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Old 04-04-2007, 03:57 PM   #1
rec
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Looking at Hybrid and Vintage Tow Vehicles

We are looking to buy a 27-31 foot airstream for full-time living and traveling across the US -- but we're having a hard time determining what kind of tow vehicle to get. We have 3 options (listed in order of preference):

- we currently have a 2001 Jeep Cherokee with rear-wheel drive and about 95,000 miles on it -- I understand that you can get a factory-installed towing package that includes a serious hitch with some kind of stabilizer, and an extra transmission cooler -- but I'm still not clear on whether this would be strong enough to pull this size trailer

- I would love to get a "vintage" sedan to pull my vintage trailer -- an old station wagon or sedan from one of the eras when they really made the things with steel and they had some powerful V8 engines in them -- maybe an old station wagon -- you always see pictures of these Ford Woody's pulling the old airstreams -- and I know people buy these cars and have the engine completely rebuilt, but they usually aren't planning to drag their home around the country with it, either -- my concerns are that the gas mileage would be way worse than a newer vehicle, and that we would spend all our money on repairs and maintenance (and with some of these older cars, the parts might be hard to find)

- finally, we've thought about getting a newer hybrid SUV for the gas mileage -- but again, does anyone know if they have the towing capacity? -- I've also heard people talk about diesel SUVs being a good choice -- but I don't have a clue

thanks for all your help!
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Old 04-04-2007, 04:10 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by rec
We are looking to buy a 27-31 foot airstream for full-time living and traveling across the US -- but we're having a hard time determining what kind of tow vehicle to get. We have 3 options (listed in order of preference):

- we currently have a 2001 Jeep Cherokee with rear-wheel drive and about 95,000 miles on it -- I understand that you can get a factory-installed towing package that includes a serious hitch with some kind of stabilizer, and an extra transmission cooler -- but I'm still not clear on whether this would be strong enough to pull this size trailer

- I would love to get a "vintage" sedan to pull my vintage trailer -- an old station wagon or sedan from one of the eras when they really made the things with steel and they had some powerful V8 engines in them -- maybe an old station wagon -- you always see pictures of these Ford Woody's pulling the old airstreams -- and I know people buy these cars and have the engine completely rebuilt, but they usually aren't planning to drag their home around the country with it, either -- my concerns are that the gas mileage would be way worse than a newer vehicle, and that we would spend all our money on repairs and maintenance (and with some of these older cars, the parts might be hard to find)

- finally, we've thought about getting a newer hybrid SUV for the gas mileage -- but again, does anyone know if they have the towing capacity? -- I've also heard people talk about diesel SUVs being a good choice -- but I don't have a clue

thanks for all your help!
A "long" wheel base tow vehicle is necessary for towing a 27 to 31 foot Airstream.

A short wheel base will be like the "tail wagging the dog."

Hybrids, are way to weak, nor do they have the towing capacity.

A 1/2 ton truck with a good engine is fine, or a Suburban. SUV's are all short wheel based, and make a poor tow vehicle for a large trailer, evn with a good load equalizing hitch.

Safety, safety, is the issue. Skirting it, usually winds up as a statistic.

Andy
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Old 04-04-2007, 04:14 PM   #3
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Welcome and greetings to the forum. You are going to be making lots of wonderful friends here and there is a wealth of information for you too. There have been many threads on towing. you can do a search using the tool above or go through the subject listings. As for a tow vehicle, a 31' AS comes in at 10,000# so none of your three choices would be up to the job, especially if you are going to go full time. My feeling is that you will need nothing less than a 2500 SUV or truck. Go to Airstreams site for the specs on each AS available then start looking into TV capacities. Again welcome to the forum and keep us posted!
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Old 04-04-2007, 04:32 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by rickandsandi
... As for a tow vehicle, a 31' AS comes in at 10,000#
I think ours was weighed at 7400 or something. The older trailers seem better thought out in this respect. More "go" and less "show." Previous owner towed it with a late 70's Oldsmobile, then a series of 1/2 ton Suburbans. By that, I mean you don't actually need a 3/4 or 1 ton truck.

Not saying I'd do the Olds thing, but he put around 60k uneventful miles on the trailer.

