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Old 12-22-2012, 10:36 PM   #1
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1962 16' Bambi
Edina , Minnesota
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'55 Chevy 6 cylinder TV??

I dread getting the answer to this, because I would guess it's a "no"... But, I have a 16 ft 61 Bambi that wieghs some 1800 lbs with a tongue weight of 180 or something. I also have a 55 Chevy 2 door with an in line 6 cylinder 235 cu in making something around 120 hp. It has a manual transmission - 3 on the tree. The main problem I suppose would be the drum brakes all around. I would love to take the two out in a stylish ride, but don't want to end up in a big pile somewhere, or overheated on the side of the road.

Anybody have a recommendation?

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Old 12-23-2012, 12:20 AM   #2
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1975 Argosy 26
1963 24' Tradewind
Seattle , Washington
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That would be sweet! A couple of thoughts... there's plenty of suppliers that can help you upgrade to front disk brakes... I'd definately rebuild the front and rear suspension so that you eliminate sway in the system.

The Bambi shouldn't be any issue.. but you probably would want to search someplace like the HAMB message board for ideas on a few more ponies for your 6. New radiator would be key as well.

Sounds like a great car! Just need to do some updating on it to make it succeed.
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Old 12-23-2012, 02:47 AM   #3
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1969 18' Caravel
, Iowa
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Remember that this kind of car was what was pulling vintage Airstreams when they were new. So, it's do-able.
I feel that much hinges on what type of travel you are planning. If you are anticipating lots of all day travel at interstate speeds...prob. not a good choice.
If you are thinking shorter, slower trips (the kind where you camp more than drive) it would make more sense.
Yes, you can (and prob. should) upgrade to disc brakes. I'd, also, suggest replacing the radiator with one for a '55-'57 V8 (it's pretty easy to do.)
You'll need to have someone fabricate a hitch receiver so you can use a weight-distributing hitch.
For several years (in the 80's & 90's) I pulled a 1951 21ft. Airstream with my 1955 Chevy Nomad wagon and it handled the job well. Mine is V8 powered but has stock drum brakes and suspension.
As I mentioned, it was a different 'type' of travel than that of towing with a modern vehicle. I had no power steering, power brakes, nor air conditioning. No high speed or long distance trips.
It did make for a really nice combination, visually.
Your '55 would look great with your vintage Airstream, too.
Keep us posted on your decisions.
Oh yes, welcome to the Airstream forum!
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Old 12-31-2012, 04:28 AM   #4
1972 Travelux Princess 25
Cobourg , Ontario
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It should work well for car shows and short trips. Do not expect too much, it would not be at its best in hilly country or on the interstate. You could get over any hill but it might be in second gear at 20 MPH.

A good hitch and trailer brake control should be all you need, at least to try it out. You may find you need a better rad, brakes, etc or you might just decide to trade for a heavier more powerful vehicle. Or just forget the whole thing.
Living in the trailer park of sense, looking out the window at a tornado of stupidity.
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:42 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ganaraska View Post
You may find you need a better rad, brakes, etc or you might just decide to trade for a heavier more powerful vehicle.
Heavier?? The dry weight of the 55 Chevy is 3,200lbs. For a 2,000lb 16' Bambi the Chevy's weight is not too light and not the issue here. IMHO.
Airstreams..... The best towing trailers on the planet!
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:54 AM   #6

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
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Thumbs up Welcome Aboard....


This was a workable TV for the DW's family when it was new....239ci 110hp.

15ft Scottie.

Keep in mind though...very few 4 lane's, folk's were a bit more aware of tailgating, and 45mph towing was the norm.

The Tri-five would sure look kool towing that Bambi.

Sweet safe.

AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:39 AM   #7
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In my younger days I had a '58 Chevy 2 door post. It had the same engine as your '55. I believe the inline 6 will do the job as long as you don't want to go over 55. Inline engines inherently have more torque than small block V8's of that era.
The first Corvettes were 6 cylinder. Again, back in the day, I modified my '58 using a Corvette intake manifold with 3 single barrel carbs and a cam to match. It would leave the new Ford Mustang in the dust.
The radiator may be an issue. But an upgrade would be simple, along with one of the modern fan blades. I think you would have a doable ride.
As long as your speed is not excessive and all are working effectively, it may not be a problem. As you probably know, drum brakes require periodic adjustment on the TV as well as the TT.
Good tires and good steering will help as well. Along with good suspension on the rear end. ie spring shackles and bushings. A good solid receiver hitch with WD and anti sway would certainly make for a safer ride.
Good Luck
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:44 AM   #8
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Another thought. The station wagons of that era had heavier springs for the added weight.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:13 AM   #9
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2013 30' International
lubbock , Texas
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Hooked up or not I'd like to see some pics of the two of them ... sounds like a sweet combo.

Photos please ... and welcome to the forums!
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:15 AM   #10
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Oswego , Illinois
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This engine was sold to Toyota after Chevy was done with it, back when the Chevy 250 CID came out. Toyota wanted it for the FJ40 Land cruiser because it was used worldwide in just about any kind of tractor and implement you could think of. The thought was if you had a LC in the middle of Africa, you could find something to rob parts from. When Toy produced it, it was a 237, then....I can't remember the other two displacements...ending production somewhere like a 247. There were head, intake, exhaust and carb mods to try and get more HP.

That said, I had a 237 and it would pull ANYTHING out of the mud hole. It was very torquey....but would run out of breath at about 3500 RPM (guestimate, no tach). It was not a good highway vehicle, due to the low geared trans and (IIRC, 410 gears)

I can't tell you how many times my friends would run off and leave me in their V8 Jeeps, Chev PUs and Ford PUs, only to find one of them stuck up the way, spinning their #@**es off. I'd chug up, hook up, chug 'em out...and off they'ed go again. It truly was "The Little Engine That Could".

It would pull your old AS about 50 MPH, or 2500 - 3000 RPM.

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Old 12-31-2012, 10:52 AM   #11
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1963 24' Tradewind
Anderson / Sun City , Indiana / Arizona
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In 1955 my dad towed a 1954 Airstream Flying Cloud (22') weighing about 2500 pounds all over the USA with a 1955 Chevy Nomad, although it had a 283 V8. We had friends that towed all size Airstreams with 6 cylinder engines back then.

Brakes were never a problem. You seldom drove over 50. Cooling was sometimes a problem in the mountains or desert. My dad added a transmission cooler and a larger radiator. I can still remember him having the heater on to help disapate engine temperature on a 90 day.

I would bet you can tow your Bambi just fine at moderate speeds.
Mike Brumback
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:37 AM   #12
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Bowie , Maryland
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Not quite the same, but similar:

Yes, you can. I think he actually has a V8, not a 6 cylinder, but you get the point.
1995 Airstream Classic 30' Excella 1000
2014 Ram 2500 Crew Cab with Cummins 6.7L Diesel

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Old 01-04-2013, 12:21 PM   #13
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Just to affirm what others have said, that is a great engine and one that is easy to rebuild.
It develops very strong, low-end torque.
It will tow the Bambi well and with plenty of power for low speeds, but it won't do well on the interstate.
The radiator was always an issue with the '55 Chevy, straight 6; at least here in the mountains of NM. So, a larger radiator is essential.
It's easy to convert to disc brakes.
P.S. A '55 Chevy, Two-Door Hardtop was my first real car, but mine had a V-8, a 265 I believe. What a great car!
Ken L
2007 Classic Limited 30 (Sold)
2007Chevy Silverado 2500 HD Duramax/Allison
Four Corners Unit WBCCI #8654, Affiliate NM Unit
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:53 PM   #14
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Yes a '55 Chevy had a 265 V8. But it didn't have the low end torque of that old 235 inline 6. I think the inline 6 will do a better job of towing. There are also 250 inline 6's out there. Most were installed in trucks and industrial equipment.

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