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Old 08-19-2010, 06:40 PM   #1
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Olds 1990 Custom Cruiser - OK to tow 31' Sovereign?

Hello Airstream community!

We are brand new to travel trailers in general and are buying a 31" Sovereign with some original interior and will be finishing it off with an eye to keep the weight down. ( As longtime tent campers, we are not used to a lot.) As for the tow vehicle - Money is very tight and I already have an Olds 1990 Custom Cruiser station wagon with V8 307CID engine. Research shows it has a turbo hydramatic 200-4R automatic transmission with 0:67"1 overdrive ratio and lock-up torque convertor with swirl port heads on the ? cylinders for increased low end torque.

I love this car and sure don't want to mess it up. It has no hitch and I wonder about the other aspects of a tow package. Have never pulled a trailer or used one. Will look for a used Surburban if Olds wagon is not adequate. Airstream will infrequently go from far east Washington state to Spokane WA which is through the Cascade mts., but mostly just an hour or so away. I am brand new to the forums and am the pj part (female) of pjmltravel. Have enjoyed reading many questions and replies over the last few weeks, but this is my first inquiry. Unfortunately I am not a motorhead, so please make the answers simple - ha! Thanks a lot - would also appreciate info on best place to go locally near Seattle for parts, info, general help on making the Airstream roadworthy.
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Old 08-19-2010, 06:48 PM   #2
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I don't think that is a good choice, the tran will never stand up to that weight, for one thing. A 31 footer will likely weigh out over 6000 lbs loaded, and even a half ton pickup is not the best choice for those. I have owned two so I do have experience towing them. I used an F250 diesel and more recently a v-10 Excursion, which was the best at pulling the rig and also giving us lots of comfort.
These suv's are a bargain since Ford no longer produces them, and almost everyone speaks highly of them.
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Old 08-19-2010, 09:11 PM   #3
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Our 31' has a gross weight of about 7200 lbs. We pull it with an '05 Suburban 1500 fully fitted out for trailering. It has the 5.3 liter (329?) Vortec and 4.10 rear end. It does a decent enough job towing, but sometimes I wish I had a bit more power. If we didn't have air shocks on the rear, we probably wouldn't have enough ground clearance.

I would be concerned that even if your Olds has enough power to pull the 'Stream, the tongue weight would be too much for it. You'll have to do some thorough research on the weight capacities that your Olds can handle.

Best of luck and welcome!

Stephen
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Old 08-19-2010, 09:20 PM   #4
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The vehicle is a little old, the engine a little small, but the worst part is the transmission. The 200 series transmission was originally designed for the Vega and is too small for trailer towing.

A Suburban is one of the most popular choices for towing. There have been many threads discussing the merits of various models. You should be able to sell your Olds and buy a Suburban for not too much money if you watch your chances and it will be money well spent.
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Old 08-19-2010, 10:01 PM   #5
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my dad has the chevy cousin. my answer is: absolutely not.
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Old 08-20-2010, 05:58 PM   #6
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Olds 1990 Custom Cruiser - OK to tow 31' Sovereign?

Greetings pjmltravel!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

Quote:
Originally Posted by pjmltravel View Post
Hello Airstream community!

We are brand new to travel trailers in general and are buying a 31" Sovereign with some original interior and will be finishing it off with an eye to keep the weight down. ( As longtime tent campers, we are not used to a lot.)
Depending upon its year of manufacture, your Sovereign will likely exceed the factory trailer tow rating of your Custom Cruiser empty. My '64 Overlander has an empty weight of 4,440 pounds which is only 60 pounds below the trailer tow rating of my '85 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham Luxury Sedan with factory tow package including the 307 Oldsmobile V8 and 3.23 differential ratio.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pjmltravel View Post
As for the tow vehicle - Money is very tight and I already have an Olds 1990 Custom Cruiser station wagon with V8 307CID engine. Research shows it has a turbo hydramatic 200-4R automatic transmission with 0:67"1 overdrive ratio and lock-up torque convertor with swirl port heads on the ? cylinders for increased low end torque.
I don't have the factory material for your 1990 Custom Cruiser, but it is on a similar body platform to my '85 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham Luxury Sedan. In standard trim, Oldsmobile rated the plaform for 3,000 pounds without the factory trailer tow package. The factory trailer tow package increased the trailer tow rating to 5,000 pounds. With the general tendency of wagons to weigh some 10-to-15% more than a sedan, your wagon may not have even had a 5,000 pound trailer tow rating partciularly with the 307 V8 rather than the optional 350 V8. The big difference between the standard and the tow equipped car in this series was the differential - - 2.70 was standard -- and -- either a 3.07 or a 3.23 could be ordered with the trailer tow package. With the 3.23 and 307 V8, my '85 Delta 88 Royale Brougham Luxury Sedan is rated for a maximum of 5,000 pounds. My experience indicates that the car is happiest with my Minuet 6.0 Metre at 3,200 pounds loaded for a vacation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pjmltravel View Post
I love this car and sure don't want to mess it up. It has no hitch and I wonder about the other aspects of a tow package. Have never pulled a trailer or used one. Will look for a used Surburban if Olds wagon is not adequate.
Under the very best of conditions, the 307 V8 would have a huge struggle with your Sovereign even if it has the 3.23 differential. Encounter any grade and the motor will struggle mightly which may result in transmission overheating as well. In addition, if your 307 V8 has the factory aluminum intake manifold the constant exposure to high temperatures would also likely hasten the failure of the intake manifold gaskets in the area of the coolant crossover passage resulting in the antifreeze mixture being drawn into the combustion chambers.

Basically, the trailer tow package on the Custom Cruiser included trailer light wiring to the rear bumper, heavy duty radiator with extra-capacity transmssion fluid cooler, and required at least a 3.07 differential (probably 3,000 pound trailer tow rating) with the 3.23 (probably 5,000 pound trailer tow rating) preferred for the highest trailer tow capacity. The trailer tow package was available with or without the optional receiver hitch.

I love towing my Vintage Airstreams with a Vintage automobile, particularly my Oldsmobile, but the Sovereign is much more weight than I would suggest considering towing behind an Oldsmobile equipped with the 307 V8. When your Sovereign was new, a likely tow vehicle would have been an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (98 Series) with the 455 cubic inch V8.

Good luck with your investigation and research!

Kevin
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Old 08-21-2010, 12:14 PM   #7
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You need to be careful about GM full size cars. The station wagon chassis is different from the sedan. The wheels, suspension, brakes, and rear axle are more like a 1/2 ton pickup. The wheels even have a different size bolt pattern than a car, same as a pickup truck.

The weak points would be the engine, trans and general age of the car. To upgrade the powertrain would cost more than trading for a later model Suburban.

Especially in the mountains, you need a good tow vehicle.
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