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Old 04-07-2003, 01:44 AM   #1
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Minuet & Caprice - what do you think?

I'm still searching for that tow vehicle to replace my Bronco for my future minuet, and now that I seem to have exhausted the local full-size truck supply (too high miles, too low gas mileage, or just not even in my price range), I'm thinking about cars. So how about a big old caprice station wagon? Remember, I'm talking about a 20ft minuet that's going to weigh about 3500 loaded (from what I've been told). A local dealer has a 93 caprice wagon with a 350. I haven't gone to have a look at it yet, but it's got low miles, and I know they've had it for months, so I might be able to trade in the bronco and get them down in price. What do you guys think? I don't want to buy another vehicle and find it's not fit for towing. My husband would kill me!
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Old 04-07-2003, 07:40 AM   #2
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Stephanie,

If I recall you were looking for a 20' or less trailer. I am pulling a 19'- '03 Bambi (4500lbs gross) with a '96 Caprice Classic. From what I understand the Minuet line weighed less than the Airstream line. Below is a link where Overlander64 posted some numbers for what I believe is a 19' (6 meter) Minuet (Kevin am I right?):

http://www.airforums.com/forum...ghlight=minuet

From what I also understand the older Airstream units themselves weighed less than the current models. I think you are golden for anything Airstream under 20' (new or old) and even a bit above 20' (22-24') in a Minuet if they were made. The 350 Caprice should be able to tow 5,000lbs without any problems very easily...however......
I think you'll be fine as long as the cooling system is up to snuff (trans, oil and HD cooling w/ possibly a lower thermostat) and the gears are the correct size (3.42 or 3.73 I think that car might have an 8.5 rear end too). I'd also add a more robust stabilzer to the front and add one to the rear and also add posi track via the Eaton or Auburn unit. These give the car a very solid feel and stance. That car **might** have OBD1 and if you change the gears you might need to reprogram the PCM. From your posts and website, I know this will be a walk in the park for you, but if you don't program, check out Bryan Herter at PCMforless.com. Bryan can hook you up with a reprogram of the PCM so that the gears work right with the powertrain mgmt. He's reprogrammed most of the folks that lurk at impalassforum.com!

In my Caprice, I have the LT1 w/ the 4L60E trans. I like it very much. The non LT1s are very good as well. Given your modding exp, I think you'll do just fine. Check out impalassforum.com and you'll find a TON of great info on the wagon and other B-Body info.

Eric
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Old 04-07-2003, 07:47 AM   #3
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Minuet & Caprice - what do you think?

Greetings Stephanie!

The Caprice with 5.7 Liter V8 should be a good match for a Minuet if it has an axle ratio other than the base stock 2.73. Even with the 2.73 it MIGHT be passable if there is minimal mountain towing in its future. If the Caprice has the trailer towing package, it should have either a 3.09 or a 3.23 differential either of which should prove adequate for a Minuet. Even if the Caprice doesn't have the complete factory trailer towing package it could be upgraded with the necessities such as heavy duty transmission oil cooler, heavy duty shocks, cargo coil rear springs, receiver hitch, and trailer tow wiring package. It would also be possible to swap the gears in the differential if it didn't violate local ordinances pertaining to emissions controls.

In fact, I own a 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham with the 5.0 Liter (307 cubic inch V8) that I have considered using to tow my Minuet. It has the complete 5,000 pound factory heavy duty trailer towing package including the 3.23 differential. The Caprice wagon would weigh a little more than my Delta 88 sedan; but it also has the advantage of a fuel injected 350 cubic inch V8 as opposed the the 307 cubic inch carbureted V8 in my Oldsmobile.

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Old 04-07-2003, 08:16 AM   #4
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I also have an '80 Olds Delta 88 w/307. A real champ too! It pulled a 3000lb boat with no problems...of course I modded it out with what Kevin mentioned!

The '93 Caprice, unless it was built at the very tail end of the '93 model year might not have an actucal multiport FI 5.7L 350 in it. It was my understanding that the 5.7L 350 appeared in 1994. The pre-'94 350s were possibly the production code L99 that was also a 5.0L I believe. The tell tail sign would be factory dual exhaust. All 5.7L 350s came with factory dual exhaust as part of the LT1 engine RPO build code. If it didn't have factory duals it was an L99 (5.0 or 5.xL) which is also a strong engine too.

