Untouched Race Hauler: 1977 GMC RV

You can almost feel it. You can almost smell it. You can even feel the whoosh as the door to this seventies motorhome opens to the track as a candy apple red and mustard yellow ’57 Devin Special streaks by, a grey Gullwing 300sl only a blink of an eye behind. In 1977, this GMC would have been the luxurious way to partake in an amazing racing adventure.

I’ve always thought these GMC Motorhomes, produced between from 1973 to 1978, have design styles that have survived the test of time – still looking modern and sleek even today. With a surge in RV restoration happening, this particular survivor has a remarkably clean, and original interior, found here on eBay, even if it does not quite match the more elegant Mercedes inspired exterior (going as far as throwing the Mercedes logo on the front). Instead of making it a “glamper”, or ultra modern, or rustic cowboy – it might be amazing just to let it be.

To get a better look at this beast, the seller has posted a ton of photos – each one like peeking into a looking glass of the past. An avocado yellow bathroom complete with tiny tub, nearly full size toilet and petite sink all enveloped in original wallpaper. And the upholstery throughout is the nearly forgotten rose pink, with Nagel inspired chevrons for that classic period touch. My favorite day dream is behind the wheel of this bad boy – navigating the asphalt by-ways, in search of the next race, commanding the intact dashboard, the “electro-level” pneumatic system, the Uniden CB radio, as well as all the GMC period correct car accessories they used from other production lines.

And haul it does – its 455ci Oldsmobile V8 (most likely it used the Olds – virtually all 13,000 made featured it), and its front wheel drive have earned a fan club for reliability and pulling power, and not just for its obvious good looks. Since I’m about the hit the road next summer with my newest rebuilt convertible for shows, I’ve been kicking the tires on this style as for a complete gut and remodel. But if I was looking for a great survivor example, especially with under 12k original miles, this would be high on my list for sure!

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Comments

  1. Coventrycat

    Love these things, the badge on the front ruins the overall look, which is really pretty nice. Give it to a rapper, they can be gangsta.

    Like 1
  2. Joe Haska

    A friend of mine bought one of these at Barrett-Jackson several years ago, and it was as nice as this one, in fact the interior was even better, it reminded you of what a private jet would be inside. He paid about 40K for it and then decided to sell it. We drove it to the L.A. Roadster show and swap meet. It ran 75 mph easy, and was the hit of the RV park. It sold for 50K and was shipped to Australia, were it would be converted to right hand drive. I thought it was a good deal then, and I would certainly like to have this one, if I could. They are just really cool and if you don’t have one of the mega buck pushers, this is the one to have.

    Like 1
  3. JW

    I love it, my dream is to own one that someone didn’t keep the interior so nice but otherwise pristine. That way I could have a professional body man gut the interior and cut the back off and convert it to a electric lift gate with a flip down ramp to load our 70 Machi into it to take to long distance shows . No need for towing a trailer and has it’s own garage at hotels safely tucked away.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      See the most recent Roadkill Extra episode.

  4. Danno

    One of my favourite GMCs. Have always wanted to gut one and insulate it for northern winters.

  5. Dr. D

    I always liked these too, my grandparents had one in the 70s, which I think was also a 1977 model. Those front seats are not original, and I don’t think that upholstery is original either, or the carpet. And also the counter tops are not original. Also I don’t think the exterior paint is original; obviously the logos are not, but I think the entire silver/gray two tone paint scheme with the red stripes is not original.

  6. Wayne

    Original or not, I love it. If it was in OZ, I’d be the new owner.

  7. jdjonesdr

    I don’t get it. How can it have less than 12K miles, but have been driven all over the Mid West. Doesn’t sound right but I love it anyway.

    • Dave Mazz

      Maybe it was a single, kinda-long. road trip, followed by 40 years of storage ?

  8. Tom Justice

    Get in touch with Ozzy Osbourne. If you have been watching Jack and Ozzy’s World Detour he had to have one of these because he toured in one a long time ago and it broke down soon after. If you can find him, I bet he will buy it. What’s with the Mercedes Tri Star if it has an Olds 455?

    • Whippeteer

      I saw that. They didn’t even reach their stop in NC. The engine and tranny blew.

    • 86 Vette Convertible

      Note the emblem on the passenger side: Wisconsin GullWingers Club. Obviously belonged in some way to a MB owner at one time.

      Like 1
  9. Jubjub

    Yeah, these are cool.

    Neighbors had one of these in safety orange when I was a kid. Next to it was their bright blue early VW Rabbit. Couldn’t miss either of them.

    Agree about the interior having been changed and update in several ways. These look best when the interior has been preserved. Most were remodeled years ago in a style that is now dated nor appropriate to the era of the vehicle.

  10. Robert Rose

    I worked on one and it had a caddilac 500 drivetrain.

  11. Fred w.

    Probably the only old motorhome that is worth putting money into. Looked 20 years ahead of it’s time. And with that Toranado 455/FWD package, easy to obtain parts and service for.

