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Old 04-02-2015, 03:02 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
Concord , California
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 6
Newbie Looking for Family Band Trailer

Hello! I'm new to Air Forums. The reason I joined was to learn more about Airstreams prior to making my first trailer purchase. I have been casually "looking" for several years, but am now ready to pull the trigger when the right AS becomes available, hopefully in the next month or two. I would appreciate any advice that you might be willing to share. So, briefly, here is my criteria:

1. The AS would be used by my family of 7 (kids are 13 - 1yr) at bluegrass music festivals, KOA's, Yosemite, state parks, etc.
2. We would like to take it on a 1-month trip across the country and back at least once sometime in the next 5 years.
3. We have a 2004 Suburban 1500 that can tow around 7300#. I would prefer not to upsize my tow rig because we would use this vehicle as our family hauler the rest of the year when we are not towing.
4. I would prefer not to spend over $20K total, so a $10,000 vintage with $10K of upgrades max.

So far, I have looked at two trailers in person -- a 1975 31' Sovereign with rear bath for $6500 and a 1986 32' Excella with side bath and rear twins for $10K. The 32'er was in usable condition and everything worked. The Sovereign was in worse shape. I like the idea of adding bunks to get 4 beds toward the rear and have the front for my wife and me.

I realize both of these trailers are oversized for my tow rig on paper. The 32' Excella weighs 6440# dry so I know the loaded weight will exceed my rated capacity. I would never do anything that I didn't feel was safe and am comfortable pulling trailers. I have justified in my mind that I would only be towing a few times a year and would just take it slow on inclines and would of course have a solid trailer brake controller. My wife is cautioning me to stay within the guidelines and look for something smaller.

So, with that as my introduction, I'd be very interested to hear from some of you. Is there a trailer in particular that you think I should be looking at? Recently I've been thinking a lighter '60s model. I consider myself to be pretty handy and follow through on my projects. I know I'll be adding bunks one way or the other.

Thanks for your time and input.

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Old 04-02-2015, 04:11 PM   #2
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Some things to think about

#1 You are not just towing the trailer, you are towing all passengers and cargo
and propane and fresh water, Add that weight

#2 A few people will disagree, but i think that there is no vehicle that is both a safe tow vehicle AND a great every day car

#3 Even RVs in great shape cost a lot in upkeep. Know what you are getting yourself into

#4 Beat up RVs can cost $ 25 K to restore

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Old 04-02-2015, 04:37 PM   #3
1987 Avion 34W owner
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Vintage Kin Owner
Good Ol' , USA
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I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but I can't imagine accommodating your family in ANYTHING that your prospective tow vehicle could handle. You're talking about lots of people, lots of "stuff", PLUS a trailer.

I think you should do another level-set so you're not disappointed.
“What’s good for me may not be good for the weak minded.”

1987 Avion 34W
1995 Ford F250 7.3L PowerStroke
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Old 04-03-2015, 10:25 AM   #4
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2002 27' Safari
Porterdale , Georgia
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 36
When The Little Woman and I upgraded to our current AS, we were within the limitations of our '02 F-150. However, our first trip to Top Of Georgia left us pale and shaky - we didn't know if we would make it not. Even tho we had the tow pkg on the truck,nthe transmission was screaming in agony, overheating, and shifting constantly. And rather than torture a perfectly healthy F-150 we upgraded to a GMC SIERRA 2500 HD, DEISEL Duramax w/ Allison trans. and it now pulls our 7600# Safari with NO Effort! And we load up all our toys and camping crap and go merrily on our way!

I would SERIOUSLY re-think this! Burnt up transmissions cost a lot of dough when you're broke down in the middle of nowhere. Plus yall are going to be on top of each other if it's a rainy day. There are large pop ups with three slides, giant beds, air conditioned, etc. That accommodate larger families and it stays fun.

