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Last Post 18 Feb 2009 04:56 PM by  wiggy
recommend a tow vehicle
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thefirebuilds
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29 Dec 2006 03:16 PM

    I bought an e150 conversion van with my business partner last year for $850 and threw a hitch and brake setup on it. We pulled out a seat and slept in it at the track. The old girl went 5,000 miles before this winter when all hell broke loose. I'm at the point where it isn't worthwhile to put a grand into a $850 van thats 20 years old.

    So it's time to update.

    My requirements are under $4,000, newer than 1992, capable of pulling 5,000+ lbs, reliable, not ford, and something I can sleep in at the track.


    I don't really want a full class c camper yet, too much maintenance and cost for the few times a year I get to race. In my mind it's between a tahoe or suburban, another conversion van, or possibly a pickup truck with a cap -- which is pretty awful and a last resort.

    thoughts? recommendations?

    mitchman
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    29 Dec 2006 04:45 PM
    Our club bought a F350 (1993?) with over 300,000 miles on it.  It was an old newspaper delivery truck. It's still running strong for us so don't rule out Fords. :)

    You sure make the van concept sound appealing instead of a motorhome.  I'd stick with that. :) 
    thefirebuilds
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    29 Dec 2006 05:01 PM

    well as most people know about conversion vans is they are built with larger geared diff's for family cruising and softer suspension. not exactly conducive to towing long distances or bulletproof reliability. good bang-for-the-buck though. $4k will get me a very nice 95 van with under 100k miles, whereas the same 4k would be tough to find a 'burban with less than 100k

    my knock on fords is they are too difficult and awkward to repair. Generally the same thing holds true for vans. i HATE working on fords or vans.

    Steve Hoelscher
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    09 Jan 2007 07:01 PM
    thefirebuilds wrote:

    my knock on fords is they are too difficult and awkward to repair. Generally the same thing holds true for vans. i HATE working on fords or vans.

    Generally, the converstion vans are not sprung softer, they are heavier, so they feel softer. Some actually have swaybar upgrades to reduce the wallowing caused by the extra weight.

    Don't understand the issue with working on Fords. I have had several and owened a big shop. We worked on everything, Fords were no different than anything else. As for working on a Van, they are pretty much all the same but you will work on the Ford less. My Chevrolet was a constant irritant. It demanded constant attention. Starters, alternators, AC Compressors, accessory brackets, blower motor switches, door handles, door latches, wiper/turnsignal/cruisecontrol switches, steering gear, fan clutches, fuel pumps, rear ends, transmissions.... all failed multiple times. I kept a spare blower motor switch in the van all the time because they failed so often. When I went to order the first driver's door handle that broke off in my hand I found that the local Chevy dealer had 38 in stock!!! ???

    My Ford van (96 E150 ClubWagon, 5 liter) has been a rock by comparison. The fuel pump failed at 125,000, the alternator went at 225,000 followed shortly by the AC compressor. Oh, and the heater core began leaking at about 240,000 but was an easy fix. I replaced the exhaust manifold gaskets twice in 255,000 miles. Probably due to the excessive heat resulting from all of the long tows I make. I use the van almost exclusively to tow with. It has been a model of performance and reliability. Tows like a dream. It will cruise all day at 85 mph towing my 1500 lbs open trailer with a 2000 lbs car on it and another 800 lbs of stuff in the van. It also towed my Supra (3150 lbs) on an 1800 lbs trailer almost as easily. I have slept in it many times and while its no motorhome it will do in a pinch.

    Dave Hardy
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    09 Jan 2007 10:37 PM

    I too am a fan of the Ford vans. I prefer mine in the 1-ton variety though. In 2002 I bought a '94 E350 Clubwagon Chateau for $3800. It was totalled in 2004 when someone pulled out in front of me, and I replaced it with a 98 E350 Clubwagon Chateau that I got for $5600. The '94 was purchased with 190K and was totalled at 200K, but only needed a wiper stalk in that time. The '98 was purchased with 165K on the clock and now has about 175K. It has needed a front heater core, I bypassed the rear heater core when it started leaking, and I had to put a PS pump on it, but that one was due to operator error (hit the curb with the whell cranked all the way). The second one isn't a stellar record, but the repairs have been fairly cheap and not obsurdly difficult, though that BS of removing the PS pully before removing the pump kinda sucked.

