In the early 1970’s, General Motors released into the wild one of the most iconic RVs in history. From there, the GMC motorhome would change the trajectory of the motorhomes of the future.
The distinctive capsule that brought the front-wheel-drive home-on-wheels to market not only retains a place in history for GM’s motorhome innovations, but shows its extraordinary longevity to this day, because there’s still a significant number on the road!
Let’s take a step back in time to consider just how futuristic the GMC motorhome really was.
- 1) When Did the GMC Motorhome Come to the RV Market?
- 2) What Was Distinctive About the GMC Motorhome?
- 3) How Was the Original GMC Motorhome Designed?
- 4) How Much Did the Original 1972 GMC Motorhome Cost?
- 5) How Many Motorhomes Did GM Sell?
- 6) Why Did GM Stop Making Motorhomes?
- 7) How Many GMC Motorhomes are Still on the Road Today?
- 8) Have You Seen a GMC Motorhome On the Road?
- 9) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
When Did the GMC Motorhome Come to the RV Market?
The iconic GMC motorhome was manufactured by the GMC Truck & Coach Division of General Motors in Pontiac, Michigan during model years 1973-1978.
The 1973 GMC motorhome debuted on the market with a capsule-like design and a fiberglass and aluminum body frame. The travel vehicle was streamlined to incorporate everything an RVer could need in a full-sized motorhome including roof air and an air suspension ride.
What Was Distinctive About the GMC Motorhome?
The GMC motorhome has the distinction of having been the only motorhome completely built by a major North American auto manufacturer, with the entire rig (including the chassis as well as the interior designs) created in-house by GM.
It also has the distinction of having been the first motorhome with front-wheel drive! Until then, all motorhomes were rear-wheel drive only. GM’s front-wheel-drive transaxle, which they referred to as the Unified Powerplant Package, was originally used in the Oldsmobile Toronado.
The chassis had a modified rear suspension.
How Was the Original GMC Motorhome Designed?
The GM design center first created a full-scale clay model of the 26′ rig, and the company ultimately manufactured 23′ and 26′ versions of the low-profile motorhomes, all encapsulated in aluminum body panels. About 90% of GM’s total production was the 26′ version of the motorhome.
At the time, most motorhomes were designed on a truck chassis and had a boxy appearance. But GMC designed their motorhome to look more like an airplane, with the smooth, rounded look of a long spaceship-like capsule.
Their marketing logo? “It doesn’t ride like a truck. It doesn’t look like a box.”
How Much Did the Original 1972 GMC Motorhome Cost?
In 1972, (the first model year), GMC’s original 26′ motorhome had a retail base price of $14,569.06, and the 23′ version had a retail base price of $13,569.06.
The purchasing power of $1 in 1972 is equivalent to roughly $7.20 today (in 2023), so at today’s prices, the 26′ version of GMC’s iconic motorhome would be around $105,000. While not exactly cheap, that’s not a bad price for a sleek, well-equipped motorhome, even at today’s price!
How Many Motorhomes Did GM Sell?
Between 1973 and 1978, a total of 12,921 GM motorhomes were sold. That seems like a surprisingly low number to us, given how often we still see GMC motorhomes on the road today!
Why Did GM Stop Making Motorhomes?
After producing the total of 12,921 motorhomes in a six-year span of time, the general manager of GMC Truck (along with others associated with the division) decided that their factory space would be best used to produce more trucks. Since pickup trucks are some of the most popular vehicles manufactured in North America, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Thus, on November 11, 1977, GM’s Truck & Coach Division announced that motorhome production would cease, and GM stopped producing motorhomes altogether in 1978.
How Many GMC Motorhomes are Still on the Road Today?
No one knows for sure, but it’s estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 GMC motorhomes are still cruising the roads today. While we know we’re stating the obvious, it’s still cool to point out that these rigs are 50 years old and still being enjoyed by vintage RV enthusiasts.
And with only 12,921 ever made, 7,000 units (more than half!) still being on the road is extraordinarily significant. The longevity of these rigs is a testament to their fiberglass & aluminum construction and to the fact that their suspension components were made by GM’s trucking division, a manufacturer that regularly made heavy-duty trucks and city buses.
Not to mention the fact that their cool, sleek, 1970’s-futuristic appearance makes them a popular choice as a vintage RV.
Have You Seen a GMC Motorhome On the Road?
If you’ve seen an original GMC motorhome on the road, we’d love to hear about it! Drop us a comment below!
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