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Old 01-20-2010, 03:36 PM   #1
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1972 Argosy 20
Austin , Texas
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Talking Argosy Minuet and Highlander/XC90 V8?

I grew up vacationing with my Grandparents in their Airstream. Before I was born they caravaned a few times to Mexico and Canada.
Needless to say I have wanted an Airstream for SOME TIME now. My husband and I now have an 11 month old and I've decided I would like to have a camper by the time he hits 2 so we can all enjoy it. Since I have a small child, I'm in the market for something that is pretty much camping ready and doesn't need much work at all. I'm also on a budget so a new Airstream is out of the question. But I don't repeat DON'T want a restoration project (maybe later :-) ).

I have poured over the forums for quite some time. I've had my eye on a few possible purchases on ebay/craigslist. I've narrowed it down to
a)a late 70's Argosy Minuet
b)a 90's-2000's 16' - 19' Bambi/Safari if I found a GREAT deal
c)a non-airstream trailer that could be towed with a non-gas guzzler. Not my favorite option.

I'm also driving a 12 year old Subaru wagon so my next car purchase will also be the Tow Vehicle. We live in an urban area so we have room for 2 cars and a small camper but not much more than that.

My priorities are:
1)Safety of family on trips
2)Since the tow vehicle will also be my primary vehicle, I'd like something smaller than the Suburban/Tahoe route.
I've been looking at used Toyota Highlanders, Volvo XC90's or Touraeg's.

Is it safe to tow a 20' Argosy with any of the above vehicles? I recently looked at a '76 Argosy with a listed dry weight of 2880 and hitch weight of 470. I have to admit, I've read the forums, understand the 80% rule, but I don't understand the hitch weight.

Also, are there any materials like asbestos used in these older model trailers or other safety concerns?

Please hit me with any/all opinions!
Thanks in advance,

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Old 01-20-2010, 04:03 PM   #2
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Hi KStone

Being an ex-factory fella stick with a Toyota product for reliability. The hitch weight is the weight that the ball will carry and most trailers will give an empty weight for the tongue (470 for the Argosy). Add the propane weight 40 or 60lbs and any mods someone has made (spare tire?) and concider when adding water and any stuff under dinette or couch storage and it can add up. The tricky part is when weight is added over a foot away from the point it actually lessens. example 100lbs 2 feet away is only 50lbs so filling a water tank 3 feet back at 20 gallons and 8.3 lbs per gallon will add 55 lbs to the tongue and that's why they make weight distribution hitches to distribute the weight (cantilever) to the frame and vehicle chassis making it ride level. There should be a tongue weight sticker and a WD allowable like 500lbs and 750lbs with a WD hitch. Don't forget the WD hitch attachment and bars add weight as well. In a nutshell it's a balancing act between the trailer axle and ball but you want at least 10% on the ball for stability, make sense? I'm not sure about the Highlander tow/ball capability but your dealer can confirm what's recommended.

Good luck on your hunt your in the right ballpark.

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Old 01-20-2010, 04:29 PM   #3
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Tongue Weight on Highlander

The tongue weight is rated at 500 max on Toyota's website for the Highlander(non-Hybrid). Thanks for your detailed explanation of hitch weight. I'll have to read it a few times to really digest it. Is there an 80% rule on hitch weight as well? or does that mainly apply to the Weight of loaded TV/Towing Capacity of TV?
Thanks again!
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Old 01-20-2010, 04:43 PM   #4
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short cake...

based on the 3 potential multi purpose tow mules U have listed...

the t-rex is the best choice, hands down.

it is NOT the most fuel efficient and v'dubs are not the most trouble free rides...

but it has the highest tow rating and receiver/hitch rating, and payload by FAR, for vehicles in that general size/class.

they are solid, drive nicely, have exceptional fit/finish interiors and the best awd system of the 3 listed.

mostly the trex comes WELL equipped but full 4 point auto leveling suspension vs the BASE suspension is something to sort out.

it will clearly handle ALL of the streams on your current list and even some larger/newer units.

search the "t" model name here and many threads will pop up.

also NOTE, that this forum has a sibling forum JUST FOR THE T-rex (see the bottom of this page)

with members who cross post to both communities...

the 'safety' issue is broad, open to interpretation and so on...

