By on August 28, 2016

1974 Volkswagen Beetle and Camper, Image Source: YouTube

In 2016, if you towed a camping trailer with anything other than a heavy-duty pickup, Mike Rowe and Denis Leary would take you out back and shoot you repeatedly with Blue Oval masculine marketing tripe.

But in 1974, if you were the proud owner of a Volkswagen Beetle, you could head off into the wilds confident in knowing that you and your loved ones would be safe sleeping in this fifth-wheel-style camper attached to the Teutonic compact’s roof.

It’s ingenious, and it needs to make a comeback.

Thanks to the wonders of The Internet, we have this treat of a video from the days when Speedvision was more than just a marketing arm of Magnaflow and NASCAR. (Hell, it’s not even Speed TV anymore, which means we must now endure the abject horror that is Grease Monkey Garage on Velocity … but I digress.)

In this case, the hitch is mounted atop the Beetle’s aerodynamically styled roof. On the trailer side, a large cutout gives the Beetle enough room to hide its rump. Or when you need to back the trailer into your serviced camping lot, you can spin the Beetle 180 degrees and push the trailer in car-nose first.

Screw all those electronic nannies that help you reverse your trailer into its weekend resting place. This is the future from the past. If any engineer wants to, erm, engineer this, I’ll be the first to put my little 1.0-liter Fiesta to the test.

[Source: V.I.S.I.T]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

52 Comments on “Someone Needs to Bring Back This Roof-Mounted Fifth-Wheel Trailer for Hatchbacks...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m surprised the American Pickers haven’t stumbled onto one these rigs. They’ve visited enough VW enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    John

    English is worth learning.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I wish cars were still given a tow rating.

    If you want to have fun, go to the RV.net forum and state your intentions to tow with something other than an HD diesel truck. You will be told several times that your engine/transmission will explode, your insurance will be invalidated, and you’ll crash while killing a group of nuns and kindergartners.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      Count me as one of those blasted HD purveyors, at least to a certain degree. If you could lose some of the bias I think you would agree most of those type of arguments are valid. We live close to a large national park and the amount of people I see towing 35ft 5th wheels and toy haulers with a half ton truck is sickening. There’s generally a couple of serious crashes here every season. The vast majority of “weekend warriors” have no clue what they or their tow rigs are safely capable of hauling and both RV manufacturers and salesman are equally to blame. Manufacturers are almost always light on their published weights and the uneducated salesman is always good for an upsell to the next bigger model with no regards to the buyers tow rig. It’s a whirlwind effect that has worse consequences than most are aware of.

      On another note, I saw a gentleman with an S10 pickup over the 4th of July weekend with a setup very similar to this. He took an old single axle camper and made a complete exoskeleton frame out of box tube, and removed the camper axle and literally bolted the camper frame to the homemade frame. It had a heavier axle and tire assembly, a small rack on the back that supported a window A/C unit and a cargo platform that was currently holding firewood. The frame continued up the front side of the camper and housed a small generator before arching up and over the top of the S10. The truck had a full cap with a home made gooseneck hitch protruding up through the camper. The hitch was tied into the frame of the truck. It appeared very well built. I got to talk to the man for a few minutes, he has been traveling the country for the last 10 years in this combo. I wish I could post up a picture here, it was a truly unique setup.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Towing a giant 5th wheel with a half-ton truck is likely stupid and unsafe and should not be done.

        However, going into hysteria because someone wants to do something within the payload and towing capacities of their vehicle or sh*tting on gas engines because revs over 3000 makes you feel icky is also stupid.

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatist

          Realize though that EU payloads are much higher than US for a similar vehicle because EU speed limits for towed trailers are sharply reduced. Vehicle dynamics at US speeds rule out all but the smallest trailers.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Something like a F150 ” attempting” to tow a 35ft Fth Wheeler, would get you heavily fined here.
        You can tow a lightweight 26-28ft unit with a one of the Global Pickup models, but beyond that, your in fining territory

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The reality is today’s “1/2 ton” when properly equipped has a larger towing and payload capacity than a “1 ton” from ~20 or so years ago. So yeah those people that claim you need a HD pickup to tow a 7500lb trailer are full of it. Of course that same person thinks that their old 250/2500 is good for 15k lbs because that is what is sticker says on the crappy welding shop hitch, when in fact they way their truck is equipped it’s tow capability is 5-7K lbs.