    Since I prefer the 1-ton models I end up with higher mileage examples to stay in budget. The 1/2-tons are a good bit cheaper, as are the non-chateau.

    cashmo
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    09 Jan 2007 10:55 PM

    Here's another vote for the Ford vans. Had a 92 E150 V8 gas conversion which pulled an open trailer/car just fine. Got the current 00 E350 diesel to pull the enclosed. One thing not mentioned, the Fords have a full length frame (better for towing) while I remember the G series Chevy's only had partial subframes front and rear. The van will be more comfortable at the track in the rain than a pickup with a cap.

    Jeff

    01 FS Z28
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    10 Jan 2007 01:25 PM
    I bet you can fine an older Suburban for around that money.... They don't hold their value very well. But a good old small-block, and it's a GM half-ton truck with a SUV body on it. Weak link would be the by now ancient 4L60 Trans, but they are REALLY common and with the age might have already been replaced. :)
    Steve Hoelscher
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    10 Jan 2007 04:20 PM

    01 FS Z28 wrote:
    I bet you can fine an older Suburban for around that money.... They don't hold their value very well. But a good old small-block, and it's a GM half-ton truck with a SUV body on it. Weak link would be the by now ancient 4L60 Trans, but they are REALLY common and with the age might have already been replaced. :)

    Ahh yesss... the 4L60E. THE unit that keeps transmission shops across the US in business. The number one unit in the repair industry. I made a lot of money off those. I also had one in my Chevy. I wouldn't tow a bicycle with one.

    Suburbans are nice but compare the interior room to a full size van like my ClubWagon and you find the van has way more space.

    thefirebuilds
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    15 Feb 2007 10:19 PM
    im back on my van kick again. im just ignoring my gf who thinks theyre ugly...i can get a LOT more vehicle for the same cost and it will be a lot more useful to me. i havent narrowed down a marquee mostly because i dont care, and ive also been entertaining the thought of a class B motorhome, but theyre so much more and usually so much worse off than just a conversion van.
    autoxgod
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    16 Feb 2007 04:46 PM

    thefirebuilds wrote:
    im back on my van kick again. im just ignoring my gf who thinks theyre ugly...i can get a LOT more vehicle for the same cost and it will be a lot more useful to me. i havent narrowed down a marquee mostly because i dont care, and ive also been entertaining the thought of a class B motorhome, but theyre so much more and usually so much worse off than just a conversion van.

    I like my Class B but it was pricey and new. In your price range, a van or pickup makes sense. If possible, up your price range for a nice F-350 with a diesel like the one for sale in the Vehicles for sale section. I saw one there for $13000 but it's way off target for what you want to pay.

    Older pickups like 1999 F350's with diesel 7.3 liter V-8's are a great buy since they are depreciated but still have a lot of good life left in them. You may also find gas motored F350's for a lot less.

    Actually, I've been eyeing that F-350 really hard at that price...

    Jim

    thefirebuilds
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    16 Feb 2007 05:11 PM
    I wont use a diesel enough to justify the cost.
    geewiz
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    16 Feb 2007 06:03 PM

    Nothing against the van idea, just a reaction to the suburban discussion: avoid the suspect transmission by buying a 3/4 ton suburban; it has a completely different (and much stronger) transmission. That's what I did :). Paid $6500 a year ago for a '96 2500-series suburban with <80K miles. It has been great.

    -- Glenn

    thefirebuilds
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    16 Mar 2007 01:07 PM

    I bought this feller:

    http://beatmotorsports.com/racing/v...s/monstro/

    as you can see, my friends are having a lot of fun with me.

    It's pretty nice for what i paid, but after a week I have this little "ticking" in the tranny. All the crap you guys gave me for a burban tranny and this ones making racket. I think it just hasn't been run enough lately, the short trips back and forth a few miles are really killer on a big truck.

