Old trucks keeping up with the new

When I sold the 80 and jumped into the Nav, I thought I was pretty happy with something modern and reliable for a change. Not that 80s aren’t reliable in general, just that my old 80 was at the tail end of its life, much more suited to leisurely runs up the local state forests than crossing the country back and forth like I wanted. So I bought the Nav, did it up and started punching out the kays.

As I write this I’ve done just on 25,000km in about five months and it hasn’t ever let me down, it’s started every morning and ran til I turned it off. Can’t really complain about that. But there was something missing. The Nav was economical, reliable, surprisingly capable for a little touring ute and comfortable to drive, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes you grin ear to ear when you’re behind the wheel. Regular readers will know my mate Joel. He lives an hour down the coast and most weekends we’re out bush camping and letting the dogs run around. We’d both been talking about the desire to build something older, something cool and get back to the basics of 4WDing. We also had a little side project coming up that we needed a tough old hero truck for, and after a lot of campfire sessions, decided that we were gonna go halves in an old Cruiser ute and build it in the shed over the course of a couple of months for a bit of fun.

When it was my turn to drive I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

Geez it’s tricky finding a good old 40 if you don’t have a million bucks to spend. You’d be amazed how many times ‘light surface rust’ turns into full-blown holes in panels. Not sure you can call it surface rust if there’s no surface left eh? We spoke to dozens of blokes, and in the end narrowed it down to three, all around Brissy. We barrelled up one night after work, rolled out the swags behind a backpacker-type pub and showed ‘em how Aussie blokes have a drink or seven, then spent the next day cripplingly hung-over looking at utes. The first was a bitsa, a tough old girl but a bit rougher than we wanted. The second one though… Wow. That’s all I could say. A genuine old rig that’d be in the same family since new. The original owner’s great nephew was the one selling it, and it had just had an A-grade rust repair and paint job. Completely original throughout, even had the original sales docket from 1984 that showed it as a genuine HJ47, one of the very last ones built.

We did a deal and made it ours, picked up an unreg vehicle permit and started punting home. When it was my turn to drive I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. This was it, this was what was missing! The old ute was an absolute ripper of a thing, torquey as hell – it’d pull fourth gear from 40km/h out of the roadworks, from 700rpm as smooth as you’d like. Basic, with mechanical connections between the driver and the steering, brakes and injector pump. I was almost disappointed to get back into the Nav. Stay tuned as we build this up in the shed over the coming months.

I’d love to hear about your old 40s you’ve got or had over the years. Email me via brenno@4wdaction.com.au eh?