June 19, 1989

I want to know… who's responsible!?

I don't how many of you read Bushdriver magazine, but the latest issue contained a couple of observations by Ray Barker that are worth noting, and relate to a little thing called responsibility.

The first relates to the watchdog story from America a few months ago about Samurais being easy to roll. When we first heard about it here, I'm sure we all had a bit of chuckle and dismissed it as being a bit of a bad American joke. Having heard more since then and hearing the Samurai sales statistics brought back by Geoff from Japan, it has turned into a fairly serious problem for Suzuki.

The general idea being presented by the Yanks is that the light weight and ultrashort wheelbase of the Suzukis make them dangerous and likely to tip over. Consequently sales have dropped dramatically. No doubt the Vitara, or GeoTracker as the septics call it, offers a far more acceptable handling proposition, but it's at the expense of off-road ability. Extrapolate that, and in another 10 years time you may as well not own a 4WD. Even now, the 4WD concept is being applied to passenger cars in the form of "full time 4WD" or "All wheel drive" traction. i.e. it's become just another sales gimmick to sell "ordinary" cars, and the ideas of long wheel travel, high clearance and steep underbody angles is quickly going out the window.

But, back to the Suzuki's problems. Fancy losing about 80% of its market, just because of a few lunatics who can't, or won't, drive properly!

The manual for the Sierra clearly states that the vehicle is shorter, narrower and taller than a 2WD. It points out why. It goes to the extent of saying "Please drive this vehicle within its design parameters. Do not make sudden turns or abrupt maneuvers." And yet, people go out there; thinking that it's a sportscar simply cause the roof comes off, and drive accordingly. What happens? They fall over.

As Mr Barker points out; you can't go and buy a new Porsche, take it down to your favourite fire trail, and then, once you've torn the underneath out of it and dented every panel, take it back to Porsche and expect warranty. They'll tell you, quite rightly, to go to buggery. Why? Because you are doing things with the car that it was never designed to do. Isn't it the same if you drive a Sierra faster than it was meant to be driven? How people can then turn around and try to sue the manufacturer, because of their own lack of common sense is quite ridiculous and pathetic.

To quote veteran rally driver Doug Stewart, "People say the car ran off the road, but I was driving, so I guess it was me who ran off the road, and the car just followed." Well put Doug.

The second point Mr Barker raises also relates to responsibility, or rather the lack of it, or more precisely, peoples unwillingness to face up to it. It concerns the new Nissan Patrol ads on TV - the one that shows a GQ pulling a punt across the river. No vehicle preparation. No checking the depth, nothing. It just plunges in.

The thing is, if somebody buys a brand new Patrol, and tries the same stunt, how well do you think the Nissan dealer would take it? "Certainly Sir, we don't mind changing the bearings in your diffs and wheels, replacing the radiator from where the fan went through it and rebuilding the motor from where it took in water; No problem at all". I just don't think so.

The ad has no disclaimer or warning, and it would be interesting to know legally where a GQ owner stood if he were to bring his car back under warranty, having it broken it by doing the very thing that the TV ads show you can do with it. From what I hear, the GQs already have some pretty serious camber angle problems which causes the cars to want to run off the road, and Nissan don't even want to about that. That's a manufacturer facing up to their responsibilities. That's Nissan know how. Oh what a feeling!

Volume 14, No 6
June 1989
Chris Betcher

June 18, 1989


When I was a little boy, I used to suffer from mild attacks of asthma. Terrible thing asthma. It becomes a shortness of breath, a feeling that you can't quite breathe deeply enough, and the harder you try, the less air you seem to be able to take in. It wasn't till I was older that the causes of asthma were explained to me. The bronchial tubes, those things we breathe through, tend to close down and restrict the flow of air to the lungs, a bit like trying to drink through a squashed straw. Not much fun.

What's all this got to do with your car?

Cars are a lot like people. They all have personalities, they throw tantrums, the have their little breakdowns and they also need to breathe air. Taking the analogy further, the carburetor is the equivalent of the lungs, and the air cleaner system is the bronchial tubes. Unless the air that passes through the system is free to flow without obstruction, then your poor little Suzi is suffering from automotive asthma. You drive along, see a big hill and put your foot down; the carby says to itself "Oh, more power required… I'll deliver some more fuel, [gasp], if only I could breathe more air!"

The thing that obstructs a flow of air is the air filter element. You see, when Suzuki built your car it built it to a price. Certain corners were cut to save a little bit of money at the engineering end so that you could buy it for a reasonable price at the showroom end. If you would like to see a classic example of a cut corner, open the plastic box that houses your air filter element and there you have one... the paper filter.

Paper filters are an example of a single depth filter. In simple terms, a screen. If you get a microscope and have a close inspection, you will see that the paper has lots of little tiny holes in it .... the concept is very simple, if a piece of junk is too big for the holes it gets caught, but if it's smaller it passes through. Hence the term 'single depth' filter; there is only one layer doing all the work. When all the little holes get full of all this junk, they stop passing air through and your Suzi begins to suffer from asthma.

