MrEarl

Towing, Buick '79 Style

Recommended Posts

Over the last couple months I have been studying the requirements for tailoring a '79 Estate wagon for safe trailer towing. In my case the trailer will be a 26'  1974 Airstream Argosy which loaded will likely weigh around 5,200 lbs with a tongue weight of 650 lbs. I have already received some great information through emails and messages from several of you and wish to thank you for that. Thanks also @Brian_Heil for the catchy title I borrowed from your PM.

 

I've been overwhelmed with all the research that has to be done for each item I consider and the time that it takes to decipher it all. Not to mention busting budget a couple times already.

 

Thankfully the Wagon came with a towing package which included:

3.23 geared Limited Slip Differential

Heavy Duty Cooling (High-capacity radiator with internal transmission cooler and a fan clutch)

80 Amp Delcotron Alternator

Firm Ride and Handling Package w/Automatic Level Control (much more on this later)

Heavy Duty Battery

7-wire trailer wiring harness

 

I will try and recall all I have already done and add it here as well as update it regularly as I do more. I have been met with a few surprises, a couple good but a few not so good.

 

 

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

You are overthinking. Hook up and GO!

 

 

That approach may work for you and others but not this unlucky soul. When you hear what I've discovered and have been dealing with over the last couple weeks I think you'll see what I mean. It has put me way behind schedule and even threatened to cancel the planned trip but I'm maintaining an "Oklahoma City or Bust"  attitude. Off to the AC shop to see what surprises lie in store there....

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

You are overthinking. Hook up and GO!

image.png.41cdbbb00dc3e295fd4eb0b330b35d4d.png

  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yea, learning what a fusible link is and that they like to hide behind starter heat shields which just happen to be directly under the leaking end of the leaking valve cover..... fun....

 

my main motivation for being so proactive.... I care not to be sitting on side of the road and seeing the look of "was this avoidable" on Mama Rita's face. 

  • Like 3
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to hear you're having difficulties. It is in an old car's nature to stab you in the back. With towing, you really don't want to take a chance, but think of all the millions of miles cars just like yours have traveled with similar trailers behind them. Prior to the '80s, full-sized station wagons were the go-to vehicles for pulling trailers of all kinds and since yours is already equipped for it from the factory, I think it should still be a good choice. Given that some pickup trucks today can pull 35,000 pounds and even VW SUVs can haul 10,000, putting 6000 pounds behind a full-sized V8 wagon like this (as long as everything is in top condition) should not be a big risk. Make sure the trailer equipment is in top condition, especially the brakes, controller, and break-away unit, put high-quality tires on it, and that will cut down on much of your risk. I bet a set of 3.73 gears in the wagon would really help, although it'll push cruising RPM up a bit, and an auxiliary transmission cooler is never a bad idea (we even added a second one to our Suburban 2500 when we were seeing trans temps above 220 degrees while hauling).

 

Make sure everything is in top shape and I think you'll be fine. You're not going through the Rocky Mountains so the flatlands out there shouldn't really pose any threat to your rig. I kind of think they under-rated things just to keep people from doing anything truly stupid. You should be within the safe range.

 

Keep us posted and good luck with the challenge!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, MrEarl said:

I'm maintaining an "Oklahoma City or Bust"  attitude.

 

Don't let 'em git you down!

028.thumb.JPG.52e9a1eafb3d57cc178d3af2d7a0b9e3.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

 

Don't let 'em git you down!

028.thumb.JPG.52e9a1eafb3d57cc178d3af2d7a0b9e3.JPG

 

That's Sean McNew's Pierce-Arrow coupe. That guy really did drive it across the country. He stopped in at our shop on the way and it was really impressive to see him undertake that venture. The big old car took good care of him and he made it all the way. No trip is ever incident-free with an old car, but that trip should inspire us all. Thanks for reminding me of that, Bernie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, MrEarl said:

tongue weight of 650 lbs.

Do you have a load equalizing hitch and sway control?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, MrEarl said:

Yea, learning what a fusible link is and that they like to hide behind starter heat shields which just happen to be directly under the leaking end of the leaking valve cover..... fun....

 

my main motivation for being so proactive.... I care not to be sitting on side of the road and seeing the look of "was this avoidable" on Mama Rita's face. 

 

That $3 fusible link hidden under the starter can ruin a whole day.  I feel your pain. 

Edited by avgwarhawk (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If "YOU" built the BUICK GARDEN , I'm sure you can tame  that wagon !!

Good Luck 

Bill

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, old-tank said:

Do you have a load equalizing hitch and sway control?

 

Why did Tim Allen flash through my mind when I read that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I intended to keep this updated more often but with what all I have been working on and the luck I've been having just haven't had the time. I'll try and do a fast catch up mostly with pictures. 

