New Support Car

By Chris Clinton from Toe Clips Winter 94

loadcar1.jpgThe mileage on the Sachs support car is reading 110,000+ and the abuse it received has started to show in the upkeep costs. So it is time to retire this support car and acquire another. But what do we acquire? Should it be replaced with a newer model or a totally different vehicle?

The following is a summary on my research on support vehicles and which aspects helped me choose the new Sachs support mobile. It begins by determining what the Sachs support vehicle will be used for and what is required in each case. The report then compares the current vehicle to the list of requirements and narrows down the list of possible future Sachs support vehicles. The report ends by comparing the attributes of the remaining vehicles and deciding which vehicle to purchase.

There are two primary functions of the Sachs car: race support and transportation of people and equipment to events. As a support car it should:

  • have good brakes for quick stops,
  • get up to speed quickly,
  • handle corners well at high speed,
  • be either front or four wheel drive,
  • have a gas tank large enough to get to and through a race,
  • have a suspension system that combats bottom-out w/o bucking passengers,
  • be comfortable for long periods of use,
  • have a cargo area large enough for spare equipment,
  • have ample space on the roof for spare equipment,
  • have access to the riders and roof mounted equipment through the window,
  • be short enough for most people to reach the equipment stored on top yet not so short that it sacrifices ground clearance,
  • and have an automatic transmission that will allow it to drive for long periods of time at low speeds and not die due to multiple starts and stops.

As a transportation device the support car should:

  • have a large cargo area,
  • be comfortable for the long drives,
  • have an engine that can work with heavy loads over the long hauls,
  • have a large tank for fewer refueling stops,
  • get good gas mileage,
  • have a good quality stereo with either a tape deck or CD player,
  • and an air conditioner for the long hauls through the middle of nowhere.

The final two requirements of a Sachs support vehicle are a white exterior and a price below $25,000.

The current Sachs support car is a four cylinder automatic, Dodge Colt Vista Wagon. The cargo area is mediocre, the 10.5 gallon tank is too small and heavy loads do a number on the gas mileage. However, this car is very comfortable, the roof height meets the reach of five-two mechanics, it rarely bottoms-out and it handles fairly well. I have been very happy with the rear windows that roll all the way down and are big enough for a 700c wheel to fit through. I have also been happy with the seats in this car as they allow a person to walk out rather than climb out of the car.

So, in looking for a new vehicle, I need something with a more powerful engine (at least a 6 cylinder), a larger gas tank and a larger cargo area. The need for a larger cargo space rules out pick-up trucks and most cars from the list. This need also scratches out the Saturn wagon and Toyota Corolla. The vehicles with the largest cargo space were vans, mini-vans, and utility vehicles, all of which were dropped from the list due to their lack of bicycle accessibility. The mechanics in this vehicle need to access bikes quickly during a race. The Chevrolet wagon had the next largest storage space yet was ignored since its girth slowed maneuverability.

The next attribute was price which ruled out anything made by Mercedes, BMW, or Volvo. This also ruled out the Mitsubishi Diamanti wagon. This left the following mid prices, mid sized wagons: Volkswagon Passat GLX, Toyota Camry LE, Suburu Legacy, Honda Accord EX, and Ford Taurus wagon. Below I have compiled a small list of the attributes of these cars. This information came from the consumer catalogs for each car and from the September `94 issue of Consumer Reports.


The first car to be dropped from the list was the Accord due to its four-cylinder engine and small cargo space. The Legacy had the tallest roof (34.5in) and a small cargo area so it was next to go. The third to go was the Taurus due the size of the gas tank, the mileage per gallon, cargo space and the bad experiences some support programs have had with the transmission. The final clincher was the cargo space, quick acceleration, gas mileage and positive reviews from tests performed by Consumer Reports magazine on the Toyota Camry wagon.

I have chosen the Camry, not as the best support car, but as the car that best fits the requirements of a Sachs support vehicle. When looking for a support mobile, someone else may consider such aspects as upholstery, airbags, and antennae placement. The ones listed above were the ones that I thought were important.

After choosing the car comes the task of selecting the option. I favor normal brakes over ABS due to their quicker, complete stop and chose to omit the optional third seat to allow room for a spare tire and product literature. The new Sachs car will also have alloy rims, a moonroof, heavy-duty suspension and a top quality stereo system. I have also found that alloy rims are less likely to crack when hitting a ditch at high speeds and a better suspension helps offset the ground clearance when the car is fully packed.

This was written during a project in early `95.


Owner of and long time professional race mechanic.