“Is it an Airstream?” “Does it float?”
Randy Grubb’s handbuilt DecoLiner draws all sorts of questions from gawkers, and there’s usually an unlimited number. The polished-aluminum teardrop fuselage seems to attract a crowd and elicit smiles no matter where it’s parked or driven.
We had to see what it was all about, writes Brandan Gillogly of Hot Rod Magazine. Giollogly spent two days with Randy and his wife, Jeannette, at their home in Grants Pass, Oregon, and told them that he wanted to experience the DecoLiner, a handbuilt mashup of a motorhome and a ’50 White truck.
Randy decided that the best way to show it in its element was to bring it to a car show. We stepped into the cab, Randy fired up the V8, and we drove 30 miles down I-5 to Medford, Oregon, for the Thunderstruck motorcycle and car show. Despite the amazing motorcycles on display, the DecoLiner was easily the star of the show, as dozens of people, young and old, walked through the interior, climbed up to the flying bridge, and peppered Randy with questions that he was more than happy to answer.
Returning to Grants Pass, we tore up the Oregon Interstate at 75 mph. Randy didn’t seem to be bothered by the crosswind, he just kept both hands on the steering wheel to keep it going straight, except when he waved to passing motorists who slowed to get a better look at the massive aluminum freak show and take photos with their cell phones.
Randy explained, “I used to get a thumbs-up, now I just get a device.”
The DecoLiner is a bit loud because of the flex fan that’s right below the cab floor, but there are no other squeaks or rattles, and the engine runs cool. Thanks to the portholes and rear windows in the stairs up the spine of the DecoLiner, visibility isn’t bad, either. The base of the DecoLiner is a ’73 GMC motorhome. That means it’s got an Oldsmobile 455 with a front-wheel-drive TH425 transaxle like an Olds Toronado.
Due to the extensive use of aluminum, the DecoLiner only weights about 7,000 pounds—much less than the 12,500-pound GVWR of the GMC chassis—yet the body is so rigid that it can be jacked up by only one corner.
When he found out I was visiting, Randy called the cadre of craftsmen from southern Oregon who helped on the DecoLiner build. John Huring, whom Randy describes as a perfectionist and amazing problem solver, helped line the interior with birch door skin, which fits with the Art Deco style of the build. Attention to detail was obvious in all of his work.
Next, we dropped by to see Don Tippet, who was also working on a Ford hot rod. Randy calls Don his “line guy,” and he was instrumental in helping get the proportions and lines of the DecoLiner just right. He also pinstriped the massive streamlined beast inside and out.
Our last stop was to Ron Crume’s paint/machine shop, where he keeps his under-construction ’57 Chevy and repurposes heavy shop machinery to manufacture precision ball-and-seat valves.
I had nearly wrapped up my visit and was already thinking of my 800-mile drive home when Randy reminded me that he hadn’t shown me the Liner’s flying bridge yet. Perhaps it’s because it looks like it’s supposed to be there, but driving from the flying bridge didn’t seem at all unnatural until I actually climbed the teak stairs to ride shotgun while Randy piloted the DecoLiner around the back roads of Grants Pass—from the roof.
Only when I got to the top did I realize that this roadster we were sitting in was piggybacking a full-size motorhome. It’s just a little bit insane. Before I had any second thoughts, Randy explained that he installed beefy anti-sway bars front and rear to keep body roll to a minimum. They worked. Even though we were several feet above the vehicle’s centerline, body roll was minimal, I never felt queasy, and the view was amazing. You do need to keep an eye out for tree branches, though.
The DecoLiner is for sale, and Randy has to make room in his shop before he can start on the next big undertaking. He hinted that he already had a few ideas in mind.
Randy’s Metal-Crafting History
Although he spent much of his professional life as a glass artist, Randy’s got a long history of building cars. When he was 12 years old, Randy bought a neighbor’s Honda motorcycle, assembled it, and traded it back to his neighbor for a Ford flathead. His father gave him a Model A frame and helped him buy a ’31 roadster body. He had it running when he was 14 and soon bought a ’40 Ford pickup that he drove throughout high school.
Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.