When you only have one vehicle to choose from how far do you compromise or should you just say to heck with it and go with what you want.
Living in a big city leaves you with certain choices to make when choosing your overland vehicle. We all know space is tight on city streets and parking is often full of height restrictions limiting where you can and can’t park. Not to mention the tight turning circles required to get around the car park should you even get under the barrier.
And, then there are the general disapproving looks from the general populous, as a fully loaded vehicle overland adventure vehicle trundles through crowded streets. I swear you’d be less conspicuous (and certainly less upsetting) if you were dressed in latex and sporting a fetching gimp mask. Add in a bit of mud and you may have well had just cleaned up the neighbour’s cat. It really can be that bad in some of our big cities.
I actually saw this very scenario not just once but twice on YouTube recently, once with the guys from Mountain State Overland as the guys headed through New York’s Times Square in some very nicely kitted up 4WDs (4Runner, Tacoma and Jeep Wrangler – if memory serves correctly) and again just the other night watching the latest episode of Expedition Overland as they made their way through the crowded streets of La Paz. Both certainly made for interesting viewing, not just for the great stories but also due to the difference of opinions in both major cities. In La Paz, it just added to the general chaos which is most large South American cities, whereas, apart from a few “cool rig” type comments, there did seem to be a look of disdain from the general masses, whose only experience of the great outdoors is what they see on Nat Geo or in some strange friends Instagram account.
It’s much the same here in Sydney although as the proliferation of SUVs, 4WDs and Utes (pick-ups) is fairly commonplace, it really doesn’t take much to get a few folks offside just by being out of the norm. For me, (having grown up in a small country town of around 10,000 people on a good day) the sight of a kitted-up vehicle doesn’t really register with quite the same emotion. I often think that’s cool, or (more often than not) fuck they’re brave to bring that in here. It seems the urban jungle and the real jungle often don’t have a lot in common.
So, what can you do?
Many would say have a second vehicle, but for most this isn’t possible, it means extra costs in registration, insurance, let alone the purchase price of a second vehicle (you pay for a heck of a lot of fuel once you add up all those extra costs).
So, what’s the solution? Well, there certainly isn’t a one answer fits all here. For many, this double life will guide how they modify and build their chosen adventure machine. Whilst others will say to hell with the inconvenience and just build their ultimate machine anyway, others (me included) will make some compromises along the way.
I do have a couple of mates who have gone all out with their builds. They’ve fitted much larger tyres, bar work all around and removed parts of the interior to allow storage and fridge solutions. They have been lucky enough to build their chosen vehicle without accepting some of the compromises many of us have to make.
Ironically the Fortuner above is used on the daily commute with a journey of around 150km each day. I know the owner has accepted that his fuel economy has fallen through the floor and that he can no longer get in most urban car parks. But (and here’s the big one) these are two areas he’s compromised on to get the vehicle that he wants.
Good on him I say.
I also used to work with another guy who was absolutely nuts about his 4WD, he would have sent thousands on it just tweaking it here and there to get it just how he wanted it. It had 35-inch mud terrain tyres, a four-inch lift and an interior customised so much and so immaculately that you’d think it’d only been built as a show pony and a vehicle capable of travelling all over Australia with his family in total comfort and more importantly reliability. This vehicle definitely had very few compromises applied to it. It was built the way he needed/wanted it to be and that was that (I guess also being the editor of a large 4WD mag helps in this case).
I’ve spoken about compromising on the vehicle front already in this article, so I won’t try and preach but I will share my own experience and how I choose to run with my own 4WD.
Now I only have one vehicle (my Rangie), it has to be my everyday travel to work vehicle, my go to the shops for groceries and also our sometimes taxi for the family. On top of all of this, I demand I be able to take me to some pretty remote areas, where I will often have to cover a lot of kilometres each and every day on tracks and dirt roads. It has to be a jack of all trades and in some cases a master of some. I need it to be reliable (yes, I know a Land Rover product is an odd choice for reliability), on top of this it needs to be comfortable in readiness for long distances. For me, these are my non-negotiables. Everything else is a compromise.
So how do I run?
Well for everyday use, it has the fridge slide in the back – behind the rear seats – this way I can still access the baby carrier behind the passenger seat. I tend not to carry the fridge all the time, however, this may change in the future as my adventure usage increases. On the tyre front I run an aggressive all-terrain pattern, I find this level is a good compromise (there’s that word again), between highway ride comfort, noise and grip; and off-road capability. The tyres I have are currently one size up on the standard ones, however, I would like to increase this to a 32 or 33-inch tyre in the future. It also runs the roof set up permanently, it’s a pain to keep taking it on and off, and with the air suspension, I can still get into a lot of car parks. Apart from the really low ones in the city.