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Author Topic:   Towing capacity of older vehicles?
SuburbanBoy posted 01-20-2002 10:44 AM ET (US)   Profile for SuburbanBoy   Send Email to SuburbanBoy  
In my quest to fulfill my family’s dream of owning a GTX (yeah right), I have to get numerous items in place. One high priority item is an appropriate tow vehicle. I have an opportunity to purchase a 1989 Ford Crown Victoria Station Wagon. "Full boat" so to speak, with every HD option available at the time. Where can I locate the towing capacity of this (or other) older vehicle? I know that the owner’s manual would have this information, but this is not available to me at this time. As this particular option may not work out there must be a web site with this type of historical information for many years of production. BTW, it has less than 40,000 miles and is cherry. It will only be used for towing vacations, not commuting or soccer mom duty.


jimh posted 01-20-2002 12:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A good source for older info may be available by writing to TRAILER BOAT magazine. Also try calling the FORD customer information line; they should be able to tell you more about the car from its VIN.

The 1989 Ford Crown Vic was probably rated as high as 5000 pounds if it had the right rear axle ratio. Usually you need the 3.73 rear end to get the "towing" rating. You can deduce the rear-axle ratio by decoding the sticker on the door. A great deal of info about the car's make-up is contained on these stickers, but you need a CHILTON's repair book or similar source to decode them.

Changing the rear axle ratio is usually beyond the scope of backyard-mechanics, and it can be pricey from a dealer. If you love the car and it has the wrong rear end, you could always look to a junk yard for replacement gears (from old police cars) and find a local mechanic to install them. Your speedometer calibration will be wrong, but that can be fixed, too, if you change some more gears. (Sometimes on the newer cars there are no gears; instead, software calculates the speed from a sensor and this may be very hard to tweak.)

Another approach to helping the towing is to use smaller tires/wheels. Avoid the 16-inch or even 15-inch wheels. Moving to a 14-inch wheel and a slightly smaller tire height will help increase the rear axle "ratio." Of course this lowers the rear end, not a plus.

Towing in 3rd gear instead of OverDrive is recommend, too.

The other elements of the tow package can be retrofitted more easily. With a 12-year old car, it is probably not a bad idea to replace some of these things, anyways.

Typically you should have:

--Auxillary Transmission Fluid Cooler
--Auxillary Engine Oil Cooler

These can be "bolted-on" to exisitng engines.
The transmission cooler is simple. The oil cooler can be fitted by using an adapter plate that screws on at the oil filter and provides hose connections to the cooler, the original filter also mounting to the adapter. You can also get adapters for remote mounting of the filter (and the cooler) if there is a clearance problem.

The trailering package may also have included:

--larger batttery
--larger alternator
--stiffer springs
--heavier shocks

These are not too hard to "bolt-on", either.

Some of those era Ford cars had air-lift suspension options. That would be handy for towing. Air-Lift can be retro-fitted with 3rd-party add on gear, if needed.

I would suspect that your biggest problem would be rear end drag from tongue weight. This can be minimized with a weight-distributing hitch.

If you are just going to haul the boat to the ramp and back, and the ramp is decent, you should be OK. If you are thinking of hauling the boat to Alaska or Chile and launching at unimproved ramps, you may have trouble.

sorcerer posted 01-20-2002 01:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for sorcerer    
In a simple answer the Crown Vic which is nothing more than the Country Squire from the mid-70's through the 80's that started from the original Torino Squire wagon. It can handle your GTX without much in the way of modifications even with a 302 V-8. Just be careful on very hot day drive with the air on when towing.

If it came standard with the HD package your in good shape except for the disposable items might need replacing, shocks and battery.

You probably already or should have a handle on when the '89 has had it's last set of brakes, transmission and rear end serviced etc. these areas are of main importance along with doing a pressure check on the cooling system for leaks. Check the drive belts replace if at all questionable along with coolant hoses. May need shocks, the Sears (Monroe) LT's are all that's necessary no reason to spend big bucks.

Oh one other thing if the battery is more than 3 years old replace it with the largest capacity one that will fit. Might as well check the charging circuit as well.

If all that checks out then put a class 3 frame hitch, trailer wiring, and a load equalizing head on it. Tow Rite has everything you need.

Solid dependable wagons, keep oil changed regularly.

gf posted 01-20-2002 05:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for gf  Send Email to gf     

It's been gone for several years now, but my father-in-law had a 1986 Ford LTD Crown Victoria sedan. It had heavy-duty everything (I think it was the police package) and a factory tow package. I used it a few times to tow a friend's 21' boat that must have weighed around 5000 pounds. The rear end sagged a bit, but there was plenty of power, never a problem.

If you do get a GTX, I would put it on a 2800 pound capacity single axle trailer with surge brakes. The '89 Crown Vic should have no problem with it. For that matter, any full-size, rear wheel drive, V8 powered vehicle would have no problem either.

SuburbanBoy posted 01-21-2002 12:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
This is music to my ears. Lots of good news here. Lets see, when I said HD everything, it ment every option (obscure included). This would mean it had all towing packages and options. Thanks for the suggestions. I was hoping that there was a trailer biased website which would offer actual capacities. Also, who/what is "Tow Rite"? Similar to Reese?


jimh posted 01-21-2002 12:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
By the way, at work we had a fleet of Crown Vic sedans, mainly late 1980's and mainly 5.0L V-8 engines. These cars were used by "crews", often running two 8-hour shifts a day, and were driven around town, not interstate highway mileage.

