Sunday, December 4, 2022


In defense of the good ol’ American V8 pickup. It’s still the best for RVing


The best kind of vehicle for RVing is the simple American V8 pickup truck. Period. And I also realize those are fighting words with some people. Further, my defense is of the gasoline V8 pickup. Why do I feel this way? 

Inside baseball

One of the ways we work hard to keep up on the latest things in the RV world here at is by meeting once a week. This helps us know what’s going on from all corners of the RV space. The number of interesting people who participate in both this informational resource and in writing stories for you is really quite encouraging. 

Not only do we have people who have all sorts of perspectives, RVing styles, backgrounds and preferences, but also years of experience in the real world of RVing. 

The reason I bring this up is that we were talking about Class A RVs and, in particular, Class A gassers. One of the members of our team has continued to have issues with one of these rigs and I finally chimed in with the fact that they should just buy an American V8 pickup and a towable RV. Period. 

The response to that was questioning why not consider the fancy newfangled pickups that are coming out, but I countered with this…

Getting things fixed

One of the challenges facing anybody with any motorized RV is maintenance. In many cases, having routine maintenance on motorized RVs can be a challenge to get done well, and it’s very, very expensive and inconvenient. 

Part of that tale has been shared by Russ and Tiña De Maris in their articles about the challenges Cummins diesel owners have faced in this past year. Not only do owners of rigs powered by that power source have to seek out qualified technicians, but they’ve also had a lot of issues with the emissions-related components in their engines. 

Funny thing, I was talking to the owner of a Sprinter van-based RV recently who smugly bragged about their fuel economy. But, when pressed, they admitted that they had to travel hundreds of miles recently and spend almost $500 on an oil change. 

Go anywhere for service with a V8 pickup truck

With my domestic V8-powered pickup I can go to any quick oil change place I see, where they have all the parts I need for oil changes and even unnecessary maintenance that they want to upsell me on. I’m in. I’m out. I never even had to get out of my truck—I can continue listening to whatever podcast I might have on. 

If I do experience a mechanical issue, which is not very likely in these old-fashioned, bulletproof machines, there’s likely a dealer for this brand of truck in the town that I’m in or the next town over. Further, anybody who hangs a shingle outside a garage and says that they work on vehicles is likely able to work on a pickup. 

The dinosaur

There are more and more fancy engine choices in pickup trucks nowadays. Ford has their two EcoBoost® engines, GM has that odd four-cylinder turbo engine, and even Ram is working on a new in-line six-cylinder engine with two turbochargers. 

I have nothing against turbocharged engines. In fact, my dad is the guy behind the Garrett T3 automotive turbocharger. 

But the simple, pushrod, two-valve-per-cylinder V8 is a thing of beauty. It’s simple. You can run it on the lousiest regular unleaded gasoline you can find. They can easily chalk up 200,000 miles without issue. If there is maintenance required, anybody who knows how to turn a wrench can get what you need done. 

They have just what you need with a trailer—torque. Lots of low-end torque, which means power from a dead stop. 

What about diesels?

As good as diesel engines have been for decades and decades, the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be. 

Because there is such a focus on diesel emissions in this country, legislation has pushed all sorts of complicated systems onto them that just haven’t proven as reliable as the engines themselves. So you’re spending many thousands of dollars on systems that have a higher failure rate than the engine itself. 

Further, the cost of a diesel engine is pretty significant. 


Yes, yes. I know about torque. And I also love the sound of a diesel engine. I’m one of those dorks who will roll down my truck’s windows if a railroad locomotive is passing by to hear those 16 cylinders rumble. And, ooh la la, if I can find an old Detroit Diesel engine still clattering away, that’s a wonderful symphony to my ears. 

While the more capable diesel-equipped pickups that are available do make a lot of sense if you’re pulling a large trailer, if you’re among the majority of us pulling your average trailer they may be not worth the money. 

Furthermore, all three domestic truck companies have been offering smaller diesels for a short time and those just haven’t found a lot of customers. The smaller diesels would make sense if, again, they had the stalwart reliability of older diesel engines. But the higher cost and complicated emissions have made them less popular with customers. 

Other tow vehicles

One of the best explanations I’ve ever seen about towing was done right here by Ross Regis, who explained max towing capacity. To simplify that, essentially, your tow vehicle is carrying a portion of whatever it’s towing. 

So that then brings out why so many vehicles are so bad at being tow vehicles. SUVs, in particular, just don’t have the carrying capacity that you need to safely tow larger trailers. That’s especially true if you’re carrying a lot of people. 

