Chris Dunn loves his cars; heís an enthusiast through and through. Over the years heís bought and sold cars, restored them, raced them, and as a result heís often needed to trailer them from one place to another. As such, a capable tow car has been a necessity for Chris, and having invested in one he decided to make it earn its keep ñ so he set up a car transportation company called TSVC Ltd (www.classiccarstransport.com).
Says Chris: ìI initially bought a Land Rover Discovery 2 Td5, but it quickly became apparent that it wasnít really up to the job of towing a big trailer with a car on it. I wanted something with more poke and which would be more stable at speed when towing something really heavy. I was happy to stick with the Land Rover brand, so I invested in a 2004 Range Rover 3.0 Td6 Vogue. Bought in 2011, the car had already racked up 146,000 miles by the time I bought it, but the car was basically in good shapeî.
Soon after buying it, the Range Roverís gearbox failed and since then itís needed another three, although the odometer now shows more than 323,000 miles. Chris adds: “After around 70,000 miles, the gearbox fails with no warning. It doesnít help that Iím towing heavy loads all the time, which puts a big strain on the transmission. When the gearbox lets go, the failure is complete, so Iím left stranded with no drive at all. Those gearbox repairs have been courtesy of the experts at Driver Transmissions in Birmingham (www.drivertransmissions.co.uk). For £1,550 plus the dreaded VAT, they’ll remove the gearbox, rebuild it and put it back in. And while thatís a bill Chris could do without once a year, itís a lot lower than you might expect ñ and certainly far less than a main dealer would charge. Another weakness in the transmission is the centre bearing in the rear propshaft, which isnít as beefy as you’d expect. When it first went, the local Land Rover dealer spent five hours trying to diagnose the problem ñ without success. Chris ended up working it out for himself and replaced the part with the help of local Land Rover specialist MM 4×4 (www.mm-4×4.com). So far the coupling has failed twice; fixing it costs £500 each time.
Since he bought his Range Rover in 2011, Chris has taken it all over Europe; Sweden, southern France, Germany and everywhere in between. In that time the air suspension compressor also failed, but that was just a £300 fix, so it didnít break the bank. Whatís proved more of a problem is an intermittent misfire which he just canít trace. Says Chris: ìA year ago someone drove into the back of me when I was towing. The impact bent the tow bar and went right through the car ñ one of the headlamp bulbs popped out as a result! With the car worth just £300, according to an online valuation service, it should have been written off, but it was returned to the road within two weeks. The first trip out after that the turbocharger blew. I had it replaced, but the car has never been right since; the turbo doesnít come in until 3,000rpm now and the engine misfires at randomî.
To keep his business going, Chris initially bought a Land Rover Discovery 4.0 V8 that had been converted to LPG. He knew it would have all the pulling power he needed, but that thirsty engine allowed just a 200-mile range; the Range Rover manages twice this. The final straw came when the engine block turned out to be porous, so the coolant kept having to be topped up. Chrisís solution was to swap the Discovery for another Range Rover Td6, this time a 2003 SE. Chris comments: ìWith its lower spec than the Vogue, the interior isnít quite as luxurious and the seats arenít quite as comfy, but itís still a great car for long-distance drives. But the reliability hasnít been as good as my original Range Rover. Despite having just 102,000 miles on the clock when I bought it, the engine has already failed, so Iíve put a BMW X5 lump in. I think the previous owner ran it low on oil at some time. My other Range Rover has still got its original engine, even at 323,000 miles. In hindsight I should have just fitted the X5 engine to my original Range Rover”.
Chris isnít sure where to go from here. His misfiring Range Rover is proving tricky to fix, while his back-up car has proved less reliable than the first. Says Chris: ìIíd really like a Range Rover with the 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, as it has more torque and would be even better suited to towing a heavy trailer. But that extra muscle will only put the gearbox under even greater pressure, so I would probably end up having to replace the transmission even more frequently. Iíd rather like a Toyota Land Cruiser from the early 1990s, with the 4.2-litre V8 diesel engine, but finding a good one isnít easy as theyíve all covered such massive mileages, or their owners are hanging onto themî.
From reading this you could be forgiven for thinking that Chrisís Range Rover has been nothing but a liability, but he doesnít feel that way at all. He concludes: ìThe Vogue has been cheap to run and reliable, considering the work it’s done, the miles itís covered, and its age. The SE hasnít been so dependable, but thatís at least in part down to the previous ownerís maintenance schedule ñ or lack of. ìThe Vogue has allowed me to set up a business, generally confident that it wonít let me down, even if it hasnít been faultless. The car has taken me to many beautiful, remote locations around the UK and mainland Europe, while the Range Rover brand fits in perfectly with the expectations of my clients, many of whom own valuable supercars. Over the past five years the Range Rover has been my office, providing warmth, luxury and comfort, with ever changing views through the windows. It may not be indestructible, but thereís no tow car that can match the Range Roverís image, feel-good factor or sense of occasion.î
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