Forty years after the world was introduced to GMC’s halo vehicle, it remains an enduring entry in the RV world. Long “orphaned” by GM, it never-the-less enjoys a support network of businesses, shops and loyal owners. It is estimated that nearly three quarters of those produced are still on the road. As our culture begins to question the perpetual consumption of resources in the pursuit of luxury and perceived status, the GMC MotorHome’s timeless design and engineering becomes the foundation for a new generation of owners seeking to travel and experience this great world we share.
The GMC MotorHome, an RV whose time has come, again…
The interest in GMC Motorhome collectables and memorabilia is high. Many items were made, a few of them are: Barbie GMC MotorHomes, Belt buckles, Frisbees, Hess Training Vans, Key fobs, Pens, Playing cards, Sales brochures, clothing and as noted above the very popular GMC MotorHome Hot Wheels!
Story of a CLASSIC, The GMC MotorHome
by Bill Bryant, Colonial Travelers
The time period from the end of World War II until the energy crisis of the mid 1970s may well have been the high point for the American automobile industry. Once the post war pent-up demand was satisfied, auto companies started offering innovative, attractive new designs in an effort to capture a greater market share. At the Auto shows and Motoramas we saw Thunderbirds and Edsels, Chrysler300’s and hemis, Corvettes, GTOs and Eldorados. New V-8 engines were everywhere, small block, big block, hemis, cubic inches and horsepower ruled. New styles were longer…..lower……wider…..,with chrome everywhere and tail fins soaring ever so high. Then came the energy crunch in October 1973 and it all changed. The automotive talk then turned to cost and availability of fuel, more efficient cars with new four and V-6 engines and down sizing.
Cars became smaller, lighter, less powerful and with increased fuel economy requirements mandated by the federal government. Automobile companies are always searching for ways to gain more sales, to gain a greater market share. New ideas are evaluated; few see the light of day and are actually produced. Occasionally however, a niche is found and a new market is developed. It appeared that the motor home market was about to explode. Motor home sales had doubled from 1971 to 1972. GM estimated that total motor home sales should be 100,000 by 1975. It appeared to be a market area worth pursuing. Truck chassis were successfully marketed to the RV industry in the 1970s by the Big Three. In 1971 Dodge, with the largest piece of that market, sold 28,000 chassis to 50 different coach builders. Each RV manufacturer was building its version of what it thought a motor home should be. There were lots of choices for the motor home buyer, nearly all of them on a truck chassis.
What if someone offered an attractive advanced design on a custom chassis, unique and specifically made for just that purpose? One of those niches GM was looking at in 1968-1970 found the Product Development Department of GM Truck and Coach Division performing feasibility studies of a mini-bus as a potential resolution to part of the mass transit problem. A “Dial-a-bus” program was being evaluated. A vehicle proposal named the “Petti Coach” was underway, that name was changed to “Jette Sette” and finally “Astro Family”. An Oldsmobile Toronado front-wheel-drive power plant was being incorporated with a single rear axle chassis making a twenty-foot long unit, a rear leaf spring suspension was used for this vehicle. Additional uses of the vehicle such as a motor home, ambulance and delivery van were proposed as a means of increasing build volumes to spread development costs over the larger product offering. For various reasons the program remained in the feasibility stage until a unique leading arm-trailing arm rear suspension was proposed for motor home usage. A hydro-pneumatic spring supporting bell crank type legs on the rear suspension arms provided an improved ride and shock isolation while minimizing costs. Evaluations of a vehicle using this unique rear suspension got underway at the GM Tech Center in Warren, MI.
Specifications of many competing motor homes were scrutinized, floor plans were evaluated and initially it was decided to proceed with 20-foot and 24-foot motor home designs. Layout drawings of numerous floor plans under evaluation lined the GM Tech Center walls. Each functional area was color coded, sleeping area one color, bath another, kitchen an other and so on. A full scale plywood (fiberboard) seating buck was built for evaluation of different interior plans in the Tech Center basement. Much of the interior design was done by GM employees from the Frigidaire Division. Seating bucks are used to define the vehicle requirements for both internal and external packaging. The styling designs must consider all of these packaging and people requirements. Conflicts must be resolved so that the style or function does not suffer and the final production vehicle can be produced with minimal design changes. The first vehicle built to demonstrate these unique designs was assembled using tandem wheels at the rear supported by the unique hydro-air spring from the Saginaw Division of GM. The power steering pump was used for hydraulic pressure for this suspension system. The engine and drive train used the Olds Toronado front wheel drive with the 455 cu. in. engine, 425 Hydromantic transmission and the 3.07differential from the Toronado trailer towing option. This design allowed for a low profile and low center of gravity, with attendant handling and ride improvements as compared to a truck chassis. The front section of the frame made use of the Toronado design and bolted up to the center section “C” channel side rails. The rear frame extension was unique to the motor home and was “kicked up” to allow clearance for an adequate departure angle.
Initially Chevrolet wanted the motor home project, but the GM Corporate guidelines defined vehicles below 10,500 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight as a Chevrolet responsibility and vehicles 10,500 lbs GVW and above a GMC responsibility, the project therefore went to GMC. This however did not stop the interdivision rivalry. Chevrolet, who was a supplier of truck chassis to the RV industry, viewed the GMC Motor Home as another competitor to their RV chassis sales. This rivalry continued throughout the motor home production years. Chevrolet management made sure that the motor home carried all its cost burdens and received no special corporate advantages. Early in these development stages, GMC Engineering was defining just what this multi purpose vehicle should be. The GMC idea of its styling was along the lines of a Sports coach motor home of the period, with styled front and rear fiberglass caps, but with straight side walls.
This design, while relatively common for the period, allowed for a reasonably attractive appearance, though ordinary, while minimizing tooling and manufacturing costs. The GM Design Center had been at work for about two years at this point on various multi purpose vehicle designs. Not surprisingly, those designs looked much different from what GMC had in mind. There were three wheeled designs that followed the arc of the sun while parked. Panels that extended, adding more living space. Scale models of attractive and futuristic designs were made as well as numerous sketches and drawings that…., well…., were far out! The use of the Olds Toronado front wheel drive unit should not have been much of a surprise. There were four other motor home manufacturers already utilizing that system during this time period. These were, Revcon, Cortez, Travoy and Tiara..
