Current collective report on "Tow Vehicle Choices" from hundreds of BT Owners..

Submitted: Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 02:22
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Fellow Boggers, I have contact with many times the Bushtracker Owners than on this site, and I thought maybe you would benefit from my own personal summary analysis... Also, I have gone way out Bush with Cruisers since the 80's, still own two; and have owned an F-350 for three years recently, and maybe I can dispell some "myths" a bit... Here goes:

Toyota, the 100 series, 80 series, the big F-250 and F-350 Fords, and the Nissan Patrol, are our most common tow vehicles, with Discoveries and Rovers in fourth place. For larger vans say over 20’, there is another contender now, with Ford back in the Country with a fabulous big 7.3 Diesel that overall is reported to get better fuel economy towing, and may take over the number one spot in the next few years. About 75 of our Clients (guesstimate) are in the 4x4 F-250, 350 Fords, and they are safer with a longer wheelbase, more comfortable, twice the power with a big 7.3 litre International truck V8 turbo diesel, more brakes, more torque, and they get better fuel economy as reported overall! What’s more is they are twice the truck in power and safety and cost nearly the same as the new Toyota... If you are not bringing it home to the city to park, and making serious travel plans with a van over 20’ as a "Lifestyle", then you owe it to yourself to have a look at what may become Australia’s new #1 Tow vehicle...

On the new Turbo Landcruiser, there are many on the road, and it is still our most common tow vehicle, but I am a bit concerned about a few issues that Clients report:
1) The full engine electronic management makes it very hard to trouble shoot out bush if you have a problem. While this is present in many new vehicles, I am just a bit uncomfortable with something you can't fix without a computer. Mind you, this is just my opinion.. It is the trend with all new vehicles, even Ford, but it is a concern. Even the accelerator is electronic, and don't laugh, some have been stuck beside the road with an engine at idle...
2) The IFS ( Independent Front Suspension), may have too many moving parts, and people have had problems already in the bush. It may be a luxury town car design, just not robust enough for the Outback.. Mind you, this is also just my opinion, and not the gospel, but I am concerned. If you own one, please do not take it that I am attacking it, just telling you what people have reported, as a perspective to new Buyers that have not made the plunge yet... There have been reports of sideways drift in the steering on the corrugation on a big curve in the road..... Not good... It is reported that it can be overcome by decelerating on the curves, to stop the harmonic motion of the IFS reacting to the corrugation; but is not a good sign.. And there have been some reports of mechanical failures and such that are a bit worrying… Shock mount failures, broken hubs, a few things like that.. Mind you, it is still our Number One most common tow vehicle....
3) The IFS required that the wheels be off-set 65mm to the inside, and not only are the wheels harder to come by, but they cannot work with our suspension in any case.... The tyres would just rub on the chassis, and the wheels go inside of the backing plate on the brakes, so the emergency hand brake would not work.... Now if you want to buy one, and many have, it is not a terminal problem. You would have the same stud pattern, and two spares on the caravan. The van wheels would fit the IFS 100 Series, it is just that the IFS wheels will not fit the van. In any case you are about 10 times more likely to need the van spares on the tow vehicle, which does work; than needing the one spare on IFS, for the van which already has its own two spares.... This would just get you out of a pinch off road, as it would be illegal to do.. Or we can adapt the IFS wheels to your van with 65mm spiders that actually space out the wheels that 65mm offset... There are however two drawbacks. Firstly it costs $1000 for the adaptors and spare wheel carriers, and secondly they weigh about 35 kilos of steel to drag around plus bigger spare carriers to total about 40kg extra... I suggest the earlier option before this, is maybe a consideration...
4) Also: Cost is high in the IFS, when you can get a very good vehicle secondhand for half the money, and add an aftermarket turbo.. And again for larger vans over 20', if you are not coming back to the City, you should look at the new Ford F-250 and F-350. It is made just for that job.... For a big van over 20', nowhere else in the world would one think of Toyota as a full sized tow vehicle...

