Home » This Cheap Polished Aluminum Motorhome Was Built For People Who Hate Driving RVs

This Cheap Polished Aluminum Motorhome Was Built For People Who Hate Driving RVs

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American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson is often quoted as saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” While this may be true for most adventures, many drivers of large RVs would rather just get where they’re going than continue to handle their whale of a coach. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some companies have decided that driving an RV shouldn’t suck. One of those was Revcon, and it was a trailblazer in making coaches that drove closer to a van than a big truck or a bus. This 1977 Revcon Buckingham is 30 feet of glorious polished aluminum and it drives better than a new RV for a fraction of the price.

If you look at most of the RVs on sale today, you’ll find that you have to climb multiple steps into your coach and on top of a truck chassis. Sure, all of that largely dead space under your feet is great for storage, but it does not translate to a driving experience described as enjoyable. I may enjoy driving a bus, but a lot of other people do not, which is why many of today’s RV manufacturers are seeing demand for units that are easier to get into and offer a better driving experience.

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One way to offer a better, easier drive is to just make a smaller motorhome, which some manufacturers are doing today. Revcon was one of the trailblazers of making motorhomes easier to live with while maintaining a lot of space. The company would do it by chopping out height, weight, and by adapting Oldsmobile’s famous Unitized Power Package.

From A Man Who Hated How RVs Drove

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This story starts with a man named John Hall. According to the Tin Can Tourists vintage camper club, Hall was the stepson of Airstream founder Wally Byam and like his stepfather, Hall identified an issue with RVs.

Back in the 1960s, just like today, most motorhomes were built atop a truck chassis. Hall felt like putting a living space on top of a truck was terrible for ride quality and handling. If you’ve ever driven a large truck or bus before, you know what this is like. Bumps can take out your fillings and you obey those yellow corner speed warning signs to the letter. Camping trips are supposed to be fun, but a rough RV can be tiring.

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On top of this, Hall also hated RV quality back then. Motorhomes back then featured wood framing for their walls and roof and after getting jostled by hard bumps for long enough, they began letting water in. Now, you have an expensive disaster to repair, and that’s if you caught it in time. It’s both fascinating and sad that the quality problems of the 1960s are still a thing today, over 60 years later.

Anyway, Hall felt that the ideal motorhome was one that rode close to the ground and drove closer to a passenger vehicle rather than a commercial vehicle. Further, he wanted to solve those annoying headaches regarding water leaks. Reportedly, Hall had a 20-year stint at Airstream where he worked through the ranks as an engineer and later a marketer. He’d use that experience to build his own coach in 1968.

Revcon

Hall’s motorhome would lower the center of gravity through the use of a front-wheel-drive powertrain and wouldn’t have those horrible quality problems because it wouldn’t use wood. The Revolutionary Concept was born, or Revcon. His motorhomes would be built like an Airstream featuring aluminum framing and aluminum sheets riveted to the vehicle’s shell, eliminating the comparatively flimsy plywood.

As far as power goes, Hall’s Revcons utilized the innovative powertrain from the Oldsmobile Toronado. Amusingly, Revcon advertising was so proud of the Olds powertrain that it joked about Jaguars and Porsches being slow. Other ideas came in the form of cabinets of an aluminum honeycomb core sandwiched between Formica. Interior walls were also just sheets of aluminum with a vinyl covering and wallpaper on top. Another claim to fame for Revcon coaches were their bathrooms. They weren’t wet baths but instead residential style where the shower stall was separated.

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The fascinating thing about all of this is that John Hall was just one of many to attempt to fix motorhomes by going to front-wheel-drive. Clark, the forklift company, got into front-wheel-drive motorhomes in 1963 with its all-steel Cortez. Travoy and Tiara built their own front-drive motorhomes later in the 1960s. Silver Streak, a trailer company, also got in on the front-drive motorhome craze with its Matador. Winnebago debuted the front-wheel-drive LeSharo in the 1980s. And while Champion Home Builders didn’t go with front-wheel-drive, it also tried to solve the problem of motorhomes being too ungainly by cutting down on height and weight.

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Of course, no conversation about weird front-wheel-drive motorhomes would be complete without mentioning the iconic GMC MotorHome, which came after a number of the motorhomes above, but would become the most famous example of classic motorhome innovation.

A Rolling Palace

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Regular production of Revcon RVs began in 1971 and models ranged from the little 220, which measured around 22′ long, to the 30′ Buckingham that’s for sale today. Revcons got bigger, too, including a 33′ coach and the monster Revcon TrailBlazer 4×4. The latter coach was created after a businessman bought the Revcon name after it faltered in 1990.

Those who bought a front-wheel-drive Revcon got something innovative for their day. As I noted earlier, Revcon took notes from Airstream and constructed its motorhome bodies out of riveted aluminum. In this case, the aluminum is .040″ thick. The outer skin is supported by aluminum framing and stringers .075″ thick and like an aluminum trailer, the interior walls are also .032″ aluminum. All of this rode on top of a low-riding chassis with tubular rails, which featured a coach-length belly pan for aerodynamics and weather protection.