    Steve Hoelscher
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    17 Mar 2007 10:00 PM
    thefirebuilds wrote:

    It's pretty nice for what i paid, but after a week I have this little "ticking" in the tranny. All the crap you guys gave me for a burban tranny and this ones making racket. I think it just hasn't been run enough lately, the short trips back and forth a few miles are really killer on a big truck.

    Well, you didn't ask about the Dodge. The Dodge trans (A518) are better than the 4L60E but they do have their problems. Ususally, the torque converter starts to come apart. Drop the transmission pan and inspect for brass in the recesses of the waffle pattern in the bottom. Brass in the bottom means the converter is failing and will kill the solenoids. Next it will stop up the trans cooler and burn up the overdrive unit.

    fastmike
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    27 Mar 2007 10:14 PM

    There is a Suburban 2500 down my street for sale. I took the VIN to the dealer and it shows a 5.7ltr with the 4L80E tranny(not 60?) with 4.10's and posi.

    After some googling, it looks like this tranny is a beefed up TH400 with OD so it should be ok behind this motor.


    FM

    Dick Rasmussen
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    12 Aug 2007 07:52 PM

    Steve H or anyone:

    Do your comments about Ford versus GM transmissions, etc. apply to late model 1 ton van chassis as used in RV's?

    Assuming a late model class B or small class C RV, all of which probably use a 1 ton van chassis, is there any significant difference in durability, especially transmissions, between Ford and GM?

    Ditto for the newer versions with the Merc Diesel?

    Lots of the smaller RV's only come with the GM chassis (6.0 Vortec?) or the new Merc Diesel. The max I would be towing is a formula car in a relatively small enclosed trailer.

    Also, would the Ford 5.4 engine be overworked in a small class C with the above car/trailer compared to the GM 6.0 or Ford V-10? Assume a retiree (by then) who is not in a hurry [:D] but will have what Easterners call mountains to deal with?

    Thanks!

    Dick

    Steve Hoelscher
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    12 Aug 2007 11:52 PM
    Dick Rasmussen wrote:

    Steve H or anyone:

    Do your comments about Ford versus GM transmissions, etc. apply to late model 1 ton van chassis as used in RV's?

    Assuming a late model class B or small class C RV, all of which probably use a 1 ton van chassis, is there any significant difference in durability, especially transmissions, between Ford and GM?

    I was noting the durability of the GM 4L60E and Ford 4R70W automatics. These are not the big units used in the 1 ton chassis. For the Chevy, the standard 1 ton automatic is the 4L80E. It shares no parts with the 4L60E. Its a stronger unit but has its own problems. The newest versions have the new GM regulated converter clutch which is designed to slip some amount all the time, instead of staying 100% locked when applied. I don't see the regulated torque converter clutch as being a good idea on a motorhome or tow rig. It will generate enormous heat. We saw a LOT of problems with these. When rebuilding them we had to buy replacement torque converters from GM. Any aftermarket converter would set codes or fail. And even the GM units were problematic, only less so. 4L80Es are expensive to rebuild.

    The Ford transmission in the 1 ton and small to midsized motorhome chassis has been the 4R100, which is the upgraded version of the E4OD introduced in '89. These are basically good units but don't have the same track record as the Ford midrange unit, the 4R70W. There are a lot of them out there so we have a lot of experienc with them. The number one preventative measure is to be sure you have plenty of transmission cooler on it. If I were to buy a motorhome with one, or a 1 ton truck with one to tow with, I would put the biggest cooler that would fit in the best location for the most airflow. Most of the problems we saw with these were from inadequate cooling.

    Dick Rasmussen wrote:

    Ditto for the newer versions with the Merc Diesel?

    The Merc trans is an uprated version of the S class auto. Its a pretty good unit. I don't have a lot of experience with the unit in the motorhome chassis/commercial truck because they were just coming online about the time I got out of the business. We did a lot of commercial fleet work and saw a few and they seemed to fail the way the car's did. A spring plate came apart. For the most part I would give them a good rating.

