Vintage GMC Motor Coach

My neighbor came home with a 1976 GMC motorcoach, and I just love it. Its cool! I want one! I had some really good times in them back in the day when they were new.

There were only in production for a few years. From about 1973-79.

Its unique in a couple ways. Its the only motorhome built entirely by a major auto manufacturer.

It has a unique drive train arrangement. Its based on the front wheel drive from the Olds Toronado with and Olds 455 engine.

The engine/drive train combo makes for more leg room and a lower center of gravity than modern motorhomes. Anything that is 30 years old is going to have problems. It does burn up wheel bearing every 20-30K miles, but that might be so bad for what I have in mind. I am not thinking about taking long trips in it very often.

I am thinking I can leave it stored near the beach and Kathy and I can drive over in my little Toy truck with kayaks. I would drop Kathy off to drive the GMC to the beach (She used to be a bus driver) and follow along in my little Toy truck with the kayaks. That way we can do our running around town in the little truck.

Yes, I have been working this over at RV. NET and getting positive feedback

Anyone here have any experience with these vintage motorhomes to share?

vintage motorhomes
i currently own an 82 Bluebird Wanderlodge and prior to that had a 71 Travco 220. The GMC’s seem to bring a premium price and I think the FWD introduces more maintenance issues. I’d go with a rear wheel drive Dodge chassis Travco or Avco in that vintage over the GMC.

The Bluebird’s a great one.

does it look like this?

(and what are you, retiring?)

There seems to be a cult following and that’s usually a good thing. When I was a kid our neighbors got one and shortly after they were never home - always trucking around in it. As I recall it was very nice and not at all the typical motor home.

Automobile Magazine did a nice story on them about a year back sut I couldn’t find it.

Yep. Just Like That
And I want it because I am not retiring any time soon.

If I was retired I would get a truck and trailer and leave it set up for a week at a time.

For a quick 2 day weekend at the beach I want the minimal set up and take down time that a motorhome provides

They were the coolest RV’s

– Last Updated: May-09-07 8:57 PM EST –

on the road back then, but they were plagued by mechanical troubles. The later years had a beefed up transaxle to address this, from what I always heard, towing with these babies was a definite no-no.
The Carling Brewery near where I grew up had one for remote events, can't tell ya how many times I saw that thing broken down on highways around Md.

Always my favorite RV to behold!

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But not to own! Almost bought one of these three different times, but the limitations and problems stopped me each time.

The three main problems I found were:
1. Very limited on storage space and additional weight carrying capacity. Many RVs had this problem as they were built on chassis too small for a decent load above the RV weight itself. Later on the Feds cracked down on this practice. The GMC was even worst as it had very limited space for stuff as well.
2. Poor traction. Most all RVs are light on the front axles and heavy on the rear axles. This made traction a problem for the GMC from concept thru it's life unless the traveler was a very light packer. Could not put too much extra stuff behind the rear axle. A trailer or towed dingy was normally a BIG problem, Etc. I know of a few that simply had to park and wait for the weather to clear during snow and ice as the front axle was just too lightly loaded to get any traction. Remember seeing one being towed up a slight grade out of a snowy mall parking lot because it could not get out on it's own. That was funny, at least from the by stander's point of view. :^)
3. Maintenance problems. Can not remember many now, but there seemed to be a lot. Remember bearings were a problem, engine was normally in need of something, etc. Transmission too light? And something about the suspension?

I love their look, the design concept, I just love them! But I'll just keep loving them from afar. I get to see two every month on our trips to see my father in law as we pass through York, PA. One is all original at an old VW Bug shop and used sales lot. The other is across the street at the Saturn dealer. It has a cool paint job as a rolling billboard. Glad to see they are being so well kept!



If you really want a GM bus
get a cool one.

Interesting Info so far

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When I was a kid, I remember seeing these things and thought they were pretty cool. I knew several people who thought they were the best thing in motorhomes.

Hearing the comments about using Oldsmobile Toronado front-drive componants and having frequent wheel-bearing failure makes me think they might have just used them in unmodified form, which clearly seems like a bad idea (a 1- or 2-ton truck doesn't use the same wheel bearings as a passenger car). Remember that GM did exactly that when they built the engines for their diesel cars in the late 70s or early 80s. They used a gasoline engine as a basis for the diesel, and the bearings that worked fine in a gas engine would quickly fail when subjected to the loads of a diesel. Vehicles with a cult following are not necessarily good ones (the old VW bus is a prime example). If it were me, I'd be really worried about parts availability and the cost of getting someone to do the work. You won't be able to take this to any old shop to get it fixed. On the other hand, it sounds like it could really be fun. Keep us posted, whatever you do.

Thanks, Mick!

– Last Updated: May-10-07 2:04 PM EST –

I was looking forward to your input on this.

You summed up the comments from the RV board real well. I am aware of the limitations, and common problems, but I think I can live with them.

