“The GMC keeps us young and free.” says Ruud Ledeboer. GMC motorhomes from the 1970s have a respectable following, and Ledeboer, age 59 and from the Netherlands, is among their followers. He and his wife, Thea spend up to a month at a time in theirs.
GMC motorhomes are among the most popular for several reasons. They are sturdy, they are easy to drive, and they were ahead of their time as far as design. Some of their fans even see them as collectibles. One of the owners of the 1978 GMC Coca Cola GadAbout, for example, has collected two. Some owners, often referred to as “snow birds,” have different ones in multiple residences.
Really, if you are going to own one GMC motorhome, why not own two?
Why a GMC Motorhome?
The 1970’s GMC motorhomes, available in 23 and 26-foot models, were considered very modern, and even futuristic for their time. With a low profile (merely 16-inches off the ground), a low center of gravity, and an Oldsmobile front wheel drive transaxle (that was referred to as a unified power plant package), it was extremely easy to maneuver. An Oldsmobile Toronado 455-inch gasoline V8 engine, and a turbo-hydramatic transmission, gave it the “get up and go” that many contemporary RVs lacked.
The futuristic, aerodynamic design helped it achieve better gas mileage than most RVs. The panoramic windshield, and abundant side windows, gave it a unique appearance, as well as provided an expanded view.
The exterior was constructed of aluminum, and fiberglass bonded to an aluminum frame. This made it more similar to an aircraft than an RV of that period. At that time, most were merely campers on the chassis of work trucks. The GMC model was sleek, modern, and comfortable.
Meet the GMCers
In 1973, when General Motors revealed its motorhome, its popularity was immediate. Even after the end of its production, it retained a loyal following of residents and fans. The level of adoration, however, was typically more prevalent in collectible automobiles, not RVs.
Similar to classic car clubs, as well as the exclusive association of Airstreams, owners of GMC motorhomes, known as “GMCers,” wear their pride visibly.
Although they are often of retirement age, GMCers are usually quite active. They travel in their RVs for months at a time, and sometimes relocate seasonally.
The Australian “Blue Streak”
Avid GMCer, Robert Mueller of Hoboken, retired in Australia at age 55, with his Australian wife, Helen. After five years of touring during the summer on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, they purchased a GMC motorhome. Following the tradition of GMCers, they named their coach the “Blue Streak.”
The above photograph shows the Mueller’s Australian GMC RV, Blue Streak.
Its American Cousin “Double Trouble”
Since they frequently traveled to the U.S., Mr. Mueller bought another GMC one year later. Strangely, although he didn’t even look at the second coach before purchasing it, it happened to be merely two serial numbers away from Blue Streak. Furthermore, they had both been up-fitted by Avion–a popular trailer-maker.
Mueller found the odds of one person unintentionally buying two RVs only two serial numbers removed, forty years after their creation, astronomical! He made several improvements to the mechanics, and interior, of the coach he named “Double Trouble.” Now, he and his wife tour the American southwest in the summer, before traveling to and touring Australia.
A Friendly Suggestion
Robert Mueller met GMCer, Espen Heitmann, through the GMCnet online community. Heitmann lives in the lovely village of Eidsdal, Norway. At 46 years of age, he considers himself one of the youngest owners of a GMC motorhome. As a hobby, he restores GM vehicles from the 1960s and 1970s, and is another loyal follower of the motorhome. As a matter of fact, for a while, he owned 20% of Norway’s five GMC motorhomes.
Upon Mueller’s suggestion, he named his second one “Double Trouble,” as well. Translated to Norwegian, he calls it “Dobbelt Trøbbel.”
Another GMC motorhome, that Heitmann restored, is titled “Big Green.” Of this RV, he said, “I’ve had this GMC for three years and used it for vacation last summer, with my girlfriend of 25 years. We covered 3,500 miles in three weeks.”
“Before that, [she] wouldn’t go anywhere without a hotel reservation. Now, she’s nagging me to get it back on the road.”
So, WHY GMC motorhomes?
With their low profile, they are easy to drive. With the Oldsmobile Toronado engine, they have plenty of horsepower. Being the first of their kind, they are considered classics. Their rust-resistant body composition lends itself to their endurance.
Modern for the time, the GMCs include heat and central air conditioning, a gas range and microwave oven, a color television, AM/FM stereo, cassette player, and a CB two-way radio, plus they even have a built-in vacuum cleaner. This is all powered by an electric on-board generator.
Due in part to its loyal fan base, of the 13,000 GMC motorhomes built, as many as 8,450 are listed on the website known as the Registry. John Shotwell of Archbold, Ohio, and owner of a 26-footer, is the primary manager of the site.
He claims, “I’d wanted one since they were introduced. Our longest trip so far, was around the Great Lakes for about two weeks, and about 2,200 miles.”
The call of the open road, and the carefree lifestyle it allows, has convinced more than one of life’s passengers to invest in a GMC motorhome. Easier to drive than many contemporary motorhomes–and less expensive to fuel– they have become the “go to” camper for a substantial number of individuals. Whether used in their native state–and on their native soil–or renovated and relocated, these RVs have a fan club that ensures their posterity. Live long and prosper GMC RV.