    Like 2
    • Fiete T.

      Revcon, Airstream/Argosy, Travco, American Clipper…there are some very well built vintage RVs that are not the typical “Stick & staple” cheap ones

  12. Mark in Mesa

    I have a ’78 26′ version of the GMC (the Royale Center Kitchen model). This 23’coach has had at least some modifications (that paint, and that interior fabric are not original). FWIW, the coach appears to be a late ’77 Birchaven (the only type that had that layout). The late ’77 and all ’78 models had the small block 403 motor (which gave up only about 10 horsepower to the bigger, heavier 455). The 23′ coaches are a bit rarer than the 26′ coaches, and this one does appear to be in good shape, though I have to wonder about the veracity of the 11,000 mile claim (the documentation should clear that up one way or the other). $30K is strong money for a coach like this one, though if it’s really pristine AND really an 11,000 mile coach it starts to sound more reasonable. In the end, you can get into a classic GMC for a whole lot less than a new coach, and you’ll have people dropping by to see it every time you park in an RV park, especially if it’s obviously well-kept. There still isn’t anything out there that fills the niche that this amazing coach was built to fill.

    Like 3
  13. Dolphin Member

    Yes, a special vehicle, but…..

    These are real BIG. Be certain that you want BIG when you buy one. And they all have some years…I mean decades…and miles on them by now.

    My neighbor friend has one and spends a lot of time & money on it. Lots of systems in it to keep working. Has the 455 drivetrain, so is not exactly easy on fuel. There are things on the roof that need to be sealed properly and well or else the roof will leak. Ask him how he knows.

    Brakes needed work and I offered my 2-ton hydraulic jack, but this sucker is heavy and needs a bigger jack. Everything in it is BIG, or else complex, or both. And there are a lot of things in it.

    Whatever you do, don’t buy a neglected one with lots of deferred maintenance past due. It’s not like buying a neglected car or truck. It’s like buying a neglected car attached to a neglected house.

    But buy a good one and enjoy the highway. Just bring a non-maxed out credit card for that big 455.

    • Slick51

      Actually these are not very big. They come in 23’ and 26’ length. They are quite low to the road requiring no exterior stairs to get in.

      Hey if it’s good enough for Barbie.

  14. Paul

    Loved them in the 70’s and still loved them, however, since I am not a Mercedes fan, I would have to lose the front badge and decals…

  15. Whippeteer

    They’ve had it for a while. Here is an exterior video that they posted 9/1/16.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBQXVGYe76g

    • Whippeteer

      They were asking $39,900 a year ago.

  16. Whippeteer

    Olds 455 in the early years. 403 in 1977 and 1978 after production ended on the 455.

  17. Wagon master Member

    “Rose pink” i remember being called Mauve if I recall. 70/80s popular color that dates it back to the era of prosperity.

  18. Whippeteer

    About 8-10 mpg at 55-60. Just like most motorhomes of the era. The streamlining helps a little, but you’re still pushing a barn door through the air.

    Like 1
  19. DavidL Member

    I have a question that probably betrays my inexperience w/ such things but what is tread wear like on the rear wheels w/ that configuration? It seems like as it turns there is going to be slippage, skidding to some degree.
    Would appreciate knowing. Thanks

    • Slick51

      These are front wheel drive. No slippage, and the fact that they are tandem wheels as opposed to dual wheels like on most RVs makes changing tires easy.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Actually he is absolutely correct. The pivot point is between the rear wheels, thus both tires scrub to some degree on sharp turns.

      You can hear the tires of our fire truck squeeling every time we back it in.

    • Mark in Mesa

      The rear wheels are on bogies, rather than straight axles (not being driven). The rear-most wheels do just fine as they’re on trailing control arms, and are happy to follow the rest of the vehicle anywhere it goes. The middle wheels are mounted on forward-facing control arms, and generally do OK, but they are prone to wanting to deflect when they encounter truck ruts on the interstate, and can make things “exciting” if you drop the rear wheels off the edge of the road (by trying to steer the back end the wrong way). I added some Straight-Track devices on the front bogies, which limit the lateral deflection of the front bogies, fixing those issues. When you’re cranking a really tight turn in a parking lot, it’s a little disconcerting to see how far the rear four wheels get out of line, but it’s not something you notice from the driver’s seat. But the handling of the coach is much, much, much better than other rear wheel drive coaches, due to the much lower center of gravity (and in the case of my GMC motorhome, two additional anti-sway bars on the middle and rear bogies – the limitation on handling is generally the cabinets all emptying their contents). ;-)

      Like 4
  20. Maestro1

    I remember these very well, and yes, the design stands up even after all this time.
    The gas bills will be large.

  21. David Miraglia

    Hell if I had the money. I’d grab this baby.

