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michaelvillena
michaelvillena
11/4/20 10:25 a.m.

Hello all,

    Forgive the dumb question by a noob, but I am trying to plan for the 2021 road racing season.  For two seasons, I have been loading up the old race car (a 1979 Mazda RX7) with race wheels/tires, jack, jack stands, tools, fuel can, etc. and driving to the racetrack which in my case is Blackhawk Farms which is about 2 & 1/2 hrs each way (roughly 130 miles).  I had some alternator issues back in 2019 which forced me to have the car towed home on the outward trip along with a somewhat expensive towing bill.  This season, the car has been absolutely trouble free since I upgraded the alternator and re-wired the car properly.  I have since bought a 2006 Volvo V70 with the express intention of towing the car to the track and sleeping in the wagon next year.  Since the Volvo is rated for just 3000 lbs, a rented U-Haul 4 wheeled trailer is out of the question as the combo (car 2200 lbs, trailer 2000 lbs) would exceed that limit.  I am restricted to either flat towing or using a rented two wheel dolly from U-Haul.  I just wanted to hear everyone's thoughts or advice (especially those who have done it) as to the best course of action.   Many thanks.

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
11/4/20 10:40 a.m.

Tow dolly or else you'll still be getting a tow home for pretty much anything more serious than an electrical issue. Is buying a trailer a deal breaker in some way? Shouldn't be too hard to find a tiny aluminum open trailer that's just big enough for the car and 1000lbs or less.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/4/20 10:46 a.m.

I might do it.  The main reason to do it would be a more pleasant driving experience if the towed car is a bitch to live with on the highway.  You're still going to be loading and unloading the car, changing tires, etc, except now you're also going to have to remove the driveshaft and rig up some way of plugging the trans. 

If anything happens that renders the car unable to roll, you aren't going to drag it back home, but you can still drive to a U-Haul and rent a truck and trailer, worst case, or bum someone else's trailer for a bit.

 

(full disclosure: I make a point of not trailering anywhere.  I also bought an '06 Volvo with intent to press it into tow duty for some things)

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
11/4/20 10:52 a.m.

I flat towed an ITB Pinto for about 5 years with essentially no problems. Longest tow was L.A. to Vegas - 250 miles or so 1 way. The tow vehicle, 1969 Pontiac Le Mans Safari wagon, had a problem once but it was going to happen flat tow or not. We drove both the last 10 miles to the track. Later, when I wrecked the first Pinto, I was offered a trailer without asking. Racers are cool that way. 

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/4/20 10:57 a.m.

I've done open trailer, dolley towing, and flat towing of small cars and for the most part flat-towing is the least annoying but also the most fragile because anything that makes the car not roll makes it not tow. 

I flat towed a 2200 lb Dodge Rampage from TX to FL and back for the last GRM Challenge i attended, and a 3000lb Dodge Caravan the year before that. What i did was tow it on a different set of wheels/tires from what i raced on. Yes, you end up carrying another set of wheels/tires but since that car doesn't have to turn or brake they can literally be as small as you can find, and you're towing to a place where you can lay a pile of extraneous tires next to your cars and fit right in. It's not like you have to throw them in your wagon. Then, you have 4 spare tires (the race tires) in case one actually pops. Worked for me. Those trips were ~2500 miles each and both times i had to swap one tire on the towed vehicle. 

I also own a tow dolley. When you need it it's great, when you don't need it it's a pita. I towed to my first challenge with that dolley and while i'd do it again if i needed to, id frankly rather flat-tow for the most part. 

A full size trailer isn't in the cards here if you're trying to stay under the OEM tow rating, but even that sucks in its own ways. I'm overall pretty positive on flat-towing. It does require the most up-front work because you have to install tow-bar brackets in a way that won't bankrupt you by coming apart and launching your race car off like a missile. 

TheTallOne17
TheTallOne17 New Reader
11/4/20 10:59 a.m.

Ive flat towed my Lemons X1/9 over 2000 miles at this point. Its also gone faster flat towed than its ever gone on track...

No issues yet, but as always the big fear is catastrophic damage at the track and having to last minute find storage or a tow dolly to get the car back

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/4/20 11:12 a.m.

