Armed with that knowledge, I spent a lot of time here -- most of a year -- watching, listening, asking a LOT of stupid questions (and receiving excellent, thorough, and good-humored answers), and taking careful note of the responses. By the end of that year, I had a pretty comprehensive list of what I did and didn't want -- and a pretty good assurance that what I *did* want was a GMC. That list was the starting place when I went out to talk to Jim and buy my core coach last July.
We decided to go ahead and make the bet on a GMC for a number of reasons.
First, as Mark pointed out, new highliners are also notoriously rife with problems, so even paying $200K for a new rig isn't a guarantee that you'll have a happy RV ownership experience.
Second, like you, we're creative folks (ex-computer-game-designers) and wanted something with style. Not a big box with swirlies on the side, but something beautifully-designed and well-engineered that would turn heads -- even the heads of our jaded Silicon Valley tech-head peers. And we wanted something that we could customize, and make into a real mobile home of our own.
Third, we really liked the scale. They just don't make GMC-scaled RVs any more, which is a shame. It's big enough to give us our own back bedroom, small enough to take off the interstate and park downtown, low enough to get under the overpass and to step into without a ladder, light enough to actually get decent gas mileage for an RV.
Fourth, we ran the numbers. Our restoration will probably end up in the ballpark of $60-70K. For that money, we could have bought a very small (Roadtrek or Tioga) new or semi-new rig...which would have lost 50% of its value in the first five years (which all new RVs do, pretty much like clockwork). We expect to lose probably 25% of the GMC's restored value in a couple years. But after that, the curve will probably slow quite a bit.
Or, we could have spent twice that on something larger, with all the bells and whistles...and still had problems, and still lost half the money in five years, and still not had what we wanted.
Fifth, this coach is mechanically simple enough that breakdowns should be easy to deal with just about anywhere. Even the more esoteric parts are available via FedEx (the real miracle is that so many of them are still being made!); and the Black List is there to provide support if you're stuck in a strange place with a strange problem. Again, you can pay a quarter million for a Monaco, and not get these assurances. The support of the GMC community alone is a big part of this coach's value, IMHO.
Sixth is longevity. We expect our restoration to serve us for a good ten years, quite possibly double that or more. (We're already talking about the second restoration we're going to do on it in a decade, after the kids are grown and gone.) It's been on the road for a quarter-century already; there's no reason we can't keep her going that long again, and really get our money's worth.
We can't vouch for the reliability of an overhaul just yet -- our is stripped to the bare walls at the moment, and we're probably 2-3 months from having it finished. But I'm already awestruck by the sheer mechanical beauty of the thing (especially in her new coat of paint). Just sitting in her stripped-out interior in Jim's yard -- which I spent a good part of last week doing -- her spirit was palpable, and it was easy to imagine her as "home."
I know we'll have some frustrating times together. The Engine and I are both middle-aged ladies. We have our creaks and crankinesses, our peculiarities and preferences. We sag in places that didn't used to sag, and the machinery sometimes runs a bit less smoothly than it used to.
But time doesn't fade a true class act. Despite our mounting
also both clean up nice, and like to step out in style -- and I think
know how to treat each other with gentle good humor when things don't
as planned. You can have good times in any kind of RV, but I
somehow expect they're going to be just a bit better because we're
having them in
Fun fact: Mention movies that have used GMC coaches as props. IE: Stripes.
Classic? Most defiantly, of just under 13,000 produced many are still in use today. This also speaks well for the durability and craftsmanship of the GMC. Remember that GMC only quit building these coaches because of high gasoline prices and they could build about 100 trucks in the same amount of man-hours as it took to build one of these coaches. They quit due to simple economics.
Many of the coaches were "transmodes" and these ended up being mobile TV studios and I even heard of one that was a rolling bank branch office of some kind.
Future? Well, I'll be buying one someday.
Will someone make a new coach that looks just like the GMC? Probably not. However, there are many companies whom the GMC has influenced. With all of the baby boomers out there who are now retiring and buying toys perhaps one or more of the current coach makers have plans to produce something that 20 years from now will be seen as "ahead of it's time" too.
