Robert and all,
Nice find and interesting post! I purchased a DS-16 (DS-16A, I presume) from Roger Tuthill c. 1987. I think Meade discontinued the line shortly thereafter. I bought the optional Sealmaster ball bearings for the RA axis. The tube was the deep blue color, and it had setting circles and the synchronous motor RA drive (which I usually powered from a car battery and a Vogel Digitrak drive corrector).
It was a bear to carry out of the house, set up, take down, and take back inside. I can’t remember the weights of all the components, but it was plenty! I rigged up a sling to carry out the tube with the primary mounted in it. (I was always worried about damaging the primary mirror when mounting it to the Sonotube.) That arrangement was temporary, as I built a roll-off roof observatory to house it. I modified the OTA with a hole saw and other assorted tools and moved the secondary and focuser a couple of inches or so further away from the primary mirror in order to achieve a wider fully illuminated field, and to not require extension tubes to bring eyepieces to focus.
Regarding the gymnastical positions (lol), I accommodated it well. Once I had it in the ROR building, the pier fabricated for it was a bit taller (with respect to the floor) than the standard portable pier. There were really very few positions that I couldn’t be reasonably comfortable during viewing, at least by me at that age. For objects low in the southwest, for example, I would undersling the scope so that the counterweight end of the dec axis was pointed up towards the sky, and it was very comfortable to stand on the floor and lean over slightly to look into the eyepiece. The taller pier, which had no feet on the floor to interfere with the OTA, made for a pretty wide range of western and southwestern sky which was viewable in this manner. For some high altitude objects, I would have a stepladder straddling the drive motor, and I could comfortably (again, for my age at the time!) lean against the upper part of the stepladder and view.
I felt that my optics were very good. Views were better than any other telescope had I used to date, aside from the big Newtonians that I used at a nearby university. (In fact, I returned my observatory keys to the university because I was having a very good time at home with the DS-16, and I wound up staying home.)
The bad part came after a number of years when I discovered that the scope was not maintaining collimation with changes in orientation. I was looking at Saturn one evening, about 30 degrees in altitude, and it looked peculiar. It could have been seeing, I thought, but yet my impression from other observations was that seeing wasn’t bad that night. I suspected collimation, and did a quick check of the in and out of focus diffraction patterns of a bright star high in the sky. It looked fine. (I rarely had to collimate the scope.) I then pointed to a low-altitude bright star, and the collimation was poor.
At the time, I accused the Sonotube weakening and deforming with age. But I now wonder if it was the plywood to which the mirror cell was attached and then bolted to the bottom end of the Sonotube. In any event, it was a hassle to recollimate for specific orientations, and it really wasn’t in the cards for me to rebuild the scope. This scope was eventually given to an interested party as I stopped using it. Wherever its components are today (the Sonotube was discarded), it’s certainly no longer a DS-16!