Cliff Golby and Golby Motor Corporation
team were featured in the national RV trade
magazine, RV News.
March 2004 Volume 29 - Number 8 RV News writes;
Golby Motor Corporation
Located just down the street from the Orlando International Airport you will find the oldest and most complete GMC motorhome maintenance and restoration facility in the United States. The most modern forms of aircraft transportation fly overhead while on the ground Cliff and Mary Golby, and their dedicated team of craftsmen, work to preserve one of the greatest art forms of transportation ever to grace the interstate highway system and back roads of America, the GMC classic motorhome.
In 1972, visitor’s at the governments’ Transpo ’72 showcase of all things that transport people, witnessed the unveiling of the first mass production motorhome from a major automobile manufacturer, a claim still unmatched today, over thirty years after the first GMC rolled off the assembly line in Pontiac, Michigan.
While all this was going on, Cliff Golby was working at a Pontiac/GMC Motorhome dealership that eventually closed the motorhome division in 1980, giving him the motivation and reason to start his own business that involved the selling, servicing, and eventually, the complete restoration of these classic vehicles.
The GMC was unique because it was produced in an automotive environment, to automotive standards, and designed from the ground up to drive like a luxury automobile … and it still does. The timeless design produced a monocoque unit made with SMC fiberglass that eliminated the hairline cracks normally associated with other types of fiberglass. The front-wheel drive, forward engine, produced a low profile coach that was low to the ground, just like a car.
The timeless success of this classic coach was unknown at the time, as General Motors struggled to understand the RV industry and was just a victim of timing … they were way ahead of their time. If General Motors made a motorhome today, they would probably be the largest manufacturer in our industry and would probably be making something that we can only dream about at this time.
Even Golby is a throw-back to a different time and a different way of doing business. He is passionate about quality workmanship and customer satisfaction with each GMC restoration. Cliff doesn’t rush anything, and is a true perfectionist practicing his craft.
Cliff noted, "We are real good at what we do and will not sub out anything. When people come to us for a restoration, they know they will get the personal service and attention to detail that they expect when working on these classic motorhomes."
In the early 80’s Golby purchased all the original tooling at an auction for Don Wheat’s business operations that had tried on several occasions to revive the GMC motorhome and get back into manufacturing it once again.
General Motors manufactured about 13,000 GMC motorhomes from 1973 to 1978, when the last one came down the line. Golby said, "There are estimates of 6,000 to 8,000 still being on the road, but I think it’s more like 5,000 … and that’s still quite a testament to the original design and construction and the loyal following that it still maintains today."
The manufacturing was discontinued because General Motors just wasn’t making any money on these rolling carriages of ingenuity and elegance. Cliff noted, "It’s only heresay, but we’ve been told that when everything was fully amortized and counted, it cost GMC over $100,000 to make each motorhome that retailed between $14,000 and $17,000 when purchased new in the early 70’s. At that time, a new car would cost around $4,000 - $5,000."
In addition to converting and restoring the GMC’s, Golby Motor Corporation also retails the Alfa Gold and Weekend Warrior trailers and is an authorized Workhorse service center. Golby said, "The majority of our business is in the service bays and the restoration area, but we like to have new units on the lot. At one time we were really into new product sales but overextended the company and we lost control of the day-today business operations. In 2000 we made the decision to significantly downsize the business and we were back running the show.
“It was getting too stressful maintaining quality with a large crew and we weren’t having fun anymore. I can’t stand criticism and have a real problem when a job is not done the right way. That wasn’t the way we did business, and we decided it was better to be smaller and do the work the right way because we were doing it ourselves. We are real good at what we do, and we are happy doing it.
“A lot of our business comes from customer referrals and they expect and deserve a quality restoration or service experience. We can control the quality because we do everything; the transmission, the engine, body work, glass and alignment. Everything except the upholstery.
“We also make new parts and body panels because we have the molds. We actually do quite a bit of business for GMC parts through a large customer database that we have been serving all these years."
Mary Golby, Cliff’s wife, is also very active in the family oriented business. Mary said, "I handle the reception area, bookkeeping, parts and accessory sales, and even help out in the shop. We all jump in and do whatever is necessary to complete the job. Some would say we are old fashioned, but it works for us.
“We are fair and honest with everyone who comes in here. There is no wining and dining here, we just tell it like it is so that they can make informed decisions. No two restorations are ever alike, and you have to understand the entire coach to properly evaluate the mechanical, interior, and cosmetic changes that may be required during a full conversion."
When asked what is so special about GMC owners, Cliff said, "They appreciate classics. It’s just like owning a classic Corvette or antique car. It’s just the joy of turning people’s heads when they see one of these coaches. It brings back memories from their childhood or days gone by.
“When they pull into a campground, they get more attention than the Newell motor coach that pulls along side them. The owners of a Newell will be the first to ask for a tour of the GMC, not the other way around."
Turning that scenario around toward the Golby’s, we asked what the attraction was for them and Cliff said, "I’ve always been fascinated by them since the first time I worked on them at the dealership before we started the company.
“In 1980, we said we could probably have another five years to work on and maintain the GMC’s on the road. Well here we are almost twenty-five years later and still going strong. It’s really something, but it was just that good and people are not going to let them disappear."
We asked Mary what a typical … if there is such a thing … restoration would cost and she said, "If we do a general mechanical overhaul with refinish and remodeling it can get up to $75,000 to $80,000. I think the most expensive restoration we’ve done is about $125,000, and worth every penny of it."
The quality oriented focus on Golby’s business is deeply rooted in family values. Although born in Pittsburgh, Golby was in Florida by the time he was three years old and has been there ever since. He lost both his father, Ro, age 59, and his grandfather, Raymon, age 92, in 1986. Raymon made tooling for the war effort in World War I and ran a garage/ machine shop from 1917 till 1986. Ro was involved with GM parts, hot rods, stock cars and drag racers.
This explains the multi-talented Golby and his ability to work on every aspect of the vehicle from engine tune-ups, fabricating new parts, or making all new skins for the exterior … he just does it all, and really loves it.
Cliff’s mother Doris is also active in the business, so it is truly a family business, with a wonderful legacy of success and customer satisfaction.
Mary said it best, "We are just nice people who really enjoy taking care of our customers."
Looking toward the future Cliff noted, "We are doing more manufacturing and machining new parts these days, and that business will be around for quite awhile. Most of our work is in the shop, and we will do two or three restorations a year. We’ll be here at least another five years."
Then again, that’s what he said in 1980.
My guess is they will be around as long as they still enjoy working with their customers and GMC motorhomes.
I’m not sure if the coach or the Golby’s are the classic part of this story. Actually, they both are. GMC made the classic, and Cliff and Mary make the classic new again and keep the legend and mystique of this incredible motorhome alive for many years to come. RVN