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Old 06-29-2006, 12:44 AM   #1
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1979 31' Sovereign
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Question How to do a one-time tow cheap...

We're looking for a vintage 27-31' AS, but there aren't many around Vancouver, BC, so we're looking as far afield as Seattle, where there are a few.

I fear I might get thrown out for saying it, but I'll say it anyway: our plan with this AS is to tow it to Vancouver and do whatever modifications are needed, barge it to an island off the coast of Vancouver, and just leave it there, stationary, to use as a weekend destination. In other words, there's a good chance the AS will be towed once, and then never again, at least for years. I don't have a serious tow vehicle, and don't really want to own one.

I looked briefly into renting a tow vehicle, but that seems quite tricky as most rentals won't let you tow, and one-way rentals of specialty equipment are always more expensive.

A friend is willing to let me use his Chevy Tahoe to bring it back, which is great because I'm having a hard time finding cheap 4x4 trucks that can haul that kind of weight (we'll need a 4x4 on the island, so I wouldn't mind buying one that could also tow the AS).

So, what I'm trying to figure out is what I need to do to the Tahoe to be able to tow the AS 160 miles. It seems from what I've read so far that I need to install a brake controller. How much should I budget for that? Is a WD system required for that ride? (it's pretty much flat all the way).

Any feedback or other ideas greatly appreciated!

Cheers,

--david
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Old 06-29-2006, 06:08 AM   #2
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David, U-Haul and Budget both have large vehicles for rent, including auto haulers. My last move was via a 26' straight truck with the SUV on the trailer behind.
As some Airstreams you may look at will likely need tires, bearings and axles before moving this may be the most economical solution.
If you don't need the running gear for more than the minor relocation then you can offset the cost with a better rental vehicle.
Trying to do this "cheap" may cost you more than you bargain for.
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Old 06-29-2006, 06:56 AM   #3
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Contact the WBCCI unit in the area. They may have a member that is willing to haul it for a reasonable fee. Then you know they know airstreams and have the proper equipment.
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Old 06-29-2006, 08:48 AM   #4
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If the tahoe isn't set up for towing, you will need a tow packaage - and it will run into a fair chunk of money - several hundred dollars for a brake controller, hitch and wiring.

Last year we were able to rent a 3/4 ton pickup from budget with a tow package. I know the budget website says they don't do this, but I called the local dealer and they had one on the lot.

Good luck.
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Old 06-29-2006, 09:59 AM   #5
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Thanks all. I'll call the local Budget office and see if they don't follow the stated policies. I'll call U-Haul as well, although I _think_ the AS'es I'm looking at are road worthy, and I suspect renting a large truck and a flatbed trailer would end up prohibitive, and might push me to just bying SOB. =(

I've emailed the WA WBCCI contact address I found, and we'll see if they come up with something.

I never pick "simple" projects somehow...

--david
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Old 06-29-2006, 10:15 AM   #6
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What about an F150-style truck for the one-time tow?

So I've done a fair bit of reading on this list and the impression I've gotten is that for these larger AS's, you definitely want a big, full-sized pickup with a big engine to tow them. And I believe that, especially for hills, etc. The question is how insane is it to consider a smaller pickup (F150s w/ 350 engines are a dime a dozen, for example) for this one-time, flat tow?

--david
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Old 06-29-2006, 10:17 AM   #7
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Hello David -- Sounds like you're moving right ahead. I could have only echoed that some bigger rental trucks have a hitch on the back. Now ... if you could only install your own 2 5/16" ball. I don't think that would require any weight distribution.

Your comment about needing 4WD on the island leads me to recommend caution when it comes to wheel ruts and the high ridge in the middle of the road (if applicable). Airstreams (and most SOBs) just don't have much clearance.

Another idea: Any local SOB RV campground might give you leads on any of their residents with good towing rigs who might want to pick up some cash on the side for one or two days work. Weekenders wouldn't jump at the chance but some campground somewhere probably has willing hangers-on who live there full time.

When your project begins to come together I would suggest posting back again and asking what to do when parking quasi-permanently.
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Old 06-29-2006, 11:52 AM   #8
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Canoe stream: don't worry, the 4x4 requirement doesn't have anything to do with where the AS is going -- the path to the plot of land is relatively flat. It's just that exploring the island (without the AS) requires a 4x4.

Good idea re: asking what to do when "settling in". It was niggling in the back of my head that there are probably do's and don'ts when it comes to stabilizing, weight distribution, tire maintenance, etc.

One more question for y'all: I've found a reasonably priced 87 suburban 3/4 ton with a 350 engine, heavy duty tow package installed (minus "computer", which I suspect means brake controller). Is that a reasonable vehicle to consider for this tow? (I might sell it once the AS is in place or swap it for a pickup if I decide I don't like it).

