we started with a seven year old car with more than 150.000 km on the clock. does this make snowflake ‘frail’ or ‘experienced’? being an entitled elderly white male i predictably opted for ‘experienced’ so we hooked the van up to the disco, crossed all available fingers and hoped for the best.
we were of course warned by all the experts. how could we try to tackle the untamed australian outback in a machine made in england. england! there is nothing wild about england: the car would fall apart at the mere thought of the corrugated nightmare of the aussie bush. everyone knows that.
everyone – we are still trying to figure out who ‘everyone’ actually is, maybe ‘they’ know – knows the only thing tough enough to venture beyond the back of bourke must be made in a place to match the cruelty of this continent: japan. japan? as anyone who spent enough time with management consultants and worked in a place that has literally nothing to do with mechanical engineering I have learned to be in awe of the japanese’ ability to push the error rate so far to the fringes of the bell curve only james tiberius and his fearless crew at top warp have any hope of seeing it in a lifetime. but how that translates into survival skill when the road throws more sharp edged things at you than a ninja squad is beyond me.
interestingly we also learned that buying these cruisers of the land off the shelf may not be such a great idea. it appears they need an aftermarket turbo to move at anything faster than glacial pace and if you don’t want the rear fender to scrape on the road when towing little air balloons (they call them airbags) will have to be strategically placed inside the rear springs to toughen them up. or better still, the whole suspension should be replaced with ‘tough dogs’ or ‘old man emus’, getting rid of the seemingly unsuitable stock components. in short experts seem to think these vehicles are ‘the best’ – but only they have key components uprated or preferably completely exchanged before taking them anywhere off the smooth tarred surface. pricey.
we were also told of their legendary reliability and that spare parts for them could be found anywhere. now if their reliability were real rather than merely legendary we would expected that said spare parts would not be required at all and consequently – economics 101: nobody stocks items that are never required – there would not be any parts available anywhere. can someone please riddle this for us?
this is not to say that our own journey in the car from solihull was without problems. yes, the alternator decided to call it quits but do you know what: the same thing happened to a mate with one of those ‘indestructible old school’ (meaning devoid of any comfort or technological innovation) cruisers. we also had a dead turtle between the cylinder banks but another mate had to get the chassis of his immortal vehicle welded twice because the weight of the battery proved too much for the sheet metal. the battery? isn’t that standard equipment in practically any car?
so which car is best? i’d still go with ‘the one you have’ or failing that: the one you feel most comfortable with. one our trip we saw every possible caravan or trailer pulled by almost every car sold in australia (including some sedans) and most of them got there and back. some on the back of a flatbed, but that also included the seemingly fail-safe ones. yes, the fact that mining companies seem to prefer certain brands means there is a tighter support network for those cars in locations off the beaten track but if you are not in a rush most issues can be resolved anywhere.
we still like the fact that snowflake is very, very comfortable, quiet and after a long day in the car you don’t need a chiro appointment before you can make it to the loo. i was also pleasantly surprised how well the car handled in the sand, even while towing, considering what i believe is it’s main weakness: the rather large and unconventional rim diameter (19 inch) which makes it difficult to reduce tire pressure sufficiently in deep sand.
having installed the compressor under the hood was really important and turned out to be a very useful addition. having a good quality compressor is really important for this kind of trip, whether it is installed permanently, like ours, or chucked in the trunk. luckily we didn’t need the roo bar but had we not gotten one i am sure some reckless animal would have stepped out in front of us; that’s just murphy’s law. plus the bar allowed me to install the spotties and i cannot fathom how we could ever drive at night without those. they make a huge difference and make driving in the dark much, much safer.
we have now not only almost completed one ‘big’ lap of australia, but also the equivalent of one lap around the globe, along the equator (which according to wikipedia, the suppository of all wisdom, is 40,045 km). not bad for an old – sorry: ‘experienced’ car.
we’ll hang on to snowflake. we like the disco 4 and there is really nothing else out there that we’d have instead. and we are looking forward to many future trips in it.