Best of luck in whatever you do, keep us posted!!
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Old 04-03-2015, 11:13 AM   #5
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2014 25' FB Flying Cloud
Rochester , Minnesota
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 76
I use the same tow vehicle as you. Bought a new 25fb last year that has a loaded weight of 7200lbs. We live in Minnesota and thus far have only taken reasonably flat road trips somewhat nearby (less than 100miles or so).

We WILL NOT be heading anywhere near the Rockies or the Appalachians for that matter until we are ably to upgrade our tow vehicle. I wouldn't feel safe as we are nearing our maximum abilities on flatish roads.

If a new tow vehicle is out of the question for now, I would rethink your trailer weight.

If I only had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had a puppy.
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Old 04-03-2015, 11:15 AM   #6
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2010 20' Flying Cloud
Hailey , Idaho
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Posts: 404
Mister Simmons
I like your enthusiasm, but I have to back up the previous posts and tell you that the 1500 Chevy's are too underpowered for pulling 30+ft AS in the mountainous west...with the additional concern of the age of your truck. Please note that all of these posts show our concern that you'll be disappointed or, worse, end up needing to put in a lot more money than you budgeted. jon
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Old 04-03-2015, 11:42 AM   #7
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2013 30' Classic
Greenwood , Mississippi
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Look for posts by Pizzachop and Skatero. They both have large families and have converted 31' Airstreams to bunkhouses. They both tow with 1 ton diesel Econoline vans.
Pizzachop has a family band, too, and hauls equipment with them to rallies- PA equipment and lighting in addition to musical instruments.
2013 Classic 30 Limited
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Old 04-03-2015, 12:11 PM   #8
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1999 34' Excella
Currently Looking...
Hillsboro , Texas
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Your songs may lighten hearts, but not your rig. You will have GROWING kids (I hope), so the loads will only build.

Our 2500 Dmax crew cab pulls our 34' well. It has to " work" towing at times. A friend has the same truck in gasoline and it REALLY works up our tiny hills here in the Texas Hill Country. And... Fuel mileage is worse than the diesel...!!!

We have had the 34' for a couple of years, but I have towed things big and small for about 45. I "can" tow my 34' with a small Toyota but, when (not if) the 34' starts 'wagging the dog' it will get really ugly, really fast. If I have to make "evasive" maneuvers I better have the tow vehicle (TV) to "be the boss".

This was driven home soon after purchase when I had to steer the rig off to a soft shoulder while running about 55mph, with my wife and 3 granddaughters in the truck....

And, if you buy something other than an AS, you will have even harder time controlling in "windy" conditions. The AS is not affected as much.

Your call...hope you can "hear the music"

For myself and my obviously inferior manhood and capability, the 2500 gits 'er done.
Peace and Blessings..
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Old 04-03-2015, 12:30 PM   #9
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1978 31' Sovereign
Hot Springs , Arkansas
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 572
Go with the Sovereign. They are easier to find, has the storage and has the living space you will need. Expect to spend 2500/3500 to make everything right. Tires, service bearings, brakes and all the other little things.

I pull my 31 with a 2004 Yukon with the 5.3. Your rig is identical, and as long as you keep it low and slow in tow mode, the world will continue to spin. I have an OVERKILL TV in the 89 FSuperduty, but the appointments in the GMC are less Spartan. Your truck will work just fine. Fuel Mileage towing will be around 11-12 mpg. I use a K&N air filter, use Royal Purple HPS oil and filter. Lucas fuel conditioner adds 2 mpg unloaded. Make sue to have the trans fluid and filter changed by a reputable trans shop. They can also check the line pressure to see where the Trans pump is in its life expectancy. Transmissions work great until you hit the mountains. Just ask a transmission guy in Colorado.

Age has nothing to do with condition. If your rig has been well serviced, tow with confidence. Brand new vehicles fail all the time. I have owned many new vehicles over the years, every one had a recall issue. Ford and Chevrolet. The older ones have the bugs sorted out. (And I really like living debt free!) 50-70K for a new TV? Thank you no.

