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Old 04-03-2006, 07:59 PM   #1
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1965 26' Overlander
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Looking for a tow vehicle with wheelchair lift

I just purchased a 1965 Overlander, under the excuse of needing it to complete my away-from-home short-term grad school residency requirements. Well, my family has become completely smitten with the whole Airstream idea (can you blame them!). This is all good! Now, I need to purchase a dedicated tow vehicle. I think my loaded weight will be around 5500-6000 lbs. For added interest, the tow vehicle must be equipped with a wheelchair lift. My sister is in a power wheelchair, and for the purposes of traveling, she is much more comfortable in her power wheelchair as opposed to her smaller lighter manual wheelchair. She would travel in the tow vehicle in her power chair and then, when in the Airstream, she would use her manual wheelchair. As a grad student, I would like to keep costs down as much as I can. I initially thought of a school bus--yes, a shortie school bus, with a wheelchair lift. These are typically built on medium duty truck frames and, even the short ones, are 25 feet in length so wheelbase would not be a problem. Older ones can also be had for a few thousand dollars. The problem is that they are just so big! And, even though this will be a dedicated tow vehicle, it would be nice to have a tow vehicle that can be used for around town stuff if my daily driver is in for repairs. I then thought of one of those cut-away shuttle bus/vans with a lift. But, I've read that these can be overweighted due to the extra glass and fiberglass added onto a lighter duty van chassis--this results in bending cross-bars and all kinds of structural problems. My third thought, is an older lift-equipped passenger van. There are many to choose from. What size engine (diesel or gas) would be appropriate to pull the weight of my trailer plus the cargo of camping and the weight of the lift. I've looked at Dodge Ram 9-Pass, Ford E150, Ford E250, Ford E350, GM. I really have no idea what the towing capacity of passenger vans are. Would a side-mounted wheelchair lift be better than a rear-mounted lift? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Kathy in PA
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Old 04-03-2006, 08:58 PM   #2
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van with a side mounted wheelchair lift

Quote:
Originally Posted by kdenault
I just purchased a 1965 Overlander. For added interest, the tow vehicle must be equipped with a wheelchair lift. I've looked at Dodge Ram 9-Pass, Ford E150, Ford E250, Ford E350, GM. I really have no idea what the towing capacity of passenger vans are. Would a side-mounted wheelchair lift be better than a rear-mounted lift? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Kathy in PA
Hi Kathy,
Numbers like 150, 250, 350 or similarly 1500, 2500, 3500 mean 1/2, 3/4 and 1 ton capacities. I think most folks will recommend the 3/4 ton capacity as it provides a stiffer frame and springs, bigger brakes, beefier transmission and usually, bigger engine.

I think a van with a side mounted wheelchair lift would be the best choice.

The rear lift would be inconvenient as it may necessitate unhitching just to use the lift.
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Old 04-03-2006, 10:05 PM   #3
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I am driving an04 e350 Ford Van with a 6.0 Diesel engine. It is perfect for towing my 31' Sovereign. It can be equipped with the chair lift. If you have to order it from your dealer, add the trailer package with the trailer mirrors. Mine came with the 12 pass. seats. I take out the front two benches leaving in the third bench. that provides storage space in front and behind the seat. Plenty of room for a wheel chair. If you go for the diesel engine you want the 350 because of the added engine weight. It is a great ride, and my 8th full sized van. Dont forget the privacy glass, and 6 CD changer radio for max comfort.
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