The engineers and designers responsible for the development of the GMC Motor Home were a group of bright young professionals. Martin J. Caserio was General Motors VP and GMC Truck and Coach General Manager. His idea was for a “Chevrolet” of motor homes, reasonably priced with a view toward large volume sales. Caserio's replacement in 1973, Alex C. Mair wanted a vehicle more like the “Cadillac” of motor homes, more upscale than the early models provided. In charge of Product Development for the Motor home was a bright young enthusiastic engineer, Kurt Stubenvoll. Ralph Merkle headed up the chassis development and was responsible for everything from “the frame to the pavement”, known as “the idea man” he had a number of patents to prove it. John Locklin came to GM with an Aeronautical degree and had responsibility for the motor home body engineering. He brought new assembly methods and ideas to the auto industry. Michael Lathers from the Design Center was responsible for the motor home styling, and it was to become obvious to all, the fine job he did! Nancy Bundra was involved with the motor home project probably longer than anyone else. Starting as the Secretary to Kurt Stubenvoll she quickly advanced and by the end of the project was the Engineer in charge of Interiors, AC & Heating. There were many other talented engineers who contributed to what was to become a Classic as well. Industry rumors had been circulating for some time that GM was going to be building a motor home. On February 7, 1972 it was made official. The national press reported that GM was to “play a role in the motor home market”.
By this time the GMC Motor Home lengths had been identified as 23-foot and 26-foot. The increase in length was the result of additional interior content that designers and sales felt was necessary for a well equipped motor home. GM Sales had identified the need for the 23-foot motor home as a price leader. Prices were reported to be between $12,000-16,000. Major motor home competitors claimed they were not worried, still, their stock prices fell several points the next day. Many smaller motor home companies indicated immediate worry at erosion of market share by giant GM entering this field with many more resources than they had available. About this time the new vehicle was known as the TVS-4, Travel Vehicle Streamlined. Part of the reason this vehicle is so different from other motor homes of the era is that it was not conceived as just a “camper”, but as a vehicle for comfortable travel as well. Slogans used later in the GMC Motor Home advertisements demonstrated this, for example: “It doesn’t ride like a truck, it doesn’t look like a box.” “Our goal was to make getting there as much fun as being there.” “It’s as easy to live with on the road as it is standing still.” “The show place that goes places”. All of these slogans placed great emphasis on the traveling aspects of motor homing and not just how it functioned while parked at the campsite.
The Motor Home design continued to evolve in the two main areas of styling and chassis. The Design Center was continuing with both the external and interior designs. There were twelve designers working with sketches and 1/8 scale (A-scale) clay models. Three or four of these 1/8 scale clay models were made, each with unique design characteristics, each refining their shapes closer to the final form. The scale models were sculpted with each side using a different design, each side was shaped by a different modeler. Since really only one side of the model could be viewed at a time, the one clay model could be used to evaluate the two different designs. The final A-scale model would be completed as one complete single design. Once these models were completed, evaluated and approved, full sized drawings were made using ¼ inch tape to outline the front, rear and side design. These drawings would guide the designers in the next stage: a full size clay model. An important part in developing the shape of this motor home was to determine just how efficient it would be moving through the air. While the design looked “clean” tests would be run to determine if in fact it was. GM had used various methods to determine this with their vehicle designs. One method was to put ink spots on a model and place the model in a wind tunnel, recording the directional flow of the ink over the models surface. In another method small ribbons were fastened to the surface of the test vehicle, a camera car was driven alongside the test vehicle to photograph the directional flow of the ribbons.
While these methods were likely not used for the MotorHome, what is known is that a 1/16th scale model was built for the purpose of determining the coefficient of drag. A mahogany block was modeled to the designed shape, a fiberglass model was made from this master. Holes were drilled about one inch apart over the fiberglass body and flush hollow tubes were installed and connected to pressure measurement devices. Test time was purchased at the Guggenheim wind tunnel facility in California and the testing was performed. Was the aero good? You bet! The Cd (drag coefficient) was .310, better than that eras Corvette which was approximately.312.
A great deal of clay is required for a 26-foot motor home, largest clay model GM ever made. The clay is applied to a Styrofoam substrate (base) by the clay modelers. The clay must be heated in ovens to 150F to soften it so that it can be applied to the substrate. It is then scraped and shaped by the modelers. The clay build up continues until the desired dimensions of the design are achieved. This work was being done in the basement of the Tech Center in an area without well controlled temperature and air conditioning. Each morning the room had to be brought up to temperature so the clay could be worked. Once the shape was completed, the clay surface was “polished” with a sponge and cold water. This full size clay, now identified as RV-26, was finished with a silver-blue film of Di-Noc, replicating the painted surface of a vehicle. Upon completion of the full size clay, plaster cast segments were made of it. Dimensional drawings were made of this final design for tooling and early prototype fiberglass parts for the first prototype bodies. The full sized clay existed for several weeks, slowly the clay began to sag and loose its shape and was destroyed since it was no longer useful or needed. Pictures of the scale models, the sketches and drawings and finally full size clay are most interesting.
The evolution from the earliest designs with pronounced fender flares, wrap around rear windows and tail lights and other eye pleasing shapes, drifted toward a still pleasing, but more “manufacturable at reasonable cost” design in the end. Changes made to the clay after being “finalized” were the incorporation of the parking lights below the headlights within the headlight bezel area, the body section that had “tucked under” in front of the lower radiator was removed and the use of four suburban (production) tail lights was tried. The quad tail light idea was quickly discarded as too cluttered. Designer Mike Lathers proposed a couple of other features that didn’t make the cut, a crown (curve) in the rear window glass. This would have prevented reflections from the large window surface and instead only a small area would reflect at a time. Another of Mike’s novel ideas was to accent the rear suspension instead of hiding it with a polished, plated and painted suspension assembly (much like Harley Davidson does with a motorcycle). The view of a “flashy” suspension in action would have been an impressive sight. Even though some of the suggested features didn’t materialize, I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t think that the GMC MotorHome is arguably the nicest design to ever come down the RV pike. When I look at the earliest renderings, I find myself with a big smile on my face, thinking of what might have been.
In parallel with exterior work at the Tech Center six designers were developing the interiors. The plywood buck mentioned earlier helped define space and floor plan requirements. An important consideration was the loading of the vehicle, distributing the weight as evenly as possible. Considerable effort was made in evaluating many competing interior features. One of the unique design features that was evaluated, but didn't make the cut, was a sauna. It was also suggested at one point that the Frigidaire Division might build RV appliances, stoves and refrigerators. With a limited market and very competitive pricing Frigidaire decided there were better business areas to compete in.
