CAN A $1000 4WD SURVIVE TASSIE’S TOUGHEST TRACKS?

WORDS BY GRAHAM CAHILL, PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB CAMERIERE

It’s got me stuffed as to why more people haven’t wised to the idea of using tech screws to bolt stuff to their rigs! I mean all you need is a cheap drill and a bag of screws and just about anything can be mounted in under a minute. Just make sure you don’t change your mind…or care about your bodywork…More on this later.

I love driving different rigs, always have. Every 4WD has its own identity I reckon and with that comes a different feeling off-road. Having a crack behind the wheel of as many trucks as you can only makes you a better driver in my opinion. So I was pretty stoked to see that not so shiny mid 80s Pathfinder parked up under a tree on the side of the track just waiting for a pilot. Then Jamie poked his head out the window grinning like a chimp; turns out the pilot wasn’t me this time – bugger. Although after 30 minutes I’m sure Jamie was looking at the D-MAX with envy!

Truth be told I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wrestle the keys to the Pathy off Jamie but I didn’t care; I’m loving the D-MAX. What I was interested in was seeing just how that old Pathy would go on some of the toughest tracks we could find in Tassie. My guess was not so well, I was right up to a point.

The whole idea of this challenge was to smash out a couple of tracks with the Pathy exactly as we had purchased it which was, let’s just say, down right stock as a rock. Actually that’s a lie; it did have a UHF from 1930 that didn’t work, a bald and flat spare tyre, a pink jerry can, a mystery switch that did nothing and a pair of fluffy dice. Yeah it was a weapon of a rig. After that first day of tracks we knew we’d have a better idea of just what would be needed to turn the little truck into a super tourer. Only snag was the budget; we didn’t have one.

First things first, we had a full day of driving ahead and one stock Pathy to put through its paces. Taking his place in the convoy as always was my little Mexican mate, Shauno with the big, smokey, smelly, Dirty 30 in all its glory (I’ve got a real soft spot for that truck, it’s like an ugly three legged dog; loyal yet weird), followed of course by Stu from Wholesale Auto’s who just froths at any chance to get out bush and stay there as long as possible. Pretty sure he thought we were all crazy but was keen to start drilling holes in the Pathy as soon as possible.

Now we could have tackled a few easy intro tracks but in my opinion, that would have just been wasting time. Nah I figured we should just chuck the Pathy directly into the deep end and see if it could swim. Deep muddy water, ruts and rock steps and this was only the first track.

The unlocked Pathy actually surprised all of us, including Jamie who figured the rig only had two speeds; flat out or turned off. Yeah sure, it bellied out, had virtually zero traction, filled with mud, dented the side panel and sucked up a gut full of water BUT it actually did better than we thought. Within minutes of winching it out the other end we all had ideas of just how to make it better.

For the record, if you ever get the chance to watch Stu drive a track, take my advice and stand back. When Stu lets the dogs out he does so in a crazy yet spectacular style. I forgot this for just a second and wore a wave of mud as a result. My last view as I turned to run was of Stu laughing like a mad man and perfect left hand mud wave about to break over my head. Thanks buddy, I owe ya!

With the Pathy well and truly blooded, our next plan of attack was to try and snag a few pennies from HQ and head for the local 4WD store. Turned out we couldn’t get a bloody cent so instead of 4WD products we figured the next best thing would be the hardware store. Heck, all we needed was some duct tape, poly pipe and tech screws; how hard could it be?

Three hours and a lot of heated discussion later, we emerged with the most ridiculous assortment of odds and ends anyone has ever considered modifying a 4WD with. The end result, however, was a true work of art!

With a campfire crackling, swags set-up and a beer in hand, we all set about turning the Pathy into the ultimate super tourer. Now, about those tech screws…what a brilliant bit of kit. Stu and I had our garden edging flares smashed together in minutes and secured directly into the side panels as solid as a rock!

The saddles for the awning were mounted in the same manner; directly through the roof with four tech screws and that marvel of engineering, the snorkel made from storm water piping was never going to move, once again thanks to a dozen tech screws.

One issue we did encounter was our budget not allowing for those flash rubber washer style tech screws, so later that night when it rained, well let’s just say holes in the roof are not the best thing if you don’t like water in the cab. Oh and one other thing; if you are going to drill a hole in your bonnet to fit a snorkel, make sure you leave enough pipe free so that you can open the bonnet from time to time. Lastly, don’t use Shaun’s socks as an air filter; just saying.

Now the lads had some serious reservations about my BBQ idea, Shauno said I was wasting budget and Stu just shook his head. I stayed strong though, knowing that the lads would come around when they got a wiff of smoky BBQ goodness. Mounting it proved a challenge till I remembered the cheap swing out jerry can holder. Turned out the bracket fitted the BBQ legs just perfectly and held the whole lot in place like it was meant to be there. Even Shaun had to admit it looked pretty Mickey Mouse.

