David Mor­ley

“I HAVEN’T GONE OFF PER­FOR­MANCE CARS, BUT IF YOU WANT A DIF­FER­ENT KIND OF CHAL­LENGE, TRY PROPER OFF-ROAD­ING”

Motor (Australia) - - HOT SOURCE -

IF YOU WANT TO SEE peo­ple in love with their cars, don’t waste your time at a race cir­cuit, or a con­course show, or the drags, or even the lo­cal cruis­ing strip on a Fri­day night. Be­cause in those places you will only (and I’m gen­er­al­is­ing, of course) see men in love with their cars. To see Mr and Mrs and even the whole tribe of kids wor­ship­ping their wheels, you need to head a long way from the traf­fic lights and su­per­mar­kets. I speak of the out­back.

As I write this, I’m some­where in the trop­ics, hav­ing just started to head south af­ter a trip to the very tip of this wide and – as it turns out – tall land. A month liv­ing in a tent in a dif­fer­ent spot most nights has given me sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clud­ing never wear­ing shoes, grow­ing a beard and ac­tu­ally hav­ing real con­ver­sa­tions with real peo­ple. And it has also given me the chance to re­ally bond with my ve­hi­cle, learn­ing its ways and grow­ing to trust and ad­mire it. Just as you never re­ally know a per­son un­til you’ve been locked up with them, hang­ing off a muddy cliff face and pray­ing to the off-road gods that the cen­tre diff lock has ac­tu­ally en­gaged will al­ways broaden the re­la­tion­ship with yer truck. No, I haven’t gone off hard­core per­for­mance cars, but if you want a dif­fer­ent kind of chal­lenge at the wheel, try proper off-road­ing.

Any­way here’s the weird bit. The Speaker of the House (I’m in charge of ac­com­mo­da­tion each night; she’s ca­ter­ing of­fi­cer) has also fallen for old Har­vey (the Mor­ley fam­ily fourbee). Now, to il­lus­trate what a red-let­ter day that rep­re­sents, I should point out that The Speaker has other­wise zero in­ter­est in any­thing with wheels or an in­ter­nal­com­bus­tion en­gine. Frankly, she wouldn’t know a hand­brake ca­ble from a hippo, which may well turn out to be a prob­lem if she’s ever on sa­fari in Africa, but hasn’t both­ered her yet. (She is also more likely to turn up in Kenya than at a Repco.)

But this past month of hav­ing Har­vey trans­port us from the very bot­tom of the coun­try to the very top and hav­ing him show us the re­mark­able­ness of things like pris­tine swim­ming holes, the Old Tele­graph Track and, of course, the tip of Cape York, has seen her soften her ig­no­rance. Sud­denly, she is see­ing cars through the same prism as I al­ways have; as de­vices to take you to see im­pres­sive stuff. Well, she’s see­ing Har­vey that way, any­how; I still have a long way to go to get her on board with the Monaro. But you know what? That’ll do me.

Okay, so you could get to the very tip of the cape in a con­ven­tional sedan (al­though there might not be much of it left by the time you got home) but for the best swim­ming holes, camp sites and the Old Tele Track you need a proper off-road four-wheel drive. And I don’t mean an SUV with a Haldex diff and a Conargo Pub sticker on the back win­dow.

Mind you, nei­ther do you ap­pear to re­quire the lat­est, high-tech of­froader com­plete with a year’s wages worth of af­ter­mar­ket gear bolted on and a set of stupidly bul­bous mud tyres. And Har­vey is proof of that.

So what is Har­vey? Well, he’s a 1990 Toy­ota LandCruiser with a non­tur­bocharged, non com­mon-rail diesel en­gine, a man­ual gear­box, stan­dard ride height but good sus­pen­sion, the best fridge I could buy in the back, qual­ity all-ter­rain tyres, plenty of driv­ing lights and a roof rack that car­ries an extra spare tyre, a set of trac­tion mats, the LPG gas bot­tle (for cook­ing) and a shovel (for af­ter­wards). The only elec­tron­ics are in the stereo head unit.

Har­vey is hardly the quiet type (and the snorkel places the diesel in­take grum­bles right at ear level) and al­though his ride qual­ity is av­er­age, it’s still bet­ter than the cur­rent crop of dual-cab utes even with their three decades of de­vel­op­ment over ol’ Harves. He is hardly a swift mover – I could run faster – but for the real rough stuff (which is why I bought him) he has the gear­ing and the ticker to get her done. And more than that, he has con­vinced The Speaker that some cars are ac­tu­ally worth more than the fuel that goes into them. And for that, I thank him.

Mind you, the leop­ard never re­ally changes its spots, and Har­vey will never be con­sid­ered per­fect. Al­though, if I can fig­ure out how to in­stall a dish­washer in the glove­box, ap­par­ently, he’ll be one step closer.

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