So you think you may be interested in getting one of these things… Remember, these are 45 year old machines, you’re not looked for a 2005 Toyota…it’s not about the mileage or anything like that. Please read through this page completely… yes, it’s long but if you want one of these prepare yourself for what you will be getting into. The best surprise is no surprise.
What are they worth? .what do I need to do to make it reliable? what CAN be done? OK, read on and good luck… these are a very unique driving experience…talk to you soon!
Jim & Janie Bounds
Here are a few pics and a piles of verbiage… hope this helps!
These are restored coaches we have here for sale
1976 23’ GMC Birchaven
Price: $70,000 Price drop now only $60K
This coach is a beautifully restored GMC that has had mechanical work done, a full interior restoration and an exterior paint job. It was recently used used by a talented artist on a photographic trip from Florida to Hollywood by way of national parks.
Here is a 23 foot 1976 Coachman with a rear bathroom. This coach is well maintained and has an vintage original look but with several upgrades like laminate flooring throughout, even in the cockpit. $33K
Museum-like one year only Edgemont, located in Arkansas $32K
1977 Fully Restored GM floorplan GMC Motorhome $95,000. Read more about this coach on our gallery page….search for “Mr. Clean”.
When a GMC was purchased new, it went to 1 of 2 homes. The first used and enjoyed the coach, took its family to vacations and basically the coach became a part of the family. The second person neglected the coach, only used it once in a while and didn’t keep up with maintenance or was cared for. That coach would be considered a “core”.
After 45 years, the nice coaches are still out there but even the neglected core coaches are being sought after. Again after 45 years, there are things on even well kept coaches that need attention today.
<<<<<< Wanna learn more about the expectations and the realities of having one of these……read more below>>>>>>>>>>>
This is a basic categorization of condition and what it will take to bring one of these old machines back on the road.
Let me explain my coach condition rating. As I see it, there are 3 levels of coach condition:
$50 to$9000 You can find a core for $50 to maybe $9000 depending on how bad of condition it is. You must have a good, no rust through damage frame and you want all of the parts of the coach there but there is no guaranty that much of anything will work. If something does it’s a bonus. Someone who is seeking a total restoration in and out needs to find a suitable core coach to work with. Of course the better coach the better the end product but with a core, you will not be paying for anything you might throw away. A core coach with a good frame might be a good choice if you have specific ideas on how your coach is to be.
is an original condition coach that has been and is still in descent condition. There will still be issues with a 45 year old survivor ……its filled with 45 years of good intentions which may or may not be as good of an idea today but may be able to be used in it’s current condition with some mechanical updates. In that a survivor has been kept, chances are the owner could be looking for the right new “steward” to take care of his baby. A survivor coach is best to look for if you are interested in economy and using the coach pretty much in the condition it is…..less mechanicals maybe, you CANNOT call a coach reliable until you have gone through every mechanical system completely! I mean it! You will never find a coach that is “ready to go”, there is always a punch list of things to do but it should take you less work to be able to use a survivor…most certainly over a core coach. Find someone selling a coach who is “looking for a new “forever home” for their cherished family member……… this is a good way to weed out badly maintained coaches. You can find a viable survivor for $10-20,000.
This is the scariest category to look at. Who did the work, were they “painting lips on the pig”, did they know what they were doing, how long ago were the modifications and work done? You pretty much need “provenance” or history to determine the value of any restored coach. Well maintained restored coaches will not be found usually under $30,000. There is usually 2 or 3 times that much invested. of course investment means little but the customer has done a good job at having a nice coach and has paid to have it kept that way. Investment is put into these coach’s for your pleaseure…..never think you can “flip” one of these. If you try you will end up having to tell untruths to sell one. You don’t “sell” these, you “buy” them and have your fun. A truly restored coach has value and will be something you might be able to enjoy with the least amount of additional money. Make no mistake though there will still be a punch list of issues….you will always have that on a 45 year old machine. Sorry but that’s the reality of this. YOU make a coach to what you want…don’t expect to find one you will be totally happy with…maybe so?
