Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Region 1 Rally, Day Three

As is always the case with these rallies, there's more going on each day than I can remember by bedtime. So many people to talk to, so much going on, so many parties! And at this rally, perfect weather.

We're all camping on asphalt, which makes it seem a bit like a night at Wal-Mart, but after the initial surprise one doesn't notice it anymore. (Usually we're on grass at rallies.) The nice thing about the asphalt is that you don't have to worry about mud or ticks. The downside is that it seems hotter than it really is.

Earlier today, while the kids were all at the beach, I got up on the roof of the nearby Fairgrounds building and shot the official rally photo. Copies were distributed to everyone. Here's an out-take from that photo shoot.

Each evening I've been running the clearance lights, using the little trick I described last week. It's been fun, and it gets a lot of people over to ask where I got the LEDs. (

Friday, August 26, 2005

Region 1 Rally

I'm backfilling in a few posts here that I couldn't make from the Rally, due to lack of Internet access. Today, I got a chance to test-drive the controversial rig owned by Andy Thomsen of Can-Am RV in London Ontario. Can-Am is famous for rigging up unconventional tow vehicles (minivans, front-wheel drive GM cars, etc) to tow Airstreams. They've been at it for decades, and claim a very good safety record. They are certainly meticulous about it, and Andy appears to know his stuff.

The rig he took to Region 1 was a new Airstream Classic 34 footer pulled by a Chrysler 300C with "Hemi" engine. He uses a custom made hitch that goes forward to the rear axle and a Hensley. I'll spare you the full report, but basically it goes like a bomb and handles beautifully. We took it around some tight city streets and then out on Autoroute 40, where Andy opened it up to 70 MPH (120 kph). I drove it back.

Here I am, driving it back with a big grin on my face. What a ride! Like towing an Airstream with a Learjet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New tow vehicle!

Tomorrow we hitch up and hit the road again, and it's about time! We've killed the grass at Whispering Pines long enough.

We'll be heading to Quebec for the Region 1 Rally. But this will be a special occasion for more than that. We took delivery this week of a new tow vehicle, a 2005 Nissan Armada.

With the factory "Big Tow Package", this beastie is rated for 9200 lbs. We don't need that kind of brawn to tow Vintage Thunder, of course. The Argosy has been happily sailing along behind our '03 Honda Pilot since February.

But we will be using the extra beef of the Armada for our next project, which will be revealed in September. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the Armada handles the 4500-lb Argosy.

Here's the specs on the Armada:

5.6 liter V8
305 peak hp
379-lb-ft torque
9200 lb tow rating with the factory "Big Tow" kit
wheelbase: 123.2 inches
seating for eight

Hitting the road tomorrow a.m. I'd promise daily posts from the rally but without good Internet access it'll be spotty. I'll do what I can.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Fun project

Here's a fun accessory for your Airstream, and it only costs a few dollars. You can have your clearance lights stay on when you are parked, which looks pretty cool at night. Since we put LED clearance lights on Vintage Thunder, I love to show them off.

First, buy a Bargman "car end" 7-way plug (or the appropriate plug for your vintage).

Then check the Airstream website for diagrams by model year. See

You might find that your trailer has been updated to the modern 7-way plug, as Vintage Thunder has. In that case, you want to download this diagram:

Solder or wire on a jumper between the 12v power lead and the clearance light lead on the new connector. On most trailers, the 12v power is "black" and the clearance lights are "green". There won't be colored wires in the Bargman connector but you may see the color names embossed on the connector itself.

That's it! Just plug it into your trailer end cord as shown here, and if you've got the right connections, the clearance lights will come on. If you want to be really wild, you can even wire in an automotive flasher to make the lights blink.

We'll be bringing this to the rally in Quebec this week, just to light up the trailer for a couple of hours every evening.