House and Garden was used as a consultant for the interior décor and exterior colors. They were a recognized authority on the colors and designs of that era.
A modified van body built by Union City Body Co, Union City, IN was mounted on this frame. This prototype chassis had been designed with only 4 inches of ground clearance. This development mule was called the “pie wagon” or the “chicken coop” by those working on the project. Windows and bus seats were installed and sand bags were strategically placed inside to represent the weight of an equipped motor home. Full fender skirts covered the wheels to hide the unique suspension since spy photographers often took pictures of test vehicles being run around the GM Proving Grounds. The primary purpose of this vehicle was to demonstrate to GM management the much superior handling and ride in comparison to the truck chassis normally used for motor homes. It is reported that GM management was favorably impressed and the project was given approval to proceed with further development.
(Do 3/4's of the 70s Winnebagos still survive?? - ed.)
Interested in seeing more vintage GMC MotorHome videos? Go to Bill's page for more!
The 1975 model year indeed brought many changes to the GMC MotorHome. New model names were announced; Eleganza II and Palm Beach replacing the previous 1973-4 models. New, better quality Collins and Aikman automotive type woven fabrics replaced the previous printed fabrics used. Flexsteel seating with steel-welded frames and no-sag springs replaced the earlier furniture. Assembly of interiors at Gemini was discontinued and all of the interior up fitting was brought in house at another Pontiac, Michigan plant (none of the Gemini employees were picked up by GMC for the in house assembly). Grand Rapids Furniture Co. was now building the interior modules, and dovetail joints replaced glue and staples. While the quality of the interior fittings improved measurably, heavier weight and higher cost of the furniture was the down side. Exterior changes included new colors and stripes; exterior paint was now urethane(Imron) replacing previous used synthetic enamel; raised “GMC” letters replaced vinyl decals on the MotorHomes; fit and function of exterior panels were improved. Stronger frame cross members, new Hehr side windows, HEI ignition System, polybutelene (plastic) plumbing replaced copper.
The chassis design was continuing as well. The engine and drive train layout was progressing rapidly since it required a few minor changes to the existing Olds Toronado design. Ralph Merkle’s original 24-foot design had been stretched to 26-feet in order to make room for the interior furniture and appliances. This displeased Ralph who had envisioned using many existing GM passenger vehicle components to keep the motor home price affordable. Now additional length and weight were going to compromise the use of these parts as well as the front wheel traction. Ralph Merkle related this story about the frame design. The frame design was nearly completed but had to be coordinated with the body design. Ralph asked John Locklin for the final body design specifications, but they were not yet finalized. With lead times for the frame sub contractor being critical, Ralph had to make a decision, and he used his best guess. He was off by about 2 inches, which is why the rear frames cross member sticks out about 2 inches beyond the body. The ladder-type frame, supplied by Midland Steel, used SAE-1023 side rails 6”x2.5”x.125” and SAE-950 channel cross members. Ralph and John often participated in good natured kidding. One story relates that Ralph pointed out that his frame was holding up John's body, John responded by saying it was his body holding up Ralph's frame. They were probably both right.
The tandem rear wheel hydro-air rear suspension had been the key design element for this vehicle. It allowed for the low floor as well as a measured improvement in ride and handling. Less intrusion into the living area than dual wheels would have caused was a feature as well. Tooling costs for the hydro-air design had come in much higher than anticipated. A less costly design was requested as a backup and work began on a replacement. A full air spring was designed. A Goodyear design using a long cylindrical (air) spring, one piston and one bag convolution, had been found to have interference problems. Another design was started using the rolling lobe principal with two tapered pistons and a floating air spring between them. The tapered pistons kept the spring centered and as the rubber spring rolled up and down the piston surface the spring rate changed. The first prototype spring was delivered by Firestone March 1971 and became the production air spring with only minor modifications, a slightly larger diameter and slightly shorter in length. In the Experimental Engineering area five pre-test chassis were being built. The pre-test bodies would later be installed on four of them. The fifth chassis would be used for pictures and display. The completed units would be used for various purposes, some for test, some for pictures and some for shows. We will hear more about these later.
John Locklin, the body engineer, was spending most of his time at G.L. Bowen & Co. the job shop that was supplying the draftsmen in documenting the motor home body. Measurements of the plaster casts made from the full size clay were translated into drawings to be used to make the dies, body structure and skin. Locklin's background as an Aeronautical Engineer was showing up in many of the design features. The light weight of the aluminum and fiberglass body skin, the all aluminum body framing and the bonding of body panels with adhesives instead of rivets and screws. An important design feature also was the use of flat aluminum panels for body surfaces above the belt molding, including the roof. No body stampings were required, thus minimizing tooling and fabrication costs. Another item that Locklin had insisted on was a flat drivers compartment floor. In driving competitor motor homes he suggested that having to squeeze between the driver’s seat and the engine cover was uncomfortable
and unnecessary. GMC Engineering was attempting to design and build the side window frames formed from extruded plastic channels. While windows with sharp corners were in vogue at the time, Mike Lathers felt this design resulted in stresses at the corners that could eventually cause cracks in the body skin. The rounded corner design reduced these stresses and provided a less dated look. Difficulty in developing the extruded plastic frames was experienced and it was decided to put into production an assembly using a four piece extruded aluminum frame. As a GMC Engineer told me a few years ago when asked why GMC changed to Hehr windows in 1976, he said of the earlier windows, “the anodized sections didn’t match, they were difficult to build, difficult to seal and we couldn’t service them”, I guess that answered the question. GMC initially planned for the window frames to be “bright”. At one of the design reviews they hadn’t yet gotten around to chrome plating the frames and they were painted satin black. Those reviewing the design liked the black frames very much and that resolved another item.
The large body dies required for the SMC (sheet molded compound) “fiberglass” panels were in place at the vendor, Engineered Molding Systems of Lancaster, Ohio. Lumps of SMC “dough” were strategically placed in the molds, with heat and pressure it took twelve minutes to process each panel. This cycle time was reduced somewhat as experience was gained with the curing process.
In the image to the right, the Golby Corporation (see links)
purchased the original molds from GMC and occasionally makes a run of replacement parts. Click the image to be taken to their website.