With the humble Pathy looking a million dollars, the finishing touch was of course a set of racing stripes down the bonnet. Shaun may be able to turn a wheel, but can’t spray paint to save himself. The over spray was ridiculous…so bad that it actually looked kinda ok, in a crappy rattle can painting kind of a way. With the painting done we all stood back and admired our hard work. Bloody art it was!

Now maybe, just maybe, we got a tad over confident and went in a little hot with our newly modded rig. Can’t blame us though can you, I mean the little bugger was now just about ready for a Tuff Truck comp (I may be prone to exaggeration a tad…). Speaking of going in hot, of course we have a camera 4WD with us on all trips, namely our trusty red petrol 80. Nine times out of 10 it leads the convoy and for the most part drives what we drive, only it does it first.

Well didn’t that bloody Water Track cause some dramas for the 80? First up the old girl got so bogged it needed winching backwards cos forwards was not an option, then my good mate Rob had a head on fight with a hidden stump while in second low. It was just one of those things – we’d poked around all the other holes but this was the first one the boys just drove, and of course it was the exact one that was hiding a big stump. Anyone who thinks we have a helicopter with supplies and a caravan waiting at the end of each day is sadly mistaken, even the camera guys are the real deal, what you see is what we do…all of us.

Pulling out of the Water Track we were pretty much done and dusted for the day and we planned on heading back to camp (yeah in the DVD it’s still very much day time and full light but that’s due to daylight savings and the fact that the damn sun doesn’t set till after 9pm in Tassie in summer!). Our producer, Adam, decided he’d have a crack at driving the Pathy back to camp (remember what I said about driving different rigs) so he climbed out of the 80 and into the Pathfinder.

While powering up a large and long hilly section of gravel the mighty Pathy went bang right alongside me in the D-MAX, scaring the crap out of me, Jamie and Adam collectively. So there you go, the Pathy actually threw a leg out of bed while being driven by none other than a member of the film crew and not one of us. First they crash the 80 then they blow up the Pathy; the buggers are hard on the gear (just joking lads).

Now with the Pathy out of action and Jamie heading for home as a result (thanks Adam!) we decided we’d try and punt out towards Pelverata Falls on the last day. Some of you might remember that’s the exact track on which I busted the Zero Dollar Zook a year or so ago and as a result, we didn’t make it to the falls. That’s the reason we figured we’d have another crack.

Looking back on it, the falls are actually pretty easy to find if you follow instructions. Simply stay on Van Morey Rd all the way to the old log bridge then turn right. Course us being us, decided we’d take a few detours which had us pretty much off track for the most part which is exactly how we came to find that old dam out there. A bit of back tracking saw us return to the required route and it wasn’t long after that we neared the top of the falls.

I say neared because just as we got to within spitting distance the 80 pulled up and the crew jumped out. Engine temps ticked over 105 degrees and coolant was gushing out a massive hole in the radiator – Was this the end of the road for us?

Despite our best efforts to stem the flow, she was done for and the only way out was a flat tow behind the 30. So to get that closing scene where we nearly got blown off the face of the earth, the crew actually jumped in the D-MAX with me and were ferried down with all their camera gear on their laps.

Signing off and finishing filming wasn’t the end of the dramas though; while being flat towed out of the Snug Tiers, the snatch strap between the Dirty 30 and the 80 went slightly loose (remember the 80 had pretty much zero brakes while turned off and under tow) causing it to bind around the wheel sending the 4WD sideways off the track directly into a stump. The truck narrowly avoided rolling by only the skin of her teeth. Talk about lucky…or unlucky I guess, depending on how you look at it.

Doesn’t matter where we are or what we do, 4WD Action DVD trips are rarely uneventful and this one was no different. From flooding trucks, to tech screws and holes in bonnets right the way through to pistons busting out of engines and trucks nearly rolling; we’d been and done it all. That’s what I love about these trips, no two are ever the same and it’s just one of the reasons why I’ll keep coming back for as long as low range gearboxes exist. Hope to see you out there…bring your own drill and tech screws though, ours are all used up!

FACT FILE

WHERE Huonville is located an easy 40 odd clicks south of Hobart on the banks of the Huon River and is the perfect base for all of the tracks to the south such as the Water Track. Snug Tiers and the impressive Pelverata Falls are found by following the Van Morey Rd out of Margate. Stay on the track till’ you cross the old log bridge then turn a very sharp right. CAMPING We stayed at the amazing Rivers Edge Wilderness campground just south of Huonville which is the perfect base to explore all the tracks in the region. WHAT TO TAKE These are not overly remote nor difficult tracks, however you must be prepared for radical changes in weather at any time of year. Rain and even snow are very common as are high winds. The bog holes can be deceptive so prepare for recoveries. BEST TIME TO TRAVEL This region receives snow during winter and can get heavy rainfall either side of the season. This is not a negative but rather a privilege and you should give it a crack during these times if you are well prepared. FUEL AND SUPPLIES Huonville and Margate is your closest for all supplies. TRIP STANDARD Trips are rated A though E, with A meaning only suitable to vehicles with an extreme level of off-road modifications and E meaning perfectly suited to all types of 4WD vehicles. The tracks range from C to D with the rating rising to a B+ after rain or snow.