Keep these categories in mind when you seek to pick up one of these. You are not buying a 2010 Toyota …these are old machines…condition is everything……..good hunting
Before I show you a few coaches I know of, let me talk a little about what you should look for. Selecting a 45 year motorhome is NOT like buying any other “used car”. Mileage is less important and how the coach had been kept replaces that. Example: If one of these critters only had 20,000 miles it means it’s been driven an average of 500 miles a year…. FOR 45 YEARS!!!!! Yep, pretty scary… now if it had 100,000 miles and every scrap of documentation on what had been done well then… now we have something to work with! It’s how a coach had been loved…
Neglect and no maintenance will kill any mechanism made by man. And in getting it working again, you can “paint lips on the pig” making it work just good enough…or you can actually increase the reliability of this 45 year old American made 26 (and 23) foot hot rod. You don’t do that by just getting it running in other words… Each system needs to be considered and key issues need backups. I’ll have my web folks put all of this on it’s own page… for now let me put this out here…
Neglect and no maintenance will kill any mechanism made by man. And in getting it working again, you can “paint lips on the pig” making it work just good enough…or you can actually increase the reliability of this 45 year old American made 26 (and 23) foot hot rod. You don’t do that by just getting it running in other words… Each system needs to be considered and key issues need backups. I’ll have my web folks put all of this on it’s own page… for now let me put this out here….. Here is an example of an unbelievable coach for sale …that is if you can work with a rear bath Coachman floor-plan. I say this because the first consideration is NOT it’s condition although that question is right behind this one but first look at floor-plan you can live with…. I mean unless you have some very specific ideas in that case forget about what I’m getting ready to outline. Remember ANYTHING can be done with cubic dollar considerations but if you are looking to budget a restoration…. pick a floorplan you can live with….. The original infrastructure of plumbing and electrical can be inspected, added to but not have to be totally replaced. Likewise if the basic wall structures are sound and where you can leave them, ripping it all out to build in all new can be much less expensive. You can “reskin” those bulkheads to match most any new décor. So in this example we are talking about a 1978 Coachmen interior “rear bath” floorplan. It’s been said folks love or hate this model. Actually I know a very close friend who raised his family in a GM floorplan coach but found working with a rear bath floorplan worked out better for the 2 of them as empty nesters.
I do say the tub is perfect for 2 bags of ice and a case of beer but a full stand-up shower can replace it and actually I DID take a shower in the 23′ Birchaven rear bath Janie & I owned for a bit… it worked out well for us…hey but how many motorhomes do 2 people actually need? Still, we did enjoy the attributes of a rear bath. So anyway pedigree is important.. much more than mileage……. this coach… here’s a pic of it after a recent wash job Now before we get started, I am NOT trying to sell you sell you a coach… I do not want to be seen as a “salesman”. This coach sold for $10,000, another $10,000 or so made it mechanically reliable and it’s making its new steward very happy. A win-win, hope you can find a coach like this to work with.
OK, with that out of the way… as you can see from the pic above mechanically you can see a bunch…. It has aluminum rims which means it’s sitting on 16″ tire …. original steel rims are all 16.5″ rims which are hard to find tires for. Converting to what this coach already has costs. You can also see it has the “quad bag” rear suspension system. To me a must in countermeasure and failure backups you should never leave home without. Rear suspension systems are not all the same and there can be a BIG difference to you if you breakdown. This quad bag system gives you the opportunity to move with as many as 2 flat tires, burned wheel bearings or burst air bags. This coach has literally had it’s main ladder frame rails replaced! Lou did it himself at out shop some years back. That’s a $12-14,000 prospect to pay someone to do that! Exterior-wise, we painted the coach here at the Co-op 5 or 6 years ago….. from the above pic you can see all it needs to me is a body-side mold kit, maybe 2 roof AC units to get the old “roofshakers” off there. We’re taking the ladder and rail off… can’t buy new pods and the coach will look super sleek without all that hardware. On the inside you may not like 80’s style but you must say it is comfortable Not only a rear bath but twin bunks! Also, check out those neat pillows Lou’s wife made and the stitched print! It has a more recent frig but it may need a new one soon . The dash is still together and unmolested… still has a shaft radio in the dash! And it has a carpet dash cover for protection With the paint work already done, many important mechanical updates already done and an interior that has been loved and cared for? This coach is again sold.
So THIS is what you want to look for… a floor plan you want, a good frame, a good pedigree, mechanical updates, good looks and comfortable …if you find a coach like this brother buy it. If you can have a survivor in reliable mechanical condition road ready for under $25,000 the numbers work and when it’s done…. news flash, they are NEVER done but one that is good looking, comfortable AND mechanical updated and sound…. $50,000 is a realistic target to expect to invest. With an average annual expense of $2000 for maintenance… some years nothing then the motor blows, you know…… if you do it right and do it well a GMC Motorhome IS “the cheapest toy in the box”. ….It’s kinda like “Badda boom…badda boom”… let it sink in… OK good luck on your search, let me know if I can help…… .
This coach sold for $10,000
Where does that fit? If you can buy a core or a survivor…..get either one in road ready complete mechanical condition for a total of somewhere north or south of $25,000 then I would say you’re in the “pocket”. And when you stand on that shining shore you will THEN be able to see what it will take to make it like you want.
For a survivor, a modest investment of around $50,000 will put the coach is a reliable comfortable, smart condition OR you will be able to see what else is needed!
A core could go as high as $200,000 or more depending on what your project includes…….you don’t have to spend big bucks to enjoy a GMC though. The question is not what to do but where to stop! That determines what it costs to make you happy.
If you like give me a call and I’ll answer your questions about the ones here.
So these are a couple of coaches and a description of what you would look for in one of these. As I’ve said before… we do not buy or sell coaches… we do not require a commission from anyone, I want folks who jump in this pool to at least have some water wings on because it can be deep! You need to know as much as you can before the saga begins… Be really ready for you to start your love affair.
– Jim Bounds