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Getting It Home -- Renting a Trailer For Your Triumph

by Henry Fry,

So you just took the dive and bought a little British sports car and need to get it home. If you did what I have done no less than three times now, you bought a car that will not make it home under it's own power.

I have purchased two Triumph TR250's and one Triumph TR3B. All cars were in no condition to be driven home; in fact one of the TR250's was completely disassembled. Having spent a great deal of effort rescuing old, sleeping cars, I think others can benefit from my experience. Any small car enthusiast can benefit from this advice, as it applies to any little car with low ground clearance.

If your gem has not run in several years and you have to go farther than across town, you have some planning to do. One call to the local mechanic who has a flatbed will convince you that is not the way to go. Since the mechanic makes his/her living using that tow truck to collect cars that need work, tying up his truck and a driver for a long day to fetch a car he/she is not going to get to work on can be a rather pricy undertaking. Time to look at other options.

The option of "waking up" the car by getting it running in the seller's driveway might make sense if you are going a short distance, but to do the job right you will spend at least a day wrenching on unfamiliar territory. Not my cup of tea. Not to mention the oil slick you will cause on sellers driveway!

So we all come to the same conclusion, the car needs to be towed. Take an assessment of your available tow vehicles. Are any up to the job? A class three hitch will be required, and the longer the trip the more tow vehicle you will need. Then you need some sort of trailer. A tow dolly that lifts one axle off the ground and lets the other axle roll sounds like it will work fine. If you are traveling any appreciable distance, look at those dry rotted tires and the wheel bearings that have not come up to temperature in years. Also, since you are most likely going to put the front wheels on the tow dolly, the rear wheels will spin the driveshaft, which will spin the transmission. I would probably use a tow dolly for a shortish hop, but I would most certainly remove the driveshaft.

Your other option is a trailer that carries all four wheels off the ground. You drive, or in my case, winch, your car onto a trailer and you are ready to go. The car rides happily along enjoying the open road and doesn't even turn a wheel!

I have always chosen to use a trailer that carries all four wheels. The tow dolly concept has merit, but each of my moves was too far in my opinion to consider using a tow dolly.

When I look at my options for tow vehicles, I have two capable candidates. I got my first TR250 home by renting a U-Haul Auto Transporter and towing it with my truck. It did the job fine, but pulling a trailer that weighs almost 2000 pounds loaded with a 2200 pound Triumph was quite a workout for my truck. The second time I needed to get a TR250 home, I checked the prices to rent a truck and trailer. I opted for the rental. A couple hundred bucks is cheap insurance from blowing a transmission or engine on a daily driver. However, if you have access to a 1995 Dodge Ram Pickup with the Cummins Turbo-Diesel, you will probably not come to the same conclusion I did.

I have accomplished my vehicle moves by renting from two of the biggest players in the U.S. truck rental market, U-Haul and Ryder . There is a huge difference between the trailers the two companies rent. U-Haul calls theirs an Auto Transporter, and Ryder calls theirs an Auto Trailer.

Ryder will not rent their auto trailer without renting a truck along with it. U-Haul rents their auto transporter separately. Both Ryder and U-Haul will not let you rent anything smaller than a full size box truck to pull the auto trailers. Ryder's smallest truck they will rent with an auto trailer is their 15 foot box van, U-Haul's is their 14 foot box van.

The Ryder Auto Trailer was designed with a flat, full width bed. It has a full width ramp, and the trailer tilts (much like a boat trailer) to make the loading and unloading any car a simple, no scrape task. The low ground clearance of my TR3 was no problem at all with the trailer tilted. Didn't even come close to scraping.

The U-Haul auto transporter uses two rails for the wheels to ride in. On the inside edges of these two rails is a beveled edge that rises upward forming a lip. It was designed to move larger cars with more ground clearance. The TR250 barely fit between the rails, and I was told by a TR3 owner who tried that his TR3 wheels rode on the lip, not on the wheel rails. Also, the ramps provided with the U-Haul equipment were too steep for the low sprung TR250. The exhaust dragged on the ground and the undercarriage scraped those inner lips as the car was loaded and unloaded. So, if you go with the U-Haul Auto Transporter, make sure you get the exact track measurements of the car you are moving, and make sure it will fit squarely on the rails. I was also told by U-Haul there are two different Auto Transporters in their fleet. The dimensions of the rails are slightly different. Make them look up in their books both the new and old Auto Transporters, and get the one that is smaller! On a side note, U-Haul Auto transporter has an inertia brake system that didn't work right on both Auto Transporters I rented, the brake system grabbed in turns!

So, having used the U-Haul auto transporter and the Ryder auto trailer, I can say the Ryder equipment is much better suited for little British sports cars. The U-Haul trailer is much trickier to load and unload, and if you have any loose parts, they can fall off the car and go between the rails. Say goodbye to that part. The Ryder trailer bed is solid all the way across, so all the little goodies that fall off the car end up on the bed, including all the rust flakes, acorns, mouse droppings, etc.

Keep in mind when driving this rig on the highway make sure you leave plenty of room when changing lanes, and expect to get a lot of attention. Other motorists will pull up right next to your trailer and stay there looking at your car, so be extra careful when changing lanes. The 18 to 25 year old males wearing baseball caps seem to be the worst offenders.

As far as cost goes, it is much cheaper on any long distance move to do a one way rental. The local rental will charges you a set fee per day plus mileage, and it always seemed to be much more cost effective to got with the one way rental.

The cost for your anticipated move is real easy to get. Both companies have toll free telephone numbers, 1-800 Go Ryder and 1-800 Go U-Haul. Ask for a quote on a local rental and a one way rental from Wherever to Wherever. Tell them you are moving a car only, so you need an auto trailer and, if applicable, the smallest truck to pull the trailer. Remember, if you are going to use your own vehicle to tow with, you are stuck using U-Haul's Auto Transporter.

When taking the advice to use Ryder, make sure you specify the auto trailer with the full width loading gate. I have seen Ryder auto trailers with two small wheel ramps as opposed to one large full width gate. I am not sure if those trailers tilt.

My last move was in March of 1997. I chose Ryder because of the reasons discussed above. The move was quoted as 275 miles, and I explained to them I couldn't make it in that many miles, so they gave me plenty of extra miles for no additional cost. I returned the truck with 301 miles on the trip odometer. The price was as quoted, $159 for the truck, $50 for the auto trailer, total with tax came to around $230. I declined all insurance as I am covered elsewhere. I burned 40 gallons of gas, so add $55. I averaged 7.5 miles per gallon, with the car on the trailer for all but 15 miles or so.

So, go rescue that old gem. You will need to bring your toolbox with a full compliment of sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, hammer, pliers, vice grips, gloves, and whatever else you think you may need. You will also need a winch of some sort, I always use a come-along, and plenty of tow rope or chain to hook up with. Don't forget the jack and jackstands. If you have a stuck brake, you need to be able to pull a wheel. If you rented that big truck, you better throw in some rope to tie in whatever you end up throwing back there.



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