You have to take in account and exercise caution when loading the AS out. I would recommend towing with the Black and Gray tanks empty, as well as the water tank. Since you have such a large entourage, the amount of "stuff" will most likely be limited to 'essential' items. No big deal.

No matter what you decide to buy, have an experienced Airstreamer do an inspection for you. Just ask on the forum, someone will help you out.

If you need a brake controller, I recommend the Tekonsha P3. It is the easiest thing to hook up ever, totally plug and play. No cutting/splicing/soldering.
When you guys get saddled up, you will have the time of your life!
Wishing you the Best!
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Old 04-03-2015, 01:25 PM   #10
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2000 36' Land Yacht XC Diesel
Fresno , California
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 171
I always feel the need to suggest this to newbies, because I think they haven't even considered it. I personally am a huge proponent class A's. You can easily get a used Gas powered AS Clipper, 365, or XC. If you look harder you could even find a diesel pusher! (if you buy a gas you'll always have diesel envy anyways) No towable can beat The amount of interior volume you get with a class A. I can sleep 6 (sofa, dinette, and rear bed) but I know they were plenty of models that sleep 8 comfortably.

Another reason I had to suggest this for you, is that what you plan to be your TV would actually make an excellent dinghy (if it's 4 wheel drive) all you have to do is put the transfer case in neutral and that's very easy to do on GM's. All in your usually looking at a cost of $1000 to get it wired set up and ready to flat tow (on all fours) Mine is a 2006 hummer, and our vehicles are basically the same underneath but with different panels lol.

So, definitely look at class As. I almost forgot. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it's going to be having your entire family crammed in the suburban while driving down the road? With a classy I almost forgot. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it's going to be having your entire family crammed in the suburban while driving down the road? With a class A the trip there is just as fun as the destination. And if you have girls well let me tell you the bathroom on wheels...lifesaver!

My favorite and most memorable memories with my family were of our crazy adventures in our tiny Aljo tag then behemoth Avion FW. But it's when we got the class A that we REALLY started having fun. But whatever you choose, you're going to be a member of the RV community. And you're going to make memories that will last forever. Welcome to the club!

Lucas S
2000 36' Airstream Land Yacht XC Diesel
2006 Hummer H2 dinghy
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Old 04-03-2015, 03:01 PM   #11
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2012 27' Flying Cloud
W , New England
Join Date: Oct 2012
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Newbie Looking for Family Band Trailer

I like Lucas' suggestion. I had a 1970 Chevy CST 10 - loved the lines of that truck but no way would I tow anything with it.

I've always wondered how difficult it would be to take a body like your old Suburban and put it on a modern chassis and power train. Probably way more than buying the class A Lucas recommends.

You're getting some great advice here even if not what you were hoping for.

Good luck!!
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Old 04-03-2015, 09:37 PM   #12
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Dallas Center , Iowa
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 127
Not sure

As always the ability to "tow" or handle the GVWR of a trailer tends to overshadow the more important issues of "payload" and "tongue weight". Do a thorough amount of detailed research on these matters and keep this in mind, safety trumps all considerations. The spec max capacities of the vehicle should be taken seriously. Even though upgrading the tow vehicle falls low on some people's list it is often the most important and rewarding thing you can do for safety and enjoyment. Your wife has it right, stay within design limits. The fact that you will only use it a few times a year does not justify looking beyond the obvious. IMO you still have to be safe 100% of the time, no matter how few times you use it. Trying to give it to you straight. Safety first my friend, you will never be sorry.
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Old 04-04-2015, 04:11 AM   #13
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1969 27' Overlander
Kimmell , Indiana
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Posts: 54
School bus converted to RV. If done right they are safe and economical.!!!
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Old 04-04-2015, 04:37 AM   #14
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Hoosier, a school bus is a neat idea but….

Although you could purchase a used school bus for a reasonable price, adding kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, electric, insulation, and bunks, would not be cheap

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