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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This topic has been discussed several times here, but it's been a long time since and was generally about towing a car hauler. I'd like to tow a small vintage Airstream of around 14' - 18' length and around 2,000 - 3,000 lbs. I will also put my 300lb. trail bike in the bed. My Elky has a stock 327 p/g, original brakes (all new components) and stock springs with air bags (love them!). I would probably add heavy duty springs all around, a tranny cooler, and perhaps front discs. I don't have a hitch yet. Is this a viable plan? Should I shoot for a camper that's under 2,000 lbs, Airstream is making them again? I'd love to hear stories of real-life experiences of folks towing travel trailers with their Elkys or Chevelle Wagons. I've already heard the stories about towing cars with an El Camino (bad idea), and, no, I don't need your advice telling me to go out and buy a $60,000 tow rig. All considered opinions and thoughts welcome and appreciated. Thank you gentlemen.
 

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1966 Chevelle SS396
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I don't know why it would be a bad Idea. Maybe need some heavier springs in the back though? I think it would look too cool to have an Airstream towed by your Elky. The whole rig would look straight out of 1966.
 

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What does the owners manual state for towing? I would go with that.
 

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What Auto Trans do you have ?

You should have one that has a Hi # 1st Gear to get you rolling
so it will be less of a strain on the Trany & Engine
RearEnd Gearing should also be in the process
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What Auto Trans do you have ?

You should have one that has a Hi # 1st Gear to get you rolling
so it will be less of a strain on the Trany & Engine
RearEnd Gearing should also be in the process
Powerglide (I mis-typed above); the rear is a 3.06 10-bolt, and original to the car. Thanks!
 

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That PG will not last long pulling a Trailer with 3.06 Rear Gears IMHO
 

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As mentioned, check your owner's manual. If you would exceed what is allowable per the book, you would have no defense in case you get involved in an accident. Check your auto insurance policy too.
 

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1971 Chevy Malibu Sport Coupe
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Good advice to check what the manufacturer recommends.

Watch your payload. Figure the trailer tongue weight will be about 10%-15% of the trailer (airstream) weight. Then you have the bike. And you will have other "stuff" (coolers, lawn chairs, etc.). So for a 3000# trailer (300# tongue weight), a 500# bike, and 150# of "stuff" you are at about 900# on the rear springs. From my experience hauling with El Caminos, that will put you down on the springs (would you put 900# in the back seat of a Chevelle). You will need some air bags, air shocks, or what ever you choose to keep the back end near level with that load.

I don't think you will have many issues towing. It will go down the road fine if you keep the trailer weight pretty light like your original post. You may want to optimize the gear ratio, trans, etc. if your main use is for towing. If this is an occasional deal then you'll be OK. Many pickups had the same drive train.

I pulled a two wheeled trailer my dad made for me with many motorcyles, loads of rock, and I don't know what else 40 years ago with my 74 Laguna with no issues except the back end went way down. I really appreciated the air shocks on my El Caminos with a full load.

Also watch the load rating of your tires. Good luck and enjoy.
 
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Where are you planning on towing and how far? If you’re towing 25mi flat to a beach you’re probably fine, but drive smart. If you plan any mountain trips or trips of length, no. Your combo wasn’t meant to pull and what goes up hill must come down and you won’t have the compression braking to help decline and put a lot of stress on the brakes. While the thought is cool, a 1/2 ton truck will be safer for any real trips, doesn’t have to be a modern half ton for that weight. Bigger is better towing.

maybe something new that looks retro but even lighter?

 

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I'd recommend upgrading to a TH400 and a 12 bolt rear end along with heavy duty rear springs and front disc brakes as you mentioned if not all around disc brakes.
 

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I don't know about the powerglide, but I pulled a close to 6000 lb. trailer with my Monte it had a 305/350/2.56. It survived don't know why.
 

