So, you bought a race car. Congratulations! Let me guess: you tossed out the blinker stalks to save weight, and now you can't drive it on public roads anymore? Gotcha. We at Black Flag are here to help.
People say that there's a natural progression for track nuts. You start off with a car that's sort of fun, so you take it to a race track. It's daily-driven, because that's what you have. That gets traded off for nicer, more track-oriented cars throughout the years. Sometimes the track vehicle is a second car. Other times, it's a replacement for your only car. Finally, after years of winning your HPDEs, you get a full-on racecar, and you trade that nice, sporty daily driver in for a truck you probably sort of hate, but have to have.
(Either that or you dive straight into the stupid end, buy a crapcan and figure you'll just store it at the track until you absolutely have to move it. Oops.)
Example in the wild; Towbeastus Maximus
Consider this the truck absolutely no counterpart to our awesome Truck Yeah! sub-blog. Tow vehicles aren't the trucks that track dorks necessarily want. They're the trucks we need.
I have a race car because that's the kind of vehicle that I like to drive. I am most comfortable in a vehicle that's only as high off the ground as it needs to be, with a low, hard to flip center of gravity. That's not a truck. I like my vehicles to be quick and maneuverable. That, also, is not a truck.
So, if I'm going to be stuck in a big, unwieldy thing that floats high above all God's creatures big and small, it better have every comfort-oriented bell and whistle imaginable packed inside its cabin, and tow so hard that I don't even notice there's a trailer behind me.
Anything that makes life more comfortable after driving a car that's as stripped-down as I can stand is a huge bonus.
Welcome to Black Flag's tow vehicle reviews. We'll skip right to the part that matters: how comfortably does this thing haul my toy from point A to point B?
To start, we've got one of the most comfortable couches-on-wheels I've ever encountered: the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 High Country.
(Full disclosure: We're not entirely sure GM wanted to see anything in their test fleet pulling a 944 that leaves a continuous trail of oil and coolant behind it, but they loaned it to us anyway.)
Somehow, this truck feels more stable with a trailer attached. Without a trailer, you could film an entire episode of "Ow, My Balls" in this truck on any number of bumpy two-lane country roads. With a trailer, it settles down a bit. I'd imagine this is how a proper tow vehicle is supposed to feel with 5,100 lbs of crap dangling off its back bumper.
As tested, we used a rather heavy ex-U-Haul open steel car hauler and the only race car to have ever disproven the Jalopnik bump: my perennially busted 1984 Porsche 944.
We picked up the car at Harris Hill Road in San Marcos, took it to a Porsche Club of America track day at Texas World Speedway in College Station. People think of College Station as "not that far," but it's still a good two-hour trip to get there. In a car, it doesn't suck. Towing on those bumpy speedtrap roads, however, absolutely sucks.
This Silverado, however, wasn't bad. Yes, you could feel yourself bouncing into space if you hit a particularly severe bump at [slightly over, oops] speed. No, you (as a general rule of towing) should not do that. Drive like a person that's dragging your favorite toy behind you and you'll be fine.
For one or two people, absolutely. Load up the back with all the heavy stuff that can be outdoors and fill up the backseat with everything else. The interior of this car is bigger than the interior of a modern compact sedan.
I was able to turn the backseat of this truck into a magical crapslosion with one person's worth of basic trackday tools, smelly gear, extra fluids and half-opened duffel bags—with room to spare.
The bed is ginormous, with room for all four of my spare tires, the trailer's spare and who knows what else I could've put back there. I'm pretty sure my entire living room would fit back here. It's cleaner and bigger than my kitchen, that's for sure. Plus, I'd like spending time in this truck bed way better than I do my gross kitchen.
You could easily, comfortably sleep in the back seat if you had to. You could also fit five full-sized adults in comfort to fetch a mid-day burrito.
Better yet, you could tell those people to get their own stupid track vehicle and use the space to bring more parts.
This is one of my biggest beefs with tow vehicles. I, all 5' 4" of angry little person, am an appropriate size for most race cars. I fit in an Elise pretty easily and comfortably, which is not something that those of you who have to mount Miata seats to the floor can typically say.
Trucks, not so much.
Most vehicles designed to tow a race car, however, are built for the 6', 450 lbs of 'Murican. I usually have trouble simply reaching the pedals no matter how much I move the seat forward and tinker with the pedal box.
Whoever designed the interior of the F-series Fords, for example, decided that "in the air" is the perfect place for a pedal box. If you've got size 12 feet and long enough legs, that's no big deal. You can still rest your heel on the floor and press down a pedal. Size 6.5 girly feet means that you're going to spend a couple hours holding your foot in the air if you want to actually use any of those pedals. It's a miserable experience.