In summary, this is just my engineering opinion on the matter, but I no longer think that a new IFS Landcruiser is the only game in town, and you may want to rethink your stand as it seems that there are several other choices that make sense..... It is just my "Duty of Care" to keep you informed of any potential downside to your ideas... In this case it is just an opinion and not scientific analysis, but I think you may want to consider the point of view... People still buy the new IFS Landcruiser Turbo as our #1 tow vehicle, because of parking in the city or tax considerations or other reasons, but there are other options...

To my knowledge Toyota still offers the Standard 100 Series with the standard diesel and no IFS, at least last year... . So here is another idea: There has been a great deal of success in turbo charging the Toyota standard diesel… I mean we know of hundreds.. ARB put Safari Turbo kits on them for ten years!!! The only ones we have heard of having problems were people problems in not feeding the engines enough oil and water!!! Everyone that said something bad about after market turbo on a 1HZ motor, which is really rare to hear something bad anyways; when questioned, really had to admit to not checking oil or water and that is not the turbos fault!!! The only problems seemed to be the Factory Turbo engines that had a fault in the lower ends in the mid 90's. In the late 90's many people ran aftermarket turbos on them, it was quite commonplace. We hear of them going about 600,000 kms. One person even took the turbo off one when he updated and ran it on the next one out to 340,000 before he sold that one!! After market turbo does not seem to be a problem at all…… And it is the same engine in the Standard 100 Series.

As to selection of a tow vehicle.... There is possibly another option to consider.... A secondhand vehicle for half the money.... You should take a look at a magazine called the "4 x 4 Trader". There will be 500 or more vehicles in there for sale every month.. About once every three months for some reason there will be a half a dozen vehicles reduced to ridiculous prices all at once!! You have plenty of time while your Bushtracker is being built.....You can get the RACQ to have a look at it, send pictures over the internet, negotiate a price, and have them meet you at the Airport to pick you up... For half the money, I am not sure that it isn't another option, as I also do not like the trend in the new vehicles with computer run complex systems that cannot be rectified in the Bush.. For example-I know personally, I would like a 97 to early 2000 Toyota 80 Series or an a couple of year old GXL 100 Series for half the money, maybe even with extra equipment already on it; rather than all the fancy electronic run injectors and injection pumps of the new ones. The same goes for the other Brands. It seems as though the Company Engineers are designing the engines to take the maintenance out of the hands of the do it yourself people and make them dependent on the Dealerships for all service... Just a personal view, but maybe it is another option to consider for half the money... Especially if you are a handy sort of a person yourself.... It is what I did in getting a new Cruiser for my wife, I bought a 2000- 100 Series, aftermarket turbo and intercooler, and it was loaded with extras like long range tanks, diff locks, air compressor, and much more.. It has no engine electronics to run the injection pump, injectors, and controls; and I think it is twice the vehicle as new in reliability, for half the money. It also has the tried and true solid front monobeam axle housing... Same comfort and power and looks as the new IFS Cruiser, but twice the reliability at half the cost.

Sooooo, the Toyota is still our #1 tow vehicle, with Ford coming up strong, and then the Nissan Patrol 4.2 Turbo, remaining our most common tow vehicles. But the Nissan 3 litre automatic is not in the running…. No one is reporting that they are happy towing with it in any size over 16'-17' and even then.... There must be a reason it has a lower tow rating and is far cheaper.. The larger Nissan has a larger tow rating and good track record and good reports as a tow vehicle, but is not available in an automatic… If you want an automatic you are back to the new IFS 100 Series Cruiser, or a Standard 100 Series, or the IFS Turbo listed above, or a Standard one and add the turbo on later…. Or go see the new big Fords and possibly fall in love….

