August 15, 1994

Rego time and freedom ... just a few thoughts.

Registration time. That dreaded time of year when you get to fork out $500 bucks or so to keep your precious Suzy street legal for another twelve months. When you decide to fix all those niggly little problems that you've been putting off for so long. And you start to look around for an authorised inspection station that is a little ... er, shall we say, understanding, of older cars.

Not that I mind paying my fair share. Hey, I use the road too and I'm happy to pay my contribution towards its upkeep. Now if only the money got spent on roads.... And of course the same old discussion every year with the person from whom you buy your green slip.

"What sort of car is it?", she asks.

"A Suzuki Sierra", I say.

"Automatic or manual?"

"Well, like I said, it's a Suzuki Sierra. They only come in a manual."

The woman glares at me like I've just called her an idiot. She looks back down at the form to the next category she has to tick. "Body shape?"

"Well, they call it a ute, but it's not really one."

"What do you mean it's not really one?"

"Well, they classify it as a ute, but it's not really one. At least it's not what most people think of when you call something a ute. I actually think it should be called a Cabrio, but that's not really an ideal description either. We had a big argument with the RTA a few years back about the body classification of the Suzuki but they didn't seem to...."

The woman is looking at me in blank disbelief over the top of her bifocals.

"Umm, why don't we just put it down as a ute, hey?", I suggest.

"Good idea." she replies. Every year it's become a bit of a ritual.

The other ritual of getting through rego every year is finding an inspection station whose standards are just a little bit slacker than last years mob. Last year we were living in a different area, so I took it to the local station and they were really tough! For 5 years I'd had this small crack in the windscreen... well, it was kind of small...; Ok, Ok, it was huge, but it wasn't obscuring my vision in any way. Anyway the guy made me get a whole new windscreen, replace a side mirror, he even wanted me to change a headlight because the old one had a small crack in it. (Well, smallish).

So I was a bit worried about getting through rego this year. Suzy is getting on a bit. She's got just on 300,000 kms on the clock, which is a fair innings for a Zook. Naturally she's a bit worn out in places, but all the important bits are still there. You know, the brakes work, the steering's still Ok, motor doesn't blow any smoke ( I think that's an achievement! ) and it's pretty darn roadworthy. Best of all, like every Zook, it's still great fun to drive. I contemplated getting rid of it a few times, based on the fact that I really don't use it for four wheel driving much these days, but it's so much fun to own, it costs nothing to run, it owes me no money, I can fix virtually anything that could go wrong with it, and I've got boxes of spare parts for it .... it just wouldn't make sense to get rid of the old girl. (Sorry about the sexist language ladies, but Suzy and I have been having a love affair for 10 years now, so she knows what I mean.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, (and some would say it's too late for that!), Suzy passed rego again this year. I took it up to the local garage where they fix taxis, cause if you knew what they do to keep cabs on the road you'd KNOW it would be a dodgy bunch of mechanics! First inspection, they told me the front wheels were loose. They weren't sure if it was a steering connection or what, though any Suzuki Club member worth his salt could have told you it was just the lock nuts on the front bearings backing off a bit, causing the wheels to have a small amount of movement.

I thought "This is no good, they're actually checking it!".

"Better fix the front wheels," they said, "and then bring it back up and we'll pass it."

So that night I stayed up late fixing the front wheel bearings. Not a hard job, but if you're like me, you always decide to get the pink slip the day before the rego runs out, and there is always some last minute work that needs doing. I also went to the wreckers and bought a new rear tail light assembly, because one of the brake lights had decided not to work. It pays to shop around for spares, even from wreckers. One mob wanted $75 for a second hand tail light, and I eventually bought it for $45 from someone else.

Sure enough, I took it back up and they passed it without even looking at it. As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "I'll be back."

Anyhow, in the course of all this nonsense, I happened to bump into a couple of old members of the Suzuki Club. We were chatting about life in general, and four wheel driving in particular, and I was surprised to hear just how many tracks had been closed, or access denied. I guess 'surprised' is not the right word. We've all seen it coming for years, but it made me start thinking about the current state of the 4WD scene.

It's pretty ridiculous that we, that's you and I, allow ourselves to be controlled by a bunch of beaurocratic fools who wouldn't know what 4WDing was all about if they watched a 2 hour special about it on Burke's Backyard (which is the only place they would be likely to find out, cause they certainly don't understand it from first hand experience).

Maybe I'm a bit out of touch 'cause I don't do much 4-wheeling these days, but you guys who are really into it must be sick to death of being told where you can and can't go! The whole reason that most of us bought 4WDs in the first place was to have a bit of freedom to see this great country. I believe the real commodity you buy when you purchase a 4WD is not the car, but that perceived freedom. But when you hear stories about National Park rangers sitting in trees waiting for cars to cross a river just so they can slap a fine on the driver, well, let's just say that it's pretty pathetic tactics. I have always been convinced that the majority of 4WDers, and certainly the majority of 4WD Club members, take better care of the natural environment than most other bush users, including bushwalkers. Most Club members have more "bush sense" than the people who run the parks. I know that's a pretty broad generalisation, but it was certainly true for the 7 or 8 years that I was actively 4WDing with the Suzy Club.

I had to fly to Brisbane not so long ago, and when you see this great country from the air you realise just how tiny man's impact is. Huge open-cut mine operations which seem so vast from ground level are not even a scratch on the surface once you view them from the air. As for the impact of a 4WD trail through bushland, it would not make 1% of 1% of 1% difference. The whole 'environmental rape and pillage' access issue is a huge crock, as far as I'm concerned. The only reason they want to restrict access is not for environmental reasons, but just 'cause it's easier to manage. Rather than teach people to look after their natural heritage, it's easier to just lock it up and say "Stay Out". -

I can see a day in the not too distant future when the start of a four wheel drive trip will involve a stop to lock hubs, let down tyres, and remove your number plates.

There's a old saying that says "when fun is outlawed, only outlaws will have fun". Let's see how long it takes till 4WDers have had a gutful of these stupid rules and do something about it.

In the meantime, you got a great club. Have fun. See ya in the bush.

Chris Betcher
August 1994

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