The Silverado, however, is a different story. I can reach the pedals. I have to put the seat down pretty far, but by golly, I can reach the pedals.
There are so many little steps to reach up into the truck, too, that it's like they knew the High Country would be used by little race car people. There's a step to get into the cab. There's a step on the side of the bumper to easily hop into the bed in addition to the usual shorter step in the middle of the bumper below the license plate. This means that even if you have the tailgate down, it's easy to hop up into the truck.
There are handles to pull you inside, too. Big, meaty structural handles, unlike the flimsy bolted on ones that a passenger once yanked out of the roof of my Lancer. (Oops.)
This makes me happy. Very, very happy. It's a truck that I don't completely loathe to drive or hop around. Little people everywhere, rejoice.
This huge truck feels 1000% smaller to drive than it actually is. When you're in a giant vehicle, you usually have to pick a landmark somewhere on the vehicle to tell where the edge of the truck is.
This was easy enough to tell where the edge of the vehicle was by lining up the crease in the bulge in the hood with the line in the road to stay in my lane, plus I was able to look back using the split mirror to make sure my trailer wasn't drifting out of line. The top of the mirror is normal, but the bottom is a nice, convex mirror.
Sometimes it's hard to see around the mirror to turn a corner, but man, is it ever fabulous to have those giganto-mirrors when you're backing up or trying to figure out where your trailer is. Folding the mirrors in doesn't really help with seeing around a corner, either, as then they just directly block the window itself. Oh well.
Worried about the cost of diesel? I only had to fill this truck up once, after having puttered between Austin and San Marcos (about a thirty minute trip each way) for a couple days and made it all the way to College Station. I filled it up with just over an eighth of a tank left on my way out of town, after having commuted between Texas World Speedway and a friend's place in Bryan all weekend. Sure, it'll take you $90 to fill it up, but you can fart around all week and tow a two-hour trip with that amount of fuel. The fuel economy out of this truck's 6.6L turbodiesel V8 was shockingly good.
I decided to give the truck a real test of its usability all week: how was it to daily drive? After all, this is how many track vehicles spend many of their days. Was it too big to double as a daily conveyance?
It was ridiculous, but manageable. Sure, it sticks out about half a bed's length from most tiny parking places, and I couldn't fit it in my carport at all, but otherwise, it was fine. It's narrower than a dually, which makes it infinitely more practical on tight city streets.
Everything about this truck and trailer was heavy, but the truck's hill start assist feature worked seamlessly and kept me from giving the poor soul behind me a face full of race car on steeper hills.
Braking for quick, stop and go situations can feel a bit hairy, as the pedal is quite soft and has a lot of weight to stop. In normal, unclogged traffic, though, it's fine.
I got a real test of its abilities when I ran late getting out of College Station, though: the Urban Race Car Parking Test.
You see, the track in San Marcos where the 944 lives closes at 6:00. Another early 944 driver had some problems with his car, so I ended up farting around Texas World Speedway until 5:00 or so, plus I still wanted a burrito. I ended up leaving closer to 6:30 and, uh, oops.
I was stuck trying to park it near an undisclosed location in Central Austin. Luckily, I found a street parking spot with relative ease considering that I was taking up approximately three normal cars' length worth of space. I took all my spare parts in, locked everything away, covered the car, and called it a night.
I awoke to a rather significant problem: the University of Texas is in session, and kids park all along this particular street during the day instead of ponying up for a parking pass.
I was boxed in.
I unwrapped my race car and used the rear-view camera to estimate the few feet of distance I could move backwards, inching ever so carefully back, looking to see that the trailer wasn't bending close to the car behind me, and going back to inch some more. Finally, it looked like I might be able to just wedge my nose out of the spot in one tight angled turn without hitting anyone else's car.
At this point, I had wished it would give me a front camera view, but nope. If you're going forwards, the truck assumes you know where you're putting it.
Unconfident in my mad parking skillz, I waved down a random pedestrian to check out the front of the truck as I pulled out. The same proximity which doomed me to parallel parking a massive truck and race car trailer was also my savior. Sure enough, he said I had room to bend out, so I was able to nose my way out of there, easy peasy.
My only major driving grievance throughout all of it was that there's no way to turn off the auto-dimming rear-view mirror. I like seeing what's behind me as opposed to noticing a couple of random lights back there. There should at least be a button to turn that hot mess off for we merry luddites who like to see exactly what's lighting up the outline of a 944 behind us.