--david
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Old 06-29-2006, 12:23 PM   #9
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The 'burb sounds like a great tow vehicle. A cheap brake controller like the Hoppy is ~$75 and if you're comfortable with wiring it's not a complicated job to install if the correct plug is already on the vehicle.

I would bet dollars to dougnuts that the electric brakes on a "fixer upper" AS aren't going to work anyway. That means you either do a brake job where it sits or you have to haul it somewhere anyway to have the brakes done. New brakes all around on my Argosy 24' ran $700 (yeah, I think it's time to look for a different RV place). If you drive it and park it for many years then chances are the brakes aren't going to work next time either. Same problem with tires except if the tires are obviously (or even questionably) going to fail then you have to do something about that before moving. Spending $400+ on new tires that are going to rot out doesn't seem like a great solution.

Arrange times and routes so that you don't have to tow the "great unknown" on busy streets or during rush hour. I live close to Seattle so I can probably help advise you on alternate routes. You really need to watch tides when trailering to the Islands. A low low might leave you "high and dry" on the ramp.

If the current owner has a tow vehicle you should offer them a "delivered price". They might be willing to do it to swing the deal or have the chance to "recoup" a little more of their investment. If not it's a nice bargining point in negotiating the price. It might also give you a feel for how THEY think the rig will behave out on the highway :+)

Question? Curious as to if you're dead set on an AS for a "cabin". Just asking because there's been a cuty Avion for sale up in Bellingham that's been doing cabin duty for the last ten years. It's only a 24' though. You could always get a 19' and add a wing ;-)

-Bernie
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Old 06-29-2006, 12:38 PM   #10
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bhayden: I'm happy to consider the Avion -- any pointers?

I'm hoping to look at the suburban tonight. What should I look at to find out the amount of work needed to make it fit the AS? I get the impression there are different pin configurations, etc.
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Old 06-29-2006, 01:23 PM   #11
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Before I get banned for any more Avion talk take a look at this thread about MorRyde suspension:

http://www.airforums.com/forum...ork-23864.html

I think you'd also find it doing a search for Avion or Airstream on the Bellingham Craigslist. You're right abou there being several of the larger AS on the Seattle Craigslist lately, many of which looked like great candidates for what you have in mind.

As far a wiring the 'burb do it to the most common standard. I think that's the seven position straight contact. It's easy to build a pigtail if you need to that will go from your truck to the AS if it's non-standard. Eventually you'd want to rewire the trailer to make it standard as well.

-Bernie
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Old 06-29-2006, 03:15 PM   #12
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Rewiring the trailer's original cord is very easy. It will take a wire stripper and some crimp fasteners (blue, red, yellow) from the electrical section at Home Depot or wherever. Take a look at Airstream's FAQs on plugs -- third one down is the modern pattern that should fit your tow vehicle. The wire colors are pretty accurate, though I do recall one wire was not quite the same color on my Argosy umbilical... ? The diagram says it is 'Trailer End' which is what you'd see if you were looking directly at the end of the trailer umbilical. Be sure you don't have a mirror image problem or else you might make it backwards from your tow vehicle; you really don't need a diagram for the latter if you get your umbilical right. New plugs are available at any RV dealer, fleet farm, etc.

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Originally Posted by bhayden
Before I get banned for any more Avion talk...
Bernie, Bernie, Bernie ... We want people to be happy with their purchases and Avion is a quality product. An Avion sure isn't fiberglass nor will it shake apart after 4 seasons of use . Thank you for your helpful posts!
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Old 06-29-2006, 04:27 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davida
and might push me to just bying SOB. =(

I never pick "simple" projects somehow...

--david
Hi David,
Welcome to these forums.
A little more money now will pay off in the long run. We all know that Airstreams are a bit pricey. That said, many of us have owned SOBs in the past and wouldn't trade down for the world.
All Airstreams have their problems. Things like power converters, furnaces, refrigerators, water pumps and lines, brack and gray water systems etc, etc.
But so does every SOB ever built.
The difference between Airstreams and SOBs can IMO be narrowed down to 2 things:
1) The shell on an AS lasts forever. So anything you do on the inside is worth doing. The shell wont rot away leaving you with a well maintained interior with nothing to keep the elements out.
2) Airstreams are very, very cool.
If you tell your friends you have a travel trailer parked out on an island they'll say: "Oh, that's pretty neat."
If you tell them you have an old AS parked out on an island they'll say:
"Wow! That's really cool!"
Good luck with your plans. And do post your progress.
I love hearing about other peoples schemes and plans. Especially wild ones like hauling an AS out to an island.
Jerry
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Old 06-29-2006, 11:44 PM   #14
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Step one accomplished: just bought the (oh so ugly) Suburban. Step two will be to get the Suburban an emergency fixup (little things like a new battery, get the brake lights to work, turn signals, and who knows what else.
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