Even since the company was formed in the late 1800s, Coca-Cola has been a staple of American culture. It’s been said that founder John S. Pemberton spent far more money in advertising than he made in sales, creating dozens of signs and other promotional items.
It turns out that he knew what he was doing, as the Coca-Cola company has proven to be a phenomenal master advertiser over the past century.
The ultimate in Coke-branded memorabilia.
The Coke logo has been plastered on everything from clocks to coolers to serving trays, and everything in between. Walk in to any antiques or collectibles store, and you’ll see the familiar red and white script at some point.
There’s really no piece of memorabilia that would surprise a seasoned collector. But plenty of people were shocked when perhaps the ultimate piece of Coke-branded memorabilia recently turned up on an episode of A&E’s Pawn Stars a while back. Even pawn shop owner and collectibles veteran Rick Harrison had never seen anything like this – a 26 foot long, 1977 GMC Gadabout motorhome.
An original advertisement for the giveaway.
It turns out the motorhome was actually part of a promotional sweepstakes Coca-Cola ran back in 1978. 25 second place winners won the use of a standard GMC RV for two weeks, plus $3,000 in cash. But that wasn’t the top prize.
Five brand new, custom branded GMC Gadabout motorhomes would be given away to lucky winners. Five more were produced to give to Coca-Cola bottlers. The Coke company had about 40 more standard GMC motorhomes produced with their branding, which means that less than 50 Coke RVs were ever made.
But only the five giveaways and the five for bottlers were the fully-loaded Gadabouts, meaning that less than a dozen of these vehicles were ever produced. But what else makes this vehicle so special?
Coke’s GMC Gadabout: An Exceptional Piece of Advertising
First, the RV didn’t hold back on the features,and was fully outfitted, featuring central air and heat, a microwave oven and gas range, a color television, a built in vacuum cleaner, hot and cold running water, an AM/FM stereo and tape player, a CB radio, and a 6,000-watt electric generator. It was estimated to have a retail value of $40,000, which is a little over $150,000 today.
But what made this RV so desirable and over the top was that Coca-Cola’s logo and colors are featured on just about every surface imaginable. The outside is painted in their traditional shades of red and white, while the inside has a Coca-Cola entry floor mat, clock, mirrored picture, rear table with a “Coke” checker board pattern, lamp, dishes, flatware, pillows and carpet, towels for the bathroom, various plaques and badges, and more.
The RV’s refrigerator door even had a graphic that made it look like a soda vending machine! The dash also features Coke colors, along with a pewter plaque with a Gadabout motorhome and the slogan,”Coke adds life to cruisin’ in a Gadabout,” and a custom exterior spare tire cover was designed to resemble a Coke bottle cap.
So what eventually happened to the five vehicles? One of them was wrecked. Another was purchased by a man in Texas and sits in storage. Legendary country singer Tammy Wynette actually bought another one from the original owner (and winner of the sweepstakes).
That one currently sits in a New York museum. As for the appearance on Pawn Stars, the owner wanted $50,000, but came down to $42,000. Harrison initially offered $20,000 and came up to $35,000, but the two couldn’t settle.
The vehicle was eventually bought by a man named Carl Harr who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Right now, it sits beside a second Coke Gadabout that he purchased in Nevada.