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Old 10-09-2002, 11:06 PM   #1
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Newbie - advice sought.

Hello, all.

I am in the market for an older A/S (late 60's early 70's). I am planning on using a 1999 Chevy Suburban C1500 (5.7L Vortec) with the 3.73 Axle as a tow vehicle (currently 53,000 miles). Chevy Owners Manual says good for 6800 lbs with this config. As such, does anyone foresee any issues with pulling either a Tradewind or Overlander? I am aware of the "75%" rule and so it sounds like it would be close on either one once loaded.

Any comments/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Also, any comments on one model vs the other (I have seen & liked both a nice 70 Tradewind and a 71 Overlander)? My experience to this point is pulling a 17ft boat, so curious as to just what kind of learning curve I'm in for. We are a family of four (two little girls) and will be using it primarily for long weekends mostly on private property in Sout & Central Florida (without hook-ups for now). I have focused on A/S for two reasons - quality & looks. Also, it appears buying used/vintage for re-sale value is solid should we decide this is not for us. Thxs in advance for any suggestions/guidance.
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Old 10-10-2002, 06:25 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum! it sounds like you have given this a alot of thought. Both the models you mention would be great starter units, but for a family of 4 I would steer you to the Ovelander. Mainly due to the 2 extra feet of living space, those girls will grow and what is comfortable now may not be in the near future. The main thing to be aware of in the age you are looking at is that there is not any grey water storage on board. This may not be an issue to use it as a moveable "cabin", just wanted to make you aware of the issue. Here is a link to The Vintage Airstream photo archives. This will give you the ability to virtually tour many models of diffrent years and see most interior layouts.

As you currently plan on towing in flat Florida, I would see how comfortable you are with your current vehicle. It sounds like with an overlander you will be at the max, but if you are not planning long distance towing you should be ok. BTW I agree with the 75% rule of thumb, but usage and funds have to be factored as well.

Towing in my opinion is as easy or easier than a boat. In fact it will feel about the same. Stopping distances will be the same or shorter beacuse the trailer has it's own brakes. Before we bought our 74 Overlander (our first Airstream) I had a 17 ft ski boat. There was not much diffrence other than getting going from a stop.

Good luck on your search.
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Old 10-10-2002, 08:12 AM   #3
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Thxs, Brett. I really appreciate the input.

About the Grey Water storage: Would you mind explaining why it is important? Can it be added easily enough?

Also, a few other questions if you don't mind:

1) You're right - I would be almost exclusively in flat FL. If safety is a primary concern (not necessarily performance - though there is some correlation, I guess). You think I'd be alright with my tow vehicle - assuming I drive smart/conservatively, etc?

2) Did you find that you could take your Overlander about anywhere you wanted? Or, are there some tradeoffs? I've been lurking awhile and I've noticed two conflicting trends: I've seen some posts on various BB's where people wish they had started bigger and shortly upgraded AND I've seen quite a few where people are unloading larger ones to go smaller (19ft or so).

3) Boondocking - any one of these models better than the other for this - or is size the only real difference? Sounds like Generators are a contentious issue in the RV community. As I'm sure you know, in FL, you simply have to have Airconditioning. We wouldn't be on the map if we didn't have it. Everything I've read is that if you must, the Honda dual 2KW setup is the best as it is quiet and reliable - do you concur? Is there anyway you can make an installation permanent/appear part of the vehicle for security of the generators & appearance?

Sorry for all the questions, but sounds like you "been there, done that" on everything I'm considering.

Brgds,
David
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Old 10-10-2002, 10:19 AM   #4
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David,


I will be glad to offer my opinions, but remember you asked for it.

Grey water. Boy this one stirs up lots of thoughts. Basic rule is you cannot drain grey water on the ground. Adding a tank to the trailer has many pitfalls that need to be address first. Most of the 25 and 27 ft trailers of the vintage you are considering have a rear bath. This puts the main holding tank at the exterme back of the frame. The frame was designed to handle this but adding a grey tank will create extreme stress that the frame was never designed to handle. It will also affect the total weight of the trailer if towed with it full. If you can find a 74/75 model you will get minimal gey water storage. 77 on up had ok storage but that may be pushing you out of your budget range. The tote tank works and can be done, but if you get one I reccomend the smaller model as you may have to drag it to the dump station by hand. A 22 gal tank can weigh in a close to 200 lbs full. Then there is the issue of storing a tank that has held nasty water insde your tow vehicle, or do you carry it in the trailer?? There is no "right" answer here it is just an issue of a compromise you can live with.

1. Conservative driving is the key. Even if you are within the 75%guideline.

2. We never had any problems getting into any campgrounds with our trailer. it was the Great Dane that created problems. As to the upgrade/downgrade issue it is a presonal preference more than anything. The smaller the trailer, generally the less storgage capicaity. The bigger the trailer the more room for entertainment. It really depends on if you are going to spend more time in the trailer or just use it as sleeping quarters? I wanted to keep the towability easy so we went with the 27 at first. We upgraded to a 31 because we wanted better sleeping accomadations. The 31 had a double bed in the rear.

3. Any Airstream can be used for boondocking, it all depends on how you outfit it. You will need to conserve water more in an older unit as the fresh tank will be smaller. You are right on the Generator vs. solar front. Ac is a must here in FLA. From a generator standpoint you can add one, in the 70's Airstream offered LP models as an option. You will be giving up storage space, but it can be done. It all depends on how handy you are. I have no idea what it would cost to have one installed. You might want to try the honda first and see how it works for you.

On a side note on most of these older units you need to check out the AC. If it is an original Armstrong AC you may be in for a bill to replace it not soon after you buy it. The typical RV air conditioner is good for 7-10 years. The Armstrongs have lasted longer but there is little or no parts availability so breakdowns mean buy a new one.

