J. Dennis McGuire, from Alma, Michigan, is the man in question: an inventor and a founding member of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), dreamer of wild dreams and executor of even wilder ones. He is the brain and the hand that brought the ShamRockAway into the world, one of the strangest and too-little-known motorhomes ever built.
Call it a Buick unicorn and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The ShamRockAway, also known as Noah’s Ark, was famous back in its day, but came to an unexpected and rather sad retirement after it was pulled from the road, and left to rot at some junkyard. There was an attempt to bring it back to life, when a person not related to McGuire’s family put it up for sale in 2011, but it doesn’t look like anything ever came out of it. For all we know, this Frankenstein Buick is lost for good.
McGuire loved Buicks for their styling and their handling, so he wanted a motorhome that would have both. The result is an RV made up of three Buicks: a 1948 for the chassis and two 1962 models. One Buick was left intact in the middle of the motorhome, another was cut in half and placed at the front and the rear of the RV, respectively, while the third went on top. “I didn’t build anything, I just reassembled!,” McGuire would laugh.
He had help along the way: his son Michael designed and built the gearbox that allowed all four wheels in the front to turn. The ShamRockAway had power steering, Dynaflow transmission, two gas tanks, a “solid” frame, two AC units, two heaters, and air shocks on the rear axle, which drove the entire rig. Power came from an Electra 225 Buick V8, but there’s no word on the kind of performance the 9,960-pound (4,518-kg) eight-legged monster rig was capable of.
Photos of the interior have not survived, but according to the same account, it was spacious and, of course, customized. The ShamRockAway was 6 feet (1.8 meters) high and 28 feet (8.5 meters) long, so it was spacious enough for an entire family. And the entire family did make use of it: McGuire finished the project when he was 69 years old, and he and the missus went traveling in it through Arizona and Pennsylvania.
The ShamRockAway was somewhat of a legend through the ‘70s, and had a brief re-emergence in the early ‘80s, when it was used as the campaign bus for Bob Tisch’s run as Michigan governor in 1982. After that, it was abandoned and, years later, bought by the man who offered it for sale in 2011.
That same man said at the time that he bought it with the purpose of restoring it because he considered it a piece of history, but he never got around to it. He was offering it with the travel diary kept by the McGuires, but whether he found someone willing to invest the kind of cash needed in it remains unknown. When the motorhome was offered for sale, it had already spent decades on the ground and, according to eyewitness accounts, it was completely destroyed by wildlife and the elements.
And that’s probably the best way to remember this Buick 8-wheel motorhome: one doer doing his thing!