Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 10-13-2011, 04:19 PM   #1
Rivet Master
Commercial Member
bredlo's Avatar
1954 22' Safari
Deerfield , Illinois
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,404
Images: 23
Send a message via AIM to bredlo
Help me imagine the ULTIMATE vintage tow vehicle

Seeing recent threads about custom Suburbans with Duramaxes and Allison transmissions, it led me to wonder how my fellow Airstreamers would design the perfect vintage tow vehicle... from scratch.

My dream is to combine my favorite era Surubran body... with the best of what's available today; in other words, a 50's exterior with modern guts. The main goals would be:

- a 1955-1959 Suburban body,
- the safety, (ABS, some airbags, etc.) and comfort we all love on road trips,
- the familiarity and easy to find parts of a modern drivetrain for mechanics to work on
- plenty of power to tow a 22', 3-4000 lb. trailer
- a practical, everyday driver with today's MPGs.

Craigslist is full of old Burb bodies for $1500 - $3000... as well as used similar wheelbase vehicles to mate them with (early 2000's Tahoes, Silverados in the $10K-$15K range).

So, how would you achieve it? Just swap the bodies themselves? Incorporate all new elements bit by bit, into the oldie? Gas or diesel? 2x4 or 4x4? New dashboard trimmed to fit the old windshield? I'd love to hear your ideas on what would and wouldn't be a practical way to achieve this.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Views:	149
Size:	364.7 KB
ID:	142567  

bredlo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-13-2011, 05:46 PM   #2
Rivet Master
mutcth's Avatar

2007 23' Safari SE
Central , Connecticut
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,621
A few odds and ends:

You should basically forget about airbags - they really won't be optimized for the structure (or lack thereof) in the older vehicle, and it's not something you want to mess with.

The other thing you won't get is stability control, because it would be a major engineering effort to calibrate it to the different chassis. (The generation of Tahoe you show doesn't have it either, but it is a feature of modern tow vehicles that is very, very desirable.) ABS is more doable.


mutcth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-13-2011, 05:54 PM   #3
Rivet Master
Splitrock's Avatar
Currently Looking...
Sioux Falls , South Dakota
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 2,395
Blog Entries: 20
Click on the link to see a picture of the Sioux River falls near my home.
Eastern South Dakota is very pretty with hills, rivers, and trees.
Splitrock is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-13-2011, 09:45 PM   #4
4 Rivet Member
phbarnhart's Avatar
2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Eugene , Oregon
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 411
Images: 14
Mine would essentially be the Duraburb Tow Pro. Basically, they take the power train from a Duramax/Allison pickup and put them in a 3/4ton Suburban.
phbarnhart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-14-2011, 01:19 AM   #5
Vintage Kin
slowmover's Avatar
Corpus Christi , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 6,295
Images: 1
One is not ever going to have good crash protection in an oldie. Adding a roll-cage, etc, won't make up for it. Three-point seatbelts with reinforced mounts are about it along that line. Not trying to rain on the parade, at all, just being "realistic". Best brakes and handling is where that is at, IMO. There's just no way to engineer "crumple zones" into a vehicle that never had them.

To help you imagine the ULTIMATE vintage tow vehicle I know my own. The vintage TV I would best enjoy would be a modified 1967 Imperial . . but the ultimate would be a DeSoto Suburban

and to do what you propose: perhaps a Cummins 4bt; more realistically a well-warmed V8-383; on a current truck frame to which the old body is adapted and changes made to retain a vintage appearance with up-to-date performance, (such as fully independent suspension and big 4-whl discs). Manual trans and seats that fold out into beds like the original could. A daytripper, not just a TV. And a custom rivetted aluminum roof carrier that complimented the trailer, and a paint job that paid homage to both the car and the trailer. Etc.

But it would be a toy, not a DD; a rolling avatar from The Paradise of Happy Motoring.

Your final sentence includes the word "practical", and I do not find that "ultimate" and "practical" to be together in the same room, much less to dovetail. My daydream TV would cost more than a 2012 top dollar 1T, easily.

"Ultimate" means ignoring time and dollars, no way around it. "Practical" means on-time and under-budget. What you propose will be neither. Better definitions are needed. My last old car (30+ years) was also my daily driver. Just making it new again, and making the relatively minor changes to live in todays traffic was a continual process.

I couldn't sleep tonight so am also reading a thread on restoring a 1970 Ford F250 crew cab with a Cummins 4bt in place of the old V8-390, here. This sort of thing is not for the faint of heart, and yet this one is relatively easy compared to many others I've seen. But a lot of $$ no matter how you cut it.

Luckily, there are quite a few around here with vintage TV's who'll be along to offer their experience. I do think your trailer is an ideal size (glad it is no bigger, and yet it isn't a beer cooler sized Bambi, either). I look forward to seeing how this comes along.

1990 35' Silver Streak Sterling; 9k GVWR.
2004 DODGE Cummins 305/555; 6-manual; 9k GVWR.
Hensley Arrow. 10-cpm solo, 18-cpm towing
Sold: Silver Streak Model 3411
slowmover is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-14-2011, 09:21 AM   #6
Rivet Master
Commercial Member
bredlo's Avatar
1954 22' Safari
Deerfield , Illinois
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,404
Images: 23
Send a message via AIM to bredlo
Good points, Mutcth. Beyond the side curtain airbags, I figured you could keep the dash / steering column ones if everything in the cabin inside the windshield was modern vehicle, but you may be right and are absolutely correct about stability control - hadn't thought of that.

Rednax - thx for weighing in. I agree, I didn't phrase the original post as I should've. Ultimate throws all else out the window... I guess I meant ultimate balance of looks, practicality, safety, maintenance and cost. Difficult, but there's probably a sweet spot in there somewhere. Thx for the links, too.

Phbarnhart - the Duraburb thread is what sparked my question, actually. The notion of a dynamite tow vehicle in the shell of something unusual, unique, etc. is what's so attractive to me.

Splitrock - if you're suggesting my plan will wind up putting me 6 feet under... message received.
bredlo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-14-2011, 09:34 AM   #7

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 10,802
Images: 1
Thumbs up

Rob's got a nice one, Suburbick.

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?
ROBERT CROSS is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-14-2011, 09:52 AM   #8
Rivet Master
mandolindave's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2,086
Images: 4
My ultimate doesn't exist

I think it would be nice to have a custom scaled down Peterbuilt put on a Chevy 3500 frame. A sleeper compartment on the back. With a horn that could take the chrome off of a SOB Motorhome bumper at 100 yards. Just saying'.

mandolindave is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Vintage Tow Vehicle - 1960 F100 panel Nashville Tow Vehicles 3 09-17-2011 01:35 AM
Tow Vehicle for 27' Overlander pyrenees Tow Vehicles 9 05-06-2011 08:18 PM
The ultimate tow vehicle! I found it! brad1 Tow Vehicles 8 03-21-2011 07:47 PM

Virginia Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

Copyright 2002-2015 Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:38 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

Airstream is a registered trademark of Airstream Inc. All rights reserved. Airstream trademark used under license to Social Knowledge LLC.