Unrestored Project: 1977 GMC Eleganza Motorhome

We’ve seen a rash of these front-wheel-drive GMC motorhomes come up for sale of late, and I suspect it has something to do with the wave of people tired of being house-bound and looking for a way out given the draconian orders to stay at home. The GMC is a smart first step into RV ownership given the smaller size and ease of finding spare parts, but it’s also no small task to bring one back from the dead. This example is described as being completely original and not a half-way done restoration, of which we’ve seen plenty of over these last few months. Find the GMC here on craigslist in Hot Springs, Arkansas for $4,500.

You could chalk up the volume of GMC motorhomes for sale to a few different factors: one, the aspiring entrepreneur with one that’s been rotting in his backyard for decades sees that amateurs are getting into RV ownership and will spend too much money to own one; two, said-amateur spends a few weekends replacing airbags and tires and then realizes the budget is effectively wiped out, leaving no cash for actual traveling; or three, retirees are realizing the world is becoming a strange place and any desire to go beyond the gates of their retirement community has completely dissolved. Whatever the impetus is, there are plenty of these selling for fair prices if you’ve got the know-how to put one back on the road.

And they should be restored, as most accounts indicate the GMC is a delightful road trip companion, especially if piloting a full-length version isn’t super appealing at the moment. The seller notes that this one never even got halfway down the road to being restored, as the airbags are deflated and the tires are rotten. The interior remains original but will still need a total refresh if you want to enjoy living in it. The good news is the Oldsmobile V8 engine still starts up and the seller sees no evidence of “Mickey Mouse” repairs. While I’m sure the curtains could be replaced and the bed cushions tossed out, the interior doesn’t look awful at present.

That said, it’s hard to get a full look at the state of affairs inside, which can be downright funky on an old R/V, especially if dampness got in and was never let out. Mileage is indicated as being a tick over 73,000, so it’s not been driven around the world a few times, and the drivetrain should have plenty of life left in it. I’m not sure how advantageous it is to own one of these with absolutely no work done to it, as the airbags and tires will set you back a few grand before ever taking that magical first drive. Still, in a country where being told where you can and can’t go has become an hourly occurrence, the open road is one of the few places not currently closed – at least not yet.

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Comments

  1. Sherminator

    Airbags in a 1977 model?

    Like 2
    • Mark

      Air spring suspension.

      Like 11
    • Fred W

      “Airbags” refers to the springs, but not that far off base, as Olds Toronado had them in ’73 and this is Toronado based.

      Like 3
      • Joe Padavano

        The Toronado did not have air springs, it used torsion bars in the front and leaf springs at the rear. The GMC motorhomes used air bag rear springs.

        Like 4
  2. jim

    These have a habit of having rotten frames. Repairable in most cases but not an DIY project.

    Like 1
  3. Michael Rogers

    I love motorhomes! That is as big as necessary for one or two people, if you have several kids bigger may be justified. With this one, it’s easy to drive about anywhere, I drive mine to the beach for dinner, then a walk on the beach. When I go to Buttonwillow roadrace track it will tow my race car and provide a place to spend the weekend in. when guests arrive it becomes their place for the visit. When I was working, I threw my dogs in and drove to a consulting job that lasted six months, much better than staying in a motel and eating out!

    Like 6
  4. Mike

    Love the design and it still doesn’t look dated (the outside). Would be nice to have cash to blow on a gut job modern update.

    Like 6
  5. DETROIT LAND YACHT

    I’d be totally unafraid to remake this beautiful beast as an EV. Four motors…and obv plenty of room for batterries…AND plenty of roof top space for solar charging of the the accessories.

    Like 3
    • Jonathan Q Higgins

      A motorhome with a 50 mile range does not impress me.

      Like 5
      • DETROIT LAND YACHT

        Whatever motors and software they’re using in the Tesla Semi is supposed to get 500-600 miles on a full charge. That’ll do for this application just fine.

        Like 1
  6. Mark

    Toronado drive train up front, front wheel drive . One airbag behind each rear wheel on a straight axle this gives more floor space between the wheels good design for it’s time. Modern airbags can be adapted.

  7. Timothy Youngberg

    Please don’t fill it full of batteries.

  8. Wayne

    This one of the newer units, which is the one to have. Older/original ones (1973-1974) have cloth over steel rear suspension bushings that wear out and there are no replacements. (We had an older one and we had to make the rear control arm bushings from bearing stock, which is no fun.) Also the early ones had issues with auto level control, rear frame “roll/twist” and air (suspension) compressor issues. (I have been there done that with all these issues.) I prefer the 455 to the 403 engine.
    If this unit has a good frame (as in no rot) I would tackle this renovation and install a Cadillac 500 cube to replace the current engine. (There is nothing wrong with the Oldsmobile engines I just prefer more torque. If I was not able to find the Caddy engine a Buick 455 would also be a torque improvement over the Oldsmobiles. But with the Caddy you can find a left hand exhaust manifold to clear the Toronado/El Dorado drivetrain.)
    Good luck to whoever attempts this as it is one of the best ones to start with.

  9. Brett

    I have had one of these in the past and have a good friend that has one now. You can get some serious money tied up in one of these. To do the repairs/maintenance that is surely needed you should be a capable DIY. There is an incredible amount of information that now resides on the internet in support of these. If you have never driven one, it is an interesting experience. If the suspension is set up correctly they handle better than a lot of full size vans. They lean but hold the road. Cannot emphasize enough about Jim’s comment earlier. Need to check the frame to be sure it is OK. Is repairable if not good, but you better be more than a DIY to tackle that.

    Like 1
  10. Jonathan Q Higgins

    Detroit Land Yacht, how much do you think that would cost? Not an EV hater but the battery cost for any significant range is brutal. I have a project I’d love to convert to electric but I don’t think it’s cost effective.

  11. DayDreamBeliever Member

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