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Old 06-14-2018, 11:40 PM   #1
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Cool New buyer - need help with tow vehicle

Hi Air Forum world, happy to join you! My wife and I just bought a 1982 Excella 34' tri-axle (don't even know if I said that model correctly...) We can't wait to restore it to its prior glory, but we need a new vehicle to tow it. The local airstream dealer told me "don't use anything less than a 3/4 ton diesel." The wrinkle: we have six kids and need seats for everyone. Does such a vehicle exist that will comfortably tow my trailer and seat my family?? Do I really need a 3/4 ton? Thank you all!!
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Old 06-15-2018, 12:38 AM   #2
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

Welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us. That's a tall order. About the only vehicle that can adequately hand eight passengers is a Suburban. You probably will need a 3/4 vehicle to handle the passenger payload plus the 10,000 pound Airstream. Chevrolet has not made a 2500 Suburban for several years. You may be able to find a good used one.


Please keep us posted on your progress.


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Old 06-15-2018, 01:05 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acfackrell View Post
Hi Air Forum world, happy to join you! My wife and I just bought a 1982 Excella 34' tri-axle (don't even know if I said that model correctly...) We can't wait to restore it to its prior glory, but we need a new vehicle to tow it. The local airstream dealer told me "don't use anything less than a 3/4 ton diesel." The wrinkle: we have six kids and need seats for everyone. Does such a vehicle exist that will comfortably tow my trailer and seat my family?? Do I really need a 3/4 ton? Thank you all!!
No you do not need an oversized 3/4 ton diesel to travel. Diesels have a premium purchase price, premium fuel price and a premium maintenance price. Seriously not worth the ability to climb an 8% grade at full speed and engine brake down the other side. Look at the Toyota Sequoia or Tundra and you will find a match that won't break.
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Old 06-15-2018, 04:10 AM   #4
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I would look for a older Ford diesel Excursion. The ones with the 7.3 diesel are great vehicles with a very good engine. They are demanding fairly high resale prices though, and will likely have a lot of miles. My brother’s has 300,000+ and is running great.
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Old 06-15-2018, 05:17 AM   #5
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WOW! Six kids, two adults, 34' tri axle and all their belongings........the only upside is that the early tri axles were actually quite light for their size.

There is a person towing an early 80's tri axle with a Honda mini van, but I think you need to get in contact with Andy Thompson at Can-Am RV in London Ontario. Shoot him a line with weights of all the people involved; you haven't told us you weigh 350 lbs, your wife 250 and each kid is a potential NFL linebacker. Also have a good idea on what each person will pack on a trip and make them stick to it, as eight people with 40 lbs is 320lbs of crap.

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Old 06-15-2018, 07:14 AM   #6
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I would be looking at passenger vans. With six kids/two adults and all their gear I don't see how you can go with anything less than a 3/4 ton by the time you add up all the weights. Additional options like 4X4 will eat into your payload number as well. I am not an expert but this is the way I would go.
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Old 06-15-2018, 10:49 AM   #7
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Don't make the same mistake I did. $72,000 down the drain. I bought a 3/4 ton diesel thinking it would be overkill for my 27FB Classic. Boy was I wrong. Calculate your load. You, your wife, and 6 kids could easily exceed 1000#s. Now add your tongue weight of 1200+ lbs. Your at 2200 lbs. Add your toys, food, pets, water, maps, and other things you put in the glove boxes add another 50-100#. Don't forget how your family will grow in1 year: +100#s.
You can't use a pickup no matter 3/4 or 1 ton. You need a custom van with seating for 8. The van should have a payload (only identified on the door sticker of the specific vehicle you are looking at). This payload should be a minimum of 2500# and probably over 3000 if you intend to take any big toys with you( bikes, camping equipment, grill, whatever. Sorry but you really need a custom 1 ton van Diesel is great. The heavier truck will drive like the trailer is just coasting. Be thankful you can realize your dream. Others have done it with a lot less.


