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Mike
Mike HalfDork
7/24/13 1:55 p.m.

I've been looking at GMC Motorhomes on the internet for the last few days. It seems like there is a vibrant community of owners out there, but I was hoping for opinions of those who have not had this particular Kool Aid.

This community tells me:

  • These coaches are particularly resistant to rot and leaking.
  • The design is such that they're easy to drive, handle well, and have fuel economy that owes no apology to modern class A coaches.
  • Value is stable, but deferred maintenance and surprises happen. When they do, they're generally don't require special tools or talent to repair.
  • The coaches are fairly reliable but have aged. Trouble spots are rust in the frame, particularly near the rear axles, front wheel bearings, a weak brake booster system, a trans oil breather that burps oil on the exhaust, and an easily correctable wiring issue that (with the right combination of circumstances) may cause the dashboard to catch fire.
  • The house battery system is fairly weak, and not particularly well suited to boondocking more than a night.
  • (A problem for me) The dominant bathroom/shower is the wet bath, which is a wet bath. The dry bath is so tiny you'll dream of the wet bath.

I'm fearing the start of an automotive ADD-like interest in this coach, which isn't particularly well matched to my goals.

  • I'd like something sufficient to support two adults and some pets full-timing if we choose. That means a decent kitchen, a dedicated bedroom with a true mattress. It means usable work areas. Most of all, it means a comfortable dry bath. This is the biggest barrier right now.
  • I'd like to have enough battery/wind/solar/tank to support multi-day boondocking. I'm comfortable I can at least do the electrical upgrades to support this. I'd have to add the wind and/or solar to anything I buy anyway.
Toyman01
Toyman01 PowerDork
7/24/13 2:05 p.m.

Frame rust is a big problem in them. The rails are available from the aftermarket but they aren't cheap.

Front hubs are NLA and bearing are short lived. There is a conversion using Chevy 4WD truck front hubs, once again they aren't cheap.

The air bags in the rear suspension are NLA. There is a conversion kit using a common air bag. Guess what, they aren't cheap.

The prices on runners vary from reasonable to astronomical. If you are interested, I can hook you up with 2 of them. Shoot me a PM. They are both projects to put it mildly. My plan was restore one and turn the other into a matching car trailer. I just have too many projects. Shoot me a PM.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
7/24/13 2:17 p.m.

It's the only motorhome that matters.

FSP_ZX2
FSP_ZX2 Dork
7/24/13 2:36 p.m.
Woody wrote: It's the only motorhome that matters.

EM-50

"...We zip in, we pick 'em up, we zip right out again. We're not going to Moscow. It's Czechoslovakia. It's like going into Wisconsin...."

bearmtnmartin
bearmtnmartin HalfDork
7/24/13 2:42 p.m.

I really like them. I was looking for something iconic when we bought our Wanderlodge and the other two choices were the GMC and an Airstream pull behind. I was truly sucked into the Wanderlodge but if the wife had put her foot down(she thought it was way too big) it would have been the GMC. My suggestion would be to not buy a project but instead buy the best one you can find. It's an RV for one thing. The idea is to go places, not wrench on it. And the values are not high enough to spend money on a project.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
7/24/13 2:42 p.m.

RossD
RossD PowerDork
7/24/13 2:43 p.m.

I watched that movie recently. It wasn't very funny. A couple funny parts, but overall, a let down. Of course I was born the year it came out, so maybe "I don't get it."

Travis_K
Travis_K UltraDork
7/24/13 4:50 p.m.

My parents had one they bought new and used a few years, then sold for a profit. They said it was pretty nice, and could easily be driven in the snow when most normal cars would have problems. I don't think it had many huge problems, I do remember them saying that fixing leaks in the airbag system was pretty much regular maintenance the whole time they had it.

Spinout007
Spinout007 SuperDork
7/24/13 5:54 p.m.

In reply to RossD:

I was born early enough I remember seeing that in the movie theater with my parents, I rolled then, and I rolled just as hard when I bought a dvd copy. That and everyone needs some BM in their life.

Jay_W
Jay_W Dork
7/24/13 6:05 p.m.

Diesel or gas? IIRC they were all bigblock gassers. Ugh. Big things should be dieseled. I would advise a test drive, followed by a test drive of something with a diesel in the back, that rides and stops on air. It may or may not make enough of a difference to help you decide whether to get one of these or something else or nuthin a'tall. These two testdrives pushed me into what I have now, which is the 2nd of the above testdrives...

hobiercr
hobiercr HalfDork
7/24/13 6:07 p.m.

