Curbside Classic: 1987-1989 EMC Eldorado Starfire Motor Home – They Couldn’t Even Get The Name Right

What were they smoking? Design a motor home that wastes almost a third of its length on a huge hood, put on a Continental Mark VII front end, and call it Eldorado Starfire? Well, it was the eighties, so who knows just what was being passed around at the EMC headquarters. It certainly was potent.

The result was the most unforgettable motor home; or should I say forgettable? I remember all-too well when I first saw one —as I’m sure was the case with everyone else. It was a shocker. But the shock value was short-lived, as was the Eldorado Starfire, built for only three years. After all these decades, I’d rather forgotten about it until I ran into this one on the street, living out its final days as a curbside home for the unhoused. How long will it be until I can forget it again?

Well, in addition to crack cocaine, the eighties was also the decade of the Space Shuttle. But it didn’t have a borrowed Mk. VII grille. Or a borrowed Cadillac name. How about the Starfire Shuttle?

Japanese bullet trains were widely admired during that decade, when the Japanese could seemingly do no wrong. How about the Shinkansen Starfire? Anything but Eldorado, please.

Here it is in its full 32 foot profile. Without its nose cone, it would be about a 26 footer, the same as the longer of the two GMC motor homes. For a space-efficiency freak like me, this is a travesty of motor home design.

Let’s take a deep breath and take a closer look at that front end. Some websites have said:

The most interesting design cue on the Starfire RV is the front end, which includes the grille, hood, and headlights from a Lincoln MK VII.

The hood is not the hood from a MK VII, for a number of reasons, the most obvious one being that the Mk VII’s hood doesn’t go all the way to the front of the car.

And of course its shape is considerably different in key details.

As to the grille being actually from the Mk VII (lower photo), you be the judge. It appears to be genuine, although it is apparently mounted on a chrome surround that fits the shape of the Eldorado Starfire’s non-authentic hood contours.

The headlights might well be the real things too, although they look a bit slanted to the outside, in relation to the hood’s front edge. But that may just be because the hood lacks the Mark’s curved front end. The result looks like the headlights were pushed back into the body on their outside ends. Not a good look, either.

There’s another aspect of the Eldorado Starfire that is a bit mysterious. There are quite a few web posts about this creature, obviously also having fun with its unfortunate name. But looking at this ad, which seems to be previewing it with a rendering, it says that it has a “one piece Monoframe™”. Yes, that’s a trademark next to it in the ad. Not sure exactly what that means, in actual practice.

The only other reference to it is this Popular Mechanics cover that refers to the “Unibodied Eldorado Starfire”. Sorry, but that’s all I got. I assumed it had a conventional frame—other articles on the web also referred to a Ford 550 chassis. So there’s more mystery beyond the name and shape. And the poorly-fitting hood.

It has a single driven axle and a tag axle for weight distribution.

If I’d known it was supposed to have a “Monoframe™” I would have gotten down and dirty and looked underneath. But then that might not have been such a hot idea in this case.

Looks like a missing window, or is it a retractable one a la Mercury Breezeway?

The “accordion” for what is supposed to indicate a retractable 5 mile bumper—but obviously isn’t—is another curious design choice, front and rear.

Under that long hood resides Ford V8 power; either a 460 gasser with 225 hp and 380 lb.ft of torque, or the 6.9 diesel with 170 hp and 315 lb.ft. Not exactly genuine Starfire power; the space shuttle and bullet train can rest easy.