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Matt Harwood

Trailer basics

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I think I've decided that I need a trailer, both for personal stuff and for the business. I don't usually have to move cars long distances and for the purposes of my business, we've either used shipping companies or had them moved by flatbed when it's just around town. But now that we're attending more shows and bringing cars with us, I'd like to be able to move them myself. The thing is, I don't even know where to start. I have a few ideas and was hoping you guys could help.

Size? I'm thinking a 24-footer should work. The biggest car we'll probably move is my 1929 Cadillac, which is a 140-inch wheelbase and a little over six feet tall and weighs perhaps 5000 pounds.

Type? Do I need a goosneck? What are its advantages over a bumper pull? I haven't yet picked a tow vehicle, but it will likely be a 3/4-ton pickup, single axle (not a dually).

Features? What features should I look for? I know I want the heavy-duty axles (5000+ lbs.), but what other not-so-obvious things should I check? I don't much need cabinets or generators, just a box to haul cars in.

Brand? Any specific types to avoid? I'm guessing you usually get what you pay for, but if I'm shopping used trailers, what should I avoid or seek?

Where to buy? If I'm looking for a lightly used one (and I'm guessing there are a lot of seldom-used trailers in this hobby), where is a good marketplace? Ebay is worthless and I'm seeing only ads for new trailers in most of the trade magazines.

Any advice for a true rookie would be very much appreciated. Thanks!

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I have an 18 ft, 10,000 lb Hudson flatbed equipment trailer that I use for both my cars and farm equipment. Empty weight is just under 2,000 lbs, so net capacity is four tons. It's a bumper pull and I do have a crewcab dually. Frankly, I strongly recommend the dually - it's much nicer and more stable to tow with. I've actually had several dually trucks on this trailer with no problems, including one with a 166" wheelbase, though it did hang over the back. I've had this trailer fully loaded and don't use an equalizing hitch on my truck, though I do have a solid forged ball mount for the added tongue weight. It has two 5,000 lb axles with brakes and uses the 14.5" LPT (mobile home) tires and open center rims. The only downside is that this trailer has a relatively high deck height and short ramps, so the approach angle can be difficult for low-slung cars. I've had to build wooden ramp extensions to be able to load certain cars. I've pulled from Michigan to VA with no problems. I bought this trailer brand new for $1900 from a dealer in WV just over ten years ago.

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Not to change the subject but.... over the weekend a friend who is looking to upgrade his older Suburban told me it is hard to find a newer 3/4T. It seems Uncle wanted to reclassify them as cars because of the third seat, this threw GM in the tank on fleet mileage targets so they just quit making them in '12 or '13. I jumped on Ebay while we talked and there were not many and they were very pricey for the high mileage shown on later models (08-11).

Anyone else verify this story?

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Hi,

Now that aventey has invited us to change the subject, here goes;

My friends have Model As, but I have a Model G.

They, for the most part, have suburbans for tow vehicles, but we have an E-350 Ford window van.

Bought last year. 15,000 miles used. $19,200. Outfitted to tow 10,000 pounds for about $800.00. 5.7L engine, not great power, but reasonable mileage when not towing.

Our local Ford dealer has a few left. Red, white, or silver.

Just a suggestion.post-30916-143142451961_thumb.jpg

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Check out the trailer lot at an AACA show and you'll see what most people are using. You'll see very few fifth-wheel types. They are good, but the hitch-pull type is much more versatile. It's generally agreed, I think, that a side door is a must so you don't have to crawl out the rear of the trailer. Have enough width so your driver-side door can open and enough height so the top doesn't rub (remember the door height is lower than then interior height). Almost everyone has a ramp door rather than swing-open doors. An electric winch is a real plus, and doesn't cost much extra. At least, get a winch plate installed so you may add a winch in the future. Some guys like to lower the tops of touring cars and roadsters for loading so they can get a lower trailer. The higher trailers are convenient for loading, but they have more drag. A V-front is nice for storing tools, luggage and extra stuff. Good interior lighting, sway bar and dual torsion axles are suggested. Length depends on the biggest car you will haul. Get it long enough so the weight distribution is correct. I'd suggest interior insulation so your car doesn't bake in summer. You can add this yourself, if desired. Get the best tires you can. Aluminum is lighter, but steel trailers are fine and much cheaper.

They do show up on eBay, but CraigsList is better. Decent trailers have a fairly high resale value.

Phil

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Thanks for all the awesome feedback, everyone. I've spoken on the phone to Ed and Marty who pretty much said much the same things, which also corroborates with everything the rest of you have said.

