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Can anyone assist me to understand the measurements used for tow bars; length and width in particular. I have just purchased an EMPI tow bar for an early beetle and intend to modify it as others have to fit my 65 VW Pan CMC with a 3/4" Front Sway Bar. I have reviewed the many posts on the forum and see that measurements vary.

Prior to taking delivery of the EMPI Beetle Tow Bar and beginning the modifications, I wondered if those who have built Tow Bars and have the experience towing their Speedsters around the country could offer me their wisdom. I also wonder whether when modifying, I should use the same thickness of tubing or beef it up. Thank you!....


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My stock tow bar interfered with the bumper U bolts at either end of the H beam so I made it narrower by about 2".  I cut the existing welds.  I put a threaded rod through the hollow cross piece and also added bots to the receiver.  I tested it and then had it welded up.  I normally tow it with a Toyota 4 Runner (4WD) with an adjustible height hitch but also towed it 1K miles with a 4 cyl Toyota Camry. Don't forget  tow cables of chains between tow and towed vehicles (Not shown).

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Last edited by WOLFGANG

Thanks ednova and IaM-Ray!...I'll reach out to MusBJim on the length issue....I have heard that having a longer toe bar or trailer tow bar can make for better towing or backing up but I have no idea if that is true. I haven't towed anything for years now....Perhaps others in the community will offer their reasoning for lengthening from stock.

If there are no benefits to having a longer than stock beetle tow bar, shorter would be easier for me to store or easier for me to take with me in a separate vehicle in the event I break down somewhere and need to tow it home.

There sure are some great kits (tow bars - lighting arrangements, etc) that members have designed, altered, fabricated, adapted and installed...

@mboyd  if you look at the link above the measurements are there, I pasted them for you.    I also think that sandblasting the front of your car is one of the issues of flat towing, so Musbjim uses a bra some use a hanging broom style rock arrestor or low riding rubber mudflaps to prevent the rocks from hitting their car.  

BTW, the trailer tail light setup is a necessary thing to getting the attention of those in the rear of you.


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I didn't lengthen mine at all.  My receiver bar sticks out about a foot from the back bumper.  It is much easier to haul in trunk if it isn't lengthened.  I don't try to make immediate 90 degree turns.  I never try to back up with car in tow. You do want the tow bar pretty level with the ground when installed - you can get an adjustible hitch receiver or a receiver with a different lift.  I use the inexpensive Harbor Freight magnetic mount (of course that isn't applicable) tow lights ($20) for the towed car.

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Last edited by WOLFGANG

Yeah I would be worried to forget and then to make a 90 degree turn and do damage and yes never back up, unlatch and move it then relatch. I have a cousin with motorhome and suv in tow that says to me I just have to plan where I go as it gets pretty long.

I long for an Aerovault, with a Crew cab truck, but then I would need a house in the warm states, and we still can't drive there

if length and storage is an issue I would think one could build it with a removable section one pipe fitting into the other held with D ring pins or bolts to fit it in your trunk,  that would be better and easier to handle.

Last edited by IaM-Ray

@mboyd wrote: “ ...I have heard that having a longer tow bar or trailer tow bar can make for better towing or backing up but I have no idea if that is true.”

No, it would actually make it a bit more difficult to back a trailer with a longer tongue bar.

And as for trying to back up a car on a tow bar and NOT on a trailer, never, never, never try that, even for a short distance.  A tow bar is not designed for backing and trying to do so will surely result in damage to the car.  

Last edited by Gordon Nichols

And as for trying to back up a car on a tow bar and NOT on a trailer, never, never, never try that, even for a short distance.  A tow bar is not designed for backing and trying to do so will surely result in damage to the car.  

DO NOT EVER BACK UP when flat towing. Not even for two feet.

This is not internet conjecture. This is experience talking. Thousands of miles of ACTUAL experience.

Since I have never towed with a regular lenght or any tow bar, my question would be CAN I HIT the car if I can when doing a 90degree turn, my OCD question would be what if I have a Duh moment and forget to remember No 90's?  

