by James Price
GMC's Motorhome was one real vehicle that looked like it was designed by Hot Wheels engineers. Its modern timeless design, which looks fresh thirty years later, was furturistic, especially when compared to boxy, truck-like appearance of many competitors.
In the early seventies, recreational vehicles became very popular, and General Motors decided to exploit this market. The difference between their new RV and other motorhomes was that GMC focused on traveling experience, whereas other companies focused primarily on living quarters. The GMC'c stylish aerodynamic body with large Á panoramic windows on the GMC demonstrate its purpose: it was designed to be driven, did not look like a house on wheels.
This ultimate recreational vehicle utilized much of GM's car-engineering expertise. The most revolutionary feature of the vehicle was that it was front-wheel drive, which was a technology that General Motors had perfected in such vehicles as the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado. In engineering these vehicles, General Motors gained experience in using front-wheel drive to power large, heavy cars. The GMC used a 455-cubic inch Oldsmobile engine, as used in the Toronado, mated to a the same front transaxle used in the Toronado and Eldorado. Front-wheel drive was an important asset in this vehicle, allowing greater design freedom. Without a driveshaft running the length of the vehicle, designers could create a large cabin space in a vehicle lower than the competition's models. Front-wheel drive allowed for 6 feet 4-inches of cabin height. Additionally, front wheel drive afforded more car-like driving characteristics, which competitors did not have.
Another technology used in the construction of the GMC Motorhome was fiberglass, which GM had used since 1953 in the manufacture of the Corvette. Fibreglass allowed for a lighter body and was less costly in manufacturing this low production vehicle. As General Motors also was a leading producer of metro buses, the GMC used an air suspension system influenced by its bus designs, and provided a especially smooth ride, as compared to the average RV.
The Motorhome was available in two models: the Model 230 with a 23-foot long body, and the Model 260, which was 26-feet long. Additionally, GMC sold a fully equipment standard version, or a version with an unfinished cabin, which could be customized by a private company.
Though the bullet-train-like GMC Motorhome looked like Hot Wheels had designed it, Hot Wheels introduced its own 1:64 version of the short wheelbase model. In order to fit the vehicle into a standard Hot Wheels blisterpack, the model looked a bit stubbier than the actual vehicle; however, the details were excellent. The model was originally produced in orange and later lime green, though over forty design variations exist of this Hot Wheels model. The model was later produced in India for the local market, and available in such colors as neon pink or blue. My orange 1977 was one of my most prized possessions as a child, and I lost it at a beach. I was traumatized, but fortunately, a replacement was quickly found. -
Zylmex produced its own version of the GMC. Zylmex chose to model the long wheelbase version, which resulted in a smaller scale than other Zylmex products so as to fit the standard blisterpack. The model does, however, have a very realistic appearance with a tan body and bright stripes, similar to design scheme featured on the actual vehicle.
Alas, GMC Motorhome production ended in 1978. The vehicle was introduced as the first oil crisis occurred, and sales of large vehicles plummeted. Additionally, the model was not profitable for General Motors. Many more smaller vehicles could be constructed at the factory using the time and labor required to construct a Motorhome. During its five year run, General Motors manufactured approximately 13,000 of these vehicles, many of which remain on the road