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Old 05-09-2013, 12:36 PM   #1
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1997 Dolphin towing capability?

Considering a 1997, 534G, Ford 460, F53 Chassis but need to confirm owners comments regarding towing. When asked if the coach could tow 7000 lbs LEGALLY, his response was the book says 0-8000 lbs depending on how the coach is loaded. Should I assume that means for every 1000 lbs I put in the coach, such as people, supplies etc, I have to back off 1000 lbs on tow capacity? I'm understand GVWR and GCWR but don't know how to interpret this comment. It is my understanding that the GVWR is the max wt. for the coach alone, considering axles, tires etc and GCWR is above that number and represents what you can tow. I found a reference for the 2011 F53 Chassis and it will handle 8000 to 10,000lbs in a couple of their chassis. Hope it would go back to the Nintys vintage chassis and still apply.

I searched but didn't find anything. I found a link to a manual but it didn't work for me. Anyone with their manual for this vintage National on the F53 chassis that might be able to help me out with the interpretation of the owners comment I would be most appreciative.

I know towing with gas will be a challenge but won't tow the truck on but a few trips, Honda Odyssey on others and some times nothing at all. We are not full timers, but when we go deer hunting would like to take the truck, probably 2 or 3 times a year. Honda Odyssey when we load up with grandkids, and nothing if just for a weekend etc.

Any comments regarding "gotchas" on the Ninty's Dolphins would also be appreciated. F53 chassis, don't want a GM, so not a consideration. Thanks
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Old 05-09-2013, 12:50 PM   #2
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There should be a sticker with all the weights and tire size next to the driver's seat. Also there is usually another copy pasted inside a cabinet. You might look in those locations. The GVWR is the capacity of the RV loaded and ready to go. The GCWR is the combined total of the RV and whatever you're towing. In addition, the rating of the hitch has to be considered. A Class III is rated for 6,000 lbs, 600 lbs. tongue weight.
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:48 PM   #3
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Your older F53 chassis is definitely not as capable as the newer models. That big 460 has the power (with good exhaust) but the frame, brakes, tires and axles are lacking. Ford rates the DRIVETRAIN of the bare chassis at 25K Max GCWR which gives you the same 0-8000 towing capacity but at 34' long, the coachmaker welded on frame extensions and installed a hitch they felt was sufficient. If you're lucky, National installed a 5K hitch but 3500 lbs was common for many older gas motorhomes. While you can install a beefier hitch, will the frame extensions and other components mentioned above handle the load?

Not sayin' you can't make it work for you but pulling a big pickup or a van on a dolly will be pushing (or exceeding) your limits. Whatever you do, make sure you've got good brakes all the way around.
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Old 05-09-2013, 03:57 PM   #4
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Also, here is a link to Ford manuals (not shop repair stuff though).

Try this: www.motorcraftservice.com and click "Owners Guides" on the Left column.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:49 AM   #5
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Granted my rig has the v10, I don't feel that towing with a gasser is a challenge. Also use my rig to go hunting in the fall. I tow a Grand Cherokee (have 31" off road tires on her) and she performs well in the bush. If I think I'll need anything more than the jeep then I tow a tailer with a couple of quads. Just use the rig set up for the right situation. Our Dolphin was our first Ford chassis and living a life of GM was not sure about the change. I was pleasently surprized with her (nothing bad towards the workhorse chassis). Bought the MH because of floor plan and it happenned to come with the F53. Messy changing oil and revs high but the ride is great, quality of the national product is excellent, and more than pleased over all. Don't know why you would push the tow limit. I'm sure you have a hunting partner so if you need a full size truck, have them drive it and pay for the gas. After all, you are providing a comfortable "roof overhead" each night when the hunting is done. As to pulling the Honda, no worries.
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Old 05-10-2013, 08:09 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fighterpilot View Post
Considering a 1997, 534G, Ford 460, F53 Chassis but need to confirm owners comments regarding towing. When asked if the coach could tow 7000 lbs LEGALLY, his response was the book says 0-8000 lbs depending on how the coach is loaded. Should I assume that means for every 1000 lbs I put in the coach, such as people, supplies etc, I have to back off 1000 lbs on tow capacity? I'm understand GVWR and GCWR but don't know how to interpret this comment. It is my understanding that the GVWR is the max wt. for the coach alone, considering axles, tires etc and GCWR is above that number and represents what you can tow. I found a reference for the 2011 F53 Chassis and it will handle 8000 to 10,000lbs in a couple of their chassis. Hope it would go back to the Nintys vintage chassis and still apply.

I searched but didn't find anything. I found a link to a manual but it didn't work for me. Anyone with their manual for this vintage National on the F53 chassis that might be able to help me out with the interpretation of the owners comment I would be most appreciative.

