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Old 03-10-2005, 02:13 PM   #1
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'58 Overlander

im towing for the first time a 58 overlander. what is the correct ball size, height? what other sway control/safety gear should i consider? im a total newbie, never towed before
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Old 03-10-2005, 03:05 PM   #2
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Cool - another 58 - I have a 58 overlander too.....

Welcome to the forum!

That should take a 2" ball - height can vary from 17 to 19" depending on axle condition - I would recommend equalizing bars and a decent size pickup truck.

Ken
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Old 03-10-2005, 03:39 PM   #3
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58 overlander

Greetings Undledaddy!

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

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncledaddy
im towing for the first time a 58 overlander. what is the correct ball size, height? what other sway control/safety gear should i consider? im a total newbie, never towed before
Unless your coach has been modified from original, you will likely find that it has a Mavel 2" coupler. You will need a 2" ball with a weight rating of at least 6,000 pounds - - be forewarned that most of the mass-merchandisers carry 2" balls with ratings that won't be safe for an Airstream - - try checking with trailer repair services in your area (the local hitch installers in my area carry 2" balls with 6,000 pound ratings but they are usually a "behind-the-counter" item rather than something found in a sales rack display).

You will need a receiver style hitch capable of handling approximately 400 pounds of empty hitch weight (and around 700 pounds for a fully loaded coach) - - the empty weight of your coach will likely be around 4,000 pounds (gross loaded weight will likely be between 5,500 and 6,000 pounds). The hitch height is typically about 19.5" for coaches of this era, but tire size and axle/spring sag can decrease the height slightly (the best measure is to check the height when the coach is parked on a level surface with the coach leveled and set your ball height to that measurement). For example, my '64 Overlander has an advertised empty weight of 3,930 pounds (actual 4,440 pounds), and an advertised empty hitch weight of 405 pounds (actual 475 pounds) - - the loaded gross weights are generally 6,100 pounds coach and 750 pounds hitch weight. You can learn more about Airstream weights and measures at:

http://www.airstream.com/airstream/p.../weights-1.pdf

There are many preference as to hitch selection. I have utilized Reese products since 1980. Since 1996, I have utilized the Reese Strait-Line hitch with Dual Cam Sway Control - - I have been absolutely satisfied with its performance on both my Overlander and Minuet. The key issue is to select the hitch with weight distribution bars that are matched to your coach/tow vehicle combination - - despite what many hitch retailers will try to sell you, the 1,000 pound bar set-up IS NOT a one-size-fits-all-Airstreams selection. When towing with my K2500 Suburban with its stiff springing, I utilize 700 pound weight bars; but when towing with my Cadillac Eldorado, I utilize 800 pound weight bars due to its very soft springing. The nice thing about the Dual Cam system is that you don't have to constantly adjust the sway control as is necessary with the friction devices (loosen for wet/slick conditions - - tighten for windy, heavy truck traffic) - - once the Dual Cam system is properly installed and ajusted it is worry free. You can learn more about the Strait-Line system at:

http://www.reeseproducts.com/product..._dualcam.shtml

You will also want to be prepared to rewire the coach's umbilical cord to match your tow vehicle. Airstream didn't begin utilizing something close to the wiring standard utilized in today's tow vehicles until about ten years ago. Your Overlander's umbilical cord may have its Bargman connector wired to a standard similar to my '64 that is described in the factory website link below:

http://www.airstream.com/airstream/p...lug1964-65.pdf

Your tow vehicle will likely be wired similar to the current standard in the link below:

http://www.marksrv.com/wiring.htm

When rewiring my coaches (both required having their connectors rewired to the current standard), I utilized a 12-volt battery with alligator clamps to verify the function of each of the umbilical wires and then attached them to the terminal for their function on the new connector. You might want to arrive prepared for this scenario with a trailer end to match your tow vehicle, and if my experience is any indicator having a new breakaway switch is also a good insurance policy just in case the one on the coach isn't functioning (the coach may or may not have one as they wouldn't have been part of factory equipment, but probably would have been added to meet state safety standards at a later date - - my '64 had one that was a later addition and my Minuet had an original that was not functional).

