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Old 04-30-2012, 04:30 PM   #1
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Towing a Vintage Airstream with a Roadtrek

A few years ago I had a dream of living in an Airstream which I towed with a VW Bus. Research lead me to the realization that a VW Bus would never be able to handle such a load..,so my family of 3+dog ended up forgetting about the Airstream part of the equation and have happily been roaming around in this old Volkswagen.

However, we have expanded from 3 to 5, with number 6 (including grandma), on the way as of September. We've finally concluded that we need to upgrade. The decision is bittersweet, as if you've never lived on the road in a "hippie van" well, you may want to try it ASAP.

So anyway, our plan was to get a Vintage Airstream in relatively good condition for around $7000, and tow it with a Roadtrek. Apparently, Roadtreks are rated at 8100lbs and I believe I've seen Vintage AS at around 8000lbs. I know that's pushing it considering we'll have gear on board as well as water, but alas, such is my desire. Living in the Bus is so great because unlike an RV, we can easily venture into cities, up narrow winding roads and into national forests. A Roadtrek would offer that type of occasionally more cramped flexibility if it can handle the tow job.

So I'm just wondering if anyone might have any experience in this arena?
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Old 04-30-2012, 04:40 PM   #2
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Airstream Interstates are better than Roadtreks IMHO, jim
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:05 PM   #3
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Roadtreks are cheaper, but do not use the Mercedes Expressvan chassis.
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:07 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by zigzagguzzi
Airstream Interstates are better than Roadtreks IMHO, jim
Mmmm, yes, I have to say I agree with this , but I think both will take the tow you are wanting.

You realize you're asking about Roadtreks on an Airstream forum. We're a bit biased here.


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Old 04-30-2012, 05:14 PM   #5
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The Roadtrek Adventurous is built on the same Sprinter 3500 chassis as the Airstream Interstate, and will have the same rated towing capacity, 7500 pounds. That's the maximum towing capacity for any Sprinter, based on official data from Mercedes Benz in the Sprinter Owner's Manual.

Sprinters come in several flavors:
1 - Short-wheelbase 2500, towing capacity 5000 pounds;
2 - Long-wheelbase 2500, towing capacity 5000 pounds;
3 - Long-wheelbase extended 2500, towing capacity 5000 pounds;
4 - Long-wheelbase 3500, towing capacity 7500 pounds;
5 - Long-wheelbase extended 3500, towing capacity 5000 pounds.

I test-drove all but (3), mostly at Miller RV Sales in Baton Rouge; (1) was a new Roadtrek Agile; (2) was a used Roadtrek Adventurous from back when they used the 2500 chassis; (4) was a late-model Roadtrek Adventurous; (5) was a Winnebago Era. I also got product literature from all of them, and none gave a higher towing capacity than Mercedes lists for their base Sprinters.

The listed towing capacities are for a plain-Jane Sprinter, that hasn't been converted to a motorhome. Once you add custom coachwork to the interior, you lose net cargo capacity and net trailer weight because your empty weight goes up, but the GVWR and GCWR don't go up.

So, if you're lucky and don't add any weight to your Roadtrek Adventurous except one driver and full fuel, you might get the full 7500 pounds towing capacity, but you start loading more people and gear, and you're more likely to see somewhere less than 7000 pounds towing capacity.

Now, if you're talking about one of the Chevy-based Roadtreks, all this info is worthless; I have no clue what kind of towing capacity you'll get from a Chevy-based Roadtrek.
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:31 PM   #6
I Bought it I Broke it...
 
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Yeah, I do realize this is an AS forum, but I'm looking to tow the Airstream portion of my idea first and foremost. If I discover that a Roadtrek can't do the job, I'll find a different type of van that can. I'd rather put my big money into the tow vehicle than the AS, as I have plenty of experience fixing up rvs and things that would be found in trailers (sewage/water/busted cabinets/fridges) than I do working on computerized modern engines. That said, using an AS b class for a toe vehicle is a bit out of budget.

Thanks for the input everyone!
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clicknathan
Yeah, I do realize this is an AS forum, but I'm looking to tow the Airstream portion of my idea first and foremost. If I discover that a Roadtrek can't do the job, I'll find a different type of van that can. I'd rather put my big money into the tow vehicle than the AS, as I have plenty of experience fixing up rvs and things that would be found in trailers (sewage/water/busted cabinets/fridges) than I do working on computerized modern engines. That said, using an AS b class for a toe vehicle is a bit out of budget.

Thanks for the input everyone!
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Old 04-30-2012, 06:08 PM   #8
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Towing a Vintage Airstream with a Roadtrek

If the tow van doesn't have to be new, there is always the possibility of the Airstream B190 on the Ford E350 Chassis. It was produced for around ten years so there are some very well-maintained uinits out there . . . and they had trailer towing capacity such that they could tow most any of the Vintage Airstream trailers (the rear door mounted spare tire might have to find a new home, however). My spouse and I have been considering the possibility of a B190 as the tow vehicle for our coaches, but haven't made a findal decision.