I know towing with gas will be a challenge but won't tow the truck on but a few trips, Honda Odyssey on others and some times nothing at all. We are not full timers, but when we go deer hunting would like to take the truck, probably 2 or 3 times a year. Honda Odyssey when we load up with grandkids, and nothing if just for a weekend etc.

Any comments regarding "gotchas" on the Ninty's Dolphins would also be appreciated. F53 chassis, don't want a GM, so not a consideration. Thanks
The Ford does have a higher rating and assuming yours is 36ft., it goes like this. Weigh fully loaded with goods and people, but not to exceed 20K. Add the toad and the two together shouldn't exceed 25K. Keep in mind though, that the hitch is only rated for 5K, so the chain is only as strong as it's weakest link.
Having said that we're a little heavy for my Chevy and have never understood the difference, but it does very well and with close inspection, I see no problem with it.
Brochure attached, I think, and if not shoot me a PM with your addy....
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File Type: pdf National RV 1997 Tropi-Cal Brochure.pdf (2.43 MB, 114 views)
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Old 05-10-2013, 03:53 PM   #7
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Update--we gave up on the diesel pusher quest. Went and looked at a gasser, drove it, bought it, pick it up Tue. 1997 Dolphin 534G. F53 with 460. One of the few gasser that seemed to have the where with all to legally tow 7000 lbs. Length around 35'7" All the paper work shows GCWR of 25,000. GVWR 17,000 lbs. UVW 14,880. NCC 2120lbs. As I understand it I can load up with people, water, stuff up to 2120 lbs worth and be legal. Than I can tow 8000 lbs worth as long as no down load on ball. Now with that paper work all thru out the coach how do I determine that those figures take in consideration the hitch that is on the Coach. I did a quick look but didn't see any decals on the hitch. Was it added by National RV or did it come on the chassis? What is customary with those two companies?

Tropical where did you see the hitch is only rated 5000lbs? Is that in your brochure?

Two issues outstanding. Dometic refrig hasn't been thru recall. Cracked windshield on passenger side. I talked to Dometic and they will take care of the refrig. Hope there is a windshield available for this old coach.

Note-- it was quieter and drove better than my Old 27 and 32 foot Travcos, the Winne Elandan and one other 34 footer I had.

I note the brochure on the web site lists a wider co-pilot seat. Does anyone know if that will seat two and where I might get one. On my older coaches I swapped out that seat for a wider one, kike the 60 of a 60/40 seat system from a pickup truck, but would like to be a little classier with this coach.

Hunting partner is DW. She brings her sewing machine, not a gun. She isn't about to drive the truck while I ride in comfort in the MH. Now she might drive the MH, hadn't thought about that.!!
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fighterpilot View Post
Update--we gave up on the diesel pusher quest. Went and looked at a gasser, drove it, bought it, pick it up Tue. 1997 Dolphin 534G. F53 with 460. One of the few gasser that seemed to have the where with all to legally tow 7000 lbs. Length around 35'7" All the paper work shows GCWR of 25,000. GVWR 17,000 lbs. UVW 14,880. NCC 2120lbs. As I understand it I can load up with people, water, stuff up to 2120 lbs worth and be legal. Than I can tow 8000 lbs worth as long as no down load on ball. Now with that paper work all thru out the coach how do I determine that those figures take in consideration the hitch that is on the Coach. I did a quick look but didn't see any decals on the hitch. Was it added by National RV or did it come on the chassis? What is customary with those two companies?

Tropical where did you see the hitch is only rated 5000lbs? Is that in your brochure?

Two issues outstanding. Dometic refrig hasn't been thru recall. Cracked windshield on passenger side. I talked to Dometic and they will take care of the refrig. Hope there is a windshield available for this old coach.

Note-- it was quieter and drove better than my Old 27 and 32 foot Travcos, the Winne Elandan and one other 34 footer I had.

I note the brochure on the web site lists a wider co-pilot seat. Does anyone know if that will seat two and where I might get one. On my older coaches I swapped out that seat for a wider one, kike the 60 of a 60/40 seat system from a pickup truck, but would like to be a little classier with this coach.

Hunting partner is DW. She brings her sewing machine, not a gun. She isn't about to drive the truck while I ride in comfort in the MH. Now she might drive the MH, hadn't thought about that.!!
I don't think I've ever heard of a gasser with a hitch receiver that was rated for more than 5K, some are only 3.5K and you also have basically the same coach that I have w/ 5K. It also should be stamped in the steel on the receiver somewhere. In fact, a lot of DP only have a 5K installed. That's a lot of weight and not saying you can't get away with it, but would have a hitch shop look it over and take their recommendations. In addition, you might want to add a transmission temp. gauge. You may also want to check the tag axle brakes, if so equipped, as it's probably not working. Start with checking it's master cylinder for fluid.
If you have the Dometic side by side, it's not subject to recall like the over and under and even at that, it doesn't fix anything, just shields it, if it should catch fire.
Never heard of a double seat, but if so you wouldn't be able to turn it any and might be a hassle climbing in and out.
They surely have windshields available and in some states like FL, there is no copayment with your insurance by state law.
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:46 PM   #9
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Trailers dont tow very straight without weight on the ball .
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:38 PM   #10
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Not towing trailer. Truck 4 down. Maybe down force 2 lbs.