It's unfortunate that GMC was forced to abandon the GMC coach platform. We can only imagine what it might have become. Keep smiling, Mark Elmer
I didn't find this site until after I had purchased my GMC. I spend several days reading archived posts and almost went into severe depression, because it appeared I had made a big mistake and should probably donate my GMC to a charitable organization and take the tax write off. Fortunately I decided to follow my instincts based on many years of experience with GM products and to proceed with my original plan to bring the rig to a reliable operating condition. The more I did, the more convinced I became that I had made a good choice. I first concentrated on those things that could injure or kill me, the brakes, tires, wheels. Then I moved on to those things that might leave me on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck, hoses, belts, cooling system, ignition system, fuel system, wheel bearings, transmission filter and flush. Next were the items necessary to live in it, water system, roof AC, waste system, interior lights, stove, fridge. Last came the appearance items, upholstery, driver's and passenger seats, steering wheel, carpet, blinds, etc. Everything but the appearance group is essentially finished.
WHEELS AND TIRES
This topic can generate more posts that anything I have seen on this site. Everyone should also know that I put about 40,000 miles on an Expedition equipped with the original Firestone tires with no tire problems and believe in keeping my tires inflated to their maximum rated pressure. Based on a study done many years ago, only all steel, Load Range E radial tires are recommended for use on GMC's. This recommendation is still being made after all these years for one reason. LIABILITY I believe this study was funded by GM and became their offical position. When Cinnabar purchased the license to manufacture GMC parts, it automatically became their position. It is a safe position because there is a study to support it. Until someone comes up with funding to do another study which produces a different recommendation, the recommended tires for GMC's will be all steel load range E radials. Owners that install other types of tires do so at their own risk. This topic can be discussed on this site forever and the offical recommendation will never change. End of conversation.
The recommended wheels for GMC motorhomes are radial rated steel wheels with a load capacity equal to that of 8.75 X 16.5 load range E radial tire or 2680 lbs. 16 inch steel wheels that fit 1973 through 1987 GM pickups with dual wheels will work if they are rated for use with radial tires and are hub centered.
Many GMC owners claim trued tires mounted on Alcoa Aluminum wheels and filled with balancing powder are required for a smooth ride. From my experience, this is a myth. My rig rides smooth enough on tires balanced in a one man shop in east Texas and mounted on steel wheels that the stove only rattles when I hit a bump.
There are recommendations to install an electric booster pump between the gas tanks and the mechanical fuel pump to prevent vapor lock. Vapor lock is caused by fuel vaporizing in the fuel line between the tanks and fuel pump. This occurs when the vapor pressure of the fuel becomes lower than the boiling point of the fuel. This can be caused by a hot fuel line causing the fuel to boil. It can also be caused by a restriction in the fuel line which reduces the suction pressure to the point the fuel boils. Since I have never experienced a true case of vapor lock, I assume that vapor lock causes the engine to lose power or surge or quit when operating under a load, but operates OK at idle or light load. Installing an electric booster pump may be just masking the real problem. A worn mechanical fuel pump will cause similar problems. Quadrajet carbs. have a fuel filter that has a spring which holds it in place. This spring is designed to allow the filter to bypass when the filter plugs. This bypass will allow the engine to operate at light loads but to surge under heavy load. There are also sock filters installed on the fuel pickup lines in the
fuel tanks. A small hole in a fuel line between the tank and the pump can allow air to leak into the line which will cause fuel starvation. Finally most GMC's sit for long periods of time and moisture can condense in the fuel tanks.
Until I dropped my fuel tanks, drained out several pints of water,
cleaned them, replaced all of the hoses, replaced the sock filters, and
carburator filter, I experienced surging under heavy load. After
all of the above, I drove the rig 3000 miles which included over 2000
with the temperature in the 90's extended operation above 4500 ft and a
mountain passes above 7,000 ft with no problems.
The Quadrajet carburator is much maligned on this site. There
also some very good information on Gene Fisher's site about it.
of the hard starting problems are caused by fuel getting out of the
bowl when the engine is stopped. Two things can cause this.
are plugs in the bottom of the float bowl which are bad about
leaking. The recommended fix is to cover
them with epoxy. Heat from the intake manifold can boil the fuel out of the float bowl. The only fix for this is to reduce the amount of heat getting to the carburator. Blocking the exhaust passages into the intake manifold is the only fix for this. An aftermarket heat shield between the carb and the manifold may also help.
Another common problem with Quadrajets is fuel logged floats. The Quadrajet uses a float made out of a closed cell foam. Over a period of time the float becomes saturated with gasoline and sinks which causes the carb to flood, idle rough, and be hard to start. Black smoke from the exhaust when idling is a good indication of this problem.
All of the GM products I have owned over the last 20 years have had
Quadrajet carb and have operated for years with little or no
problems. Since I cleaned the carb, replaced the float, installed
the larger jets recommended
on Gene's site, replaced the OEM gasket with a heat shield, and
the idle, my rig is running fine. It starts easily and doesn't
switch it off. Since I changed the jets, fuel consumption seems to be down and power up a little.
