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generalsparky 12-30-2002 09:24 PM

Chevy Astro/GMC Safari as tow vehicle
Hi All! This is my first post so go easy on me ;)

As our young family is growing we are looking at purchasing a minivan. From what I could find out on the internet the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari has the highest tow capabilities a little over 5000lbs. After the purchase of a vehicle, we will be in the market for an early 60s A/S under 24 feet. Has anyone used or seen this combo?


BobbyW 12-30-2002 10:24 PM

Welcome to the AirstreamForums!! Glad you found us.

You might want to keep your Airstream choice in the under 22' range with that model of tow vehicle. I pulled a 20' boat with that engine and it really taxed it. Globetrotter or Safari would be the max I would tow and that would be pushing things a lot. Also get a good Equalizing Hitch. You will need it with the Astro' short wheelbase and short rear overhang.
Try to find one with the factory tow package.
Take your time and choose carefully. A 60's model could require a lot of work to get it into shape.


airstreamcaravel 12-30-2002 10:33 PM

Mini Van & Camper
Okay my heavy hauler friends, Go easy on me too!

Chevy Venture Mini Van Max Tow 3500#'s
1967 Caravel 2600#s dry

Added a tranny cooler, brake controller, sway control, and I stay offa da mountains!

I keep it slow, safe, and reasonably local (Until I get a new puller)

Welcome to the forum! Good luck with your searches!


Pahaska 12-30-2002 10:44 PM

75% guideline
For longevity of the tow vehicle and satisfaction of the driver, it is a very common rule of thumb to not tow more thn 75% of the tow rating. That would mean you would be looking for a A/S with a loaded weight of not over 3750#. In other words, you would be looking for a small and older Airstream to meet this criteria.

My previous trailer was a TrailManor. Astro vans are very popular for towing the smaller TrailManor models that gross out around 4000# and usually are lighter since they have a high useful load. None of my friends that I have spoken to would advise using Astros to tow the larger models that gross out at near 5000#. The usual sentiment was that the Astro is only sufficient for the smaller models. Several of my friends wanted to upgrade their trailers, but didn't because it would require a new tow vehicle.

overlander64 12-31-2002 06:13 AM

Chevy Astro/GMC Safari as tow vehicle
Greetings Kelly!

Welcome to the forum!

My father has a trailer tow equipped Chevrolet S10 Blazer with a similar drivetrain configuration to the Safari that you propose. I would be hesitant to recommend towing much more than my Argosy Minuet with the vehicle - - it too has a trailer tow rating of 5.000 pounds. The Minuet is 19' 3" with a GVWR of 3,500 pounds.

The one thing that you will want to remember with this setup is that the trailer tow rating is reduced by the weight of the gear and passengers carried in the tow vehicle - - this is where the GCVWR (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating) comes into play. You will want to insure that you do not exceed this number between the loaded weight of your trailer combined with the loaded weight of the tow vehicle. Another issue to consider is whether there is a recommendation for towing with the vehicle based upon frontal area of the trailer - - in some cases the maximum trailer tow rating assumes a low profile fold-down and the maximum is reduced with larger frontal areas.

I will admit to being overly cautious with tow vehicles as I had a very unpleasant experience with my second tow vehicle which was special ordered with the trailer towing package, but couldn't safely tow even half of its rated towing maximum - - it was one of the early mid-size Pontiac Bonnevilles with a 4.1 V6 and 3.23 gearing and 4,000 pound trailer tow rating.

Good luck with your decision.


3Ms75Argosy 12-31-2002 09:13 AM

Chev Astro
We have a 93 Chev Astro with tow package and Draw Rite equiziler hitch to pull our 26 ft 1975 Argosy. On the flats its's fine, as well as the gentile grades. It gets the trailer from our campsite to home and back fine. However, we did take a vacation with it pulling our approx 3500 lbs boat and trailer. Pulled great on the grades(60-70 no prob), but in the hills of Orcas Island, I longed for more torque and brakes (trailer is braked, hills were STEEP 15 mph hills). I wouldn't take our trailer on the same trip. I know the delimma, I want a pull vehicle with minimal size (mighty might). We pull the trailer unloaded (minimal fluid in the tanks, family of four with two children that weigh approx 110 together). If I got a Astro, I'd get one with the 4.11 gears + tow package. We also have wider tires on it (245/60/15) that are a bit smaller in diameter then skock. We're looking for a bigger car, if that gives you any idea. Stability is not a problem, just guts.

generalsparky 12-31-2002 09:52 AM

Thanks for all the great input! You all have given me a lot to chew on ;)


BobbyW 12-31-2002 09:55 AM


Are you looking at new or used Astro's?


generalsparky 12-31-2002 10:01 AM

I was looking at a new one although I think that the older ones maybe rated for more weight. This would be a family car so it would get lots of daily use too.


Road Ruler 01-09-2003 03:53 PM

Re: Mini Van & Camper

Originally posted by airstreamcaravel

Chevy Venture Mini Van Max Tow 3500#'s
1967 Caravel 2600#s dry

Added a tranny cooler, brake controller, sway control,


Dmc.. Running a 3.4V6 and an Airstream that light you will be passing 18 wheelers on every hill!!!!!


j54mark 01-09-2003 07:34 PM

With nearly a half million miles in either an Astro or Safari I am one of their greatest fans. Way more room than a Suburban, 20 mpg., and it will fit is any garage! Both of mine had the bench seats as I found that one full length bench seat per child was about the right ratio on longer trips.