It looks like having a trailer built is the best way to go. Given the advice I've had, I'm thinking that it will be a bumper-pull with 12-inch on-center floor joists and perhaps even a metal floor instead of wood, but up here, wood is probably OK. Enclosed, of course, and a V-nose if possible. Aluminum if I can afford it and 7500 pound axles. Raise the roof to handle taller cars like my Cadillac, which MIGHT fit in a standard trailer, but why worry? Upgrade to 17.5-inch wheels and modern semi truck tires because the current batch of China-built load range E trailer tires seem to be problematic. Big side door, perhaps one that opens like an awning, so it's easy to climb out of a car inside. Lighting as needed.

For pulling, much as I'd like a diesel dually, I don't know if I can justify that cost in addition to the trailer itself. I might content myself with a 3/4 ton 2WD pickup, with a diesel if possible. Even used diesel duallys are like $35,000 with 100,000 miles. Yow!

It's primarily going to be used to move cars around town for the business and occasionally longer hauls with my personal stuff in it, and a yearly trek to Hershey and maybe a few other shows. It won't be used all that often and certainly not for regular delivery of vehicles, so a good one should last forever if I do it right the first time. I figure it'll be expensive, but probably worth it to avoid aggravation, right?

Again, thanks for all the feedback and I'll let you know what I get.

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I've done a lot of trailering during the past 35 years, and this trailer is the best one I've ever experienced. It was specifically designed to be pulled behind a Suburban with the front slanted at about the height of the rear of the truck. The axles are just far enough to the rear where there is absolutely no swag at any speed (I've pulled this particular rig at more than 90mph, filled with a 1936 Cadillac, and I barely knew anything was in tow). The Avalanche has no problem pulling, either, of course.

Unfortunately, the company went out of business. It was built by Roadway Custom Trailers (south of Minneapolis/St. Paul) by Doc Halliday (former drag racer). It is literally built like a semi-truck trailer.

I've also pulled with dually rear axles using a Dodge V-10 pickup. That was a real eye-opener in regards to driving with strong side winds. The dual rear wheels kept the vehicle from moving like I'd never experienced, and the V-10 pulled with authority.

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I'll talk with Bob this weekend. Sorry it has taken so long. The Museum roof developed some problems due to the winter snow right after we last communicated, and kind of threw a wrench in priorities.

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On a tow vehicle, and I know this is another can of worms, my favorite has always been the 3/4 ton Suburban with the big engine. Unfortunately, due to government mandated average mileage requirements, GMC/Chevrolet quit installing the large engine in 2006.

It took me over a year to find the replacement for my 1996 3/4 ton, bought it two years ago, moved up to a 2001...but wait, it only had 38,000 miles on it...and was very affordable...

The smaller engines are fine in areas that are flat, when I moved to Virginia I had a Ford van with the 350, it was fine in flatlands, but the hills up north really challenged it while towing a trailer....

A lot of people like diesels, I just happen not to be one of them....I know, I know, better gas mileage and all that (although now diesel is more expensive that regular gas), and longevity....but the noise and the smell is enough to drive me off, so to speak...

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Matt, Listen to Marty. He was my go to phone call on all things trailering and has not let me down! My two cent:

- Aluminum over steeel. Weight does matter and my 15 year old steel trailer has to be scrubbed and painted again. rust and such. The aluminum just needs occassional lube and tires. This gives a lot longer life and lower maintenance level added to the life of the trailer.

- Serious ramp!! My steel trailer has a plywood deck ramp with steel frame. Putting the 61 cadillac on the trailer seriously warped the ramp that had held for brass cars and even full classics. Now I have to lean on the door to get it to close and I worry about it. The aluminum decked ramp eems to tolerate more weight. Also the fold down tab on the steel trailer is ply wood which has to be replaced as it has worn and is faltering. I love the aluminum fold down tab. No flex, no worries about setting it on uneven ground and cracking up ( like the wood)

-I like my load levelling hitch but beware that extreme angle situations like topping a hill or exiting a bad driveway, where the truck and trailer are at high angles to each other, you can damage one or both. I've never experienced that but it has affected navigational choices.

- Comfort comfort comfort!. Make sure you like sitting in the captain's seat of the tow vehicle a lot. After a weekend of towing to the show, detailing the car and sleeping in hotels, I found the leather Dodge one ton was just not pleasant to ride in and it can be a long ride home. I love the cloth F-350 interior on our 2002. It's like a sofa with lumbar support. and the Ford has a notably larger back seat, great for my kids or lots of stuff. The Dodge is smaller and a bit like a board as far as comfort goes. If you're making long hard runs for pickup or delivery I will usually tag team with a buddy and sleep in the back when he drives. Easy in the ford, awful in the Dodge. The Dodge is a smaller and more nimble truck and the cummins diesel is great giving it tremendous power and speed. So when size and weight are the issue, I use the Dodge. When Distance and comfort are the chief factors: The Ford.