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          I get a chuckle out of comments like this. My 98 Dodge 3500 has a GCWR of 20,000 lbs. What that means to me is basically nothing. I’m more concerned about front and rear GAWR, which is 4850 and 7500. I’ve had my truck loaded close to this mark according to a certified weigh scale many times over the years, which translates to a 15k-16k lb load depending on size and placement on the trailer.

          Try towing that with a half ton over several hundred miles and tell me if you arrive with a clean pair of shorts.

          The reality is anybody who makes statements like this really haven’t towed much and are basing their statements off of ratings they pull off the internet. We had a 28ft 5th wheel that weighed in at about 8000 lbs empty. I’ve been caught in crosswinds before that definitely let you know that billboard was back there. Wouldnt have wanted to tow that camper to the places we went with a SRW truck with soft passenger tuned suspension. It’s not always about the weight but the size of the load. After you see a couple of them scattered on the side of the road looking like a billion matchsticks just exploded because they were being towed by an undersized vehicle you might change your mind.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      They are in Australia. Europeans naturally have a tow rating for their cars

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Three words.

    Class action lawsuit.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    Yea, let’s just ignore structural integrity issues and go with “this is cool!” Click bait FTW

  • avatar
    twotone

    Where do you connect the safety chain?

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    We made many compromises in safety back then that we are not willing to make nowadays. The performance and braking of this rig would not be safe today. Towing with a short wheelbase sucks (though admittedly this set up should not be prone to sway). Also back in the day a car had beefier components. Sure you could tow with that 70’s wagon…It probably had a small block and a turbo 350 trans that wasn’t that far off of a truck’s drivetrain. Todays cars bring Front Wheel Drive not good for bumper hitches but would be OK with this), but those CVT’s, Dual Clutch Transmissions, and generally lighter weight drivelines just aren’t up to it.

    And don’t truck 5th wheels connect to the frame? There is’t that sort of structure in the roof of any car.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      “And don’t truck 5th wheels connect to the frame?”

      Yes, depending on hitch design and weight rating generally anywhere between 4-6 bolts, either 5/8″ or 3/4″.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      We did a lot of stuff twenty years ago that seems foolhardy today. Remember U-Haul rental hitches, just clamped on the bumper? I do…I’ve used them. Pop a special light bulb with a wire coming out of the base, in your taillight, and then run a thread-thin wire from the U-Haul rental to that strand that you left poking out between the plastic lens and the metal housing of your tail-light.

      Or, if you really wanted to do it right, you went to Joe’s Sunoco and had Joe weld up a trailer hitch – from angle iron in his pile out back. Frame-mounted load-equalization hitches…were for the techno-nerds, or people who wanted to tow forty-foot Airstreams.

      With their Sedan de Ville.

      It’s good that we’ve gotten greater margins of safety; but maybe we’ve taken it a bit too far in the other direction.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      If you look through old Popular Science magazines, you’ll see all sorts of ‘cool’ ideas which never really worked out. This may be one of them.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Gravel lot?

    Whee! Spinny hoon!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I had a buddy in the 70s who towed a 14 foot outboard boat with a 1098 Sprite. That was probably about the same power to eight ratio as this rig. To be honest, it was pretty scary.

  • avatar
    Joss

    In Europe in the early 70’s the in-laws used to pull a 16 ft Wayfarer with a Renault 16 on an 8 hour trip up the M1. No trailer brakes. Bit of a fuss on tire pressures and getting the engine oil changed beforehand at the local corner independent. Otherwise no issues and made it in time for a ferry crossing.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    How do you connect the taillights, and still be able to make that 360-degree turn?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The initial YT image makes it look like the Beetle and camper are making out.

    “Oh baby you’ve got the air cooled powerplant I need”

  • avatar
    Drew8MR

    The only thing I’m going to say is crosswind. This would not be fun at all I’m guessing.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      But that’s also true of any trailer, not just this one.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The Beetle was no fun in crosswinds, or for that matter when getting passed by a tractor-trailer, by itself, let alone with a trailer attached. I can certainly see why this didn’t catch on.

