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Old 03-11-2014, 07:39 PM   #1
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Talk some sense into me

Suffer from too much research and would love some input. I have never owned an RV. I got serious recently because I want a project. Started out with a mid 70's Travco. I would redo the interior and exterior myself. I would have a mechanic do most of the drivetrain repairs if needed.
I drove 3 hours to meet the seller only to be stood up.
Now I have moved on to looking at early 70's FMC, late 70's Revcon, mid 80's Foretravel and Vogues etc (doesn't end there)
Fmc's are pretty expensive, are they worth it or would a 10 year newer coach have more convenience features?
Maintenance wise, would they be about the same? I assume travco would be the cheapest since it appears to be more minimal. They seem pretty simple compared to the other ones I am looking into.
Some of the 80's models might not even be considered a "project". Nothing more than tires and a few grand for a mechanic to go thru it (high hopes)
Was originally going to get the travco for $4k and planned to spend another 4 getting it up to my standards. I am willing to go as high as 12-15 if it was a great coach and would hold the value in the next 3-5 years. Can a vogue or foretravel from the 80's really drop below $10k if it was well taken care of?
Thoughts? Any of these better or worse ignoring the travco?
I do like the looks of these coaches vs something from the 90's. I am scared and attracted to all the features of the high line coaches. Leveling jacks etc.
most of them don't have working dash AC. Not surprising since it is 20-40 years old.
Thanks for any insight!
BTW, most are not local. I am entertaining renting an RV in the near future to try it out even if it's a new coach.

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Old 03-11-2014, 07:49 PM   #2
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70's is VERY old, 80's still old.
Your $4k for the Travco and $4k for update could be way off. Mechanics are hard to find for under $100 per hour. Just a tranny repair could be as high as $4k (ask me how I know).
Many of the old coach's were severely under powered. The Travco,or other brands, with Dodge power had many issues. You might want to think about a chassis as well as a coach. A chassis manufacturer that is still in business is a big help.

"96" HR Navigator, 38' no slides, Cummins, Allison
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:14 PM   #3
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I think you've hit on a pretty stable chunk of RV history. That is, in the early seventies to late eighties era, not much changed. Things stabilized once everything was self contained in the early seventies. Not much happened until almost 1990. Basement models, fuel injected engines, overdrive transmissions all hit about then. Soon after wide bodies and slides hit. If you don't need/want/care about that new stuff, there's lots to pick from. Popular classics, orphans, high end stuff that's worth pennies on what it sold for new, you name it.

Any motorhome is going to be work. Your talking about a 30 year old house AND a 30 year old car all wrapped up into one (often neglected) ball, TONS of work. Condition, history, and popularity will all play into finding something. I was amazed at the following and support out there for the two coaches I just posted about, FMC and Bluebird. I've said it a zillion times, how we did anything before the internet I don't know.

Have fun, good luck.

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Old 03-11-2014, 08:21 PM   #4
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Thanks, I have thought about that. That is the primary reason why I am considering the others. I am not stuck to with a budget under $10k. I don't want to make a stupid financial decision and end up spending $20k on a coach worth $10. But I am comfortable under $15k considering some maintenance. I know it's not a "investment" but part of the fun is doing it on a dime.
I don't need a ton of power. Currently not going to pull anything. I do have to go over an interstate mountain in TN in order to get anywhere. It's 6% for 6 miles. It scares me a bit in a big coach with old brakes. Even if the brakes are rebuilt, how would thuy compare to modern vehicles?!
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:24 PM   #5
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It really depends on your abilities, budget, and what you'd like to have when all is said and done. One has to consider are you planning on full timing in it??? Are you close to retirement?? Will it be a stepping stone to a more elaborate project or are you just trying to get your feet wet in this area??

The older units will cost less initially but as already mentioned they will have some serious issues with engines, transmissions, suspension etc. You need to consider if you want to go with a gas or a diesel unit. They are so different it should come into play in your decision.

Most diesel rigs will have an air-ride suspension and the gas ones won't. There are advantages and disadvantages to diesels. They are more costly to buy, repair and service. Advantages are longer life, more power for pulling a load and in mountainous terrain. We have a gas because of some of the disadvantages and the higher costs involved.

We just got back into a MH and bought new. I have the ability to build about anything but at 70 I didn't want to. Buying new also gives you the advantages of having some of the newer changes that have come about lately. Our water heater heats three ways" gas, electric and engine heat while traveling. We could park in a Wal-Mart lot and both take a hot shower without using the propane. All lights are LED so they are more efficient and cooler. Of course if you re-built a unit many of these items could be added to an older coach.

The Ford F-53 chassis is strictly made by Ford for the MH industry. When it was first used it was a truck chassis modified for the MH industry. The chassis and Ford Triton V-10 are good and the newer transmission which was introduced in about 2005 or 06 is as tough as they come. They also around that time went to a three valve design in the engine.

The ride on the F-53 is OK but won't compare with an air-ride on a diesel. I guess there is an air-ride system available for a gas coach but it's about $3,000 as an upgrade.

I forgot about the addition of slides. If you've never lived in a MH having slides makes all the difference in the world as far as living and comfort space. But again it all depends on your needs, and wants.

Just a few more things to ponder.

