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Old 07-31-2012, 11:22 AM   #1
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1977 31' Sovereign
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axles: beam or torsion?

I have been into Rv's for awhile I have had a 39' alfa 5er, and several other trailers, all had beam axles and thier ride height was around a 1.5'-2' off the ground.
I recentlty purchased a original 1977 31' soveriegn, and I am doing a complete teardown, I most likely will have to do a shell off rehab,its sits about a foot off the ground, maybe. I live out west and some of the backroads are rutted etc, and I would like a higher clearance than stock.

I've searched the posts here and all I have come across is to replace with new torsion axles. The post I saw said it might increase the ride height by 3''.
My question: is it be possible to add beams/leafs to increase the ride height?
I know that the A.S. would be bit higher than factory maybe 1.5' off the ground.
1st is it possible
2nd is safe?
My tow vehichle is a 1998 International crew cab with a 25,500lbs towing capacity.
So I would not be pushed around with a modified trailer.

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Old 07-31-2012, 11:55 AM   #2
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I am not sure how you would install blocks between the torsion axles and the frame. the axles are actually bolted to a mounting plate welded to the frame. You would need to make a new mounting plate with a lower bolting point. This would increase its ground clearance but reduce the vertical stability around turns, which Airstream is famous for. From some of the early Caravan pictures from around the world it appears some of the trailers had spring leaf axles and had the axles remounted below the springs to gain ground clearance for Africa and the orient.

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Old 07-31-2012, 12:08 PM   #3
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You would lose the stability of independent suspension and low center-of-gravity as well as classic Airstream style. Convenient entrance height would also be lost. An odd-ball if you ever want to sell it, and a handful if you ever got a more appropriate tow vehicle.

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Old 07-31-2012, 01:07 PM   #4
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If your trailer will not go where you want and do what you want it is not much value to you. I do not think it would be too difficult to raise the height to what you desire and still use torsion axles. You could get the same results converting to leaf springs. As for handling, I don't think it would be any worse than other brands with the same ride height, and would probably be better because of the lower center of gravity of the Airstream design. My opinion is probably contrary to many others, but then so am I.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:04 PM   #5
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Not only will your new axle ride a little higher than your old rubber torsion axle, but most rubber torsion axles can be ordered with the arm rotated as far down as 45 degrees.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:25 PM   #6
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Why? New solutions have new problems. The minute you veer away from the stock design, you are on your own. You are saying that you know more than the engineers that designed the suspension to start with. I would not veer from the stock design unless I knew that the stock suspension would not work for me and I was willing to suffer what ever consequences that brought with it.

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Old 07-31-2012, 09:39 PM   #7
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I don't see an issue with a spacer system that would fill the gap between the standard mounts and the new axles. IMHO it should be a grid that ties side to side and could raise the trailer as far as you like, yet be removeable if desired. Of course the down side would be a higher CG but have you seen some of the new campers?!!! GOOD GRIEF they are high!
Is it safe? Heck no...the stock stuff isn't is parking in the middle of a field...well, space junk could make that unsafe...Oh No...I'm gonna need the meds again...
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Old 07-31-2012, 10:58 PM   #8
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I have never heard of anyone changing out torsion axles for leaf springs. I don't see why you can't do it but who know how it will ride. The only advantage I can see is leaf axles are cheaper and can be repaired. I don't know about elsewhere, but I have some uneven tire wear on one tire on 5 year old torsion axles and I can not find anyone to work on them, even after trying all the options mentioned on the forum. Back in the day they used to straighten them but it's a vanishing art. I suspect because of the liability of straightening an axle and also the industry would rather just sell you a new axle. Also as far as resale selling an AS with leaf springs would be a problem.
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Old 07-31-2012, 11:31 PM   #9
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Put 16" rims on and bigger tires. You should be able to get another 3" out of that or more. Plus the 3" with you new torsion axles. thats already 6" higher.

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Old 08-01-2012, 07:04 AM   #10
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Between installing new torsion axles with a greater down angle and installing larger rims and tires you may gain as much as 5 or 6 inches.
It may be possible to extend the mounting plates on the trailer to give you more ground clearance. But no one knows if the stress from turning would fold the plates over.
IMHO the trailer you picked has some drawbacks. The length for one. Even if you would raise the trailer a foot. I think you would find the rear end would still drag when going over a hump or thru a dip. This is due to the long moment arm of the body behind the rear axle.
The axles of a 5er are much closer to the rear bumper, thus a shorter moment arm.
If the rear of the trailer contacts the ground, severe frame and hull damage could occur.
A shorter trailer would be more suitable for meeting the objective of off road use.
Even though you see old films of A$'s in Africa, I think their design is more for hard surface road use. Thus the name "travel" trailer as opposed to "camping" trailer.
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:10 AM   #11
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For a short time karma sent me a Overlander that went on Wally's around the world caravan. It's still around and being restored by Bob Wotowa. It had a complete second frame welded on in India in preparation for, as described in the book on the caravan, "the impassable roads of Afghanistan".
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:10 AM   #12
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Ground clearance is about 16". Not too shabby for a shorter trailer if measured 6 to 8 feet away from the axle center. Get 10 to 15 feet away from that axle center and that 16" of ground clearence isn't so much.
If yours is less it is because the axles have lost their flex and really need to be replaced. The axles in this type of system contain the springs or support for the trailer to maintain ride height and take out much of the jounce and rebound from traveling over roads. (The shocks would finish that job of smoothing the ride and offer zero lift)

With that said, should you wish to order new axles they can be ordered with a little extra lift as noted above with different down angles and rated loads.

The other conern is usage. That long trailer was made for long tows in comfort over the interstate. (Think I-40) Taking this type of unit off of paved roads onto the reservation or some place very rural (or even some of the Northern AZ highways) is beyond the design intent of this 35 year old 31 foot RV. You can do it and the result won't be pretty. At least in the aft end of things.

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Old 08-01-2012, 02:03 PM   #13
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Thank you all for you're input, it was very useful, I find Lumatic's response interesting adding another frame underneath for ride height(brilliant), Lumatic do you know where I could find out more info on that subject and if there were any photo's around?.
Just think I could have basement storage in a old Airstream.

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