October 1977 Motor Trend Magazine Review

About five years ago, GMC set motorhome manufacturers on their ears when it introduced a truly magnificent coach on its own special chassis. At the time, it was feared Ford, too, might bring out the second of a one-two punch that could knock out a lot of well-established builders.
They needn't have worried, for a lot of reasons. First, Ford never followed through on its plans. Second, GMC production was limited. And third, the luxury motorhome market keeps growing, regardless of inflation--early 1977 production figures show that Class A (conventional) motorhomes are up 40.8% over a year ago. That's quite a hike, considering that many of the large vehicles are selling for $30,000 to $50,000.
As we saw during the so-called "Energy Crisis," the sales of luxury automobiles didn't suffer at all. Which simply means that cost doesn't bother that portion of our population with money to spend. Yet there's another factor to consider.., financing. Many Americans of moderate income and leisure time are willing to take a last fling at travel, because they're certain it may not be as possible in years to come with all the talk of rationing, and raising the price of, gasoline.

During a 3000-mile trip through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California, I met a lot of new motorhome owners who, typically, were interested in the GMC Kingsley I was driving. And they were free with their personal reasons for buying a motorhome, whether they were from Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Florida or any other state.
The gist of What they said was basically this: Financing was easy. Their homes had appreciated so much in recent years that they could use their equity for a second mortgage on something as frivolous as a fancy motorhome. Or they'd dug into their savings to come up with a suitable down payment, and financed for seven years--the normal time for recreation vehicles--or more, using their home equity as collateral. Banks and lending institutions are relatively lenient on RV financing, because the delinquency rate is second lowest, just above automobile financing.

Their reasons for buying went something like this:
"I'm not getting any younger, and the kids are old enough to understand what it is they're seeing."
"I don't expect we'll be able to do much traveling when we retire, With this gas situation and all. So, we decided we'd better do it now, or we may never do it."
"Oh, it's a fun thing. Normally we don't go this far away. It helps us get away from the business on weekends, and allows us to entertain. Besides, I write off about half of it."
"I feel like I'm king of the road-sitting up above the whole world without a care. It's an ego trip that makes me feel a lot better than even the old Ferrari I had"

The 26-ft GMC Kingsley we toured with certainly was a home on wheels, unlike a lot of RVs that depend on outside sources to keep them self sufficient. Everything we needed was built in. We generated our own electricity with a 6000kw Onan auxiliary powerplant. Our fuel and water capacity allowed us to stop anywhere-however remote--without relying on external hookups for days.
As for touring, we could see above anything except the big cross-country trucks. Just a touch of the cruise control to set our speed, fold up the armrests on the seats and relax. And we didn't have to worry about not being seen--a common excuse given by drivers following accidents.
The Kingsley is divided into two separate living sections. At the front is a dinette and davenport, with the dinette table having leaves that fold up to expose drink holders to prevent spillage while on the move. At the center, behind the side entrance door, were the stove/oven, refrigerator, bathroom and closet. And in theback were separate couches with three large windows, where the three children were housed during the trip, out of the way and with a minimum of raucous laughter and shrieks filtering to the front. We only regret the Kingsley wasn't outfitted with an optional folding table between the rear couches. Stereo speakers fed music to the driver's compartment and to the rear. It would have been nice to have an extra set of speakers toward the middle of the coach to give better music penetration.
The motorhome is a prestige item for GMC, a way in which to add glamor to the GMC name. It also happens to be one of the few motorhomes designed as a unit. Most other motorhomes are built on existing truck chassis. With the GMC, however, its chassis serves only one purpose,for use as a motorhome. Only FMC offers anything similar, while AM General (a division of American Motors) offers a front and rear section, without frame, on which a manufacturer can design his own frame. Cobra, for one, has used AM General's design on some of its larger motorhomes.
Everything about the GMC is designed for better power and fuel economy. The frame is aluminum, while the body is fiberglass and aluminum. The shape is aerodynamic, not only from the front but at the sides too, where the curved body is made to ride out side gusts with a minimum of sway. Power is supplied by the new Oldsmobile 403 V-8 coupled to Toronado front-wheel-drive. The use of front-wheel-drive allowed GMC to build a motorhome with a lower center of gravity for better handling, because the body doesn't have to clear the driveshaft. Parking next to a classy Executive motorhome at one Of our stops, it was obvious the GMC was a good 2 ft lower. This low body also eliminates the need for a step to get inside.
Unlike most motorhomes, the GMC uses tandem instead of dual wheels. The rear suspension is fully independent through the use of doublecammed air springs and control arms. Ride is adjusted from the driver's seat. A warning light board on the instrument panel flashes "Set Automatic Ride Control" and you flip a switch at the left, just below the side window. After a few minutes, the button is set in the hold position and the suspension is Properly adjusted for driving. The air suspension also allows the driver to raise or lower either or both ends at the back of the motorhome for campsite leveling. The control motor is located inside a cabinet near the closet.
Without question, this was the best-riding motorhome I've ever driven.., and I've driven quite a few. Though handling was good, it was surprising to find that I seemed to have more trouble keeping it straight in moderate winds than those around me. In strong winds, however, it was significantly better. It's possible that the power steering might have been the big reason the GMC wandered in lighter winds, since it took me a lot of miles before I got used to it.

