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Old 04-07-2016, 07:15 AM   #1
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1968 28' Ambassador
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Looking for a vintage, SUV-style TV

Hello!

My fiancé and I are currently looking for a tow vehicle. We're looking for something a bit older (think 80's Land Cruiser) but we have a '68 Ambassador (4,500 lbs dry, probably closer to 5,500). We're also looking to potentially full-time with this TV, so we're looking for something more like an SUV, as opposed to a truck.

Does anyone have ideas as to what cars we should look at? Something with a bit of "character" would be right up our alley. I've spent plenty of time researching and have had a difficult time, and I was hoping to get some input from those who have actually towed their AS with one.

Thanks!

Nick
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Old 04-07-2016, 07:30 AM   #2
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Hi Nick,

I had a brand new 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-40 (the Jeep type model). It was a great vehicle, and I loved it. It was a serious off-road vehicle. I never pulled an Airstream with it, but I did pull a boat and other trailers with it. The FJ-40 has an extremely short wheelbase and a somewhat high center of gravity. I recall my FJ-40 as being a marginal tow vehicle with about half the weight of the trailer that you are planning to tow.

An FJ-60 (the station wagon model) would probably be a better choice. Maybe someone here on the Forums has pulled with one of those.

Brian
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Old 04-07-2016, 08:48 AM   #3
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The obvious choice to me is a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a friend of mine drives one. They were built up until 1990 or 1991, they have an AMC 360 V8, automatic trans, power brakes and steering, Air Conditioning, and there's lots of aftermarket support and parts availability. They look a lot older than they are, My friend's is a 1990 but people often ask if it's from the 1960's or 1970's.

I almost bought a 1969 Ford Country Squire station wagon (Country Squire has woodgrain), it had a factory 390 V8, AC and if i didn't already have disk brakes it would be an easy conversion.

If budget allowed I would build/buy or have built a 1950's or 1960's Suburban on a modern truck frame. I've seen lots of good conversions, and lots of bad ones too. My favorite was a 1950's Willys Jeep Station Wagon, on a late 1990's Durango chassis with a hemi!


The most important consideration will be your intended usage, if you plan to tow long distances or through mountains, you will want a modern, reliable drive-train, brakes and suspension.
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Old 04-07-2016, 09:40 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mashburn.nick View Post
Hello!

My fiancé and I are currently looking for a tow vehicle. We're looking for something a bit older (think 80's Land Cruiser) but we have a '68 Ambassador (4,500 lbs dry, probably closer to 5,500). We're also looking to potentially full-time with this TV, so we're looking for something more like an SUV, as opposed to a truck.

Thanks!

Nick
80's vehicles from ALL manufacturer's are under powered and lacking good brakes. That's particularly true of 80's SUV's. That includes the Jeep Wagoneer. I just sold mine. Not a good choice for reliable and safe towing of a large trailer such as your 68 Ambassador.

You mention "Full Timing".

Do you want your "Full Time" or "Part Time" camping experience to be Enjoyable or Stylish?

The 80's Land Cruiser you mention (FJ40 & FJ60) are 6 cylinder engine vehicles with less than a 150 HP. They are SLOW, CRUDE, HAVE LOUSY BRAKES & ARE POOR HANDLING when loaded with 2 people and camping gear much less a LARGE Airstream behind it. How do I know? I have owned quite a few 80's FJ 40 and FJ 60 Land Cruisers. Stylish? I think so. Enjoyable to drive any distance at all? NO!

You are going to be "Stylish" already as you have a vintage Airstream Ambassador trailer. Unless you are considering a Vintage tow vehicles set upon a modern chassis as suggested above I suggest you re-think your "Bit of Character" theme when it comes to your safety and comfort as it relates to your tow vehicle. Your Airstream experience will be much more enjoyable because of this decision!
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Old 04-07-2016, 10:45 AM   #5
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We look around for one of those also. Love the looks of the late 60's and 70's pick ups and suburbans. A nice V8 would work.

We would likely just tow local with it. Pretty sure we would miss the luxuries of power seats, steering, windows etc.

Good luck
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Old 04-07-2016, 10:56 AM   #6
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Wheel base is an issue on how twitchy the complete rig steers. Off road, short, relatively soft, long travel suspension and high center of gravity, is good for maneuverability, and traction.
Towing @ 65, all the above with a slight overcorrection from wind, pothole, road debris, could put you on your head. So, if speed kills, the stock power plants may keep you safer.
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Old 04-07-2016, 11:18 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by vintageracer View Post
80's vehicles from ALL manufacturer's are under powered and lacking good brakes. That's particularly true of 80's SUV's. That includes the Jeep Wagoneer. I just sold mine. Not a good choice for reliable and safe towing of a large trailer such as your 68 Ambassador.

You mention "Full Timing".

Do you want your "Full Time" or "Part Time" camping experience to be Enjoyable or Stylish?

The 80's Land Cruiser you mention (FJ40 & FJ60) are 6 cylinder engine vehicles with less than a 150 HP. They are SLOW, CRUDE, HAVE LOUSY BRAKES & ARE POOR HANDLING when loaded with 2 people and camping gear much less a LARGE Airstream behind it. How do I know? I have owned quite a few 80's FJ 40 and FJ 60 Land Cruisers. Stylish? I think so. Enjoyable to drive any distance at all? NO!

