... from the FCT "Bored At Work" division...
Some Fairlaners got a mild chuckle out of my Fairlane Comparo article yesterday (Fairlane Comparo
), and nothing at work has caught my interest lately, so I'm writing something else.
Thrash Metal - A Battle for Paddock Car Supremacy
HG Kingswood-R (tm) v XD Blues Brothers Special v AU Falcon Wagon
The comment has been made that my last writing was a bit soft, pitching three excellent Fords against each other. This time, I thought I'd stir it up a bit, bring the Lion in to the equation.
Paddock cars are a vital piece of technology for those on the land. Kids learn to drive in them, teenagers learn how to survive rollovers in them (seatbelts on, one hand on the roof, the other on the dash, brace your feet), they do the job of a horse, a motorbike, a plough and a combine harvester, and when they finally give up, serve perfectly as dog kennels and art deco paddock ornaments.
But ultimately, one must choose one's workhorse carefully, or Rural Ridicule (tm) may ensue...
The three cars tested have all given excellent service on a smallholding on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. The first, a white 1970 model Kingswood sedan, powered by a very tough XU-1 spec 186 motor, Trimatic gearbox and Salisbury LSD. This car was purchased for $25 (one carton of XXXX) after being ordered off the road due to rust and accident damage. The second is an XD Station Wagon sporting Mt Prospect police car livery, a 4.1 litre crossflow motor and an exceptionally rare Borg Warner 2 speed gearbox (1st and 3rd). The third is a green AU Station Wagon company car, purchased for 30-something thousand dollars in 2002, and recently traded on a Holden Crewman for $9000. This car is a dual-purpose daily driver AND a paddock basher, so it gets marks on the board before the review even starts!
All fullsize Australian tanks, with styling cues dating back to the mid 1700's. Big, reliable motors and tough auto gearboxes. But how do they go when the rain's coming down, the cattle are out, there's stumps to be pulled and doughnuts to be spun? Through extensive use, I've found several key criteria make the perfect paddock car: Style, Dodgy Mods, Quality of Donuts and Carrying/Pulling Capacity.
Proper paddock-cred is essential. This does NOT mean a Landcruiser ute with 400 Hella spotties, a Kenworth mudflap and an RM Williams sticker. Paddock cred is more of a homegrown style. Age or spec level of the vehicle isn't a factor. Mud, rust and busted parts all rate highly.
In the rust stakes, the Kingswood won hands down, with rust damage in all four doors, boot floor, all 4 footwells, sills, roof and bonnet. It's appeal was also enhanced by extensive airbrush (Australian Export-style) work, including a large (HSV) - Hype Sells Vehicles mural, GTS stripes, painted-on flares and a painted-on rollcage.
Whilst the HG was indeed impressive, it's hard to go past the classic looks of a black-and-white Blues Brothers paint job, including (painted-on) "BLUES" personalised plates. This car is indeed on a Mission from God. Continuing the musical theme, the XD is also one of the few paddock cars with a stereo system, consisting of a stock 1979 tape-deck and a Peavey guitar amp speaker.
In its own way, the AU is also impressive, sporting several custom dents and scrapes, mudflaps torn off, bumpers hanging loose and several interesting stains on interior upholstery.
Dodgy mods are one of the defining qualities of a good paddock car. Country people pride themselves on being resourceful and practical, and this really shines through on their vehicles.
The HG tested had many such mods. These include open pipes, a welded locker diff, a free-flow intake (no air filter), aftermarket guages, keyless start, various suspension and steering improvements involving 8 guage wire and radical chassis-lightening modifications including missing sheetmetal.
The XD again shone through in the modifications department. Originally a station wagon, judicious use of an angle grinder has created a functional open-topped crewcab ute. Side pipes were also used to up performance, along with a custom gearbox, sound system and dashboard.
The AU was sadly lacking, being totally stock other than some floorpan raising work to improve ground-clearance (performed with a large rock and several thousand kilograms of rolling force).
Quality of Donuts
Paddock cars are made for work. Circle work. The ability to get sideways and spin is essential for jobs such as rounding up cattle, avoiding fences you forgot were there, entertaining yourself on wet days and using 14" retreads as a plough in a muddy paddock. All three cars performed admirably in this test.
The AU was the easiest to achieve wheelspin in, although the single-spinner diff severely hampered its donut abilities. However, an excellent handbrake allowed effortless bootlegger turns. The XD also spun admirably, with speed and heavy steering input being the stunt-man's friend. One particularly memorable slide across a rough paddock resulted in 3 blown tyres - bliss!
However, for sheer uncontrollability, the HG was streets (paddocks?) ahead. With a locker diff and a strong and particularly revvy 186 motor, it made heli's and skids effortless. Manouverability of the slightly smaller sedan was also impressive, with some sharp turns nearly causing rollovers.
Don't think you need a tractor or a drott to remove a large stump, drag a fallen tree, move large loads of hay or demolish a line of fenceposts. A well-sorted paddock car will do all of these tasks and more.
The AU started ahead of the other contenders due to several factors - a heavy duty towbar, huge load area and the callous disregard for mechanical parts that comes with a company car. Over the years, a casual observer may have seen it snaking back and forth, wheels turning at 400kph, attached firmly to a stubborn tree-trunk by a heavy guage chain. It's also been used to haul impressive loads of firewood, 8-foot wide rolls of agricultural water pipe (threaded out the rear window, thorough the wagon hatch and back), bundles of star pickets strapped to the roof (in consideration of the luxurious Congo Green paint, newspaper was spread undersome of the pickets).
However, the AU and the HG have also proved capable workhorses. The huge load area created by the chopped roof of the XD has allowed massive loads of vegetation (sometimes 4-5 feet above the roofline) to be carted on several occasions. Upwards of 30 drunk hillbillies can be seated in the load area with comfort and style.
The HG's sedan body-style severely limits load capacity. However, it more than makes up for thisby being endowed with what some consider an essential paddock-car feature - sturdy chrome bumpers. This car is a veritable battering ram, easily shifting loads nearly twice it's size when the appropriate speed is used. One can also not underestimate the towing capacity of the torquey little 186 - this car was used on one memorable occasion to tow a bogged RACQ 4wd out of a paddock, where it ventured to rescue a bogged AU.
A very tough choice, all-up. Each car has its own qualities that make it a stylish and practical workhorse. However, a decision must be made. Despite rugged good looks and excellent load area, the XD was ultimately discounted due to reliability issues and the fact that it took a whole day of blood sweat and tears to get its carcass on a trailer and take it to the dump. The HG also has much to recommend it - non standard parts, a cool spray job, outstanding performance and good ol' Oz paddock cred. However, the AU simply cannot be beaten due to one factor - it's a company car... the petrol and the repairs are someone else's problem!
Happy thrashing, y'all.