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Old 01-18-2005, 10:58 PM   #1
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'69 deville tow car

I just bought a 1969 overlander. I can use my '69 Dodge D200 3/4 ton (383 ci) as a tow vehicle but was wondering if it would be OK to rig up my '69 cadillac deville convertible as a tow vehicle also. I would get a top notch load equalizing hitch with anti-sway bars. I would also install external transmission oil and engine oil coolers with gauges. The rad has been replaced recently. It has rear air shocks and the front shocks and all springs are in good shape. The car has a 472 ci engine with the turbo hydra-matic transmission, front disc brakes, 375 HP. I have read similar threads discouraging the use of smaller cars as tow vehicles but the cadillac is built like a truck with a sturdy heavy duty frame and long wheel base (19' long with 11' wheelbase). I would welcome any thoughts or advice on my specific situation...thanks, Jeff.
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Old 01-18-2005, 11:17 PM   #2
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I imagine that would have been a perfectly suitable tow vehicle back in the day, and you've already thought of the pitfalls of using an older vehicle - cooling, transmission cooling, a proper hitch. I don't think a caddy qualifies as a 'smaller car'. I'll bet they'd make a pretty cool set, and probably a lot more comfortable to ride in than your 3/4 ton dodge. But with all that said, I haven't done it, though I would like to have a vintage car for a tow vehicle someday, and my trailer is quite a bit smaller.

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Old 01-18-2005, 11:25 PM   #3
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I can't see why not, but it's such a sweet ride, why saddle it?
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Old 01-18-2005, 11:30 PM   #4
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fermante,

I used to use my '61 Deville as a tow vehicle, but not for an Airstream. I used it for dragging my E-Type Jaguar around on a custom tandem axle trailer. Figure maybe 4000 lbs between the trailer and the Jaguar.

I rebuilt the Caddy's engine (a pre-smog 390) and transmission (the kind Nader made the industry get rid of, that actually had a shift pattern I prefer to today's standard), added a custom hitch, tranny cooler, electronic ignition, full guages, air shocks, custom exhaust etc.

The most interesting mod was the addition of an off-the-rack Holley throttle body fuel injection replacment for the carb. If I remember, that thing cost like $650 in '89. It actually had a control box inside the car that allowed one to adjust mixture, idle, accelerator pump effect, etc. while driving. Very cool. The fuely unit gave a huge amount of power and torque, and a substantial increase in mileage. I got 13 mpg with it, while towing the Jaguar, often over 70mph. Hilariously, it burned so clean that would have passed California emmissions while I lived there in the early 90s.

Overall, it worked pretty well, but I would say by comparison to my current rig, the brakes were easily the weakest part of the whole system. Your car would do better, having front discs; how much better I do not know. Caddy convertibles are not the world's stiffest cars either, in terms of tortional strength. I have no idea what effect that might have on your towing.

Also, a '69 would have a few primitive smog devices that might adversely impact on the power available, so you want to make sure they are checked out thoroughly. If you went the fuel injection route, you could probaby get the smog gear, other than PCV, without causing too much global warming, depending on the legality of doing that in your state. Remember, '69 was back in the days when Detroit's horsepower figures were measured at the flywheel, with no accessories, so in stock trim, your motor will not produce 375hp. Maybe 300 or so I'm guessing.

I did not have a load distribution hitch either, which would help you greatly. In my case, the rig got very squirrely descending grades. Add that to the weak brakes, and it made my wife very uncomfortable to drive it, esp. at night.

You wouldn't believe the stuff people said about that car. And it was really fun out-accelerating punks in late 80s "sports" cars. By the way, are you fixated with the year 1969 for some reason?
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Old 01-19-2005, 12:22 AM   #5
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'69 deville tow car

Greetings Jeff!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Overlander ownership!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fermante
I just bought a 1969 overlander. I can use my '69 Dodge D200 3/4 ton (383 ci) as a tow vehicle but was wondering if it would be OK to rig up my '69 cadillac deville convertible as a tow vehicle also. I would get a top notch load equalizing hitch with anti-sway bars. I would also install external transmission oil and engine oil coolers with gauges. The rad has been replaced recently. It has rear air shocks and the front shocks and all springs are in good shape. The car has a 472 ci engine with the turbo hydra-matic transmission, front disc brakes, 375 HP. I have read similar threads discouraging the use of smaller cars as tow vehicles but the cadillac is built like a truck with a sturdy heavy duty frame and long wheel base (19' long with 11' wheelbase). I would welcome any thoughts or advice on my specific situation...thanks, Jeff.
You have the Cadillac convertible that I would have chosen had I been intending to tow an RV rather than my '75 Eldorado. It can and has been done, but preparation is key as there are a number of issues that must be addressed. I would suggest focusing on the following:

(1.) Probably among the two or three most important operations is being sure that the valve seats have the special hardened inserts to permit the burning of unleaded fuel - - these didn't become part of the standard equipment until either 1971 or 1972 - - it is a machine shop operation that can be rather costly - - nearly $1,200 on my '65 Dodge Coronet 500 Convertible's 383 HO V8 in 1980.

