On the road for under $10K: Tow vehicle, or NOT tow vehicle?

By: Philip Lord, Photography by: Philip Lord

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Phil Lord runs into some trouble trying to fit his secondhand Holden with a towbar...

On the road for under $10K: Tow vehicle, or NOT tow vehicle?
On the road for under $10K: Tow vehicle, or NOT tow vehicle?

Missed the first instalment? Read Phil Lord's mission here

YOU KNOW THOSE days when you get every green light, the weather is perfect, and life
just couldn't be

For me and my Caprice tow-tug project, this was not one of those days.

I had already bought a used 2100kg heavy-duty Holden accessory towbar on Ebay for $90, without the support bracket and mounting bolts. That’s okay, I thought; a Holden dealer told me a fitting kit was available for under $50, which included the bolts, washers and bracket. I would need to buy a plate over the propshaft bearing too, but that was just $30.


A genuine Holden plug-and-play trailer plug and loom was about $75. The Caprice already had heavy-duty rear springs and shocks so, with the parts on order, I was all set to get the Caprice tow-ready.

Then problems struck. Turns out the fitting kit I’d been quoted on was for the 1600kg towbar; a 2100kg towbar fitting kit was available, no problem, except it was missing the all-important mounting bracket, which braces the towbar against each side of the spare wheel well. This bracket can only be purchased as part of a complete towbar kit, at $429. Ouch!

A quick ring-around to local wreckers revealed that there were no brackets floating around. So my Caprice will have to wait until I strike it lucky by finding a bracket at the wreckers. The next best option is to buy the whole kit secondhand, and, failing that, there’s the brand new $429 towbar kit, still available from Holden.


With fresh engine oil and filters fitted, it was time to take the Caprice on a shakedown run –
an 800km return trip to the NSW south coast.

A week before the trip, I noticed an oil-burning smell coming from underneath. It was from the front of the diff, leaking oil from the pinion seal onto the hot exhaust. A quick check revealed the seal was less than $20, but with a full week of work ahead I wasn’t going to get it done before the trip.

This is the quandary with budget projects – sometimes you just have to 'pay the man'. I had never replaced a diff pinion seal before. It didn’t look hard, I just didn’t have time to find out. So I handed the job over to my trusty mechanic, Murray Brown.

A day later, pinion seal sorted and myself $230 poorer, I was ready from my south coast fishing trip.

The Caprice turned out to be an excellent tourer. Having the power to give a burst of acceleration on the overtaking lanes meant I didn’t need to risk speeding, but was able to get past dawdlers who always sped up at overtaking lanes.

Average fuel consumption was 9.9L/100km, not bad for a big V8. I expect that figure to double when towing, though…

Next up is to sort out the towbar problem, service the transmission and find a good transmission cooler. Then I can finally go van shopping in earnest.

Read the next instalment, Part 5: Towbar time!

Written exclusively for Caravan World online

On the road for under $10K: Phil Lord's challenge
Part 1: Choosing a tow vehicle
Part 2: Tow vehicle purchased!
Part 3: Tow vehicle blowout!