Having bogged both my utes on several occasions in the Tasmanian winter quagmires, made worse by the wettest winter quarter on record, I had been thinking of replacing the two wheel drives with a four wheel drive for a while. Four wheel drive one tonne utes are a bit on the scarce side. Most 4×4 utes tend to be four door versions with a smaller tray that is of not much use if wanting to carry 2.4m long building materials. I looked at one in Hobart that was an extended cab (still two doors, but with folding seats in the back for very occasional passengers shaped like sardines…. its tray was a foot shorter, and it was a dog to boot…… no way was I going to buy a vehicle needing over a thousand dollars spent on it with the possibility that the whining transmission may be on the way out, needing expensive replacement in the future. Low oil levels on the dipstick and invisible coolant in the radiator sealed it for me. And the asking price was just ridiculous.
Then both my favorite neighbour and my old mate Dean in Cooran seeded the idea that while in Queensland on mother in law sitting duties and marital visitation, I might be able to find a suitable vehicle and drive it back….. it’s not like I hadn’t done it before!
I wasn’t really taking the idea too seriously; after all, the thought of driving a four wheel drive 2,500km to Tasmania didn’t exactly fill me with glee; all the same, I started visiting Gumtree, ‘just in case’. The rest as they say…………..
In retrospect, buying a 26 year old 4×4 in Queensland where the favorite pastime is driving on beaches through salt water was not perhaps my best idea. But there it was, generally sound and driving rather better than I had expected. The asking price was $2700, and I got it for $2000. Sounds like a bargain, but only time will tell…. and did I mention the rust was free…?
The vehicle wasn’t short of things needing fixing mind you….. it was an educated guess. The leaking radiator had to go, as did the monster truck sand tyres that would keep the dead awake at highway speed. It also needed a new brake master cylinder (I find good brakes reassuring…!) and other odds and ends, not least a full service on the engine, gearbox, and both diffs. The driver side seatbelt was so frayed, there was no way I would drive all that way hoping it might not break in the event of a serious collision. $2700 later……… and the rust was still not fixed. Andrew who checked the car out told me the rust would need fixing, but it wasn’t structural, and he would happily give it a roadworthiness certificate.
Confident the car would be fine, I took off from the Sunshine Coast Monday night, only going as far as my sister’s place in Brisbane. Unlike last time I did this, leaving Glenda behind was rather more heart wrenching… the last trip seemed far more exciting and adventurous, there was so much to do, and I was, after all, moving to Tassie. This time, however, the reality of another separation was impossible to ignore, and there were a few tears….
I was also coming down with a horrible virus that made my throat feel like I was swallowing razor blades with every gulp, and it got worse and worse the further south I drove.
I filled up before Leaving Brisbane, and the car returned 13L/100km, due to only half a tank of 98, the monster tyres I drove up the coast with, and the god awful ugly ladder racks I removed before leaving. When I filled up again in Coffs Harbour, the numbers had dwindled to 10.8L/100km, and again in Newcastle, it was 10.6L/100km…. quite remarkable really, barely 10% more than the two wheel drives.
In Newcastle, my darling daughter introduced me to Lemsip which is like a lemon tea filled with drugs that was the only remedy I found that had any impact on my debilitating throat….
All in all, the car just purred along, and as Andrew the mechanic had told me, filling the gearbox with synthetic gear oil did fix the slow crunchy gear changes. All the way down the Hume the car faced a very strong headwind that even managed to blow off the trim at the bottom of the door glass that stops rain getting into the door….. it’s what happens with old cars, rubbers just perish. And the wind increased my consumption to 12L/100km. I made it to Victoria that night, discovering that during the day one of my low beams had blown; I stayed in a caravan park near Bonegilla for a well earned rest and somewhere to attempt to sleep off this virus…..
It was almost exactly 53 years to the day since our family arrived from Europe to the migrant camp called Bonegilla. I had wanted to visit on the way through during both of the last trips, but time constraints didn’t allow it. As this was my last chance, I made the time.
Built during the war (and I mean WWII), what is left of the camp is sure showing its age… and yet, I’m certain that all the refugees who escaped the ruins of post war Europe would have thought the whole place was palatial. How we even slept on those beds beggars belief. My parents of course had no plan to stay very long, and we were only there for about a month. I still remember going to the pictures to see old black and white movies, after standing for God save the Queen……. which to us was a totally weird concept!
It’s now been turned into a museum of sorts, and without the throngs of multilingual immigrants, it felt like a sad old place. How all our combined lifestyles have changed in 50 years…
The lady at the reception got onto the computer, and I have arranged to have my ID card (which were never given out to their owners at the time) extracted from the Canberra archives, and hopefully sent to me for a reasonable fee.
A couple of hours there was quite enough, especially as the dreaded lurgy I left Queensland with was starting to really take hold of my system…. how I managed to drive all that way, on my own, and feeling sick, still puzzles me. there’s nothing like determination I suppose…. and drugs! That night I arrived in Melbourne where I stayed with Ernest, the owner of Solazone for whom I worked way back in 2010. It was good to catch up.
I spent the following day in Melbourne stocking up on more drugs, buying a new headlight for the ute, and found the bargain centre in Kilsyth where I bought the bidets, basins, and taps last year, this time walking away with a brand new stylish $50 kitchen sink and handfuls of useful hardware… That night I was on the ferry for my fifth (and definitely last!) crossing of Bass Strait. There are jokes in the family about the ‘next ute’, but you better believe it, this is not ever going to happen.
When I disembarked in Devonport the next morning, it was absolutely freezing, so much so, the engine refused to warm up. I’d suspected the new thermostat Andrew had put in the ute wasn’t working properly, but this was beyond the pale, as I couldn’t even get much heat out of the heater. All the way to Geoff’s place in Chudleigh, there was frost everywhere. After a warming coffee, Geoff gave me a piece of cardboard to wedge in front of the radiator, and the temperature behaved itself all the way to Geeveston.
I sent the plates back to the original owner, and now uteIII is deregistsred. I took it for a safety certificate, but it failed miserably…. unless I get the rust fixed, they won’t pass it. It also turns out the fuel lines near the fuel tank are leaking, explaining why the consumption got worse as I drove further and further south. I think. Time will tell. I’m not bothered, the main thing is that I can drive anywhere on the farm without getting bogged, and I’ll fix the car when I feel like it.