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Old 04-11-2008, 09:01 PM   #1
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Tow, tow tow your Airstream

Hello! We are currently looking for a vintage airstream to tow behind our truck that has a towing capacity of 7,800 lbs. I am having trouble finding out if we could tow a 1990 excella 1000 w/ this vehicle. It all seems a bit complex. I understand that the older airstreams are lighter, but where can I find out this info?

Thank you, Helen
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Old 04-11-2008, 09:13 PM   #2
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What length
?
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Old 04-11-2008, 09:17 PM   #3
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It is a 32' excella -sorry.
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Old 04-11-2008, 09:40 PM   #4
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Howdy Helen. I normally look at Airstream's FAQ page but they seem to have an outage on the trailer weights section [on edit: this has been reported to Airstream]. Instead I offer this alternative saved in a previous forums thread.

A few definitions are in order.
Dry weight = empty weight of the trailer model, base version without options.
Hitch weight = hitch weight of course, but without weight distribution (WD) gear installed, without propane in the tanks, and without the input of trailer options or your personal gear. Ready-to-camp hitch weight will easily be 150-200 pounds heavier.
GVWR = trailers Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, being the maximum trailer weight with trailer options, WD gear, propane and your personal gear. GVWR is not listed before 1989. GVWR minus Dry weight = payload (don't forget WD gear, propane). Payloads are not listed but a fair guess is under 1000# for 23-25' and just over 1000# for 28', 31' & 34' Airstreams.
Tongue weight - Trailer must be balanced so that 11-13% of loaded trailer weight is transmitted to the hitch. If less than 10% the tow can be highly unstable and dangerous.

32' Excella? That's a heavier trailer regardless of the year. 1/2-ton capacity tow vehicles are probably not going to be recommended.
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:00 PM   #5
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Thank you, Bob

I suppose my next question will be- What is the largest (vintage) trailer that I could pull with my truck that has a towing capacity of 7,800 lbs? Is there another source that I should look at to find this info? I have four children & perhaps another one day & we should really get at least a 30', I'd imagine. (We plan on modifying. I am thinking rear twins & put in bunks.)

Thank you for your help! -Helen
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:08 PM   #6
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You will likely have the AS longer than you will have the tow vehicle. If you are thinking of custom modifying a unit for the future expanding family, I would think you might anticipate a new tow vehicle somewhere along the line. Another option is to start small and move up in tv and trailer later on.

Remember you can only tow 7800# without anyone or anything in the TV except the driver. You will have to subtract whtever is inside from what the vehicle can pull.
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:09 PM   #7
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Look at your truck's manual. It will list a payload for a truck equipped like yours (engine size, 2WD vs. 4WD). From that payload, subtract options (topper?), passenger weights, pets?, and cargo in the box. The remainder is the payload that is left to dedicate to hitch weight. This will assist you to not overload the truck as one component of the tow setup. Tow vehicle payload will usually be a more restrictive detail than tow capacity. Staying within rated payload works toward maintaining vehicle reliability and emergency braking & emergency maneuver performances.

Tow capacities are higher than real life situations see for several reasons. One is that the engineers establish the maximum tow capacity with minimum weight in the truck.

What truck model & year do you have?
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:20 PM   #8
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wheel interested brings up a good point. Looking at vintage only for the sake of lower weight could get you into models that require a major amount of work. Imagine receiving a 25-35 year old car and deciding to completely rework it so that you'd feel safe driving your family over long distances at highway speeds. This could be a 2 or more year undertaking requiring major skills from the after work or weekend aluminut.

Another instance -- a 15 year old Airstream might still require some system replacements (major appliance), tire replacement & bearing lube, new batteries, leak control. Such a short list is probably hopeful but the amount of work restoring a vintage unit to fair use could easily take ten times the hours of this hypothetical 15 year old trailer. You may have the Airstream a lot longer than any tow vehicle, so don't be locked in to unworkable situations only because you don't want to change tow vehicles.
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:47 PM   #9
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If other all-aluminum trailers are attractive, then Silver Streak's are all pretty much 8,000# gross whether 28' or 33'. Avion's can vary (got heavier in the 1980's), and Streamline were the real lightweights of this style of trailer (full-frame vs. A/S construction).

Silver Streaks are very easy to work on (much easier access), and have fewer problems as they age than A/S. Not to mention a much greater amount of storage space. ALL units are rear bath. There is a dedicated group of Avion owners out there; do a search, they are nice trailers.

The prices on all of these trailers are lower than A/S as there is not the same demand.

