By Janet Frey, F96957
Members of the GMC Motorhomes International (GMCMI) chapter celebrated the 40th anniversary of the classic GMC Motorhome during the group’s 2013 Spring Convention, March 22 through 28, at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan, Alabama.
On January 3, 1973, the GMC Motorhome was introduced to news media representatives at Anaheim Stadium in California. This began a six-year production run of a popular vehicle that has provided much joy and fun for those fortunate enough to have owned or still own a GMC. Built in Pontiac, Michigan, these motorhomes were available in 23-foot and 26-foot lengths. When GMCs were first sold in 1973, the starting price was $16,500; by 1978, they were in the $40,000 range. The motorhomes, which resembled buses on the outside, had all the comforts of home inside.
The 455 cubic-inch V-8, four-barrel carburetor power package installed in the GMC Motorhome was the same as that used in the Oldsmobile Toronado, a luxury auto with front wheel drive. The front section of the motorhome frame made use of the Toronado design and bolted up to the center section “C” channel side rails. In addition, the GMC Motorhome offered a three-speed automatic transmission, a six-wheel braking system, and independent air suspension for the rear wheels. This design allowed for a low profile and a low center of gravity. The handling and ride were outstanding compared to motorhomes built on truck chassis of that time.
In 1977 and 1978, the 403-cid engine was used, signaling the start of GM’s downsizing, which contributed to the end of the GMC Motorhome. The total production run of these vehicles, from 1973 through 1978, was 12,921.
The celebration in Dothan attracted more than 275 attendees, including 26 first-timers. The GMCMI chapter has been dedicated to providing critical information on the care and feeding of this special vehicle. This enables many members to keep their motorhomes on the road for continuing enjoyment and fun.
After 40 years, it should come as no surprise that many of the 1973 GMCs are no longer “original.” Many have undergone significant remodeling, including fresh exterior paint, and new headliners, cabinets, and/or upholstery in the living areas. Some members retained the original layout but updated the appliances and color schemes. One favorite event of GMC conventions is the Open House Tour, during which many owners open the doors to their motorhomes to let others see what improvements they’ve made. It was especially fun this year. Members of the nearby community were invited to the party.
Many of the activities at this gathering also celebrated the peanut, a nod to the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds. These included peanut games, for which foam peanuts were used — no real peanuts were harmed during the events! Members from the local GMC Dixielanders chapter hosted a ladies social. As expected, the women created many delicious goodies that included peanuts in some form. Attendees enjoyed the fellowship and fun while the Dixielanders educated us about the South’s tradition of peanuts, Royal Crown (RC) Cola, and MoonPies. The stories were heartwarming, hilarious, and greatly appreciated.
GMCMI members were treated to two catered meals that also recognized the unique tastes of the South — chicken; pulled pork; a real Southern boil that included shrimp, potatoes, corn, and spicy sausage; and desserts of pecan pie and key lime pie. A presentation by the Alabama Peanut Growers Association included messages from two “princesses,” plus more peanuts, and grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A special thanks to the warm reception by the Dothan area for a fun and tasty time at the convention.
If you own a classic GMC Motorhome, consider joining the GMC Motorhomes International chapter. As a member, you have access to information about service and parts and can participate in the fun and fellowship at our two conventions each year. For more information, visit www.gmcmi.com. Thanks to William Bryant for the historical information about the GMC Motorhome cited in this article.