New members of this club often ask the question "What accessories should I get?" Lists of things like wide wheels, fat tyres, hi suspension, sunroofs, etc, etc. get thrown around in conversation. But let's make the point clear... unless your car has a good flow of 100% clean air, everything else is a waste of time and money!!

There is a product available which will not only deliver pure, dust free air to your carby, but it is highly resistant to clogging, quick and simple to clean, and costs about the same price as the horrible paper thing that you are using now. What I'm talking about of course, are Finer Filters.

Finer Filters are a replacement air filter element which fits directly into the standard air box. Instead of being made of paper, it is made of aerated foam. The idea is simple. There are 2 layers of foam, an inner and an outer band. Both are impregnated with a special tacky oil. This filter is referred to as a "full depth filter" because to get through the filter, a piece of airborne junk must pass through a complicated maze of tiny irregular "shafts", which is the void that makes up the foam. Because there are so many of these shafts, and there is so much void, the filter can trap many times the junk that a paper filter can, and so will not tend to clog up and become asthmatic. The tacky oil further traps the dirt and dust It sounds too good to be true, but not only does it stop ALL airborne rubbish from entering the carby, it performs the task with almost zero obstruction to the air flow.

Impressed? You should be. Now consider this. The owners manual for the 1.3 litre Sierra advises that the air cleaner element (for want of a better term) should be cleaned every 10,000 km. This is on paved road conditions with, I assume, nobody kicking up dust in front of you. For dusty conditions, it recommends cleaning every 2,500 km or as required, and replacement every 40,000 km. It also says that more frequent replacement should be necessary under dusty conditions. Now think about what you do with your car. If you go on club trips, you will spend a considerable amount of time driving in very dusty conditions, usually with a full load on board, and still expecting top performance from the little beast. Seasoned club members could tell you some real horror stories about dust, I'm sure. So let's say you replace a paper element every 20,000 kms which is more likely. My car has 140,000 kms on it ... that means I'd be on my seventh paper element. At around $45 a throw, I would have spent roughly $315.00 in paper filters since I've had the car, and they wouldn't even have been doing a very good job anyway. My engine would still be suffering from wear due to the tiny particles that easily slip through a paper filter.

But no, I put a Finer Filter in almost from the word go. I think it cost me about $45. A bottle of Finer Filter Fluid cost about $10. Not only has it cost a fraction of the price, but it has been doing the job properly, which explains which such a high km engine is still plodding along so nicely. When a Finer Filter gets dirty, you don't replace t. You simply peel off the outer layer, clean it, re-oil it and put it back. It takes about 5 minutes, costs bugger all for the fluid, and can be done anywhere, even on the side of the track, in the middle of nowhere.

On top of being 100% efficient, Finer Filters are also 100% Australian made, which has got to be a big plus. If you want to know who uses them you could look at nearly every vehicle in dusty events like the Wynns Safari, winning off-road racing teams, leading 4WD accessory houses, Turbo manufacturers, not to mention the Suzuki Club!

There are types available for 50's, 80's, 1.0 and 1.3 Sierras and they've just released one for Vitaras as well. When you weigh it all up..... the cost, the efficiency, the convenience, and the protection, there really aren't any good reasons for NOT having one.

Now if only we could find a cure for asthma as easily!

Volume 14, No 6
June 1989
Chris Betcher

June 13, 1989

The Art of the Reccie

One of the most frustrating things about being the trip organiser for the Suzuki Club, is knowing what type of trips to put on and how often one should put them on. Another of the most frustrating things, (because there are several), is the task of trying to make it all really interesting and varied for you lot, and not repeat trips too often.

On becoming Trip organizer, or Trip Convenor or whatever the correct term is, (I kind of like "Road Director" myself, but to be honest, it is all a bit academic, and quite outside the realm of this preamble anyway.) Where was I? Ah yes, the trip calendar. Basically, we don't have enough trips. Our membership has doubled over the last few years, while our access to certain areas has diminished. Changing emphasis by the manufacturers of 4WD vehicles has also led to a rethinking of the types of tracks we have to use. Put simply, they don't make ‘em like they used to, and what with the theories of entropy working on an environmental scale, tracks can only become more difficult with the passage of time, (Bulldozers excluded, of course.)

"What's he on about now?" I hear you ask. Reccies, my friends, Reccies. The long lost Art of the Reconnoiter is due to become more fashionable again. And not before time either.

Reccies are fun. They involve lost skills like map reading, recovery and ingenuity, whilst rekindling childhood feeling of adventure and anticipation. Expect the unexpected. And remember, even the oldest joke in the world is still new to somebody. So it is with Reccies.