GM made a 1/2 ton hybrid for a year or two. It might work...
You could look for a mid-90's Dodge/Cummins. Decent fuel economy, overkill, and still sort of vintage-ish.
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Old 04-04-2007, 11:43 PM   #5
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My buddy pulled his 23' trailer with his '66 Impala station wagon with absolutely no problems. With the large engine and overdrive transmission it did the job just fine but he's decided it is just too new for him and he's selling it (it's a beauty) and he's sticking with his other two cars, a 35 Ford 4 door that's hotrodded and he also has a '54 Ford station wagon he's upgrading to pull a 22' Airstream (fifties version) when he finds the right one. I pull a 21' Airstream although it's a very early trailer and quite light in comparison to the newer ones, with my '57 Pontiac wagon. We have upgraded these cars with late model disc brakes and the '54, '66 and my '57 also have late model suspensions and are like new in that regards. As Andy points out, Safety First!

There, whew, with that all said as an introduction, many people in the sixties and seventies pulled long trailers (in our minds 25' and bigger or over 3,400lbs) with their cars without problems and put tens of thousands of miles on them towing happily all over the world. However at today's speeds and with the significantly increased volume of traffic (including the big trucks) as well as the noticeable and growing lack of courtesy on the road today versus 20 years ago,having a vehicle with the latest in braking technology and suspension would be the preferred option. Our vintage TV's work just fine and we have never had any concerns, and we travel with a large group of fellow campers with very vintage tow vehicles but every one of these has been significantly upgraded to close to new technology standards - in most cases equivalent to an early 90's car.

If you do decide to go this route you want to get one that's got sufficient weight to handle a trailer of the size you acquire and I suspect with the 31' trailer you should be looking at a half ton at least. Now a late sixties or early seventies half ton with a swack of options (there weren't as many loaded back then as they are today) would make a great TV. It may require conversion to disc brakes if it didn't come that way but that is not that big a deal, and by then people were starting to order them with A/C, power windows and locks, and carpet on the floor and padded headliners.

Good luck with your decision. If you come up with any ideas you want to bounce off the group there are a lot of folks on here who use vintage TV's and are loving the combination.

Barry
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Old 04-05-2007, 07:22 AM   #6
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Just returned from the Good Guys car show in Del Mar. There were several vintage Suburbans in the car corral for sale. Pick up a Car Trader featuring Hot Rods and check out the station wagons with big engines, transmissions, four wheel disc brakes, vintage air, state of the art sound systems, leather interiors and so on. Prices are right and it's like buying a new car with plenty of power and creature comforts!
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Old 04-05-2007, 07:56 AM   #7
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Hey "rec"...

Just thought I'd throw in my two cents worth here....

Firstly you should utilize the awesome "search" button feature here on the forum, and type in "Vintage Tow Vehicles" and also "60s and 70s Stationwagons".... we had quite a nice long informative thread on both subjects, just a couple months back....great input and awesome pix of some very cool rides!!! You'll get a kick out of reading some of these stories.

There are more than a few of us who use vintage tow vehicles to tow our Airstreams, and I will say that there is nothing cooler than an old Airstream being pulled by a cool ol' retro ride, and yes, i will concur, the old Ford and Merc Woody Wagons of the 60s RULE !!!!!

Andy is most correct in saying "wheelbase is king"..... your Grand Cherokee is seriously NOT what you want to use to pull your 'stream..... unless it is a vintage Bambi or Wee Wind.

And regarding the hybrid...gee, I don't really think you would ever see an instance when the vehicle would ever run on it's battery power, cuz it surely would not be coasting too much of the time with the weight and wind resistance factor..... and for the added cost in sticker price at the outlay, I don't think it would be a wise investment, and I don't believe anyone makes a hybrid in the medium to heavy duty towing range anyways....

So, now to the fun part..... I dunno if you are familiar with Hemmings Motor News or not, but with this avenue, and also ebay, you would be surprised what pops up sometimes in regards to vintage woody wagons..... mind you i have seen a few very sweet Ford Country Squires in the mid 60s go for some healthy bux, but indeed these are usually low mileage original very cherry cars.... Even to pay $8 to $10k ...... jeez....what new vehicle can u buy for that much?? You couldn't get 1/4 the fun for four times the price anywhere!!!!

