1977 GMC Birchaven "The Hobo"

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JR Williams

Member
Oct 3, 2019
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Hello fellow nomads, enthusiasts, and caretakers.

In the summer of 2019 was the start of my journey into the fan crazed land of GMC Motorhome ownership. After years of wandering debate about the type of transportation I wanted, thinking in my small bird ball mind a motorcycle, no, a rooftop tent perched high above on my beloved Avalanche, better still, a high top van which the sheltered millennial Instagram their days away in, I found it, a 1977 GMC Motorhome. It wasn’t just any ole GMC; it was to be the only one, a 23’ side bath model known as “The Birchaven.”



Pouring over every forum from websites and Facebook pages, to Craigslist ads and distant shade trees I found the gold pocket. Only a one-way ticket away to Springfield MO put me in front of what’s now known, affectionately, and I will furthermore refer to as, “The Hobo.”



A wonderful retired couple had purchased him from an estate sale only a few months prior. After kicking the tires they determined he wasn’t the foster child they’d hoped for and quietly put him up for adoption. I stumbled across his papers on Craigslist and was immediately in love. “That’s the one!” I cried out. "He’s the perfect addition." I hopped a big bird from St. Petersburg FL and was on my way.



From the outside, he looked to be a well-kept boy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been loved far better than the horrors I’ve read from others. He did have the typical cuts and bruises. Leaky windows. Outdated shoes. Tired seals. Smells from the road. Nothing I couldn’t put my back into and nurture him to breathe easy and shine on the warmest of spring days. Two days and 1200 miles later, he was stowed lovingly at his new home.



I’ll try my best to present you with the facts as I see them. About sourcing needed replacements parts. Finding deals. Spending money and time chasing the UN needed repairs. The people who’ve helped with positivity, and the people who did not with ridicule. My story is still being written so please bear with me. Feel free to offer kindness and life lived advice. I’m an open ear to any.



May I introduce to you, The Hobo.

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stephan ashe

New member
Feb 7, 2020
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very nice!, big fan of the side bath 23' 77 gets you the better dash AC/heater and you ended up with the bigger 455, should roll pretty good. I would look through any paperwork to see if the timing set has been replaced. believe it can be checked by removing the engine mounted fuel pump.
 
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JSanford

Member
Oct 4, 2019
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Sacramento, CA
Beautiful Birchaven and great writeup! I never understood why Coachmen was so in love with the rear bath layout, "largest bathroom window in the industry" is not really a strong selling point :ROFLMAO:
 

Matt Colie

Active member
Oct 25, 2019
225
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JR,
Welcome to the group, family, cult, asylum....
I think you got yourself a winner there. Definitely more comfortable than a motorcycle and tent or a rooftop tent or even in a bare van.

Be ware that the 23s have some differences that matter to maintenance, but none that matter to comfort. Coachmen did very nice work.

I was never big on the rear bath idea, but then, I was never offered one either. My coach's head is on the other side.
One thing I did notice is the OE wheels and covers. That means that the tires are still 8.750*16.5. There are two small problems there. As it is a 77, it should have shipped with the radial capable rims. (Mine did not.) There is only one US supplier of 16.5 tires remaining and they only run the Transforce HT these days. They can be difficult to acquire with a recent manufacture date. A good dealer can manage. This is only something to concern your self with when you get up to serious traveling.

Also, Coachmen did not use the GM fuel pickup for the generator. This means that you can run the main tank out of fuel with the genset. That will take a while and you will (should) have the auxiliary tank, just be aware of the case.

Lastly and most seriously is that you are now part of an amazing and supportive community. To this end, look up the Sunshine Statemen and a few of you hundreds of brand new old friends. There is another online forum that is older than this (both type and inhabitants), that you will find as friendly as this. If you have questions or need help, you just have to ask.
As said, this is one amazing community. It is as helpful and supportive as that of the watermen that are my world (the only other I know like this), and so I like to greet new owners much as you might be greeted there. So,

May the Good Lord bless this coach and all those that set forth within here.

Welcome JR

Matt
 
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SteveW

New member
Oct 11, 2019
7
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Beautiful !!

We’ve got a 1973 23 footer with the same floor plan - except with the bathroom on the drivers side and the refrigerator / closet on the passenger side.

We love it.

Steve W
 
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JR Williams

Member
Oct 3, 2019
36
15
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49
#2

Hello fellow nomads, enthusiasts, and caretakers.

3 sunsets after making it back to St. Pete we were off again. This time with his nose aimed south, we headed to Okeechobee, where the big guy was to get a checkup. Sirum GMC was our journey.

Turns out he was overall in great shape. The good out weighed the bad. Some outdated tires, oil leaks from every gasket, Idler arm in a sling, issues I knew about and was prepared to fix and then some. The 4K wasn’t pulling any juice from the starter switch so Jeff showed me a hotwire trick and off she ran. Sirum GMC is a great place with great people.
Back at the house it was time I really got to know the Hobo. I degreased the engine and started making a list. Dropped all the fluids and replaced. Tuned him up proper. Lucky for me there’s a third generation owned parts/machine shop local that’s big block badaases. They are the kind of folk that “don’t need no damn computer” to get your parts. They just know. Gave him my list and a few days later I had my truck bed filled with every part needed. I got em all.
My 1st order of business was some new shoes. I wanted to keep the 16.5 steel wheels because they just look better to me. Hobo agreed. Slapped on a couple colors of lipstick to match my theme and they turned out fair. Long as the wheels were at the spa, might as well replace all the shoes, pads, calipers, bearings, turned the drums, ran new brake lines and rubbers, master cylinder, and that bum Idler Arm, he comes to stop with ease.
Time to enjoy the sites around town. Introduce him to the crew. Show him off a little.

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Matt Colie

Active member
Oct 25, 2019
225
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JR,
While I think the two tone wheels look good, and as a 77 those are probably radial capable that was a neat thing to do. The big drawback of 16.5 wheels is tire availability. Firestone is the only US supplier that still has tooling. I like my white steel wheels too.
Matt
 

JR Williams

Member
Oct 3, 2019
36
15
8
49
JR,
While I think the two tone wheels look good, and as a 77 those are probably radial capable that was a neat thing to do. The big drawback of 16.5 wheels is tire availability. Firestone is the only US supplier that still has tooling. I like my white steel wheels too.
Matt
Thanks Matt. I really didn’t have a problem finding them. UPS right to my door. Wasn’t till a week after I seen them cheaper from Walmart. What’s done is done. I’ll probably change them up in a few years depending on this issue.
 

pvfjr

Active member
Oct 4, 2019
219
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36
Aumsville OR
Powder coated. :)
Ah, I should've realized. I noticed the funny "masking tape", didn't put 2 and 2 together and realize it was that high-temp stuff. Since you have pictures of it being masked, I assume you did it at home? What kit do you have? It sure turned out nice from what I can see. I have a buddy who has used the HF setup for years, but I'm wondering if the Eastwood kit might work any better.
 
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JR Williams

Member
Oct 3, 2019
36
15
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49
Ah, I should've realized. I noticed the funny "masking tape", didn't put 2 and 2 together and realize it was that high-temp stuff. Since you have pictures of it being masked, I assume you did it at home? What kit do you have? It sure turned out nice from what I can see. I have a buddy who has used the HF setup for years, but I'm wondering if the Eastwood kit might work any better.
Friend of mine owns a shop and let me do the taping. Largely because he didn't want to. :)
 
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