The LIT­TLE ZUK THAT COULD

Pay­ing homage to a club icon

4WDrive - - Front Page - WORDS AND PHOTOS BY BUDD STANLEY

Every club has one… no not the ob­nox­iously loud mem­ber that just won’t shut their mouth… but an iconic 4WD that al­ways seems to lead the way.

The Too Far Off-Road club was once com­pletely made up of Suzukis, mostly Sa­mu­rais with the odd Side­kick thrown in for good mea­sure. When I joined this Van­cou­ver-based col­lec­tion of small-4WD wheel­ers back in 2007, there were still quite a few some­what un­mo­lested Sa­mu­rais run­ning around - one in par­tic­u­lar had just been given a com­plete over­haul. De­spite hav­ing quite a few bat­tle scars al­ready pressed into the body, the yel­low Sa­mu­rai of Ingo Blu­dau was the clean­est ded­i­cated off-roader as one could find.

Fast for­ward ten years and the lit­tle yel­low Sami looks noth­ing like it once did. It has been over on its roof on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions and fallen on its side more times than the vil­lage drunk. The re­sult is a body that is slowly try­ing to turn it­self into a sphere, as a straight body­line is nowhere to be seen. The driv­e­train has to be con­stantly drained of mud, the en­gine some­how keeps start­ing af­ter con­stant vis­cous abuse and the metal fa­tigue has ren­dered the steel into a doughy sub­stance that we can only as­sume is be­ing held to­gether by some kind of witch­craft.

It was sup­posed to be re­tired years ago, dubbed a ve­hi­cle that only the builder could know how to drive, it has a main­te­nance-to-op­er­a­tion ra­tio reach­ing that of a Sea King he­li­copter – for every hour on the trail, it re­quires 30-hours in the shop to keep it alive.

De­spite all this, the mighty yel­low Zuk in all its de­com­pos­ing glory, did what no one thought was pos­si­ble. It saved sev­eral Land Rover Range Rovers stuck deep in the BC wilder­ness.

It was the Land Rover Range Rover that was the first ve­hi­cle to cross the Darien Gap, al­beit, with an army of ex­pe­di­tion mem­bers lit­er­ally car­ry­ing it from North to South Amer­ica. How­ever, the rain­forests of the BC coast did its own num­ber on a cou­ple of Ran­g­ies dur­ing the North West Chal­lenge, an off-road event held be­tween BC, Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon Land Rover clubs, each tak­ing turns host­ing the event every third year. 2016 would be BC’s turn, and the lo­cals sur­prised the Yanks with a trail that caught them of­f­guard. The re­sult saw a cou­ple Ran­g­ies stuck high in the moun­tains with a cou­ple bro­ken drive­shafts, bro­ken winches and other mis­cel­la­neous is­sues that would make a return to a tar­mac road all but im­pos­si­ble.

En­ter the yel­low Zuk. Be­ing used as a mar­shal ve­hi­cle high up the moun­tain, the Zuk would pro­vide winch­ing as­sis­tance to the Land Rovers over the cour­ses’ hard­est ter­rain – if so needed. With the two Range Rovers mak­ing a gal­lant ef­fort to make it to the top of the moun­tain, the loss of winch­ing and 4WD abil­i­ties called the Zuk to ac­tion.

Pilot­ing his ma­chine with the skill you can only get through years of in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence with a sin­gle ve­hi­cle, Blu­dau and his tired lit­tle yel­low Zuk not only got one Range Rover off the moun­tain through ex­tremely dif­fi­cult ter­rain, but got the sec­ond half way down as well. To watch the lit­tle Zuk tug and pull the gi­ant Range Rovers in and out of every po­si­tion was not just com­i­cal to watch (like watch­ing a mouse pull an ele­phant out of the mud), but know­ing the his­tory of the Sami, made it just down­right magic. Run­ning winch lines to pull the Rovers over ob­sta­cles, tow­ing them through washouts and over ledges, the work of the Zuk nearly out­shone the North­west Chal­lenge it­self.

With an epic day of wheel­ing and re­cov­ery, we had to pay homage to this wheel­ing won­der, the Zuk that just won’t die and keeps rolling when all around it fall. It might be bat­tered, bruised, smok­ing and nearly un­rec­og­niz­able as a Sa­mu­rai any­more, but this ve­hi­cle be­longs in a Hall of Fame with a medal.

With the aid of many club mem­bers, the lit­tle yel­low Zuk tugged two large Range Rovers out of ex­tremely chal­leng­ing ter­rain.

Some­where deep in the rain­for­est, a Land Rover is in need of a help­ing hand.

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