Towing with a Gen 3, NM, 3.5L Montero...


While Expo is mostly about Overlanding, some of us like to take our base camp with us. My base camp hauls kayaks, mountain bikes, camping gear, etc. Everything is relative to our own experiences, so take this post with a grain of salt. My experience includes using my usual tow rig, an old-school '95 Ford Club Wagon Chateau package. Quite capable, with it's 5.8L V-8, but it's 2WD, big and heavy. Worst part for me is the E4OD trans and the 3.55 differential gears. Even with my fairly light trailer, the van is never in the right gear especially in the hills.

Adding insult to injury, even with Ford's trak-lok differential, it will get stuck if it gets within a few feet of wet grass, (even on dry pavement! ha.) Sadly for me, the few times this has happened around our place, my wife takes great joy in hooking up her 2WD Montero Sport Limited and happily pulling the van with, or without the trailer attached out of harm's way, Easy-Peasy.

Enough! I said, if the Aussies can tow big tandem axle caravans with their Montys all over the continent, why can't I do it here in the USA? Does everything require a Cummins diesel crew cab dual wheel tow rig? So I read, study, calculate, dream, even consider a U-Joint 4WD conversion for the van, (that'd be really cool, and really out of my budget). So everything looks good on paper, the Montero should be up to the task, but I'm losing 90 ft/lbs of torque going from V8 to V6, most other things being equal. We know we need torque to tow properly.

Well I found an OEM Montero receiver hitch, you can pickup my trailer hitch part of the story in this thread at post #34: Gen 3 Montero tow hitch

Here is my trip report. In short, I'm much happier pulling with the Montero over my big V8 Ford van. 4WD, 5-speed, gear ratio, all contribute to a great little tow rig. I went over 5 mountain passes this weekend, some pretty steep switchbacks, tossed in some Interstate highway time, and everything went off "without a hitch". By using the select shift, and keeping the rpms near our peak torque range of 3,500 rpms, the little Montero performed quite well, (relatively speaking). Today's modern V8s or turbo V6s with multi-speed transmissions will easily outperform the 3.5L, but up to a point, "fear not", pulling with your Montero. We were still at 90 degrees F, here in the Southeast this weekend, even near the top of the steepest grades, the temperature gauge never climbed, in fact I don't recall the clutch fan even kicking in, the electric fan(s) kept the temps under control, and I ran the A/C the whole way. Did get a slight hint of sway (easily corrected), when a tractor trailer came by me on a downhill curve on the Interstate, pretty sure he was running around 80 or so, I stayed 60-65 in manual 4th on the Interstate sections.

-Installed the necessary trailer brake controller in the ashtray slot:

-Found a 2" rise towball mount that had the 13" extended shank (pin to ball center), to clear the spare tire cover:

-Setup at camp, near Crossville, TN:

-Closeup of hitched setup. My trailer has a 20" hitchball height, the Montero hitch is 17" and of course there is some drop when hitched, not much though. Spare tire misses jack post when opened, door itself will hit the post, between license bracket and spare tire cover...redneck padding (in blue) installed the morning of the trip. Plenty of room to load and unload our two medium-sized dogs.

-Hooked up and ready to head back home:
Gas mileage? oh about the usual when you are pulling a barn door down the road behind you, 10-11 mpg, but I'm actually quite pleased considering climbing and crossing the Cumberland Plateau multiple times, and trying to occasionally keep up with the diesel-powered "Joneses" in the area. I had to really feed the squirrels under the hood some extra nuts every once in awhile but again compared to the lumbering van, it performed beyond my expectations. I'm pretty sure 'ol "Sudan Sam", (named for it's factory Sudan Beige Metallic paint color), has just earned the title of my go-to tow rig.

Let's see, my 7x16 cargo conversion trailer weighs 3,000lbs wet, 300-350 tongue weight (estimate). Most of the issue is wind drag, no solution for that, except slowing down, (no, a V-nose trailer really doesn't help, its the high profile and the flat back that kills us). Mine has standard axles for extra ground clearance, and 6" additional interior height over the 6' standard wall). The Aussies like to tow in 4th most of the time, I tried 5th on flat or slight downhill, it was pretty useless at speed, but drop it into 4th, rpms nearing 3K or so, you could actually creep up in speed when on the highway, and maintain speed even in the hills, within reason. Drop into 3rd near the top of the long passes, 2nd if things got tough or twisty, flip of the wrist and you are instantly back in the best gear for the task at hand.

For those interested in the trailer, our basic base camp, here's that story:
7x16 cargo conversion

Keep your rig serviced up and "game on".
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Nice to hear it went well. I've towed more frequently then I would have expected with all of my home depot runs (including a small tractor) and I've found the same thing. It just works, it's not flashy, it's not fast, but it works.

On the other side, I really need new springs, the little skid load about bottomed out the back of my rig....

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Nice write up. Never thought of a utility trailer for family camping, but of course makes a lot of sense. I can do without fancy (heavy) extras, just need a practical space. I thought maybe those v-nose trailers were the ticket. Guess not.


Nice write up. Never thought of a utility trailer for family camping, but of course makes a lot of sense. I can do without fancy (heavy) extras, just need a practical space. I thought maybe those v-nose trailers were the ticket. Guess not.
Thanks, I have to say, the cargo trailer conversion has been the single most enjoyable, versatile, and useful project ever for the dollar. Nearly everywhere we go, folks ask questions, "can we see it", is it comfortable", etc. The general consensus typically ends something like this "It is really all you need isn't it?". I get the impression folks might regret taking the whole house with them, including the "second mortgage" to pay while camping, just to impress,or keep up with the camping/"RVing" neighbors. The welded steel tubing frame, 16" on center walls, 24" ceiling makes it overbuilt vs most mass produced campers. I never worry about dragging it down a forest service road, or knocking around inside loading/unloading gear.

As far as I've read, the biggest benefit of the V-nose is the extra interior space gained for customization, which also takes away tongue space. I still think it must help a bit, in wind resistance, but nearly all reports and tests seem to indicate otherwise. Maybe any gains are offset by other issues, profile, flat back, width?
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