Another aspect of safety will be condition of tires/brakes/bearings. Bearings are suspect on any coach where the date of the last bearing service is unknown - - on both of my coaches, the previous owners provided me with receipts indicating that the bearings had been serviced within the prior 12-months (if they hadn't been able to document the service, I would have wanted to have that service performed nearly immediately). Tires are also another issue with most newly acquired vintage coaches - - a blow-out or flat can cause considerable damage to the body and wheelwells of the coach, and any tire more than five years old is a suspect. New tires are a high probability replacement item, especially if you are planning on towing any distance at all - - one thing to keep in mind is that the coach may have split-rims if they haven't been replaced (they would have likely been original equipment) and many tire shops refuse to service them which would mean new wheels as well. Whether it is just new tires or new tires and wheels, it is usually advisable to have the selling tire dealer measure for both so that when the tires and/or wheels that are delivered are not suitable for some reason, it will be the responsibility of dealership personnel rather than you, the customer - - I have followed this practice with each of my coaches as the older Airstream coaches (especially single axle models) are known to have difficulties with tight wheelwell clearances.

Depending upon your tow vehicle, you will also likely need a set of extension mirrors. Again, there are almost as many preferences as there are styles and manufacturers of these mirrors. My preference is for a clamp-on style that has been in production for several decades (one of my sets is 30 years old and the second set is more than 10 years old) - - the McKesh trailer tow mirrors have provided excellent service and the manufacturer backs them up with replacement part availability even for those that are several decades old - - see:

http://www.hensleymfg.com/mckeshmirrors.html

Just be forewarned that when you order either McKesh mirrors or parts for same, you will become part of the mailing list for the Hensley hitch - - my last shipment of new webbing and pads included the Hensley hitch video and several brochures.

Good luck with your coach!

Kevin
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:06 PM   #4
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Great info. thanks. im told by the person who is currently storing it that the current measured ball hitch height is 16inches, which is lower than typical apparently and calls into question whether the measurement given to me is correct. I'll have to play it by ear once i get there. if i show up and have the wrong height, how much variance can i have without making it unsafe to tow? is taller better than being too short or vice-versa? i know there are hitches with adjustable heights, does anyone have an opinion on those?
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:24 PM   #5
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58 overlander

Greetings Uncledaddy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncledaddy
Great info. thanks. im told by the person who is currently storing it that the current measured ball hitch height is 16inches, which is lower than typical apparently and calls into question whether the measurement given to me is correct. I'll have to play it by ear once i get there. if i show up and have the wrong height, how much variance can i have without making it unsafe to tow? is taller better than being too short or vice-versa? i know there are hitches with adjustable heights, does anyone have an opinion on those?
The biggest problem if there is a significant difference is either dragging the bumper or tongue when crossing dips in the road. An out-of-level condition is a greater problem with a tandem axle coach as the out-of-level condition will result in greater loading on one axle than the other - - with a single axle the greatest issue with out-of-level will be an increased tendency toward sway or yaw.

If the ball mount that you select comes with the adjustable hitch head as most do today, it shouldn't bee too difficult to find a drawbar that can accommodate a hitch height between 16" and 19" (the 16" height could potentially be a problem if your tow vheicle is a 3/4-ton 4X4 - - it was a real problem to find a deep enough drop drawbar to accommodate my K2500 Suburban/Overlander combination (it took the Reese drawbar with the greatest drop available).

I have attached photos of the deep-drop drawbar/ball mount as installed on my Suburban (it is adjusted to its lowest setting for my Minuet and is still just under an inch too high). The older drawbar in the second photo is the one that I use with my Cadillac when towing the Minuet or Overlander.

Basically, when you are within .75" of the ideal height you are often as close as your can get with the adjustable head hitches. The most that I have ever accepted when towing a coach (and then only for a very short distance) was 1.75" high on my '78 Minuet when I first purchased it (it was a single axle and my Suburban outweighed the coach by almost 2-times so sway wasn't a major issue, but it meant coming to a near stop when encountering dips in the road or railroad tracks to avoid damaging the rear of the coach through dragging on the pavement - - I would be reluctant to consider more than 1.25" +/- on a tandem coach and then for only short distances).

Good luck with your rig!

Kevin
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1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:26 PM   #6
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Shorter is better - no problem with adjustable height hitches - thats what I have. Also the height is measured from the ground to the top inside - perhaps there are measuring to the bottom of the hitch
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