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Old 11-29-2008, 05:27 PM   #15
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Low miles is nice, but a seventeen-year old car, IMO, needs every single hose/fastener, fluid/filter, etc, replaced. I'd replace the entire cooling system so as not to have to "get into it" numerous times. The cooling system is the most neglected of all systems, so I'd also punch out the block plugs and go into detail in cleaning out the block as much as possible.

Wiring is also a problem -- corrosion on terminations, vibration on any soldered joints, etc -- and I would not purchase an old car to tow with that this hadn't been extensively checked from end to end.

GM did NOT do such a great job on these cars as they ought to have, the penny-pincher mentality is evident.

I like them too, a lot! But towing is a whole other world from just drivin' around, and I would expect the "break-in" to have numerous instances of problems unless systems in the car are gone through separately and thoroughly. There will be a happy point, eventually.

Certainly, all the suspension and body bushings should be replaced ASAP.
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Old 11-29-2008, 06:14 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by REDNAX View Post
Low miles is nice, but a seventeen-year old car, IMO, needs every single hose/fastener, fluid/filter, etc, replaced. I'd replace the entire cooling system so as not to have to "get into it" numerous times. The cooling system is the most neglected of all systems, so I'd also punch out the block plugs and go into detail in cleaning out the block as much as possible.

Wiring is also a problem -- corrosion on terminations, vibration on any soldered joints, etc -- and I would not purchase an old car to tow with that this hadn't been extensively checked from end to end.

GM did NOT do such a great job on these cars as they ought to have, the penny-pincher mentality is evident.

Certainly, all the suspension and body bushings should be replaced ASAP.
I have to strongly disagree. Having owned many versions of this vehicle it does not typically need major work.

My current 1996 still has the original radiator and heater hoses. Body bushings even on my 1980 were factory and in full working order up until I donated the car in 2005.

This is one car that GM did do right. Sure it could have had some better components, but in the end the B and D platforms, if properly maintained per the regular maint schedule, you will not have to replace the entire cooling system, body bushings, etc. You have to understand these cars were first designed as cop cars. Yes they have a few less cooling items and smaller ball joints, but these cars are built they way they are and why they were such great cop cars (9C1) and taxi service vehicles (9C6) and then when the cops were done with them, taxi companies then bought them and used them as taxi cars after they were retired from service as cop cars. It was not uncommon to find these vehicles with a half million miles on them and still not needing a slew of major repairs (if properly maintained). The platform is solid and proven. Of course some maint is inevitable at 15 years or older on any vehicle, but nowhere near what's been suggested here. I am not talking hypothetical either, I'm talking as 20 year owner of various B chassis vehicles, two of which (both 1996) I still own and operate. One is my daily driver. I have only had to replace a water pump and a power steering pump to it due to a failure and both were well, well out of warranty by tens of thousands of miles and about 9 years old. Given the fact I drive it like I stole it and it towed my 6300lb Safari about 1000 harder than normal miles, I think these two failures are more than reasonable. I have never had any electrical problems, corroded connectors (due to the good packard connectors found throughout the vehicles) and there have been zero soldered connection failures, not even on my 1980.

The B and D platforms, outside of the truck platforms were among the most stout designs and offerings out there and one reason GM nixed them. They were in direct competition with the 1/2 ton segment and of course trucks were far more profitable.

Of course any vehicle that is not maintained or severely abused and neglected will most likely need major work, but I can assure you, these vehicles are more than up nearly any task you can throw at them....the Police did, and I would say they are harder on vehicles than most.
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Old 11-29-2008, 06:44 PM   #17
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I, too, was a 20-yr owner of that car designed by GM as a fleet -- not police -- car and introduced in 1976 as a 1977 model. My Impala wagon had over 240,000 miles on it when sold, but that does not mean that ANY car (or truck) that is this age is not in need of a thorough going through. It is in need of it no matter who owned or how it was used. Age is age, and the make or model of the car is almost irrelevant. Age, time, takes its toll.