Back when i was a kid traveling with my Grandparents in their Airstream (from 1969 to 1976) nearly 90+ % of the folx used large cars to tow their Airstreams.... the vehicle of choice was the large Ford, Chevy, Buick, Lincoln, Caddy or Imperial. With the largest engine, and heavy tow package from the factory, seriously now, these cars were built for some serious hauling.... Only a select few back then used trucks, it actually seemed the LARGE tow vehicle of choice back in those days was the International Travelall.... What a barge.....and BUFUGLY too!!!!!

Me, I have a 1977 Lincoln Town Car (last of the dinosaurs) and it is equipped with the 460 4 bbl V8. Huge frame, long wheelbase, tons of power and torque. In essence, this luxo-barge is really no different form a 3/4 ton F-250 with the exception that it is a little lower to the ground. I could prolly outperform a new F 250 in a pullout and in the hills any day of the week with my 460 with the Holley 650 carb. These cars in particular are really a dime a dozen on ebay, and it is quite the best kept secret..... Another forum member here...."wkerfoot" in CA has the identical car to mine, and LOVES it.

But you're right, in regards to the purchase of a vintage tow vehicle, you wanna be sure you are not buying a big ol high mileage rusty, or bondo'd up pile of grief that is gonna leave you high and dry on the side of the road. Don't be afraid to pay fair market value for sumthing that is really nice, and you will most likely hafta outfit it yourself for towing a heavy trailer, with brake controller, trans cooler, maybe a larger rad, WD hitch, etc....but all this is cheap and available, and a steal, compared to paying $45k for a new Diesel F-Super Duty that lost 25% of it's value when you hit the first stop light after leaving the Ford Dealership.

Here are a few teaser pix from my own private collection....for your enjoyment.!!

Feel free to write back if any questions or comments.....

Scott
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Old 04-05-2007, 10:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rec
We are looking to buy a 27-31 foot [vintage] airstream...we've thought about getting a newer hybrid SUV for the gas mileage...I've also heard people talk about diesel SUVs being a good choice
You don't say how vintage an airstream you are thinking of buying....since the older airstreams are lighter it affects your choice of tow vehicles. A 1972 27' overlander weighs about 4500lbs dry so I'm guessing at a target weight of 6000lbs. Assuming a 80% 'safety' margin you end up looking for a 7500lb tow capability.

There aren't any hybrid SUVs that can tow that much weight. If you are willing to go with a pickup truck you might consider the Chevy Silverado Hybrid. The 1500 with hybrid Vortec 5.3L V8 goes up to a 9,100lb tow capacity (4x4, regular cab, short bed, 4.10 axle).

If you are able to wait until the end of this year, GMC is coming out with a Yukon Hybrid that may fit the bill. They are billing it as a 'two mode' hybrid that allows you to use the extra hybrid power for heavy loads, towing, etc. but I have not yet seen an actual tow rating.

As for diesel SUVs the American manufacturers have unfortunately left the scene so you would have to choose between a used SUV or the much higher priced Mercedes Benz GL320 CDI SUV (7500lbs) or Volkswagen V10 TDI Touraeg (7700lbs).
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Old 04-05-2007, 07:25 PM   #9
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Hola

When I first started learning to tow, I was told the long wheel based vehicle was great for beginners or bad drives since it will mask their lack of steady movement. In the Navy's Military Flying School's of WWII the DGA- ~ , Howard, was nick-named "The Ensin Eliminator".

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Old 04-05-2007, 08:40 PM   #10
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Rec,

I see that my new friend Commander31 has responded. I have added my Lincoln and Safari at Death Valley picture as my avitar. The most recent episode of TheVAP.com discussed vintage tow vehicles. My opinion is that any full size car from the mid 1960s to the end of the 1970s will be a good tow vehicle for any trailer of that, or prior era, without modification except for a transmission cooler and good maintenance. Prior to the mid 1960s you will need to upgrade the brakes to front discs in addition to the transmission cooler. For the 1950's and earlier, it may be necessary to follow the street rod crowd and run new running gear under the body. My 1973 Dodge PowerWagon was top of the line, 360 2v engine, manual windows, rubber floor mats, A/C, power steering and brakes and drum brakes all around, plus it rides like the axles are bolted to the frame, but then that is Dodge for you. GM and Ford trucks of that era will ride softer. Unless you upgrade the engine on the 1970s and earlier pickups you will not have the power of todays trucks or the economy. My feeling is you can buy a lot of gas for the $40K+ price of an new truck and then the vintage tow vehicle will get you looks that you will never receive with a new vehicle.