We still have one of these cars in service. It only has a five-digit oddometer so we have lost track of the mileage but I think it is over 200,000 miles. The original engine and transmission are still going strong.

We changed over to Ford Explorers about 1990. As we sold off the old Crown Vics there was a steady line of employees eager to buy them for personal use. Several of them are still on the road and running fine.

That era Crown Vic was a rather decent rear-wheel drive sedan.

In 1992 there was a big change and an entirely new Crown Vic was introduced, featuring the 4.6L "modular" V-8 engine. I have 120,000 miles on my 1993 Crown Vic and it runs just fine. It was "Tow Vehicle of the Year" from TRAILER BOAT MAGAZINE (1993).

These days about 80% of the Crown Vic production goes into fleet service as police cars, taxis, etc., and they are routinely driven over 200,000 miles in well-maintained service.

BOB KEMMLER JR posted 01-21-2002 02:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for BOB KEMMLER JR    
BOB KEMMLER JR posted 01-21-2002 02:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for BOB KEMMLER JR    
BOB KEMMLER JR posted 01-21-2002 02:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for BOB KEMMLER JR    
lhg posted 01-21-2002 03:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
For four years I towed my (then) brand new 18 Outrage, with twin engines weighing 305# each, with a 1980 Ford Granada, with an in-line 6 putting out about 105 HP! I don't even know what the tow rating was! But this car handled this boat very well.

When I sold the car, for $750, it had about 220,000 miles on it, and got about 1500 miles on a qt of oil! It never had engine work done on it! Those old in-lines 6's were great.

sorcerer posted 01-21-2002 03:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for sorcerer    
Sorry, I meant Draw-Tite!

Of course Reese has everything you'd need.

Both have the snap up equalizing bracket set up for the boat trailer channel.

Curtis Johnson posted 01-22-2002 09:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for Curtis Johnson  Send Email to Curtis Johnson     
Suburbanboy-I thought you hated the GTX-it really can be a great boat- all the features of a good ski/cruiser - plus just a little hint of broad shouldered, wave taming BW legend that a lot of us admire.
SuburbanBoy posted 01-23-2002 12:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
No not at all. I was only kidding, I do actually have great interest in one. And why not? If I am not mistaken, it has the same hull as the Outrage, with the styling of a speedboat. The reason I joked about my family's interest, is that, well, they really want a GTX, they just have not figured it out, .... yet. I suppose another reason I have an interest in one, is the fact that they are little unusual. My current Whaler is a 1979 15' Striper with a new 70hp Tohatsu. Quite frankly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my Striper. Nothing that another 20hp would not cure. I should have bought the Yamaha 90. No big deal. I don't fish much, just tour, and water sports. While this may seem strange, the Striper was designed as a fishing boat, but the side console is actually quite handy for water sports. I am off to the side, allowing my daughters and wife and manage the lines and equipment. The GTX is sort of similar in that it has a "center aisle". Incidentally, someone mentioned that there once was a Striper built on the same GTX/Outrage hull. I have never seen one, or photos of one. So who knows, perhaps someday the planets will align and…


gunnelgrabber posted 01-23-2002 08:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for gunnelgrabber  Send Email to gunnelgrabber     
re: lhg's ford sixes...i'll amen that!..those 144-170-200 little sixes were great.used a couple for almost a million miles all over fla-ga..field work and play, hauling motorcycles, boats,people and misc.etc...little semi hippie window van ...a real prototype stout hearted "sport utility vehicle"....but i've converted to toyota now( sniff,sniff)..lm
whalerron posted 01-23-2002 12:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     
Those Ford inline 6's were good motors. My current commute vehicle is a 1977 Ford F150 pickup with a 300 6 cylinder engine. The truck has 270K miles on it and it burns absolutely no oil while getting 17 mpg.
SteveC posted 01-26-2002 09:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for SteveC    
I had 84 and 88 Crown Vics. I think the tow rating was 5000-7000 lbs. I gave each to relatives with 200,000+ miles. Had to buy one transmission ($1400 at 140,000 miles and my fault). The engine and trans are abour the same as the f-150's. The only weak link for towing may be the rear springs, which may be replaced by heavier duty "cargo coils" (a good car parts place will know what they are, manufactured by Moog? about 100 dollars?). I got 18 mpg. My favorite crown vic story is from a cab driver who had one with 400,000+ miles and bought an new one. The old one was ok, but he just wanted something new. These are good cars, and most sell cheap used.
Arch Autenreith posted 01-27-2002 02:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     
I still use my 1990 6-pass. Mercury Grand Marquis (Ford) for the Montauk. No tow package and just turned 208,000 and still is perfect and no rust. Mostly longer-distance towing. Normal maintenance stuff. 3-4 Batteries, 2 alternators (a little unusual) a couple water pumps, new power steering pump, new radiator. Oh, A/C compressor just sent South.
SteveC has it correct: new rear springs immediately for about $100 installed myself. Simple. 5.0 Litre V8. One complaint is that it is somewhat underpowered (only 160bhp new) as it will not pull ANY kind of grade in overdrive so usually just keep in 3rd gear to keep it from osillating back and forth between 3rd/4th. 3rd leaves a top speed of only about 55. Like bigshot I almost never push things very hard so I just live with it. No reason to upgrade to anything else until it dies (which may be awhile longer). I bought it 2 years old w/23K miles and often wonder how many miles were 'really' on it?

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