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Old 05-01-2012, 01:43 AM   #9
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One thing to consider with a Roadtrek is that the ground clearance is very low. They put lots of stuff "down there" (incl. propane tank) and you mentioned "narrow winding roads and into national forests". After I looked at the ground clearance (or rather lack thereof) combined with the long wheelbase I quickly realized that this type of vehicle is for paved and graded roads only. If that's fine with you, then please ignore this message ;-)
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Old 05-01-2012, 05:50 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by tvoneicken View Post
One thing to consider with a Roadtrek is that the ground clearance is very low. They put lots of stuff "down there" (incl. propane tank) and you mentioned "narrow winding roads and into national forests". After I looked at the ground clearance (or rather lack thereof) combined with the long wheelbase I quickly realized that this type of vehicle is for paved and graded roads only. If that's fine with you, then please ignore this message ;-)
Same is true for the Airstream Interstate. One reason it's not called an Airstream Backroads.
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:14 AM   #11
I Bought it I Broke it...
 
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Thanks Protagonist & everyone else. Good points about the clearance, I'll definitely have to look into that more. Our Bus can go just about anywhere, and it's got a propane tank underneath, but it's a little 4 gallon and not a bit ol' whatever might be under an AS or Roadtrek.

Just want to truly say thank you to everyone who took time to give me your feedback!

PS. As an actual way of showing gratitude beyond just using the words, we're giving away a few free memberships to our family's online travel magazine if you're interested!
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:24 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tvoneicken View Post
One thing to consider with a Roadtrek is that the ground clearance is very low. They put lots of stuff "down there" (incl. propane tank) and you mentioned "narrow winding roads and into national forests". After I looked at the ground clearance (or rather lack thereof) combined with the long wheelbase I quickly realized that this type of vehicle is for paved and graded roads only. If that's fine with you, then please ignore this message ;-)
I traded in my 2010 Roadtrek SS Agile (short wheelbase) for my Airstream last year. We loved the Roadtrek and actually preferred it over the Interstate but you are correct about ground clearance. I made the mistake of doing a few miles on dirt and gravel roads in both Montana and Alberta then spent two days in Saskatoon while the plumbing for the gray water tank was repaired.

As far as towing an Airstream with it, mine only had a 5,000 pound rating but even if it had the tow rating I could not imagine towing a travel trailer with it. Just seems like bringing a sack of McDonalds to a pizza parlor.
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Old 05-01-2012, 08:48 AM   #13
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Just seems like bringing a sack of McDonalds to a pizza parlor.
Honestly, Interstate owners are the only ones who would even care. To most people, Airstream means shiny aluminum trailers, and a Roadtrek is just another tow vehicle, though more comfortable than most pickups and SUVs. Since you're talking about pulling an Airstream trailer, you'll still be welcome around the campfire, no matter what the nameplate on your tow vehicle.
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:47 AM   #14
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With six people I can see how this is an appealing combination. Some of the qualities of a motorhome (which are only while underway) for travel comfort, but without the initial expense and enormous per-mile expense of moho + towed.

It may that a van which you, the buyer, work with an outfitter upon is best. There is no question of some of the cab & chassis model trucks, or bigger vans, being able to pull a little ol' Airstream.

Yet I agree with the above that ground clearance, tow capacity, etc, of some of the ready-made choices may not be sufficient.

How important is it to have plumbing facilities aboard the TV (the largest impediment) is the make-or-break choice;

and

How long is each day of travel, would be the second frame by which I'd consider the questions (as a van or crewcab p/u are fine for that).

All facilities, all the time is quite a lot to ask given their actual use (since the TT has everything already), and six people aren't going to be sleeping in a van on solo trips.

As the OP already has experience, then the questions of:

1] How long will it be owned?

2] How many miles will it travel in that time?

3] How many nights aboard?

have some background which should be applied to new vehicles. These largest costs, initial and ongoing, are too often done as a whim (not the problem for the OP here, I take it, but in general), thus dollars & cents make sense for looking at the overall picture.

The OP can try out the analysis here, asking for input, or just further delineate parameters.

A big van, fitted out the way I'd want (perhaps not changed all that much from stock, maybe a kitchen of some sort) might be relevant where tow capacity and some limited offroad is most important.

Alternately, full independence from shore power (air conditioning via built-in generator) may be more important.

Having all of this -- plus fully plumbed facilities -- takes us into an expensive territory (but that itself may not matter from the OP perspective; of getting away from ready-made vehicles).

This is a quite large range from which to make choices.

Full time travel with redundant systems is no small undertaking. That there are chassis capable of this is without question. How large a TV one wants is another. I would not expect ready-made to be the answer from the information offered thus far.

.
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