And, no, the final iteration of the car was not more reliable. Electrical small parts are notoriously unreliable in this line of cars in the final version. Etc.

I never said, nor intimated, that this would be a bad tow vehicle. I agree, wholeheartedly, that 3.42 gearing behind an OD automatic would provide the best balance of performance and economy. And that the final year of production would be the best to own.

But whether 13 or 17 years old, every system NEEDS to be gone through, as NOTHING is tougher on a vehicle than towing. (I would pay especial attention, mechanically, to the rear axle so that if it is questionable a junkyard piece can be procured for rebuilding as GM ball-bearing, semi-floating axles wear too quickly).

Note that nothing I recommended is "major" rebuilding. It may be laborious, but it does not include going through engine, transmission or the various major wiring harnesses (those are the "major" systems). It is a recommendation to search out the weak links in any system, and to go after -- immediately -- the two most often ignored by new owners of an old car: the cooling system (I would replace the whole of it, and then some) and the rubber bushings of the suspension and body mounts.



I would replace the steering pump, gearbox and other components as well, but most folks will not so I don't bother to recommend it.

To add to it, the air-conditioning system is most often in need of a complete re-build after 6-7 years on any car or truck, and, unfortunately, is the place most second and third owners "gimmick" a proper fix.

Of course, if the towing is easy and not too far from home, then none of this may make a difference.
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Old 11-29-2008, 09:43 PM   #18
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I have been searching out there the last few days and have found these wagons from $600 for one with high miles and major cosmetic and mechanicals to $9,000 for pristine modified cars with features that I don't want or need.

I am thinking I will probably buy a buick with under 100K on it if I can find one and also try to find leather interior.

One that I found is set up as a tow vehicle already and has over 200K on it. That actually might not be a bad one since it probably already has a lot of new things on it.

There seem to be some very nice ones in the $3 to 5K region.
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:58 AM   #19
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I have set up many Award and tow vehicle combinations and depending on the size I would be cautious about using a Roadmaster for the Award trailer. The Award is equal to an Airstream aerodyanmically but generally not nearly as stable due to the very light hitch weight. The European chassis was not designed to accept torsion bars. Though you can use bars on them they cannot stand the pressure necessary to properly transfer weight on a vehicle with a long overhang like the Roadmaster.

The best tow vehicle for the Award has a very short rear overhang. A front drive van such as a Freestar is the ideal tow vehicle for them the wheelbase is 3" longer than the wagon but the rear overhang is about 1/2 plus you get rack and pinion steering and a wider rear suspension stance. The Freestar will handle far better than the wagon give you the space and ride you are looking for and give even better fuel economy. As well you can get relatively new ones very inexpensive. We have set up over 500 Windstars and Freestars for towing and they have been very reliable.

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Old 11-30-2008, 06:48 AM   #20
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I have set up many Award and tow vehicle combinations and depending on the size I would be cautious about using a Roadmaster for the Award trailer. The Award is equal to an Airstream aerodyanmically but generally not nearly as stable due to the very light hitch weight. The European chassis was not designed to accept torsion bars. Though you can use bars on them they cannot stand the pressure necessary to properly transfer weight on a vehicle with a long overhang like the Roadmaster.

The best tow vehicle for the Award has a very short rear overhang. A front drive van such as a Freestar is the ideal tow vehicle for them the wheelbase is 3" longer than the wagon but the rear overhang is about 1/2 plus you get rack and pinion steering and a wider rear suspension stance. The Freestar will handle far better than the wagon give you the space and ride you are looking for and give even better fuel economy. As well you can get relatively new ones very inexpensive. We have set up over 500 Windstars and Freestars for towing and they have been very reliable.

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Are you saying you set up a trailer with no leveling devices and use a front drive mini van to tow it with?

Are you saying you know of folks who towed awards with a roadmaster and had unsatisfactory results?

My award is a 30'
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Old 11-30-2008, 09:09 AM   #21
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I, too, was a 20-yr owner of that car designed by GM as a fleet -- not police -- car and introduced in 1976 as a 1977 model. My Impala wagon had over 240,000 miles on it when sold, but that does not mean that ANY car (or truck) that is this age is not in need of a thorough going through. It is in need of it no matter who owned or how it was used. Age is age, and the make or model of the car is almost irrelevant. Age, time, takes its toll.

