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Old 06-07-2009, 09:51 PM   #1
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Can 1982 280 Turbo Diesel tow a minivan?

I am having no luck with searches so I am asking what may have already been answered.

Can a 1982 280 Turbo Diesel with rebuilt engine tow a minivan, precisely either a 2000 Caravan (not Grand) or a 2006 Town N Country and if so, how do we make that happen and how pricey is it?

Also, anyone have a recommendation for service, repair and parts in the Detroit area?

Thanks for any information.
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Old 06-08-2009, 05:35 AM   #2
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I am assuming that you have an Isuzu 6 cyl inline diesel in that unit. I am sure that that engine is NOT capable of pulling a 5-6K pound minivan in addition to the coach and all of your belongings. You can get it hooked up. You can even get on down the road with it but there will be NO performance, no economy, and short engine life. (Contrary to popular belief, diesel are NOT bullet proof)

We have a current 310 owner in the shop with a 130 HP Isuzu Diesel and no parts can be found for it. We quoted him 23K + to retrofit a Cummind 5.9L, Allison 4 speed direct drive transmission, radiator, intercooler, and custom fabricated mounting system, revamped drive shaft, parking brake mount, etc. He decided to go for it.

I am a repower engineer and I saw that there MIGHT be a better way to go about it. For 16K we were able to quote him a heavy duty Chevrolet gas engine with an overdrive transmission, fuel injection, and torque out the whazoo. He likes the price better AND he likes the engineering on the total package.

You MIGHT want to consider this option as a way to go. I am a diesel nut and love to install them into various motorhomes but the numbers do not lie. Not the cost numbers, the performance numbers, or the warranty numbers.

When the project is finished, I will put him onto this site and let him speak for himself.
The loading on this new drive train will be rated at 18,000 GCVW (gross combined vehicle weight)

The Deuceman
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Old 06-08-2009, 08:03 AM   #3
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What Double Duce said; as great a engine as it is, it is underpowered for towing. You can walk faster than the coach when pulling steep grades.
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:34 AM   #4
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I know only that it is a GM Turbo Diesel engine--I think, recently rebuilt to the tune of several thousand dollars so I'd rather know ahead of time not to waste my engine or money or time. We are so ignorant of all things motorhome that I am questioning my sanity. Now to find someone to install some seatbelts in the Detroit area. Thanks very much.
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:02 AM   #5
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Swanky,
Check out Fred's Airstream Archives. They have a lot of information on classic Airstream Motor homes. We've been doing a lot of research lately and found Fred's site very helpful. I wouldn't try to tow much more than a quad or a side-by-side UV on a small trailer with a 280 diesel. In fact I think a bicycle rack and a couple bikes would be the best towed vehicle for the 280 diesel.
-KL
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Old 06-08-2009, 12:16 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swanky View Post
I know only that it is a GM Turbo Diesel engine-- We are so ignorant of all things motorhome that I am questioning my sanity.
It should be a Izuzu diesel, but they had some connection with GM. You can see what mileage I've got on mine; she gets 15mpg and burns no oil. You'll get the hang of it, get out on the road! Feel free to ask any questions. The lack of towing is a minor deal; we rent a car when we stay a while.
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Old 06-08-2009, 01:34 PM   #7
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Thanks, hubby is on his way right now to get a lesson in driving it, get the title, etc! I can't believe it, we own an Airstream!
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Old 06-08-2009, 01:40 PM   #8
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Thanks, hubby is on his way right now to get a lesson in driving it, get the title, etc! I can't believe it, we own an Airstream!
Pictures, please and congratulations!
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:13 PM   #9
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Thanks and I think I posted the pictures the seller provided us. It's a neat motorhome and my husband, who has never driven one, was really surprised at how smooth it was and how well it drove. Once we have someone to install seatbelts we can be on our way. I just want to get in there and clean and personalize. It's not dirty by any means, I would just like to get in there and make it ours. The guy we bought from has done so much to it, his paperwork is a few inches thick and documents everything right down to toilet paper. We are waiting to hear from the mothership in Ohio to see if they can put in the seatbelts. If so, we'll grab the coach and go and just tell the kids to hold on until we get there. It's only about 3 hours from here so I am really hoping they will say yes to the retrofit. No one else is willing so far.
Thanks again for your pre-purchase advice.
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:23 PM   #10
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Where are the pics?
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:54 PM   #11
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Our new 28 foot baby

