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The Artful Bodger 4 - Eastern Promise, Western Woe

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Toyota Town Ace

The Artful Bodger 4 - Eastern Promise, Western Woe

Stan Potter
December 8, 2013

Toyota Town Ace
Stan Potter writes: I came up through the ranks of caravan owners. I started with a tent progressed to a frame tent, larger frame tent, trailer tent, motor caravan, small old caravan and finally to a fairly modern van with all mod cons (hot & cold running water, flush toilet and blown air central heating). Then we decided we needed a different tow car.

I looked around and saw a Toyota Town Ace Royal Lounge advertised. The specification looked perfect. 2.0L turbo diesel, selectable 4wd, 3 speed auto gearbox with overdrive, separate air con to front and rear compartments, six captain’s chairs (mum, dad, two kids + two friends + dog). This was a Grey Import not sold in the UK. In its homeland, cars over ten years old are not allowed.

Since Japan is one of the few countries that drive on the left, there are many low mileage ten year old cars looking for a new home. The Town Ace was one of them. It was exactly 10 years old, Low mileage, very clean, and with a full service history (in Japanese). At £4000 it looked like a very good deal so I purchased it.

I drove the car solo for some time. Its progress could be best described as majestic. I hitched it up to the caravan and the car seemed not to notice the added weight. It appeared to be the perfect tow car. But unknown to me the car had an inbuilt problem. The coolant level was simple to check by the plastic overflow tank which was easily seen, but this relied on a perfect seal on the radiator cap. If it did not seal, you got a falsely high reading in the tank. I did not know this as no maintenance or service literature was available in anything except Japanese or Russian.

I hitched up the caravan and we set off on holiday towards Wales. We got onto the M25 and cruised along at a steady 55-60 mph the car running fine. As we approached the first tunnel the engine seemed to lose power and my wife, in the front passenger seat (virtually on top of the engine), said “It’s getting awfully warm here”. As the temperature gauge was still reading normal I thought it was the result of the gradient. The engine continued to lose power until we were forced to pull onto the hard shoulder. I called the AA they responded promptly and decided it was not a roadside repair and called a van to take first the car and passengers off the motorway.

Then the van was taken to a place where they could be safely loaded onto a lorry to carry the car and tow the van back to our home. The cylinder head had partially melted!! It was total scrap. I discovered that the engine was called a Toyota 2ct and was fitted to other Toyota products. I found a cylinder head (on Ebay) in East London and purchased it. The kids still wanted to go on holiday so thoughts of engine rebuilds had to be put to one side. I searched the local paper for a cheap car that would tow the caravan and had a tow bar fitted. That is another sad story. Between the front seats of the Toyota was a small hatch that gave access to the radiator cap, engine and gearbox dip sticks and oil filler cap. To gain reasonable room to work on the engine involved removing both front seats and a panel held in place by fourteen bolts.

Then standing outside of the car and leaning at full stretch over the wheel arch you could just reach the engine. As the replacement head came off a running motor I just replaced the US unit directly. Hoping that the torque settings I had found on the web for the 2ct motor were near enough. Also I found that the diesel Town Ace is fitted with two radiators, one vertical, one horizontal, so Toyota had obviously had a problem with the diesel overheating as the petrol engine has only one. On my car the lower radiator had a severe sludge problem which resulted in a re-core to try and solve my problems. I now had lost confidence in the car and sold it on fairly soon afterwards. I was contacted by the Police as the last registered owner of the car as it had been stopped with no tax or insurance. Fortunately I was no longer the owner. Thank goodness it was no longer my problem.

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