I have owned an F-350 for three years and went all over out Bush with it… I still own two Cruisers… Now, at 20', even 21', Toyota is still in the running.... However, there is another real issue in towing a larger van: It is not about off-road, all four wheel drives are a tractor in low range gear off the road. It is more of a safety concern on the highway... The Toyota is not a full sized tow vehicle for larger vans, on the global perspective, only here... It is an issue of the length of wheelbase for leverage on the van at high speed, when you have to make a radical maneuver to avoid an accident or a spilled load or a Bullock or something... The wheelbase of the Landcruiser runs out of safety margin somewhere around 21’... Even my own 100Series Landcruiser is up on its maximum limit with my 21’ van. It is just just not safe if something happens to cause a radical move at 100 kph.. There is just not enough leverage to do it safely with the wheelbase of a Landcruiser, and that is where the F-250 or F-350 Ford, or Chev or Dodge trucks really shine. Incidentally as I have said, the overall reports are that they get better mileage when towing as well. So, with your best interests in mind, you should consider the larger American tow vehicles for the long wheelbase issue, for vans from about 20’ and up. While Toyota will do it, up to 21’ with caution, Fords will just do it safer, and with more comfort, more power, more brakes, more room, and better fuel economy. Toyota is better if one is returning to life in the city, for parking. But if one is making a Lifestyle change out of the city, you would have to consider the Ford F-250 or F-350, or a fully imported Chevrolet or Dodge. The advantage of Ford is now a nationwide Dealership network and support in Australia.

Yes, you do some three point turns, you get in the habit of it, and it is no big deal.
As to the disadvantages of off-road work, I built a little crash cage on below my transfer case for high centre in real rough going, but found as many advantages in major torque and horsepower as disadvantages in size... In fact here is an odd perspective for you: I have found most of the Forestry bog holes to be made by little Japanese midsized tow vehicles... Often my Ford was so big, that the front end was in the BOG, while the back end was pushing in the good traction... And when the back end was in the BOG the front was out of it and pulling me through... Personally, I found the F-350 to be no big deal in its size, other than having to get used to doing the 3 point turns...everywhere... And if I was coming back to the city, or chasing pigs weaving between the trees, or had an 18' van, no worries Toyota is just fine... But for a larger van, there is no question which is better when there is an accident on the road ahead of you and you have to make a really radical move to avoid it...

As to myth #2, that they are too wide for the tracks... Again I have found this not to be true... Yes they are wider, but the Jap 4x4's don't run on rails, they weave all over the tracks and the wheel tracks are about a metre wide on each side... With my For as far as hundreds of kms back in, off the road, I don't think the width is that important. I can tell you this, the lack of Driver fatigue from urging your Toyota on all the time trying to get out of the way of traffic, by driving a Ford with much more power, is a real issue... Ten hours in a Toyota towing vrs ten hours towing with the Ford, the Ford will win every time, you just don't suffer as much driver fatigue...

In general, since I have more contact than most, I try and give a well rounded perspective so you can choose what is best for you..

On Fuel Economy? Lastly, and it is a real pain to get one, but the current fuel economy record, as reported for towing is held by the Dodge Ram 4x4 with the Cummins Diesel, at about 22-23 miles per gallon. Second place is tied with the Chev Duramax diesel, and Ford, at around 14-16 miles per gallon and some report better. Toyota at 12-14 mpg... But some Toyotas towing 20-21' vans, that are stretched Toyota 100 Series ute customs or 6 wheel jobs are doing closer to 9 mpg... As are a few really overloaded Toyotas with Boats on top and larger really loaded up vans, doing the 9-10 mpg... My Mack Dual Cab 4x4 Horse truck gets that good....!! In general, the bigger the diesel, the better the mileage when towing, because it is just not working as hard...

Friends, it really comes down to "Horses for courses".... Smaller van, coming back to the city, Toyota Shines.... Biiiiggg van over 20', big load, Lifestyle out Bush... Ford wins in my opinion...And you should at least go have a look. Not just for comfort, room, power, and fuel economy, but a real big one and that is SAFETY for the extreme leverage ability in a pinch on the highway.... Each 10% more in wheelbase gives you about 100% more leverage due to the fulcrum effect when towing...