Hmm, good question. I think under the "Photos" area, then something like Members Photos, but now I can't find that. I will post some in my reply if I can figure that out.
I think I did it. Isn't she lovely?
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:10 PM   #12
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Nice.........looks in great shape. That is the perfect mo/ho for smaller campgrounds; we had one and miss it.
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:19 PM   #13
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Two adults, four kids=tight but happy I hope

We are very excited to get going. Few more days of school, some more training on the rig, need to name him/her, seatbelts, maybe get the stripes replaced and we're good to go. Is it pricey to replace those colored stripes on the coach? I am hoping Airstream home base in Ohio will take good care of us and get us what we need. I'll let you know.
Thanks for your support.
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Old 06-09-2009, 03:45 AM   #14
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<<We are very excited to get going.>>

You have a VERY nice piece of equipment there swanky. But I want to WARN you of a common pitfall that many new motor home owners have fallen prey to, complacency.

There seems to be two areas that this complacency falls into, vehicle speed and understanding your equipment. Most people who are purchasing a motor home for the first time believe that its' operation is on the order of their car or SUV. NOT A CHANCE.

You are operating a hybrid design of a vehicle. (don't get all excited, it AIN'T like a Prius). By hybrid design I mean that the chassis-frame, tires, brakes, engine, transmission, etc are built to the arbitrary needs of a light duty truck while the body (Airstream) is built to another set of arbitrary standards. By NO MEANS do the two manufacturing entities ever get together for a brat and a beer to discuss how best to deal with each others problems. As such, you have two different kinds of manufactured products and no real commiserating between the manufacturers.

As an example, look under the "hood" (called a doghouse) and try to figure out HOW to take the engine out of the vehicle. It won't come out the doors (you ain't got none) It won't come out the side door as you cannot get it up onto the vehicle floor level. And it WON'T go out the front of the vehicle without DESTROYING the front cowl support. As you can see, a major issue of service has been overlooked by both of the manufacturers, especially Airstream.

Look also at the WIDTH of your new coach. Then look at the width of the chassis that it sits on. The relative numbers are 36" frame and 7' wide body. This leaves almost 2' of overhang on either side for the coach to lean on hard curves or in sharp evasive turns. If the coach does NOT turn over during one of the conditions, it will surely lurch out of control and possibly send you into a ditch or the other lane of traffic. The chassis is essentially a glorified 1Ton pickup chassis with a 1Ton rating (GVW 14,000lbs)

SO! Make CERTAIN that you keep the vehicle speed UNDER CONTROL at all times. NO tailgating and no high speed drafting -ala NASCAR. Also, it is particularly important that the brakes be looked at, inspected, and passed upon BEFORE you go out on your first big journey. This can be done by any competent truck or RV service facility. DO NOT let your brother in-law who is good with a lug wrench NEAR it. You want a PROFESSIONAL, unbiased, and focused opinion on their condition. This particular machine has disc brakes on the front and 3 1/2 drum brakes on the rear. The rear brakes are designed to participate in over 60% of the braking force of the vehicle. Therefore, KNOW their condition. Ask the shop to let you SEE them and give you his opinion of them while you are looking at them. Understand them. Know what is riding between you and good road safety.

The next issue is not as important as brake safety and speed considerations but it CAN ruin your day...for many days to come. Again, you are NOT driving your car OR your SUV. One of the major differences in the two its the amount of driving time each vehicle gets in a years time. The SUV is driven EVERY day. AND it is driven generally in a local area. If a flat were to occur or even a water leak, you are always with in phone reach of someone you can trust to get you out of a pickle.

On the road with a motor home it is NOT THE SAME THING. The MH is NOT driven regularly. As such, it is subject to the laws of entropy. (you MAY want to look that word up) . The engine seals get dry, the brake system gets rusty, the linkage get bound up from rust, hoses dry up and crack. Liquids deteriorate. And the kids will stick bubble gum under the dining table when they play in it.

What to do? Well, you need to become a professional trucker. One of the REQUIREMENT of a professional trucker is that he inspect his rig BEFORE EVERY MORNINGS run. IT'S THE LAW. Now, you are not under such demands...but if you are smart you will submit to this requirement.