At GMC, the first hardware that we would recognize as a GMC MotorHome was being assembled. The chassis with the Toronado front wheel drive assembly was pretty well defined. The rear suspension was still the tandem wheel Hydro-air suspension and many parts were still passenger car parts, such as the 5 bolt wheels and hubs. In viewing the body hardware, things were a little different than we had seen from the clay model. The front end was nearly the same, but the sides had become vertical and straight. This particular vehicle was to become known as “straight sides”, not usually uttered in a complimentary tone. It turned out that GMC engineers thought the upper storage cabinets should be able to hold a twelve inch plate and the tumble home (body side curve) design of Lathers didn’t allow for that. At the rear of the body, the large removable back panel had not yet been implemented. When designer Mike Lathers got a look at straight sides it is reported he “went straight up in the air”. The design looked a lot like any other motor home of the era. In selling the design to GM management, he had made the point that anybody could make an ordinary looking motor home, what GM needed was “style” to sell. And style is what they got. Mike lobbied for and won the argument to have his design reinstated. That was the last to be seen or heard of “straight sides”.
GMC had decided to vendor out the interior up fitting. Bids were received from four manufacturers, Open Road, Sportscoach, Muntz Corp. and PRF Industries. Muntz Corp. had returned the most attractive bid, but they were located in California. GMC officials desired someone closer to Pontiac, MI. While PRF Industries was not the lowest bidder the decision to go with them was made since their location was twenty-two miles from the Pontiac plant and further negotiations brought their bid close to GMC’s price point. PRF Industries was owned by Peter R. Fink, the
builder of Travco and Sightseer motor homes. A new PRF division was formed to build the GMC interiors, GeminiCorporation, Mt. Clemens, MI. Rumor has it that Peter Fink named the new Corporation “Gemini” because it was “GM & I”, rumor also has it that his zodiac sign may have been Gemini, take your pick on which (or both) you want to believe. The Gemini facility designed and built all of the furniture; assembled all the modules; applied the Texolite laminate; and installed everything, bringing it all through the motorhome rear access opening. A number of start-up concerns had to be resolved. Between the motorhome body manufacturing tolerances and the interior module tolerances, which were affected by temperature and humidity, changes had to be implemented to make things fit. Every sub assembly had to have a drawing and GM part number.
This was not a simple task. The complexity of fifteen different floor plans and the many available options contributed to a complicated interior assembly process as well. Approvals of the many different state as well as the many federal requirements had to be reviewed and met also. Gemini had a target of completing the interiors of thirty two coaches per day, the best they achieved was closer to twenty per day. With the prototypes now being assembled, their purposes defined, their activities would begin.
The first public showing would be at “Transpo 72”, The US International Transportation Exposition near Washington, DC (Dulles) from May 27 through June 4, 1972. Martin J. Caserio, General Motors vice president and general manager of GMC Truck & Coach, said the motor home prototype is representative of GMC’s long-term development program for a new chassis and body adaptable to a variety of purposes. “The 26-foot motor home to be exhibited at Transpo is the first application of the new GMC chassis and body design”, he reported. Caserio said development work is continuing for other potential applications, such as a small bus for metropolitan transit operations, an ambulance and rescue vehicle, a mobile medical clinic, a vehicle for physically-handicapped riders, an airport bus and a display or service van. Many GM cars and trucks were on display there as well as the tan colored 26-foot Motor Home.
The exterior was rather plain with no stripes or trim. In a brochure it was described as “An experimental prototype of GMC Truck & Coach Division’s complete motor home, to be marketed in early 1973”. The GM display was still labeled as a “Multi Purpose Vehicle” although all efforts were now focused on developing and producing a MotorHome.
Other motor home prototypes were undergoing testing. A 23-foot Motor Home model named “Cape Cod” was at bench test. A computerized shake test installation, designed initially for trucks, permitted a seven-month series of critical component and total vehicle analyses. These tests otherwise would have required years to duplicate by using only conventional road testing. The programmed testing replicated Belgian blocks (cobble stones) cycled the suspension with hydraulic rams. Door latches were slammed, windshield wipers were cycled, and brake pedals were pumped all through a determined number of test cycles. Coaches were tested as well for what seemed like endless hours at the Milford, MI GM Proving Grounds. A modified passenger vehicle test was the criteria used, Proving grounds roads for 25,000 miles (regular durability), and 5,000 miles of Belgian blocks (accelerated durability). During the “figure 8” road testing, an early failure was the Toronado passenger car 5 bolt wheels. They were replaced with 8 bolt one ton truck wheels.
This also required replacing the hubs to match the 8 bolt pattern of the wheels. Another failure was a cracked frame near the front cross member. An added diagonal brace resolved this problem. The front suspension lower A-frame and lower ball joint were other areas that required upgrades to the passenger vehicle parts.
Hot weather testing was carried out on the “Baker grade”, an eighteen mile long upgrade in Southern California. This hot weather testing resulted in an additional fan blade being added, resulting in the use of the seven bladed fan.
Crash tests were performed at 30-35 mph as well. GM had purchased new Buicks for this purpose that had been in a flood at Pennsylvania dealerships. The side crash aimed the Buick at the large side window area. The Buick ended up with its bumper penetrating the side wall and coming to rest above the floor. New aluminum vertical reinforcements were added and this problem was fixed. The rear crash test resulted in the frame kick up area and spare tire carrier being damaged. Changes in this area resolved this as well. A roll over test was also performed. The GM proving grounds have a rollover ramp designed for just that purpose. This works well for passenger type vehicles but long wheelbase vehicles often have to be assisted. I have interviewed several GMC engineers that were personally involved in this effort. Two of them recall a fork lift lifting up one side of the frame to tip it over, 1 1/2 to 2 turns. Two others recall that no assistance was required. Status: unknown at this point which is correct. The damage however was reported to be not all that serious, a toilet had come loose along with a few other interior pieces, the left windshield had popped out and the body was slightly distorted to one side.