When the GMC was introduced, I recall, there were many comments about it not being designed for camping. In some ways it might be true, depending upon how and where you camp. But, as with anything new, there are always many who are not ready to accept it anyway. There are three areas in which I'll have to side with the critics. First is the lack of outside storage. Campers require such items as hoses, extension cords and tools that shouldn't really be stored inside. Hoses, in particular, drip all over the floor. Second is the large amount of glass area. Though this is a great aid while driving and good for seeing the countryside, it also lets a lot of hot sun inside. This means the roof air conditioners must be kept going continually on a hot day, and it requires a generator to keep them on. Conversely, they help warm up a cold motorhome in the winter. And finally, the ground clearance. Though it is lower than other motorhomes, I never encountered a problem on rough roads, but I can see where some off. pavement drivers might be skeptical However, the rear can be raised off the ground with the air suspension system and the motorhome driven at slow speeds over any particularly rugged terrain. But let's face it, motorhome was never meant to be an off-road vehicle anyway.
The GMC motorhome comes in two sizes--23 and 26 ft. And the interiors are made by two different manufacturers. Coachmen Industries does the work on the 23-ft Brickhaven and the 26-ft Royale. Gemini, which started with GMC to build the first motorhome, does the interiors on the Kingsley, Palm Beach and Eleganza. Gemini is a division of PRF, which makes the Travco motor home.
GMC has been most successful in its goal to produce a lightweight, good-performing RV. Even with automotive air conditioning going, the Kingsley easily kept up with city traffic. And fuel economy? It averaged 9.7 mpg on our 3000-mile trip. The best run we had was 10.7 mpg, without the generator running.., and that's the best fuel economy I've ever gotten from a Class A motorhome. Even a small 20-footer with a 318 V-8 I once tried struggled to get 8 mpg on the straight and level.
The aerodynamics and large windows also make the GMC one of the best-looking motorhomes around.
Just about everything imaginable is available on the Kingsley. It's got a vacuum cleaner; gauges to monitor water, battery level, LP gas and holding tank; thermostatically controlled forced-air furnace; an electric Norcold regrigerator, so the motorhome doesn't have to be level to keep the frig cold; and there's even a separate dressing area when the closet and bathroom doors are opened.
There are more than a dozen interiors to choose from, along with a number of color schemes.
The Kingsley sleeps six--two in the large rear bed, two when the davenport swings up to form bunks, and a full-size bed at the dinette, which is one of the few dinette beds I've seen that can actually sleep a six-footer.
Though many luxury motorhomes today use shades, GMC continues to use drapes. They're held in place by runners top and bottom, and close tightly by overlapping vertical wood rods and fastening them together with Velcro... an ingenious and effective method. There are two privacy curtains across the front. One blocks the driver's compartment from the rest of the coach for night driving when the rear lights are on, while the other spreads across the windshield.
Maybe the best compliment I can pay to GMC is that l never once felt insecure while driving the Kingsley. Whenever something unusual happened-as it often does when traveling--I always felt in complete control. And to me, that's more important than all the luxury in the world.
Oh, yes, you probably wondered about the price. It's $38,000. Not cheap, obviously, even for a fully equipped motorhome. The price, though, isn't scaring anyone away. GMC is selling all it can make.

Submitted by Chuck Blanford