- Winch point and EASY battery access/removal. Make sure there is a good frame based winch mount. I like having a Reese style mount set in the trialer. That way your winch can be used in the trailer or off the back of the truck. And the battery access is simple. You will have to either keep charging a 12 V for the trailer or use it elsewhere when not trailering - either way accessing it makes a difference.

- LOTS and LOTS of tiedowns - As many frame mounted tiedowns as possible. Different cars - different needs. Also I like E-track on the walls (especially at knee and nipple hieight for binding stuff to the walls after a good flea market.

Good Luck - Can't wait to see what you get.

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Matt,

Sam's experiences are right on target. I prefer a tag-along to a 5th wheel or a goose-neck, especially for the over-all utility. My all-aluminum Forest River weighs about 3400lbs, has a 24ft box, plus a wedged and tapered nose which carries all of the extra parts and helps with wind resistance and stability, nose also carries supplies, 2 spare tires, floor jack, small ramp for easing tire-change and brake adjustment, tools, cleaning supplies, spare fluids, a box for shop-rags, hooks to hang clothing. We built it with a 4ft curb-side door (rather than 3ft); we added an awning-style extra-long driver-side door over both axles so that virtually all of our cars could open the driver's door over the (EXTRA-LOW 5-inch-high WHEEL BOXES). The roof is built an extra foot tall to allow brass cars to drive in without lowering the top - having to fold a 2-man top in the rain before storing in a trailer can be a real hassle - and can damage the car - and leaving a wet canvas top folded is not a good thing either. Our rear ramp is 7-1/2 ft in length which allows for an easy angle of approach, even for the lowest of '50s cars, and makes exiting with a '54 Caddy simple since the "Exhaust-Tip-Bumpers" don't scrape the ground. I even transported a similar one, lowered a couple of inches, and with a "Continental-Kit" (not mine) without scraping! My trailer has an extra flap between the ramp and the trailer floor, and another fold-over flap at the end of the ramp to ease ingress/exit. The weight-savings of aluminum, plus its ease of maintenance, is a big plus, and a pair of 6K - 7.5K axles should be a consideration, especially since one day we may have to transport our tow vehicles back home (LOL).

My only caveat? As I mentioned, if you REALLY need a pickup then that is fine, but the utility of a BIG, REALLY BIG SUV is much more flexible in my opinion Like David & I have said, we both prefer a 2500 Series Suburban/Yukon XL - an earlier one with the 8.1L, or much older 454ci - or my Ford Excursion with the 7.3L Turbo-Diesel (many negative comments per the 6.0) I find that the big diesel is better in serious hills, like when pulling my big trailer with a big car through Western Pennsylvania, the Rockies, or even Virginia's I-81, as well as a steep overpass.

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I use a Dodge diesel @001 dually . This is my second one 285,000 miles on it sold it for half what I paid for it. Bought this one on ebay ,there where a lot of them on there got a great deal,there great trucks. I under stand that the newer ones are very high in maintaince with the government fingers in to it . Always have to fool around with a good thing. As for the smell the only time you smell any thing is putting in fuel. Yes a little more noise but with the power. Would not go back to a gas .As for a trailer I have goose neck 22ft bed the upper part is great when travling with a women likes to take every thing she owens

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Marty mentions putting a few things in the nose of his trailer, the times I've seen it, you couldn't PUT any more stuff in it, I think I saw a kitchen sink too.....

He has a super nice rig.

Let's see, Marty, is that the truck that left a memory on my driveway?

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Nooo David,

The photo is of the '02 Suburban, about to pull the Forest River to some exotic location -- and you never know where we may turn up - maybe even in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley!

These days, generally the Suburban gets more flat-land towing service, and the Diesel Excursion pulls the hills.

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We had planned to trailer the '14 Buick to Iowa, Louisiana - just west of Lake Charles this past weekend for the Spring Tour hosted by the Contraband Chapter of Louisiana region, AACA.

The Suburban would have been the tow vehicle of choice for the 400-mile round trip.

The weather was perfect with crystal clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s, and at the last minute we decided to put down the top on the '54 Caddy and just drive there and back.

A good time was had by all who attended - especially from the other Chapters of LA Region, with typically great Louisiana cooking by our hosts, nice back-roads to drive, a cruise on pontoon boats, and door prizes galore! Back home again safe and sound, getting almost 15 mpg on the big Caddy (better than trailering!).

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