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Old 06-15-2018, 10:59 AM   #8
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Crowd Carrying Tow Vehicles

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Originally Posted by ITSNO60 View Post
I would be looking at passenger vans. With six kids/two adults and all their gear I don't see how you can go with anything less than a 3/4 ton by the time you add up all the weights. Additional options like 4X4 will eat into your payload number as well. I am not an expert but this is the way I would go.

I agree with ITSNO60. For that many people and a triple axle trailer, you probably want to look at a 3/4 or one ton chassis passenger van. Diesel or gas is more a matter of preference. Diesel has a serious premium front end cost and higher general maintenance cost (if you maintain them properly) but they have a longer life span by far and generally more towing power at better fuel economy. You will probably have to look at Ford, Chevy, or Mercedes. I am not sure Dodge makes one anymore. I'd look at what the most likely crowd carried would be and get seating for that. Another upside is that the suspension can be upgraded by several different methods to allow decent handling both with and without towing. Look at the aftermarket trucking industry for help enhancing tow capability and passenger comfort when not towing - and adding power and engine/transmission cooling and lubrication. The same people could help you bring an older van back up to reliability if you buy older to get what you want at a price you can afford. Vans had and still have both diesel and gas engine options.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:16 AM   #9
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Forget the mini van, the Can Am guys are great but that would really be pushing your luck. Excursion or 2500 Suburban is clearly your best bet. If Chevy or GMC made a 2500 diesel today, they would sell everyone. At least i would buy one. Have a blast!!
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:35 AM   #10
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Speaking from experience having towed 26 to 34 footers with a load of provisions and passengers purchase to most you can afford. If you are going to be traveling through rural roads with hills or even mountains you will wish you had plenty of horsepower. A three axel pull requires additional radiator and transmission cooling. The 360 cube gas engines won't be adequate and mileage pulling a trailer is lousy. The recommendations for a 6 liter diesel should be seriously considered.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:48 AM   #11
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Chevy express van comes in 8, 12 or 15, passengers with 6 kids I would get the big one. Diesel is also available, but harder to find used. I would look at one ton. There is a huge difference in the heavy duty nature, with the one ton. Plenty of room kids will love it!!
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:53 AM   #12
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Six kids... lucky you!

Save yourself some grief. Get the four door 3/4 ton 4x4 pickup, or a F350 1 ton for less than $100 more for the extra spring on each side of the bed.

Purchase a vehicle that will follow the trailer for the wife and three kids. We had two adults and four young adults one ski season in our Tundra Crew Max. Sardines, but for only 90 miles in Colorado... one way.

There are two Airforum members with 34 foot Airstreams, one with three kids and the other with four. But 4 to 14 years old. Either may find your Thread.

Two vehicles... and everyone can have plenty of room. As some get older, they will be doing their thing and may not be interested as much in participating.

Sell the extra vehicle and some day, just the two of you in the pickup.

If you have an accident being overloaded... it is not worth the 'savings' by going cheap. Do it right, new, used or already owned. The kids will not mind and everyone will be looking forward to the next gas station for restrooms and freshen up a bit.
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Old 06-15-2018, 12:42 PM   #13
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You might also look at the 2018 Ford Expedition. Completely re-designed for towing this year, has amazing muscle, great comfort, and seats 7 very comfortably—-8 would be a real squeeze, however.
I would probably also second the suggestion to look at the Suburban.
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Old 06-15-2018, 12:47 PM   #14
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We have been towing our 31' Excella with a Chevy Express 3500 and it would easily have room for all the family and their toys. Mine is a 2009 6.0L gas model and so far it has towed ours with no issues.



Don't waste the extra $$ for a diesel TV, they are wonderful but not worth the extra price tag or the extra maintenance.
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:23 PM   #15
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A 1982 34' Airstream is very stable and easy to tow, it tows easier than a current 25' so you have plenty of options. One of our customers with 6 children towed their 84 34' all over the continent for 2 months each summer for 12 years with a 1985 1500 Suburban.