Just saw this one on CL in Tampa. Doesn't sound or look too far out.

1973 GMC Class A\

Toyman01
Toyman01 PowerDork
7/24/13 6:34 p.m.

In reply to hobiercr:

That's a pretty good price. Around here that would be $10K or better. $3500 get's you a project.

JThw8
JThw8 PowerDork
7/24/13 6:52 p.m.
Toyman01 wrote: In reply to hobiercr: That's a pretty good price. Around here that would be $10K or better. $3500 get's you a project.

Yeah, if I hadn't just bought my crappy southwind I'd have chanced a fly and drive on that one at that price.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
7/24/13 6:58 p.m.

I love those things.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess UltimaDork
7/24/13 7:53 p.m.

I think that if you're planning on going full time, you should really consider putting the extra bucks into something and not buying a 35 year old project. And don't buy that Dodge thing that almost killed GRM. Pick a number you can afford and find the best thing you can for that number, preferably under, say, 5 years old. 10 years with really low miles, but stuff will be failing. From what I understand on these things.

drainoil
drainoil Reader
7/24/13 8:17 p.m.

Gosh, no one has mentioned these use the fwd Olds Toronado 455 drivetrain.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim PowerDork
7/24/13 8:24 p.m.

We discuss these on a regular basis and IIRC they use a drivetrain that is derived (but not identical) to the Toronado one. Which means "additional fun hunting spare parts".

bearmtnmartin
bearmtnmartin HalfDork
7/24/13 8:30 p.m.

Its a used motorhome. Obviously not as reliable or modern as a new diesel pusher, but for $3500.00 or $5000.00 it has far more street credibility than a leaky rotting converted Dodge Tradesman with a small block V8. Huge point of interest in a campground, and which would you rather have with the hood up on the side of the interstate?

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro UltraDork
7/24/13 8:40 p.m.

^ This.

One part on a modern diesel motorhome can be $5000.

Toyman01
Toyman01 PowerDork
7/24/13 9:07 p.m.
BoxheadTim wrote: We discuss these on a regular basis and IIRC they use a drivetrain that is derived (but not identical) to the Toronado one. Which means "additional fun hunting spare parts".

Actually, same engine, transmission, diff, axles, hubs, torsion bars, arms and all. The hubs are NLA, but all the other wearables are still out there. The only problem with the hubs, is that the bearings are a press fit. After the 3rd or 4th bearing change, they are worn out and the bearings won't stay seated. The bearings are only good for about 30K, because of the load.

Toyman01
Toyman01 PowerDork
7/24/13 9:13 p.m.
hobiercr wrote: Just saw this one on CL in Tampa. Doesn't sound or look too far out. 1973 GMC Class A\

Y'all found it, so you have first dibs.

There's a good chance I'll be calling the guy unless one of you are interested.

wae
wae Reader
7/24/13 9:40 p.m.
hobiercr wrote: Just saw this one on CL in Tampa. Doesn't sound or look too far out.
craigslist ad wrote: 1973 GMC. The passed owner installed new tires, new brake system, new refrigerator, new air compressor, new air bags, new exhaust system and more.

Did the last owner die or did he sell it to someone who is now selling it. If the former, has the passed owner been removed already or is he part of the package?

bluesideup
bluesideup Reader
7/24/13 9:44 p.m.

There's a derelict one near LAX in what looks like an impound lot across from the lot where people live in RVs at the airport.

11110 S La Cienega Blvd Lennox, CA 90304

Hotlinked map

Edit: it would be most awesome to drive it around as the e-50 in deployed mode

novaderrik
novaderrik UberDork
7/24/13 10:50 p.m.
Jay_W wrote: Diesel or gas? IIRC they were all bigblock gassers. Ugh. Big things should be dieseled. I would advise a test drive, followed by a test drive of something with a diesel in the back, that rides and stops on air. It may or may not make enough of a difference to help you decide whether to get one of these or something else or nuthin a'tall. These two testdrives pushed me into what I have now, which is the 2nd of the above testdrives...

they have a 455 Olds "Rocket" powering the front wheels... i'd think that a 500 Caddy wouldn't be too hard of a swap- and 500 torques is 500 torques regardless of whether they are made with a spark plug or from the heat of compression...

Wally
Wally MegaDork
7/25/13 2:18 a.m.

If the time comes that I can use a motorhome rebuilding one of them is at the top of my list

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