I am thinking about storing it near the beach for the Fall and Spring season and driving over in my Toy truck. That would save on gas, and eliminate the stress of driving thru downtown San Jose and over the Santa Cruz mountains in a motorhome.

It would also eliminate the carrying kayaks in the motorhome problem, and we would have a small vehicle for running around while at the beach. I think finding a storage place is as critical to this plan as finding the right RV. There are lots of them around Monterey Bay, but not cheap.

The towing capacity is not an issue at all. I think driving a 26' vehicle will be challenging enough without towing something behind it. A kayak trailer might be nice, but I would tow it with my Toy truck, or just rack them on it. I would drive the escort vehicle rather than tow it.

The weight capacity and space limitation should not be a problem because this will be used mostly for very short weekend trips to the beach. Its difficult for me to get extended time off from work for long trips. That is probably not going to change in the next few years. Even if I change jobs, it will be a while before I have leave for extended trips. Its not like we have to take stuff to support full time RV living.

High Maintenance, Low Reliablity

– Last Updated: May-10-07 2:02 PM EST –

This would be a high maintenance, low reliability kind of proposition. It always is when dealing with vintage vehicles.

Partly because the motorhome would be 30 years old, partly because the technology used is 30 years old, and partly because that is the nature of the class A beast.

Unlike many vintage vehicles, getting parts is not a problem. A company called Cinabar engineering in Michigan specializes in the GMC motorhome restoration, and they bought the rights from GMC to produce OEM parts.

GMC did a lot of research to ensure the drive train could handle the load. Its a long story

The wheel bearings are an issue. I have been advised that they would need to be replaced every 25-30,000 miles.

But if used the way I envision, it would take years to put 30,000 miles on it, and it would never be very far from home base if something went wrong.

My plan to keep it stored near the beach and not have to drive it very much is not so original. I talked to people at the camp ground with motorhomes, and found that is what lots of people do. So why pay $150K to buy something reliable, but not nearly so classy to drive 20-30 miles every other weekend part of the year?

A 25’ tag trailer would be cheaper and a whole lot more practical. You have a lot of extra mechanical systems in a motor home and seals tend to go bad when they are not used. It might be neat but a lot of extra cost. Better floor plans and facilities in the trailer besides being cheaper to maintain.

and that’s the great thing
the availability of parts.

I disagree with the next poster regarding a trailer. something nice about having a motor home and not having to tow anything.

I looked in my Automobile mag backissues last nite and darn if I couldn’t find the article on the GM. Mostly entertainment but there was some good road test info on the vehicle.

Depends On The Trip
If you are going to stay a week at a time there is no doubt a truck and trailer are cheaper and more practical. I will definitely go that way when I retire.

For the next ten years, most of our trips with be short weekends. The typical trips starts with working until 6:00 on Friday, driving 45 minutes home, jumping in the van and driving 2 hours to the beach. We get there way past dark, and in no mood for much setup.

We have all day Saturday, but must leave the CG by 12:00 sharp on Sunday. They are very strict, and I like to sleep late.

We have been making a lot more trips to the beach since we got the conversion van. It has four seats and a permanent queen sized bed. All the gear stores under the bed. Setup is throwing out a couple chairs, lantern, stove, and firewood. If I don’t feel like a campfire Friday night, it can wait until Saturday morning.

The only problem with this rig is that we are going to the beach more, but I am kayaking less. The only way to take a kayaks is to throw the 9’ Frenzy in the back between the seats. I bought a Scrambler, but it really doesn’t fit. It obstructs the drivers view.

I used to launch from the campground beach and go for a little paddle on Saturday, but Kathy doesn’t paddle on the ocean and I don’t like to leave her in camp alone. If we had a motorhome, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it.

GMC Motor home
The biggest advantage to them was their handling.I remember being passed by one on a curvey road on the way to a road race.They were also much less affected by crosswinds.


RVs in the 21st Century
RVs drink an inordinate amount of fuel and contribute heavily to global warming. Getting into one now that the planet is heating up and fuel prices have gone through the roof is ridiculous. And to make the situation worse for yourself you want a thirty year old obsolete model that will eat up your weekend relaxation/paddling time with repairs and maintenance. I think you need a reality check.

Anytime Cuda!
I used my class A for business. Went down the road with a loaded E-150 towed behind. Total weight was between 17,000 and 21,000 pounds so GMC would have never survived.

Glad your light tripp’n to the beach will allow you to enjoy the ultimate classic RV! I’m jealous!!!



that was me!
nice yugo!

I Would Use Less Gas
"I am thinking I can leave it stored near the beach and Kathy and I can drive over in my little Toy truck with kayaks. I would drop Kathy off to drive the GMC to the beach (She used to be a bus driver) and follow along in my little Toy truck with the kayaks. That way we can do our running around town in the little truck."

Since I am currently going to the beach in a full sized Chevy van that gets 10 MPG, I would actually be saving gas by doing most of the driving in in my Toy Truck that gets 20 MPG.

Anyone looking for one?
I just saw one for sale in Springfield IL. I can get the number if anyone is interested.