Hope this has been a help,
Kind Regards, stg at Bushtracker

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Reply By: AlanDi - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 22:12

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 22:12
Steve and other BOGGERS,
Having owned a Patrol before I was thinking of the 4.2 Turbo, but a little dissuaded by comments in the latest Ovelander 4WDOTY judging panel, in repect of the 3.0TD viz. "Uncomfortable ride most of the time, rarely pleasnat to drive".
Any comments from existing Patrol drivers??
Alan S
AnswerID: 565831

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 22:36

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 22:36
I do not give opinions that are not well grounded in facts. So I remove myself from this, and give you just the answer from other Clients... That is where I am of most value, as I cross tracks with far more people than just on this site... And here is is, but I will no doubt incurrrrrr some wrath from some 3.0 TD Owners, this is what is told to me... Not my experience, I stress, I am recounting just the reports to me...

The Nissan 3 Litre particularly with the automatic, could not pull the skin off rice pudding. The advertising claims to have the same torque as the 4.2 Patrol, but that must mean that the two torque curves cross at one point, because almost everyone that has them find them woefully inadequate towing as reported to me... Ask yourself, why if it has the same power and torque, is it thousands and thousands cheaper and a tonne lighter in towing capacity??????

In the years that it has been introduced, I have only had about two Clients report happiness with the little 3 litre Nissan, and both had the five speed. It has a higher tow capacity, but still below the Patrol... In light of all of this, my advice would be to buy an older Patrol in good condition, instead of the 3 litre new one or a new electronic Patrol for more money yet... I think a good deal on a few years old Patrol might be a better vehicle, non electronic and more reliable, for half the money... Other than cheaper, or running round town and maybe not even then, I can see no advantage to the 3.0 litre, from the reports I have been getting....

Cheers from the "Lone Ranger" trying to do the right thing...
FollowupID: 844333

Follow Up By:- Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 22:55

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 22:55
All I can say Alan is there must be a awlful lot of uncomfortable 3TD Patrol drivers out there. My advice is ask the owners and not the so-called "expert journalists". Low paid journalists require to supplement their income somehow. I would say the 3 would have limited towing capacity but I would ask a fellow BT tower for their assesment.
FollowupID: 844334

Follow Up By: jandm - Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 08:28

Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 08:28

Does Tracey still have his Suburban? After my second visit to the factory and then spending 13 months trying to get my 1995 Landcruiser "legalised" to tow 3500 kg with NSW RTA, I gave up, sold the Tojo and bought a 2nd hand Suburban. Having continuously owned Toyotas continuously for 25 years, it was a big decision.

While the Burb would not be the same bush vehicle in hard core 4WD territory, I felt it was the right choice for the 20' BT yet to be ordered (soon! soon!). Steve gave me his thoughts at the factory - consistent with his posting above. They made sense then and now. While I have not towed with the Burb, it gives the same (actually slightly better) consumption with its 6.5 L turbo donk as the Tojo did with its aftermarket Safari turbo. It is certainly a greater pleasure and more comfortable to drive etc etc. Only 550 Burb's brought into Oz in 1998 - 2000 but they are supported by parts etc. You can find reasonably priced and well looked after units around.

FollowupID: 844335

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 20:56

Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 20:56
Hello Jim of "jandm",

This one's for you, in the last followup in this string.. And since you may not know me, I will qualify myself for the answer so you understand it is not a personal opinion but more of a qualified Engineering analysis.. As a keen 4x4 buff all over the world with a passion for remote game patrol and hunting from North America to Africa and Australia, and an Ex-Yank, I am a bit of an Authority on the American Trucks that I follow with a keen interest, and have participated in 4x4 Clubs, and studied hundreds of vehicle modifications as an interest. I am also a fair mechanic on my own, building custom engines and generally built up custom 4x4's for 35 years, both American and a half dozen Toyotas which I also like, even repowering the Tojos for towing with bigger donks.. I have also owned two GMC 4x4 trucks that have the same basic parent to the Suburban... So here goes:

