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Old 09-04-2002, 06:28 PM   #1
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Question tow cars

Does anyone have experience towing with a Buick Roadmaster or Cadillac Fleetwood? We have a 1952 Cruiser (24'), 3250# curb weight, and are considering one of these vehicles as an alternative to an SUV/ truck. Welcome your suggestions and ideas.
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Old 09-24-2002, 05:12 AM   #2
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The general consensus on the AirStreamForums is properly configured Truck/SUV's rig's for anything over 16'.

I don't think I have heard of anyone here reference using a car as their tow vehicle in any of their posts, even an older car.

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Old 09-24-2002, 07:31 AM   #3
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These aren't designed to do this. Call a dealer and ask him what the towing capacity is. If they even know it is going to be extremely low. There has to be a sizeable market demand for the auto manufacturers to build an option like this. Trucks and SUVs have been the vehicle of choice for towing for the last 15 years.
I doubt if you even could find a hitch as there is not really a frame under them that would take this abuse. I would start looking for a truck.

John
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Old 09-24-2002, 08:11 AM   #4
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There are many folks who tow with the old vehicles that are involved in Tin Can Tourists...you may want to email someone with experience with alternate tow vehicles or join their e-mail list. Good luck finding the information you are looking for...

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Old 09-24-2002, 08:21 AM   #5
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If you can find a mid 1960's model in good condition, go for it. In the late 60's and early 70's, emissions controls were crude and really hurt performance. In the mid-late 70's, after the fuel crisis, vehicles were sold with gearing WAY too high to tow. The fuel thing began a push to make cars as light-duty as possible to get the best corporate average fuel mileage. The strength moved from the frame to unit (unibody) construction. A car is now like a set of playing cards arranged to give the minimum box strength required for crashworthiness, with the maximum interior room possible, with the lightest possible weight. Most of the strength is in the front end to handle crash tests and the weight of the drivetrain. The rear has only enough strength to support a little luggage in the trunk. Front wheel drive cut both weight and manufacturing costs, but put the traction away from a towed load. There's no "frame" to attach a significant hitch to, and the thin body metal between the front wheel drive and tail of the car would probably be stretched if there was much load tugging on the rear. The engine, and particularly the drivetrain (transmission, differential) contribute a lot to weight (and thus influence gas mileage) so they're now as light-duty as possible... the minimum required for just the car itself.

The SUVs of today are just the big station wagons of yesteryear. Many, if not most, of the mini-vans today are no better than what station wagons would be if built on today's car platforms. The sales leading Chrysler minivan can only tow 2,000 lbs, "properly equipped," while the sales leading SUV, the Explorer, can tow 3,500 lbs at the least, and over 7,000 lbs with the V-8 and 3.73 gears.
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Old 09-24-2002, 08:49 AM   #6
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I would stay away from 60's vehicles for towing on today's highways. The engines and trans aren't up to the speeds for very long, and the 4 wheel drum brakes definitely won't make it in a panic stop. In those days 100,000 miles was about the lifespan. Maintenance on point distributors, carb tuning, etc. is a dying art, and this is routine maintenance for these vehicles. The 70's and early 80's became a nightmare of vacuum lines which existed until fuel injection took over.

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Old 09-24-2002, 09:43 AM   #7
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I beg to differ! The cars of the 60's were produced in the days when folks drove 85 mph on the then relatively new 70 mph or higher Interstates... all day long (BTDT). The big-block engines were highly understressed versions of those in the performance cars, and had their heritage in the truck world. The Torqueflite and TurboHydro 400 transmissions in the big boats came from the truck world and were some of the strongest ever built... pounded at the drag strips weekly.

I grant you that disk brakes are superior in general, but many these days are downsized with small rotors and make up for it with higher pressure. Some of the stopping distances measured by MotorWeek, et al, are terrible!