If I can screw up and hit the car,  then I would go with the longer bar. as I have had that experience with a trailer but I guess if you never back up there is less chance... Just saying

Last edited by IaM-Ray

@IaM-Ray asked a very good question: "CAN I HIT the car.... when doing a 90 degree turn(?)  My OCD question would be; what if I have a "Duh" moment and forget to remember No 90ºs?"

Well, that depends on a lot of things, for instance;

  1. how wide is your tow vehicle in proportion to the distance from the tow vehicle to the towed vehicle?
  2. How wide is the towed vehicle?
  3. How long is the tongue of the tow bar (from the nose of the towed car to the hitch ball)?
  4. How tight is the turn - REALLY?

#'s 1 and 2 are what they are.  All you can do is hook everything up and try successively tighter turns at very low speeds in a parking lot to see when anything is getting close and remember what that turning radius is (remember what you saw in the rear view mirrors just before catastrophe was about to strike.  Don't go beyond that).  

Just to let you know - You have to make a really artificially tight turn to see any tow-er vs. towee interference.  Most people don't turn that tightly.

There is an obvious relationship between #1&2 (car widths) and #3, the length of the tow bar, and it is called Geometry (Thank you Euclid).  Longer bars give you a little more turning room, at the expense of longer overall length (tow-er plus towee), but the difference isn't all that much.  Certainly not enough to consider extending the tow bar by a couple of feet to gain a couple of additional degrees of turning radius that you'll pro'bly never need.

Which brings us to #4:  How often do you think you're really going to need to do an extremely tight 90º turn?  The answer is, almost never and the almost part is when you're approaching 90º but fall a few degrees short, like 100º.  Why?  Because you've scoped out the terrain beforehand and plotted out the best way through the parking lot to avoid that sort of thing.  If you can make it through a parking lot with lanes of 2-way traffic, you have enough room to pull through with a car in tow on a bar, simple as that.  Just remember to never, never back up.

If you HAVE to back up, release the tow bar, drive the damn car over to some place where you can hook back up and tow it on outa there!  Besides - If I can push my 2,000# Speedster out of my garage and back in by hand, you can push your 1,800# car a few feet in a parking lot.

I have pulled a trailer (which is a damn sight longer than a Speedster on a tow bar) around gas stations, truck stops (those are the best!), restaurants (Pancho Villa's in Fredrickburg, VA, Peking Gardens in Hagerstown, WVA in a crowded strip mall, not to mention a dozen or so Dunkin Donuts), countless Holiday and Hampton Inns and a few Marriott Courtyards, etc., and NEVER had an instance when I had to back up, even though I could do so without incident.  You can ALWAYS plot a course around a parking lot to safely navigate it for a parking spot AND navigate the hell outa there in the morning.  

Don't over think this.  It's just a car on a tow bar.  Take a few rides around your neighborhood with it to see how it feels/performs, the branch out for a longer ride and pull though a mall's parking lot, then a gas station.  If you get through all that and feel comfortable, you'll be ready for the open road.  Once you get on an interstate (or whatever you call them up in Cananada - Inter-Provincial?) it's easy - you just keep going straight ahead and change lanes once in a while.  Its when you get off the highway that the terror starts.

Remember, my pickup was 21 feet long (That's 6-1/2 metres for you Canucks) and the trailer was another 21 feet for a total of 42+ feet (Holy Cow!  Was it really that long?) which is one helluva lot longer than a Ford Explorer towing a Speedster on a bar and I never had any trouble maneuvering it!  And it's always fun to pull a trailer through a Dunkin Donuts drive-through - Done it more than a few times.......    

What I've done on overnights is disconnect the car and back it up to the fence, then back the tow vehicle up and reconnect. Good luck stealing it thieves...

The 90 degree turn thing is completely a non-issue in any gas station or drive-thru in all of my travels. Most times you can either pull straight through taking two spots or go way in the back and angle in and out. Lenny and I have done this for years with TWO Spyders in tow and have always found room. Look ahead and plan and it's a non-issue.

What's more of an issue is in and out driveways. Be careful of sharply inclined entrances, they can cause the towbar to bottom on the ground or worse the fiberglass body.