EVERY Morning, regardless or where you are at, if you are ready to leave the campsite or home, you MUST check the engine oil, coolant level in the radiator, look UNDER the coach for ANY signs of leaks, loose or damaged parts. Check all of the coaches exterior storage panels for security. Take down all awjnings, antenna, BB que grills etc. Be sure to retract the door entrance step if so equipped. The wiper fluid level should be topped off. Tire pressure should be CHECKED and adjusted before taking off. Remember the admonition about speed? Well, if the tires are under inflated and you get into a steering contest, the coach WILL roll over. Never run the rear duals with one tire flat or low on air. The second tire is not there as a backup, but rather is needed to carry the extra load of the vehicle. Also, do not run the rear duals with one tire of different height than the other. This puts an unnecessary and dangerous load onto the taller tire and will cause it to wear prematurely or fail prematurely.

The coach is new to you so you will need to get to know its idiosyncrasies. All noises are not bad ones but ALL noises should be understood by you. Listen carefully and learn as quickly as possible what is normal in the coach and how it reacts to turning, braking, starting, running ect. The QUICKER you get to know its particular habits the quicker you will be able to hear, see, or smell something if it goes wrong. Be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN thatthe parking brake is OFF before you leave the parking space. Untold damge and lose have accrued to thousands of motorhomes because the driver took off with the brake on. I purchased at auction, a BRAND NEW 1998 Bluebird Wanderlodge that had burnt 70 miles from the factory pickup point due to the driver not realizing that the air brakes had not been realeased. The 350 HP diesel engine was MORE than powerful wnough to propel the coach down the road with the binders on. Unfortunately, once the drams reached 1200 degrees the tires caught fire and than blew out. And THIS was a professional driveaway driver delivering the coach to its new owner. When I got the coach to my yard some 3 months after the accident, there in the luggage rack still sealed up, was the custom floor coverings and uhpolstry material the owner had picked out for the coach to be decorated with at the post production coach outfitter. She never got to see it.

The usual methodology of how a coach fails goes like this. You are out in the middle of nowhere and you may even be a bit behind schedule, needing to make a campground or motel by a certain hour. You start pushing the vehicle. Soon, without warning, the engine develops a water leak or an oil leak or looses oil pressure. If you are AWARE of the sounds and smells of the coach you will know INSTANTLY that something is wrong. PULL OVER AND CHECK IT OUT. To continue to operate the vehicle will cause destruction of something and in some cases total destruction of the unit by fire.

And DO NOT Waffle House the coach. Waffle Housing is when you THINK you hear or smell something and you decide to get to the next exit and pull into the Waffle House to check it out. By THEN, it could be too late.

I have a fairly decent motor home business (it is NOT my specialty) and many of them are victims of a destroyed engine, transmission, rear axle, or damaged brakes. By the time the wrecker operator has pulled them into my yard, they need to contact their stock broker before we can talk about a repair. I make money off off vehicle repairs. I am JUST as happy to do preventative repairs are breakdown repairs. But somehow, the customers are never quite as happy as I am about breakdown repairs.

One last thing. KNOW the dashboard layout. Know what EACH gauge IS and what it means. Know what is a NORMAL gauge reading and what is not....and WHY. 180 degrees on the water temp gauge is fine. 200 degrees is 'acceptable'. But a gauge that is constantly rising when you accelerate or while going up a hill is trouble. Find out WHAT is wrong. Part of your drive cycle involves looking out ahead for traffic and route directions but an intrinsic part of your observations must be a measured scan across the gauges at regular intervals, at least once every 30 seconds.

I know you want to get out onto the open road and have some fun with your new coach. I want you to have fun too. But it will be no fun if you meet up with a problem and one that you could well have avoided if you had only known about certain things in advance. Practice Safe RV'ing. Most of the people on this site are veteran RV operators. Some can regale stories of what I speak. But as members of the Airstream club most of them are cheerleaders for RV'ing and the brand. I myself have a 35ft Flxible Two Level coach. But as a mechanical shop operator and engineer, I must take a more circumspect route to RV'ing, the practical route.

If you go out ad have fun and never have a moments’ problem, I will be happy for you. Surprised, but happy never the less. Now go make that Airstream "yours".

PS, Can you lift the doghouse up and give us a picture of the engine? This way we will know FOR SURE what it is you have.

The Deuceman
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