Apparently, dogs look and behave like their owners. Or do people of a certain type all choose the same sort of dog? Nobody knows which way it works, but the same principle applies to 4X4s.
So let’s don an invisibility cloak and observe a group of 4X4 owners at camp. Dusk falls, and one by one they emerge from tents and trailers, camp chair in one hand, beer in the other, to settle around a crackling campfire, creating a brains trust the like of which has not been seen since last Wednesday.
The most numerous of the lot, these fellows are utterly convinced they’ve got the best engineered, most reliable, and most capable vehicle there is. They absolutely cannot understand why anyone could possibly come to any other conclusion given the clear and unambiguous facts so obviously apparent to all. Any evidence to contrary results in a red-faced, stabby-finger-pointing argument or is dismissed as mere blips in the Toyota run of perfection. Still, what’s most annoying about Toyota owners is that they’re actually pretty much right, or would be if the clock could was wound back a decade or so.
Nissan owners may reluctantly concede the Toyota is better, in a ‘what have the Romans done for us’ sort of manner, but quickly argue they’ve got a better deal as their cars are tougher, better value and just as Japanese. Unfortunately, everyone knows that’s all show because Nissan drivers secretly really wanted the Toyota which they either couldn’t afford, despite the “Toyota Recovery Vehicle” stickers on the back window.
The Jeep driver won’t be there as he’ll be prone in front of his vehicle praying to it, adding another Eat-Sleep-Jeep tattoo to spare skin, attending a birthday party of a mate’s Jeep, naming their latest kids after Jeeps or attending the weekly Jeep Gathering. It wouldn’t matter anyway, they’d be unable to hear anything due to hearing damaged by the drone of 37” extreme tyres for hours on end. Jeep owners know they’ve made the right choice, just like any other cult member.
The Suzuki drivers will still be en-route, buzzing away like wheeled gnats. Everyone loves the Suzukis, in the same way everyone loves their second or third sports team which has no chance of glory. They’re quietly proud of the fact they managed to drive a few hundred kilometres on bitumen, and not so quietly proud of the fact their cars cost less than the tyres of the larger vehicles and their fuel bills are much smaller, despite their engines running close to the rev limiter for most of the time.
Mitsubishi owners spend all their time explaining they haven’t, in fact, got lost on the way home from the supermarket and their car can, in fact, drive over more than small pebbles. They then prove the point by driving the same tracks as everyone else, and on occasion they even manage to get as many as three wheels on the ground at the same time. The owners believe they have it all – strength, handling, reliability and driveability. That’s understandable because most of them have never driven anything else.
The general opinion of a Land Rover will be some grudging respect for its off-road ability and general capability, but that’ll be a mere, fleeting nod of the head before the proper business of Land Rovers is discussed in detail and with relish, which is their odd (non-Japanese) ways and chronic lack of reliability as compared to everything else, rendering whatever redeeming characteristics they have entirely pointless if the car is in the workshop. Cue one of many jokes and “mate of a mate down the pub” stories. This will be a sustained attack, reminiscent of sharks frenzied by blood, but in this case the energy comes from pure green jealousy, especially from those with the loudest arguments.
Any Subaru owners will be busy explaining, for at least the 20th time that evening (to anyone that will listen and even those who won’t) how they drove a track and were asked by owners of full-sized 4X4ss how they got there. The real answer is “slowly and with lots of scraping”, but that’s not the point in Subaru-land, the mere fact the car made it at all is reason to brag.
There’s many more marques to cover, but they can be roughly categorised into Pity, Apathy and Admiration. Pity is the ones who (according to received wisdom) just shouldn’t be in the bush, like high-end Euro models. Apathy is capable but boring – most utes. Admiration is oddly interesting vehicles – Pinzgauers, G-Wagens, Nivas and the like. But really, every car will get a comment or a debate because to us, the cars are not just transport, they’re part of our lifestyle.
Bored around a campfire?
Actual physical violence not your thing, but you want to see a fight?
“Electronics have made 4WDs soooo much more reliable don’t you think?”
“Isn’t it true if you only have one locker it must always go on the front axle?”
“OK forget lockers, who needs
them if you have traction control!”
“I’ve heard <brand> tyres are regarded as by far the best,
so why aren’t you all running them?”
“Live axles…why does anyone
still bother with those cars?”
“Engel, Waeco…does it matter, aren’t they really the same?”
Words: Robert Pepper