Being in the seat I’m in here, I get a unique perspective on the GMC community — why folks are interested in the GMC, why they have them and what they expect from them. I also remember the day that I found cheesecake didn’t taste the way I thought it would so in writing these thoughts down, I also need to remember its entirely possible that many of you out there have already thought of much that I might say. While its true new ideas are discovered every day, its also very true that many ideas have already been adopted, exploited, topped out and are again coming around — kinda like rediscovering cotton clothes are fashionable. Keeping all of this in mind, I’d like to discuss what may be a possible direction for the future of the GMC and the community of those interested in its future.
Lately, the rising cost of fuel seems to start every conversation. So when is it that something like how much it costs to fill up your fuel tank becomes more important that how much air is in the tires anyway? Callers ask if our business is being affected by “the fuel crunch”? Being in a position of being booked for 2 years with renovations, in our rotation, impact of such a situation will lag the day a bit. Even at that though, I have seen some issues arise from this “fuel thing”.
Some folks have contacted me looking to put their coach up for sale, their reasoning is sound in that their use of the coach was marginal and in an effort to consolidate their holdings, they have decided that owning something like a motorhome has become more of a liability than an asset. This is sound logic which developes from the amount of usefulness a GMC is in their lifestyle. The cost of fuel did not break them but rather gently nudged them over the line. There are some pretty fair buys right now in the market
Then I get a call from someone interested in a GMC reasoning that at 10 MPG, it’s much less that anything else they could buy in the RV industry. To put this in perspective, feel bad for that poor guy that thought he would reach his driving “nirvana” owning an H2 or an Excursion or one of those other behemoth road rollers , they are many times not getting the mileage that a loaded GMC gets– they actually weigh much less and carry much less to boot!
I have calls from club members anguishing about spending the fuel they use in supporting their club by making the rallies. Are you kidding, I’m a member of 4 clubs, I could not make all the rallies even when fuel was less than $2 a gallon. Yes, I agree, the fuel cost situation will effect rally participation and because of this, its something we need to look at and be proactive on.
I don’t see fuel prices impact the actual buying and selling of classic vehicles like the GMC as much as I see it effect their intended use. I don’t see as many people saying “Hey, lets burn through a tank of fuel and give the old girl some exercise”. No, I think there will need to be more reason to stoke up the fire in a GMC. It seems that there will be less redundant traveling, people will need to plan their activities and make the most of the fuel dollar invested. As far a club participation goes in the future, the total cost of getting out on the road has brought participating in such events prohibitive at the level we have seen. In the past, many people have hit a string of rallies making a long trip crisscrossing the country in their coach. I have done my best to support the club scene and make as many rallies as possible. Me feeling has been supporting the GMC community was a prime directive in that it is my only target market. The GMC is very important to me of course and I want to do all I can to support the community and maybe that is why we’re here right now having this conversation.
I’m in this for the long haul, after building this business for over 8 years focused almost entirely on the GMC motorhome and its refitting, it only makes sense that I am most interested in the enthusiasm of the hobby core group of GMC owners. I will say now to you after saying that, the GMC community is not shrinking and coaches are not being turned into subcompact cars– quite the contrary, the GMC is THE most cost effective way to move from point A to point B in a heavy lift vehicle. There will always be a segment of the country that reasons that life on the road is for them (I think I feel that way myself) and if this is true, the GMC is headed for even more attention. The new RV’er is looking less at how many slides a coach has and what the fuel cost impact and maintenance is. The initial coast of recreational vehicles is to the point that it locks many out from even playing the game. If I were not in the business of playing with these, I could not swing a $100K loan to buy something quality that has a chance of staying together until its paid off. No sir, I would be on the sidelines still walking with a backpack and I dare say many of you out there would also be patching leaks in your pop up.
The numbers do not lie when it comes to the expense of owning an RV. They are expensive toys and thats no doubt. The initial cost of a GMC gives you entry to the opportunity to maintain the coach in a useable condition for far less than the kings ransom most of the rest of the industry requires. Owning and maintaining a GMC impacts the wallet far less than the 20 year mortgage payments AND maintenance of any other RV you can buy. So, if the question is, “Will the GMC go the way of the Doe-Doe Bird?”, I would have to say most definitely not. What the shape will be of the future of the GMC clubs and the community in general could be a bit different.
In the short term, its a no brainer that the rising fuel costs will negatively impact the participants in club rallies and events. The budget has been broken and until percentages are recalculated, the dollars we pump into the GMC fuel tanks is simply not there the way it used to be. I betcha there will be smaller rallies over the next year or so and falling rolls in the clubs. I feel though this is a correction both because of the expense in operating a coach but also in passing the club baton to another generation of GMC enthusiasts.
The internet has, of course, transformed our way of life and its logical, especially with the total cost of participating in rallies, that the internet should also help us through this problem as well. Every club has a web site and most owners do have web access of some sort. In the past, there has been reluctance to bring the club web sites into the mainstream of club activity. This was mainly do to the number of folks out there still not computer literate and those that are reluctant to push those that are not into the modern age. It’s pretty much today a necessity to have web access and because of that shift, the clubs can use this new communication channel to a greater degree. You can feel connected to a group on their web site, you can read and see pics of others experiences. You can teach, learn and entertain yourself and others through a web site. If being there is impossible, you can at least feel a part via the internet.