The Caprice tow package consists of one item only in the RPO codes. HO8- heavy duty cooling and that consisted soley of a mechanical fan. Gearing, etc were not touched. They might have had a standard, but it was not printed anywhere. For example, I have the '96 Caprice tow package and I have 2.93s inside. It was my understanding that all 5.7 (LT1) and most 5.0s(L99) have the small trans cooler located in the pass front of the hood in front of the A/C condenser standard. If the car was a production code 9C1 (Police) and 9C6 (Taxi), the vehicles also got an oil to air cooler for the engine oil as well which the civilian Caprice and Impala SS did not get, but could be added from the old GM parts bin!

Anyway, if you get the car Steph, drop me an email, I sent you a PM, we can talk B-Body shop all day long! If you happen to come across an 94 or newer with the LT1, I think you will be even more pleased than you will be with the L99 5.0L. Of course with your skill set, I think you could make a 3.8L V6 sing, so anyway let me know if you need any more info.

Eric
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Old 04-07-2003, 08:31 AM   #5
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What's really the problem with keeping the Bronco? (Full size right?, if not this message is mute, toss the Bronco II and the quicker the better!!) Yes, I do believe the wheelbase is a bit short but if I were you I would find the Minuet first and get a real good hitch with something more than just a friction sway and see how it does. I would much rather be driving a Bronco anyday over an fuddy old station wagon. Maybe even save up for a Hensley?

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Old 04-07-2003, 10:10 AM   #6
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Fullsize bronco with a 351 actually. At 106" it's wheelbase is just 4 inches short of the recommended minimum for a 20ft trailer, but my bigger problem is that it is lifted with a four inch suspension lift and 35 inch chunky tires. Just driving around it's soft and a little bouncy, which is a great ride in town, and it's perfect in the dirt, but I just don't think it would be good for pulling a trailer. Then add the fact that it only gets 10mpg as it sits, and I've been told putting higher gears in it will make the mpg worse (it already needs higher gears, maybe 4.10s because the big tires have stolen all it's get up and go, and of course being 4x4 it needs front and rear gears - expensive), it just seems like it's too far away from being a tow car. It's a great offroad vehicle, I think I should just let it be what it is. I hate to get rid of it though, I do LOVE my bronco!
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Old 04-07-2003, 01:19 PM   #7
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Caprice Testimonial

Iíve got a í95 Caprice wagon that works well towing our 6000+ lbs Safari 6-Sleeper. It is factory equipped with heavy duty cooling and brakes. The original owner added 17Ē alloys from the Impala SS, so it has a huge tire contact patch (255/50x17) with plenty of load capacity. I added Bilstein shocks, a rear anti-sway bar and airbags in the rear coils (activated by the factory-installed self-leveling system that originally inflated the rear shocks) to firm up the suspension. I added an auxiliary trans oil cooler with a thermostatically controlled fan to supplement the existing trans coolers because I was advised that the tranny is the weak spot on the vehicle when it comes to towing. It has the stock 2.73 diff, which is not ideal, but the engine has sufficient power to pull very steep grades with no signs of overheating. I donít use the 4th gear overdrive when towing, so the gas mileage plummets from the normal 19-20 to 10-11. I also added Flowmasters and a cool-air intake system just for fun (sounds v. good).

The car is super comfortable for our family of 4, has lots of space for odds and ends, and a roof rack for our bikes. And it looks pretty cool (IMHO). I hope that helps.

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Old 04-07-2003, 02:09 PM   #8
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Wow, Mike, that sounds pretty good. That's a lot bigger than the trailer I'm planning to pull, and if it works for you, it certainly should be stout enough for my smaller trailer. I discussed it with my husband and he thinks it's a great idea. He was not looking forward to adding a big truck to our fleet, just to pull a little trailer.

So tell me, what kind of hitch do you use, and how do you like it? Do you have any sway problems?
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Old 04-07-2003, 02:20 PM   #9
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It's a Draw-Tite with the friction-type sway control. I was tempted by the Hensley, but at this time it seems like overkill for my set-up. I have done several hundred miles of towing with this thing on twisty roads and high speed I-5 with no weird moments. I would like to know more about the Reese . . . it seems they may have a better idea than the friction solution at a small fraction of the cost of a Hensley. I checked with Reese to see if their sway control will fit on my Draw-Tite, and it won't. You might want to check the archives on this topic. There has been a lot of discussion and so there's a lot of input to help one make up one's mind.

Cheers,

Mike
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Old 04-07-2003, 03:20 PM   #10
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I have a 76 Minute and I pull it with a 2002 Trailblazer. It's a 275 horse power straight 6. I use weight distribution bars and I have no trouble pulling it at all.
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Old 04-07-2003, 03:22 PM   #11
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Mike,

Nice setup!

