Car Trailer Basics 101, Part I

What you need to know when buying a trailer

Rich Lagasse Apr 8, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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Determining what kind of trailer you should buy is the first step in solving your trailer needs.

Many folks prefer to drive their cars to shows and wouldn't have a use for a trailer. But trailers do have a place and serve a purpose in the Corvette hobby, especially to the concours restoration market segment. If you use your car for shows, especially long-distance events where you will be traveling overnight, a trailer can make for safer transportation for your prized possession, as well as allow you to do the preparation at home rather than on the show field. Selecting a trailer and getting the right hitch setup can be almost as confusing as looking for a car lift. We have a few key considerations in selecting a trailer, as well as the setup.

I've owned an enclosed Renegade trailer for three years and use it for the long-distance shows. It really comes in handy when going to shows during the winter, as well as keeping the car safe for overnight stays on longer trips during the summer. While I drive the car for local shows and cruise nights, it's nice to do the prep work for a show at my leisure in the garage and not on the show field, at least for the longer distance shows. Open trailers are lighter and somewhat easier to maneuver, which makes towing easier and gives better fuel mileage, however, an enclosed unit has the advantage of being more secure, as well as keeping the car cleaner. Aluminum Versus SteelThe choice here depends on several considerations: towing capacity of the tow vehicle; amount of use; and how much money you want to spend. The main advantage of an aluminum trailer is the reduced weight. It can result in better fuel mileage and could make a difference in the type of tow vehicle you can use. The main downside is the initial cost.

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Determining the proper width and length of a trailer is a key component of the buying process.

Trailers come in many sizes, but a 20-foot to 22-foot box will hold most any Corvette and still give you enough room to carry other things. Going much larger is usually unnecessary, unless you have a lot of extra gear. The extra length adds to the towing weight, as well as making parking a bit more difficult. The enclosed trailer shown in the photo here has a 24-foot length box and is a "wide body" at 102-inches wide. It is called a 20-foot box; you gain the additional 4 feet of length in the wedge-shaped front without increasing the overall frame length. It has a "beavertail" rear ramp door and a side access door. With a wide-body trailer you shouldn't need the extra driver-side trailer door that some brands offer. This one has low interior wheelwells, which allow the car door to open all the way to the interior wall-important for getting in and out easily. It's an aluminum unit including the frame. The exterior wall panels are bonded so there are no screws, and it has a one-piece seamless roof. It is quite a bit lighter than a steel-framed trailer, and its wedge shape in front helps with stability, as well as wind resistance. It also has a front closet, which is great for storage. In the closet, wire bin shelves were installed on one side and a panel on the other with hangers for the tow straps and other tools (jack handles, wheel chocks, battery charger), which keep things organized and handy.

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An optional car trailer closet can come in handy.

Many of today's trailers come with a beavertail-style pull-down rear door which also functions as the drive-up ramp. It has a torsion spring to help in lowering and raising the door. The beavertail also makes it a easier than ramps to go in and out because you don't have to worry about the position of the ramps. It also has a side-entry door at the front, which is a nice feature as you don't have to walk along the side of the car once it's loaded. Some trailers also have another door on the driver side as an option, which can allow you to open that door as well as your car's door to make it easier to get in and out, but that's not really necessary with the wide body. It would be especially important on the narrower (96-inch-wide) bodied trailers, but the wide-body units can eliminate the need for that on most cars. I do find the C1, with its thicker doors, and especially with a hardtop in place, requires a little more room than the C2. But it still has enough space, especially since the car door on this trailer will clear the inner trailer wheelwells. A friend of mine has a trailer that has higher wheelwells and his door hits the side of the wheelwell, which restricts how far he can open his car door. I installed a small pad on the trailer wall to keep from marring the car door.

There are two main styles of hitches: the bumper hitch and the fifth wheel or gooseneck style. Many of the major manufacturers offer either type. There are several well-known aluminum trailer manufacturers: FeatherLite, Exciss, Aluminum Trailer Company, Trailex, and Renegade. Several offer both aluminum and steel units.

My current trailer is built by Rance Aluminum (Renegade), which has been around since 1988. Key factors in going with this brand: I have a local trailer dealer and, most of all, I really like the design, construction, interior finish, and components used. A few of those features are the wedge-shaped front, bonded aluminum side walls (no screws), low interior fenderwells, use of Dexter Easy Lube hubs (easy lubrication to both inner and outer bearings), and the options available. This one is approximately 2,800 pounds empty, so it's light while still being sturdy.




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