Plans for the manufacture of the motor home were moving along rapidly. Plant #3 in Pontiac, MI had been outfitted with equipment and tooling. This was one of GMs older plants and it had a split-level floor plan. At the lower level, the chassis frame was collecting various sub assemblies as it proceeded down the line, front and rear suspension, tanks, air lines, electrical wiring and finally the engine and drive train. The upper level of the plant was used for body assembly. Individual aluminum pieces of the body’s frame were placed in manufacturing jigs which assembled and aligned them; they were then welded together as a unit. Three unique jigs were used, right side, left side and the roof assembly. Next, these panels were assembled and welded together as the body cage. Separately each of the body panels was very flexible, when welded together as the body cage, it became a strong and yet a light weight assembly. Aluminum and fiberglass exterior body panels were fastened to this frame with a 3M adhesive. John Locklin had wanted to use an adhesive made by a small company called REM, GMC wanted a larger well known supplier instead. This assembled body was then cleaned, prepped and painted. When completed, the body was lowered to the main floor where it was mated with the assembled chassis. As can be seen today by looking at the 1973 models and to a lesser degree some 1974’s, the major body seams often contain a number of pop rivets at the panel joints. The body assembly procedure called for the body panels to be wiped down with a solvent and rag prior to applying the adhesive and assembling the panels together. It turned out the solvent soaked rags were not changed often enough and were actually contaminating the joints and weakening the adhesive bond. The pop rivets were a repair to those bonds affected by this problem. The first few motor homes moved slowly down the assembly line during the fourth quarter of 1972 and by the second week of November the first two dozen motor homes had been built.
The first 100 were finished before the end of January 1973. In March, Alex Mair, General Manager of GMC Truck & Coach reported, “The initial response has surpassed even our most optimistic expectations”. Over 1,750 orders were received through mid-February. By June 1973 it was reported back orders totaled 3,000 units, and the current rate of motor home production was now nearly 20 units per day. As might be expected, there were some start up problems. A new team-assembly concept at the GMC Pontiac, MI plant used a three member team assembling and the chassis and a six member team responsible for body and trim up fitting. This team-assembly concept was supposed to be the latest- greatest idea from Sweden. Both GMC management and the union had hopes that this team-assembly trial would help to reduce the repetitive work causing “worker blues”. The team concept didn’t meet expectations, lasted only a month or two, production then reverted to the standard “Detroit” auto assembly method of repetitive individual jobs. With the complexities of 2 new facilities, a new workforce, assembly of a totally new vehicle plus all of the living requirements including the proverbial kitchen sink, this was indeed an ambitious and complex undertaking. Alex Mair was holding "design school" with the engineers each morning at 7:30 AM to address any concerns or problems and review progress. He would often walk through the plant to discuss the day’s activities with line employees.
By June 1973 GMC had 64 dealers signed up to sell and service GMC Motor Homes. The company had hoped to have 200 dealers by the end of 1973, but decided not to sign up any more until an adequate supply was available. GMC Motor Home dealerships were separate stand alone facilities, GMC Truck dealerships didn’t automatically become GMC Motor Home dealers. A minimum of three acres of buildings and land area solely for motor home operations was required. The cost for a GMC Motor Home dealership is reported to have been $250,000. In the months leading up to release of the actual details for the new GMC Motor Home, the RV press was very active, describing the latest industry rumors each month. This was big news for the RV industry, both because of this new entry unique designs and possibly more importantly, the significance of giant General Motors entering this new business area.
On January 3rd, 1973 at Anaheim Stadium in California, the GMC MotorHome was introduced to the news media representatives. Over 100 newsmen and women watched a demonstration of the vehicle’s performance capabilities; rode and drove the MotorHome themselves, and participated in a news conference with top GMC executives. News articles across the country said things like, “GM Motor Home to set industry on its ear“, “GM has built the proverbial better mousetrap”, “If any product seems destined for success, it would appear to be the GMC unit”, “GM’s new motor home scores high in demonstrations”, …..and many, many more. Newsweek magazine stated, “GM’s new models reflect a grasp of problems that increasingly trouble consumers. For example, GM has engineered a number of safety features into its motor home that may well someday become government standards before long. It is also introducing a customer-service operation far ahead of any the free-wheeling business has so far known….” This emergency service provided a toll free number and immediately advised the owner of the nearest GMC Motor Home representative available for assistance on a 24 hour basis. Alex Mair said that GMC could produce 8,000 unit’s a year with the current facilities on a one shift basis. He noted also the pricing of the new motor home placed it at about midway in the senior motor home market, which was identified as Class A motor homes selling for $9,000 and up. It was mentioned that GMC “hoped” to get 10% of the senior motor home market. Initial customer deliveries were to start in February. The RV press was anxious to drive and review the new GMC MotorHome.
The president of Winnebago Industries, John Hansen, perhaps was the most candid, he noted: The recently introduced GM unit indicates that the most emphasis has been placed on drivability and style. Our shape may be boxy, but we have them on inside space, we think the inside is the key. The streamline design philosophy has always lost in competition with function. GM’s introduction has produced a lot of publicity, but it remains to be seen how they do in the marketplace. Ray Frank, often referred to as the father of the modern motor home and the builder of Xplorer motor homes, was critical as well. Apparently GM had interviewed him at length about key features for their new motor home. He noted, “obviously they had ignored his suggestions” some of the things he didn’t like were, weight distribution leading to poor traction, too much glass cutting down on privacy, and the lack of floor insulation.
The 1973 GMC MotorHome was available with a choice of four different models, six exterior colors, fifteen different floor plans, two different body lengths, and then there was the long list of available options! The “Detroit” mentality of something for everyone had arrived full force to the RV industry. The first series of motor homes were named for National Parks; Canyon Lands, Glacier, Painted Desert and Sequoia. The 26-foot and 23-foot models both used the same model names. Three of the exterior colors were standard, White, Camel and Pineapple Yellow. Three were optional for an additional $34.00, Bittersweet (orange), Sky blue and Parrot Green. A horizontal accent color stripe that wrapped around the front of the body was standard; continuing the stripe down the sides of the coach was an $86.00 option. The total of fifteen floor plans were split between the two body lengths, eleven for the 26-foot coach and four for the 23-foot. Any one of the floor plans was available in any of the four models. The model names defined the interior décor, colors and upholstery patterns and NOT the floor plan. Manufacturer’s suggested retail (base) price was $14,569.06 for the 26-foot and $13,569.06 for the 23-foot Motor Home. Almost everything was available as an option. Some examples are: auto air $482, AM/FM radio $217, chrome bumpers $75, wheel covers (7) $52.50, suspension power-leveler $85, built in vacuum cleaner $210, roof air $525,auxiliary motor generator (6kw) $1675, factory delivery drive away $32, or customer drive away $105. 1973 model year production: Motor Homes 23’ 461 26’ 1598 1973 Total 2059 A number of static RV shows and dynamic demonstrations were used in many parts of the country to exhibit the features of the new GMC Motor Homes. GMC even had a truck show in Frankfort, Germany displaying the GMC Motor Home, the Germans loved it.