One of my favorite tow vehicles has been the Nissan NV3500 van, but those are no longer in production. 

Your vehicle’s specs might claim that you can pull the weight of your trailer, but when you really get down to the numbers, most vehicles that aren’t big pickups just aren’t spec’d out to handle the job properly. 

Electric is good, right?

If I were a contractor or other professional who drove, maybe, 40-70 miles to and from a job site and needed a truck that had a lot of torque, an electric truck might make sense. It’s even easier to service than a gasoline V8 because the primary maintenance on electric vehicles are brakes and tires. 

Electric trucks may also serve an owner well if they need a household power outlet, since most electric trucks have those now. 

But for long-distance towing that many RVers, including myself, tend to do, an electric truck just makes zero sense nowadays. Yes, yes, there are charging stations. But look at some of the experiences Mike Sokol shares right here on with electric vehicles and towing. 

I wouldn’t mind having an electric car in my own fleet for daily driving stuff. But for towing the way most travelers tow, they don’t make sense. 

In summary

So all this blathering on is in defense of the good old-fashioned American pushrod V8. It’s a relatively simple engine, it can be serviced almost anywhere, you can usually fuel it with the cheapest unleaded fuel you can find, and it’s got the grunt to move a lot of weight. 

In fact, while Ford had been building V10s for a long time, they finally just gave up and brought back an even bigger version of this style of engine in their Godzilla engine. Ram did about the same thing with their 6.4 liter Hemi, and you can get the GM products with a 6.6 liter V8. Heck, the Ram and GM engines will even shut down four of the eight cylinders to improve fuel economy when you’re not towing. 

So while you can still do so, if you’re even remotely thinking of getting a new tow vehicle, run to your local pick ‘em up truck dealer and get yourself the truck with the biggest V8 you can. 

For most RVers, these are still the best compromise between cost and capability when towing, and the newer, bigger V8s are even an improvement. 

The ease of finding service, the choice of plain wrap or opulently luxurious interiors, and the towing performance of modern American V8 pickups are all factors in why I wouldn’t consider a motorized RV today. But then I guess I’m singing to the choir, as motorized RV sales are only a small fraction of the total number of RVs sold. 

And we haven’t even considered that you can trade your RV without having to trade what tows it, giving you even more choice.


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John the Road Again
12 days ago

Have a friend who owns a company that manages a sizable fleet of work trucks deployed all over the west. He’s had it with modern diesels and is only purchasing gas trucks going forward. Every time one breaks down out in the field, it costs him big dollars with teams stranded in the field unable to work as they wait days or even weeks for the vehicles to be repaired. Today’s diesels are less reliable than their gas counterparts, more of a pain to deal with because of the emissions & DEF requirements, more expensive to repair, and the high cost of diesel fuel now more than offset their few remaining advantages. They certainly are not worth the 4-to-5 figure premium you now pay.

When I purchased my last pickup, I didn’t even remotely consider a diesel option. The only thing they seem to have going for them anymore is the macho image the provide their buyers as they lay out an extra 5-grand or more for the privilege.

Cheryl V Clark
21 days ago

We’re in complete agreement. While we’ve had various RVs (including a diesel pusher motor home), we’re happier than ever now with our V-8 Ford F-150 towing a 17’ Casita. Our fuel economy beats every motor home we’ve owned, too.

21 days ago

2009 GMC 2500 HD w/ 4:10 butt gears 4×4…101,500 miles…Only problem I have had is The hood latch failed….Lots of Eletronics problems… The other truck I have had that even comes close to my current one, was a 1955 WILLYS w/302 Chevy & full spicer running gear…w 4:88 butt gears , the rig was like a mountain goat…..Too bad they cannot build good stuff anymore….

Karel Carnohan DVM(@karel-carnohan)
21 days ago

Tony, and why don’t you like the Ford 150 Powerboost Hybrid with a V8 engine and a lithium battery? It’s the V8 engine with hybrid capabilities. Every new truck will have the common complication of everything run by computer chips so unless you buy an old, used V8 gasser you might as well accept the boost from the hybrid. It has the added benefit of being a convenient generator for your towable too.

I grew up riding around in my father’s chevy pick up truck which ran on good old fashioned gas, oil and gears. The love in the cab was the only electricity needed.

I will come to you for recs after I sell the Class A gasser, which has a Ford V8 engine in it. Thankfully, the engine is not the root of all my woes; it has run like a champ.

21 days ago

Because that engine option is not a V8 hybrid. It’s a twin turbo ecoboost 3.5l v6 with a hybrid. It is an excellent truck option, but it is more complicated.

