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Old 07-17-2011, 09:40 PM   #1
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1964 22' Safari
Tulsa , Oklahoma
Join Date: Nov 2010
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GMC Conversion Van Test Tow

I've benefited many times from the experiences shared here on the forums, so I want to return the favor.

I'm needing to replace my TV, a 1999 Mercedes 320. Yes, I would not recommend towing an AS with this vehicle but it has done well enough despite being undersized and underpowered.

We have six people - soon four teenagers - in our family and so we need a TV that can comfortably seat 6 and tow our 22ft 64 Safari. The Safari has a listed weight at around 3,500 but I would guest that loaded it's closer to 4,000.

I don't have alot of money so I've been looking at Craiglist offerings. I found a 1994 GMC G1500 Savana conversion van that I'd hoped fit the bill. It was in very good condition, well-maintained. High miles but strong engine. A V-8 but only the 305 version. The towing capacity is listed at 7,000 pounds. As others have indicated, the conversion adds ALOT of weight so the practical pulling capability is pretty low.

The owner was kind enough to let me test the van's capabilities in pulling our AS.

In summary, this particular vehicle is NOT a good choice for pulling a AS of this weight.

It is underpowered. Yes I was able to maneuver the trailer around and it was fine starting off, but the engine lacks the power to get the rig up to an acceptable highway speed. My cruising speed never got beyond 60 mph and getting there required pretty much flooring it.

The size of the van was fine, I could see where a larger engine would be acceptable.

The bumper of this van was particularly low as well, the hitch was only about 14 inches off the ground and then loaded (I don't have a balancing hitch yet) dropped three inches. Yes, helper springs or a airbag system would have helped.

Bottom line, a GMC conversion van with a 305 engine is NOT a good TV, IMO.

The search continues...


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Old 07-17-2011, 10:42 PM   #2
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1966 24' Tradewind
1995 34' Excella
Lynchburg , Virginia
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We towed with a 93 Chevy conversion van with the 350 motor and the power also was not adequate. It only had 195 hp, as I recall, and had the 3.42 axle. I recommend at least a 95 model Chevy van with the 350 motor. It should have about 50 more hp than the 93 model and I would go for a higher rear axle ratio than 3.42 if you can find it. If you can find the right one, I would say the van will be the perfect TV for you because they are very inexpensive and have lots of room. Ours was a conversion van also and supposadly was a 3/4 ton model. Be patient in your search, but wait until you find the right one.

There are also some very good threads on vans as TV on this forum.

Good Luck, Dan

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Old 07-17-2011, 11:03 PM   #3
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Quote; The owner was kind enough to let me test the van's capabilities in pulling our AS.

In summary, this particular vehicle is NOT a good choice for pulling a AS of this weight.

Those were some pretty nice folks to let you hook up your airstream and tug it around with their vehicle. I wouldn't suspect everyone will be so accomodating..
Good report though. The 305 was pretty underpowered compared to todays standards with much less displacement. Keep looking, you will find the right one.

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Old 07-17-2011, 11:25 PM   #4
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1975 31' Sovereign
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I would recommend looking for a ford conversion van with the 5.4 liter v8. My parents have one that seats 7 and tows beautifully as long as your not in a high wind situation. Also, most drop hitches can be turned over to give a rise instead of a drop. We have to do this regularly with any trailer being pulled by the van.
All I need is a some solar panels, and a place to park outside the smog of LA.

1968 Airstream Overlander
1975 Airstream Sovereign
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