Purchasing a Revcon motorhome

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm


In this monthly column, Jill Malcolm interviews the owners of a Revcon motorhome to learn how they made their decision

Enid and Brian Service are serious adventurers. They can be hard to get hold of as they are often ‘somewhere else’.

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Revcon’s beautiful streamlined exterior is clad in aircraft aluminium

I caught up with them when they had just returned from driving a four-wheeler through South America and were preparing to leave on an extended trip to North America in the motorhome they share-own there.

In New Zealand they live and travel in a restored retro Revcon motorhome which they store in a commercial building when they are away. Revcon motorhomes are rare beasts and, as far as they know, theirs is the only one on the road in New Zealand.

What was your previous RV experience?

We had no experience before 2007. Most of our travel was overseas. That changed in 2007, when we bought online and imported a 40-foot Safari Serengeti motorhome which we found in Sacramento.

When it was converted we renovated it. We still had this when, in 2012, Brian bought the Revcon – again online – sight-unseen. Marital harmony was saved because the Safari luckily sold before the Revcon arrived in New Zealand in January 2013!

Why did you decide to buy a retro American motorhome?

In the beginning both RVs were used as tow vehicles and accommodation for Brian’s motor racing interests. He also has a passion for retro American vehicles, particularly vintage General Motors Corporation models. Because he’d retired, he was looking for a project.

Where did you find the make and model you wanted?

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Owners Brian and Enid Service in the refurbished Revcon that is their home when they are in New Zealand

Brian searched the net, targeting older American motorhomes, and eventually a Revcon popped up on eBay. The American lady owner had bought it in San Diego for US$8000 and then run into a long list of problems when she tried to drive it home to Seattle.

She spent another US$8000 to have it fixed, but when she arrived in Los Angeles she faced even more mechanical repairs. She gave up at that point and put it up for auction.

There was some interesting synchronicity in our buying it as she and her family had already decided that after the auction, they’d sell up and move to New Zealand. We didn’t know this at the time.

How did you go about buying it?

Just as we were going out one Sunday, Brian put in a cheeky online bid. By the time we got back home we owned an old Revcon for US$3500. Of course, that was just the start of the costs, with shipping, duty, GST, conversion and refurbishment all ahead of us.

What is the history of Revcon motorhomes?

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This retro American RV is classy looking from all angles

In 1968, John Hall, stepson of Airstream [trailer] founder Wally Byam, conceived a low-profile, lightweight luxury motorhome. Production of the Revcon started in California in 1972 and it had a real impact as in design and detail, the brand was far ahead of the competition.

They’re high-end, front-wheel drive motorhomes with aircraft aluminium exterior skins and beautiful streamlined shapes. There are not many of them because production ceased in 1989.

What condition was your vehicle in when it finally landed in New Zealand?

We asked Steve from Kiwi Shipping in LA to have a look at it and said if he thought it was not worth shipping, could he store it until we resold it?

His answer was: "It has potential." When it arrived here, someone had tucked an amusing  note on the dashboard which said, ‘one ugly motorhome’. Externally it had a polished aluminium (dull with age) top half with the lower fibreglass panels sprayed black.

Internally it was a symphony of colour: orange shag pile carpet, ill-fitting laminate kitchen floor; apricot leather captain’s chairs; brown velour tub chairs; heavy brown curtains and a brown vinyl bench.

The kitchen appliances were chuck-aways and the cabinetry all needed resurfacing. The mid-area had a wardrobe to the left, a bathroom to the right, and the shower extended into the rear section, which was painted ‘70s blue with twin bed bases.

How did you set about renovating?

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The original cocktail cabinet table is resurfaced hot metal laminate. The tub chairs are refurbished with grey paint and red trim

Early on Brian decided on a red, grey and silver palette. He concentrated on the front section first and the engine conversion to right-hand drive. We made decisions about what could be reused, and the rest was discarded.

Did you do most of the work yourselves?

The engine conversion was done by Dave Green in Kerikeri. Wall linings, upholstery, carpet, new benchtops, new appliances and a new shower were outsourced. All the rest was completed by Brian including ‘milk bar’-style dining area, corner wardrobes and bed base.

How long did the renovation take?

Almost two years. For the conversion the vehicle was up in Kerikeri for most of 2013. It was completed and with a COF by Labour Weekend 2014.

What features are you particularly proud of now that is finished?

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Alongside other RVs Enid and Brian Service’s motorhome is a real standout. In its day, the brand was well ahead of the competition

The overall ‘vibe’ of the completed refurbishment. The outside now has a professionally polished upper half, the bottom half is bright red and inside there is a nice mix of features we’ve kept, and different materials such as the rich red, Ullrich Aluminium hot metal laminate on the table top and other surfaces.

What advice would you offer anyone else thinking of doing up an American retro motorhome?

There are a number of criteria that need to be met for an imported RV to be ‘road legal’ here. Make sure it complies with New Zealand requirements.

Approach any project with your eyes and cheque book open as compliancy to New Zealand standards gets harder every year. It really is a labour of love, so don’t add up the invoices.

What travel have you done and what do you plan?

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Enid in the comfortable captain’s chair

We took the Revcon across the ditch for 12 months in 2015-2016, and travelled 32,000km around Australia. The vehicle itself was a big part of that experience.

We travel regularly when we are in New Zealand, but in the past three years, we’ve concentrated on our bucket list of overseas trips while we still can.

When asked what our favourite trip has been we say ‘yesterday or tomorrow’ as it is all wonderful. Any not-so-good day is quickly in our rear vision mirror.

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