Sorry to be so long but as I said, you asked......
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Old 10-10-2002, 04:19 PM   #5
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db, The Suburban should make a excellent tow vehicle for the Overlander. I suppose it is equipted with a tow package, and an over size radiator. I suggest that you invest in a weight distribution hitch and possibly overload springs. Check the drop when hooked up. With this equiptment you'll never know it's there. The brakes on the trailer must be in top shape. LOL Tom
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Old 10-10-2002, 04:28 PM   #6
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I agree with Brett. We do have a Tradewind and find it plenty big for 2 or 3, but the bath is very small. The Overlander is almost the same, but has a better bathroom, and a few extra inches of living space up front. I would not necessarily tow anything bigger than a Tradewind with your rig. My van is similar in rating to your Suburban, but has less power, I think. I would not want to tow a bigger trailer with it, even though it does great with the 6000lb max Tradewind. I think the Overlander would max out your 1/2 ton Suburban. My trailer has a tiny grey tank, but it's really more like a buffer than a holding tank. Maybe 15 gal or so. So, after 2 showers, the thing is full. Some campgrounds let you drain the grey water, but never the black water. There is definitely a compromise in owning and using a vintage trailer. But it is great fun. It's good that you have made few preliminary choices already, so when eiter one comes your way, yo can act quick and nail the deal. Good trailers go very fast.
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Old 10-10-2002, 05:27 PM   #7
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Newbie Advice Sought

While GM rated the 1999 1500 Suburban at 6,800 pounds with the heavy duty trailer towing equipment, it is my opinion that it would be marginal for an Overlander - - my 1964 Overlander tips the scales right at 6,000 pounds when loaded for an extended trip. My second tow vehicle for this trailer was a 1995 K1500 Chevrolet Z71 Club Cab pickup (I know pre Vortec meaning less power/torque), and it struggled in the rolling hills of Southern Illinois on each of my trips. It had even greater difficulties with the rolling hills of Northern Illinois and Southwest Wisconsin.

In my opinion, the Suburban that you are considering towing with would best be limited to a Trade Wind. I don't think that a pre-1980 Overlander would exceed the factory trailer tow rating, but it would push very close. My concern would be with driveability when towing as I know my earlier model 1500 rig struggled too much of the time when towing my '64 Overlander.


Good luck with your search and decision.
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Old 10-10-2002, 07:40 PM   #8
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Thoughts from a new member . . . We spent the summer making a number of relatively local trips (<200 miles) towing our '64 Ambassador (28') with a 2000 Chev Suburban (5300) (towing package). While I have not researched the "numbers" a great deal (I would surely defer to the expert opinions offered here), I've been fairly impressed with this combination. The A/S clearly holds the road well (better than anything I've ever towed) and the Sub performed well under a variety of towing conditions; good power and braking even without trailer brakes at the start of our season. (I hate to admit that part). Ideally, you'd buy the 3/4 ton 8100 Suburban with the Allison automatic transmission - an amazing powertrain not available in the Suburban yet as far as I know??? The Sub came before the A/S for me so I've made do but it hasn't been difficult.
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Old 10-10-2002, 08:38 PM   #9
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Thank you for taking the time to comment - great information. This is wonderful for info gathering. I am definitely going to do more digging on the towing issue. It looks like there is roughly a 300lb difference on the models I'm looking at (in those years). How I load would be key. I won't be changing my tow vehicle anytime soon.

Uwe, you said the 71 Tradewind at least has a small grey water tank - was that standard or added? If I do end up with a Tradewind, I want at least a 65' as it looks like from the photos that thats when they went to twin axles - correct? Looks like the Overlander always had it. I have read that single axles on midsize trailers can be "challenging."

Also, that era lists "Twins" and "Double" - what are they referring to?

Lastly (for now), I know this is tough as conditions vary widely, but given a 68-72 vintage, what is the price range you are seeing? It looks like anywhere from $3-7K - is that right? I want something in as good of shape as possible/ready to go.

I'll be bouncing more questions off of all you shortly, I'm sure. Thxs again.

David

P.S. Brett, Thxs for the heads-up on Aircon life expectancy.
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Old 10-11-2002, 12:28 PM   #10
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"Twin" is used to designate two, twin-size beds while "double" would mean a double bed. Our double has a spacious dressing/storage system on the opposite side of the double bed.

As for price, in North Dakota, while they aren't exactly plentiful, you could get into a coach fitting your description for roughly 5K - obviously, the condition is key and whether the updates have been done - tires, wheels, Uni-volt, mechanicals, etc.

BEWARE of new laminate flooring systems as they hide soft floors pretty well.
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Old 10-11-2002, 03:38 PM   #11
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Yes, in the model years that you are considering the Overlander would have been standard with tandem axles. I don't believe that the tandem axles became a standard feature on Overlanders until about 1961. Even after most Overlanders were equipped with tandem axles, they didn't always have brakes on both axles. My '64 Overlander has tandem axles, but the brakes on the second axle were not added until the original owner had taken it on several trips.

I believe that you are correct that the Trade Wind became a near standard tandem axle unit about 1965. Prior to 1965, I believe that the tandem axles may have been optional equipment via special order as I believe that I have seen at least one early 1960s tandem axle Trade Wind.

As far as gray water tanks are concerned, I don't believe they became standard until the 1974 model year. I believe that gray water tanks were a factory installed extra cost option during much of the early 1970s. Even if the trailer that you find is from the years of standard gray water tanks, you may find a situation like I did (with my '78 Argosy Minuet) where the owner didn't like dealing with the gray water tank and removed it - - fortunately the parts were saved and it has now been reinstalled on the coach.

Good luck with your search!
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