Let me set up a timeframe for you, so that you might begin to see a point to this ramble. May 13, 1989. Colo River crossing on the Putty Road. 4 diminutive vehicles all gather to experience the Art of the Reccie. Tackleberry, Andrew and Uncle Len, Greg and Leone, Donna and myself. Some lines are on some maps. We sit down to an open hamburger, pore over the maps and a plan of attack is formulated. One map in particular, the 1:25000 topographic of Colo Heights, has some intriguing dotted lines, leading to what could be spectacular views over the Colo Gorge. After reasonable contemplation, we set off, looking for the break in the bush, for the tell-tale signs that 4WD lifeforms do, perhaps, have a future on this planet.

Without any further ado, we locked our hubs, deflated our tyres and sallied forth. The terrain followed a ridge heading west, and upon closer inspection it was found that there were a set of wheeltracks in front of us, and the width and tyreprint looked suspiciously like a vehicle of our own persuasion .... a Zuki. We eventually came across the aforementioned piece of machinery, parked in a clearing with no sign of an owner. Thinking perhaps he or she had gone for a wander into the bush, we made some noise, consumed our lunch, and waited to see if anyone should turn up. No Suzuki owner was forthcoming so we continued on our way. The track began to get quite interesting, both in terms in the grade and the ruttiness of the terrain.

Coming to a clearing of sorts, we paused briefly to consider the alternatives. The narrower of the two seemed to go downhill, towards the river reasoned Mr Hamilton. As things turned out, he was quite correct. It did go towards the river, and would later prove the pseudo-mathematical equation; Find the limit of the Cockroach as the track approaches the river. More on this in a moment.

We chose instead to pursue the other trail. It was narrow, very overgrown, and began to descend via a very rutted and twisty route. Parts of the track were so thickly overgrown, that some of us resorted to using our headlights in order to see .... it was still mid afternoon. Despite our desire to continue, the track came to a rather abrupt halt with only a difficult walking track winding off up the hill.

We retraced our steps, back through the darkest jungle, and around the ridge to the difficult looking climb - Perhaps this would be an appropriate opportunity for me to compliment the driving skills of my companions. All drove extremely impressively, and it was a pleasure to witness Suzukis being handled in such a professional way. At no stage did anyone have trouble, take an awkward line.... I don't think anyone even spun a wheel.

We returned to the clearing, which was really just a bend in the track, a bit wider than the rest, and the prospect of investigating the track towards the river became obvious. Being the duly elected trip leader for this sojourn, I offered the Cockroach as a guinea-pig, (which would be a good trick, no?) Off we went, down the hill, down a steep section, down, down, further down... till without warning the track suddenly ended.

"Terrific", I thought.

Not having a CB radio to communicate with the group at the top, Donna offered to ascend and inform. Soon my companions joined me. Turning around on the side of the hill presented no great problems... It was the slipperiness of the clay, and the steepness that afforded only minimal traction, which caused the problem with not even the MudTerrains gaining any purchase on the ground. The decision was made to winch the car up. This was a good idea. The rear of the car was opened to gain access to the winch, but because of the steepness of the incline, the entire contents of the rear of the car spewed out and down the hill. This was not a good idea. It seems that the tightness of the pack did not offset the angle of the car.

The next three quarters of an hour was spent handwinching the car up the difficult sections, driving it as far as possible, and resetting the winch further up the hill. Eventually it reached the top.

Camp that evening was a pleasant affair, with tents set up on the track itself, such was the apparent remoteness of the location. An excellent fire was started, courtesy of our very own, Bushman Len. Bushman Len kept us all very well informed with his observations and insights into the Great Australian outdoors. "This spot here", he would say, "was a spot where someone once had a fire. You can tell by this ring of rocks and the ash!" Needless to say, we were all spellbound by these incredible observations.

The sensible boundaries of camp oven cooking were explored, with Greg H giving us all a spectacular display of his own particular brand of campfire pyrotechnics by setting fire to the oil in his oven .... Ole!. Andrew, as usual, amazed us all with his bag of spices and herbs, concocting some truly gastronomic delights. Tackleberry had his usual high cuisine from a can. Ah, but those roast chickens were delicious, except they were broiled. Perhaps not so much water next time.

Next morning we awoke to the sound of bellbirds and lyrebirds, had a hearty breakfast and broke camp. Today we would attempt to find the infamous Fred’s Hill. Instead we found Fred himself! Yes dear reader, Fred is an old man that lives in a caravan up near Wallaby Swamp. He was pleasant enough to talk to, although his directions to his own hill seemed to be a little wide of the mark. We spent an hour or so searching for the trail, but didn't quite find it. We found some other interesting options though, including a steep rocky descent to a prime campsite, which had not seen campers for many years. Now a home for deer, its potential was noted for further visits to this area.

Volume 14, No 6
June 1989
Chris Betcher