Drive 'em like a car
Sleek new RV's offer new road ability and engineering

- The rear drive FMC and front drive to GMC solve handling problems in different ways, but each produces great riding stability that makes luxury travel more fun.

By: Herbert Shuldiner and Jim Dunne
(Pop Sci - Aug. 1973)


Can a motor home ride to like a civilized vehicle, instead of offering the uneasy handling that so many do?

Having just finished testing two new self powered RV's that are the best handling, most stable motor homes we've ever driven - we're convinced that it can.

The luxurious and expensive FMC and GMC motor home are as comfortable and easy to drive as your family car when they're functioning properly. Trouble is, when we got our test vehicles, both models were in early stages of production. Less then 100 FMC' s and 400 GMC's had rolled off the assembly line when we made our test. Because of this, these high priced rigs were prone to many of the shakedown problems that we're found in lower priced motor-homes

The FMC costs a whooping $30,000. Despite its imposing price tag, it is not designed for big families, but rather for a couple of people who want to travel in ultimate RV luxury. The GMC is designed more as a family-type rig, and sells for a mere $18,000 (but that included, in our test unit, many extras).

A huge stateroom in the rear of the FMC, which doubles as a parlor and bedroom, is perhaps the largest in any motor home. There is an immense bathroom, too, and loads of storage space. Surprisingly, kitchen and dining areas seemed to us barely adequate in this rig.

LOTS OF ROOM. The GMC, with its huge windows, gives a delightfully open feeling. It is also cheerfully decorated, and spacious up front. The comfortable lounge seats convert into upper and lower bunk beds.

But road handling is the big story, and the two rigs have a number of engineering innovations that improve motor-home handling immensely. Though designed from totally different approaches - the results are very similar.

The FMC is a rear-engined, rear drive 29 foot-long rig. The GMC is a front engined, front drive 26-footer. Both are minus the long drive shaft that makes most other motor homes tall and aerodynamically unstable.

Sit behind the wheel of the GMC and you'll find terrific visibility. That's because you're so close to the windshield. The steering wheel angle is like that of a car. And the one we drove had automatic cruise control, just like on a car. We found the ride very comfortable. Handling? Some oversteer on curves - the feeling that vehicle wanted to turn too much.

TANDEM-WHEEL STABILITY. One of the GMC's major innovations is tandem rear wheels, rather than the duals that most motor homes have. These seemed to contribute to the rigs stability. But if you happened to slide off the road pavement with them, vibration was much more noticeable than with duals-where one wheels usually stays on the pavement.

The GMC was quiet riding, with little wind noise. The low silhouette of the vehicle seems to knife through head winds and there's little effect from side winds.

Stability also marked the FMC's ride. It cruised comfortably at high speed - although interior noise increased markedly over 65 mph. Some of that came from rattling cabinetry and appliances. But there was also a peculiar whine from the Michelins this motor home rides on, and from the wind noise caused by the side mirrors.

We were surprised at the amount of weight on the front wheels, despite the rear-engined design. The front end of the FMC holds the road very well. Like GMC, it required less frequent steering-wheel correction than the average motor home.

The big FMC has a low frontal area that slides through the wind very well at high speeds. We experienced only minor turbulence when passing or being passed.

One unique feature on the FMC is an intermittent horn that sounds when you shift into reverse. This is a fine idea for letting people know you're backing up. But it could be disturbing to campsite neighbors in the early morning or at night. We think it needs a manual override.

Both rigs had excellent power. The FMC with a 440 cu-in. Chrysler engine took 37 seconds to get up to 60 mph. The GMC, with 455 cu-in. Olds engine, did it seven seconds faster. Both vehicles have plenty of power for passing and maintaining speed up hills. Gas consumption? Just over nine mpg for the GMC and six mpg for the FMC.

We didn't make any special brake tests, but brakes on both units handled any situation we encountered without fade, increase pedal pressure, or change in our driving habits.

We did encounter some mechanical problems with both rigs. A puncture developed in first the left, then the right, air bag of the GMC, leaving the whole rear end sagging. Despite this, we were able to drive it at up to 55 mph without loss of control.

We would recommend stops in the bellows to prevent the amount of sag we experienced.

The FMC threw a fan belt, causing the engine to overheat. With the power plant in the rear of this very long vehicle, it is difficult to notice the overheating unless you monitor the temperature gauges constantly. We also lost the operation of the drivers side windshield wiper in the rain.

Still, we found these new motor homes a revelation in ride comfort and handling ease. We believe these are new RV standard setters.


Captions:   (Pictures to be posted later)


Innovative GMC and FMC motor homes offer low, close-to-the-road designs and highly aerodynamic bodies.


FRONT ENGINE IN GMC MOTOR HOME makes checking oil, cooling system and battery easy from outside the vehicle.


NO EXTRA ENTRY STEP is required for GMC, because it is built so close to the ground. Door resembles an airliner's.


DRIVERS COCKPIT in GMC has automotive feeling, with controls close at hand. Curved windshield offers fine visibility.


COMPACT GALLEY in GMC saves steps, but counter space is not generous. You get big stove, fridge and double sink.




ACCESSIBILIY OF OIL STICK in FMC motor home is less convenient in rear-engine vehicle, you've got to reach way in.


REAR-DRIVE FMC is 29 feet ling. With no drive shaft underneath, it;s low to the road for good handling.


FMC COCKPIT is almost like a plane's, with outstanding instrumentation. Both steering column and wheel are adjustable.


GALLEY DINING AREA in FMC is hampered slightly by narrow aisle. But deluxe appliances male meal preparation easy.




AIR BAG SUSPENSION improves handling of GMC when it's working. But air bags, which allow you to adjust rear suspension to desired road height, ruptured on unit PS tested, so rear of vehicle collapsed. Apparently bags ruptured because there was not enough clearance between tires and rubber air bags.