Regarding reliability, in 2005 we drove 5600 miles in two weeks from So Cal to Tampa and back to pick up the 1954 Liner. We had no problems.

Bill
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Old 04-05-2007, 08:47 PM   #11
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How about some input folks. I've always wanted one of these wagons with the oval shaped windows above. Buick or Olds 1960's. got enough suds to pull 8000 lbs of aluminum? Or will I need a 671 blower on big cubic inches?
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Old 04-05-2007, 08:51 PM   #12
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How about some input folks. I've always wanted one of these wagons with the oval shaped windows above. Buick or Olds 1960's. got enough suds to pull 8000 lbs of aluminum? Or will I need a 671 blower on big cubic inches?
Doorgunner,

A good friend of mine used a VistaCruiser to tow a 15' utility trailer for a Boy Scout troop for years, he did not pack light, and it was fine. It is a big car, but not a big as Commander31 and my Lincoln, and I am sure that you can put a large GM engine in it. Even though they are GM, they are cool.

Bill
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Old 04-05-2007, 09:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorgunner
How about some input folks. I've always wanted one of these wagons with the oval shaped windows above. Buick or Olds 1960's. got enough suds to pull 8000 lbs of aluminum? Or will I need a 671 blower on big cubic inches?
My 1957 Pontiac Safari wagon has a 1970 455 Pontiac engine. It has pulled a 2,500lb car trailer with a 4,000lb car on it, plus three grown men in the wagon, tool boxes loaded with the good stuff, extra parts and our own bags, over the mountains without a problem of any sort. The later disc brakes worked perfectly, as did the equalizer hitch.

For those with trucks who will say you were way overloaded they forget that cars of the early seventies and older, for the most part, had full frames and were virtually as heavy as today's trucks. With the front and rear suspension upgrades we've done it's as heavy duty as most of todays trucks pulling trailers down the highway.

We have, between us as a group of car club guys, set our own limitations based on close to 40 years of towing each, and determined that with physical limitations coming to bear after too many years of abuse (campground and drag racing and water and snow skiing, and just life in general ) , that with using our older cars 25' and somewhere in the 3,500lbs range is our limit, not the cars.

One factor that all too often gets overlooked is the drivers actual ability to handle a large load. Now I realize that any of you who are reading this are probably in excellent shape and have very little deterioration from your physical state at the age of 25, but sadly, for my group, we definitely look our age and at times feel it. Where there used to be a sea of hair when you looked at us, now you see no hair excepting the glint of sun off bald heads and silver . Where an engine or transmission swap was a full Saturday of fun and a few coolies and then take it for a quick drive, now it's a couple of full weekends with coffee and tea and rest breaks, hot soaks when we get home in the evening and wondering why we just aren't paying someone to do this for us . Yes, we still do all our own work. Just can't seem to give up the last vestiges of our youth I guess, and we also know it's done right when we do it ourselves.

Door Gunner, with 8,000lbs I'd be looking hard at a 3/4 ton of the late sixties to early seventies vintage. There were some great trucks and Suburbans made back in that area and by that time many of them were acquired for towing and pretty well loaded up with power options and A/C. They were thus treated far better than the typical vehicle bought for service work. I still see nice late sixties/early seventies Suburbans as an example, very nicely optioned out, on Craigs list from time to time for less than $5 grand. They will almost always need some level of upgrading but if you buy right you can get a vehicle done and ready to haul for under 8 to 10.

Barry
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Old 04-05-2007, 10:48 PM   #14
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Bill & Berry

I fully enjoyed reading your notes. And I fully agree with what you are saying. I believe if some of the buyers to be of the vintage AS's would take a moment and look at the rallies or whatever of the year of trailer they want, and see what the tow vehicles of yester-year were. Then armed with the knowledge, seek out their type of tow vehicle to match their new vintage AS. We have an 1970 AS and sometimes use a 1966 Le Baron ( aka Imperial ), a 1970 SWB PowerWagon or a 1978 SWB D150. If an vehicle of the trailer's era is used, it is an head turner when you come into view.

On both of the trucks I have the same engine size ( E58 Coded 360 ), manual transmission's( NP435's ) and rear axle ratio's ( 3.55:1 ). Both trucks have an OEM sway bar too. Both truck's have the era bucket seats and etc.

As one can see, I do preferr the vintage AS with an vintage Tow Vehicle.

Rodger & Gabby
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