Sure, the old cars (like old trailers) require more maintenance... but it's a poor mechanic who can't install a set of points and condenser, set dwell (which if it remains the same doesn't affect timing), and touch up timing if necessary. Carbs don't get "out of tune." That's a myth propogated by the tune-up folks. They do get dirty and need cleaning, but so do fuel-injection systems, which also require replacement parts throughout their life.

I've been wrenchin' as a hobby for over 40 years... the main difference today is emissions and efficiency. I program electronic ignitions with a computer now, where it once was changing weights and springs on a distributor machine. Same thing with EFI systems, vs changing jets in the carb. Same thing, different methods... just takes a lot more money to do it these days.
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Old 09-24-2002, 02:18 PM   #8
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Hi,
I'm glad to hear this discussion concerning the ability of older cars to pull an Airstream. I had about given up the idea of being able to pull an Airstream with a car and since I don't want a truck or SUV meant no Airstream though I remember my parents pulling wit ha full size Olds or Chrysler. Spoke with the local Mercury dealer hoping the Grand Marquis being a real wheel drive would work but they said not even for a Bambi. I don't mind buying an older car for this task as I'm sure my mechanic can keep it running. What year in then 60's should be the latest considered for the tow Car?
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Old 09-24-2002, 06:12 PM   #9
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You can tow with a 60's car. But you need to be aware of the limitations and maintenance involved. Some people could do their own, but in those days nearly every gas station was also a garage. That tells me a lot couldn't.

The old boats that cruised 85 all day had 2.93 rear gears, not exactly made for towing. With 4800 lbs. of car and 5000 lbs. of trailer at 4000 ft. you will wish you could stop and rejet or change some metering rods. There was no on the fly mixture adjustment, no O2 sensor as in today's vehicles.

If you are serious about this you need to look for a vehicle with front disc brakes, that at least will give you a dual braking system. What you are really buying this for is the frame, it needs to be in top notch shape. These vehicles are nearly 40 years old and the frames had little protection then but chassis black paint over the drawing lube used during their manufacture. Rust usually covered them within a couple of years. The rest of the suspension is equally important. This is where the prior owners attention to all the lube points will be evident. Changing ball joints, tie rod ends, etc. was very common. Springs may need to be replaced, you will asking a lot of them after this much time.

I would look for a Ford or Chevy, with either a towing or police package. Both of their big blocks are still easy to find parts for. Chrysler hasn't made the 440 for years, same with the 455 of Olds and Pontiac. No sense having to compete with the hot rodders for a replacement. A good 4 core radiator is a must, hopefully recored within the last few years as cooling will be another major concern. An trans cooler is another must but an easy add on.

AC then was R12, it is R134A today. The systems are not compatible. To convert them is expensive, to recharge R12 is expensive, you will have to make a decision on that. This will only get worse as time goes on and the supply of freon is depleted.

A lot of parts for these are going to be hard to find. A windshield wiper motor for a 1965 Chevy Bel Air going out in Moultrie, GA is going to be a big deal. If you are looking at a forecast with 3 days of rain, you will probably sit until it passes.

I would go to an old car show. Talk to some of the people with old 60's cars and see how they feel about this. They don't have the handling and braking of today's cars. They don't have the reliability of today's cars. It is a nifty idea, I think your mechanic will love it. But I am not sure you will. It is one thing to get these out a few times a year and cruise around in them. It is entirely different to hook 5000 lbs to the back of them and take a 2300 mile trip.


John
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Old 09-24-2002, 07:31 PM   #10
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I agree the Ford or Chevy make it much easier, but if your heart is set on it, a Buick, Olds or Cadillac are possible. John makes many good points. Keep in mind this isn't much different than restoring and maintaining a '60's Airstream (much less a '52!) wrt searching for and finding parts. You'll want to make it even more reliable than the trailer, and you'll want a network of contacts and suppliers for it. Unless you're adamant about keeping it original, you can replace unobtainable parts with something else adapted. And certainly one day you may have to make a few calls from Moultrie, GA, but I'll be FedEx delivers there too.