One of the most impressive demonstrations was of a GMC Motor Home followed by another brand of motor home fitted with a cover to obscure its manufacture (it was a Banner), running over ~3 inch x 4 inch type timbers spaced a few feet apart demonstrating the difference in suspension abilities. The GMC handled the timbers with ease; its tires danced over the obstacles with the body barely bouncing. The covered motor home with leaf spring suspension on a competitor’s chassis had the tires leaving the ground and appeared to be leaping in the air after the third or fourth timber was crossed. The viewing crowd loved it.
Alex Birch, foreman of the Experimental Engineering shop, was the driver of the GMC in many of these demonstrations. At one of these demonstrations, he completed the pass, pulled up smartly in front of the grandstand and was to open the door, wave at the crowd and then drive off. All went well until, the door latch jammed, and the door could not be opened. Alex’s quick thinking saved the day, however. He hopped back in the driver’s seat, honked the horn, waved to the crowd and drove off. That was not the last to be heard of a problems associated with the latch manufactured by Lake Center Industries used on the early 1973 Motor Homes. Dolly Cole, wife of GM President Ed Cole, and friends went to a charity ball one evening at the Detroit Orchestra Hall. They chose to arrive in the new GMC MotorHome to show it off. The driver pulled the coach up in front of the hall to discharge the passengers, the door latch jammed again. The passengers disembarked with great difficulty, which the press attending the event duly noted in the next morning’s papers. Early that next morning MotorHome engineers were called into Alex Mair's office and told in no uncertain terms to fix the problem, immediately! That is why you see a stainless steel patch with the replacement latch on 1973 Motor Home doors up to approximately serial number 3V101850.
Alex Birch was given this wooden model for recognition of his close involvement with the MotorHome Project.
Completed coaches were driven from this location to the dealerships as well. The “dealer driveways” usually employed the dealerships drivers sometimes in groups of 2 or 3 motor homes at a time. In talking with some of the delivery drivers, all agreed that little time was lost in getting back to the dealer at a rapid pace, often well over the posted speed limits. Results; a very rapid break-in and of course every odometer had that mileage from the factory to the dealership before delivery as a new vehicle.
GMC MotorHome assembly operations were shut down in early December 1973, the official reason was stated as “to bring inventories in line with retail sales”. What started out at the beginning of the year as a great opportunity in a new market that at the time appeared almost limit less, suddenly had come to a screeching halt. The gasoline shortage had begun to seriously affect the RV industry.
1974 model year production:
MotorHomes 23’ 168
The TransMode, an “empty motorhome”, advertised as “The MobileAnything” for those who wanted to build their own interiors was available from 1975 through 1978. GMC no longer offered the 23-foot unit as a MotorHome, it was available only as a TransMode to be up fitted by others. Many companies were up fitting the new TransMode as both motor homes and for commercial applications. Some of the motorhome upfitters were Avion, Coachmen, Carriage, LRP, Midas, Norris, Hughes, Landau, Roll-a-long, El Dorado, Foretravel, Winnebago, plus a few others with very low build quantities. TransMode upfitters for commercial purposes were many, a few of the vehicle uses were: Ambulances/emergency vehicles, bookmobiles, mobile ATM/Banks, airport shuttle buses, mobile showrooms, mobile radio stations, hearses, courtesy coaches for beer and soda distributors, as well as many more.
1975 model year production:
Transmode 23’ 36
Transmode 26' 425
MotorHomes 26’ 1195
The 1976 GMC MotorHome models arrived with few changes from the previous year. Two new models were introduced in addition to the Eleganza II and Palm Beach carryovers, the Glenbrook and Edgemont. The Edgemont (twin bed/dry bath) was the price leader with a base price about $1000 below the other three models. Running changes continued to be made, most starting with VIN# 6V100878, examples are, an entry door strap, relocation of the air compressor and solenoid valves to an inside compartment (Electro level), glass lined hot water tank, cab floor support (stamping) and other body structure changes, radial tires/wheels, body side rub molding (with adhesive replacing stainless), etc. This model year, GMC MotorHome production reached its peak production build volume.
1976 model year production:
Transmode 23’ 549
Transmode 26' 298
MotorHomes 26’ 2413
The 1977 Kingsley was a new model with the Eleganza II and Palm Beach continuing to be offered. The Kingsley replaced the previous year’s Glenbrook, and the Edgemont was replaced by a new twin bed/dry bath floor plan in the Eleganza II. Other changes included are a re-designed dash relocating the AC/heater outlets and relocating the Electro Level controls to the left of the driver, a new Freedom Battery, entrance door rain cap and assist handle were new as well.
Another model, the Coca Cola was built in two versions, the "standard" one in Cameo white with a red horizontal stripe the same pattern as other GMC MotorHomes. It is believed these MotorHomes were primarily used by Coca Cola bottlers and distributors as courtesy coaches and for public event functions. The second Coca Cola model was the GadAbout, this one had all the bells and whistles. The exterior paint was Cameo white with a sweeping wedge of Coca Cola red up the coach sides blending to a yellow near the top rear of the coach. The "GadAbout" name appeared near the front and a bottle cap shaped spare tire cover was at the rear. Inside, the Coca Cola red upholstery was the same in both
The 455ci engine was replaced with the 403ci engine by the end of January 1977 and was used for all remaining MotorHome production. GM’s downsizing had started and would soon have severe implications for the GMC MotorHome. Plant #3 in Pontiac, MI had been the site of GMC MotorHome production from the beginning in late 1972 through mid 1977. In August 1977 production was moved to plant #29, also in Pontiac, MI, this site provided a more efficient production facility and was used through the end of production in 1978. On November11, 1977 Robert W. Truxell, General Manager of GMC Truck and Coach announced the phase out of GMC MotorHome and TransMode production. According to the GMC Engineers I have spoken with, no advance warning was given to the employees and they were surprised at the news. In all probability it should not have been too surprising. Carrying too much burden and overhead and never reaching the volumes needed to achieve real profitability, GM saw better ways to use its resources and achieve a greater return on its investment.
