So you read all the 4WD magazines, frequent the lifestyle shows, and stay up-to-date with the latest advances in vehicle technology. You could spot an 80 Series ’Cruiser from a mile away, and can name almost all the fourbys on the road.
But how well could you, in the bush or the city, identify the features of the drivers of such vehicles?
The constant whine from a Patrol owner about solid axles, the cold calculated look of a Prado driver, or the fear of the HiLux driver who can’t find his own vehicle in a parking lot. How do you tell the difference between an FJ owner and a Jeep person? Help has arrived in the following paragraphs… so read on and see if this improves your identification rate of some common 4WDers.
Driver: GQ Patrol
The GQ owner loves his old car. He’ll harp on about how easy it is to fix in the bush and the days when they made ‘proper’ four-wheel drives. Secretly, he bought the GQ because it was the newest thing he could afford; and he would give an arm, leg or live axle to upgrade to something comfortable and with modern soundproofing. A ‘bang’ here or a ‘clunk’ there while rock crawling in low range is no cause for concern, as the GQ driver wouldn’t even hear if his gearbox crossmember was being gently removed by a large boulder. Certainly not after hours of blacktop driving with knobby tires and suspect door seals that whistle Beethoven’s 9th at any speed over 80 kays an hour – if the vehicle ever gets that fast. Everybody knows that Nissan’s running gear is indestructible anyway.
It’s not hard to come across a GQ or three these days: Most owners volunteer their weekends in State Forests, performing vital track maintenance with 35-inch tyres. The best way to positively identify a GQ owner is to direct a question at them. Any question, about anything whatsoever. If the reply comes back “Huh?” (or no reply at all), then you know you’re onto a fellow who’s hard of hearing and he’s most likely a Patrol driver.
Commonly found: Any State Forest during winter
A Prado driver lives by the three Ps: Practical, Precise… and Practical. Enormous factory fuel tank. Check. Diff locks. Check. Driving a Prado takes out the guesswork and almost guarantees you’ll get somewhere – in superb comfort too – unlike classic ‘roll the dice’ vehicles like Daihatsus or any Nissan. Future models will plan journeys for you (all the camping spots and lunches and dinners), so you just hop in and sleep the whole way. There’s no debating the merits of this excellent family vehicle, it’s just unfortunate the Prado only comes in two shades of character which are ‘not much’ and ‘none’.
Sneaking a look inside the glovebox will confirm you’re dealing with a hardened Prado driver. You should find a full and precise logbook, calculator, compass and theodolite. Can’t remember the name of that delicious meal you cooked on the first day of the trip? Fuel economy from that beach run five years ago? The birth weight of your second child? It’s all there. They love taking down details. If you encounter a Prado driver in the bush (and there is likelihood of having to make conversation)… stop. And back away slowly while reciting reduction gear ratios or other scintillating transmission figures.
Commonly found: The Canning Stock Route and destinations that require actual trip planning
Driver: FJ Cruiser
If there was ever a 4WD built to contain a mid-life crisis, this would be it. A visit to any metropolitan beach should produce a sighting of an FJ and its driver trying to reclaim the spirit of lost youth: Surfboards on the roof racks and ‘No Fear’ stickers on the bumper. But not all FJ owners are found posing around the city – many are known to regularly get away from it all and head for the bush. Only it’s also necessary to get away from bulky canvas tents, tinned food and perhaps even unpopular kids – to try and keep a legal payload in that Corolla-sized boot. FJ drivers learn to pack lightly.
Look out for the telltale signs on your next 4WD trip… e.g. a family of five living out of one suitcase. There’s a high chance of an FJ close-by, the owner chowing down on space-saving two-minute noodles after having gone slightly mad from trying to pack the vehicle the previous night.
Toyota did strike a golden formula of nostalgic looks, a grunty engine, and excellent approach and departure angles however. The FJ owner is onto a winner and can thus be easily identified from the satisfied, lopsided grin on his face. Especially now production of the FJ has ceased and the value of the vehicles might head in the same direction as a temperature gauge on a sand run – up and up.
