The consumer trend toward sports utility vehicle has been good for off-roader enthusiast clubs, with growth being reported among many lower North Island organisations.
Trevor Hendra, convenor of the Central Districts Four Wheel Drive Club’s off-road vehicle show at Manfeild on July 3, says the big upsurge in national sales of SUVs and crossovers has in turn fueled memberships of organisations that provide the safest, most responsible use of these vehicles.
As the club interest grows, so too does the span of vehicle types within their circle.
While highly modified bigfoot-style vehicles remain popular, there is also an increasing trend for members to adventure in basically unmodified production models – ‘shinies’ in club parlance.
That about half the vehicles in the club fall into this category reminds that today’s four-wheel- drive vehicles can be impressively versatile.
Robbie Shailer’s 1993 Mitsubishi Pajero is a good example.
The club founder member says he bought his 2.8-litre turbodiesel second-hand and it has proven to be a reliable, inexpensive three-in- one rig – that is, it performs equally adeptly for work, family and fun.
New springs and shocks have raised the ride height but otherwise “it’s stock standard. I use it for work as well four-wheel- driving. I really love it, it’s the only vehicle I feel safe in.”
Mr Shailer says he has taken the Pajero through some very tough terrain and he’s proud it has performed well.
However there are also plenty of times where he, friends and family have gone on club expeditions that are a lot less extreme and just as much fun – a drive on a paper road in the country or along a beach.
"That’s the thing about our club. We cater for all levels. You don’t have to do tough stuff – you can do a shiny run down the beach, maybe stop for a picnic."
"When we go out you do not have to do the tough areas, there are always ways around. You pick and choose what you are comfortable with."
Mr Hendra agrees: "Basically, these days we have all types of events for all styles of vehicles and everyone gets to have a lot fun."
"There are a lot of people who now simply want to go out and enjoy their vehicles without risk of damage and we can cater for that quite easily."
Regardless of how arduous the outing, clubs reinforce that the ticket to adventure requires responsibility. There’s a right way and a wrong way to explore beyond the urban jungle, the men say and joining a club, as many Kiwis do, is definitely the right way.
"Clubs work really hard to promote four-wheel- driving as a sport and as a hobby to be undertaken in as safe an environment as possible," Mr Hendra says.
"What annoys me are the people who get these vehicles, think they are bullet-proof and go out and cause havoc," Mr Shailer says.
"You’re better off to join a club, get taught how to do things and so forth. It's commonsense to me. The first rule is you never go out on your own – you always have two vehicles so, if one gets into trouble, the second one is there to help get you out.
"It’s also about friendship and doing something the whole family can enjoy – in fact, you don’t even need to own a vehicle to join. There’s always a spare seat so you can come along and get to know what it’s all about."
Having responsible fun is a central theme for the club’s annual show, which returns to Manfeild after a successful debut last year.
Trade stands and a diversity of off-road- associated organisations – from the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association to talk about how to ensure modifications are level through to military vehicle collectors - will be at the stadium.
The display area will also include a diversity of vehicles, from the latest showroom models to some vintage gems.
Manfeild Park is a good fit for car show, says venue chief executive Julie Keane, pointing out that it also hosted annual automotive swap meets for the vintage car and hot rodding movements.
"Those events have massive national status and always draw impressive turnouts of vehicles and attendees."
The four-wheel- drive day offers not only a good opportunity for bargain hunters – with stalls selling a wide range of specialist mud and sludge gear - but also provides a chance for anyone interested in off-roading and off-road vehicles to look at, and judge, the best and boldest.
For further information:
Manfeild chief executive,
027 659 9666
Central Districts Four Wheel Drive Club,
027 444 4613