Get involved in classic cars... go to the club meetings, shows, and auctions. You may find that exact car you want there, and perhaps even already redone frame-up. Some restore these big boats and then develop a lust for something sexier or more romantic. But definitely don't count on it... and overlook a diamond in the rough. If you do find a restored one, have it looked over well by someone known to be knowledgable on the particular car.

This old car is going to be as much of a hobby, and probably require even more dedication, than the trailer itself. But it definitely doable and the more you get into it, the more you may find yourself looking for a classic 50's car to pull your 50's trailer.

Don't expect to find a receiver hitch for it, though. Back in those days, they often custom made them out of angle iron and a 2" receiver box (rather than carry a large inventory of different hitches), and you can too.
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Old 09-26-2002, 01:36 PM   #11
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good feedback

Thanks for the replies; you've really addressed our dilemma and the issues we've been thinking about and made some good points. The info. is great to have as we consider our ideal tow vehicle. Meanwhile, we've made a compromise. Since we're not ready to restore both a car and a trailer, and we don't want to invest too much $$$ until we know what will work best for us, and we want to start using the A.S. asap, we decided to get a '94 Roadmaster with a towing package (trans. cooler, big radiator, stiffer suspension, 2.93 rear axle) rated to 5000#. We found one in good condition that seems like it will be at least barely adequate, and it has some safety features not found on the older models. It's not vintage, but in its own way is a classic: 5.7 V-8, RWD, frame construction. I haven't had a driving experience like this one for some time! We'll let you know how it works towing with this rig. Maybe see some of you passing us on the long hills...
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Old 10-06-2002, 01:25 AM   #12
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Tow Cars - Buick Roadmaster/Cadillac Brougham

These were among the last of the large, rear wheel drive GM cars to have trailer tow ratings approaching those necessary to tow an Airstream. The Roadmaster through the end of its production run a few years ago, could be ordered with the 5.7 liter V8 and heavy dutry trailer towing package that would allow it to have a trailer tow rating up to 6,000 pounds. The Cadillac Brougham also had a similar trailer tow rating when it was equippped with the 5.7 liter V8 and heavy dutry trailer tow package.

While I haven't had experience towing with either of these vehicles, I do know that I have seen members of the WBCCI towing Airstreams up to about 29' with the 5.7 liter Brougham. My understanding is that Cadillac discontinued rating the new Broughmas for trailer towing about two years ago.
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Old 10-29-2003, 02:56 PM   #13
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Towing with automobiles

Earlier this year I went to a Hensley gathering in Branson, MO. Present were several people from Canada, who were towing Airstreams and other brands with cars - 6 cylinder FWD Dodges, and one was towing a 34' Classic with a late '90's Sedan deVille. Would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it! Seems there is an outfit in Canada that makes very heavy-duty hitches for these cars. Their favorite was the Cadillac Seville STS of the mid '90's. Their rationale was that, with the weight-distributing hitch (Hensley), the powerful Cadillac Northstar engine, the 3.83 axle, and the aerodynamic shape of the car, they were BETTER than an SUV or truck. I think as long as one is on good roads, and stay in parks with good roads, this may be a good option. But on not-so-good roads, the SUV or truck, with its 4WD and extra ground clearance, seems better.

If anyone is interested, I can find the name of the company and individual in Canada.
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Old 10-29-2003, 03:12 PM   #14
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This has been an often discussed issue here. Towing a 8K trailer with a 4 K car. YIKES...........

Can it be done, YES.

Should it be done, NO!

The outfit in Canada that equips cars with the hensley and the extra heavy tow equiptment is Can AM. If you do a search on it you will see what I mean regarding the discussions here. I have to assume that in Canada the liability laws are not what they are here. If I hook a 34 foot trailer to a STS, rated from the factory at 1500 towing capacity, and get in an accident where I lose control or cannot stop I will be responsible for the resulting financial damages, not the guy who installed it. I am unwilling to risk all I have just because the guy I hit has a better attorney than I do.