Commonly found: Stockton Beach, New South Wales
Driver: New HiLux
It would be unfair to assume that every HiLux owner is a young tradie. But they are. There is a fair chance that anyone you see wearing high-visibility clothing drives an indefatigable ’Lux. Outfitting the vehicle with touring and camping accessories galore, plus a business name on the side, means the lucky driver can put it all down as a deduction come tax time. Girlfriend in the passenger seat, blue heeler barking in the tray, and off camping for the week, ahem… working.
Identifying a HiLux driver on a day off (or not wearing fluoro safety yellow) requires careful observation and can be difficult; you have to recognise a slight twitch in their left thumb. At some point the unlucky driver will discover that everybody else has also bought a HiLux, and there happens to be more than 11 identical white dual-cabs parked at the shops. Upon returning to the carpark the driver can’t possibly remember which car is his and must press the ‘unlock doors’ button countless times, watching for the orange flash of hazard lights and thereby finding his own HiLux. This scenario is repeated on each visit to the shops, footy club, pub, etc… and so the telltale thumb-twitch steadily develops. Clever owners eventually resort to putting out safety cones, streamers or marine flares to add some sort of distinguishing features to their own car.
Commonly found: Absolutely everywhere
There are people who brag about getting bogged on Cape York, or barely making it across the Simpson Desert. People with favourite comments like ‘epic’, ‘insane’ and ‘you need muddies’. You won’t hear those comments from a Pajero driver… the humblest of all 4WDers. They’ve done all the classic Outback tracks you have, and more, in their stock Paj’ on H/T highway tires.
Handy bush skills, such as wisdom and worldly experience, seem to occur frequently amongst Pajero owners. Try the following identification technique on your next 4WD trip: Get your car bogged, really bogged, with no hope of getting out alone. The first person who comes along will be a Toyota driver. “Ya should’ve bought a ’Cruiser, mate,” he’ll say. The second person will be a Nissan driver. “Did you talk to a Toyota? Sorry, but I definitely can’t help ya now, mate”. Then along will come a third car. Without a word he’ll get straight to work, snatch you out first time and make you a coffee afterwards. This is the ever-helpful Pajero driver. Sometimes you might see a bright, halo-shaped light emitting from his head, but this is probably just the sun reflecting off the hand winch he’s pulling you out with.
Commonly found: Anne Beadell Highway, South Australia
Perhaps the Jeep driver is the easiest to identify. Choose any off-road destination in Australia and the Jeep driver will be there before you can say ‘tyre pressures’. This is because they Don’t Hold Back. For anything. Sure, the car might only be half-packed and spare undies a far-flung dream, but by not stopping for refreshments or even a loo break, they always get there first. Don’t try to argue with a Jeep owner about the pros and cons of his choice of vehicle. He’ll unleash a flurry of words and then immediately be off again tackling his next obstacle or pedestrian, leaving you stunned and unable to reply.
Be careful when four-wheeling with a Jeep driver, because they Don’t Hold Back their emotions either. A bogged Jeep will quickly result in a barrage of tears that has the potential to turn the surrounding ground into a muddy quagmire. It is in (both) your best interests if you rescue the Jeep as quickly as possible.
Of course, this doesn’t matter on the beach where sand absorbs the excess tears. If you drive an older fourby that struggles up hills on the highway, then a Jeep driver makes a great travelling companion. They Won’t Hold Back on giving your 40 Series a push from behind with the bullbar to keep up a reasonable speed. If camping with a Jeep owner, he’ll devour dinner, stoke the campfire, read a book – all in quick succession – and then be off for a night drive, shouting, “I bought a Jeep!” out the window. A Jeep driver is a swift character and thus clearly recognisable amongst the crowds of slow, take-their-jolly-time grey nomads. Keep an eye out for this interesting fourby-kind next time you’re on the road.
Commonly found: Somewhere you haven’t been yet…
If you’ve made it this far through the article, congratulations. You should now have the physical skills and mental fortitude equivalent to a fifth-dan black belt, at least in four-wheel driver identification. Try out your new knowledge next time you’re sitting around at the Birdsville pub or deciding whose side to take in a campfire debate.