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Revcon said that by constructing motorhomes like this, it not only achieved superior durability compared to the typical coach, but a better drive. Advertising materials claimed the 30′ coach weighed 10,700 pounds dry, or 2,000 pounds lighter than the competition. Revcon said that its coaches also sat 9’6″ high with air-conditioners, or a full foot shorter than the competition.

The company also boasted a smooth suspension thanks to independent torsion bars up front and Twin Trac tandem axles in the rear. Of course, the GMC MotorHome did even better with an air ride, but this was still said to be better than the heavy-duty leaf springs of the truck-based platforms back then. The final blow to the competition was Revcon’s claim of a 35″ center of gravity as opposed to the 40″ center of gravity of the competition.

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Under the body of a Revcon sits the 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 of the Oldsmobile Toronado coupled to a three-speed chain-driven Turbo-Hydramatic automatic. When this motorhome was built, the 455 V8 made 215 HP net in the Toronado. Sadly, I couldn’t find any exact data for the same engine in the Revcon.

But it might be easy to ignore the lack of speed because a Revcon was built to be a rolling palace. Revcon advertised cabinetry and wall coverings made out of high-pressure laminate instead of particle board. The cabinetry and furniture were said to be custom-built for each Revcon and trim was made out of hardwood teak as opposed to plastic like you’d find in most motorhomes.

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The 30′ Buckingham, which this 1977 Revcon is, featured a layout including a kitchen with a small peninsula next to the sink. Revcons featured a dinette alongside the right front of the motorhome, but a Buckingham traded the traditional dinette for two swivel chairs and a small bar.

In terms of eating surfaces, you could deploy a table in front of a sofa, snack from the extendable trays on the dashboard, or from the kitchen peninsula.

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For sleeping arrangements, the Buckingham also came with three sofas that converted into beds. The very rear of the coach features a bathroom with a dry bath, meaning the toilet is separate. Other goodies include two air-conditioners, a generator, a 50-gallon holding tank, a tow hitch receiver, and shiny aluminum trim.

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This particular coach presents in impressive condition for its age. The paint looks good and the polished aluminum is oh-so pretty. The interior is a mix of original parts and new fabrics.

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Sadly, the interior update didn’t seem to include the swivel seats and the tiny bar shelf, which are missing entirely. But as a bonus, you do get a stereo with Apple CarPlay, LED lights, and a backup camera. Perhaps most important is that the coach still passes California smog testing.

The best part is the price. The seller, based out of Palm Springs, wants just $35,910 for the coach. Even after you add back the dining and bar area you’ll still be far ahead. You couldn’t get any new motorhome for even close to this, and that new coach probably wouldn’t be this durable, either. Besides, just look at it!

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I think the most surprising thing about all of this is that all of the innovative motorhomes of decades ago failed to truly revolutionize the industry. Most Class A coaches are still perched on truck frames and it remains a big deal whenever a manufacturer says it’s going to build something different. I wonder if there will be a day when something like this really takes off.

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Harry Paratestes
Harry Paratestes
26 days ago

Now I have to subscribe! You’ve found my “Holy Grail” coach. The Revcons were so far ahead of their time my old man always kicked himself for not buying one back in the 80’s. Another cool thing about them-they were the only coaches that had all the water lines in the conditioned part of the coach so you could use them all winter long wthout worrying that the lines would freeze. Very popular w/skiers in CO back in the day for that reason. Thanks Mercedes, you made my day!!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
28 days ago

Wow, this one is pretty neat. It’s so interesting that they tried to actually improve and make things better…I do wish this kind of thing was present today in RV’s. Also: Thank you Mercedes for all the great work you put into your articles and time spent researching. I love ones like these about RV’s and look forward to the train articles season. Also, Mercedes Marketplace Madness, etc…I can’t even compare them, I love them all!

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
29 days ago

Mercedes–my tastes generally run to small, sporty old import cars, but for a few minutes each week you make me into a vintage motorcoach guy, always a fun read about something different.

Greensoul
Greensoul
29 days ago

That kitchen has 5 drawers! That’s impressive for an RV kitchen of that size.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
29 days ago

exterior is a 9/10 the interior is a yikes. i’m sure it was amazing brand new but i can just smell this through my computer monitor.

Hamish48
Hamish48
29 days ago

My favourite camper: a 4WD Suzuki Sidekick with a plastic roof and the rear seats pulled out. Cavernous space, took anything, went anywhere. Also a superb ski or fishing mobile. I was never tempted to drive a bus for fun. It lasted us years before a growing family put us into a pop-up. I have never associated complexity with the spiritual freedom of the outdoors.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
29 days ago

Yeah, I think I made the analogy before that every company who tried to seriously improve the state of RV design and construction seemed to go the same way as every airline that tries to significantly improve the service quality in Coach. Its ultimately easier to turn a profit on the cheap and familiar

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