They are the only minivan with any serious towing asperations. Having said that, there is just not enough wheelbase to pull a 24' trailer unless you used a Pullrite or Hensley hitch - and maybe not then either. I have not driven any of the really late models, and I know they have increased the horsepower on the amazing 4.3 engine, but it is hard for me to imagine that it has enough torque for anything like 5,000 pounds.


Road Ruler 01-09-2003 09:21 PM

Astro / Safari Van

Those Vans are very practical and I give them top marks for having a very short distance between the hitch ball and rear axle.

Road Ruler 01-09-2003 10:02 PM

Re: Chevy Astro/GMC Safari as tow vehicle

Originally posted by overlander64
Greetings Kelly!

Welcome to the forum!

My father has a trailer tow equipped Chevrolet S10 Blazer with a similar drivetrain configuration to the Safari that you propose. I would be hesitant to recommend towing much more than my Argosy Minuet with the vehicle - - it too has a trailer tow rating of 5.000 pounds. The Minuet is 19' 3" with a GVWR of 3,500 pounds.


Kevin, I Agree. My brother in law wanted me to buy his S10 based GMC Envoy. A close look at this vehicle revealed a short wheelbase, narrow track, high centre of gravity, and SUV type suspension. None of these characteristics are complimentry to an ideal tow vehicle. Another case of a misleading factory tow rating.

This again brings the up the point that one needs to properly evaluate the total character of any potential tow vehicle and not just look at the FTR, hook up a trailer that fits the rating, and head out on the highway.

3Ms75Argosy 01-10-2003 12:45 AM

rear ends
I forgot to mention that despite rear end oil changes, mine sounds like a turbine - I think it's about to go.:( The newer ones (2003) have a bigger axle with 16" wheels - I believe they're Express based, so durability should be better. I've read that the Astro diffs are prone to failure.....I'll keep driving for awhile, but a dealer visit is coming soon I believe. I'm intrigued by the new Nissan Quest (much longer wheelbase, stronger engine, etc), but again, I don't think it will be strong enough for our 26footer. Unless I can get some of that Canadian gas................:D :D
Just kidding!

markjoandall 01-10-2003 07:28 AM

We pulled a 27' SOB trailer all over the country with a 93 Astro Van. The GVW of the trailer was 5000 lbs. and we stayed within the limits. We probably had over 30,000 miles towing. When we finally got rid of the entire rig and traded up to the AS the Astro had 193,000 miles and didn't burn a drop of oil, the engine was never opened up and the tranny was as good as new.

That being said, the first year we had the unit, it was white knuckle driving like you've never want to see. I installed the pullrite hitch on the truck and everything settled down as it should.

When we got rid of the rig, I was digging through the literature on the truck and was surprised to find out the truck had a 3.42 rear end. Certainly a testament to the strength of the truck and not my brain.

I think you will be very happy with an Astro installed with a Hensley or a Pullrite. The wheelbase of the Astro is just too short for a travel traler without a proper sway control hitch.

Good luck

Scotti 03-04-2003 04:06 PM

I just got a 2000 Safari RWD to pull my 71 safari airstream.
Its the only tow vehicle thatwill fit in my driveway. what is an equalizer hitch? is it to raise the height of the ball ?

My stream unloaded is 2800lbs loaded 3300lbs 23ft single axle.

Silvertwinkie 03-04-2003 04:26 PM

Look at the GMC site. There are a number of variables, however it looks like that you fit in the range they are talking about provided your weight info is correct.

Eq hitch spreads the weight of the tounge out across the tow vehicle and the trailer.

Make sure your trailer has brakes and you have a controler to activate them


jcanavera 03-04-2003 05:43 PM

Copied from a previous post I made to a different thread:

Just to chime in I had a '91 Astro EXT that was a real stump puller. It had a premium gas V6 and a 4.10 rear end. Towing capacity was 6,000 lbs. I pulled a 28' travel trailer with it for about 4 years.

The stability was marginal and even though I had good sway equipment and great towing power, it was a chore... Watching for semi's, dealing with wind gusts. As far as I was concerned that trailer was a big sail. I never felt out of control but I disliked the way I felt after driving 300-400 miles...just whipped.

I traded the Astro for a full sized Chevy Express van. Funny thing I only gained 500 lbs. towing capacity over the Astro but I couldn't get over how much stability I gained.

I gained another level of towing comfort by moving to the Airstream. It just sits back there and follows along. There is a difference.

You can't substitute capacity for wheel base and tow vehicle weight.



rcmenz 03-05-2003 08:51 AM

Re-powering Astro/Safaris
The v-6 in an Astro is a chevy 350 with two cylinders removed. Kits are available to replace the 6 with a v-8. It fits without surgery, all the bolt on stuff (alternators, etc.) fits perfectly. I was planning on a transplant untill my wife decided she just didn't trust me!

markjoandall 03-05-2003 10:15 AM

Having used the astro as a general purpose vehicle to transport my family and also tow a trailer, I've always been very impressed with the vehicle. I used one for over 8 years and put more than 193,000 miles on it.

That being said, I believe the vehicle has a relatively short wheelbase and in the extended model enough of an overhang to make towing a trailer larger than a bambi a frightful experience. I had to install a pullrite hitch on mine to comfortably tow a 27 foot award tt.

If you intend on purchasing a new astro, you better hurry up, I believe they are to be discontinued after the 2002(3)? model year.



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