To: "Lorne Johnson" <>, <>
From: "Ricki Coughlan" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2006 10:00:07 +1100
I've watched this car debate thing with a great deal of chuckling. First, did all those trips in a 1966 HR Holden in the 1970's when the roads were considerably poorer, including the Mt Garnet to Normanton Road in 1978 (God, it was fantastic birding!). Also drove to Birdsville from Sydney in a HR Holden in 1979 and flew past heaps of stuggling 4WD vehicles between Quilpie and Birdsville. Recently conquered the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley in a 2001 conventional Mazda Bravo Ute, including first known conventional vehicle to go from Mornington Sanctuary campground to Dimond Gorge and return. I drove through a huge tract of deep sand on the Gibb by flooring the car as I came up to it (only saw it at the last moment) and then coasting through it - the wheel ruts were so deep that the bottom of the car was sliding on the sand and we became a 1 tonne sled for around 20 metres! We rolled out the other end and I looked at my passenger and we both just laughed (never put your foot down in sand). I've only ever had one small breakdown in the bush and we built a workshop in the scrub and then fixed our car on parts we scored from a guy in a pub who had a couple of old holdens out the back.
Drove all over the far western Kimberley for a year in a 1990ish Toyota Landcruiser Troopy and only used 4WD in deep mud or sand on a couple of occassions. Otherwise never. Actually, I got bogged in the troopy and it was too big to push out even if we had tried to dig or lay a brush track. 
Many subscribers to this list will no doubt be aware that people who are less experienced with outback driving will prefer a 4WD vehicle as a security thing or believing that the slightest bit of dirt requires the use of 4WD. The truth is soon revealed to these people once they get out and about a little. Some just don't want to risk digging or chopping and I can't say that I blame them. If you feel that way, you might want to go for a 4x4 if you're going onto deep sand or mud, but join a good 4x4 club and learn how to use the thing.
Generally if somebody tells me that I need a 4WD to go here or there I reply: "Red X rally, Gelignite Jack Murray, 1950's Peugeot and Vauxhall Viva". The fact is that Australia was opened up by people driving horses and carts and then T-Model Fords. Of course they had to be prepared to dig a little and lay tracks of brush over deep sand and mud, but it serves to illustrate the point that 4WD vehicles are only needed in real extremes. When I was Warden at the Broome Bird Observatory, which itself at the time had an incredibly corrugated 25km long sand driveway, a 1928 Chevrolet turned up! Yes, with wooden spokes! This person had driven that car from Adelaide including going up the Tanami Road! The owner claimed that the wooden spokes were ideal for dirt roads and in fact this is what most roads were in 1928.
I know that we're all very defensive about our choices of vehicles, so I'm probably going to offend everyone here. However, please spare me the Subaru Foresters, RAV 4's, BMW 4X4s, Mercedes 4X4s, Jackaroos, Jeeps and the like. You can keep them along with all of the other "highly polished" 4WDs that I (and probably many others) laugh at all day long on Sydney roads. Get a good ute and, if you're really worried about roads or keen to get into the mud and sand try a Toyota Hi-Lux 4x4 ute or crew cab or a Mazda Bravo 4x4 ute or crew cab and don't forget your bins and scope.
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