Thank you all!...The contributions from everyone plus the private messages from MusBJim have really educated me on all facets of this Tow Bar topic from measurements to rationale for decreasing width of a standard bar to lengthening the bar. Planning, driving, turning, ramps and the no-no of backing up. Preventing stone chips and theft are real bonuses I hadn't turned my mind to....Thank you all!

What's the tow rating of the VW? How much does your Speedster weigh?

I flat-towed my 1500 pound Spyder with my 3300 pound Legacy GT with 165hp. It worked, but wasn't very much fun on hills- downshifts to 4th happened often to Carlisle. My V6 Passat was much better with 195hp but more TORQUE. Better than that was the V8 Audi with 300hp and HUGE brakes for flat towing.

Best yet though was my dedicated single-axle car trailer with brakes at 700 pounds. Ultra light and effective, towing 2200 pounds with a 3500 tow rating was great. The mileage didn't even go down much at all with this rig.

Last edited by DannyP

How about some comments about what would be a suitable towing vehicle?

Would my VW GTI be suitable?

I know someone who pulls a small trailer with a Jetta with a 1.4L engine, he just takes his time and does not go far.  With a GTI 2.0L 225hp engine it has I believe over 200 ft/lbs of torque so you can pull it but I am not sure the DSG could handle 500 miles without complaining.  There is I believe an aftermarket DSG oil coolant that you would have to get installed for longer distances.  I would install a temp guage for the tranny for sure to see what the normal temp is when running and monitor it under load.   The GTI is a very nice hot hatch to drive if I say so myself.

IamRay said, "if you look at the link above the measurements are there, I pasted them for you. I also think that sandblasting the front of your car is one of the issues of flat towing, so Musbjim uses a bra some use a hanging broom style rock arrestor or low riding rubber mudflaps to prevent the rocks from hitting their car."

Does anyone have photos of a hanging broom handle style rock or stone arrestor?...I searched for one but couldn't seem to find a photo of a DIY Speedster version. Lots of pickup truck ones on YouTube.

I'm a little late to this thread, but I just came across these pictures of my tow bar.  I've been using mine for more than 10 years now and have towed at least 75 Speedsters with it and logged several thousand miles with it.  I originally used an S-Type  Jaguar to do the towing, but bought a Toyota Tacoma in 2015 to replace the Jag.  Mine is slightly shorter than some of the others and I think that is why I have never experienced stone chips on any of the cars I've towed.  My theory is that the stones have less of a chance to bounce up and hit the car.  Mine was also modified to add some additional strength.

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Last edited by Troy Sloan

Troy, thanks for jumping in on my benefit....better late than never. The explanation for deciding on a shorter length than some is helpful to me at this point....I am about to make alterations from stock EMPI VW Beetle tow bar but haven't started yet. You bar appears to have round tubing welded to either side of the cross brace tubing and 2 small circular pieces welded to the driver's side of the bar. I do see what appears to be a cable as opposed to chains. Could you explain the functions of these additions please?...Thank you again!...Mike

Last edited by mboyd

The cable just happened to be hanging frome my bar when I took the pictures.  It has nothing to do with towing, I use chains. The round tubing just provides added strength. The two small circular pieces are not used they just happened to be on the bar when before I got it and modified it.  The overall length is approximately 51 inches and I've never had any issues with it being too close to allow for turning sharply.  Like I said, I've towed thousands of miles with it for more than 10 years.

@mboyd posted:

Troy, thanks for your explanation and clarification. I was hoping you were going to tell me that the circular pieces were used to somehow make it easier to attach the bar when laying on the bar to attach is to the front end. It's all very helpful to me...Thanks..Mike

@MusbJim brings a set of blocks (2x6s) with him and drives his Speedster up onto the wood blocks to get the front end up higher. That way he can slide his pineapple under the car to attach the tow bar. You'll also find it easier to attach the tow bar to the Speedster first then the ball so you can move and adjust the bar as needed. You might also consider adding a cable or another chain from the frame of the tow vehicle or the part of the hitch where you safety chains go and securing that to the front beam of the Speedster. This would help in case of a catastrophic failure of the tow bar. So you'll have safety chains from the tow vehicle to the actual tow bar and another chain to the beam of the car.

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