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Author Topic: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery  (Read 730 times)

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« on: April 08, 2019, 09:48 PM »
I recently sold my 1990 Holiday Rambler and started looking for a replacement.   Not quite sure why, b/c the HR was a great rv to own and use and I just got it to where someone could just run it and enjoy it.  Cheap to fix and easy to work on.  But I always wanted a GMC motorhome from the 70's, so I started looking for one. 


BTW, people are nuts about these things.  You can't even touch a decent one for less than $10k.  And usually they've been hacked up with 'improvements' by the previous owners calling their handywork a 'restoration'   :(   There were only about 12k of them made from 1973 - 1978.  GMC designed them from the ground up to be a motorhome.  They have a very low center of gravity and independent front and rear suspension.   The floor is 16" off the ground level, vs my HR which was 40" off the ground.   So there's the small number of them made, combined with the fact that it was 40 years ago and a lot of them are no more, plus the DIY'ers hacking them up, combined with the fact that only a few of the floor plans worked for me b/c I need to sleep 5.  Not quite like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there were a few constraints on my search. 


I found on Craigslist a 1976 with a layout that sleeps 5, looks to be all original and unmolested, pretty cheap at $5.5k, but is sitting out in the elements and showing signs of water damage inside.

Offline tmsnyder

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  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2019, 09:57 PM »






There were pretty poor pictures, so I posted on CL a help wanted ad for someone to go over to the place and take pictures.  He even took video as they drove it around.  Ran the generator, ran the A/Cs.   The new pictures confirmed the water damage to the interior. 


Wall and ceiling panels were all pretty bad.  Upholstery looked to be salvageable with a deep cleaning.  Cabinets looked pretty good in the photos.  I looked into it and people are changing their ceiling panels all the time, it doesn't seem too bad to do.  Same for the wall.  So I talked to the seller on the phone, he seemed like a decent person, he was just selling b/c they don't use it anymore and he had some bills to pay.








Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2019, 10:28 PM »
Wow I just typed for like 15 minutes and lost all of it when it said my pictures are too big.  Well that stinks!


Here's an abbreviated version.   I decided to take a look at it by flying down with my bags full of tools and my pocket full of cash just in case.  And the best part is, my brothers said they wanted to come along too.  So we packed about 250 lb of tools in our checked bags, made of list of things to get once there and off we went.


Seller showed up, RV looked like I figured it would, pretty rough but really solid frame, no rust due to the local climate, very very original everything.   Not molested.   So we bought it and spend the first night in it at the Firestone plaza where I had him meet me.  Oreillys was there as well, and a bunch of food places.

Offline tmsnyder

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  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2019, 10:50 PM »
First thing we notice is that there is water running out of the rv.  Seller says he tried to help us by filling the water tank for the trip, but the pump was on and he didn't notice that a water supply tube has popped off the kitchen sink.   So 40 gallons of water is now soaked in the 43 year old orange shag carpet.   So gross.  So on my first return trip from OReilly's, I'm greeted by a vision of my brother tossing carpet he's ripped out of the RV, into a dumpster nearby.   He said he made an executive decision, I agreed it was the right move.  Unfortunately, that exposed 1/8 inch layer of wet sand underneath. 


So we spent the night in the RV with sand on the floor and not enough bedding b/c we hadn't managed to make a Uber trip to Walmart.  We had some bedding but not enough.  Not a great nights sleep that night. 


Next morning we rolled in the wheels to the Firestone where we met the seller got new rubber put on.  I had called the previous week and asked them to get the tires on hand just in case. They are an oddball size, so they had to order them in.


We spent our time while the tires were going on by greasing everything.  Checked fluids, hoses and belts.  Got an oil change next door and used their vacuum to suck up the sand.  They noticed a pretty good power steering box leak, so we bypassed that with tubing from Oreillys and drove it with no power steering.


Had an awesome breakfast , drove around town a bit to shake it down.  Went to walmart and got PB&J fixings, bedding, fire extinguisher, water and started out into the vastness of central Texas. 


Changed fuel filter a few times, very orange and rusty looking but it cleared up as we put more gas through the tank.


