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Our Sparky Toad

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First, let’s lay down a few definitions and answer some questions I know many of you are thinking. Yes, our Chevy Spark is a glorified golf cart.  Yes, Kim, Jet, and I all fit in there – at the same time.  And for all the non-RV’ers reading this, a “Toad” is a car that is being “towed” behind an RV.  It can also be referred to as a “dinghy”, being the equivalent to a small boat alongside a ship.  Most commonly, these vehicles are towed with four wheels on the ground, but there are folks who use a tow dolly or trailer. Not all vehicles (very few, in fact) can be towed with four wheels on the ground, without causing major damage and voiding any warranty

A Rhino Rack with two upright bike racks was added to the roof.
A Rhino Rack with two upright bike racks was added to the roof.

 

When we first began envisioning our RV lifestyle, we did not see a tow vehicle in the picture.  We already owned a scooter and really thought we would be able to get by with that along with bicycles and bipedal locomotion (walking).  This did work for months… then it got cold.  After doing research, we finally came to the conclusion that a Chevrolet Spark might be the ride for us.  We had previously test driven a Smart Car years before going full-time with a potential toad in mind.  We were impressed by how large it felt in the cockpit, but there were some giveaways of how small it actually was.  First, once you glanced back over your shoulder, it was clear that that was the end of the car – no backseat and very little “trunk” space.  Also, on the highway, it did feel very light and inferior to the surrounding traffic.  Now, once you’ve considered a Smart Car, everything else is enormously spacious!  Compared to the Smart Car, the Spark offers a full backseat, four doors, and a decent size trunk area behind the hatch.  It allowed us to easily move more people, items, and most importantly, Jet The Dog.

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We added a Class I hitch to hold a Yakima Hold Up bike rack.

The Spark only came on our radar because Chevrolet condones four-down towing, but only in the manual transmission.  As luck would have it, there was a used 2014 Spark at a local dealership in the small town of Campbellsville, Kentucky, where we were – with a manual transmission!  It wasn’t in perfect condition, but we also didn’t pay the perfect condition price.  It has very few options, but it’s mechanically sound and still has half of the factory warranty intact.  After playing hardball, Ryan finally brought home our new Spark on a sunny, Fall, Friday afternoon.  That’s when the real fun begins…

The Roadmaster crossbar can be removed when not towing for a less Toad-like look. The RViBrake emergency breakaway attachment can also be seen below the grill in this picture.
The Roadmaster crossbar can be removed when not towing for a less Toad-like look. The RViBrake emergency breakaway attachment can also be seen below the grill in this picture.

So now that we acquired a car that is capable of being towable, it’s time to make it towable.  This requires a baseplate, tow bar, lighting electrical connections, and a braking system.  Sounds simple enough, but it’s individual for each model of vehicle and there is not a “Toads R Us” up the street.  After more research and ordering parts, the Spark slowly transformed into a Toad.  It took three separate trips to the local RV mechanic, but it finally got done.

We went with a removable braking system (RViBrake2) for the ease of installation and the ability to use it in other vehicles in the future.  We also decided to install new taillight bulbs for the toad lighting instead of tapping into the car’s factory taillight wiring. Once we hook up all the connections and put the RViBrake on the driver’s floorboard, we release the emergency brake, put it in neutral, turn the key to “ACC” and drive away! Probably about a 5 minute job, in total!

​​THE RAMBLINGS OF TWO GEN X FULL-TIME RV'ERS AND THEIR GOLDENDOODLE, JET The Falcon 2 (with cover) on the back of the coach and a sneak peak of the rest of the massive project that hangs from our hitch. Stay tuned for part 2 covering the rest!
The Falcon 2 (with cover) on the back of the coach and a sneak peak of the rest of the massive project that hangs from our hitch. Stay tuned for part 2 covering the rest!

At a curb weight of less than 2,400 lbs, it is undetectable behind the RV.  Once we unhook it, it gets us around town with a fuel economy of 35-40 mpg – that helps to offset the <10 mpg of Lucky.  It may look tiny – and it is – but it serves its purpose very well!

Breakdown of our tow equipment:

-Roadmaster EZ2 Baseplate Kit – Removable Arms
Roadmaster 155 Taillight Wiring Kit
Roadmaster 643 Safety Cables (2 Pairs)
Roadmaster Flexo-Coil 7-Wire to 4-Wire Cord Kit
Roadmaster Falcon 2 Tow Bar
-RVibrake2 Auxillary Braking System w/ Emergency Breakaway Kit

Coming up next, I’ll breakdown the monstrosity that sits on the back of our RV, in addition to the Spark!

See you on the road!

Ryan, Kim and Jet

6 thoughts on “Our Sparky Toad

  1. I was wondering if in towing the Chevrolet Spark or other small “Toad” had anyone experienced problems in curves. It feels like we are dragging our Spark when we are on curves such as on ramps and overpasses? Anyone else with the same? Straight and small curves in the road are not a problem.

    1. Hi Robert! Thanks for reading! I can’t say that I’ve ever felt that way. If it weren’t for the rear camera, I’d forget it was back there. Maybe that’s due to the size of my motorhome, but I have nothing else to compare it to. Sorry I can’t be of any assistance. Safe travels!

      1. Ryan – does your Spark have electronic stability control? I have now read this may engage at speeds greater than 40 mph on curves. I know ours does and wondering if this is the problem? Thanks.

        1. I have traction control, if that’s the same thing. I don’t believe it will activate unless the car is on, but I’ve never really looked into it. My Spark is a baseline, manual transmission model. Maybe you have features that I don’t.

  2. Great post on the Spark. We’ve been kicking the Class C vs. Fifth Wheel debate around for a couple months. Obviously we’d need a toad with the C, so we’ve been looking into those as well.

    For us (family of 3 with a huge dog), our toad of choice would be a four-door hatchback . . . like your Spark. We did find that a Ford Focus can be towed four-down, with an automatic transmission (in neutral and with the battery disconnected). All that being said, there are some really good, lightweight, economical, and great mpg vehicles out there for dragging along.

    1. Now that I’m not a young man, having a small, economical car is great. Ten years ago my hormone fueled ego wouldn’t allow it, but now I think I’d be interested in something like our Spark even if we weren’t RV’ing. Filling up for less than $20 is freaking awesome!!

      Something I’ve been surprised by is how many fifth wheel folks have an additional car that they drive behind for a commuter when they reach their destination. For me, having the truck that pulls the fiver would be my main consideration for going with a trailer versus a motorhome. To each their own!

Let us know your thoughts!!