IMO, anything at or under 7,000# is okay with a half-ton for less than full-timing. An A/S is likely the easier of these four to tow due to the better aerodynamics and independent suspension. (Avion went to a similar suspension; forgotten what year).

The better the hitch, the easier the ride (Hensley, Pro-Pride, etc).

Consider the length of your trips, and how many days you'll actually be using the unit (if for pleasure only; no business-related), and multiply that by the years you intend to keep the TV. I'd upgrade the shocks to Bilstein and replace the anti-roll bar bushings with poly and add a rear bar if not so equipped. The brakes need to be like new, and the cooling system up to par. I'd change all the filters and fluids if 3-yrs/30m miles. Be rigorous and treat the factory schedule as minimal.

Several family members used cars to pull 6-8,000# trailers in the 1960's through the 1980's, but were religious about maintenance.

There are threads here about what era A/S trailers need as to repairs; the likelihood of certain types of work.

FWIW, when growing up our family traveled in a 28' Silver Streak (five of us, the smallest was 5' 9") and we never found it uncomfortable. Yours truly slept on the floor, but, as a big teenager this was the roomiest bed in the place. My parents in the twin beds, my sisters on the foldout couch and the cat wherever she wanted.

Good luck.
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Old 04-11-2008, 11:04 PM   #10
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thorny

the simple answer to your 'what can i tow?' question is...

essentially ANY a/s built before 85-86 including the early 34 ftrs...

there are several members here with MEGA families, and most of them have mid 70s 30/31s...

the early 34s really don't offer better space/layouts (for large families) than these 30/31s...

much earlier than '72 and the trailer will NOT have 3 holding tanks, unless the unit is modified.

6-7 people in a trailer without FULL plumbing is dumb.

so realistically Y/OUR search is now narrowed to a 10 year span mid 70s to mid 80s....period, end of story.

you've not shared much (anything) really about how the 'stream will be used...

or a budget/dollar limit, except to note the 05 bunkhouses are too expensive.

how much camping, how far away, how often and how much crap will be carried besides kids?

short trips, close to home and only a few times per year seems typical for the demographic.

or are you planning to LIVE in the 'stream?

70s and early 80s units (they're all USED/old trailers, referring 2 them as vintage only jacks the $) can work fine with your family

bunks, sofa mods, galley and bath mods are REALLY WELL COVERED so read or pm some of the mega family members.

maybe we need a thread to id the mega families in old trailers...

however the most valuable thing you can do is GO SEE EVERY POSSIBLE 'stream in your area.

regardless of condition or price, you'll learn something LOOKING at trailers.

floor plans were not nearly as varied in the 70s, but there is no substitute for looking and crawling around inside.

given some of your needs (family size) modifications will very likely ADD weigth to most units...

there are easy bunk mods available for rear bath units, which are a better use of space than the rear bed models...

but this will only become obvious by looking at trailers...

should you find the "perfect" unit and it weighs too much, trade the esci' for a used diesel sub or excursion...

both would be better for towing, large enough for the flock, and LESS MONEY than the esci'

cheers
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Old 04-11-2008, 11:48 PM   #11
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Okay, let's clear up a few facts. Our TV is a 2008 Escalade ESV. I must find the owner's manual so I might look up all of these various numbers. In this auto I haul 4 beautiful little girls (Gabriella -almost 6, Madeline -almost 5, Chloe -almost 3, and Lillian -newly 1). I think I am interested in circa 1990 airstream-perhaps not yet vintage, just older-late-model (adolescent?) that we can do a bit of refurbishment -perhaps a rear twin that we can add bunks to.) I confess I am attached to the tow vehicle, for sadly I will spend more time there, for now. (I really like the auto doors when carrying several children/bags/etc.) Since all of our money goes to our escalade, it is terribly convenient that I appreciate the older aistreams!

I suppose the faq page would really be of help to me at this point.

Thank you for your assistance, there is so much to learn! -Helen
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Old 04-12-2008, 01:06 AM   #12
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then look at the weights for 1990.

the 1990 excella in the first post is towable if NOT fully loaded.

these are still narrow body units, but with more OAK woodwork, so a tad heavier.

still the esci will tow almost every model that year, depending on options.

the issue with the esci is it's HEAVY even without a trailer and has a smaller engine...

the larger trailers will pull slowly on hills but in florida that's not an issue.

if ya want a 1990 unit, check the classifies or used inventory at the bigger florida dealers...

rear bunks/over twins are still possible...

the primary difference in '90 vs '80 is WOOD=weight, ceiling treatments and newer appliances...

cheers
2air'
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