About 24 hours into the trip, we noticed it was getting louder in the cabin from exhaust.  Turns out the drivers side muffler was falling off, it was hanging by about 1/8 inch, just barely hanging on the lip of the down pipe, and showed signs of scrapping the ground a few times.  Literally, the mufflers looked like someone grabbed them from a junkyard and cobbled them onto the downpipes from the engine.  So we had to slice open the inlet and opened it up a little so we could get it on the downpipe farther, then clamped it back on.  Actually got to use the angle grinder we brought along just in case.  Glad to have the working generator to run the grinder.


After stopping to rest outside Memphis (after eating BBQ there) the engine wouldn't crank.   Turns out it just needed a couple whacks with a hammer and it finally cranked and started. 


Eventually we figured out the fuel system in this.  We thought we were running on the main 25 gallon tank, but it turns out the two are connected about 1/4 of the way up the tanks sides.  Fuel is filled into the Aux tank, which sweeps through into the rear Main tank.  With the switch in Main position, it sucks both tanks down until they are 1/4 full, then it only draws from the rear tank.  The 1/4 tank remaining in the front tank is the reserve, about 7 gallons.   Pretty ingenious I think.    Once we figured that out, we realized we didn't have to stop for fuel anymore b/c we were within 430 miles of home and we were getting about 10mpg.

Offline tmsnyder

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  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2019, 10:57 PM »
So 2000 miles later, we got home to Buffalo and it's sitting in my driveway where the Holiday Rambler used to sit.   Should be fun to get it cleaned up and usable.  The plan is to only change out the nasty stuff and try to keep it as true to its 70s roots as possible without being gross.   So no shag carpet, but maybe parquet flooring, if you know what I mean as an example.


Will need the ceiling and side walls replaced new flooring.   Eventually I may have to start rebuilding the cabinets because they are very simply made and look easy to duplicate.  But they were made of particle board and many of them are water swelled in various places .


I also have this feeling that if I get a buffer I might be able to put a shine on the exterior. 


Of course all this is after I get the leaks sealed, that's just #1.  Based on the muffler quality of craftsmanship, I'm expecting to find some really poor sealant jobs on the roof.

Offline LJ-TJ

  • 14 year member
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  • Posts: 2529
  • Member since: 2003
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1975
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: D21
  • Chassis: Dodge
  • Engine: 440-3
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2019, 07:29 AM »
 :)rotflmao :)rotflmao :)rotflmao  Thanks for sharing. We have many folks over the year wondering or trying to decide about taking on an adventure like this. L.J. & I drove to Kansas to pick up a 1975 21' Winnebago site unseen because it never had a air conditioner on the roof. One of the week spots on a older Winnebago. Old girl hadn't been on the road for years and being fat dumb and happy drove it all the way to Ontario Canada. What an adventure. Do I suggest you do it.  D:oH! Yep! “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”    :)ThmbUp   

Offline Rickf1985

  • *
  • Posts: 5546
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1989
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Chieftain
  • Chassis: Chevy
  • Engine: 454
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2019, 07:48 AM »
There are two of those just sitting in yards not far from me. It is a shame since they were fantastic vehicles. If I remember it is a 455 Oldsmobile engine and Toronado front wheel drive drive line isn't it? That trip is something I may have done 35 years ago but no at my age. More power to you. And driving that with no power steering had to be brutal!!! Reminds me of an old Diamond Reo Tractor I drove with manual steering. I can just see those bags of tools going through the airport screener now. :)rotflmao :)rotflmao :)rotflmao :)rotflmao

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2019, 08:13 AM »
Yes front wheel drive, 455, Olds toronado powertrain, Caddy Eldorado used the transmission too but they used a caddy engine.  Caddy engine swap is one of the more common swaps as a result.   


There's no rear axle so it rides more like a car.   It's a lot less jarring over potholes.  Much shorter than my HR was, the HR was around 10.5', this one is around 8 feet tall, 9 feet with the A/C units.  My HR had 5-8" steps to get up and in, this one has just 2.  So it's a full 24" closer to the ground.   Downside is that the missing 24" is the basement that the HR used to have.  There's no basement in the GMC.  But maybe it's an upside, less junk to haul along.  I used to take a lot of stuff we never used.

