If your idea of a dirty weekend includes actual dirt, mud, sand, speed and negating ridiculous obstacles, then a side-by-side (SXS) off-road buggy could be right up your alley!
There’s no better way of getting your fix of off-road action then by strapping yourself and a mate or family member into a machine that is dedicated to being driven through paddocks, up rock ledges or along the gnarliest rutted dirt tracks.
The idea that you can have a vehicle dedicated to doing the rough stuff on the weekend without having to worry about the impact that vehicle damage has on getting to work on the Monday, is something that can have more appeal than taking a 4WD (that may also be your daily driver) off-road for the purpose of pushing the limits of that vehicle.
There are dedicated kids’ side-by-sides and everything in between to suit any skill level from the novice weekend warrior, farmer joe, right through to the seasoned professional racer.
There are sedate, farm-spec models with trays for load-carrying, models built for pure weekend fun, right through to high-powered 1000cc race buggies with long-travel suspension, built to take on the likes of the Finke Desert Race, so there are plenty of options to suit your ability and budget.
Of course, you’re going to need land to drive it! If you don’t own your own property or know someone that does, don’t despair – there are plenty of off-road parks available all over Australia. Not all off-road parks allow the use of side-by-sides due to council restrictions, so it pays to check first.
The two main parks that are easily accessible from the Hunter area are TJ’s 4B Park on the Putty Rd southwest of Singleton, and Bylong Creek 4×4 Park, west of Denman. Both have camping and accommodation facilities and hundreds of acres of bushland and maintained tracks that range from easy to extreme. You’ll generally have to book in for a day trip, weekend or extended stay.
What about road rules I hear you say? Well each park or designated area will come with its own set of rules, but the general rule in a side-by-side is never exceed your ability to get back to where you started from without injuring yourself or someone else.
It’s pretty simple – you should always put safety first, even when you are on private property. Always make sure the buggy is fitted with roll-over protection that is in good condition, wear seatbelts where fitted and helmets to protect your noggin in the event or a roll-over or against stray tree branches and rocks.
If you’re new to the whole world of side-by-sides, we suggest checking out some of the footage from the Finke Desert Race or perhaps getting out to an off-road racing event to check out the action firsthand.
You can check out event details at https://aorra.com.au/events/ or http://www.offroadracing.com.au/. It’s a safe bet to give you plenty of inspiration to get in and start ripping it up for yourself – there’s simply no better way to experience a dirty weekend!
THANKS TO TJM HUNTERVALLEY, OUR 4WD EXPERTS
Newb’s Guide to 4WDing
With all that’s going on in the word right now including overseas and some interstate travel being off the cards, spending some time exploring your local 4WDing tracks has never looked more appealing. If you’ve just spent up on a new rig set-up and are ready to go, but not really sure where to start – then this article is for you!
What to Take
Whether you’re driving a standard 4WD or something highly modified, you’re going to want pack some basic recovery items. Most people don’t go out with a plan to get bogged but eventually the inevitable is going to happen. It’s nothing to fear however, and providing you’re well prepared, most situations will just require a bit of elbow grease and a bit of recovery gear.
A shovel is the most underrated piece of recovery equipment and sometimes you would be surprised at what can be achieved by digging out around stuck components. If you’re travelling solo, a set of recovery tracks are a must. Placed under the wheels of the vehicle when you are bogged, they are the cheapest option for performing a self-recovery and will get you out of 90% of situations.
A winch is the ultimate self-recovery tool and will get you out of 99.9% of recovery situations and is worth factoring into your budget when buying a 4WD. Otherwise, you’ll want to take a snatch strap, with a couple of rated shackles and have a rated recovery point to snatch off. The most common type is one that slots into your towbar hitch receiver. A tyre deflator and portable compressor are also handy tools for lowering and raising tyre pressures.
Where to Go
The beauty of the local area is the abundance of tracks, but if you travel in any direction for a couple of hours, you will find a whole lot more. If beach driving is your thing, you’ll want to check out either Stockton Beach, Lemontree Beach or Blacksmiths Beach. Although Blacksmiths is the closest, it’s also the most challenging and we recommend cutting your teeth on Stockton or Lemontree first if you’re new to the game. The sand is generally harder packed and easier to drive, especially if you’re in a standard 4WD.
Permits will be required to access these beaches with Stockton passes issued by Worimi Conservation Lands with a list of places you can purchase permits at https://worimiconservationlands.com/beach-driving/. Lemontree Beach will require a National Parks Pass available online https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/passes-and-fees . Blacksmiths Beach will require a permit issued from Belmont Wetlands State Park with a list of outlets you can purchase from on their Facebook page.
Tyre pressures are a crucial a part of spending less time bogged on a beach. On most hard-packed beaches, lowering pressures to 18psi will be adequate to give the tyre a bigger bulge and longer footprint in the sand so that it floats over the sand rather than trying to cut into it. Softer beaches require lower pressures – 15 or even 12psi. Be sure to re-inflate tyres back to normal road going pressures once off the beach.
If you’re looking at tackling bush tracks in the local area, the Watagan Mountains is a great place to start. There’s a maze of easy tracks within the national park and state forest and mild tracks such as Greens Break Rd to wild tracks such as CTP80.
Adjusting tyre pressures to suit the terrain will also help here and we always recommend having an experienced spotter to guide you through tight, rocky and slippery terrain. Picking the right line to get you through obstacles can be much easier when someone outside the vehicle can see exactly where you’re placing your wheels.
