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‘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.
As a presenter and photojournalist, Graham Cahill is regarded as one of the luckiest men in Australia. Currently part of the 4WD Action Magazine team, Graham is known for his outrageous personality and passion for the bush.