And, no, the final iteration of the car was not more reliable. Electrical small parts are notoriously unreliable in this line of cars in the final version. Etc.

But whether 13 or 17 years old, every system NEEDS to be gone through, as NOTHING is tougher on a vehicle than towing. (I would pay especial attention, mechanically, to the rear axle so that if it is questionable a junkyard piece can be procured for rebuilding as GM ball-bearing, semi-floating axles wear too quickly).

Note that nothing I recommended is "major" rebuilding. It may be laborious, but it does not include going through engine, transmission or the various major wiring harnesses (those are the "major" systems). It is a recommendation to search out the weak links in any system, and to go after -- immediately -- the two most often ignored by new owners of an old car: the cooling system (I would replace the whole of it, and then some) and the rubber bushings of the suspension and body mounts.

I would replace the steering pump, gearbox and other components as well, but most folks will not so I don't bother to recommend it.

To add to it, the air-conditioning system is most often in need of a complete re-build after 6-7 years on any car or truck, and, unfortunately, is the place most second and third owners "gimmick" a proper fix.

Of course, if the towing is easy and not too far from home, then none of this may make a difference.
This isn't exactly true. The 9C1 and 9C6 versions were specifically police and taxi versions of this civilian base. Since the late 70s, the B body has been a police and taxi vehicle, built to even more stout specs than the civi versions. This platform was chosen for 9C1 and 9C6 specifically due to it's 1/2 ton like similarities. Adding a bit more toys to it made it even more useful to the non-civi owners (police, taxi).

Yes, I fully agree any old car would need some work and some inspection, but if properly maintained, there is no way you need to replace body mount bushings, etc. And I will again have to respectfully disagree with you that the 1996 versions are the best versions of this platform out there, even better than the 95s. Of course if you compare the B to something else, perhaps you may be right, but sticking strictly B or D, the 96 was the machine to have. In addition, the same parts found in B and D could be found in other GM truck and car platforms, so anything you say about B or D could be true of any GM vehicle since GM did not make electrical connectors, A/C compressors, etc only for the B and D platforms.

I would fully agree that some of the components are not the best ones out there, but you also have to keep in mind that we're talking early to mid-90s GM. Few of their cars had super premium components, but again, these cars were offered at a price point. Me, I did do many mods to one of my 96s. The dual exhaust, though stainless was a poor grade stainless, I upgraded when the mufflers rusted out after 6 years here in the rust belt where salt is king of the roads in winter. Also replaced the Auburn limited slip with the Eaton posi. Replaced the front ball joints from the 9/16 to the police package 5/8 ball joints (required new police package front lower control arm). Police package power steering cooler, air dams, etc. I spent maybe and extra $2k on one of my the 96s. None was required, but I felt it worthwhile give I was going to try to tow 6300lbs of Airstream with it. In retrospect, I prob could have done far less or nothing at all and would have been fine, but the German in me, well, you can imagine.

I am not sure what your B put you through, but I have not had any A/C issue with either of my 2 1996s. All factory. My 1980 though did have A/C issues, but then again so did my fathers 1982 and 1991 Mercedes, so that isn't really saying all that much about the B platform. In addition, none of my Bs ever had any electrical connector or electrical issues. The 1980 had nearly 200k on it and only had the fluid in the diff changed once. The axles seals were starting to wear out, but after 25 years and some towing (about 3000lbs), it was pretty much expected.

As for parts, parts can be found ALL over the Internet both 3rd party (in some cases better than OEM) or still factory parts since these cars shared many driveline components with the truck line.

I will caution you that if you get into an accident, body parts, and I mean genuine GM parts are nearly gone if not gone. Most of the aftermarket body parts (fenders, etc) are junk.