(2.) Verify the number of rows in your radiator's core - - my Eldorado only had three and the radiator specialist that I consulted recommended four so that was one of my immediate modifications along with a heavy duty auxilliary transmission fluid cooler rated at 12,000 pounds.

(3.) Be prepared to do some shopping to find a hitch specialist willing to fabricate a Reese weld-up hitch for your Cadillac as it is VERY unlikely that you will find anyone who has a bolt-on hitch for your application (I know the search for a bolt-on hitch for my Eldorado was unsuccessful). I searched for more than 18-months before I found a welder specializing in farm machinery repair who was very familiar with hitch building - - he created a hitch that is amazing in the way it fits the Eldorado - - it looks better than many of the bolt-on hitches that are common today. I went with the Reese Strait-Line hitch system with the older style Dual Cams that attach to the trailer's tongue with U-bolts.

(4.) The rear air shocks are less critical than having a good set of springs in the rear. The last that I checked, Cargo Coils were still available for the '68-'70 DeVilles - - I purchased a set for my Eldorado - - I find that for towing it works best to run with about 10 psi over the minimum inflation on the shocks with the heavy duty Cargo Coils replacement springs (these ARE NOT overload springs, rather they are progressive rated springs that are a direct replacement for the stock units). There should be a section in your owners' manual covering the level-ride suspension system that will help guide you in the sequence for dealing with air shocks when hitching to your Cadillac.

(5.) Since the weight distributing hitch is going to transfer a significant amount of weight fortward to the front suspension, I found it quite critical to replace the front shocks with gas charged units that reduced the bottoming action on sigificant bumps that was common when running the OEM style boulevard ride shocks.

(6.) You may also find that your alternator and voltage regulator may need upgrades. When I towed with a '71 Buick, the alternator and voltage regulator required upgrading to keep up with the demands of trailer towing - - the Cadillac may have already had the heavy duty Delcotron with adjustable voltage regulator - - it was an option that my Buick didn't have but needed.

(7.) Be prepared for the possibility (probability?) that the differential gearing may need changing. If the DeVille is similar to the early '70s Edlorados, the differential gearing is probably something like 3.07 - - I know that the 2.70 final drive is the main reason that I don't use my Eldorado much with the Overlander as its pushing the abilities of the final drive (my notes indicate that Eldorado switched to the 2.70 final drive sometime in '73 from 3.07). Something in the range of 3.73 to 4.10 would increase my comfort level with the Overlander and my Eldoroado.

There isn't anything quite comparable to towing an RV with a convertible in top down form. The experience is much like that illustrated in The Long, Long, Trailer. I towed my first travel trailer (a Nomad 19' Light-Weight Special) many miles behind my '65 Dodge Coronet 500 convertible with the top down. I have attached a photo of my '75 Eldorado towing my '64 Overlander that was taken about two years ago - - I was even lucky enough to find a pair of similar vintage McKesh Mirrors to use when towing with the Cadillac.



Good luck with your investigations!

Kevin
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Old 01-19-2005, 05:39 AM   #6
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Overlander64

There is a lot of good info in your reply being a Caddy guy for 30 years I love your Eldo, Those 472 engines should pull that TT well,Good shocks and brakes and coolers and he will do well,very good advice
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Old 01-19-2005, 06:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AgZep
...By the way, are you fixated with the year 1969 for some reason?
Apparently, there is a crowd of people who enjoy matching the ages of their travel trailers & tow vehicles. I had a parts man at a white box dealership ask me if I planned to do that when I told him I my Airstream was made in 1967.

I kind of thought about it, but dismissed the idea because of how well my '84 Suburban works for our camping trips. While a '67 Suburban would have the same amount of interior room, stock, it would not have the same engine, transmission, and brakes that I currently enjoy.

With two preschoolers, the more interior space the better.