Overall? I have found a tow vehicle I don't hate to drive. Excellent. I don't think I'd daily drive it per se because of its extra-large size, but it's not as terrible as a daily driver as I thought it would be. Plus, you get to look down on every bro-truck fratmobile and smile knowing that yours is bigger.
Everything is leather, which I'm sure I'd hate in the summer here when leather turns to molten lava. Since our track season fires up more in the fall, winter and spring, though, I could easily live with the miles of soft, supple chocolate brown in this interior. It's a great color for a tow vehicle interior—the color of dirt—and besides, leather is easier to wipe track stand sloppy joe dribbles off of than cloth.
Best of all, the seats are both heated and air conditioned. My back is borked 99.99999999% of the time, and heat helps. It helps a lot. As soft as the 944's suspension is, I'm still in a larger seat there than I'd really want because it's a shared car, and my back and shoulders get tired from being pressed against that minimally padded surface for a long period of time by a set of belts and a Hans device.
After I'm done for the session, I usually just want a back rub and a nap. Since most tracks don't employ a random masseuse, a heated seat is the next best thing.
If you do get roped into carrying passengers, there's even a DVD player in the rear. This drop-down screen also picked up any videos I had going on my phone whenever my phone was plugged in to the truck. That's fine and well whenever you're trying to watch a YouTube video of angry drivers kicking each other in the balls on a bigger screen, but not so great when you're trying to goof off between run groups and take advantage of the heated seats up in the front.
The radio system was easy to use and could have presets from anything. Want to flip back and forth between KUTX on terrestrial FM and First Wave on XM in your presets? You can here. It's kind of neat. The Bose audio system's sound quality was probably the best I've had in a truck. It's pretty decent, but still having to compensate for being the sound system in a big, relatively noisy rectangular-shaped box. It's not the über-amazing Bang & Olufsen system Audi sticks in the A7, but it'll cover the loud turbodiesel up front with MORE LOUD just fine.
There are a lot of buttons, as there should be, dadgummit. Buttons to light up the side or rear of the truck to help you park. Buttons on the steering wheel for basic controls, such as cruise control and radio presets. Buttons for the HVAC system. Buttons for lane and parking assists.
With so many buttons, though, I wonder why they felt the need to cover up so many of the plugs with flimsy plastic covers.
I like buttons. They are function over form in the best way possible. You can often just feel your way to the button or knob you need without having to take your eyes off the road.
Not so with the plugs in this car. They're tucked away under plastic covers, and finding the ones you need is an Easter egg hunt unto itself.
The cover for the trailer power plug even snapped off in our test machine. Now, I understand the need to shelter a plug on the outside of the truck from the elements. I don't understand why it's only held on by two little plastic bits.
This truck is one of the largest things I've ever driven, next to an F-35o dually. Unlike the dually, it's narrow enough to be mostly usable on tiny city streets.
Make no bones about it, though, this is still a truck so large that the Chevrolet bowtie is the size of a Puffalump bunny rabbit—and then it just looks proportional given the size of the rest of the truck.
This is a truck that is unabashedly gigantic. Even its exhaust pipe is gigantic, yet because the rest of the truck is so big, it's far larger than your average Civic fartcan, but barely noticeable at all.
Those of you who need to haul less or who need a smaller dual-purpose vehicle to daily drive probably won't fall in love with this. It's too big.
That being said, the ease of towing with a truck this huge is so much better than with a smaller truck. It's made for the purpose of hauling a butt-ton of stuff, and that's what it does well.
I stuffed it with well over 5,300 lbs of assorted junk both inside, in the bed and on the trailer, and it barely made a difference. I only had to use the "tow" setting on the stalk that boosts the engine RPM a handful of times, on very steep hills.
I got remarks all weekend long about how funny it was to see little ol' me climb in and out of a truck this huge. It will dwarf you, even if you're not made to fit in a Lotus.
This truck is huge. If you're the kind of person who needs to take every spare in multiples, a pop-up large enough to camp in, enough chairs for the entire paddock and your car, it's perfect.
Engine: Duramax 6.6L V8 Turbo Diesel
Power: 397 horsepower /765 ft-lbs of torque
Transmission: Allison 6-Speed Automatic
Tow Rating: 10,000 lbs (GVW) / 13,000 lbs (conventional trailer) / 17,500 lbs (5th wheel)
Drivetrain: 4WD [FYI: you turn this off for towing. Always tow in 2WD mode unless you want to eat your drivetrain.]
Curb Weight: 7,384 lbs
Seating: 5 full-size 'Muricans. This truck is 'Murica. 'Murica made this truck big.
MPG: Unlisted; close to 15-20 MPG as tested.
MSRP: $66,095 as tested