In the end, having owned 3 copies of these cars, I can say that if properly maintained, and we're not talking anything more than normal service and wear and tear, these vehicles will more than be up to the tasks you throw at them. Of course any vehicle not maintained, abused and/or neglected, I would agree that major service work and replacements are most likely needed (ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, etc), but again, this would be with any vehicle, not just exclusive to a B or D body platform.
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Old 11-30-2008, 10:43 AM   #22
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This isn't exactly true. The 9C1 and 9C6 versions were specifically police and taxi versions of this civilian base. Since the late 70s, the B body has been a police and taxi vehicle, built to even more stout specs than the civi versions. This platform was chosen for 9C1 and 9C6 specifically due to it's 1/2 ton like similarities. Adding a bit more toys to it made it even more useful to the non-civi owners (police, taxi).

Yes, I fully agree any old car would need some work and some inspection, but if properly maintained, there is no way you need to replace body mount bushings, etc. And I will again have to respectfully disagree with you that the 1996 versions are the best versions of this platform out there, even better than the 95s. Of course if you compare the B to something else, perhaps you may be right, but sticking strictly B or D, the 96 was the machine to have. In addition, the same parts found in B and D could be found in other GM truck and car platforms, so anything you say about B or D could be true of any GM vehicle since GM did not make electrical connectors, A/C compressors, etc only for the B and D platforms.

I would fully agree that some of the components are not the best ones out there, but you also have to keep in mind that we're talking early to mid-90s GM. Few of their cars had super premium components, but again, these cars were offered at a price point. Me, I did do many mods to one of my 96s. The dual exhaust, though stainless was a poor grade stainless, I upgraded when the mufflers rusted out after 6 years here in the rust belt where salt is king of the roads in winter. Also replaced the Auburn limited slip with the Eaton posi. Replaced the front ball joints from the 9/16 to the police package 5/8 ball joints (required new police package front lower control arm). Police package power steering cooler, air dams, etc. I spent maybe and extra $2k on one of my the 96s. None was required, but I felt it worthwhile give I was going to try to tow 6300lbs of Airstream with it. In retrospect, I prob could have done far less or nothing at all and would have been fine, but the German in me, well, you can imagine.

I am not sure what your B put you through, but I have not had any A/C issue with either of my 2 1996s. All factory. My 1980 though did have A/C issues, but then again so did my fathers 1982 and 1991 Mercedes, so that isn't really saying all that much about the B platform. In addition, none of my Bs ever had any electrical connector or electrical issues. The 1980 had nearly 200k on it and only had the fluid in the diff changed once. The axles seals were starting to wear out, but after 25 years and some towing (about 3000lbs), it was pretty much expected.

As for parts, parts can be found ALL over the Internet both 3rd party (in some cases better than OEM) or still factory parts since these cars shared many driveline components with the truck line.

I will caution you that if you get into an accident, body parts, and I mean genuine GM parts are nearly gone if not gone. Most of the aftermarket body parts (fenders, etc) are junk.

In the end, having owned 3 copies of these cars, I can say that if properly maintained, and we're not talking anything more than normal service and wear and tear, these vehicles will more than be up to the tasks you throw at them. Of course any vehicle not maintained, abused and/or neglected, I would agree that major service work and replacements are most likely needed (ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, etc), but again, this would be with any vehicle, not just exclusive to a B or D body platform.
Thank you for your observations. I have driven old Mercedes for over twenty years and appreciate their engineering and quality. I generally sneer at anything american made but have owned seven suburbans and the later ones especially I found to be very reliable and well built. My current dodge with the cummins has been pretty good overall too. I suspected that these large wagons would be very comparable to the half ton trucks. I generally preferred the 3/4 ton trucks for towing but now a vehicle which is less capable but more fuel effecient makes sense to me.
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:32 AM   #23
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Are you saying you set up a trailer with no leveling devices and use a front drive mini van to tow it with?

Are you saying you know of folks who towed awards with a roadmaster and had unsatisfactory results?