If you're within 130 miles of blackhawk, maybe give these guys a try. They rent trailers much better than uhaul trailers. I recently got a full enclosed trailer to go to the challenge and home, very reasonable and perfect for our needs. 

https://www.randpcarriages.com/rentals?page=2

Looks like they've got some smaller flat deck ones (maybe even aluminum) that might fit your needs. 

I also prefer flat towing to tow dollies, but changing wheels and tires at the event can be a pain, especially if you add in the driveshaft disconnection. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
11/4/20 12:35 p.m.

I've driven a car to the track, flat towed & used a trailer

My advice is try looking for trailers that fit what you need. I have an open deck single axle steel trailer that weighs 800lbs (I paid $500 for it), before that I had a homemade open deck steel trailer (built to haul a Formula Ford) that one weighed 650lbs.  Note I could shave about $75-100lbs off of my current 800lb trailer if I need to.

 

pirate
pirate HalfDork
11/4/20 12:52 p.m.

Another factor. Be aware that some states require that the flat towed vehicles have a braking system. This can be mechanical, electric or hydraulic. I don't know anyone who has ever been pulled over for a check. This law I think was made for motorhomes  pulling cars but have been told apples to all four wheel down  towed vehicles. Also most states require brakes on trailers with a weight threshold. I have flat towed  a car without brakes and it certainly does affect braking distance. 

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
11/4/20 1:05 p.m.

I'll second the get a light trailer solution. That way no matter what happens you can always get it home.  Plus it doesn't wear out your race tires or require an extra set of tires. 
I've kept trailer weights under 600 pounds. But there is need for engineering calculations. That does not mean you need to be an engineer just that you need to do the research to find out how strong yet how light you can be.   
   One final point. Look at the front frame of an XKE.  The engine in that car weighs over 730 pounds. Yet the frame is made of thinner wall than the body!!!! Its's unbelievably light yet passed The required safety test where they run the car head on into a barricade at 45 mph.  So strong does not mean heavy. 
     Be objective, now How are the roads between you and the race track?  While I used unsprung trailers successfully to carry race cars all across the country going through Chicago at the time was pretty brutal. 
Unsprung trailers are very light and if you have tall tires with a lot of compliance they can act as your springs. I used to weld spindles that matched my tow cars bolt pattern to the trailer frame. That way if I should ever get a flat I already had a spare.    
          
     

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia SuperDork
11/4/20 1:09 p.m.

Do you have a place to store the trailer with the race car parked on it ?

paying storage every month gets old  and it ends up cheaper to rent the few weekends you really need it.....

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/4/20 1:16 p.m.

We just flat towed the chevy powered miata from nc to Florida and back.

Biggest concern for ys was the splash lubrication of the trans. So we stopped every 75 miles or so, started it, blipped the throttle a few tines to splash lubrication around,  and went again. 

 

jimbbski
jimbbski SuperDork
11/4/20 1:48 p.m.

My friends and I used to flat tow our shared prepared class Auto-X race car. We had some mishaps over the years like when someone didn't tighten the lug nuts on the tow tires and one of the front tires came off or when someone hit a curb on a street auto-x and bent the front suspension and we had to fix it there so we could tow it home, or when one of the race tires shifted inside of the car and hit the gear shift while we were on the way home and jammed the trans into gear and blew up the trans and locked up the rear wheels. We pulled the drive shaft and got home OK.

When I went road racing I did flat tow the car for the first few years, I had issues with my race car a couple of times that made we leave the car at the track and come back a day or two later with a tow dolly and a couple of times I was able to rent a dolly locally on a one way rental.  I finally got smart and borrowed a tow dolly from a friend and then I later bought my own trailer.

Now I'm not against flat towing as it can be a safe and easy way to transport a car but you have to be prepared to either be able to fix the car if something breaks that would prevent you from towing it home or to leave it somewhere nearby where you can come back for it.

Knowing what I know now I wouldn't go for anything less than a tow dolly.

  

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/4/20 1:50 p.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) :

I have known two people who dolly towed Miatas without disconnecting the driveshaft, no problems.