  22. Achman

    @Dolphin Your advice is sound and good, but it applies to all RVs not just this one. By Class A RV Standards, this is GMC is small. Very small. 26′ is about the smallest you can buy these days, and they go up to around 40′, longer maybe if it is a bus conversion. My parents get 5-6mpg in their Triton V10 Class A, so you aren’t going to get good gas mileage in anything that large…unless it is the Travelon my friend owns…It is aluminum and has a Corvair 6 in the back and easily gets 15-18mpg. Similar to the Ultravan, but it is the prototype, and one-of-one.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr38/8507999580

  23. sluggo

    I suppose more modern powertrains might help some of those old battle wagons, But there is a reason few people drive long distances with these things. We have a cabin and many of our friends do the whole “Retired & travel in a RV” thing, and it takes work and planning or it gets $$$$$$$$ Very quicky.

    The new Dodge/Mecedes Sprinter van conversions are quite popular and while not huge, If i bought one It would be one of those,, but they are not cheap.

    I know some people with an older RV like this but was designed to be same width as std cars,, and powered by a Slant 6 mopar which is funny no matter how you look at it. Name of it escapes me for some reason, but apparently they are quite popular for a restomod diesel conversions.

    I can say from experience that when you have to deal with driving or parking, navigating parking lots or tree lined streets it is a real pain. Was in the city the other day and watched a big RV go thru a street lined with trees and wiped off everything bolted to the roof and ripped a big hole in the top and lined the street with leaves and branches… Wish I caught it on film, was painful,, Even more painful was the owner who kept going well past the point of common sense and mechanical sympathy to their great regret and expense. Some of the property owners were highly emotional as many of these trees were quite old.

    • Fiete T.

      Clark Cortez motor home.

      • sluggo

        Fiete-CORRECT! Cortez was exactly what that thing was,, At one point they asked me about selling it and I did research on it and pretty interesting history. In the end last I heard some other friend of theirs had been after one for years and bought it instead. I recall something about some sort of Biofuels engine or Diesel conversion they were planning.
        Whatever it was apparently they are quite popular for such conversions and a sought after vintage motorhome.

        There ARE safety concerns, but if people wanted clean efficient cars, why not look into natural gas or propane conversions? We have some much of it in the US there is constant battles about shipping it overseas because we have more than we can use. So what if one of these motorhomes is a big rolling fuel container? Motors on natural gas run forever with hardly any wear.

  24. Joe T

    EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle

    • Milt

      Amazing we got this far before a Stripes mention. If this was BaT, 3 of the first 5 comments would reference the movie.

      Like 1
  25. sluggo

    Hmm, yes, I love that reference as well. I have a vintage motorcycle I am building from a variety of BSA parts from 1940s to 1973, I have a UK pedestrian slicer plate with M-641 UAV which is combo of the models its built from and UAV is Urban Assault Vehicle. So, I am not the only bright bulb who has copied that inspiration from the movie.

    When I was in the Air Force, my first duty station was 366th TFS and we had world wide deployment status. Anywhere anytime. So we had a LOT of Mobility gear. Think Pink Floyd World tour of “The Wall” and you are close. Palletized gear and mobilty tool boxs, parts, and supplies to set up anywhere in remote location.
    So, we had a mobile set of command posts and offices and these were similar to those 20 foot job shack trailers on wheels you see at construction sites. (Except ours were painted Camo). So one day I noticed that the trailers were all the same as the Stripes Motorhome stenciled in letters on each one. I asked and yep,, somebody had a sense of humor and painted that on them and they entered inventory as that. Not sure if that became Air force wide,, or was just our unit.

  26. John Member

    Rented one for a while, I never had problems but do hear that one of the problems early on were blowing one of the rear airbags and were gas hogs.
    Then owned a 27′ Travco W/360(truck chassie), more interior room, still double bed, shower over the can like most of the small one. We did take it to Florida and then rented it very succesfully for 4-5 yrs. Last one was a 36′ Endeavor
    Good MH, they all got about the same mileage, 8-12,
    Miss motorhoming, but like a vacation home,requires $$$$ upkeep.

    • Mark in Mesa

      The airbags in the 70’s GMC motorhome have been amazingly reliable – yes, they do eventually wear out, but there are small fabricators out there making improved bags that work better, are relatively inexpensive, and will be available for many years. Similarly, there are a number of others building any parts that become unavailable for the GMC motorhome, allowing those of us who love them to keep them on the road for a long, long time into the future. As far as gas mileage, they get a pretty consistent 9-10mpg, which is pretty good for a 10-12,000 pound house on wheels (considering some of the large SUVs don’t do much better).

      Like 2
  27. chad

    If this is same sz outside as the Vixen it can go thru automobile sized garage doors.
    I’d replace the motor w/a Cummins (& Allison transmish) & B happy w/the rest.

    • George

      Much larger.

  28. Jimbosidecar

    Good luck adapting a Cummins and Allison to a front wheel drive chassis

    Like 1
  29. chad

    Here it is –

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vixen_(RV)

    Vixen’s da 1 I’d B scoutin out. “F” a GM –
    30 MPGs, but the cummins/alison would B 4 this one above.

    “…to a front wheel drive chassis…”
    can it!

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