There have been live streaming feeds from tech sessions (both audio and even some video) at GMC Eastern States rallies that were well recieved. Being the first time, there were technical issues but all in all, things went well and those that were in the know about how to participate were able to feel a part of being there.
If this trend takes hold, there will probably be smaller rallies and who is to say that is a bad thing. Clubs can combine rallies (say the ES club can throw in with a local club or even with GMCMI) to make an event more interesting for members. They can have fewer get togethers, combine with other clubs and even sanction several “mini rallies” in areas where club members nearby can attend without the extreme cost impact of traveling great distances.
Internet basing the GMC community is an inevitable trend, its just too efficient a communication source to ignore any more. I can see the Florida based “Sunshine Statesmen” having separate north and south mini rallies. The state is so long that location already plays into members rally participation. So whats wrong with having 10 coaches show up for a mini rally, I’ve found when more coaches come to events, the event turns from the intended excuse to get together to the burden of accommodating the large crowd. I will tell you some of the most memorable rallies have been smaller ones.
Speaking of smaller rallies, its always been a struggle to find parks to host rallies over 40 coaches. The logistics of such rallies really becomes a burden for the wagon masters and I feel there becomes a point when there are simply too many people to have a good time. In a big group, there always seems to be a number of folks that are not happy for some reason or another, life is too short to drive a long distance to be unhappy. Politics start to infiltrate the group, clicks show up and from there on the fun has been compromised. No, I find I like a smaller group– that is if they expect a smaller turnout. It would be a bummer to drive all that way to a rally expecting to take a picture of 200 coaches lined up side by side and only 50 turn out. But wait— 50 coaches, shoot, thats a Movement” as Arlo Guthrey would say. With 50 coaches, there is fun a foot, 50 coaches could block daylight in a small town and make headlines in their local paper. Feeding 100 people is no small chore to sneeze at and clean up of the area after a rally of 50 coaches will take a day at least. So don’t be down trodden if only 50 coaches show at a function, is your cup half full or half empty– celebrate the 50 that made it and think about those that could not and give them something too to enjoy via the web site.
I feel the future of the GMC (and the RV community in general) will be a bit less cross country use oriented in favor of close by getaways, short trips of less than a week and enjoyment more of local attractions and recreation facilities. This weekend I experienced what I would call a short but sweet get away. Last week, I met Jim G. and his coach “Orphan Annie” for a shake down at a county park not 20 miles from the shop. Being a total novice to operating his coach, Jim learned where the fresh water tank fill was and the importance of getting close to the power hook up. The Park (lakeside Moss Park) had just installed 54 long, good access spots all with 50 amp access. That evening meeting Jim out there we were the only 2 coachee in the park. Now its true they called for no alcoholic beverages (outside), no pets (I think) and there was no morning paper delivery to your door but it was a very nice place to relax. It was quiet and the bathhouse was awesome, new and clean. We grilled out that night and talked until our tongues were tired The cost was $15 stay for the night, Janie & I got up late into the night and drove back into town for a full day of work while Jim & Jane G. had a leisurely morning and headed toward home when they had the mind to. It was such a great experience that this weekend Janie & I decided to go out to Moss Park for the day again.
Sunday morning we got up, watched “Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood” and packed up “Blueocity” for another shakedown. We didn’t have to spend too much time getting ready, after all, we would not be there that long and the meal would be something you would normally pack in a picnic basket. Our pets were OK although they were clamering at the door to get out of the coach Got half way there and remembered I’d better stop for fuel (filling up that first time for a big trip is always a traumatic experience) so $30 worth of regular and my wallet went back into my pocket. Arriving at Moss Park, we found ourselves the only motorhome in the park again— how delightful. We were there to be alone and by gosh we got our wish! The day was great, the coach performed flawlessly. We were very comfortable and had the opportunity see the sites the park had to offer . There was no shuttle to the flea market, we did not go there to find fleas, we wanted to be alone. The park had everything we needed, sun, a cool place to relax and peace and quiet.
Like I said before, I now love cheesecake and probably many of you know the opportunity having a GMC gives you for local get aways but I tell you this was a bit of a new experience for us. Harry Chapin said it best in his song “WOLD” when he said “you can travel on ten thousand miles and still stay where you are”. You can have a great time in your own backyard and the GMC fits right into that need. Total, we spend less than $50 for the trip or should I say for the total experience. It was a great time, just what I needed to go at the next weeks work. Yes, we live in Florida and there are many attractions but there are county, state and national parks everywhere.
Small, close by diversions should be doable for everyone. There are smaller RV parks everywhere more than willing to host smaller groups of rallies and now with the fuel situation and increasing maintenance coasts, short journeys are looking more and more a way to get good use from your classic coach. Call them “trouble free” travels, trouble free in that if you are close enough to home for your towing service, you can always get home with a minimal expense. Hey, if you can get there, you can get towed home (so don’t worry– Be happy)!
In closing, the future of the GMC is not in jeopardy, in fact I still see an emerging market for renovating these classic coaches. It is the least expensive way to own and operate a custom built heavy lift vehicle, they still have a strong resale value and are increasing in their value as we do our job well here at the Co-op. The GMC community is also alive and well, there may be some changes in store for us but all in all, the club scene, hobbyists and as well as general use GMC owners are gaining in number and in their enthusiasm for this classic vehicle. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to take another small trip in my coach, think about it and plan a short trip for yourself– its better than letting the coach just sit there. All is well.