My 4×4’s

I started off, by chance, owning my first 4×4. It was a 1976 Suzuki LJ50 2-stroke. What marvelous little machines they were. When I bought this one we were living on the Gold Coast and every available minute I was out along from Main Beach running up and over the dunes. Then we moved back to Darwin in late ’77 and we joined the Suzuki Club where I became known as a fearless driver and tough mud competitor. Of course I had to make modifications and the blue trunk on the back was my water tight storage box for camping gear.My first day out with the club and following the club president Mal Stewart and I said “Must I go down there?” looking at a narrow and deep, dry creek bed. But I soon learned what the Suzuki was capable of. They had two quirky things. When you were driving with water over the bonnet you had to slide a metal plate between the fan and the radiator so what when the plastic blades of the fan suck forward the don’t damage the core of the radiator. The Suzuki only had a 40 litre petrol tank and it sat a bit low to the ground and inevitable you would bounce over a rock and put a dent in it which in turn would block off the fuel supply. So then out in the bush you would disconnect the main pipe of the fuel tank which was under the bonnet, connect a pipe to it and connect that pipe to your air compressor, then make sure your fuel tank inlet is sealed and with compressed air, blow the tank back to its original size.

Offroading

Off-roading

Next was a 1978 Suzuki LJ50  Hardtop which was also a great little car being a 2 stroke and I had more adventures with it

Willie and 1977 Suzuki

But new 4×4’s were in the offing and I was earning good money in the government and as the new four stroke Suzuki arrived in Darwin I grabbed one

The LJ 80. We kept this car pretty much standard as I sold my car and bought the Suzuki Ute LJ 81 which I tricked up with a white canopy, exhaust behind the cab like a Kenworth, Bullbar and spotties. I also landed consecutive numberplates NT 367 and NT  368

Red Suzuki LJ 80

And the LJ 81

Suzuki Ute LJ 81

The little ute did many memorable trips into Kakadu and other Territory iconic place in the late 1970’s. I did a trip to Sydney via Birdsville, Melbourne and Sydney to collect my brother Bernie   from the Airport and drive him to Darwin via Charters Towers and the Gulf Country. I don’t remember too much of the trip as we were fairly pissed each day.

In 1980 I quit the government job and started my own tourist business and traded my Suzuki Ute in on a Datsun Patrol 7 seater running 3 day tours into Kakadu and occasionally 1 day tour to Twin Falls. That was a Big day but I charged a bit for that.

1981 Datsun Patrol 7 seater

While all this was happening, we bought a 20 acre block at Bees Creek and built basic house. Our lives started to run off the rails. To correct this I wound my business up and found a job on Kununurra working for Susan Bradlet, The Queen of the Kimberly. A bloke we knew was nagging us to sell our place and eventually we agreed. We agreed on a price and I wrote a binding contract out on the back of a packet of 30 cigarettes (the purchasers smoked). They gave us some cash and a Pontiac and a Bedford truck and we loaded all our gear in all the vehicles and  took off to the west.

On the move to Kununurra

The next adventure away from Kununura was with a Ford F100 351ci  4×4 LWB which we had swapped for our Pontiac and Ford truck. The F100 had some grunt but was heavy on fuel and due to the chassis twisting when out in the bush, it was a useless 4×4 and the last straw came when we went down to Red Rock Beach in Broome for a sunset drink and it would not climb up the sand dune. I lost quite a bit of weight that night winching it out with a Tirfor manual winch.

F100 XLT 4×4 and caravan

After disposing of the F100 we were 4×4-less for a while and then we went overseas to South Africa in 1983 and bought a Suzuki LJ 10 there.

350 metre dune at Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

We had lots of adventures with that little car including driving the length and breadth of Namibia

1984 saw us back in Australia again. The rand had devalued against the dollar while we were away and by the time we bought a caravan there wasn’t  much left for a 4×4. So I bought an old Landrover station wagon and converted it into a ute.

Our travels took us back to Darwin where we searched for something to do but eventually gave up and took the long road in the wet season to Cairns in Queensland. There I met a new immigrant for Britain who was longing for something British and offered his Nissan Patrol G60 for the Landrover and he would pay all my transfer costs. So this was done. This Nissan still had the old 3-speed box so one could take off in 2nd gear up to 80kmh and then change to 3rd and cruising speed. 1st gear or Donkey Low was used for reversing or traversing when out in the bush.

We now had an employment opportunity in the Gulf country on a station that was  setting up a tourist venture. But didn’t work out as planned as I became very ill with asthma and had to see a doctor in Mount Isa. One thing led to another and we were on the road again. Just out side of Cloncurry the rear differential blew and was making awful grinding noises. I removed the rear drive-shaft and limped in to the Cloncurry caravan park driving on the front wheels only. The best option was to swap the Nissan for a car with a big engine and we took the road back to Darwin after see a doctor in Mount Isa.

