“You never know what is going to come through that door,” Rick Harrison, host of the Pawn Stars series on The History Channel, says during the show’s opening credits. But even Harrison was taken aback by what a man brought to -- or rather drove to -- his Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas in 2011: a 26-foot, six-wheel
Harrison, who in the episode says he’s sold a lot of Coke memorabilia, was impressed with the vehicle but wouldn’t bite at the seller’s final $42,000 asking price.
Was it the real thing?
The 1977 motorhome, built by General Motors’ GMC Truck and Coach Division and customized for
“We use one of our other GMC’s for short ski trips and day trips,” he says.
The “Pawn Stars” GadAbout had been repainted at some point with a different stripe pattern, and the interior also deviated from its original outfitting. Harr has begun to restore both vehicles.
“We’ll come as close to original as possible,” he says. He believes the “Pawn Stars” GadAbout was originally won by Charles W. Winter of Seattle.
Despite a difficult economic climate and rising gasoline prices in the 1970s, motorhomes captured America’s imagination. The big, boxy machines were more like mini vacation homes than campers, equipped with such amenities as kitchens, bathrooms, central air conditioning and televisions.
The aluminum and sheet-molded compound (SMC) was rust-resistant, and the 23-foot and 26-foot models were offered with a variety of floorplans and interior décor choices. Pricing in 1973 started at $13,600. A sensation when it was introduced, this unique vehicle attracted a strong following that endures today. The GMC MotorHome International (GMCMI) club has 21 regional chapters that hold regular events and an annual national convention. (The 2014 event was in Montgomery, Tx.)
Coca-Cola worked with General Motors to customize the GadAbout’s exterior and interior, according to Bill Bryant, historian for the GMCMI club. Bryant, who owns a 1976 GMC MotorHome, has extensively researched and documented the vehicles,. He believes that one GadAbout was wrecked but that the rest are intact.
Sweepstakes materials touted the grand prize as “The home away from home that’s something else!” The GadAbout’s white exterior sides were painted with a huge red
In other respects, the GadAbout was a fully outfitted GMC 26-foot MotorHome with central air and heat, microwave oven and gas range, color TV, built-in vacuum cleaner, hot and cold running water, AM/FM stereo and tape player, CB radio and 6,000-watt electric generator. Sweepstakes materials stated a retail value of $40,000 (about $156,000 today).
In addition to the GadAbouts, GMC built another 45 standard Coke MotorHomes, which were offered to
GMC made just under 13,000 MotorHomes through 1978, and Bryant estimates that perhaps several thousand may still be in active use. Many owners, he explains, update the powertrain, suspension and electrical systems to keep the four-decade-old machines viable as RVs.
At least one GMC
Stelling uses his GadAbout for tailgating at Oregon State Beavers football games and other outings. “Some of the games are 100 miles away,” he says.
He recently took a group of friends in the GadAbout to see the movie “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” because there was a GMC MotorHome featured in the film.
“When we came out, the GadAbout was surrounded by people taking photos,” he says. “It was a lot of fun.” He’ll continue to use his unique piece of Coke history as he restores it.
Thanks to Bill Massey of the GMC Classics Club and Bill Bryant of GMC MotorHomes International club for their assistance facilitating research for this story.
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