I also have known someone who flat towed an RX-7, no problems.

 

I just know that if I tried it, I'd seize the trans or the driveshaft in the tailhousing after about a half hour.

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/4/20 1:54 p.m.

In reply to Pete. (l33t FS) :

The miata has a t5, which supposedly dies a quick death being wheels down. However,  mine hasn't died yet. I just take every reasonable precaution. 

 

Its also really nice getting in the truck,  turning the ac and stereo on, and not worrying about getting home. Generally,  it'll pull with a dead motor. Blown trans or u joint. etc. As long as it rolls fairly straight,  it'll make it home. 

APEowner
APEowner Dork
11/4/20 2:48 p.m.

If the choice is a U-Haul dolly or flat tow then I'd setup the car for flat towing.  Being dependent on U-Haul is, in my experience a recipe for frustration.  Even if everything goes smoothly there's still the inconvenience of having to coordinate your race travel with a third party.

For those of us who like gear, trailers and trucks the tow rig can be a slippery slope and I much prefer my current RAM 3500 and 24' enclosed trailer to the C10 and tow dolly that I used several decades ago but I don't know that I'm having any more fun than I did then.  I know I'm not having more fun that the guy who races with my club who drives is Mini back and forth to the track.

Having said all that.  I think a lightweight trailer might be the sweet spot for you.  The ability to drag whatever's left of the race car if things go badly with minimal effort has a lot of value.

michaelvillena
michaelvillena New Reader
11/4/20 2:55 p.m.

Wow!  Thank you all for the input.  Based on your suggestions/experience and from what I've read on other forums, I have the following choices:

A) Flat towing the RX7 behind the Volvo V70 estate: 

     1) I will have to fit the correct rated hitch on the Volvo (which I would have to do regardless) - approx cost around 300 - 400 bucks including the electrical connections.

     2) I will have to purchase and modify a tow bar (minimum 3,000 lb rating) and install the fittings on the RX7 steel bumper (1979 bumper).

    3) The towed vehicle must be plated per Illinois law which isn't a problem since I already have it titled and plated and have been driving it on the street. I also don't need the brakes on the towed vehicle to activate.

    4) I can actually optimize the suspension for the track which will be a considerable improvement over the compromise setup I have right now (high ride height and soft shocks to deal with the extra weight of loaded track equipment).  I already have two sets of wheels with tires that I change out depending on the conditions.  One set has Toyo R888R which I use to drive to and from the track and on the track when it's raining.  The other set has Toyo RR which I used solely on the track when dry.  I also have another set of steel Diamond wheels with some very tired Toyo RA1 which can be sacrificial tow tires. The Volvo has enough room for two sets plus gear.

   5) The tow bar is easy to store when not in use.  I don't have a garage since I live at an apartment complex.  I keep and work on the race car in my half of my fiance's two car garage so I don't have any room for a trailer or a dolly.

  6) If the race car suffers severe enough damage, I can drive over to the local U-Haul when they open and one-way rent a four wheel trailer and trailer the car home.  Of course, it will probably overload the Volvo but in an emergency, it will have to do.

B) Renting a U-Haul dolly and towing it with the Volvo V70 estate:

  1) See A1

   2) I will have to rent a U-Haul dolly (cheap).  I can easily disconnect the driveshaft at the junction of the rear differential (two flanges that mate and four bolts that hold the flanges together) and strap the unconnected end of the driveshaft up against the chassis.  I probably won't need to seal up the transmission output end since the driveshaft is still in place.  I've also read of RX7 racers simply overfilling the gearbox in order to keep the input bearing alive.  But I'm still on the fence. 

   3) A3 still applies because two wheels are on the ground.

   4) Same as A4 except I can't set up the suspension too low otherwise the rear will scrape.

   5) The dolly would have to be rented since I absolutely have no room to store it nor the finances to rent a storage space for it.  As it is, my fiance has been more than generous in putting up with the tools and spares crowding the garage and the occasional dinning table of carb rebuild and parts.  I doubt that she would take kindly to a tow dolly sitting idle on her driveway or her lawn.