I have the Bilstiens in the garage waiting for the fresh snow we just got to go away before I install.

I plan on getting the 3.73s and getting my PCM reprogrammed so that it not only takes the gear change, but also to accept my Impala SS rims I have too.

www.pcmforless.com

The guy that runs this place is Bryan Herter, he does wonders for the LT1 PCM. He can delete the GM air pump issue that the cars have and tune the PCM for better power without giving up on MPG. You have an OBD1 PCM, so you are even more ahead of the game. My '96 had OBD2 and not only do I get a small HP hit, but OBD2 montiors more functions..total pain.

Also, check out:

www.clearimageautomotive.com

Great headers (good for at least 25hp) and other odds and ends. I got a torque converter scoop that acts as a ram air to cool the torque converter area.

I also just bought and am about to install an upgrade to the factory trans cooler. It's from B&M. It is suppose to cool the trans 15 degrees or more beyond what the factory cooler does. At some point, I also plan on adding the oil to air for the engine oil that the police and taxi use.

I also wholeheartedly suggest gettint the Hypertech 160* thermostat for the LT1. Towing the Bambi (not in overdrive) on the expressway in both moving and stop and go, the car never got above 171 degrees!

Sorry I tend to talk a bunch of shop about B-Body. I'm a total B-Body car nut and I tend to throw up all kinds of info for anyone that is interested!

I could go on and on about mods and upgrades I have found very useful. Drop me a PM if you want to talk shop.

Eric
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Old 04-10-2003, 02:17 PM   #12
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Stefrobrts,

I have the same SW you are looking at, with same towing package. I am not sure what the rear end is, but probably 3.08. I once towed a short trailer of about 5,000 lbs I am guessing. It was a U-haul about 10' but full of stuff. The RPMs were high and I got less than 10 MPG (versus 22 MPG empty).

As Silvertwinkie said I think you'll be fine as long as the cooling system is up to snuff (trans, oil and HD cooling w/ possibly a lower thermostat) and the gears are the correct size (3.42 or 3.73 . 3.08 can also work. How much towing are you going to do? If only occasionally, it can work. Full-time, I would get a truck which wouldn't need any of these modifications. Well, maybe it can work full time also.

Overall, it is an outstanding vehicle with very good reliability. The old 350 is the best V8 engine you can get in its class. The only reason I do not use it for towing is because my A/S unit is quite a bit heavier than 4-5000 lbs I would trust to Caprice.

But I think if I were you, I would get a 1994-1996 Caprice SW with towing package, they had that newer LT1 engine which had 260 HP (not 180 HP like in this motor). On the other hand, this '93 can also work and you can get a better deal on it, probably between $2-3,000 depending on miles. I mean, it is a 10 year old vehicle.

You can learn more about B-body station wagons:
http://www.impalassforum.com/cgi-bin...ubb=forum&f=20
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Old 04-10-2003, 04:37 PM   #13
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Amen ipso! I agree.....

Eric
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Old 04-10-2003, 05:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Stefrobrts
Fullsize bronco with a 351 actually. At 106" it's wheelbase is just 4 inches short of the recommended minimum for a 20ft trailer, but my bigger problem is that it is lifted with a four inch suspension lift and 35 inch chunky tires. Just driving around it's soft and a little bouncy, which is a great ride in town, and it's perfect in the dirt, but I just don't think it would be good for pulling a trailer. Then add the fact that it only gets 10mpg as it sits, and I've been told putting higher gears in it will make the mpg worse (it already needs higher gears, maybe 4.10s because the big tires have stolen all it's get up and go, and of course being 4x4 it needs front and rear gears - expensive), it just seems like it's too far away from being a tow car. It's a great offroad vehicle, I think I should just let it be what it is. I hate to get rid of it though, I do LOVE my bronco!
I have a simularly set up vehicle and your wise not to atmept to pull a trailer of that size as it is set up.

Now closer to stock you would proably be fine. It has the motor for it. It has the rest of the driveline for it. You know it's condition. You could probably sell the lift kit and tires with the stock parts from the buyer as partial payment. I don't know about Ford (I'm a Chevy guy) but it's just as easy to reverse a lift as it is to install it on a Chevy. Put a set of 31's on it and your gearing would come back in line (and you MPG may not be as bad as you think because the tires threw the odometer way off). Money wise your might actually make a few bucks if you can handle the suspension swap.
I seriously concidered using our stock fullsize Blazer with tow package with 3.73 gears to tow our 59. Problem is lack of doors with two kid.
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