Towing with the B-body and some tangential search results

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Towing with the B-body and some tangential search results

Postby theholycow » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:45 pm

Warning: This post contains much rambling about nothing I expect to ever do.

I expect to eventually do a little bit of towing with my 1980 B-body. Nothing particularly heavy, but I got curious about its actual rating. With body-on-frame construction, RWD, solid rear axle, and the same tires as a pickup, it's tough and good for towing, basically being structurally the same as a truck just with a lower center of gravity. I've read about and sometimes seen B-bodies (and Ford's similar Panther platform) used for some surprisingly heavy towing.

I looked in my owner's manual. Here's what it says (complete with un-closed parentheses):
1980 LeSabre/Electra/LeSabre Wagon/Electra Wagon Owner's Manual wrote:The maximum loaded trailer weight you can pull with your car
depends on what special equipment has been installed on it. We
do not recommend towing any trailer more than 450 kilograms
(1,000 pounds) gross trailer weight unless your car has the
required equipment
    CAUTION: Do not try to tow any trailer more than 2700
    kilograms (6,000 pounds) [450 kilograms (1,000
    pounds with Turbocharged engines] gross trailer weight
    with a gasoline engine, or more than 900
    kilograms (2,000 pounds) gross trailer weight with a
    diesel engine, no matter what trailer towing equipment
    is installed. Trailers over these maximum limits could
    seriously affect your car's performance, durability or
    handling, which could result in personal injury.
Information on trailer towing ability, special equipment required,
and optional equipment available should be obtained from your
dealer. Ask for the trailering brochure. Or, write: Buick Motor
Division, Customer Service Department, Flint, Michigan 48550.

That got me curious, what kind of equipment would make my 3500 pound 1980 car rated to tow as much weight as a much heavier modern truck? Also I thought it was funny that diesel and turbo engines are so downrated.

I searched a line from that as a phrase and found two interesting results. On a Corvette forum, the necessary towing package for whatever its maximum rating is consists of a heavy duty radiator, upgraded rear springs, and the automatic transmission that they want you to use.
http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/for ... post146002

If my car could be good for 6000 pounds with sufficient cooling, powertrain, and suspension (like my upgraded rear suspension), I guess in a pinch I could flat-tow my 2002 full size pickup with my Buick! That would look really funny and might get me pulled over.

I also found this 1979 Chevrolet truck owners manual:
http://members.home.nl/marcelflamand/ch ... manual.pdf
It includes much of the same text about trailering as my B-body's manual does (including the bit about not towing over 1000 pounds without appropriate equipment) and a chart indicating surprisingly high tow ratings. Apparently in the 80s or 90s tow ratings dropped before the tow rating arms race began around 2000. These tow ratings are almost up to modern standards. Half-tons are rated 6000 to 8000 pounds, 3/4 tons are rated up to 10,000, and 1 tons are rated up to 12,000. Surprisingly it requires weight-distributing hitches and sway controls for some rigs, just like modern owner's manuals do. I didn't know they even existed back then.

It also had some other interesting and funny stuff, especially a bit about situations where you don't have a child seat that recommend having a child stand up behind the drivers seat. Hahahahah!
1980 Buick LeSabre Limited 4.1 V6 T5 5 speed manual, 38,000 miles, family heirloom. (Up to 78,000 miles now, can't believe my work is holding up!)
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theholycow
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Re: Towing with the B-body and some tangential search result

Postby Grover » Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:52 am

I don't know where to get the specifics in terms of weight, etc., but my car came with a 200 metric and the guy who owned it before me towed canoes with it. Needless to say, it needed to be rebuilt after 70k miles. I'd definitely look into the capacity of the transmission.
1989 Caprice Classic
5.7L V8, 200R4, 2.73 gears
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Re: Towing with the B-body and some tangential search result

Postby theholycow » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:31 am

My car came with the TH350, known for being tough, but I put in a T5...which I expect would be the weak link, based on what people say about the NWC T5.
1980 Buick LeSabre Limited 4.1 V6 T5 5 speed manual, 38,000 miles, family heirloom. (Up to 78,000 miles now, can't believe my work is holding up!)
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Re: Towing with the B-body and some tangential search result

Postby Grover » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:13 pm

I would also expect the T5 to be the weak link, although I believe there were different versions made, and each was identified by the # of splines on the output.
1989 Caprice Classic
5.7L V8, 200R4, 2.73 gears
Grover
Actual Owner
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:29 pm
Location: New Mexico

Re: Towing with the B-body and some tangential search result

Postby theholycow » Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:23 pm

Mine came from a Chevy S10 4 cylinder and has the 14 spline input shaft. AFAIK all NWC T5's are about equal in strength, and all WC are about equal. Apparently 3rd gear and the main housing are its weaknesses. It has survived 55,000 miles of mostly gentle driving, though I've often given it all the torque my 4.1 can make (daily, in fact, if it really does make the most at 2000RPM like specified) and even some rough usage of my 53 pound flywheel.
1980 Buick LeSabre Limited 4.1 V6 T5 5 speed manual, 38,000 miles, family heirloom. (Up to 78,000 miles now, can't believe my work is holding up!)
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