The Ballad of the Hilux of Doom

I used to think that love at first sight was a myth. Right up there with Bunyips, the Loch Ness Monster and Two-Headed Tasmanians (although I am still open to the Tasweigian concept). The thought that you can lay eyes on someone and straight away fall deeply and madly in love quite frankly sounded about as likely as left-over meat pie at a truckies convention. But then it happened.

One cool, late winter day in Brisbane, while taking care of some totally unrelated business, I saw her. Soaking up the sun with a group of friends, a slight shimmer rising from her hot, sun-baked skin. Standing tall with her long, slender body turned slightly away from me, coyly pretending to not have noticed my gaze. A beautiful lady with just a few scars from her adventurous life to make her perfect.

A beautiful, LN106 Hilux. 2.8 litre, naturally aspirate diesel engine. Two inch lift, dual cab and a sleek alloy tray. Phwaor, be still my beating heart.

I had to have her and so after some slight issues with getting the finance, I kissed my old Ford Courier goodbye (along with the jumper leads which I’d forgotten were stashed behind the back seats) and the Hilux was mine.
Now what does any bloke do with a hot new lady in his life? He takes her for a spin to see what she can do, and so a mere seven days after taking possession, me, my kids and my Hilux were on the road from Brisbane to Inverell, under the pretense of attending my sister’s 25th anniversary, but in reality it was just a good excuse for a road trip to get to know my new lady.

The first thing to become apparent as we blasted down the Cunningham Highway was the whiplash inducing power and acceleration of those 2.8 litres of diesel fury screaming from 0-100km/h by about lunch time. You know that wonderful feeling you get when you put the foot down and accelerate uphill? Hilux drivers don’t. You know that feeling of maintaining a constant speed up a slight incline? Hilux drivers don’t. But none of that mattered. I’ve never been in a hurry to get anywhere, so the relaxed pace set by the old girl suited me fine.

Her next surprise came as we were leaving Tenterfield. As the outskirts gave way to the open highway and the speed limit sign said 100, I stomped the right foot down and heard a beastly roar the likes of which I’d never heard before. Seriously, then exhaust note had gone from a reasonably subdued grumble to an ear shattering boom. I pulled over to investigate.

The cause of the Exhaust Noise Overture was painfully obvious right from the start. Right at the point where the pipe joined the muffler, there was daylight. The dear old pipe was a bit on the rusty side, and it was apparent that the sudden increase in pressure at my attempted acceleration was the last straw and it had split all the way through. Thankfully both parts were still hanging to the underside of the truck and would obviously do so for the foreseeable future, so all that remained was to make a decision – back to Tenterfield for repairs or onwards.
It was late afternoon already and Tenterfield was no doubt starting to wind down as country towns tend to. There was the possibility of getting it fixed, but I figured it would have to be tomorrow, and tomorrow meant Inverell. Onwards.

It’s about 160 klicks from Tenterfield to Inverell, through the usually quiet little town of Glen Innes. I say “usually” because there’s no such thing as a quiet little town when there’s an un-muffled Hilux driving through. On the road between Tenterfield and Glenn I figured it was only unbearably loud upon acceleration, so I kept that to a minimum whenever stealth was required….such as passing members of the local Constabulary out on the road, who gave slightly puzzled looks as they drove past. After a couple of hours, and severe hearing loss we rolled into the Oldies’ driveway to be greeted with wonderful silence and the usual wonderful home cooked feed which always greets our arrival.

The next day, after a head scratching planning session, it was down to the local steel supplier in town to get hold of some metal pipe. About four inches and a hose clamp was all it would take. Back home and we slid the pipe inside the exhaust and then slid it in to sit a couple of centimetres into the muffler. Because of the position of the break, only the exhaust side could be clamped while the muffler end would just have to make do with sitting inside what was left of the sleeve.

It worked quite well actually as far as dodgy repairs go. So well in fact that I drove it around like that for the next six months. It may have been rough, but it was effective, therefore in the true sense of bush mechanics, it wasn’t rough. It rattled a bit when cold, but when it heated up and expanded a bit it became just like any other old Hilux…..loud but legal. It was only when I’d decided that I needed the heady experience of driving at the speed limit by installing a 2.75 inch exhaust that I actually got rid of the rough repair.

It was worth it though. No more being overtaken by grey nomads in their little rice-burners, I could now match it with them, on flat ground and least. I was still buggered going uphill.

But we all know these things weren’t built for cruising down the highway. They were built to get down and dirty in the mud, out in the bush, to chug along all day no matter what was thrown at ’em, and that’s what I’m going to go on about in the next post – the fun and adventure that you can only have with an old, rough as guts fourby.

Until then, find go find a track and see where it leads.