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Old 03-31-2021, 11:08 AM   #1
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70s and 80s tow vehicles

These days I see a lot of debate about which monster truck is best to pull my
Airstream. But what about "back in the day"? What did you (or your parents or grandparents) use back in the 70s and 80s?

Please no criticisms (unless you are criticizing yourself). We know that most of you would never consider towing with THAT today...
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Old 03-31-2021, 11:12 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lemley View Post
These days I see a lot of debate about which monster truck is best to pull my
Airstream. But what about "back in the day"? What did you (or your parents or grandparents) use back in the 70s and 80s?

Please no criticisms (unless you are criticizing yourself). We know that most of you would never consider towing with THAT today...
My Dad towed with a Pontiac Catalina with a 389 and a two row radiator! I remember that because sometimes it would overheat on the grades in California. I don't know what the transmission was but it may have been some version of the 2 speed Powerglide.
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Old 03-31-2021, 12:23 PM   #3
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In the 80's it was a big block 454 in a suburban.
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Old 03-31-2021, 12:31 PM   #4
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You might be interested in this old thread IMO:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f46...ars-44920.html


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Old 03-31-2021, 01:57 PM   #5
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My dad towed with a 79 Bonneville that he ordered beefed up for towing. Don't know engine size but he used a wd hitch and had airbags. Later he towed with a 3/4 ton conversion van.

I recall once he missed the turn into Sherando Lake here in VA and made a left turn, thinking he could turn around. Nope. That road runs straight up to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Wintergreen. He says at one point he had his grandsons get out and walk beside the rig to lighten the load. Engine racing, he said he made it up at walking speed.

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Old 04-01-2021, 06:42 AM   #6
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Pretty much station wagons and light pickup trucks for everything from 1950's through the 1980's. One of the best was my dad's 1969 427 Caprice with air shocks. In all cases it was always no quick maneuvers at speed, and speeds were pretty much limited to 45-55 mph max. Scary to think about was tying into the tow vehicles hydraulic system for brakes.
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Old 04-01-2021, 06:51 AM   #7
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Those were different times for sure. I remember family vacations in the 1970s in our VW van. If we headed west into the mountains, the van hardly had enough power to get up the hill! My father would have the accelerator on the floor in second gear (3-speed on the floor) and we could almost hit 40 mph!
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Old 04-01-2021, 07:18 AM   #8
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In the late 50s/early 60s, my dad pulled our 20 something foot Airstream with a big old Buick station wagon (loaded with five kids). Not sure what the engine size was, but I remember him driving up to the top of Trail Ridge Rd with the AS in tow. Unbelievable! But he did have WD bars on it.
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Old 04-01-2021, 07:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SYC2Vette View Post
. . .
. . . Scary to think about was tying into the tow vehicles hydraulic system for brakes.
I think some of the old Airstreams had vacuum-assisted brakes, which needed a line piped from the TV engine block. I helped a friend look at a used AS back in the 90's which had such a system.

"Vacuum brakes" info here on AF:

https://www.google.com/search?q=vacu...=airforums.com
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Old 04-01-2021, 08:07 AM   #10
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I just bought a 1999 Suburban 2500 with a 454 V8. When looking at the specs, it was surprising to me just how similar it is to the 1974 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon I learned to drive in. The engine in that was a 455 V8 and it had a curb weight which was very close. Not sure about the suspension, but it was available with a 'heavy trailer' package and I'm sure that it could pull quite a few Airstream models without a problem.

If you're looking for something along these lines, the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser was on the same platform and just as robust.

It seems that they shaved a foot off the length of these in 1977, so one older than that would be high on my shopping list.
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Old 04-01-2021, 08:28 AM   #11
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Here are a few for you.

My Father's 1966 Chrysler Windsor with a 383 and a 30' 1965 Airstream.

His 1976 Pontiac Bonneville with a 455. 185 Horsepower.

The 1983 Caprice my father won the fuel economy contest in this is another trip where I am delivering and 34 Limited to Florida. This is in Smoke Mountain National Park on the Blue Ridge.

My 1987 Olds 88 3.8 Litre V6 165 horsepower, not far off the 455 from 20 years earlier with half the cubic inches. This picture is at the top[ of Independence Pass in Colorado 12,000'.
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Old 04-01-2021, 08:37 AM   #12
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My parents bought a brand new 1962 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup with a 292 "big six". It did just fine pulling through the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.
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Old 04-01-2021, 09:06 AM   #13
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Reminder of an older thread full of great photos:

Quote:
Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
You might be interested in this old thread IMO:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f46...ars-44920.html
. . .
FWIW
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Old 04-01-2021, 09:12 AM   #14
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Hi

Chevy wagon with a *lot* of stuff in it. Needless to say, the wear and tear on the vehicle was pretty significant.

The biggest recollection from back then was the "when will we get there?" side of not really going very fast. Speeds today are much higher (at least in the east) than typical tow speeds back in the late 50's early 60's.

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Old 04-01-2021, 10:23 AM   #15
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My Dad towed our trailer all over the western US with a 1972 Galaxie 500 Station Wagon. It had a 7.0 liter V8.

I'm trying to master backing up with our AS and was just thinking about him the other day.

Every time we'd get home from a trip, he'd back this crazy long station wagon attached to our trailer up over the curb, across our lawn (which involved swerving around a big tree), through the narrow space between our house and the fence and into the back yard ... this was all in reverse!

They were made of different stuff back then : )
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Old 04-01-2021, 12:38 PM   #16
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Starting in 1970 I towed our 23' Streamline with a AMC Ambassador Station Wagon. It had a 343 CID engine and tall gears. In 1974 I he'd to trade it in for a used International Travel all. The AMC's tranny was shot.
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Old 04-01-2021, 05:35 PM   #17
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My dad had a 1976 Old Cutlass station wagon. It had a 454 but no idea of the transmission or rear end. That was right before the gas crisis and fuel was still under $.50 a gallon. The speed limit was pre 55 mph, so much higher. He was consistently going 75 on the highway pulling the trailer or not.
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Old 04-01-2021, 06:25 PM   #18
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70's and 80's tow vehicles

My grandparents towed their SOB trailer through the 60's with a Lincoln Continental (with the suicide doors). Did route 66 East and back through Canada. I have pictures somewhere, now I have to dig them out!
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Old 04-01-2021, 06:26 PM   #19
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Hi Mike The Cutlass would have had a 455, 454ís were only used in chevís. The 455 was a much better engine but gm kept the 454 not the 455. It would have a had 2.73:1 gears, if it had the tow package it would have had 3.23:1.
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Old 04-01-2021, 06:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Hi Mike The Cutlass would have had a 455, 454ís were only used in chevís. The 455 was a much better engine but gm kept the 454 not the 455. It would have a had 2.73:1 gears, if it had the tow package it would have had 3.23:1.
and a TH 400 transmission
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