1977 model year production:
Transmode 23’ 253
Transmode 26' 455
MotorHomes 26’ 1695
The 1978 model year began with three models of GMC MotorHome interiors, Eleganza II, Palm Beach and Kingsley. The TransMode continued with many upfitters participating. The major upfitter since1975 was Coachmen Industries (Jimmy Motors) producing the Royale(26-foot) and Birchaven (23-foot). New GMC MotorHome two-tone body colors and a three color horizontal mid-body stripe distinguished the 1978 models from other years.
A number of features that were options in previous years were now standard and a number of features were improved. Some improvements were, Electro Level II, larger bathroom skylight, thirty six gallon holding tank, integral refrigerator vents, new solid cupboard doors, new counter tops, woven window blinds, and finally chrome bumpers were standard. Some new options were a glass and spice rack, microwave, overhead rear cabinet, six speaker sound system, lighted visor vanity mirror and lockable overhead front cabinet. New TransMode features were, floor insulation of urethane foam previously an option, now standard. The steering wheel, column and hand brake were now saddle color and the front end “GMC” logo previously decals were now raised lettering.
1978 model year production:
Transmode 23’ 178
Transmode 26' 1012
MotorHomes 26’ 689
Phase Out: A press release datelined Pontiac, Nov.11, 1977 read as follows:
GMC Truck & Coach Division of General Motors plans to discontinue producing luxury MotorHomes and similar TransMode multi-purpose vehicles and convert those plant facilities to expand truck operations, a GM vice president said today. Robert W. Truxell, general manager of GMC Truck & Coach said,” As a result of this action, GMC will be able to utilize production facilities more effectively for servicing growing truck demands. “The long-term outlook for greater truck activity is extremely bright and GMC production operations will be realigned to help meet expanding customer needs”, he said. “GMC will continue offering a wide range of trucks which are designed to meet a variety of recreational vehicle applications”, Truxell emphasized. He described the planned facility conversion program as “a continuation of major steps taken recently at GMC Truck & Coach facilities in Pontiac in response to growing truck needs. Van production will be doubled to more than 250 a day on two-shift operations, starting this month. “With a continuation of strong sales, GMC van operations will be expanded throughout the 1978 model year”, Truxell pointed out. He said another van production increase is anticipated in the spring of1978 and facilities are being expanded to begin van interior installation operations in the spring. The GMC van program has already added about 1,000 jobs in Pontiac, and another 1,200 new jobs could result within a year, Truxell said. A high percentage of GMC’s chopped van output is utilized for recreation vehicle applications with special bodies, such as mini motor homes, installed by independent
That being said, the rest of the story is as follows. An important consideration should be that Alex Mair, a very strong advocate for the MotorHome, had gone to the Pontiac Division and there was no one willing to fight for the program. There were of course other serious and obvious concerns with the program that needed to be resolved. The Olds engine and drive train would soon be gone from the Oldsmobile lineup due to GMs downsizing efforts. GMC would have to either build this unit on their own or design a new one involving new development and tooling expenses. Sketches of a rear engine/rear drive and front engine/front wheel drive (using a transfer case) exist. A front suspension using a solid front axle, single leaf springs with an air spring at the center, similar to the RTS bus design was proposed. Apparently one operational prototype of a transverse front engine/front wheel drive was built. Projected motorhome build volumes were not large enough to support a positive business case and the decision to terminate production ended all further development efforts. GM announced additional details over the next few weeks.
The GMC MotorHome Club, supported by GM was discontinued and in its place a new organization, GMC MotorHome Owners Association (GMCMOA) was formed. GM noted that it was independent and separate from GMC Truck & Coach. GMC attempted to sell the GMC MotorHome assets for a reputed $7million to another manufacturer that would continue production. AM General, a Division of American Motors took a look and built five prototypes using a 454cid engine, with a transfer case to turn the drive back to the new front axle, much like Revcon actually did in subsequent years. On the inside, the front steps to the driving compartment had to be modified to allow additional room for the transfer case. This was as far as it went for AM General, after some testing they decided not to pursue the purchase of the GMC MotorHome.
The purchase of the MotorHome manufacturing rights and tooling was accomplished by Donald Wheat. He organized the Wheat Motor Company (WMC) and several ex-GM officers were officers of WMC. The company was to be based in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. It was reported initially the use of a GM 454cid engine was planned, that later changed to a Ford 460cid engine. The difficult and expensive redesign of a new engine and drive train by a company with fewer resources than GM doomed the effort, no actual production took place. The WMC Motorhome was to be a 1986 model and retail for about $60,000, that was not to be and the WMC effort ended.
The end? It has been over 30 years since GMC announced the phase out of MotorHome production. It would seem reasonable to assume that the GMC MotorHome would have faded away by now, not to be heard from again. That is NOT the case at all. Allow me to give a few examples. - There are presently over 20 FMCA Chapters devoted to GMC MotorHomes. -Parts are readily available, both OEM and aftermarket.
A large variety of new, improved, never before offered parts and tools are available as well. A few examples: fuel injection, rear disk brakes, carbon metallic pads/shoes, alloy wheels, many new suspension upgrades, new fiberglass body parts, new dash panels, new final drive ratios, better shock absorbers, special tools, etc. The internet is a buzz with vast amounts of technical information, helpful assists, "how to" information, new ideas, sources for parts and service, etc. Current owners have restored, modified (built slide outs, driver doors, converted to diesel), stretched (2 to 8 feet), or just maintained and enjoyed their classic coaches.
Mattel has been making their Hot Wheels die cast GMC MotorHome models since 1977 in over 60 different versions. Most interesting is that over the past few years ten new GMC MotorHome models continued to be issued.
Thirty five years ago it is unlikely any of us would have conceived that any of the above would likely happen. I believe this is a strong indicator of the interest and longevity of this Classic MotorHome……and may it continue. LONG LIVE THE GMC MOTORHOME!
coaches. The refrigerator door graphics made it look like a soda vending machine, very impressive! Other extras were, a “Coca Cola” entry floor mat, clock, mirrored picture, rear table with a “Coke” checker board pattern and on the dash above the glove box was an attractive pewter plaque with a GadAbout MotorHome in profile and the slogan,” Coke adds life to…cruisin in a GadAbout”. Five GadAbouts were given away to five first prize winners of a Coca Cola contest held December 1977. Twenty five second prize winners each received the use of a GMC MotorHome for two weeks along with $3,000 in cash. The GMC records indicate a total of 55 Coca Cola models were built, most in1977 and a couple in 1978. It was originally believed only five of the total were GadAbouts, more have been discovered lately and as many as 9 or 10 may have been built.