but as a general concept, ALL older trailers need the brakes/wheel bearings serviced or updated

and the axles inspected (perhaps replaced) for safe towing, unless a previous owner has addressed this properly.

most will need NEW tires and lots of other basic things inspected, serviced, repaired or replaced to cover ALL of the safety issues...

furnace may need replaced (as an example) and even the FRESH water tank may pose 'safety' issues...

think old house and the spectrum of issues, now add WHEELS and self contained systems to the mix.

have fun reading ALL of this stuff is covered in great detail in the archives here.

all of the true things that i am about to tell you are shameless lies. l.b.j.

we are here on earth to fart around. don't let anybody tell you any different. k.v.
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Old 01-20-2010, 04:58 PM   #5
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The Highlander looks much like the 4Runner but it is not for towing. The 4Runner is build on the Tacoma chassis whereas the Highlander is built on the Camry chassis which makes it more like a car than a truck. I had a 4Runner with the V8 and it was rated to tow 7500 lbs. I can't remember the hitch weight limit though. I pulled an SOB with a gross weight of 5000 pounds without a problem.

The VW is a very good SUV but when compared to the 4Runner it is quite a bit more expensive.

Good luck.
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Old 01-20-2010, 05:00 PM   #6
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If you are on a budget, stay away from VW and Volvo (reliability/repair$). Find the trailer first, then a tow vehicle that can safely handle it. Much info in this forum, or just ask for help here. Then learn, and then practice safe towing habits.

The small Airstreams are terrific and will be all you will ever need for weekends and vacations.
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Old 01-20-2010, 08:07 PM   #7
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Argosy Minuets

Minuets are narrower than the standard Argosy trailers from the 70's. By about 6in. They are very much lighter in weight than any other AS trailer too. Some Minuets even have aluminum floors. And there is little wood inside as far as cabinetry. They are easy to tow since they are so light in weight. We tow ours with a 95 Caprice Chevy and a 92 Chevy Caprice stationwagon. Minuets are a good choice if you want small and lightweight. Look at a bunch of trailers...maybe attend a forums rally that is going on near you. Rallies usually involve an open house. Most of us don't need much prompting to show off our AS rigs. Take time to look at lots of different kinds and floorplans and see what will fit your family and lifestyle, and also ask lots of questions about what folks are towing with. Everyone has an opinion.
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Old 01-21-2010, 06:58 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by aftermath View Post

The Highlander looks much like the 4Runner but it is not for towing. The 4Runner is build on the Tacoma chassis whereas the Highlander is built on the Camry chassis which makes it more like a car than a truck.
Not sure if the vehicles historical branding is an indicator of towing performance.

My Pal towed a small SOB with a car based, Nissan Van and it worked very well. He wanted more power for those occasions when towing into head winds and ended up with a V8 4 Runner.
He was never happy with the over all feel of this set up quickly traded the 4 Runner for a newish, Camry based Sienna. He is now very happy with the overall performance of this current set up.
Airstreams..... The best towing trailers on the planet!
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Old 01-21-2010, 08:43 AM   #9
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Minuet + Odyssey = happy owner

We have a 77 Argosy Minuet that we tow with our 2005 Honda Odyssey. This combination tows very well. We had the hitch reinforced by CanAm RV in Ontario and the van is equipped with auxiliary transmission and steering coolers as well as a weight-distribution hitch and friction sway control.

I hate the cliche "It tows like there isn't anything behind you" but, except for climbing steep hills, it does. Even on hills, the van can maintain the speed limit without much trouble. I've seen 15 mpg out of the combination on some trips. It is very stable, even when I've had to swerve (not a common occurrence, thankfully.)

There are some specific reasons why I really like this combination. The van (a Sienna would provide the same thing) has a long wheelbase and is pretty heavy (4600 lbs), which aids towing stability. Having all of the room inside the van is great for camping; we usually throw our whitewater kayaks and mountain bikes inside. I've driven a lot of cars, and I find the Odyssey to be very comfortable and even enjoyable to drive. (The Sienna is quieter, the Odyssey has more sporty handling.)

The Minuet is also a very clever trailer design. The narrow body means I don't need extension mirrors. I can see straight through the trailer when towing to see traffic behind me. The trailer has lots of windows, especially that front panaromic wrap window, and tons of countertop and storage space.