My award is a 30'
I don't believe Andy was saying that. He did say that the Roadmaster would require excessive tension on the weight distributing bars to properly transfer weight to the front tires of the car. I'd guess you'd be looking at 1000 lb bars to properly transfer 50% of less than 500 lbs of hitch weight. And yes, the Award is derived from a European design and they don't design for weight-distributing there. With a short rear overhang vehicle like a Freestar (which has a longer wheelbase than the Roadmaster as well) lighter bars would do the job just fine, and the strain on the trailer frame would be considerably less - and probably acceptable. I would defer to Andy's judgement and 35+ years' experience on exactly what setup to use.

I would personally take the Freestar over the Roadmaster. My main reason would be my observations of the handling of a Roadmaster I rode in about 10 years ago. The very soft suspension created significant understeer and the car was a handful in moderate curves. I consider them basically unsafe. (I tend to tar Crown Vics with the same brush. ) However, the regular B-bodies (LeSabre, Caprice, etc.) were generally OK, and quite good with heavy-duty suspension, i.e. rear sway bar. The best of the bunch were the Impala SSs, like Silvertwinkie's. Great fun to drive, and very stable, except that towing is compromised by that very long (by today's standards) rear overhang and solid rear axle. I test-drove a rear-drive Chrysler 300 a couple of years ago, and its steering and handling reminded me of the Impala SS.

Do you still have an M-B? If so, what model? An E-Class or larger is generally rated for 2000 kg/4400 lbs or more in Europe.
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Old 12-01-2008, 05:13 AM   #24
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I have three 123 bodies. An 82 300cd with a four speed conversion, an 83 240d us with a euro 300d and a five speed, and an 84 euro 280e. They are rated for 3000 with brakes on the trailer. In europe they would probably use one to haul the award for sure.

As for the buick, with the light hitch weight and all I cannot see how tough it would be to tow a 4200# trailer. I might want some stiffer springs in the back. You wold not need to transfer all that much weight to the front....whatever worked for a minivan would surely work on a rear driver.

I cannot imagine towing something so large with a front drive minivan. That seems dangerous to me.

The Buick weighs 5500# (can that be right?).

I'll have to go look at the books in my trailer and see what it says about the hitch. It has a knob on the side for an anti sway device.

I was hoping to use the cam style lever hitch that I used with my big excella. That thing was the berries!
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Old 12-01-2008, 08:15 AM   #25
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....whatever worked for a minivan would surely work on a rear driver.

I cannot imagine towing something so large with a front drive minivan. That seems dangerous to me.
Good day walgamuth.. I too had a big 450 SEL Mercedes way back in the late 70's. Very stable, precise , and rock solid vehicle. I could never go back to the soft mushy feel of the large domestic vehicles after that ride.

I also have experience towing a 4,500lb Airstream with a Nissan mini van. It was surprisingly very stable and relaxing when towing. Worked great for us for many years with the mechanics being reliable and dependable.

The big Buick wagon would have about the same wheel base to overhang ratio as one of those old Ford Explorer SUV's and we know how sketchy those vehicles were for towing. Sure they could be made to work for towing but with a number of mods and set up by towing pro's.

I think if you were to do and A-B comparison between the Roadmaster and the Freestar set up to tow your Award you would quickly realize the huge advantage of the Freestar in handling and control.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:23 AM   #26
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I have three 123 bodies. An 82 300cd with a four speed conversion, an 83 240d us with a euro 300d and a five speed, and an 84 euro 280e. They are rated for 3000 with brakes on the trailer. In europe they would probably use one to haul the award for sure.

As for the buick, with the light hitch weight and all I cannot see how tough it would be to tow a 4200# trailer. I might want some stiffer springs in the back. You wold not need to transfer all that much weight to the front....whatever worked for a minivan would surely work on a rear driver.

I cannot imagine towing something so large with a front drive minivan. That seems dangerous to me.

The Buick weighs 5500# (can that be right?).

I'll have to go look at the books in my trailer and see what it says about the hitch. It has a knob on the side for an anti sway device.