With the end of production approaching, plans had to be made to phase out production in as orderly a manner as possible. “build-out” plans were made, i.e., matching parts inventories to dealer/customer orders. One example of this was the sale of surplus transmissions and final drives by GM to an Ohio GMC MotorHome dealer who purchased 1,361 units. These were initially offered at a sale price of $495 each, the suggested list price was identified as $1,375 for the transmission and $675 for the final drive. When they got down to 500 units, the sale price was reduced to $475 and finally in 1983 they reduced the price for the transmissions only to $295 and sold the remaining inventory. MotorHome and TransMode production finally ended July 1978.
companies. “While it is regrettable that luxury MotorHome and TransMode production will be discontinued, the action will assist GMC in serving other parts of the recreation vehicle business to a greater extent and help meet growing truck demands”, Truxell explained. He said industry truck sales in the United States in the 1978 model year should reach 3,750,000 units, and anticipates the growth trend will continue. GMC MotorHomes have been built in Pontiac since their introductionin early 1973. Parts, service and warranty provisions will continue through existing GMC MotorHome dealerships. Truxell said. Termination of MotorHome production will be accomplished gradually and it is expected that approximately 325 persons currently involved in MotorHome activities will be transferred to other GMC Truck & Coach operations, Truxell said.
At Las Vegas, January 30-31, 1974, GMC announced a new series of vehicles for commercial, medical, and general transportation purposes and nine TransMode concept vehicles were shown to the press. Eleganza SE (RPO#696) “featuring customized interiors much more luxurious than those in current models” were displayed as well. This was the start of Alex Mair’s plan to make the GMC Motor Home the “Cadillac of motor homes”. He had made the comment at one point that the GMC MotorHome was to GMC what the Corvette was to Chevrolet, its halo (image) vehicle. GMC management had given Alex Mair 90 days to develop a newup scale model in time for the Las Vegas show. The designers used an existing Oldsmobile upholstery fabric and Flexsteel seating for the first time. New colors and trim helped to make the Eleganza SE an attractive, unique coach. The designers had ordered enough material to make 50 SE coaches should the Las Vegas show result in dealers orders. It was a sell out at the show, the dealers liked the new model and the Eleganza SE production was on its way. GMC was now offering a MotorHome rental program, and conducted a fuel economy run with press representatives from Automotive News, Motor Trend and Trailer Life magazines. A motor home economy run could be very risky and some reporters noted GM should get the “Sheer courage award” and had “Corporate guts” to propose an economy run on a 23-foot motor home during the gas crisis. A 264 mile test from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, which included the well known Baker Grade that peaks at 4,751 feet, the reported mileage was10.2 mpg using cruise control most of the way. The return trip provided an 11.2 mpg average since this direction was slightly more downhill.
Ed Cole, GM President,suggested bright colors should be used. One story that has been confirmed by several people, report that at a meeting where these details were being discussed, Ed Cole pointed to the tie of Chief Engineer Wally Edwards and said, ”one of the colors should be like Wally’s tie”. It was a tie with orange stripes, an orange color (bittersweet) was offered in 1973 and 1974, and Wally still has that tie.
As can be seen by these efforts, GMC was trying hard to revive sales during this difficult period of gas shortages. In March 1974, GMC announced that it had suspended production once again due to a lack of orders. Gemini still had a backlog of shells to upfit, but scaled back to a one shift operation. Sales picked up over the next couple of months, and by mid-year inventories were depleted and production of the MotorHome was once again resumed. The MotorHome Engineering Department was hard at work developing and evaluating changes and improvements for the up-coming 1975 models. A meeting on June 12th was held to kick-off these changes to management, it was entitled, “Operation Conquest”. Jim Cote’ represented the Chassis Engineering section, discussing four areas of changes, rear suspension color coded nylon air harnesses with leak free “o” rings, vehicle GVW increased rating from11,200 to 11,700, electrical system increased battery capacity and improved driver controls and appearance. Jerry Vallad, Manager of the Body section introduced the changes to the body, improved body panel joints, redesigned longitudinal side member structures, and improved body seals. The floor plywood thickness reduced from 1 inch to ¾ inch is supported with a new structure with increased stiffness and rigidity, new enclosures for the motor-generator and LPG compartments replaced the previous plywood. Rubber retaining hooks were added to hold access doors open. The entry door was redesigned; retaining fasteners for the rear access panel were changed. Improved insulation was applied and installed to several areas. Nancy Bundra, manager of the Interior Design section described the changes to be introduced for the new 1975 models. She noted that customer inputs and field reports indicated that the interior was the weakest area of the motor homes design. GM Design Staff presented four decors for evaluation; Eleganza II for the initial release, immediately followed by Palm Beach. Being considered, although no decision had been made at this time, were Tiffany and Kingsley. The interiors were completely new, literally from top to bottom. New furniture modules, more comfortable fully padded seating, new draperies, new colors, improved fixtures and appliances, new headliner with perforated textured vinyl, etc. The complete package provided a totally luxurious, high quality look.
Starting in 1973 and continuing through 1977 a number of films were produced to promote the GMC MotorHome. Upon entering a dealership showroom, you might see what looked like a small screen TV set along with a number of film cassettes. GM called these units Mini-Theaters and films could be viewed with this self contained unit allowing the potential customer to view the many features of the GMC MotorHome. There are fourteen of these sales films; in addition there are three others from a TV program of the time that emphasized the joys of RV travel, Holiday on Wheels. There are also several service films intended to instruct service personnel with the proper repair procedures for various MotorHome sub-assemblies.
In late 1973, the 1974 models were introduced with little fanfare. They were a continuation of the previous models, incorporating running changes made to correct deficiencies in the early designs. Many of these changes and corrections can be found in the GMC MotorHome Service Bulletins and other publications. One change for the better with the 1974 models, in my opinion, was the discontinuance of the Parrot Green color although a few were painted that color early in the1974 production run.
The GMC plant was operating at one shift while the Gemini plant was at two shifts. The MotorHome’s body and chassis were being assembled more rapidly than the interior up fitting at Gemini. An early problem at the Gemini facility was plant layout; parts and assemblies were not properly placed for efficient manufacturing flow given the expected large build volumes. GMC plant personnel provided assistance with this problem, one they had extensive experience with. The Gemini plant personnel experience had been based on the one-at-a-time build at Travco. The parking lot at Mt. Clemens was usually full of motor homes awaiting interiors.