How Low can you Tow?

Dec 8, 2021 | 3 comments

1972 Ratcliff Tow-Low 300 Deluxe

If you love vintage trailers, hello new romance! The Tow-Low trailer was manufactured by Ratcliff Industries in the ’60s and early ’70s. It was a direct competitor to the Hi-Low Trailers. A notable characteristic of the Tow-Low is The big wheel on the front of the trailer used to raise the top. A release and brake allowed the top to lower.

Below you will read a cliff notes version of the April 24, 1972 Newspaper article written by Sentinel Staff Writer Roger A. Stafford.

Rudy Ratcliff and his son John W. entered the telescopic trailer business in 1961 when they formed the Midwest distributorship for the Hi-Low company of Butler, Ohio. In 1966 Hi-Low shifted the door of its vehicles from the side to the rear, a design change that John Ratcliffe said made the units UN saleable. We had to decide either to “get out of the business” or “make our own,” Explained Ratcliff.

John Ratcliffe, now president of Ratcliff industries, said the unique metal trailers were still novelties in the recreational vehicle field despite the fact that they had been invented in the 1930s. Operating from a home office in Marengo, Illinois, the Ratcliff showed the 1st telescopic units in the Midwest at the state fair in West Allis in 1961. Eventually, they sold to dealers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa

By February 15, 1967, the firm produced its first trailer, to be known as the Tow-Low. Three trailers later the firm showed the units to dealers at a meeting in Marengo, and 75 orders were placed. In its 1st full year of operation, Radcliff industries broke even.

The growth of the firm in the following years seems exceptional even in an industry where stars rise and fall periodically.

The benefits of the telescoping concept  Come mainly from its low profile, which enables easier towing and improved gasoline mileage. Trailer units stand 5′ 4″ from ground to top when in towing position. They expand to provide 6′ 4″ of headroom.

Ratcliff also noted that his units have steel frames which give them a stability normally associated only with conventional trailers.

Improvements since 1967 have made it possible for a child to rise the units. Officials believe the ease of raising of the trailers with a wheel makes them particularly appealing to the elderly. Ratcliff’s wife, mother, and mother-in-law have tastefully decorated the interiors of the units.  The firm builds all its cabinets, equips the units with kitchen equipment, and provides toilets, showers, and baths in larger models.

Ratcliff sees his units appealing basically to 3 types of campers; the “average citizen who has seen high trailers and said he’ll never pull one”.  “Someone who started out with a small tent camper and is accustomed to pulling a unit with a low profile.” “A former owner of a conventional trailer who has had trouble with handling on the road.”

John W Ratcliff

John, 36, is a business administration graduate of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. His wife Mary and serves as vice president. While his firm is not a giant in the recreational vehicle industry yet, Radcliffe believes it is riding a growing wave of popularity that will eventually make the telescopic trailer market very vital and very big. And he noted we’re just coming out of the pioneering phase.

What exciting history! Are you in love with this 1972 Tow-Low as much as I am? Follow me! Together, we are going to do more than a remodel; we’re going to UPmodel! #AZGCUPmodel #UPmodel


  1. Nathan

    How much does my tow.low weigh? Any ideas?

  2. Lianna

    What is the weight of these fine specimens.
    I drive a crossover suv so have to be mindful of the weight I’m

  3. Ashley

    I’m new to learning of these tow low miracles and excited to explore both worlds virtually and physically with these beauty’s.

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