I have spent many years operating and maintaining pumps. Centrifugal pumps like the water pumps on most engines are pretty simple. They follow what is know as the "pump laws" pretty close. Impeller material isn't a factor in a pump's performance if is satisfactory for use in material being pumped. For example carbon steel will be attacked if it is used in an acid pump. Diameter
is the most important factor. A cast iron impeller and a stamped steel impeller will pump the same amount of fluid if they are the same diameter and have the same number of vanes. All water pumps sold for 455 Olds engines don't have the same diameter. When I replaced my water pump, I was offered pumps with impeller diameters ranging from less than 4 in to more than 4 3/8 in. I finally found one with the same impeller diameter as the original pump.
The following may generate some posts. At one time I was responsible for the operation of numerous "canned" pumps. The only way to check these pumps for proper rotation is to compare their actual discharge pressure to their rated pressure. If the rotation is reversed, the pump discharge pressure is about 60% of the rated pressure. Don't know
Next For the last 5 years I have been camping with a group called
This is a club for singles who like to camp alone. Now most of these
people are women who have lost their mate but still had a motorhome.
They just keep driving the old motorhome they have. I have worked on
many of them. First do not buy one with any wood in the frame work
of the sides or roof. After years of going down the road for many years
they all loosen up. Add a leak or two at joints where the roof and sidewall
meet and you are going to tear out a lot to fix it.
Next some of the units you mentioned used stock parts like water
tanks and holding tanks others did not. Good luck finding things
that break if the parts were custom made. Forget control panels.
Same thing for finding wiring diagrams and color codes for the wires.
Some of us complain about the prices charged by some places
like Cinnabar----at least we have a last resort to get parts. This is
not true for many older motorhomes.
Next if you cant do the repairs yourself or you hit a roadblock
where are you going to take it? Yes, you can take it to any big
RV dealer and they may work on it for you. But do they know
the little secretes about that motorhome. I can tell you they all
Next can you still get windshields for the motorhome of your choice.
It is a big problem for some motorhomes. The glass of that era was
not that good.
Next what kind of free support is there for the lady of your choice.
You will have a problem beating this net. I know there are other
news lists. Be sure to check out how often there are posts on
that list. I am on the LeSharo list and we do well to get 5 posts
Next I cant speak to other motorhomes but very seldom do pull
into a campground that somebody does not come up to talk
about my GMC. This has nothing to do with money but it does
wonders for my ego.
Next you may be able to buy in cheaper at this time but I think the
cost over the long haul will be much higher. This may
well be a case of you get what you pay for. I bought mine for $5000
from a junk yard. I am now up to about $16,000 total. I am very happy
with what I have. I dont think I could have anything else that has as
much admiration and respect as these ladies.
Next again nothing about money. I have driven several motorhomes.
My lady drives like a dream compared to others. She lives like like
a dream. It all works for me.
Finally I wish you luck what ever decision you make. I am happy
with what I have done. I dont think you can do better than a GMC.
I have a good friend with a Flair Coach which is only 8 years old
compared to it, mine is like brand new. My Palm Beach is defiantly a
Keep up the great discussions and thanks for all of the info.
75 Palm Beach (455cid
Chuck, this was exactly my experience too! Including the approximate
distance travelled on the maiden voyage. I then had Buskirk-Rush go over
it, replaced belts, hoses, fuel line etc. The coach has run great for
the 2 years since with regular professional maintenance. ( I am a
student of the "David Greenberg School for the Mechanically
I have often tried to chime in here when there seemed to be many
of woe, just to let newbies know that every GMC is not a ticking
timebomb. Many posters on the GMCnet are seeking solutions for problems
they've encountered, so it can seem at times like there's an awful lot
of problems brought up. I suspect that many folks don't post the good
stories because they feel it might be boring to the gearheads on this
list. ("I went to Forest City and nothing broke!") Personally, I love
these kinds of trip reports.
I don't have my head in the sand, I prefer to put my toes in the
a Lake Michigan beach with my GMC parked nearby. I read all the posts
here and they help me to at least be aware of the kinds of problems that
MIGHT occur. But I'm not worried. I keep my coach maintained and I use
it whenever I can, which is not often enough. If my luck runs out and I
bust a widget or a "henway" ;^) well, I know a new one can be shipped to
wherever I was towed after I called my insurance co. on my cell phone
which I keep next to Dave's credit card!
Guess I love my GMC too.
He then went on to tell me about their engine and how good it was (he has two toras for some reason. I went looking around Ontario and on the Net. Found one in the south, I bought it sight unseen (except for pictures), and on the say so of the owner as to what was right or wrong with it.