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Electric brakes (or at least surge brakes) will be mandatory for safety in current day traffic flow! As mentioned earlier - the PG isn't a great towing transmission.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
What does the owners manual state for towing? I would go with that.
Hi Keith, the owner's manual doesn't have any specific information about towing, only a generic statement about towing safety. I wonder, though, that with the advent of better roads and radial tires, the formula changes a bit for the better. Not to mention the aftermarket goodies we can get to beef up the car. Thanks. P
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I don't know about the powerglide, but I pulled a close to 6000 lb. trailer with my Monte it had a 305/350/2.56. It survived don't know why.
Hey 77, how many miles and how often did you pull that trailer? Also, how many years did you do it? I'd be curious if you did so continuously for any length of time. Thanks for the anecdote man. P
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Where are you planning on towing and how far? If you’re towing 25mi flat to a beach you’re probably fine, but drive smart. If you plan any mountain trips or trips of length, no. Your combo wasn’t meant to pull and what goes up hill must come down and you won’t have the compression braking to help decline and put a lot of stress on the brakes. While the thought is cool, a 1/2 ton truck will be safer for any real trips, doesn’t have to be a modern half ton for that weight. Bigger is better towing.

maybe something new that looks retro but even lighter?

Very cool link '69! Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Good advice to check what the manufacturer recommends.

Watch your payload. Figure the trailer tongue weight will be about 10%-15% of the trailer (airstream) weight. Then you have the bike. And you will have other "stuff" (coolers, lawn chairs, etc.). So for a 3000# trailer (300# tongue weight), a 500# bike, and 150# of "stuff" you are at about 900# on the rear springs. From my experience hauling with El Caminos, that will put you down on the springs (would you put 900# in the back seat of a Chevelle). You will need some air bags, air shocks, or what ever you choose to keep the back end near level with that load.

I don't think you will have many issues towing. It will go down the road fine if you keep the trailer weight pretty light like your original post. You may want to optimize the gear ratio, trans, etc. if your main use is for towing. If this is an occasional deal then you'll be OK. Many pickups had the same drive train.

I pulled a two wheeled trailer my dad made for me with many motorcyles, loads of rock, and I don't know what else 40 years ago with my 74 Laguna with no issues except the back end went way down. I really appreciated the air shocks on my El Caminos with a full load.

Also watch the load rating of your tires. Good luck and enjoy.
Thanks Steve! Your post is very helpful. I have very good BFG's and air bags in place already (hooked up to the original air lines routing to the cab- love it). My trail bike only weighs 280 lbs, but you're right, I should look for a trailer in the 2,000# range. How much have you either trailered or loaded in your Elky's over the years? P
 

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I personally wouldn't tow with a PG for very long, especially around town where the lack of 1st gear will be most apparent. Yet, once you're up to speed, it wont be much of an issue. GO FOR IT!
 

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As a kid I remember our family taking summer vacations with our old aluminum trailer. It was similar in style to an airstream, but do not recall the name, it was about 24' long and squatted my dads '64 Impala.

We pulled that trailer with that Impala all over the upper Midwest with a 327 and Powerglide, and I recall most of the campers at that time were pulled by cars and not often by trucks.

I'd get a good hitch and have at it.
 

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Hey 77, how many miles and how often did you pull that trailer? Also, how many years did you do it? I'd be curious if you did so continuously for any length of time. Thanks for the anecdote man. P
Only 2-3 years, about 1500 miles a year.
 

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When I was growing up in the 70's, my dad pulled a much larger camper (22' I think) all over the USA on family vacations. First tow vehicle was a 71 Impala with 402/TH400 and second tow vehicle was a 76 Caprice with 454/TH400. Both had the stock 8.5" 10-bolt rears with 2.73 gears. It was never a problem, even in the Rocky Mountains, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc. All these trips originated in Richmond, VA.

The keys are a good weight-distributing hitch, brakes on the trailer, and a good quality brake controller. And, of course, sensible driving habits.

Anymore it seems like people will tell you it's unsafe to tow anything unless you have an $80,000 dually with a turbo diesel. It's simply not true. I think you'll be fine.
 
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