One thing I noticed vs the HR, everything is engineered to the max.  For instance, when you open the bathroom door, it swings to within 1/4" of the opposing wall and there's a small L shaped door stop.  And the latch catches a closet door hinge to hold it open.  So you get full privacy in the rear of the coach (as long as the shades are drawn LOL) upon exiting the bathroom.  The door key is the same GM round key for all the exterior access hatches.  The seat swivels on a post that is towards the center of the coach and back of the seat, so there's no bumping the seat up against the wall, it swivels back and inward.  No fighting with it.  And on and on, everything is well designed. 

The cool thing I've found is that the original owner had almost all the options which were available installed.  It has a central vacuum system, dual roof A/C, 8 track, Dash A/C, Cruise control, CB radio which is missing, etc and then they added on some really nice aftermarket items.  So someone really loved this thing at one time.



50 lb of tools is basically one small toolbox full.  Placed in a garbage bag and wrapped in a blanket, we stuffed it into a small to normal sized suitcase.  Multiply that times 5 toolboxes and suitcases.  My bags were searched, the TSA leaves a note that they were there. I'm sure they see it all the time, people flying with tools.


Rick what's the number for the yard with the GMC?  Maybe they have a part I need. Right now I could use a spare, there's sure to be some more stuff needed.

Offline Shawn62

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  • Posts: 26
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1987
  • Make: Fleetwood
  • Model: Southwind
  • Chassis: P30
  • Engine: 454
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2019, 08:18 AM »
tmsnyder,


     Nice score!!   I know where one is rotting into the ground.  Owner won’t sell it for sentimental reasons. Please keep us posted on fixing it up.  I’ll keep my eyes open for and old Toronado or Eldorado.  I have seen a few over the years in junk yards that were used in demolition derbys.

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2019, 08:26 AM »
There's one in the Albany NY area for sale on facebook marketplace for $600.   Turns over and fires on ether but hasn't run in 30 years.  It's all torn apart inside but everything is there.   I'm seriously thinking about grabbing it either for parts or to use my new one as a pattern for the missing wall and ceiling panels.  Same year, layout, and everything. Would be a good candidate for complete rebuild of interior if someone had some cabinet making skills.

Offline Rickf1985

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  • Posts: 5546
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1989
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Chieftain
  • Chassis: Chevy
  • Engine: 454
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2019, 08:33 AM »
The major thing you need to be on the lookout for with them is rear suspension parts. They were only used on that unit and that unit only! And yes, they were over-engineered also which is what makes them so hard to find and work on. I will take a closer look at the local ones but I seriously doubt they will move. Like most the owners either think they are sitting on gold (which they kind of are) or they will not sell for sentimental reasons. The fact that the rear suspension aired up and lasted all the way home puts you ahead of the game already. I would say you got a good deal on it depending on how good you are with interior restoration. That is something that has always scared me.

Offline ClydesdaleKevin

  • 11 year member
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  • Posts: 4327
  • Member since: 2005
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1995
  • Make: Itasca
  • Model: Suncruiser 32RQ
  • Chassis: Oshkosh
  • Engine: Cummings Turbo Diesel
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2019, 08:46 AM »
Now THAT was an adventure!  Years ago Patti and I looked at one of those when we were looking to upgrade The Ark...and lack of storage for full timers had us walk away.  Really awesome RVs for camping though!  Nice score!

Kev
Kev and Patti, the furry kids, our 98 Cherokee lifted beastie tow vehicle, and our 1995 Itasca Suncruiser Diesel Pusher.

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2019, 01:24 PM »
Hi Rick I thought you meant the local pick-a-part yard had one, I'm not looking to buy another one.  Thank you though.

Offline legomybago

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  • Posts: 1178
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1974
  • Make: FMC
  • Model: 2900R
  • Chassis: FMC
  • Engine: 440
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2019, 02:00 PM »
Good story. Thanks for sharing. The furthest I've been on an RV recovery was about 250 miles. I think doing something like you just did would be a great adventure, especially with friends. Whenever I find my must have D-18, it will probably be an adventure. You should be good on parts for the GMC, since they made quite a few and they have a large cult following along with shops that customize them. Unlike my FMC which used to have two companies that "specialized" in them, but eventually time catches up and the masters move on.....
Never get crap happy with a slap happy pappy

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2019, 03:23 PM »
Here's some more pictures including some of the fine quality battery connections and exhaust welds. 

