4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - DEAN MEL­LOR

THE other day I waved good­bye to my Navara, and even though it didn’t quite sell for what I was hop­ing for, I did okay in the end. In the four years I had it, the Navara proved to be one of the most ver­sa­tile, re­li­able and eco­nom­i­cal ve­hi­cles I’d ever owned. It’s lit­tle won­der dual-cab utes are so pop­u­lar.

Be­fore I fit­ted the canopy, I used it to haul dirt bikes, take loads of rub­bish to the tip, and shuf­fle fur­ni­ture for mates (in ex­change for beer). It was also pretty handy off-road, with de­cent ground clear­ance and low-range re­duc­tion, as well as a very ef­fec­tive lim­ited-slip diff. And, after I’d fit­ted the canopy, some draw­ers and a fridge slide, it was trans­formed into a great fam­ily tourer.

Sure, it was a lot smaller and far less re­fined than to­day’s breed of 4x4 utes, but for our lit­tle fam­ily of three it worked a treat. Me­chan­i­cally, the Navara never missed a beat, and ser­vices were al­ways sub-$300. As for fuel con­sump­tion, the 2.5 CRD D22 av­er­aged a tad over 11.0L/100km.

When I de­cide to off­load a ve­hi­cle, I never look back un­til funds have ex­changed hands, but then I oc­ca­sion­ally ex­pe­ri­ence re­gret when said ve­hi­cle dis­ap­pears over the hori­zon. Many years ago I al­most shed a tear watch­ing my Se­ries IIA Landy being towed away; it had a cracked gear­box and var­i­ous other faults, and at the time I sim­ply didn’t have the cash to re­pair it. I was sim­i­larly up­set sev­eral years later when I sold my Se­ries III Landy, de­spite mak­ing a tidy profit on the ex-army beast after an en­joy­able three years of own­er­ship. It’s not just Landies. I felt a pang of re­gret when I sold a well set-up Nis­san Pathfinder many years ago called ‘Pathie’, and even when I off­loaded a Toy­ota Tow­nace I had imag­i­na­tively dubbed ‘Towny’.

But with the Navara? Noth­ing. The young bloke who took it off my hands was a diesel me­chanic and, after a close in­spec­tion and drive around the block, he said it was ex­actly what he was after and he was happy to pay the agreed price. There was no hag­gling, no point­ing out of mi­nor faults and no fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions. He just handed me an en­ve­lope full of cash in ex­change for the keys and the signed rego pa­pers, and off he went.

I didn’t bother to hang around and watch the Navara dis­ap­pear into the dis­tance. I just turned my back and walked away, think­ing how strange it was that this very com­pe­tent and cost-ef­fec­tive all-rounder failed to at all stir my emo­tions.

In ret­ro­spect, this was the very rea­son I sold it; ba­si­cally, I was bored with it. Like a fridge that keeps beer re­frig­er­ated, a toaster that toasts bread, or a wash­ing ma­chine that washes clothes, the Navara did ev­ery­thing it said on the box, but in such a way there sim­ply wasn’t any ex­cite­ment. This problem isn’t ex­clu­sive to my Navara; I have driven plenty of mod­ern 4x4s that are bril­liant in many ways, yet they fail to ex­cite.

Con­sider this: you jump in your new Toy­ota/ford/nis­san/vw/isuzu or what­ever, turn the key, check the cli­mate con­trol is set to 22.5°C, and you’re on your merry, com­fort­able way. Chances are it’ll have an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled auto ’box so you won’t have to shift gears, sta­bil­ity con­trol so you won’t bin it in the wet, 200 per cent bet­ter NVH sup­pres­sion than the pre­vi­ous model so you won’t have to hear or feel it, and smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity so you can chat to your mates.

Co­cooned in your mod­ern 4x4, safe from all the other ‘crazy’ road users, you’re in your own lit­tle ‘safe’ world. But the problem is there’s no en­gage­ment be­tween you and the ve­hi­cle or you and your sur­round­ings. The very things you used to like about driv­ing are now gone – no more gear changes, no more en­gine sounds, no more re­quire­ments for me­chan­i­cal sym­pa­thy, no more fo­cus on your sur­round­ings.

Sure, ev­ery­one wants a ve­hi­cle that’s go­ing to start when you want it to, and one that’s go­ing to go the dis­tance when you need it to. And if it’s also cheap to op­er­ate, that’s an added bonus. But if you con­sider your­self a mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­ast, then you’re go­ing to want more than just prac­ti­cal­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity to keep you happy. If you con­sider your­self a 4WD en­thu­si­ast, then you’re go­ing to want to es­cape the au­to­mo­tive co­coon and see, feel and breathe in your sur­round­ings.

That’s why I pre­fer rat­tly old ve­hi­cles to new ones; the kind where you have to shift gears your­self, take it easy in the wet so you don’t crash, put up with a deaf­en­ing me­chan­i­cal sound­track and out­ra­geous NVH lev­els, wipe the wind­screen with a cloth when the demis­ter fails to ful­fil its stated func­tion, put on a jumper when it’s cold, and crack open a win­dow or a flap when it’s hot.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind a new Rangie too… for the mis­sus.

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