      A Beetle isn’t all that good for tent camping either, carrying bulky items is problematic. You want to camp in a VW, that’s what the Westfalia camper van was for.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    It seems to move along just fine there. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t drive such a combination through the mountains or anything, but just down to the lake for a weekend? Sure. It’s not that far away and it’s not a fast road. If you just tow the camper down there, you can unhook it and go get the rest of your stuff if weight was a concern. It’s that close.

    I wish they made cars more versatile these days. You know why the sedan is being outsold by CUV’s and SUV’s? This. Cars used to to this. Dad’s 1976 Cutlass could pull a small camper when I was a kid. I know, different car, bigger engine, yadda yadda. Point is, it was a regular car, not a truck or SUV.

    I don’t really want to buy a truck if I will only ever use it to pull one small camper twice a year. My Escape can tow 3,500 pounds, though. So if I ever get a trailer, we’ll make sure it’s less than that. Some come in at 2,500 pounds.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “Dad’s 1976 Cutlass could pull a small camper when I was a kid. ”

      Well, a small popup camper has an empty weight (I just spot checked) of maybe 1,300-1,500 pounds.

      A Fusion (also spot checked) can have a tow rating of 2,000 pounds.

      (And of course, a 6 cylinder wagon like an Outback or my XC70 can usually do 3,000 or 3,500 pounds.

      The Legacy can tow 2,700 pounds, for that matter, in H6 trim.)

      • 0 avatar
        MWolf

        Well, I should clarify. It wasn’t a popup. It was smaller, but not the smallest. I want to say a 1,500 pound weight limit would make it out of the question.

        But I still miss a regular car that can do it. “Car” as in sedan.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    That is cool, better than a Kombi.

    I’m seeing more and more 28′ fifth wheelers here all the time being pulled by our midsizers. I wonder if an Aussie company could set up shop in the US and sell them.

    I’m not a huge fan of fifth wheel trailers, just go out and buy a truck that is big enough to do what you want. RVs I can understand …… do a degree.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Mark,
    Check out this fifth wheeler. Sometime what’s new(ish) can be old.

    http://caravanandmotorhomebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/adams-motor-bungalow-1917-Glenn-Curtiss-museam-e1401922536313.png

  • avatar
    shaker

    Well, if *that* isn’t the case for bringing back drip rails.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Other issues notwithstanding, how in the world did a VW bug with what? 50 hp? manage to (safely) pull such a rig when the car itself barely had power to get out of its own way?

    I disliked VWs back in the day – although they were fun to drive at times – and feel no different about them now.

    I’m amazed this was even offered as an option! How many did they sell and how many actually used this feature?

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I don’t think the aircooled engine would last long under that usage. That would run the cylinder head temperatures up to where the valves would not do well.

      I really can’t think of a car less suited to towing than the Beetle.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I thought of this as well. I didn’t think the Beetle was even particularly suited to hauling around four adults, much less pulling something.

  • avatar
    kkop

    Modern versions of this have been built(find it on youtube). Also, a trailer like the one in the video has been found in a field somewhere and is being restored: https://youtu.be/OfHCnwVZqow

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    What a delight this would be to see heading up I-70 west of Denver to Vail. You would of course have plenty of time to see it, as it would most likely be traveling at walking pace or perhaps a light jog.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    This old chestnut again =8-) .

    FWIW , Super Beetles had larger brakes , they used the rear brakes off the heavier Typ III on the front of Super Beetles .

    I can’t say this getup is a good idea unless you never exceeded flat ground and 45 MPH .

    I’m one of those dolts who every few years , tows something as heavy as my light duty short bed 1/2 ton pickup , I always use secondary or tertiary roads and don’t exceed 40 MPH because I too have seen up close and personal , what happens when things go sideways .

    HAVE A GREAT SUMMER ! .

    -Nate
    in green as grass Grants , NM


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 87 Morgan: Green..Unless it is on a Morgan, Jag, MG; pass. Perhaps it was the years I worked at a Subaru store and...
  • kosmo: I think that GENERALY, Consumers Union has their heart in the right place, but man, they could suck the joy...
  • stuki: It’s better compared to the HD Payload 1/2 tons Ford sells. When towing and hauling at the upper end of...
  • redapple: People who have never been in a big 3 car plant, should really refrain from commenting how the big 3 should...
  • 87 Morgan: I know…it was a 98 Jetta TDI so this was pre-dieselgate. Great car that defied all VW ownership...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States