As an individual we all have freedoms that we can excersie. But in doing so you also assume all the risks inherent with the descisions you make.

By using Manufacturers guidlines and tow ratings you blanket yourself in the idea in front of the court that you were not neglegent (sp) and at the least had it all setup properly. The fact that you hit someone or had a wreck makes it "just an accident".
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Old 10-29-2003, 03:42 PM   #15
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Automobiles for towing

Yes, that is the company.

I didn't trade in my 03 diesel Excursion tow vehicle.

I agree with your position regarding the litigious nature of our country at this time.

BUT, in the 1950's and 1960's, people DID tow Airstreams with Cadillacs, Lincolns, and other large automobiles, whose suspension systems and drum brakes were far inferior to the 4-wheel disk, antilock systems we have today. And, I suspect, the trailer brake controllers of today are also better than 40 years ago.

It would also seem, that if the weight distributing hitch is correctly adjusted, and assuming 10-15% of the trailer weight is on the tongue, as recommended, then that weight is probably better spread across the tow vehicle than if 4 adults plus luggage were loaded into the car - without a trailer.

I'm not recommending the situation - just pointing out that it seems to work well for some people.
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Old 10-29-2003, 04:19 PM   #16
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If you read the directions for a Reese WDH under front wheel drive vehicles it says not to use with the rear wheels removed! Would some one have been talented enough to try it? Probably

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Old 10-29-2003, 05:45 PM   #17
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linc54,

Personally I think a vintage trailer towed by a matching era car is cool. I have seen some of the setups. I would not want to attempt more that a couple of hundred mile runs with it though, like they did in the 50's and 60's I have members of my unit who did and they were replacing transmissions and blowing hoses with regularity.

Wahoo,

The disclaimer was done due to their own marketing program. They had a picture on the cover of their late 60's brochure with a Toronado, connected to a boat trailer with a WDH. The rear tires on the toro' were off and they drove it around like that!
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Old 10-29-2003, 07:49 PM   #18
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Another view

I am one of the few who tow with something other than a truck or SUV. There was no problem getting a proper hitch with 10,000 lb rating. The vehicle came with the factory towing package, I enhanced this with the following:

- Bilstein shocks
- Airlift airbags for rear coils
- B & M transmission cooler with cooling fan
- Brembo cross drilled rotors
- Continental Extreme Contact SUV tires with stiff sidewalls and high load rating on 17" Impala SS wheels.
- Cold air intake system and FlowMaster exhaust to coaxe a little more power out of the 260 HP stock LT1.

Bottom line for us: works well as family vehicle and monthly weekend tow for family camping.

Would I drive it to Baja towing the trailer to Bahia de Los Angeles? No. Give me a diesel 4x4 crew cab for that. Would I drive from here to Lake Powell next summer? You bet.

As usual, your mileage may vary.

Cheers!

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Old 10-29-2003, 08:21 PM   #19
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Hey Mike...I'm with you man....the mods you have done work well with the 5.7L LT1! If you want a bit more power and better shifting w/ the torque converter to lock better than stock, talk to Bryan Herter of PCMforless.com he works wonders with the PCM on these cars.

I'm going to upgrade to 3.73s after I pickup the 6 sleeper in December.

The new coach is about 5500 empty and that's only 500#s more than the current rating. After the 3.73s, I think the car could tow 7,000lbs although I only will need it to tow about 6,300lbs or less.

For on road trip and even gravel roads, the B and D bodies (Caprice, Impala, Roadmonster and Fleetwoods) are great tow vehicles.

They however were all rated at 5,000 lbs. Then it's up to the owner to mod it out the right way.

Eric
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Old 10-29-2003, 09:33 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Silvertwinkie
They however were all rated at 5,000 lbs. Then it's up to the owner to mod it out the right way.

Eric
Y'know, Eric... if you broke down and bought a REAL tow car (like an Excursion, for example), you wouldn't have to 'MOD' your car out the right way...

Roger

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