I was on the verandah of the old homestead in the Flinders Ranges when 4X4 Australia editor, Matt, said I should start including Unlock Australia on these pages.
And Flinders is where it all started for me. The complete freedom of so much open space, which I enjoyed as a kid, underscores so many of the unnecessary restrictions placed on modern travellers. This country feels ancient – from the giant ghost gums in dry waterways to the rock ledges worn down from old mountain ranges. It’ll outlast the human race and our puny efforts.
In the 1960s it was all dirt once you left Port Augusta and there were more coal trains than cars. Like so many places in this wonderful country, the dirt kept it isolated until the creeping bitumen caught up. I’m a fan of sealed roads, though, as long as they get us to where the tracks start – and we can still access the intimate bits of our bush.
Unlock Australia (ULA) is a not-for-profit company that fights to open up public lands for outdoor recreation. Kim is one of ULA’s volunteer researchers. He dedicates plenty of time to the cause, because, as an ex-soldier, he knows the value of fighting for freedom.
Unlock isn’t about unlimited access, though, it’s about finding ways for the majority of Aussies who love their country to get out there responsibly. The ULA hotline for track and bush closures is firstname.lastname@example.org.
RALLY THE TROOPS
Meanwhile, I’ve flown over to Perth to rally some support for the cause – even the lightly populated west is seeing unprecedented gating and bollards for very little reason. I met up with some old mates while I was there.
Big Russ, nicknamed ‘the people’s champion’, is a big part of the off-road competition scene. That didn’t stop him worrying that I’d find the starter button on this Patrol-based rig.
Daniel’s nickname is ‘Fluffy’, so you can bet that he’s damn good at what he does. Understanding and tuning shock-absorber rebound and compression damping isn’t necessary for most of us as long as we go for locally developed products.
These are competition shocks and Fluffy is doing a number on them to get the rates matched to the driver’s desire.
WATCH YOUR BOOTS
I caught Ryan mid-way through replacing this torn CV boot and figured it was a good time to remind people to keep an eye on their boots in hard-stick country. It’s about a two hour job to replace a boot – as long as the CV’s okay!
RUBBER AND TAPE
This is the CV that was under the ripped boot, but it’ll be fine to re-use after a clean and grease. That’s because the owner realised the boot was torn in time. You can keep out a lot of muck by wrapping the boot with old inner-tube rubber and tape.
Arkana was a Perth-based company that built specialised vehicles for industry and tour operators. This 47 Series was built for Telstra outback line work and featured a wagon-style body, low roof and a side door, too. They’re rare – I got the tip and had to go take a look!
In my old tour-guide days I helped sort the suspension on a few of the six-wheel Arkanas doing Cape duty. If you had a load of heavy buggers on board, they would break leaves pretty quickly, but usually – like most of the worst damage – it would happen on the fast corrugated tracks rather than the low-range stuff.
TRUCK UP A TREE
A power take-off (PTO) winch will pull a truck up a tree – no joke, I’ve seen it – but it depends on the motor running. Having dropped one on my foot, I can tell you they weigh more than my handbrake in high heels, too.
Turns out marine electrician Dave Mills bought the Arkana as a project for his son Dan, so there’s no chance of me getting it shipped back to Brisbane.
I saw Pete’s truck outside Opposite Lock and had to take a step back to work it out. Yep, he’s pushed the front end forward a few inches with different linkages and shifted the back axle further back, too.
There are better approach and departure angles to suit the bigger tyres. I guess Nissans need all the help they can get, eh, Pete? Right, now where’s the airport again?
Here’s the real deal in modifications. Naturally it’s on a 47 Series Toyota! The owner found the beer keg in the middle of the road and is carrying it around until a brewery decides to refill it. Or something. I’m with you, brother!