‘Shorty’ truly was a 4WD of firsts for me. No, it certainly wasn’t my first 4WD, I’d owned several previously, however due to a number of circumstances, Shorty became more than just a car.
Despite having several different makes and models of 4WD parked in my driveway preceding Shorty, the day I drove it home for the first time I knew I’d landed something of a dream rig. See, I’d long loved the look of short wheel based 4WDs; be it the early Dakar inspired Pajeros, the little Bunderas or the (in my opinion) perfect GQ Patrols. I just loved the look.
Before Shorty I’d come close by owning a SWB GQ Patrol that I honestly did enjoy, except for one important and nagging factor; it was a petrol. Damn that thing liked to drink and on my budget it was a constant source of annoyance. If only it was a TD42 and not the petrol TB42…but then along came Shorty.
Bought with only 89,000kms on the clock in utterly (and I mean utterly) immaculate condition, the little rig was a blank canvas to adventure. I was absolutely in love. My first SWB diesel Patrol!
A year after purchase and with virtually no modifications from stock, Shorty took me on a 13 month lap of Australia; my very first in a 4WD. In that time, despite pulling a heavy camper trailer as a naturally-aspirated diesel; that little rig did not let me down once. Not one issue arose throughout the entire journey. We tackled the Cape, Fraser, the Kimberley, High Country, the Outback and a thousand beaches in-between with not one niggle. Talk about reliable!
Returning home from that trip and a new side-line project in the form of freelance photographer with a little magazine called Australian 4WD Action began and again it was Shorty that led the way. I travelled all over WA in the old bus with my cameras and swag chasing any story or 4WD that I felt was worthy of inclusion in the mag. They were some of the most carefree and fun days of my life and I look back on them with great fondness.
Over the years, that little rig and I have travelled to and filmed in, every state of Australia, numerous times. There have been highs and lows, it’s been the absolute best time of my life and I have zero doubt that it would have been anywhere near the same had it not been for that iconic little SWB GQ. I’d go so far as to say I owe my current career to that 4WD.
The tyranny of time and the toughest tracks in the country eventually began to take their toll and with close to a decade of travel under her belt, old Shorty really began to look secondhand. However, not even once did I think about a sale or upgrade, we’d been too far and I owed way too much to the little rig. So a major rebuild was planned. All the big issues were dealt with and fixed; a process that is ongoing today and extremely rewarding. Shorty is driving better now than it ever has.
Nowadays I don’t use Shorty for 4WD Action DVDs but I still drive the old rig every week that I’m home. I’ve left the interior exactly as it was the last day I filmed in NSW before driving home across the Nullarbor; even the in-cab microphone cable is still clipped to the sun visor (I really must give that back). I’m 100% confident I could do another lap, trouble-free should I want to but for now, just heading down the coast for a surf or a fish is all I ask of the old rig and as I drive through town, it still turns heads, just like it’s been doing for over a decade.
I’ll never willingly part with Shorty. What is essentially just nuts and bolts has become so much more than that; it’s a lifetime of memories, it’s a career, a freedom machine and as corny as it sounds, old Shorty is a best mate.
Is a 4WD as your best mate? Let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.