Of course, even Ford’s V8 in the F150 class is a DOHC 4V/cyl high tech engine. And the lifter issues Chevy in particular, but also Ram, have had with their cylinder deactivation scare me away right there. Hint: the new 1/2 ton Chevy V8s are one of the least reliable power trains available according to multiple surveys. Still, on the 3/4 ton and up trucks, across all three brands, I like the gas V8 motor options for the very reasons the author states. Big displacement simplicity.

Karel Carnohan DVM(@karel-carnohan)
20 days ago
Reply to  Matt

Matt, thanks for the correction. My bad. It is a V6 with 430 horsepower 570lb torque and gets 24MPG. I can tow 12,000 plus I believe. Not bad for a tow truck. But, alas, more complicated.

20 days ago

Nobody has ever gotten 24 mpg from that truck. You’re lucky to get 20 mpg. Go look at the forums for that truck and owners are angry about the mileage but power and torque are very good.

Karel Carnohan
19 days ago
Reply to  Jay

Thanks Jay. I know. I never get the stated mileage even on my Ford Hybrid Escape. The F150 MPG will likely be even lower towing. Still…..the on-board “generator” is appealing.

Joe Cabaleiro
16 days ago

The problem I see with the Powerboost is that while it has great towing capacity, cargo capacity, the other factor you have to consider is relatively low due to the weight of the hybrid gear.

Steve S
22 days ago

I thoroughly enjoy my truck. It’s a big V8 and does a good job towing our TT. I also grew up driving vehicles made in the 60s and 70s and love classic cars and trucks.
Unfortunately, the fossil fuel burning engines need to go if our grandkids and great grandkids are to survive.
For the large RVs electric power doesn’t provide enough capacity for long distance travel. Currently a hydrogen engine is the only option that can help the planet and allow large RV movement.
I realize this isn’t a popular topic but at our current rate my great grandkids will witness the end of human life on earth.

21 days ago
Reply to  Steve S


21 days ago
Reply to  Steve S

Steve, respectfully you’re “Indoctrinated”…..

suzanne Ferris
21 days ago
Reply to  Steve S

Finally! An entitled elder with a wider lens than me myself and mine. Of course you are right.

20 days ago
Reply to  Steve S

Please tell, you are warning your grandchildren to forgo having children of their own,yes? This is the compassionate choice, correct? Otherwise, your great grandchildren now (according to you) will experience the absolute unimaginable despair, grief and horror of being exterminted. Per, “All unabated coal would have to close by 2040 to stay “well below” 2C, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This would mean closing 100GW of coal capacity every year for 20 years, or roughly one coal unit every day until 2040.” China alone is averaging 1 new large coal plant per week, much less adding in all the new coal plants being built in the rest of the world. That makes your statement on the requirement needed to avoid the annihilation of the human race less than optimal for obtaining.
Knowing this, yet still choosing to bring children into this world to only suffer a excruciating death, would be a cruelty that is unforgivable. This would possibly mean (according to you) that even your grandchildren would suffer this fate before their natural death along with their own children. Meaning that you should have sincerely made the effort to impress upon your children to remain childless.
So, back to your statement. Do you really believe that?

19 days ago
Reply to  DEE

Wow, your life must be really great!

22 days ago

I have to agree about the old carburated push rod V8, real work horses with a long life-if you stayed up with the maintenance. I now have a F150 with the 3.5L turbocharged 6 cyl engine. I have been impressed with it since day one. When I can pull a 5000 travel trailer 60 MPH at 1500 RPM, I am impressed with any engine, but with the magic of turbos, I can do it with a 6, don’t need eight cylinders. At 157,000 miles, the only problem I had was a throttle valve sensor (of course that came at a most inconvenient time). In short, newer engines, new technology, advanced lubricants, really do give us a better experience than that 1968 big block v8.

22 days ago

217k on the fabulous power stroke 7.3 turbo diesel F250 4×4. I’m certain it will outlast me.

22 days ago

How can anyone miss the sound of an old Detroit diesel. I spent my whole life in Agriculture and hated the loud blare of that engine and also the fact that they leaked oil everywhere.

21 days ago
Reply to  Carlos

Yup, and the exhaust, wow.

Jim Johnson
22 days ago

Hear, Hear! Exactly my philosophy. Don’t buy a power train that sits and does nothing for weeks or months at a time.

Went one step further. The main RV is essentially stationary. Skipped buying the $60K truck that I otherwise don’t need. I pay to have the RV moved when needed. Instead bought a SUV with decent towing and a small TT for weekend or touring. The SUV is of more use to me than a big pickup truck when not towing. And my total expense over time is less.

