5 Fantastic Tow Vehicles That Will Turn Heads

If you’re like us, you have a camper, a boat, or something you need to tow. We have a 21′ camper and we’re using an 07 Chevy Trail Blazer as a tow rig. The 4.2 liter 6 banger does fine, but you’ll notice it didn’t make our list. Although we think our SUV looks just fine with the camper in tow, it’s not a head turner. But it’s also not a bank account burner.

Author’s Note: We’re taking a break from trucking in this episode. We’re talking about personal vehicles and recreational towing. Our goal is towing 5,000 pounds.

The Typical Tow Vehicles That Will Turn Heads – The Wrong Way

Trail Blazer Towing Camper
This is our Trail Blazer and Camper. It gets the job done, but I have better ideas for a tow vehicle.

Kris and I took our maiden voyage with our Trail Blazer and camper several months ago. We settled into our state park campsite and sat back to enjoy watching our neighbors as they backed a shiny new 36′ 5th wheel into a tight spot with their also shiny new Chevy Duramax 4×4. That truck was beautiful, powerful and expensive.

Depending on the mileage, that beautiful 4-door dually is going to lose 30 to 45 grand in the next 4 to 5 years. It may turn heads, but it’s not about the truck. It’s about the 70 grand or more the owner paid for the truck. Congratulations to the owners of this truck, but most of us probably don’t want to wrap up that much cash in something that’s going to depreciate so rapidly.

Defining our Top 5 Head Turners

  • Drive it for several years with little depreciation.
  • V8, rear wheel drive platform.
  • Plenty of storage space – no coupes or sedans.
  • Simplicity. No touch screens or massive amounts of computerized components.
  • Classic enough to gain attention, especially while towing your toys.
  • Dependability, and quality of any rebuild or restoration.

I love cruising Hemmings, Bring A Trailer, craigslist and a few other sites for classic cars and trucks. One that struck my eye was a restored 1960 Dodge 100. A blue short bed with a 318 crate motor and a Torqueflight automatic. That truck would look AWESOME towing our blue camper. That little blue Mopar was the genesis for this list.

Our 5 Fantastic Tow Vehicles That Will Turn Heads

5. The Classic Pickup Truck. Ford, Chevy or Dodge. Name your choice.Classic Chevy Pickup

Ford F150, ’96 and older. Ford didn’t totally kill the classic pickup look until 97. You can find great survivors with that classic look, 2 or 4-wheel drive. Depending on the engine, most Ford pickups converted to fuel injection by the mid ’80s.

Chevy and GMC, ’87 and older.  Okay, it’s only my opinion. Any Chevy or GMC older than an 88 still has that classic look. The third generation Chevy trucks we now call square bodies ran from 73 to 87. From 88 on, it’s just an old truck. I would lean heavily towards the 87 model year because of the throttle body fuel injection over the carburetor.

Dodge truck, ’93 and older. Once again, there’s a touch of bias in this one. I’m a huge MOPAR fan. These Dodges are tough, and mostly unmolested. Finding a 100% stock survivor isn’t that hard. I believe all the full size Dodge pickups were fuel injected by 1989.

What about International and Jeep? These pickups haven’t been manufactured for years, and parts are not that easy to come by. They definitely turn heads, but side of the road breakdowns could be a real pain in the butt.

4. 93 Buick Estate Wagon. If it’s good enough for Rutledge Wood, it’s good enough for me. With a fuel injected 5.7 liter V8, these land barges could be equipped to tow up to 7,000 pounds. They’re big, sleek and have room for everything you need. Buick is the only family truckster on the list because the odds of finding a clean original are high, and they will be even more desirable in 5 to 10 years. The original owners were generally upper middle class folks who weren’t into modifying their drivers.

3. Dodge Ramcharger and Plymouth Trail Duster. I love the Bronco and Blazer, but it’s my list, and I think the Ramcharger turns more heads. If you can score one of these wearing the Plymouth badge, it’s all the more cool. These SUVs came in 2 and 4-wheel drive. Engine choices range from the sluggish slant 6 to the 440 big block. The 318 picked up fuel injection in ’87 with the 360 following suit in’88.

2. Any full size domestic van, as long as it doesn’t look like a church bus. Ford, Chevy or Dodge, it’s your choice. As long as it’s V8, fuel injected and has frond disc brakes, we’re happy. You’ll have room for everyone, and everything. You may even have extra sleeping quarters on those camping trips.

Retro is cool on these vans. Look for TVs, mood lighting, swiveling bucket seats and the classic folding bed in the back. This has to be the lowest cost option of the list. You’ll even find a few with raised roofs. GMC even made a few all-wheel drive models.

5 Fantastic Tow Vehicles That Will Turn Heads
Photo by Bokehhh – Gabriele on Unsplash

1.  ’87 to ’91 Chevy or GMC Suburban. Again, I’m looking at the models with fuel injection, but still the square body. They made a ton of these, and you can still pick one up with a lot of life left in it. With a 350 v8, it’ll tow your stuff, haul your gear and chase your groceries. A nice one will always be a head turner, especially with the factory steel wheels, the ones with beauty rings and dog dish hubcaps.

What About Older Classic Tow Vehicles

This all started with the ’60 Dodge, a truck that didn’t make the list. That truck has a late model 5.2 V8. Before I’d go on the great American road trip, I’d want to be sure of a few things.

  • Front disk brakes are an absolute requirement. Nobody wins when you’re coasting down California’s grape vine on drum brakes, being pushed by a 4,000 pound camper.
  • Air Conditioning. It’s not hard to add A/C to any classic vehicle, but it’s not cheap.
  • Where’s the rest of that drive train from? What year is that torque flight and rear end? If that’s the original 3rd member, it’s as old as I am. Is it up to the additional strain of towing?
  • Bolt on throttle body fuel injection. Carburetors are great. They’ve been around for years, but they have drawbacks, especially with altitude changes. Holly, Edelbrock and others make bolt-on, self-learning fuel injection kits.

Some Final Thoughts On Classic Tow Vehicles

Classic cars and trucks turn heads. What makes them fantastic is that they’re not just head turners. They can also be easy on the budget when compared to blowing 50 grand on a new half ton. For 1/2 that amount, or even 1/4, you could tow, turn heads, and still recover your the bulk of investment. Find the right one and you might even make money.

Things You May Want To Replace Up Front

Trust me on this one. When you take something older and put it to work, you’ll find the weakest link. In my experience, it’ll be motor mounts and u-joints. You might want to be preventative and replace them right up front.

The bottom line with older stuff is how well you know and trust the vehicle and the power train. If you bought a resto-mod, you have to know exactly what you have. The year of the engine, trans and rear end and anything else you could be finding parts for while on the road.

As for us, the 6 banger Trail Blazer will do for now. But a man can dream…

Western Red – If That Ain’t Country

Western RedThe podcast community has quite a cast of characters, and Western Red is no exception. Red reached out for a little bit of advice about his website and podcast. His show, If That Ain’t Country is everywhere you find The Trucking Podcast. Western Red is also on a few radio stations.

If you were a fan of Bill Mack’s show, you’ll love If That Ain’t Country. It’s 2-1/2 hours of real country music, and some fantastic stories behind the songs and artists. Although he’s podcasting and broadcasting out of the south, the accent is Australian. That down under influence finds its way into his program with an occasional “truckie” song.

You might also like Episode 106, Women Prefer Men In Pickups.