A short history of URG tow vehicles. This was before my time but my understanding is that the current club boat was purchased in the mid/late 80s and was originally towed by members own cars. This was after the 1979 (or second) oil crisis or oil shock occurred in the United States due to decreased oil output in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. Despite the fact that global oil supply decreased by only ~4%, widespread panic resulted, driving the price far higher than justified by supply. Oil prices did not return to pre-crisis levels until the mid-80s. The result was fuel rationing and increased prices in Australia. Families sold their Falcons and Kingswood’s and bought small fuel efficient Japanese cars. Soon very few members had a vehicle that could tow 1600 kg and most of the towing fell to 1 member ie Paul Sheaffe.
The committee rightly decided to buy a URG tow vehicle. When I joined the tow vehicle was a big black LTD. A Mafia Staff car. I never drove that car as soon after I joined Robin had the car down the south coast and when pulling the boat out literally pulled the back off the car leaving the tow bar and bumper bar with the trailer on the ramp. I suspect it was a rust issue.
The next vehicle purchased for the club by the late Ian Knap was my favourite. A fully kitted ambulance complete with stretcher in the back. I slept on this on a few occasions when we camping and I arrived late Friday night. It was unsure if it was a dive vehicle or a rescue vehicle so was named Ambivalence. It was an automatic with a 5.8 litre V8. This had no problems keeping up with traffic at any speed and even beat other things off the lights with the boat on the back. You can imagine the look on the other drivers face.
We towed this all over the state with Matthew and I doing 1 trip of 12 hours to get to Brooms Head. Stopping and fuel consumption were the big worries. It used 60 litres every 200 Km or 2 hours run time whichever came first. As the back was fibreglass we thought it wouldn’t rust. Alas how wrong. Soon there was a hole in the floor under the driver’s feet so you could see the road go by. Finally the mechanic said it had to go as there was only rust holding the cabin onto the frame and he was worried we would hit the brakes and the cabin would slide off.
I had taken over as maintenance officer and as the RTA had changed the rules on towing I decided a light truck would be perfect. I found a 2 tone Nissan Cabstar but it was twice what we could afford. Enter Stephen Conwell who somehow talked the car yard down to half price. The white truck was ours and we named her URGLY. Again she towed the boat up as far as Nth Solitary and down to Eden to do the tugs. The truck was complete with a 10 speed gearbox and exhaust brakes and a huge rear open tray into which you could throw a lot of stuff. But boy was she slow. Flat to the floor boards all the time you were lucky to average 50 KM/h on the highway with a top speed downhill with a tail wind of around 80-85 and 30 KM/h was the very best on any sort of incline. Unfortunately she was a manual and it was impossible to back the trailer slow enough without riding the clutch. Although everyone said they didn’t ride it we burnt out 2 clutches. We got a lot of good years out of her until rust became the issue with the tray looking like Swiss cheese and finally when washing her I poked my finger through the cabin it was obvious she had to go. Janet sold her to a nice farmer from up near SW Rocks so she may still be hauling around things on the farm.
The RTA came to their senses and we were back with manufactures not government departments ruling on what vehicles could tow. The next car found by John Swift was a 1978s Holden statesman, 5 litre automatic complete with fat tyres, a Holley carb and a sports exhaust. Like all our cars it took us a fair bit of money to get set up for towing. She burbled, rumbled and popped until you hit the gas and then she roared. She was duly named The Purple Petrol Eater. A great tow car that served us well for many years until you guessed it…… rust. Greg could no longer get it through rego inspection so sold it to a mate who just wanted the engine and sports inspired parts.
I have to take the credit or blame for the next two cars. The Blue Fairmont automatic was our second car for a few years and I always thought it would make a good URG tow vehicle. So whenever I had something replaced it was always tow spec. Finally the old blue girl got her chance and served URG as tow vehicle for around 5 years. This is above the average for any vehicle we have owned. In fact she did it so easily that when it came time to replace her I bought the same car only in red and we took all the good bits of the old blue girl. The local mechanic took her away to a mate’s farm so the kids could drive around.
That brings me to the current vehicle, The Big Red Car. She is again a 4 litre straight 6 automatic with heaps of tork and is very easy to drive. However I suggest you wear a hat as the roof lining is starting to feel like a Bedouin tent. The current vehicles don’t work as hard as we don’t do the big trips anymore. Although we could if someone wants to drive the car and trailer.
I recently took The Big Red Car to Wollongong and that meant going up and down the big hill i.e Mt Ousley. This is the best of any of our vehicles on this hill and managed a speed of 35-40 kilometres an hour all the way up with the temperature gauge not getting over 2/3. Yes, I was in the truck and bus lane enjoying the view as we crawled along. On the highway she will happily sit on 80-90. The secret is let it sit around 2500 rpm and don’t push it. Gentle on the accelerator also means the fuel consumption is better than expected. The only thing is the air-conditioning has to be used sparingly as she does get up to ¾ heat on the gauge the if you run with AC on cool. Alas as she already has a history of rust I am not sure The Big Red Car will last us more than a few years. Lets enjoy her while we can.