Joe Croft
22 days ago

I have the new Ford V8 in my class C. Love it. I also just bought a new Maverick Hybrid for daily driving. Also I plan to flat tow the Maverick. Both excellent vehicles for the job intended.

Tom E
22 days ago

I’ve owned Ford, GM, & Dodge V8 gas powered trucks and towed those wiggle waggle tag along trailers most of my adult life. I’ve had my share of white knuckle driving down steep grades being pushed by several tons of trailer, lost my brakes a couple times and then there’s that engine roaring up grades at 5500 rpm hoping it doesn’t blow up. After retiring I graduated to my HD diesel dually pulling 42 ft of 5th wheel. Done hills – exhaust brake. Up hill turbo kicks in and up it climbs at 2300 rpm. No overheating engine or transmission. No overheated brakes and brake fade. All at 30-50% better mileage pulling more than twice the weight. I now have a REAL RV tow vehicle. Don’t get me wrong. Those gas trucks were nice around town commuter vehicles or the weekend or week-long trailer camping trips but not the serious months-long RV travel and living.

Bob M
22 days ago

I have a F150 with 6 cyl powerboost hybrid that does a good job towing, but than the turbochargers are another thing that can go wrong. I liked the 2018 Silverado with V8 I had which towed good. The only thing I didn’t like about it was going up a hill not towing the engine would lag. Which my wifes 6 cylinder Cadillac also did. Not sure if it was going between number of cylinders in use or what. Bottom line it was because our government sticks their nose in things that only causes problem. Always changed my spark plugs and oil my self. Now you have to take parts off the engine to get to spark plugs and be a contortionist to get to the oil filter. Had a Honda Ridgeline pickup you had to take plastic parts off to get to the battery if you wanted to give someone a jump start.

22 days ago

Honest and Sane article! Tony, Your a true Red Blooded American Man! : )

22 days ago

Best article anyone has ever written in RVTravel. I am a very opinionated old school motor head who grew up dreaming about big displacement V8’s like real 426 Hemis, Chevy Rat motors, 427 Fords, 413 and 440 Wedges, etc. They all made real power and torque with minimal maintenance and best of all……. no check engine light. Just carburetors and distributors that could be easily serviced. At least we still have LS Chevys and now the Ford Godzilla, which are similar, but still have that &#@** check engine light. I’m pretty sure those will still be working long after the newer high strung, twin turbo, DOHC, yadayada bing pops are being towed in for service. And electric RV’s? Maybe in 10 or 15 years.

Bob p
22 days ago

Good article Tony, brought back memories.

Big Bill
22 days ago

Got the Ford V8 in my 2022 Class A. Put about 6k on it this summer with zero problems. My 2007 extended high top GMC 11 passenger Conversion Van that I have modified into a camper now has over 120K on it and the big v8 still runs perfect. I have towed big 5vers with two F350 diesels that I owned over the years and they were great trucks but more expensive to own and operate. The huge diesel pushers need all that extra torque and are in a class by themselves and carry the high cost for those with throw away money. For the average Joe, the big block American v8 is the best value. Also every high end foreign car I have owned was a financial pain even for routine service. All five of my present vehicles are gasoline powered American ! 3 cars, 1 Van, 1 mh. Some are old, some are new, all debt free.

Glen Cowgill
22 days ago

Tony, no doubt I love the old cars and trucks. I own a 1967 Camaro (poor man’s Corvette) and still do a little work on friends classic cars. I have been a mechanic since in the early 1950’s. That being said, the newer cars will easily get to 500,000 miles with good maintenance. I remember doing valve jobs on cars with only 30,000 miles on them in the 50’s.

It is not the mechanical part of the engine that is failing. It is the impossible demands being placed on the manufacturer by our government that is turning the American automobile into a moving junkyard. I drive a 2009 Fleetwood class A with a 6.7 Cummins (before DEF) which continues to do the job.

I love the pictures in your article. I drove some of those vehicles and even owned a few of them. All of them needed a tune up at about 15,000 miles compared to 100,000 miles today (well maybe 60,000 miles for some).

Bob p
22 days ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

I too am in the age bracket you speak of and did my own work since my 1953 Chevy 150. I believe owners were more conscientious about maintenance in years gone by. With the newer vehicles today and the electronics that either work or don’t work with no in between of yesteryear, people have become complacent in routine maintenance. Back in the 50’s when the engine got a misfire you popped off the distributor cap and checked the points, next you checked for a fouled plug. They misfire anymore they just quit because an electronic part failed. Tow truck time!

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