Most people have an inner child, but I am cursed with something far less cute or cuddly: an inner Bogan. I’ve tried to crush his street-spitting spirit and I’ve defied his desire to tattoo my body, but he’s still there, deep down, desperate to drag me back to rugby-league watching, using swear words as punctuation and worshipping exclusively at the altar of Aussie cars, mate.
Sure, I let him out to breathe, and burp loudly, every now and then, when I make the pilgrimage to Bathurst for the Great Race, for example. Or when I return to my home town of Canberra, that shiny capitol with its unwiped underside.
And I felt him stir restlessly, recently, when I did a double-take at the sight of a Holden ute parked in inner-city Sydney. I remember, of course, when utes were everywhere – and I mean proper utes, the vehicles an Australian invented, not the bastardised pick-up trucks that we’ve now decided can carry that storied title.
A weathered HQ ute was the main form of transport for most of my childhood, when I would sit in the middle of the bench seat between my mum and my sawdust-breathing stepfather, who actually used his V8 brute for work.
I never fell out of love with them, either. With their unladen rear ends, they were always colourful and involving to drive.
I like to think of them as unique Australian sports coupes, in a way. They looked fantastic, too, and still do, on those rare occasions that I see them (there are still plenty in Canberra, of course).
What you’re far more likely to see today are the pick-up truck utes – let’s call them ‘trutes’ – that have come to dominate our roads. The fact that a Toyota Hilux can sometimes be the top-selling vehicle in the country still bends my mind with the same ferocity that the idea of Jacqui Lambie being a senator does (mind you, my inner bogan loves her).
In much the same way that Wheels long resisted listing trucks at the back of the mag, and putting them on its hallowed cover, I have resisted having anything to do with them. I don’t care for them, so I don’t read about them, or drive them, and as such I was genuinely surprised to learn that the big-selling Ranger Raptor is only powered by a 2.0-litre diesel.
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Surely this is like finding out that lions have mouse hearts, or that Steve Waugh has a normal human one? This did at least put an end to the temptation I had felt to drive the Ranger, because it is undeniably a fine-looking beast, and proof that many of us do choose our vehicles for visual reasons above all else.
Recently, though, I found myself forced to drive a trute, in the shape of Nissan’s huge and hulking Navara N-Trek, and lo, what a wrestle it turned out to be between my outer snob and my inner bogan.
As much as I wanted to hate it, I just couldn’t, not just because it looks so appealingly rugged and mean, but because of the way driving it, or even just sitting in it, made me feel: manly, empowered, hairy-chested, Bunnings-worthy. It made me grunt rather than speak.
And yes, it made me feel slightly seasick around corners, because I really don’t ever enjoy sitting that high above the road.
My inner bogan now wants one terribly, despite the fact that, like most Australians, I don’t actually need one at all. I’m off to give myself a stern f__in’ talking to.