The Suburban is just that, made as a light comfortable Suburban vehicle, capable of 4x4 trips. In the U.S. it would come fourth, after Dodge, Chevy and GMC, and Ford trucks, as a tow vehicle. It has an independent front suspension for comfort, that has somewhat of a limited life, maybe in the 200,000 km range out bush, before a $5000 rebuild to bring it back up to snuff. It has the same basic motor as the Hummer, 6.5 Turbo, which is an excellent engine with fairly good fuel economy. It is a comfortable, powerful vehicle. However, yes, it does have it's limitations with the lowest ground clearance off-road. But it is better to drive around with a tight turning radius. Tracy has been happy with his... It has the wheelbase length, and power, and while you are comparing the fuel economy around town to be roughly on par with the Tojo, the Tojo fuel economy towing will radically drop, where the Suburban will carry on without as much of a drop and end up towing with better fuel economy than the Tojo... For a 20' van, you made a good choice, and I would much rather have $60,000 in the Suburban than the same in a Toyota, the Suburban is far more powerful, safer, less driver fatigue, and more comfortable with the long wheelbase... It is really like a stretched Toyota IFS, with heaps more grunt... But yes it is limited a bit with ground clearance off-road... But look, it will go places to astound you and you might just stick with it for the long run. I thought about buying one myself for my wife, but city reasons shopping and parking and my short garage won out in favour of the current 100Series... But I would rather have the Suburban towing any day with a 20' van, hands down choice... No comparo....

As to Tracy, after some 3-4 years with his Suburban, Tracy is moving up to the top tow vehicle in the world. He has ordered a Dodge Ram 4x4, with the Cummins diesel at 340 hp, and a six speed. It will blow the doors off anything light to light, but a suped up Holden. Ha! That vehicle is also the holder of the top fuel economy (not in Tracy's case as he won't keep his foot out of it). But, the downside? No support much to speak of in Oz, and he has been waiting for 9 months and still does not have it, maybe next month or two but overdue since September, and you don't want to even ask the cost... Be happy with the Suburban... You have a nice vehicle...

Kind Regards from the source at Bushtracker
FollowupID: 844336

Follow Up By: Noosa Fox - Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 02:54

Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 02:54
2 years ago we did a lot of outback driving with a friend in a Nissan 3.0lt Patrol towing a very heavily loaded 16 ft BT with outboard and trailer attached, and it performed perfectly. He does lots of off road work and is very impressed with it, including the fuel consumption. He did own a 4800 Petrol patrol for a while but got rid of it as soon as he could because it was so thirsty. The friend is now on about his 5th Patrol, and he loves them. Don't let magazine writer put you off.

I agree with the other comment above about the Magazine writers, they have a weird way of assessing a vehicle sometimes and often give information which most owners find hard to believe.

The friend told me that he likes to stay under 95 when towing, but after travelling down the Birdsville track with him, when we were on bitumen near Leigh Creek, I found myself travelling at 115 -120 behind him and he never realised he was travelling at that speed it was going so well.

As we are all only around once, I recommend that you buy the best vehicle that you can afford that will do the job that you require it to do.
Enjoying the friendship of BOG members

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FollowupID: 844337

Reply By: Tellem Bugrem - Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 16:48

Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 16:48

What an excellent, factual and balanced report. Congratulations! Perhaps Toyota engineers should get their teeth into it whilst they are developing the 130 Series which is apparently due out in 2007. They have already hinted at a 4.4 twin turbo, common rail V8 diesel, producing 220kw and 570Nm....coupled with a 6 speed manual or tiptronic auto. It is even roported that they will be dropping the IFS.

