Originally Posted by jennian
Thanks everyone for the input. I think we have decided on a Mini Cooper . Now we just need to find the right one and pick the tow bar, etc. any advice?
First you have to pick the configuration you want. Two choices: (1) towbar mounted on the hitch receiver, baseplates on the toad; (2) towbar mounted on the toad, connecting to a standard hitch ball. Choose option 2 if you're also going to be towing other trailers on a semi-regular basis and not just towing a toad all the time. Choose option 1 if your primary towing will be your toad, because the towbar can stow on the back of the van where it's out of the way while you're camping. The towbar proper is the heaviest part you'll have to handle on a regular basis so stowing it on the van is easier for weak and feeble people like me. Side note for owners of twin-bed Interstates only, option 2 is better for you as well because the stowed towbar will interfere with using the rear doors as entry doors.
Top brands are Blue Ox and Roadmaster, but Stowaway also makes some good ones. Blue Ox and Roadmaster use custom-fitted baseplates for most models of toads, so you can go to their websites to see if they offer baseplates to fit your chosen toad.
You will also need supplemental brakes and supplemental brake lights/turn signals/taillights on the toad. For supplemental brakes, again you've got two options: (a) portable unit that sets on the driver's floorboard and presses the brake pedal of the car when you press the van's brake pedal; (b) permanent unit that mounts under the driver's seat and is tied into the brake system. I'm partial to (b) since I intend to keep my toad as a toad for a long time. The Roadmaster Invisibrake I have includes a vacuum pump that ties into the toad's power brakes, so even while being towed the car uses power brakes, and activates whenever the van's brake lights come on so that I don't need a separate brake controller in the van.
For supplemental lights, again you've got two options: (i) separate bulbs in the brake light housing wired independently of your toad's wiring harness; (ii) blocking diodes tied into the car's wiring harness, allowing you to use the car's existing taillights/brake lights. Which works best in your case depends on the size of the taillight housing; some are too small to add bulbs in the existing housing, which leaves you with the electrically more complex blocking diodes to use existing lights.
A caveat on the lights, the seven-pin connector on your van will not support amber turn signals and red taillights/brake lights on the toad. Even if your car has amber rear turn signals, while you're towing the car, the red lights will have to flash for turns. The amber lights will still work when you're driving the toad, though. Yes, the van
has amber turn signals, but the seven-pin connector for your umbilical cable doesn't care— standard trailer
wiring has one bulb for turn/brake/tail lights on each side, so the toad has to be set up that way as well.