SSSSV Motor Vehicles

Or ” Finally telling yourself the truth…”.

Calling a motor vehicle a 4 Wheel Drive is pretty specific. If it does indeed drive from all four wheels you are correct – if it only uses the front or back ones then you are running a fraud. Not that I am criticising you in any way – federal governments are founded on fraud and look how well that has worked out…

Likewise calling it an ambulance – if it has stretchers, defibrillators, and tongue depressors – is all good. Whether you can actually save anyone’s life is another thing but at least you get to play with the siren.

Army tank also pretty well defines the steel box with a big gun. People can fiddle with the terms assault gun or tank destroyer but in the end it has tracks and a loud noisemaker and if you are at the receiving end of the shell the rest is just technicalities.

But where are we with the SUV – the Sport Utility Vehicle? It looks like a fancy 4 WD, but frequently bottoms out on a beer can in the road. It has minimal actual haulage space once one has given room over to complex transmission tunnels, spare wheel stowage, and articulated coffee trays. And no-one who owns one goes any closer to sport than to drop the kids at tee-ball on Saturday before heading to the hair dresser.

I propose that the brainless suburbanites who clog the car parks with their silver or black ” Grande Oplunezia Sportifissmo iTQ 56 ” be compelled to list their hulks as SSSSV rather than SUV. Suburban Shopping School Status Vehicle. Big enough to give the owners a sense of importance and bulky enough to shield them from the consequences of their own bad driving. The kind of car that tells people that you have arrived…and makes them long for your departure.

I would not deny the country-dweller and the explorer the comfort of the 4WD. They are useful and in some cases necessary modes of transport. But I would make sure that they were restricted to the country – perhaps a cordon of vehicle inspection posts ringing the metropolitan area with sharpened steel cutter bars set at a height that would allow an average sedan to pass but sheer the cabin off an SUV. It would solve the problem of trying to reverse out of a car park bay when the sods park you in.


The SUV Without The S

The 1950’s were serious times for serious people. Not for them the fun-loving carefree attitudes of today. People were committed to work and only bought vehicles that were totally practical and sensibly engineered…

Yeah. Right. How many model car collections contain Thunderbirds, Corvettes, Jaguars, and MG sports cars? Painted in drab serviceable colours for everyday haulage…

As a contrast I present the Chevrolet or GMC Suburban of 1950. Like the Renault Juvenal and any number of English vans, it actually is the forerunner of the modern SUV – but no-one deceived themselves that it had anything to do with sport.

Filling the back seats with your own children might have been considered a sport, but the families who did probably considered that to be a form of work as well…In any case the vehicle could haul people, groceries, and products about as well as a modern SUV but with far less comfort or pretension. And for that reason I would love to own one.

If the front end looks like a GMC pickup truck of the period it is because that is what it is – the bodywork further back becomes a large station wagon with only two side doors and two rear doors – and a lot of shuffling and wingeing to get all the people into all the seats. A modern vehicle does that very much better – the slide-door vans being the best of all. It is amazing that it took the designers all the time it did to fasten upon that idea as the best solution.

Still, this is the sort of hauler that would haul in places that the car of the time would stall. I do remember them as rural school buses or construction job people haulers. I’m willing to be that they probably had their seats stripped out and became many more things before the decade was over. I’m undecided about the paint job on this Mira model, but I’m glad I have it and its companion panel van.

That’s a traffic signal box at the corner of High Road and Herald Avenue…

The High Horse


Every year seems to bring an increase in the number of 4WD, SUV, and other large vehicles to our roads. As residents of Western Australia I wonder if we have embraced these vehicles out of fashion or folly. I’m pretty well convinced that it has not been out of necessity.

I hasten to add that I recognise the facility of this sort of vehicle for explorers and farmers. There is a need for them on mine sites and with the military. And a small number of enthusiasts actually use them to go to places off the beaten track, thereby beating the track into fragments… Would that they could do it in road graders and help the rest of us.

But I fail to see the utility of the type in the city. I can agree with a ute or pickup for tradesmen – and of course there is always the tray-top to transport the tradie in and out of morning traffic at high speed….but the 4WD land tank suburban Transformers truck going into car parks and down to the school to collect the kids seems overkill. And it kills a lot of the joy of the road for everyone else.

Of course the finger might not be pointing in the right direction when it goes toward the users – they may be trapped by the manufacturers who just keep coming out with bigger and more improbably vehicles to beat their rivals. The suburban mum who might have been perfectly capable and happy with a hatch or sedan a decade ago is now saddled with something that looks like it comes out of the Russian army. But she dare not go against the grain of the Mother’s Group pecking order – when large SUV’s are a sign of status she must needs get an Altair or Scammel.

Of course then it becomes a self-fulfilling thing. The big car puts her high up and as she is high up she is impervious – impervious quickly morphs to imperious, and then she needs a bigger car with bigger bumpers. Her ego expands to fit the sheet metal volume. Eventually it outruns her mechanical ability to see, steer, or form adequate judgement. Then she is eligible for the gold rings and  chains, sunglasses in the hairdo, and barking scream.

Catherine The Great would  have loved the modern SUV. Better even than guardsmen or horses.