I wonder if they will increase the wheelbase and what wheels/tyres they will use.
I have heard the latest versions of the 100 series have 17" wheels and guess can't get a decent off-road tyre for them!!

There's no doubt that when my current 100 series petrol V8 is due for replacement in about 2007, I'll be thoroughly testing all the American trucks (again) as well as the 130 V8 diesel.

AnswerID: 565832

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 21:23

Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 21:23
Hello Rob,
Thank you for the kind words. I do try and do the right thing for people by sharing my accumulated information..

You are right on a couple of other points regarding Toyota. The new Tojo might be a break through... I have looked at the "Super Cruiser" they put out at the Shows, and it was a real beast, sort of a competitor for the Hummer I thought... They may be on to something, as long as the price is not ridiculous, which I suspect it might be... The Super Cruiser at the Shows was something around $240,000 plus, not affordable to most.

I must say Toyota needs to come up with something, a change is necessary. They have been trending downhill as far as I am concerned for the last many years.... I still have the last and the greatest of the Great Tojo vehicles in a 1989 '61 Series Sahara, that made Toyota the legend in the Outback... It is the last vehicle with interchangeable front and rear diffs, factory lockout part time 4x4, heavy duty running gear, and the best engine they ever made the 12HT turbo million km engine, that is still in buses in Japan but was only here for four years because of the $12,000 additional cost... It has 330,000 kms on it, engine perfect, and I have fully restored the rest saving it for my Son, with a winch, diff locks, ARB high lift suspension and the rest, heavy chassis and body metal, a real beast and very powerful and simple...

Since then, Toyota have gone for the 96% city market, building in luxury car comforts, ligher chassis, lighter front diff, lighter tail shafts, full time 4x4 car stuff, done 4 wheel changes to capture more aftermarket sales, and generally gone for luxury car fragile and fussy engineering instead of what made the Land Cruiser famous... But, that is where the money is I guess... Sad... And now? 17" mag wheels designed for high speed low profile tyres? You can't even get decent off-road tyres for them.. They have gone to the absurd... I am not impressed...

My 61 Series Sahara, will still probably be on the road when these new fully computerised independent front suspension luxury car Toyotas hit the scrap heap because they are too expensive to maintain when all the computer bits start to fail about the time the IFS front end is getting wonky... This trend of computer black boxes to run everything is going to rear an ugly head when the vehicles age and even the accelerator is run by a black box... People are not going to be able to afford the high end aging aircraft electronic computerized maintenance as the vehicles get older... So, yes maybe Toyota will revert back to the Safari wagon with this new model,..... But I doubt it... Probably be more like a BMW in complicated twin turbo computerized luxury for the city...

But, as an aging Dinosaur Engineer that longs for the "Old Ways" , maybe I am just being cynical.....

Thought about it for a minute, and Naaawwww! I am right... Ha!

FollowupID: 844338

Follow Up By:- Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 09:19

Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 09:19
I was told the new model Patrol will be the E model and surprise, surprise is due in 2007.
FollowupID: 844339

Reply By: 2 excampers - Friday, Feb 11, 2005 at 09:08

Friday, Feb 11, 2005 at 09:08
Before our BT we were campers with 3ltr autoTurbo Patrol. It was 2 years old when we had a power problem on Tag-a-Long trip to Cape York. Vehicle limped into Cooktown and Nissan and RACQ informed. Local mechanic had no diagnostic computer so Nissan insisted vehicle be transported to Cairns and we went by bus. Nissan Cairns were too busy so suggested vehicle be shipped back to Gold Coast (it was the end of our trip). Nissan paid our airfare, no speeding ticket in Rocky and we were home in 4 hours. The vehicle arrived 2 days later and the local Nissan agent fixed it in 15 mins !! Over 2,000km and not a cent on diesel. Imagine if it had happened as we set out for Cape York rather than our return. We then bought a Cruiser for the BT and are expecting our F250 next week. Nissan do not figure in any of our considerations.
AnswerID: 565833

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