is a much sought after vehicle by collectors. It’s smooth and pleasing lines, its functionality and innovate features make it stand out amongst its contemporaries. It’s a real head turner and futuristic in every aspect!

Introduced in 1973 this is an early example of an integrated motorhome. At the time when most were bodies built on bare truck chassis this one was purpose built, conceived from the ground up to address the serious shortcomings of the models being offered at the time. With that fresh slate approach in mind the designers could really innovate and they certainly took advantage of that.

Its looks alone meant it would stand out. While other motorhomes of the era were boxy and angular, this one had soft and smooth flowing lines and instead of ugly square windows those on the GMC were expansive and blended seamlessly into the body. Almost egg shaped, in some ways it reminds me of the little Boler trailer, many of which can be seen on our site. (Boler!)

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An example of how innovate the design was can be seen by looking at the drive train. It’s front wheel drive and this allowed for a very low slung floor since there were no drive shafts running the length of the body. This low profile also made the vehicle quite stable and you often hear how well they handle on the road, almost car like. Amazing given its size. Power was supplied by an Oldsmobile gas engine.

Another interesting feature were the rear wheels – there were four of them in a side by side layout rather than dual wheels on a single rear axle seen on other motorhomes of the era. This not only provided a smooth ride and excellent braking it also added to the futuristic look. By not using axles this also meant more cabin space and the each pair of wheels was a compact assembly attached directly to the chassis. These bogies included a levelling system using air bags.

Other advanced and uncommon features, for the time at least, include air conditioning (the centre pod on the roof) and cruise control.

Overall this was a very advanced vehicle and way ahead of it’s times and while it was good success, not a huge one, its cool features probably had other motorhome makers scrambling to produce something that would stand out as well.

Some 13000 were made during the span of 1973-1978 and according to sources at least 8000 or more still exist to this day. That’s a real testament to the quality of the design – the youngest are over 30 years old! I understand many of those out there have been rebuilt and renovated and are as solid now as the day they were built.

These motorhomes, interiors and all, were made in-house by GMC at Pontiac Michigan. Some however were shipped as empty shells to be completed by customizers.

This example was seen in High River Alberta appears to be in good shape and had a for sale sign on it. If you like this motorhome another interesting RV is the big pink trailer.

Update: April 2013. We spotted a nice blue (and for sale) GMC Motorhome in a storage facility in Calgary in April 2013 and we’ve added a picture of it below.

Update: May 2013. We found another one on a recent trip to Drumheller Alberta and we’ve posted a picture of it at the bottom of this article.

To see some other cool motorhomes we’ve found, follow this link…
Mystery Machine – Green Machine – Strange homemade RV.

If you wish more information on these cool campers, by all means contact us!

Date: September 2012.
Location: High River, Alberta.
Reference: To read more about this fascinating vehicle, click here.

GMC Motorhome

From every angle, it’s an interesting vehicle.

Old GMC Motorhome

In spite of being from the 1970s, the design holds up well.

Vintage GMC Motorhome

Drive is via the front wheels.

GMC Motorhome

A sleek wind-cutting front end.

Blue GMC motorhome

This example was spotted in April 2013.

Nice GMC Motorhome

And this one, in May 2013.


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4 Comments on "The GMC motorhome, a cool retro camper"

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My dad had one of these in the early 1980s. For its size it was quite sporty but a real pig on gas and it always and I mean always turned heads.

Welsh Rabbit
Welsh Rabbit

I know a few folks with these and they are very nice, very useable and comfortable.

BTW, they had a Oldsmobile Tornado front wheel drive system using a 455 rocket V8 and later the smaller 403. The 455 is better but both are PIGS.

There are some limitations to front wheel drive in a heavy vehicle. In snow or on steep gravel roads you need to be creative and steady. Reversing up a short hill instead of straight on was not unheard of.

This motorhome is well suited to families with disabilities. Its low profile and easy access make for real smooth sailing.

A simple $100 transmission cooler can extend the life of the MH and is a must-do addition.

Tony H
Tony H

I saw one a few weeks ago that was painted like the Partridge family bus!