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Old 01-19-2005, 06:21 AM   #8
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We have a 1952 F-1 Ford that you can see in my photos. We bought a 1957 SantaFe, 12 ft. trailer that we are going to trim out in white and banana cream yellow to match the truck. The Ford has the original Flathead V8 now; however, we are currently having a new rear end put in to see if we can make it more fun to drive. Have purchased a Mustang engine to replace the Flathead but my husband can't seem to let the old engine go. We'll see how this works out. Personally, I don't want to get too far from home with this duo. Haven't thought of pulling the 24 ft Argosy behand the "little truck". Any thoughts out there. I know several of you have old, excuse me, classic trucks in your photos. Judy
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Old 01-19-2005, 11:06 AM   #9
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I know the PO of my trailer had a 68 pickup which I believe he bought just to hook up the 68 Caravel and take them to International one year. They have competitions for best 'period' rig - matching years. At least that's what I've heard.

My dream tow car would be a big old t-bird or lincoln convertible. That would totally rock. Can you imagine a cross country trip like that? Unfortunately the years wouldn't match up, as 67 was the last year for the big bad lincoln convertible (with the suicide doors in back), and 66 was the last year for the 'bird. And I guess I'd probably need a loan to pay for all the gas. But it would still be cool. Thanks for that great post, Kevin. Lots of good advice there.
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Old 01-19-2005, 11:35 AM   #10
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Sure! Wally (Founder of Airstream) pulled with his Cadilac.

I plan to pull ours with my 1970 Lemans Sport Convertable when the weather is right.
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Old 01-19-2005, 12:06 PM   #11
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Heck I towed and will tow my 67 Overlander with a 1993 Chevy Caprice. The 305 in it is a beast!! Pulled fine and stoped great. Kevins advice is hard won experance, take what he says for fact.
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Old 01-19-2005, 03:49 PM   #12
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After looking at Kevin's post, I remembered that I did pretty much all the same things to my '61, from the custom welded hitch on up. I replaced all four springs and shocks, and put a much larger alternator in the place of the original lame generator. I just figured out what was the cheapest large capacity generator available at most auto parts stores (it was a Chevy one with a built in voltage regulator), and then got a mount welded up to fit.

It didn't cost me nearly that much to replace my valve seats, but that might be because I was doing a full engine rebuild at the same time.

I actually did nothing to the stock radiator until I started having problems going up grades in the sothwest summer heat. When the coolant got hot, I would pull over for a few minutes, and eventually just avoided towing during the hot part of the day. I ended up just getting the radiator rodded out (does anyone still do that?) which cured my problem completely.

A guy living across the street from me at the time me just gave me a set of towing mirrors for free. They were very helpful.

And I started thinking about the wieght I was towing. The E-Type weighed a little over 2,000 lbs, and the trailer was under 1200. So maybe 3,500 total, vice the 4,000 I posted first. The '61 Caddy is actually the lightest (relatively speaking) car they built in that period, so power was never a problem in any case.

As I said, the brakes were prone to fading on grades. Looking back on it, I was using an early inertial type brake controller. Maybe my brake issues were related to brake voltage limit problems on the trailer itself. It's possible that a modern controller like the BrakeSmart might have prevented that problem as well.

And I had no wieght distribution system on the hitch, which was pretty stupid.
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Old 01-20-2005, 11:17 PM   #13
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Thanks for all the responses to my posting. I appreciate all the advice and encouragement. It has certainly eased my hesitations with respect to using the caddy as a tow vehicle. I will now get under way to upgrade the systems as advised in order to haul my new toy safely. This site has proved very helpful in many other areas also, by allowing me to learn from other individuals' questions and concerns. And I'm sure it will be an invaluable resource in the months and years to come. Thanks again, Jeff.
As for the other questions asked of me: No, I don't have any funky fixation with the year 1969... it's just sort of how it has worked out recently. I do like the cars and stylings of the late 60's in general. I also have a 1968 porsche 912. And like overlander64, my previous car was a 1975 eldorado convertible that unfortunately died a fiery death down near Belize. And previous to that; a 1970 pontiac lemans sport convertible beater (like 59toaster) that had a couple adventures down baja way. When I have time to figure out how to upload photos I'll post a few.... I'll keep the site up to date on my setup as it progresses. Happy travels, Jeff.
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Old 01-21-2005, 11:12 AM   #14
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The set up would not be complete without a Nixon/Agnew bumper sticker.
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