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Old 07-08-2003, 09:43 AM   #1
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Question "New" 1969 Safari question...

Hello and Good Morning...

I'm new to this site (and to Airstreams...) and I have a quick question.

My wife and I are in the process of buying a 1969 Safari. We should have the title this afternoon. I've gone to the Airstream company site and picked up the Dry Weight (3860#), hitch wieght (420#) and the Hitch Ball height (19"). What I can't find for sure is the hitch ball size.

I've seen a couple of posts saying that A/S switched to the 2 5/8" ball in 1969 with the new body style and I've talked to the previous owner who says he's pulled it with a 2" ball for the last two years.

The hitch coupler on the trailer doesn't look like any I've seen (though I'm no expert.) ...It has two "spring-looking-things" leading down eash part of the frame for about 6 or 8 inches. These are pretty heavy duty springs (1/4" steel, or thereabout.) The current owner thinks they may be some sort of antique sway control...though he admits that's just a guess.

I'm having my truck (2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac) fitted with the hitch/receiver tomorrow morning, so I'm more than idly curious.

Here are my questions:

Did the 1969 Safari come with a 2" or 2 5/8" coupler?

If somebody had the coupler modified, is it likely they went from 2 5/8" down to 2"?

Could the current owner have towed the trailer several hundred miles with the wrong ball? (And, if so, what, if any, damage might have happened?)

How can I tell what size is the right size for the coupler?

Thanks for any insight.

Bob Boucneau
Denver

ps: Are there any Year-Specific concerns I should have? Any "gotcha's" ?? Thanks again. -B
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Old 07-08-2003, 10:08 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum!

As to ball size there should be a number stamped into the coupler. It may be hard to read if there are many layers of paint.

You can tow 2 5/8 trailers with a 2 inch ball, but you risk having it jump off the ball.

As to the oddities on the A frame we would need a picture to be able to offer a definitave answer.

As to gotchas, I am not aware of any, but first year models may have a mix of new and prior year parts. Airstream did not have firm cut offs on some things.
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Old 07-08-2003, 11:03 AM   #3
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Re: "New" 1969 Safari question...

Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Boucneau
ps: Are there any Year-Specific concerns I should have? Any "gotcha's" ?? Thanks again. -B
Bob, a friend of mine just purchased a 1970 Safari and is in the process of installing a new Penquin AC (trailer had no AC when purchased). I've been helping him surf the web in search of manuals, documentation, etc...

I found this link for Airstream manuals which are in a PDF format. Towards the bottom there is a link to a PDF about some problems with 1969 models that you may want to check out.
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Old 07-08-2003, 11:22 AM   #4
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The one thing to remember is that the frame seperation issue is one that can be attributed to more than one issue. That and the majority of the frame separation was on longer units of 27+ feet.

Causes that have been sited:

Toing with full holding tank(s)
Installation if additional weight on rear bumper, a bike rack, a tool box, etc.
Imbalanced running gear
Water penatration into floor sheet that causes wood rot and subsequent failure
Towing over extremly rough roads and not attempting to minimize the beating the trailer takes

A maintained trailer that is of the length of a safari (22 feet?) should not suffer from this problem unless it has been abused in my opinion.
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Old 07-08-2003, 12:07 PM   #5
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"New" 1969 Safari question . . . . . .

Greetings Bob!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstreaming!

Quote:
My wife and I are in the process of buying a 1969 Safari. We should have the title this afternoon. I've gone to the Airstream company site and picked up the Dry Weight (3860#), hitch wieght (420#) and the Hitch Ball height (19"). What I can't find for sure is the hitch ball size.
Your coach is from the first year of production when the 2 5/16" ball became a standard feature. That isn't to say, however, that a previous owner may not have replaced the coupler with one of a different size - - or it is also possible that some of the early production models might have had the pre-1969 2" Marvel couplers.

To verify your coach's information, you might like to decode your serial number with information from the following pdf file:

Decoding the Pre-1980 Airstream Serial Number (VIN)

Quote:
The hitch coupler on the trailer doesn't look like any I've seen (though I'm no expert.) ...It has two "spring-looking-things" leading down eash part of the frame for about 6 or 8 inches. These are pretty heavy duty springs (1/4" steel, or thereabout.) The current owner thinks they may be some sort of antique sway control...though he admits that's just a guess.
I suspect that you may be looking at a Vintage Reese Dual Cam Sway Control setup. They haven't changed greatly. Check out the photos at the link below to see if it resembles the configuration found on the hitch of the Safari.

