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We Finally Have a Toad

March 26, 2012

For the non-RVer:  a “toad” is the vehicle that is towed behind a motorhome.  For the fulltimer, it’s their “every day” vehicle, the one they use to go buy groceries, to see the sights.  It’s their transportation when the RV is stationary in an RV park or a campground.  We started our search seriously a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a bit tricky, because the need is for a vehicle that can be “flat towed”, or towed with all four tires on the pavement.  Some people tow the vehicle on a full car trailer and some use a two-wheel car dolly.  The problem is that those trailers have to be parked when not in use, and RV spaces are often too short to take a motorhome, dolly or trailer, and the towed vehicle itself.  Most people flat-tow.  The Trailblazer is not flat-towable, and would have required some drivetrain modifications to make it so.  It could have been done, but it’s not really recommended.  And the modifictions would have stayed with the vehicle.  It was money that could be better used on the price of a towable vehicle.  We finally discarded the idea of towing the Trailblazer on a two-wheel car dolly as well.  It would have to be towed backward on the dolly with the heaviest part of the car hanging out on the two front tires.  It’s been described as a pretty unstable way to tow… and two wheel dollies are not cheap.  So logistics, safety and economics all insisted that we look at buying a truly towable vehicle.

The RV world uses a lot of maritime or sailing terminology, and the towed vehicle is also often referred to as a “dinghy”.  We had no intention of taking a salesman’s word for it, so, armed with several years worth of Motorhome magazine’s “Dinghy Towing Guide”, we looked at a variety of small cars, sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks.  We learned some things.  Only certain models of various auto manufacturers are towable.  Most have to be standard transmission.  A few Chevy models can be towed with automatic transmissions.  Pickups have to be 4 wheel drive.

Along the way, we looked at several Jeeps.  We spent some time scrolling through to narrow the search, focusing on specific criteria.  We wanted a 6 cylinder engine with a manual transmission.  Four wheel drive would be nice but wasn’tcritical for us.  The primary requirement was that it must be capable of being flat towed without any modifications.  A bonus would be a vehicle with the power to occasionally tow a small cargo trailer.

We started out on Saturday morning by looking at a Jeep on the north side of Houston.  Then we drove to Brenham to look at a PT Cruiser and a Chevy HHR .   The HHR wasn’t available, and the PT Cruiser turned out to have an automatic transmission.  We learned that the information on AutoTrader can’t always be trusted.  We also decided that the PT Cruiser wasn’t our choice for a touring or sight-seeing vehicle.

We stumbled onto this Jeep Wrangler Sport in a Chevy dealer’s pre-owned lot.  We went over it front to back, and we both drove it.  We bought it As-Is, and there are a couple of minor things to be fixed.  But it’s really a solid, great running vehicle.  I drove it the forty or so miles home, following Nell in the Trailblazer, and it ran great.

The Wrangler fit our criteria: it has a strong 6 cylinder engine, five speed transmission, and will go just about anywhere.  The four wheel drive wasn’t a requirement, but we’ll take it.  This is definitely a flat-towable vehicle, and when we do art shows, it will easily tow a small rented trailer to haul the show booth equipment to and from the motorhome.

No, it’s not a plush ride.  But we figure if we’re going to go on an adventure, we might as well have fun.

And did you notice?  The color goes well with the motorhome.

Next: I need to get that front bumper replaced with a tow bar.  And I have an appointment scheduled this week to get new tires all around on the motorhome.  Nell retires at the end of this week, and we’re checking things off the list.

The Plan is coming together.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. William R Moore permalink
    March 26, 2012 3:01 pm

    I think there will be no motif that you can’t get to driving this 4-wheel drive jeep. So many other vehicles would restrict where you can go. Great choice, looks like you made a good find.

    • March 26, 2012 7:22 pm

      William, it’s going to be nice to have it when we want it. I’ve only had one other 4WD vehicle. It was a Suburban, the big heavy box, and we spun on some ice in New Mexico, and ended up nosefirst in a ditch. 4WD backed us smoothly right out of there and back onto the highway. We didn’t really intend to buy a 4X4, but were really glad to have it when we needed it.

      We’re looking forward to the couple of weeks in Galveston. That will give us a chance, if the weather permits, to take the sides off the Jeep, and drive down to Surfside like a couple of real beach bums.

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