atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#5574: Okay, that's friggin' crazy, and I'm amazed it worked.

Take a look at this:

Towing a 1973 Volkswagen Type II "Bus" behind a Honda Civic with a manual transmission.

I'm impressed that the car could haul that thing at all, much less at 60 MPH. Certainly that's not what I would expect to do with any hatchback, let alone one with a manual transmission.

Probably took 30,000 miles off the clutch doing it, though.

* * *

"What's the manual transmission got to do with it?" Well, in a typical passenger car, a manual transmission is geared to get the car itself moving as quickly as possible. First gear is always a compromise between being tall enough that you can get up to some reasonable velocity before having to shift, but short enough that the engine can get the car moving. The lower your redline, the less time you have to use first gear.

Semi trucks get away with having manual transmissions by having over a dozen gears, between range doublers and what not. Some light trucks will have a "creeper" gear below first gear just to get the load moving.

But aside from that, your typical automotive manual transmission will limit your gross vehicle weight. I can't find any good numbers on the Internet for towing capacity with a Ford Escort like my '95; as I recall the Escort was capable of towing something like a thousand pounds with an automatic transmission, but it was less than half that with a manual. (Internet gives contradictory numbers. Three sites: "Not recommended"; "automatic transmission: 1001 lb"; and the same capacity but "manual only".)

It's pretty simple why. Manual transmission, you have a direct mechanical link between the engine and the road. There's nothing in there to slip except the clutch, which is designed not to slip when fully engaged. So to get your load moving, you need to slip the shit out of the clutch--hence my remark about taking 30,000 miles off that Honda's clutch.

Automatic transmission, the torque convertor allows for some slippage even when it's above its stall speed. When first moving, the viscous link lets the engine supply maximum torque without anything having to bear the full brunt of that load. This is also why auto manufacturers recommended towing with the overdrive turned off; part of the overdrive setting on your transmission is torque convertor lock-up, which saves fuel by eliminating that little bit of slippage past stall.

What I do: with the Jeep, I will leave the transmission in "D" until I get the load moving consistently above 55 MPH, at which point I shift into overdrive and let it do its thing. Mainly because I'm too lazy to read the manual and see what Jeep says to do, but also because I don't (or haven't yet, anyway) tow large loads. But the days of manufacturers recommending that you not tow in overdrive are fairly well over, anyway.

* * *

I do love the air-cooled Volkswagens.

Air-cooled engines are difficult to clean up. That's why there are no air-cooled cars any longer; the engines are tough as nails but they can't get their smog numbers low enough. So, no new air-cooled VWs anywhere in the world, since like 2005.

I once had thoughts of getting a Mexican Beetle or Bus, but never had the chance; just as I was getting my finances in order I lost my tech writing job and ended up back in the blue collar workforce. That would have gotten me (at the time) an essentially new Bug, though it would have cost about $10,000.

But I still have the occasional fantasy about getting a Type I or II and restoring it. Failing that I'd love to build a sand rail, which is just as much fun to drive--if not more--and almost as good as a project but without all that pesky bodywork to do.

Of course, their increasing rarity makes good examples more and more expensive. There's a reason you see people hauling abandoned, rusty hulks out of swamps or woods or where-have-you; once they're restored, they'll fetch enough money to make the restoration profitable.

...and if I keep musing on this point, I'll get depressed.

* * *

Anyway, it's a fun thing to watch.

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