I flew south with a buddy, spent a day with the owner going over everything, then got in started the engine and drove 1,000 back (forgetting everything the former owner told me) to Toronto. Because it had to be safety checked for the new plates, I took it to Dick Paterson. Three new tires, tuneup, new muffler system front to back and some small odds and ends, I got it plated and haven't had any "real" problems since. I have only put another 1,000 miles on it, as I can only use it on weekends (sometimes). That's the problem with full time work, it gets in the way of fun.
We bought this size/type of coach because we want to find out if we like to cruise (we come from power boats so we have long since got over the space problems), because if so upon retirement, we will do some serious traveling by motorhome. So far, we love the GMC. Great size, easy to drive, etc.
I tell you all this because sometimes when one follows the chat here, one could maybe get the feeling that you have to be a major mechanic, or a died-in-the-wool fixer to own a GMC. That could scare many, if not most, new or potential new owners away. I wonder what I would have thought if I had seen this discussion group prior to purchasing (but then again I'm a dive in a try guy). Now that I know it isn't all doom and gloom, only discussion about some problems that may crop up, I look for stuff that interests me, or I need. Because of this group, I got to know Jim Bounds (by telephone that is), and have resolved some minor, but important issues, and made some purchases from him. I didn't know how I was going to resolve the inside engine hatch "lifting" problem until Darren Paget came up with the bolts that worked great. I have figured out how I want to re-do the rear bedroom because of help from here, and I have got a binder full of ideas from the pictures and posting about other how to's, almost none have to do with the engine. I took out extra trip insurance for on-the-road assistance, and someone else will have to fix the engine if and when it breaks, the front bearings, if an when they break, etc. That's no different than my wife's '73 Mercedes 450 SLC (which is now for sale). When it breaks, a tow truck picks it up and takes it to the operating room. Not all, and I suspect most not most of us are mechanics. Now if you want to discuss the psychology of attracting an audience to a radio station, it could get downright nasty.
I post this long message, only to show (especially those lurking like I do most times) that there are a lot of things you can get from this discussion group, but don't get discouraged because of some heavy "discussions" about torque converters ballooning (would have thought you ballooned using "hot air").
'76 Eleganza II
- GMC Motorhomes probably have as good or better breakdown track
than almost any older coach out there.One might even assume that GMCs
provide more security from breakdown given that most parts are readily
available and most ALL parts are avialable, albeit, some you must know
the source and may prove more difficult to procure. Although I am still
running down pieces my research has thus far only turned up ONE exterior
or mechanical part that I cannot find and as it is only a small decal I
had it painted on (Widham decal, may be peculiar to my coach... don't
know). Periodically the particular part you want only comes packaged in
'kits' along with other associated parts but the point is you can still
- If a person purchases any classic be it motorhome, car, truck, or old
Rolls Royce you are buying a vehicle that probably either has a
Kazillion miles on it or it has sat.. rarely used. One is as bad as the
other. Usage wears parts out... non usage dries and/or rusts parts out.
Either way age takes it's ugly course.
- It has been observed over and over on this terrific mailing list that
there are problems. But then also remember that there are probably more
than half of the original GMCs still mobile and many more, at least,
restorable. Those 6000+ GMCs, IMHO, is an exceptional number for a +/-
25 year old specialized vehicle.
- I'd not take a bet whether or not a large percentage of those that are
mobile actually break on any regular basis. I do know that other that
the original 'bringing it home' trip when there were problems caused by
old tires (MY oversight) I have not had any serious problems. I do
believe that any older vehicle requires a little extra care and
maintenance but that's part of the fun of ownership.
- My rather common 78 Vette offers up far more problems than the ARK and
certainly draws far more from the cash reserve. Parts for the Vette are
easier to source but I don't find them any easier to obtain given my
- The one single event that stands out clearer in my mind was driving
the ARK down the Oregon coast last year at end June/first July... met a
group of five or six GMCs heading north.... EVERY ONE waved at us. Never
had that with the Vette or for that matter any other vehicle I've owned.
- Terrific group of people these GMCers and obviously very helpful as
shown on this mailing list and elsewhere.
- Besides that it has become obvious to me that if I wish to hide from
the world I cannot dream of doing it in the ARK! Everywhere we go,
shopping malls, parking lots, campgrounds, gas stations or anywhere else
... there are always people asking questions and admiring the ol' girl.
Usually finishing the conversation with "Always wanted one".
Only wish I had her 25 years ago!
75 PB Geneva
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