 

First and most important, music. I had the 8 track player that Roberta gave me reconditioned and an auxiliary line added that can be used to play Apple music and at the same time the sweet little Google Maps lady calls out directions. Also found all my old 8 tracks. 

 

B9C7E5D7-9F03-4D06-B5B3-DA4357938CCC.thumb.jpeg.dfd8ce892b1932909eb494e1a875643a.jpeg

 

Edited by MrEarl (see edit history)
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Good news:  Had the brakes checked and was pleasantly surprised to see all the new parts and shoes and pads in great shape

 

 

1278935036_48D6E8B1-8B39-4874-B475-263894852FE62FL02F001.thumb.JPG.36d8514343249465ef8e77a0a74a4ac6.JPG

 

1051982878_4712E6D2-E561-415F-BD38-9CD18BAE6DA12FL02F001.thumb.JPG.ef18adc65db00bf82088640fd056cb42.JPG

 

2048831260_5593371A-68B6-4438-A08C-A92D3F9B4B472FL02F001.thumb.JPG.abb2e1321e1c857d3e7dd12926e7e0cf.JPG

 

 

 

Bad news: The front upper control arm bushings and one ball joint was bad. Ordered upper A arms from Rock Auto and had installed and front end aligned. Also discovered the front swaybar bushings worn and bar bent. More on that later

Edited by MrEarl (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Removed the rear auto level shocks and installed Moog variable rate rear coil springs and Monroe HD coil assist load adjusting shocks rear and KYB gas shocks front. Both the coils and shocks perform pretty much as stock until under load and then they firm up. Together they should outperform the stock self leveling air shock and springs. I am very pleased with their performance and ride thus far.

 

19787679_01FEFBAA-C528-46D1-9693-BC5FDA260E3D2FL02F001.thumb.JPG.ce607302bcae9a200a07d3709f144965.JPG

 

1083994030_4ED6C875-1815-41A1-94E0-6FD6CAD69F232FL02F001.thumb.JPG.ef6ddc0a57d24a161b350a6f03f857d4.JPG

 

1405345984_D288387A-BE34-44CE-A2C8-967581D9F1AA2FL02F001.thumb.JPG.e101713adc7a9484f11a844898cdbbeb.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by MrEarl (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then it was time to do something about the sway. Using mounting brackets off of a junkyard  '96 Chevy Impala SS, I mounted a set of Hotchkis swaybars to the rear.

 

 

 

 

11F5BFEB-1934-461F-BED6-51183496977D%2FL0%2F001.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

939720445_B86C3252-4F17-4305-83A0-57AFC64C871F2FL02F001.thumb.JPG.ea1360ddb051879d3d21c325d397f54e.JPG

 

1712501135_3C0EAC76-5A31-48D0-A250-EF29985586D62FL02F001.thumb.JPG.d5307c81146da9be47a4447031b0b168.JPG

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

 

Here’s a shot of the rear sway bar forward of the Class V hitch I got from JD

E674E848-9E4E-4C30-A2F0-886FD3A7AEAD.thumb.jpeg.4c16ad983677b4f0c8b6ea5425997285.jpeg

 

and its mate up front. These have made an unbelievable improvement in the handling and ride of the car. She hugs the road and goes where you aim her  with no lean. No more having the front end in one lane and the rear in another while navigatin curves.

 

 

341754347_B8391BA8-2EA9-41D2-BE31-7376692039612FL02F001.thumb.JPG.6a7315aef4072778250c35e9764f05cd.JPG

Edited by MrEarl (see edit history)
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While the sway bars helped with the sway, there was still side to side squirrelly movement from the weak sidewalls of the tires. Researched light truck tires and found these Uniroyal Laredo Cross Country Touring (made by Michelin)  tires and am very happy with their performance. Load range 109 so will handle the trailer weight well. Much quieter and actually softer riding than the old passenger car tires and the squirrely movement is gone. Very happy with them. 

 

 

B16912C1-603D-4C3F-94DF-23F09023DB20%2FL0%2F001.JPG

8BBBB431-B4F6-444A-833F-86F31B579E64%2FL0%2F001.JPG

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

 

Geeze what a pita it is to have to sign out then back in in order post additional picture so will wrap this up for now.If it ever quits flash flood raining I will be traveling about 30 miles to some cat scales to finish setting up the weight distribution and sway bars.

 

1309772442_6AD45510-F667-40DE-A84E-972EB6FC6A732FL02F001.thumb.JPG.277f4561d476979b5ff52a05150cc6d9.JPG

 

2025781309_90ED30DD-5495-4ADB-8CA2-2F2CB144C9052FL02F001.thumb.JPG.1dfe53824c027da6eb3470ff9ad3cfa0.JPG

Edited by MrEarl (see edit history)
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yikes!  You should have lifted the radiator cap and driven a new vehicle underneath.:o

  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...