Being well prepared and setting your vehicle up right is the key to hassle free and enjoyable 4WDing and luckily, we live in an area that has a wide range of 4WDing experiences. Joining a 4WD club is also a great way to learn the 4WDing ropes and meet like minded people with some local knowledge and experience. Whatever way you look at it, it’s a perfect time to get out there and start enjoying your 4WD.
THANKS TO TJM HUNTERVALLEY, OUR 4WD EXPERTS
Do You Even Lift Bro?
You’ve just bought yourself a new 4WD and you’re about to kit it out with some mods to get you out on the tracks and touring the countryside. If you’re new to the game, you might be struggling with ideas on where to start and the most practical mods that will be useful for 4WDing and touring.
So, do you need a suspension lift? It’s a question that most newcomers debate over – “I’m only doing beach driving and a few easy tracks; do I really need a suspension lift?” Well, the simple answer is yes you do, but the long answer is much more complicated than that.
Most modern 4WDs have a whole heap of hi-tech traction aids that work wonderfully with the exception that they all lack two important factors – ground clearance and suspension down travel. These are the two things that will get you stuck!
When you start to add weight to your vehicle with other goodies like bar work, roof racks, fridges for camping and camping gear the extra weight moves vital components closer and closer to the ground, not to mention that the handling of the standard suspension will also be affected.
Most quality suspension suppliers will offer a range of different spring rates to suit the weight you have on the vehicle, so that it’s always handling its best and sitting at its optimum ride height.
The legal lift height in most states is 75mm (or 3 inches in the old scale) over-all, including suspension lift and lift obtained from fitting bigger tyres. The most common way of achieving this is by running 50mm of suspension lift and fitting tyres with a 50mm larger diameter than the standard tyre (which lifts the height of the vehicle 25mm bringing it to 75mm overall).
Now while this doesn’t sound like much, it really makes a world of difference in dramatically improving the approach, ramp-over and departure angles of the under-body components while tackling uneven terrain. It pays to check your state’s requirements as it does vary.
But I’m only doing beach driving.
The thing about beach driving, is that you’re dealing with an ever-changing environment. A hard-packed, easy-to-drive beach one day can be a soft, washed out mess the next day; so raising the chassis rails and body components up out of the soft sand with a suspension lift makes sense, to avoid these bits getting hung up.
There could be worst places to get stuck than on a nice beach somewhere (especially with a fully loaded esky) but the reality is, even though getting stuck is sometimes unavoidable, it’s much easier and safer to not be stuck than to need to do a recovery. A quick YouTube search will reveal plenty of horror stories of bogged 4WDs being claimed by the surf.
The same can be said for driving bush tracks – anything from mild to wild tracks can always change and giving your vehicle the best ground clearance and suspension down-travel will reduce the chance of damage and ensure that wheels stay on the ground and moving forward.
So, a suspension lift makes perfect sense for anyone wanting to do any form of off-road driving to avoid damage and ensure forward momentum, and we would definitely put it up there as one of our top 4WD mods. After all, who couldn’t use a few more inches?
Thanks to TJM HunterValley, our 4WD experts
The Golden Holden
The automotive brand Australians have grown to know and love has announced they will be discontinuing sales in Australia and New Zealand. Goodbye Holden!
General Motors (GM) have announced the exit of Holden, making the decision to retire from sales in Australia and New Zealand.
GM International Operations Senior Vice President Julian Blissett said GM had taken the difficult decision after implementing and considering numerous options to maintain and turn around Holden operations.
“Through its proud 160-year history, Holden has not only made cars, it has been a powerful driver of the industrialisation and advancement of Australia and New Zealand,” said Julian.
“After comprehensive assessment, we regret that we could not prioritize the investment required for Holden to be successful for the long term in Australia and New Zealand, over all other considerations we have globally.”
Only 24 hours since the shock announcement of the retirement of the Holden Brand for good, the value of Holdens have projected to have at least doubled. Chief Marketing Officer for Lloyd Auctions, Brett Mudie, said they were flooded with enquires through their Classic Car Division Nationwide.
“It really shows that the market has responded immediately and is indicating that the market for Holden’s will sky- rocket as we have seen the interest soar in the last day,” said Brett.
“The value of Holden Classics has always been strong but this evidence that has come to us in the last day suggests that it is more than likely to create a booming market for them.”
In the past Lloyds have broken multiple records across different model Holden Classics, where the very first Holden Dealer Team HT Monaro 57D also sold for $500,000 in the same year.
“We actually anticipate that the HT Monaro 57D has doubled in value overnight being worth 7 figures just under 3 years later,” said Brett.
You really never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. With people scrambling to get their hands on vehicles like the beloved ‘commy’, buyers better get in quick.
GM Holden Interim Chairman and Managing Director Kristian Aquilina said that given the significance of Holden through its history, it was critical the company worked with all stakeholders to deliver a dignified and respectful wind-down.
“Today’s announcement will be felt deeply by the many people who love Holdens, drive Holdens and feel connected to our company which has been with us for 160 years and is almost ubiquitous in our lives,” said Kristian.
“Unfortunately, all the hard work and talent of the Holden family, the support of our parent company GM and the passion of our loyal supporters have not been enough to overcome our challenges.”
We’re going to miss you Holden!
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