TeJay (Tim) Auto Instructor 35 yrs (4-yrs USAF) Liz: RN/ WBGO 2014 Vista 30T/ F-53/ CHF/5-Star/Koni/Centramatics * Bella- Golden/Cocker mix & Louie-The cat / All Retired
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:45 PM   #6
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If I had that budget for a Moho I would get a 90s class with a Chevy 350. Very common, efi and good brakes. For a cool iconic project an old airstream, jet, or avion trailer is always in demand and welcomed as a classic anywhere.
Old motorhomes drivetrains are a tough sell.
If you don't want to get shot by the police, don't be a criminal!
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:46 PM   #7
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Thanks for the responses. To add a bit more to it. I'm 34 married with a 2 year old. Not doing anything full time until I hit the lottery in which case will be upgrading!
No slides necessary for the first one. Would upgrade in a few years if that was the case.
I am a mechanical engineer but not an auto mechanic. I do my own tune ups and oil changes but that's about it. I research a ton and am not afraid to tackle most projects. I live in a historic neighborhood and gutted my house to the studs and rebuilt myself. Not looking for that level of a project this time!
Looking to learn, have some fun, and let my little boy experience the world while I get to sleep in my own bed during a "power weekend" vacation!
There are tons of cool old coaches out there. It's trying my patience to find the perfect one.

Diesel pushers have scared me a bit due to higher price and maintenance costs when needed. I don't see myself putting more than 10k miles on it per year over the next 2-3. Hard to justify.

There is a local Revcon nearby for $5k but the guys says it needs a full restoration. I bet that means I could put over $10k into it just to be safe. My wish would be able to convert it to a diesel but those that have done it took a few years!
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Old 03-11-2014, 09:56 PM   #8
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Daveputt - When buying a classic motorhome one of the better plans to not get in over your head is to buy from someone who have taken very good care of it. And maybe done some or most of the restoration for you. A few years back I had always wanted a GMC Motorhome. It is not on your list of classics, but it should be. I bought it and did a ton of upgrades. Painted the exterior, three colors. Had inside mostly redone in Route 66 theme. After 4 1/2 years I was pretty much finished and sold it for a very modest amount of money. GMC motorhomes are easy to get parts for.

To me the key to getting something old is that it has to be worth the effort. You don't want to put blood, sweat, and tears into something that is not worth it. Ordinary old motorhomes are still ordinary when fixed up. Special ones get under your skin and you love them and show them off like 57 T Birds.

An FMC is certainly a classic motorhome. But they will be expensive to fix up and might be hard to get parts for. Those were very high end rigs with lots of custom parts not made since Charles Kuralt toured the USA in one.

Some Travco's are pretty cool, and almost all Revcon's.

To me one of the best classics is a Blue Bird Wanderlodge. I saw a beautiful one at the FMCA convention a couple of months ago in Palm Springs. They are classically beautiful. This is especially true of the FC (forward control (motor)). But the Blue Bird diesel pushers are also beauties.

With your budget in mind you can likely find a good GMC. Maybe an early 80's FC33 or 35 Blue Bird. I don't know the prices on nice Travco's or Revcon's so cannot comment.

BTW - I loved my GMC. I am really sorry I ever sold it. I tried to buy it back. When running right there is no motor home that drives better than a GMC. At least of the rigs I have driven.
B Bob
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Old 03-11-2014, 10:24 PM   #9
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We'll put B Bob...the gmc was one of the originals that sparked my interest a few years ago. Could give a good reason why it isn't currently on my list...it is now!
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Old 03-11-2014, 10:27 PM   #10
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If you're looking around 10k stay away from BlueBird or any of the high-end brands. I love mine, but if you find one for 10-15k that means it hasn't been taken care of and you'll drop 10k just getting it up to snuff (If I put mine up for sale for $25k it would be gone in a week...but in the BlueBird community it's a known commodity). I think in your price range you should be looking at a lower-mid end 80's vintage that's well cared for...especially if you plan on farming out the mechanical work (gas mechanics are cheaper than diesel mechanics). Just an example..My Bird has:
6 batteries
6 truck tires ($2500)
8 airbags
24qt oil change, 2 filters
2 fuel filters (one the size of bleach jug)
Coolant lines front to back (coolant used to heat coach while on the road)
About a gazillion relays and air valves
Then there's the 2nd diesel generator with it's needs.
It's 30yrs old..there's always something to tinker with...

Don't get me wrong, I love it to death and wouldn't trade it for anything (except maybe another BlueBird) but you need to go in with your eyes open!
1995 BlueBird BMC 37
2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited
1984 BlueBird Wanderlodge FC35RB-Sold
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Old 03-12-2014, 02:42 PM   #11
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Highly consider an older Holiday Rambler. They are all aluminum framed and aluminum sided so wood rot or delamination is not a problem. They are usually on a Chevy or Ford chassis so parts are easy to find and service. Many had a tag axle which has its pros and cons. Just adds two more tires and brakes to deal with and possibly the rubber suspension. But it makes the ride and steering more positive. I would strongly suggest you get a rig with a leveling system. You will be glad you have it.
1984 Holiday Rambler Imperial
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Old 03-12-2014, 04:58 PM   #12
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We have a 1990 Barth. All aluminum, won't Rot. Best coach ever made. Go to barthmobile.com and check it out.

MO Fred
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:12 PM   #13
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Thanks QuietWater, now I am adding the Holiday to the list of things to research! My DW is going to kill me with all the reading I do online as it is!
MoFred, what's a good price for an early model? I assume they make a gas version?
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:30 PM   #14
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For $10-15K, you can find good coaches in the early to mid 90's also. There are advantages to these units. Dps in that era will most likely have air suspension, many will have an exhaust brake, etc. Do an advanced search on say RVTraderonline.com. That's how we have found all of our 4 coaches. It will also allow you to compare floor plans, accessories, etc. Let us know how you make out.

Jim and Lynda, (Sophie, Jake, attack trained killer Shi-Tzus :-))

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