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2019, 03:27 PM »
Quality weld and cerveza!

Offline legomybago

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  • Posts: 1178
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1974
  • Make: FMC
  • Model: 2900R
  • Chassis: FMC
  • Engine: 440
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2019, 04:01 PM »
They must of used a harbor freight 110v welder.....
Never get crap happy with a slap happy pappy

Offline Rickf1985

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  • Posts: 5546
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1989
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Chieftain
  • Chassis: Chevy
  • Engine: 454
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2019, 04:49 PM »
I guess that goes to show that not EVERYBODY can use a MIG welder! Especially when you use mig wire without gas in a flux core welder that has no power. Ok, so in the last picture which one is you? I can definitely see the family resemblance there.

Offline tmsnyder

  • *
  • Posts: 599
  • Member since: 2016
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1976
  • Make: GMC Motorhome
  • Model: Eleganza II
  • Chassis: GMC
  • Engine: 455
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2019, 04:59 PM »
I'm with the cookie, looks like breakfast time.  From left to right, it's oldest, me, then youngest.

Offline LJ-TJ

  • 14 year member
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  • Posts: 2529
  • Member since: 2003
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1975
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: D21
  • Chassis: Dodge
  • Engine: 440-3
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2019, 06:03 PM »
Well if she never turns another wheel. The investment will have been worth it just for spending a few crazy day with your brothers. A once in a life time trip. Looks like you had a blast. I'm sure everybody thought you guys were crazy. D:oH!

Offline Rickf1985

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  • Posts: 5546
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1989
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Chieftain
  • Chassis: Chevy
  • Engine: 454
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2019, 06:52 PM »
I told you there were two of those just sitting in yard wasting away when you got this one. not two weeks afterwards the one right around the corner disappeared along with everything else so I guess they moved and now I went through the next town over and I see the one that was there is also gone. You been on a buying spree?

Offline cosmic

  • 8 year member
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  • Posts: 403
  • 1975
  • Member since: 2009
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1975
  • Make: Brave
  • Model: D21
  • Chassis: Dodge M300
  • Engine: 440
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2019, 08:15 PM »

love the story.. thanks for sharing..
im trying to talk my friend into buying a 73 chieftain in British Columbia Canada and driving it back to Ontario.. I told him I would go with him and help as I think I replaced every single part on my Winnebago by now. except the motor and transmission.. lol
he is  still sitting on the fence.. doesn't have to cohunes you and your brothers have.... good job boys... :)ThmbUp :)ThmbUp

by the way I have always liked to rv's if I didn't have all the work and time invested in mine.. that would be a great choice..  cheers!
and I think that has to be the worst welding I have yet to see, and ive seen some bad crap...  :)rotflmao :)rotflmao

Offline LJ-TJ

  • 14 year member
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  • Posts: 2529
  • Member since: 2003
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1975
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: D21
  • Chassis: Dodge
  • Engine: 440-3
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2019, 09:20 AM »
So isn't this what recovering one of these old girls from the clutches of the scrap yard is all about. The adventure and challenges of getting them home. The stories to share around a campfire. The sharing on the trials and tribulations of repairs and sharing the fixes. Thanks guys. It's been fun fallowing along. Don't forget to continue the adventure.   :)ThmbUp

Offline HandyDan

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  • Posts: 671
  • 6 year member
  • Member since: 2010
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1984
  • Make: Holiday Rambler
  • Model: Imperial
  • Chassis: Chevy
  • Engine: 454
Re: GMC Motorhome 2000 mile recovery
« Reply #23 on: May 28, 2019, 11:32 AM »
There is a group of GMC Motorhomes that meet the first Friday of each month in Tulsa, called the Tulsa Lunch Bunch.
http://www.gmcclassics.com/rallies/tulsa.html
1984 Holiday Rambler
1997 Newmar Kountry Star

 

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