We were soon both employed again and the money started rolling in and it wasn’t long before I bought a Daihatsu 1000 4×4 soft top. Being an avid artist with cars I hand painted it pink with a green roll cage. We had some wonderful escapades with this little 4×4 as I tricked it up with a new canopy and then sold it at a huge profit.

Now I needed another set of wheels as Judith had her own car in my name and so we bought the latest Suzuki 1300 High Roof in her name. This little car was a beauty and took us far and wide including an epic trip north south across the Simpson Desert, the Kimberly, Arnhem Land and other adventures

 

At the end of 1988 we wanted to go south to catch up with family in Victoria and the little Suzuki had done 105000km in the 3 years we had it. So we had it auctioned and had enough left over from the sale to goon holiday with.

 

In 1989 an opportunity came up to sell a car we had and to make a profit on it so we did and then we bought a Toyota Bundera 2.4lt petrol. It was not a good buy and we had to get rid of it and we lost money on that one. Judith had her own car but I was without wheels and was hoofing around on the busses. Then another opportunity came up to buy a Landrover    Series 3 for $1000.

I had a to give a friend of a friend a ride one day and he asked me if I would sell the Landrover to him. I said yes but I wanted $5000 for it. He said No way and he pestered me for more than I would care for and after some argy bargy I sold it to him for $2500. Now with cash in hand I went hunting the car yards in Darwin and eventually paid $2000 for a 1979 Toyota Landcruiser FJ 55 petrol with a 205litre fuel tank. It used to belong to the Electoral Commission. I bought the Landcruiser in 1990 and we had lots of real bush adventures and it tower our 27foot caravan all over the country as we attended markets and retail outlets to sell our handmade wares. We naamed her Gertie.

We did the Canning Stock Route in Gertie and many other desert and tropical jungle trips throughout the Northern Territory. Eventually after about 300,000km and 632,000km. she succumbed to rust and we sold her for $1000 and bought another car. We had hr 9 years.

We were still working and after a few months found ourselves in Gayndah when the car gave notice. We managed to sell the car and had a friend come up to collect us and the van to Bundaberg. It took me a week to find another 4×4 and this time it was a 1978 Nissan Patrol G60 petrol with a 5 speed Marks Conversion gearbox in it. We named her Rosie.We had her for 7 years.

The G60 was a Mid Wheelbase with a 3.9litre 6 cylinder engine. It went well and we did not have trouble with it apart from sagging springs. So I took it to a suspension mob on the Gold Coast and they mad it so stiff that it was a pain to drive. So it went back and they took a leaf out all round. We stopped travelling for a short time as we were tired of living on the road and we bought a cottage and we did not do much travelling for a couple of years. In 2004 we bought two cars. A 2003 model Nissan Xtrail and a 1994 Nissan Patrol GQ 4.2 diesel.In a moment of flux I gave Rosie to a young couple who were struggling to make ends meet.In hindsight it wasn’t such a good  idea as  I have  not seen  them for  years.

I did many trips in the GQ. In 2014 however I had to leave it in the Tanami Desert to be collected later but life got on the way and we only managed to get out there by May 2015 only to find my lovely old truck totally burnt out by a bushfire. Ruby had done 499,000km.

I was getting rid of cars and trailers and swapped 2 for 1. I kept the Landcruiser for a few months and then a mate bought it for his farm.

In the mean time Judith was enjoying her Xtrail aptly named Bubbles. These were the years when  her Mother was living in a care facility on the Gold Coast just over the border with Queensland in New South Wales. We did a number of trips there. The Xtrail had 3 recall notices including the Takata Airbag. What did go wrong was the left hand front wheelbearing which we replaced 3 times. Apart from that it was a great little car and we sold it at 190,000km

 

As I was now without wheels we decided to buy another 2nd hand car. The car below was another mistake as was the next one. The petrol/gas engined Nissan GQ was a terrible car that blew heads, not once but twice.

So in a bit od a rush we scrape our money together to buy a half decent car. Like one featured below. It was agood car mechanically but it had turbo problems to start with and then I noticed surface rust all over the engine and undercarriage.

We went north and George and I went and drove the Carson River Track together with Marla and Neil. On our return from Darwin we went back to the dealer and traded it in on a new Isuzu MUX. This car has proved its worth towing caravan for thousands of kilometres. It also is a really good Four Wheel Drive although I have no idea how this modern technology works.

But I didn’t have my own car and after looking around for some months I found this one below. He is called Snowy and performed very well in the High Country

But due to my health I am not doing long bush trips anymore. I drive the Datto to the Men’s Shed on Wednesdays for now. Have no ideas of other vehicles.

Now don’t get me started on the cars we have had !

Posted in 4x4 Travel Stories.