    Dick Rasmussen wrote:

    Lots of the smaller RV's only come with the GM chassis (6.0 Vortec?) or the new Merc Diesel. The max I would be towing is a formula car in a relatively small enclosed trailer.

    Also, would the Ford 5.4 engine be overworked in a small class C with the above car/trailer compared to the GM 6.0 or Ford V-10? Assume a retiree (by then) who is not in a hurry [:D] but will have what Easterners call mountains to deal with?

    We saw a lot of commercial 1 ton Chevy trucks with 6.0s and the fleet operators told us they weren't very happy with them. Poor mileage and performance. The Ford 6.8 V10 typically gets the same mileage as the 5.4 V8 but tows much better. Hard to fault the V10. Has nearly the same torque as the Diesel and better mileage than the GM 8 liter. I wouldn't want to drive a class C motorhome with a 5.4 V8 even before you put your C-mod car behind it. Get the Ford Class C with a V10 and you will be way ahead.

    Surferjer
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    13 Aug 2007 08:50 AM

    thefirebuilds wrote:
    I wont use a diesel enough to justify the cost.

    I 2nd that. I bought a '99 Dodge gas 3/4 ton truck last year for 9K, and comparable diesels were going for 20K++. Even though I only get 8 MPG towing, the differential on gas costs from the diesel will take me 7 years to cover the higher purchase price of the diesel. I doubt I'll even own the truck close to that long...

    Dick Rasmussen
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    13 Aug 2007 05:53 PM

    Steve,

    Thank you VERY much for the detailed response!!!! Sounds like I need to stick with Ford and to go with the V-10 unless we decide on the Merc (not too likely).

    FYI we have a 97 Mustang GT with the 4R70W which now has about 110K easy miles on it. At about 30K or so it got slight torque converter clutch "stick slip". Gary Godula (former Ford Transmission engineer) told me about a TSB for hot climate cars to get a trans cooler and a change to Mercon V ATF under warranty. Problem solved for another 30K or so at which time we changed the ATF to Valvoline's version of Mercon V. No problem since. Obviously a motorhome trans with or without towing is going to be working MUCH harder so I will heed the trans cooler recommendation and be very good about fluid changes if we get one.

    Thanks again,

    Dick

    Steve Hoelscher
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    13 Aug 2007 06:58 PM

    Always glad to help Dick.

    Dick Rasmussen wrote:

    FYI we have a 97 Mustang GT with the 4R70W which now has about 110K easy miles on it. At about 30K or so it got slight torque converter clutch "stick slip". Gary Godula (former Ford Transmission engineer) told me about a TSB for hot climate cars to get a trans cooler and a change to Mercon V ATF under warranty. Problem solved for another 30K or so at which time we changed the ATF to Valvoline's version of Mercon V. No problem since. Obviously a motorhome trans with or without towing is going to be working MUCH harder so I will heed the trans cooler recommendation and be very good about fluid changes if we get one.

    Yeah, a common problem with 4R70W's. This also happens if you don't change the fluid. In both instances, the additive in the fluid that conditions the clutches and cushions clutch engagement dissapates. Simply changing the fluid will usually take care of the problem. Upgrading to Mercon V is always recommended.

    I love the 4R70W in the van I tow with. It worked fine for what was almost exclusively towing duty for 230,000 miles when I noticed the intermediate roller clutch was occasionally releasing. One slow day at the shop we pulled it out and went through it just as a preventative measure. After inspection, the rebuilder replaced all of the paper and rubber (seals, o-rings, lip seals, servos, gaskets, etc...), the intermediate band (2nd gear) and upgraded the intermediate drum to the newer style that uses the mechanical diode in place of the roller clutch. We reused all of the original clutches because they were like new. I also fitted a new torque converter and electronics because we were in there and the parts were on the shelf. Its has gone another 30,000 miles without trouble.

    You may have noticed, Ford has been the most popular chassis supplier to the Class A and C motorhome builders for many years. Not that Chevy can't, remember Andy tows with a Class C Chevy but his is a gas 502 big block, but they just haven't been as popular. Mostly due to driveline issues.

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