As I type post, I am technically on vacation in my own RV watching it rain outside. But I have been itching to write this article not about cars, but about the RV that was quintessentially different and has yet to be duplicated. And on top of that, it became an Icon in one of the movies associated with Bill Murray… I’m talking about the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle that is none other than the GMC Motor home…
An RV Ahead of its Time
In 1972 GMC Truck and Coach Division announced to the world they would be entering the RV world with its own revolutionary design dubbed the TVS-4. (Travel Vehicle Streamlined) Soon after, a clay model was released with proposed specifications to have a 455ci V8 front-wheel-drive power-plant borrowed from the Oldsmobile and Cadillac division.
The GMC Motorhome was built in the Pontiac Michigan Plants. The strong lightweight rigid frame is made of welded aluminum extrusions. The body was then mounted on the chassis steel ladder frame using body isolators. The lower body panels are made of fiberglass. The upper side body and roof panels between the ends are sheet aluminum.
An Unmatched Industry Leading Design
GMCs then redefined the RV industry by introducing the large front windshields which would later become an industry standard for all future motorhomes. Luxury features included cruise control, air conditioning, AM/FM/8-track sound systems, as well as air suspension.
The GMC was equipped with front disc brakes and drums on all four rear wheels. The front-drive configuration eliminated the driveshaft and rear differential and solid axle found on most front-engine motorhomes.
Because of the lack of Drive axles going to the back 2 large gas tanks and even freshwater, gray-water and black-water tanks could be mounted lower and thus, with the exception of the wheel wells, the rear suspension does not intrude into the living space.
Many Features but at the wrong time
The GMC Motorhomes were built in either 23-foot or 26-foot configurations, with most of them being of the 26-foot derivative. But The timing just was not good.
Production ceased in 1978 for 2 reasons. It is rumored that someone at Olds-Cadillac forgot to inform the GMC Truck and Coach Division that the Power-plants were discontinued due to the second reason. The “Gas-Crisis of the ‘70s”
m researching and writing this I have the quintessential movie “Stripes” playing in the background. I’m gonna paraphrase and edit the storyline from IMDB. I’ll fill in the deatails of the GMC Motorhome in it:
“At the end of a very bad day when he realizes his life has gone and is going nowhere, John Winger (Bill Murray) is able to convince his best friend, Russell Ziskey Harold Ramis), whose life is not much better, to enlist in the army, despite that they are not obvious soldier material. In basic training, they are only two of a bunch of misfits that comprise their platoon. However, it is still John that is constantly butting heads with their drill sergeant, Sergeant Hulka. Two of their saving graces are Stella and Louise, two MPs who get them out of one scrape after another.
Their entire platoon is in jeopardy of not graduating. But what happens during basic leads to their entire platoon being assigned to an overseas mission in Italy, to guard and test a new urban assault vehicle, the EM-50 project. (built on the GMC Motorhome Platform) John and Russell decide to take the EM-50 for an unauthorized test drive to visit Stella and Louise who have been reassigned to West Germany.
In the process, the rest of the platoon, Hulka, and Hulka’s immediate superior, self-absorbed Captain Stillman, get caught unofficially behind enemy Communist lines in Czechoslovakia. John and Russell, with Stella and Louise’s help, will have to show their true mettle as US army soldiers. And in the process, test the capabilities of the EM-50 to rescue their platoon without the rest of the US army knowing what’s going on, and thus without any assistance beyond themselves.”
A semi-cult following
Not because of the movie, but really because of the perfection of this motorhome did it develop a following and love by so many of it’s owners. Many of the original 12,000 plus originally produced are still on the road today. Honestly, when I see one I cannot help an excited exclamation of “Look!!!! An EM-50!!!!”
With a simple google search, I found at a minimum of 16 listed GMC Motorhome clubs. Many are still VERY active on the web. And at the beginning of my vacation as I was towing my Trailer into Apple Island RV Resort in South Hero VT, I ran into the Nor’Easters Group… Parked all together were the most EM-50, eerrrr I mean! GMC Motorhomes I have ever seen in one place. While some were pristine others proudly showed their long-built patina.
But what I found heartening were the people who allowed me to quickly ask some questions. They allowed me to take some pictures. And they even listened to both my, and their own stories. Laughter and genuine friendliness with the entire group that I sometimes feel is missing from so many Modern Car Clubs. Sure I’ve seen it but it’s often not displayed so openly.
Sadly I was not able to spend too much time with them as they left the day after I arrived. But I got a few pictures of them…