I was hoping to use the cam style lever hitch that I used with my big excella. That thing was the berries!
The Roadmaster would have plenty of power - that's not an issue. The real issue is whether the car would be stable enough to be safe and comfortable. More tension on a weight distributing hitch would be needed to effect weight transfer to the front tires with a Roadmaster because it has a much longer overhang than a Freestar.

5500 lbs is probably the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the Roadmaster. I'd expect a curb weight of 4200 to 4300 lbs - a 1200 to 1300 lb payload capacity makes sense. I can't remember exact numbers, but a Freestar has a similar curb weight and about 300 lbs more payload capacity.

Cam style lever hitch? If it is a Reese dual cam, the hitch weight of the Award may not be sufficient to make it work. A friction sway control (or a pair of them) might be the best option, especially if you decide not to use a weight distributing hitch.

You might PM Andrew T about the merits of using one of your existing cars. He has set them up in the past. (There's an interesting photo of a W140 with a 34' Airstream on his website.) If the 300D is a turbo (I'm guessing it is), torque would be quite sufficient. The 280e should be adequate for an aerodynamic trailer as well. The 240D would obviously not have the horsepower to overcome the aero drag of a full height trailer.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:13 PM   #27
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5500 lbs is probably the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the Roadmaster. I'd expect a curb weight of 4200 to 4300 lbs
Like AlbertF reported the curb weight of a 1992 Roadmaster is just over 4,000lbs. This is in the same range of most Mini Vans and something like the Dodge Magnum.

1992 Buick Roadmaster technical specifications and data - 4 door 5.7 litre (5733 cc) V8 182.5 PS - Carfolio.com car specifications pages
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Old 12-01-2008, 05:40 PM   #28
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The Roadmaster would have plenty of power - that's not an issue. The real issue is whether the car would be stable enough to be safe and comfortable. More tension on a weight distributing hitch would be needed to effect weight transfer to the front tires with a Roadmaster because it has a much longer overhang than a Freestar.

5500 lbs is probably the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the Roadmaster. I'd expect a curb weight of 4200 to 4300 lbs - a 1200 to 1300 lb payload capacity makes sense. I can't remember exact numbers, but a Freestar has a similar curb weight and about 300 lbs more payload capacity.

Cam style lever hitch? If it is a Reese dual cam, the hitch weight of the Award may not be sufficient to make it work. A friction sway control (or a pair of them) might be the best option, especially if you decide not to use a weight distributing hitch.

You might PM Andrew T about the merits of using one of your existing cars. He has set them up in the past. (There's an interesting photo of a W140 with a 34' Airstream on his website.) If the 300D is a turbo (I'm guessing it is), torque would be quite sufficient. The 280e should be adequate for an aerodynamic trailer as well. The 240D would obviously not have the horsepower to overcome the aero drag of a full height trailer.
All of my benzes are 123 body style and rated only for 3000# for a trailer with brakes. Surely you aren't suggesting my benzes are more appropriate to tow my 30' Award with than a Roadmaster.

I fail to see how a leveling hitch would require more tension on a vehicle with a long overhang. In this case the leveling bars are prying against the front wheels as the fulcrum. Side to side motion would be more with a long overhang though, I see that.

I towed for a couple of decades with a friction anti sway device and I do not have a very high opinion of them. On my 29' avion I had two and to stop the swaying I had them clamped down so hard they started peeling off the edges of the device.

I am not interested in buying a relatively new mini van to use to tow my trailer. I can see if you want a dual purpose vehicle and will not be taking long trips that a mini van would be a good choice, but front drive especially with towing is not my cup of tea.

I am looking for an inexpensive tow dedicated vehicle, and I see my choices as one of these behemouth wagons or an older diesel pickup or suburban. I think I see that I can buy a lot nicer condition wagon for my money than pickup.

I do appreciate all the suggestions. I think that there is a whole different philosophy in the great white north about vehicles in general. Smaller is better, unlike our gas guzzling over consuming Yank attitudes.

I will never forget seeing a canadian towing about a 40' fifth wheel with a half ton ford. The single tires on that little truck were looking very worried to me, but he assured me that it towed the humongous trailer like jewel.
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