Tropical 36 what does your paper work say about GVWR and GCWR? What is the difference? TX temp gage good idea.

Refrig. is confirmed by serial number and model. Needs fix. It is my understanding the cause of the boiler tube cracking was because they increased the wattage on the heating element from 325 to 364 watts and hence the boiler tube fatigue. They have since returned to 325 watt element. So, do they change that and also add a shield as has been suggested?

As far as seat I just off set the seat, used the same post position and was able to swing the seat even thought the inboard part of seat was over the dog house a little bit. Didn't put the seat any closer to the wall. Does any one know what the option wider seat was?

Haven't seen any specs on the Tropical to compare to the Dolphin, but in the Monaco line there is a big difference between the Dynasty and the Windsor. Your paper work or stickers should give you the GVWR and GCWR for comparison.

Appreciate every one's comments. Thanks
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Old 05-10-2013, 11:53 PM   #11
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On my 99 35' Dolphin the receiver was installed by National. The label reads 500# maximum tongue weight and 5000# maximum total weight. However, you shouldn't exceed the maximum combined weight rating of the MH. You can't compare the newer to the older chassis's weight capacities. Attached is the specification brochure for the 99 Dolphin, that shows the trailer hitch capacity for the GM and Ford chassis' to be 5000#. I checked the National forum on yahoo for the 97 Dolphin, did not see it. If you join the forum you can post a request for the spec's and manual. I am sure someone will help you.

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Attached Files
File Type: pdf National RV 1999 Dolphin Specs[1].pdf (831.4 KB, 80 views)
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Old 05-11-2013, 07:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fighterpilot View Post
Not towing trailer. Truck 4 down. Maybe down force 2 lbs.

Tropical 36 what does your paper work say about GVWR and GCWR? What is the difference? TX temp gage good idea.

Refrig. is confirmed by serial number and model. Needs fix. It is my understanding the cause of the boiler tube cracking was because they increased the wattage on the heating element from 325 to 364 watts and hence the boiler tube fatigue. They have since returned to 325 watt element. So, do they change that and also add a shield as has been suggested?

As far as seat I just off set the seat, used the same post position and was able to swing the seat even thought the inboard part of seat was over the dog house a little bit. Didn't put the seat any closer to the wall. Does any one know what the option wider seat was?

Haven't seen any specs on the Tropical to compare to the Dolphin, but in the Monaco line there is a big difference between the Dynasty and the Windsor. Your paper work or stickers should give you the GVWR and GCWR for comparison.

Appreciate every one's comments. Thanks
Check the compartment over the drivers seat for this, but my GVWR is 19500 and means max for everything on board. It weighs in much less than that because of it's outstanding CC (carrying capacity). However it's GCWR is only 21000 which is with the addition of a toad, so unless you're traveling with no goods and no people, it's hard to stay within specs pulling much of anything with a Chevy. Still don't get it and why the Ford's GCWR is 25000, but do have my thoughts and explained previously. There is no way that any of these have a hitch receiver rating of more than 5K, that's for sure, so again, you might want to get it looked at. With the TX temp gage, at least you know what's happening with a more than heavy load when climbing the Rockies or even the Alleghenys.
The Fridge element, I never heard of, but does sound reasonable.
Tropi-cal was nothing more than a few more frills in the house during the gas years and before they went DP in 03. The closest thing to it was the Dolphin LX and we're only speaking cosmetics here. No chassis specs.
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Old 05-11-2013, 01:46 PM   #13
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Tropical where did you see the hitch is only rated 5000lbs? Is that in your brochure?
Brochure states class III hitch. That's a 5000# hitch.
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Old 05-11-2013, 07:59 PM   #14
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All the numbers I quoted from the interior of the coach match the numbers in the 1997 Brochure for this model MH. Got the brochure from a link to National Rv site. No where is there any limit attached to the hitch, either on the hitch, in the coach or in the brochure, so will have to take a good look at the hitch to see what there is. Monacos had 10000 lb hitches, but your inference is these motorhomes are not of the quality of the Monaco Dynastys of that same year. I would agree, but not sure that limits the towing capacity to 3500 or 5000 lbs.

You might want to check your refrig if either a Norcold or Dometic as they both had recalls with MHs made in our years. You can have a fire, which was the mode that got everyone's attention. Just google their name and recall and you can find out information. Or search the main forum.
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