Today the best SUV for you would be a Ford Expedition EL. This is a much safer and more stable tow vehicle the Excursion ever was.

If you would like more space and fuel economy a Ford Transit or Mercedes Sprinter will also tow it very nicely. The vans don't get the independent rear suspension of the Expedition but they have a lower center of gravity and a better wheelbase/overhang ratio. These vans are much more advanced than the older GM Savana or E series Fords. They are available in a variety of roof heights and lengths. The shortest height and length work best but you can add more length if you need it.

No matter what you tow with it is very important to connect it properly and very few trailers are. If you like feel free to send me an email andy@canamrv.ca and I can send you a couple of sheets on how to set it up properly.

I hope this helps.

Andy
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Old 06-15-2018, 05:03 PM   #16
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Also don't forget those kids will get BIGGER and HEAVIER each year, and they will have FRIENDS!!! Better make it a one ton 15 passenger!
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Old 06-15-2018, 05:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moosetags View Post
Welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us. That's a tall order. About the only vehicle that can adequately hand eight passengers is a Suburban. You probably will need a 3/4 vehicle to handle the passenger payload plus the 10,000 pound Airstream. Chevrolet has not made a 2500 Suburban for several years. You may be able to find a good used one.


Please keep us posted on your progress.


Brian
Brian. They DO make a 2500 Suburban gasser. Not commonly carried at most dealers, but look at what the Secret Service uses when following the motorcades. Many police departments seem to use them. 12 mph towing or not on level ground.

And I am not sure that it is still in business but there ised to be an outfit that made aftermarket "Duraburbs"... Duramax engine with its Cummins transmission plunked into a suburban body.

The Expedition isn't a bad idea either.

I also agree that diesel is nice, but with six children there are better ways to spend the 20K premium.

I bet Freightliner makes something appropriate too, but in the 100K range.

Happy hunting. Paula
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Old 06-15-2018, 05:54 PM   #18
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Sorry re the 2500 suburban i meant 12 miles per gallon...

Lots of very good advice above, I had not thought of using two vehicles, but it has some definite merits, especially if you are planning shorter trips, and if you've ever needed to separate fighting children.
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Old 06-15-2018, 06:16 PM   #19
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No you do not need an oversized 3/4 ton diesel to travel. Diesels have a premium purchase price, premium fuel price and a premium maintenance price. Seriously not worth the ability to climb an 8% grade at full speed and engine brake down the other side. Look at the Toyota Sequoia or Tundra and you will find a match that won't break.
Not really sure how well either are suited to eight people though!

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Old 06-15-2018, 06:45 PM   #20
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I completely agree with the one-ton advice. All contents you load in the vehicle (passengers, coolers, etc.) count against your payload ... you also need to add your tongue weight. Donít fall for marketing hype ... you need to open the door and look at the payload sticker on the door jam of the vehicle youíre considering. The max payload is different for every vehicle. It has running boards and a moonroof? Thatís 400 lbs. off of your available payload. Do the math and determine what your minimum payload is, accounting for future growth.

Regarding diesel or not, there are lotís of folks who will advocate that a diesel isnít required. I trust theyíre correct. But... Weíre only pulling a 30í double axle (10K GVWR) trailer, so far, only on the east coast traversing the Appalachians many times. Let me assure you, I cannot count the number of times weíve come down the back side of the pass without touching the brakes once ... completely relaxed ... and I laugh myself giddy, out loud, every time, repeating for my wife, ďI canít believe we even considered a gas engine due to advice in this forum.Ē And then, thereís climbing the front sides of the passes ... in MY HUMBLE OPINION, a 6L diesel is a no-brainer. Iíve had numerous gas V8ís, a 7.3L Power Stroke, and now this Cummins Turbo Diesel rocks. If I was buying now, though, Iíd likely go with the Ford. We canít wait to see what you wind up pulling with... Save travels and good luck with your decision.
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