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We see them on the motorways and particularly at campsites; motorhome owners use them to tow little cars so that they have a runabout once on site (the big disadvantage of motorhome camping). I know this doesn't make them legal, but on the other hand it doesn't put them off either. I haven't read that they're not allowed in France. As usual, a reference would be useful.


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I wonder how much of this is hearsay? Anyway, the answer appears to be "a grey area" !!

Quite a good piece about it here: http://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/technicalhelp/towing/towing-with-a-motorhome/

Possibly the Gendarmes handing out tickets are for other offences, for example not having the red reflective triangles, or maybe even speeding, as these outfits are supposed to be driven at lower speed limits.

Edit: And to add to the confusion here's a piece from one of the manufacturers:  http://www.caratow.com/legal.php



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I don't think there can be much doubt as to their illegality in France when being towed behind a French registered vehicle.

A lot of people have come up with a lot of arguments for and against but if you think of it as a simple trailer where a gross weight of over 500kg means that it needs it's own registration and insurance it's actually very simple.

A dolly itself may weigh say 150kg leaving a payload of only 350kg and since very few vehicles which you might want to trail with it are likely to come in at that it becomes an overloaded trailer and therefore illegal.

When visiting France the country of origin rules apply so if the rig is deemed legal in the country where the vehicle is registered then by default it is legal when being used elsewhere and technically nobody can do anything about it.

That's not to say they won't of course...........!

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Which would be sound if a dolly lifted all four wheels but of course it doesn't it's just one end but braking on a small tow vehicle is questionable.

Whilst the country of origin rules apply in the UK they are only allowed for vehicles that have broken down, other vehicles as in the case of the OP are under UK law the same as France and it's treated as a trailer and regs apply.

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There is no grey areas at all, they are straight-up illegal. Yes, manufacturers say otherwise, but its in their interests to isnt it?

Towing either a dolly or an a-frame with a UK reg car....

illegal. All trailers over 750kgs gross weight need to have over-run brakes as standard, and on trailers made after a certain date they need to be auto-reversing too. These brakes have to apply to all wheels on the trailer. It is just not possible to comply with this. There are systems that link to the towed cars own brakes (I have an ex RAC a-frame myself that has an over-run hitch and a big bowden cable that actuates a thing that is strapped to the drivers seat and presses the brake pedal.) and some of the motorhome jobs have more complex systems too, however, a cars brakes (the rears especially) do not meet trailer brake efficiency levels and obviously are not auto-reversable.

If you had a really, really light car to pull around then you will be ok if you weigh in under 750kgs gross. However note that VOSA will not use the towed cars actual or unladen weight, they will use its plated max gross weight. Pretty much the only things that are plated at under 750kgs gross would perhaps be some of those silly sans-permis things and frankly, I would rather walk!.

The thing is.....you will probably get away with it. Many, many people do every day and not all police officers are clued up on the regulations. If it "looks ok" then this goes in your favour, ie a big vehicle towing a small one, but if you are towing a Volvo estate with a Metro, you will get pulled! It all goes wrong when you meet a well informed policeman, a VOSA checkpoint or have an accident serious enough to merit more than a cursory examination by the insurers - then you will find yourself up the creek without the boat, never mind the paddle.

The only exception to the above and the reason AA and RAC use them is that they are legal for recovering a broken down car to a place of safety.

As for using a French car - I dont know the exact laws but I would imagine it is much the same. I got stopped towing with my A-frame here once, literally about 50 yards away from my house. I got a fine for....well, I cant remember what it was, but it was about 150euros if i remember right. The cozzer was not entirely sure about the legalities of it all and had never even seen an a-frame before, but was "pretty sure its not legal" and fined me for whatever it was which was the only thing he was sure about. (uninsured trailer rings a bell, maybe?)

Very, very few people know about them over here and whenever I use mine, people are gob-smacked and point, stare and generally flip out due to their being nobody in the towed car. Every time I am out with it and stop somewhere for petrol etc, then I am guaranteed to be stopped by some curious passerby asking questions about it, where I got it etc.
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Well, unless you can point me to a reference in the Code de la Route, I'm afraid it is still a grey area to me!

All of the above replies are interpretations, reasonable maybe, but I wouldn't want to set off dragging my little car, based on any of this advice. Thinking about it, I haven't got a little car, but even if I had, dragging it behind my motorhome wouldn't be on my wish list anyway! Dammit, I haven't got a motorhome either!

Oh, how I miss SundayDriver's replies, succinct and always with a definitive reference.



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Well, off the top of my head, you want to be looking at eec directive 71/320

This old dft page....


suggests that a-frames are legal as long as ec directives and Construction and Use directives are met regarding braking, but as I stated its just not possible for a towed cars brakes to meet trailer brake requirements. Auto-reverse being the main one, also trailer minimum brake efficiency is over 50% per wheel and car rear brakes generally make less than half that figure.