    6) See A6 above except I can simply trade the rented dolly for a four wheeled trailer.  

I think I need to do more researching and listening to more advice.

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
11/4/20 3:26 p.m.
michaelvillena said:

     2) I will have to purchase and modify a tow bar (minimum 3,000 lb rating) and install the fittings on the RX7 steel bumper (1979 bumper).

    4) I can actually optimize the suspension for the track which will be a considerable improvement over the compromise setup I have right now (high ride height and soft shocks to deal with the extra weight of loaded track equipment).  I already have two sets of wheels with tires that I change out depending on the conditions.  One set has Toyo R888R which I use to drive to and from the track and on the track when it's raining.  The other set has Toyo RR which I used solely on the track when dry.  I also have another set of steel Diamond wheels with some very tired Toyo RA1 which can be sacrificial tow tires. The Volvo has enough room for two sets plus gear.

Re a tow bar: Me and a buddy made a tow bar which ended up costing half of the retail price. At the time metal tubing didn't cost very much.

Re towing tires: I went to a wrecking yard and got 4 plain old steel wheel in 14" (IIRC) and put some trailer tires on them. Since the Pinto hade been lowered that combo raised it up nicely for being on the streets.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
11/4/20 3:49 p.m.

While I still think super light trailer is the best situation (find a small enough trailer that the car could stay on the trailer in the soon to be Mrs garage) I'd say flat tow it based on the information you've provided.

I typically take the day off after a race meeting..............worst case if you damage the car you can make arrangements to get a U-hual trailer or dolly and fetch the car on Monday morning.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/4/20 4:15 p.m.

In reply to L5wolvesf :

A tow bar is like $60-80 from Harbor Freight.  Works excellent. I wouldn't fabricate a "Jesus Part" to save $60-80. Have towed an '81 RX-7 and an '83 GTI with one.

 

Note for an RX-7 you will need to make bumper reinforcements, the bumper is curved so you have to mount underneath, and it's going to be really flimsy there.  Some supports back to the chassis side would be plenty.

Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) Reader
11/4/20 4:37 p.m.

The thing about the tow dolly is that if either end of the race car gets bent, that becomes the end you put up on the dolly.

I worry about the life span of the V70...    and braking distances.  That said I flat towed a race car in the 70s.  Hard skinny tires on the race car when towing will help the Volvo.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) UberDork
11/4/20 4:58 p.m.

As to your backup plan:

 

Based on my experience renting u-haul car hauler trailers, I think it's very likely that U-Haul is going to require you to either have or rent a truck before they will rent you a car trailer. You can test this by going online and trying to reserve one with your Volvo as the tow vehicle.

03Panther
03Panther Dork
11/4/20 7:21 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to L5wolvesf :

A tow bar is like $60-80 from Harbor Freight.  Works excellent. I wouldn't fabricate a "Jesus Part" to save $60-80. Have towed an '81 RX-7 and an '83 GTI with one.

Even with mediocre fab skills, it would not be hard to make one safer than the HF ones! Fixed dimensions can be done cheap... adjustable will prolly cost more then the HF, but would not be as cheesy.

keithedwards
keithedwards Reader
11/4/20 7:25 p.m.

In reply to Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) :

Agreed. I am used to Uhaul only renting a trailer to you if your tow vehicle is rated to tow the loaded weight of the trailer.

 

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
11/4/20 7:53 p.m.
03Panther said:
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to L5wolvesf :

A tow bar is like $60-80 from Harbor Freight.  Works excellent. I wouldn't fabricate a "Jesus Part" to save $60-80. Have towed an '81 RX-7 and an '83 GTI with one.

Even with mediocre fab skills, it would not be hard to make one safer than the HF ones! Fixed dimensions can be done cheap... adjustable will prolly cost more then the HF, but would not be as cheesy.

My friend was a professional welder (did high pressure tanks and similar jobs) not a carpenter. It was heavily built most likely sturdier than an H F tow bar (as 03Panther suggested). My friend also supplied most of the metal at cost.

 

IIRC Harbor Freight was just mail order back then so add freight for a heavy item.

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