You are going to be "Stylish" already as you have a vintage Airstream Ambassador trailer. Unless you are considering a Vintage tow vehicles set upon a modern chassis as suggested above I suggest you re-think your "Bit of Character" theme when it comes to your safety and comfort as it relates to your tow vehicle. Your Airstream experience will be much more enjoyable because of this decision!

I drove old cars right into the late nineties. I wouldn't now. I agree with the above and would add that the demands of today's traffic (and your safety) negate this approach.

Anti lock disc brakes as well as fully independent suspension on TT and TV are the best approach when combined with a Hensley designed hitch and anti sway electronics for both vehicles.

This ain't 1973 when I started.
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Old 04-07-2016, 12:23 PM   #8
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I used a 1979 Jeep Cherokee 4x4 360 (slightly smaller-length version of the Wagoneer - full-size, two doors) for a tow vehicle for a small British car on a 14' dual-axle trailer for a while. It was NOT an optimum tow vehicle by any means. The wheelbase was too short, the brakes were not good even with a controller (disc front, drum rear), and the rear end was not geared for towing. I would NOT recommend using either this model or the Wagoneer for towing your A/S. A friend used a similar-year Suburban and had no issues.

You could probably get a modern Suburban in silver and paint or put decals on it to resemble your trailer styling/colors and it would look pretty sharp.

Another thought would be a one-ton Chevy delivery from the early 50's that has a modern chassis/driveline. Another friend uses one of those and loves it.
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Old 04-07-2016, 05:50 PM   #9
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I have a Jeep Grand Wagonear that I use to put my 24' Tradewind. But I'm selling it cause I bought a truck for my blue boy.Click image for larger version

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Old 04-07-2016, 06:56 PM   #10
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I think the ideal would be a 1974 or newer Suburban. The higher the GVWR the better. I believe they all had front disc brakes by then. There is an abundant supply of aftermarket parts and they (the parts) are usually priced reasonably.
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Old 04-08-2016, 05:43 PM   #11
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Old SUVs are terrible tow vehicles. High centre of gravity, lousy brakes, awful suspension, crumpling roofs on rollover, they are a death trap.

I would choose a modern truck, and I don't believe trucks make great vehicles, before choosing a vintage SUV.
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Old 04-08-2016, 08:21 PM   #12
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sorry Nick but not a great idea.
I will only say..........Dependability..........Air Bags....Safety..........Full Time.....A woman that loves you!
Don't get me wrong because I have a vintage Airstream and am building a 1952 Pontiac to go with it................but I am not going to full time with this combo, we have a newer truck to go camping in as well.
Good Luck!
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Old 04-08-2016, 10:46 PM   #13
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I do not know what your situation is. You could want a vintage TV to match the trailer. You may want to limit the overall cost expenditure and optimize the cost benefit. You might have a budget that you need to manage, but still have an ongoing cash flow that could be used for the tow vehicle over a long period of time. You may just like old vehicles. You may be rolling around the options to decide what you want to purchase.

First, a new vehicle will be safer and more reliable than an older one. Second, if you are a DIY person, it is possible to produce a reliable and efficient safe tow vehicle from a vintage vehicle. Third, it may be more cost effective to lease and then purchase the vehicle after the lease is over than to purchase and modify an older vehicle if you can not do the work yourself.

My uncle used to have a Chevy pickup. It was paid for and he kept putting new transmissions and engines in it to make a reliable vehicle. He paid for the repairs to be done by others, but he did not upgrade the vehicle. He only maintained it. The approach worked for him. It could work for you, but other options may as well.

CanAm is a Canadian Airstream dealer that has been configuring alternative tow vehicles for a long time. They pitch minivans as a cost effective tow vehicle option. A relatively new minivan can be purchased for much less than a comparable SUV. They have a wide stance, good brakes and reasonable power. Not a bad solution for a full time all around vehicle. Plan to investigate the option enough to understand the issues. Expect to reinforce the hitch on this type of vehicle.

CanAm also suggests that the Chrysler 300 can be a good tow vehicle. It's reasonably popular and available on the used market as well as new. The same investigation would be required to understand the issues for this option as well.

If I was convinced to build a vintage tow vehicle, I would consider the possibility of a 60's vintage Chevelle station wagon. It's big enough to handle a family, low profile, coil springs on all four corners, room for V-8 power, lots of aftermarket parts available off the shelf and it would not be difficult to upgrade the rear axle to carry a bit more weight.

For what it's worth, we talked to a couple with a great looking Chrysler 50's vintage tow vehicle. It looked fantastic, but had no Air Conditioning and required manual tracking of fuel millage. If that is really what you want, it can be satisfying. But a more conservative approach to towing and a DIY capability is really part of the package.

Suggest you spend some time in the tow vehicle threads and do considerable research. If you have an ongoing cash flow, you can extend the cost of a relatively new vehicle. In the end, it may be less expensive than maintenance on an older vehicle. Lease returns often can be had with very good warranty packages.

Good luck with your search. Pat
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Old 04-09-2016, 10:32 AM   #14
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If a custom build is on the table, how about a late model truck chassis (rolled) with the vintage cab/body? I thought about the older Peterbuilts with the riveted alloy cab extended, polished to a wreaker style flat bed body.
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