Reese Dual Cam Sway Control Instructions and Illustrations

If it does turn out that what is present is a Reese Dual Cam Sway Control, you will want to be sure that your weight distributing bars either have the optional saddles for the Dual Cam Sway Control system or that the bars are of the new Reese design that does not require the optional saddles. The new style bars are the ones in the illustration in the link above - - they have a unique "turned-down" lever at the trailing end of the bar.

You might also find the link below on setting up your Reese Hitch System helpful if what you have is a Dual Cam System:

Reese Straight-Line Hitch Setup Instructions and Illustrations

Quote:
If somebody had the coupler modified, is it likely they went from 2 5/8" down to 2"?
Almost anything in the world of Vintage Airstreaming seems possible. One scenario would be a previous owner with one or more pre-68 models who wanted to maintain only one hitch on the tow vehicle MIGHT have had a 2" coupler installed - - or - - if it is an early production model it MIGHT have had a 2" coupler from the factory (haven't heard of this happening, but it seems that stranger things have happened).

Quote:
Could the current owner have towed the trailer several hundred miles with the wrong ball? (And, if so, what, if any, damage might have happened?)
It is quite possible that this scenario could play out. As a constant friend to Murphy's Law, I am sure that if I tried that with a 2" ball being mated to a 2 5/16" coupler I would have been testing the capacity of my safety chains. On a smooth road without potholes or any necessary emergency braking, the coupler could well have stayed on the ball as if it belonged. It is possible that long term towing with the potential of excessive movement of the ball within the coupler that something might have been damaged - - if the coupler is original, there are rebuild kits available for the vintage couplers. I believe that they are usually listed on Inland-RVs web site catalog.

Quote:
How can I tell what size is the right size for the coupler?
The ball size should be stamped somewhere on the coupler - - on the Marvel coupler on my '64 it is boldly displayed on the top surface of the coupler - - on my '78, it is stamped much less boldly and could easily be obscured by paint (it is on the side of the coupler on the '78). Another less precise method would be to try coupling to a 2 5/16" ball and seeing if it can be done and whether it remains firmly attached when the tongue jack is raised to its maximum height while the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle.

The '69 Safari would be among the first year of the new body style - - the previous year featured the older body style with Corning Windows that due to being obsolete have caused owners a variety of problems when one of them breaks. There are no particular issues with the smaller Airstreams of this period - - just the usual concerns about floor rot, axle condition, and other general maintenance issues.

Good luck with your project!

Kevin
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Old 07-08-2003, 02:49 PM   #6
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Brett, Thanks -- I'll post a picture of the coupler once I've actually got the thing in my possesion...and ask again then.

NDS, I saw that notice too, but decided (based on my hours of experience ) that this trailer doesn't seem to have this problem. Once I get it where I can take a close look, I'll make sure and fix it (per the directions) if I have to...hope I don't. Thanks for your concern.

Brett (again)...your comments on the frame separation issue mirror my thoughts (and are one of the reasons I wanted a shorter trailer (that and my truck...)) It seams to me that if you put 4,000 pounds on a frame and balance it on a sigle point (the axle) some bending/tourquing is to be expected...but right now I can't see it.) This trailer seems to have been very well maintained. Thanks for your reassurances.

Kevin. Wow. Thank you.
~
Once I have the serial number I will check it out. Basically, though, it appears to be a fairly standard model (dinette up front, sofa/double and kitchen in the middle, bath in the back.) I checked out the picture you sent me to and it doesn't appear to be similar. As I mentioned above, I'll post pictures one I get it home. I'm going to guess that the hitch coupler is actually a 2 5/16", but hedge my guess by (hopefully) borrowing a 2" ball from the hitch guy. We'll see. As I mentioned above, the trailer seems to be in great, well maintained condition...

Thank all three of you for your super-fast and thoughtful responses. It was much more than I could have hoped for.

We're heading out on our first camping trip Friday the 18th. With any luck we'll know what does and does not work when we get back...and, even more importantly, what questions to ask.

If you happen to see a gold Ford Sport Trac pulling an old silver Safari named "George" down the road, I can assure you there are cold drinks (including the odd adult beverage) in the refrigerator with your name on them...
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