This is our debut of Subcompact Q&A. It'll features user-submitted questions, and answers from our experts on all things small. Got a question about small vehicles, subcompact overland travel, or anything semi-related to this site? Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first question comes from our friend Justin in Oakland, CA. We've actually featured his 314 hp Pontiac Solstice Turbo-powered 1982 Toyota Corolla Wagon in 2013. Justin writes:
Hey Andy! On my drive back from visiting Portland in the Rolla, I did a lot of daydreaming about making it a cross country trip travel machine. I've got some questions about adding an refrigerator like you did [in the Sidekick], and maybe you could share some advice from the things you've learned as you've built the Teal Terror and trailer into a similar type of thing.
One of my first inclination is to get one of those aluminum job boxes that you see on the tongues of trailers and fashion it into a hitch carrier for extra cargo. It should be out of the slipstream and not hurt mileage.
I think I can also remove part of my rear seats to open up some more room back there for sleeping. And also wire my blower fan so I could keep it running on low overnight to help exchange the air.
Thanks for the question, Justin.
We bought an ARB Fridge Freezer for our adventuring, and they come in a variety of sizes. Ours is a 50 qt (47 liter) model; they make 35 qt (37 L), 63 qt (60 L), and 82 qt (78 L), too.
Theoretically, you can run the fridge/freezer off of your 12 volt accessory plug. However, most plug wires are too thin to actually power it and will blow the fuse for the plug (and in my case, the plug and the radio). Therefore, I highly recommend buying (or making) the dedicated wiring kit with threaded socket. ARB's is a fuse-protected kit that has a dedicated socket that I've wired to the battery. It provides plenty of juice to power the fridge. I mounted the outlet on the center console, and we put the fridge behind us. Works like a charm.
Additionally, I recommend the padded ARB Transit Bag, which helps to insulate and protect the fridge. It has been worth its price, since we're constantly shuffling around gear on top and around it.
One other cool thing about these fridges is that they offer up three voltage modes, HI, MED, and LO. On HI it allows the car to keep the battery level up and shuts the fridge down so you don't drain the battery. The other modes do respectively the same at different levels. No worries about not starting the car when out and about.
You'd know better than I would about the space in the Rolla, but I can tell you the thing does take up significant real estate, and I'd be surprised if you could get you, your girlfriend, and the fridge in the wagon and be comfortable sleeping. If you could, that'd be awesome, however. Bonus: These fridges come with an AC plug in so you can use it as a tiny refrigerator/freezer off of a standard 110V in your house.
As far as the trailer tongue box, it sounds like a good idea. I'm sure you could fashion something up easily. We looked into buying a pre-fabbed one for my buddy's Civic, but the hitch's tongue weight was pretty low, so after the box and the gear, it would likely be too heavy for the hitch. That being said, I don't know what kind of weight the Rolla can handle on a hitch. You could always just buy or fab a tray for a cargo box, too.
I can't comment on the air circulation thing with the blower. I'm sure it'd be fine, but I don't know if I'd want my blower on for 6–8 hours. Just my two cents.