Its all a slightly moot point anyway as from this year, its believed that over-run type brakes will become illegal on any "trailers" that do not have the axle or axles mounted centrally, which will obviously include towed cars.

Many years ago, It was my job to service, repair, modify and build camper vans, caravans, trailers, horse boxes and various other towed vehicles.
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I think Dave posting was very reasoned, if there isnt a definitive reference to be found then it depends really if you are a black and white person or a grey area Chancer [:D]

If you are black and white then its a no go for all of the reasons that Dave has cited.

If you dont mind chancing your arm on it being a grey area, wont think its the end of the world to fork out a few Euros just so the uninformed G-man can save face then you go for it,  clearly Dave is in the latter camp.

Dave when you use your A-frame do you use the braking system or at least make a pretense of doing so?

I used one once that had two braked wheels and a pair of  flat beds that the towed vehicles front wheels were strapped to, it had over-run brakes but only on the trailer wheels of course and it had an Ackerman steering system so it towed and tracked really well, reversing was still the expected abortion though.

I still have my lightweight home made A frame that I used for all my Westfields and Caterham 7's, I have seen stronger handles on lawnmowers but its horses for courses, I got stopped with it once on a public decency charge, for a laugh I had borrowed (honestly [:P]) a blow up doll and dressed it in Anne Summers gear strapped it in the drivers seat with the 4 point harnesses and tied the hands to the steering wheel, what a laugh that journey was, if you'r up for it Dave then give it a try one day Dave, you wont regret it [:)]

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I dont use the braking system that often, to be honest. Its a big, heavy bowden cable that is fed through the drivers window and there is a frame that straps to the drivers seat with an arm that is strapped to the brake pedal. The problem is that there is too much give in the padding of most car seats so it doesnt press hard enough on the pedal to be effective, especially after the first two or three presses and there is no vacuum left in the servo for assistance.

Besides, I mostly only use the frame for local-ish stuff, so no real point in hooking it up - its a bit of a faff to get it strapped in and adjusted.

Yeah, reversing is always fun - you can just about get away with a dead-straight reverse for a short distance, but nothing more. Back in my bangernomics days, I had a 405 estate and bought its replacement - a 406 estate (vastly inferior car as it turned out) from auction. When towing it home I was cut up badly on a roundabout and had to brake hard. The towed car pushed the rear of the tow car way out wide and I ended up jack-knifed with the front wheels up on the roundabout with the rest completely blocking it. The Haudagain Roundabout in Aberdeen, if anyone knows it, at rush hour.. I was alone and unable to reverse so had to unhook the lot and shift the cars one at a time......I got mentioned on Radio 2's traffic news over that one, but fortunately was gone by the time the police got there!

Its a real shame that they are frowned upon, as A-frames tow beautifully. For going any long distance, and all other (legal) things being equal, I would much rather a-frame a car than have it on a trailer. It stays stable at all speeds with no risk of snaking.

Not so great for automatic gearboxes though!

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Yes, it is a very relaxing tow, more so than any trailer.

That is until your lightweight A-frame decides to tell you on the M11 100 miles from home, that you really should have used more cross bracing, I lashed it back together with a ratchet strap and the remainder of my journey was the most stressfull ever.

I once took what was left of the front wheels off a accident damaged Westfield V8, I bolted a tow hitch to the fron of the chassis and hooked it up to my tow car, that towed exceedingly well.

Another very stable tow, I found the remains of an agricultural trailer that had been built around a really old type caravan chassis, one rigidly mounted unbraked solid axle right at the rear and a 2" coupling that was broken so it was only the weight, and there was a lot of it that held it on to my tow ball, it towed like a dream back to my workshop where I converted it to this beasty :


Its a very short, very light tiltbed trailer with a pair of tiny beaver tail ramps at the rear, the tiltbed is actioned by an old side lift car jack.

Editted, tilting drawbar would be a better description.

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My first 7 was a pre-lit Westfield 7 bought as a partial kit from the factory in 1987, I knew they were being prosecuted so bought only the parts that would have impossible to source afterwards, body, chassis, suspension screen etc.

Had it for 12 years when I bought a written off Zetec conversion Caterham, it broke my heart to sell the Westfield but it was a step in the right direction and its always good to sever links with the past.

Went on to get through another couple of Caterhams which I converted to motorcycle engines and raced in endurance races, I also bought repaired/did up and sold a couple of Westfields over the years.

I still have my last Caterham Blackbird and the Lotus Elan in the photo, I have not sat in or driven a 7 for 10 whole years, before it was an everyday occurrence, I would get withdrawal symptoms after a couple of days.

The good news is as and when I do get back behind the wheel I no longer will have to squeeze myself in [:D]

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I had an SE with the fairly usual Kent 1700cc engine. We came to France on holiday in 1995 in it. It's about as close as you can get to a motorcycle on 4 wheels! Great fun.




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