Like you, we looked at a 16-19 Bambi. Before 2004, 16' Bambis are very scarce (something like 16 were made). I found one, but the floor had rotted. That floorplan only has one small bed. A 19' Bambi has a better floorplan and is more common, but we dislike the bed in the corner. After looking at a bunch of trailers, including vintage Caravels and Globetrotters, we just really liked the space and towability of a 20-21 foot trailer.

Take a look at the Argosy section of the forums here. Several owners tow their Minuets with Honda Pilots. The Odyssey/Sienna is a more stable towing platform than the Pilot/Highlander, but if you're wedded to an SUV, they do work. (One owner tows the Minuet with his Jeep Wrangler!)

I wouldn't touch a Touareg with a 10 foot pole. They are really unreliable - I've had experience with major component problems on a late model Treg. A XC90 is better. I'd consider a Saturn Outlook/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse or a Ford Taurus X or Flex as well.

If you look around and are patient, you can find a Minuet that doesn't need that much work. We took a few months to find ours, but it is in great shape.

Most 77 and 78 20' Minuets have an aluminum/styrofoam composite floor that can't rot, a big plus for an old trailer. They can get ruts through from foot traffic, so check that the floor feels even - a laminate floor helps spread the load.

One more thing - don't rule out a 60s trailer that has been restored. We looked at a lovely 67 Globetrotter for $12k that would have been a good trailer for us.

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Old 01-21-2010, 10:26 PM   #10
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Here may be the best way to understand weights.
The max hitch weight is without anything added just hooked up to the hitch ball but you will need an anti-sway setup, I use Reese dual cam and then the system offsets higher weight, must be a class 111 or 1V hitch though.

9500 total tow vehicle capacity, all vehicles list their top weight restriction (MAX)

4300 dry weight of vehicle, that's empty, no fuel, no folks, no stuff.
375 two people average
90 fuel at 6 lbs per gallon
125 normal stuff in vehicle
4890 real vehicle weight

so you can tow a 4610 lb trailer max loaded, water food, clothes, etc.

Now if you want to use the 80% rule to enjoy the tow it can only be 3610 max trailer weight like an Argosy 22 , 20 or Bambi 19. I am at the 85% mark but mostly tow on the East Coast. Want a bigger trailer means you need a bigger tow vehicle like a Ford Expedition with a 5.7 V8 and tow package, or a F250, GMC 2500 truck or larger. Beware just adding a hitch to a bigger vehicle, doesn't work unless other things are modified.
Don't hesitate to ask questions, everyone started somewhere.

Happy hunting
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Old 01-21-2010, 10:41 PM   #11
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while the max towing rating/capacity is typically REDUCED by cargo, people, fuel, accessories and so on, on MOST vehicles...

that rule does NOT apply to the t'rex (or it's siblings from audi and porsche)

the towing rating/capacity (~7700 lbs) remains the SAME regardless of stuff in the vehicle...

look it up.

the curb weight for a t'rex is typically around 4800 lbs, with a payload of 1400-1500 lbs...

so the COMBINED capacity (gcvwr) is ~14,000 lbs, which is pretty impressive.

compared to some of the burbs n yuks these figures actually EXCEED the towing capacity of these full size suvz by a good margin.

that why the t'rex is SO MUCH MORE capable of towing than the other 2 choices from the o.p.

and most of the others suggested in these replies.

they don't have a trailer yet and i agree it's better to find the trailer FIRST...

but folks do UPsize regularly and the t'rex can handle UP to a 25 in totally modern trim.

the 2 most important figures to know about the t.v. are PAYLOAD and GCWR.

towing capacity is a derivative of these 2 things, minus curb weight, approximately.

all of the true things that i am about to tell you are shameless lies. l.b.j.

we are here on earth to fart around. don't let anybody tell you any different. k.v.
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Old 04-30-2010, 04:52 PM   #12
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I took the plunge! I bought an 1972 Argosy 20' with a weight of 2880. Now another year or so to save up for two vehicle! In the meantime my relatives have offered to lend us their trucks here and there. For an Argosy with one axle is a simple hitch hookup okay for the "now and then" trips to the state parks or do we need the weight distributing hitches?

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argosy, safety, tow

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