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Our 1976 GMC RV

Ok, on to the fun stuff… This is a post just about our RV. The adventure of getting it (not so fun), the tear down and remodel thus far, and so on. We have a lot of pictures we will post in a couple of weeks of the before and after process so everyone can see, but I want to get the inside completed first.

The Beginning: A couple of weeks ago when I was looking for a cheap RV for us to move into, I ran across an ad for a 26’ 1976 Eleganza II GMC motorhome. Now if I hadn’t done a lot of research already and seen and read about these motorhomes, the year 1976 probably would have scared the bejesus out of me and I would have moved on. Here is the deal with GMC motorhomes. GMC produced this unique motorhome in their factories, not just the chassis but the whole motorhome. They were produced from 1973-1978, with an estimated 8,000 still registered. They are very unique in their design, very aerodynamic, and all the walls are steel instead of wood like most motorhomes.

The GMC’s are considered the classic hot-rods of motorhomes and the average price range I have found for restored ones range between $15,000-30,000, with the ones who need a lot of work still being over $5,000. According to the guy everything worked but it had bad gas. He was looking to sell her for $3,500 or trade her for a nice car. That worked for us, because we had planned on selling or trading the Impala (value $3,500) to get an RV. He was 3 hours north of us so we arrange to go up and take a look. After making the long trek (and he knew where we were coming from) the guy wasn’t there. Another family member at the house started to try and track him down while we took a first look at the RV. My husband’s and my first impression was “No way, let’s go”.

It had obviously been parked there in the grass for awhile and had insulation pushed all up underneath it. The inside was completely trashed. It was extremely dirty, the ceiling was torn up, the carpet was beyond vile, lights were broke, the curtains were virtually non existent, there was trash and clothing everywhere, and the bathroom looked like something died in the toilet, and the smell was stomach wrenching (pictures are coming). I just could not believe the shape this was in. After about an hour the guy showed up. During that time my husband and I had walked around, talked, and decided that if the mechanical aspect was ok, we could remodel it. We had remodeled just about every home we’d moved into, so this wouldn’t be much different. It took them almost 2 hours to get it started. The battery was dead, it had sat so long they had to put gas in the engine directly, and so on.

After awhile of standing around it became more of a sick need to just see if they could ever get it started. So we stayed, waited, and talked. The guy kept telling us everything worked. The AC was great, the water, electrical, and so on were great, and how he lived in it for several months with no issues. The biggest issue is, according to him, it had bad gas in it, and even after draining the tanks and such he still couldn’t get it all out. Later we found that it was not bad gas but a really nasty fuel filter and spark plugs that were the worst we had ever seen (pictures of that coming soon too).Anyway, they finally got it started and my husband did a short test drive. It drove well but he knew there were some minor issues we would have to take care of for it to be in really good working order. After much debate we decided to get it.It took the guy over an hour to clean it out of his stuff and trash, find the microwave, and then another hour to retrieve the refrigerator he said he had for it. The fridge was a joke. It was a super nasty, small, square, dorm fridge with no freezer. Nothing that I could ever remotely use. I brushed it off and we headed to the nearest gas station since it was almost empty.

The trip home wasn’t too bad and she got about 12-13 miles to the gallon on the way. The brakes definitely needed to be bled because even slamming them to the floor took forever to get the RV to stop. We noticed a lot of other little things too, but we eventually made it home in one piece and no towing so life was good.We have spent the last couple of weeks tearing it apart and putting it back together, and finding more and more to fix along the way. What we have done/ are doing to make it liveable…

Interior:

  1. tore out and replaced the whole ceiling (new insulation and FRP panels)
  2. tore out all the carpet and replaced it with new flooring
  3. Scrubbed it from top to bottom
  4. making new curtains
  5. cleaning all the upholstery (will be redoing all of it later)
  6. replacing the refrigerator with a 3-4 cubic foot electric fridge
  7. replacing the light fixtures with LED lights
  8. replacing the kitchen faucet, bathroom faucet, and shower wand as they are all broken and corroded

Electrical/ mechanical:

replacing all the fuses in the house area 

replaced the engine battery and house batteries 

  1. We will spend next month replacing wires, spark plugs, oil, and so forth in the generator, as it can not be run in it’s current state. 
  2. new fuel filter 
  3. new spark plugs 
  4.  plugging in a bunch of disconnected hoses on the engine 
  5. The water line where it comes into the tank from the outside hook up was completely broken off, so we are replacing all of that and hoping that is the only water line issue 
  6. unbending the door hinges on the main door so it will shut and lock properly 
  7. replaced the deadbolt lock on door 
  8. bled the brakes and replacing the break cylinder seal.

Things that still need to be checked:

  1. The propane system
  2. 2. The AC unit (have to wait to fix the electrical) There is a lot of other little things we need/ want to do but we can do those while we are living in it. We are hoping next month to work on getting the solar panels/ wind systems started so we can start generating our own power. That is an important thing for us and will help us not just to save money, but also to not require RV hookups for electricity.

So what should have been just cosmetic has turned into a huge everything project. That’s kind of bad considering we are on a super strict time frame and budget, but we have both been working hard and luckily Michael knows how to do all of this, so that saves us quite a bit. The other way to look at it is, with this particular RV, it is an investment. Once we are done she will be worth a lot more then her price and cost of us to fix her. She will also make a great home/ RV when we are done.