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1989  CHARADE Review
  • reliabilty and economy, surprisingly comfortable, got me around Australia!
  • it wasnt a four wheel drive, lack of status in remote campgrounds with grey nomads

by Shaun W

In 1994 I happened to visit Wolf Creek Crater in Australian’s wild west, before the horror movie. I had decided that I could take my 1989 Daihatsu Charade (the one with the 1.3 L four cylinder motor!) around Australia from home in Queensland after I had talked with Pat Mullins, plumber inspector at work, who had taken his Toyota Camry to Broome with his wife Pat during his long service leave .“Pack light with the essentials and you wont blow tyres or suspension and it’s the dry season!” he said. It was sort of surprising he thought I would be okay as I had managed to bog the Council car on local dirt roads three times in 12 months. In the days before mobile phones everyone could hear on the 2 way radio that the Shaun had bogged the work Ford Falcon and had to get pulled out by the Council tractor yet again. It was the big joke that everyone at work knew about.

Before attempting Wolf Creek Crater I had managed to take the Charade into Lawn Hill Gorge National Park via the Gregory Development Road. It was just on dark when I arrived and the shared campfire possie of grey nomads with big touring rigs hadn’t noticed me arrive and were embroiled in a conversation about fuel economy with shouts of 21L per 100kmh being badge of fuel consuming honour (fuel at nearby Lynd Junction was $1.50 a litre even back then). As I joined the conversation, my response of 5L per 100km was met with disgust when they realised I was driving a city suburban hatchback. I think the words “sham”, “travesty”, “farce” came into play which was interesting as they are all synonyms for “charade”.

I had also travelled through the West McDonnell Ranges in Northern Territory via the Merrenie Loop Road. One the big dunes nearly got me but the front wheel drive just managed to scrabble for traction at the crest of the track. I even managed to hit the tonne on the Tennant Highway in the freedom of no speed limits. I can advise that a Daihatsu Charade can do 160 kmh (just) but takes a flat road and 24 minutes to achieve it. I can’t recommend it. But I had become cocky!

I was going way too fast on the dirt track leading into Wolf Creek Crater, fiddling with the stereo and didn’t see the gully washout until too late, bottoming out and gashed the fuel tank with fuel spilling everywhere. I managed to retrieve a few litres in my cooking pots, and had another 10L spare in a jerry can, and set up camp to make a cup of tea beside the road waiting for a passer-by….and waited… and waited. On the second day I realised I needed to get myself out of this predicament.

Bless Jack Absalom and “Safe Outback Travel”. Does anyone remember that tv show when bushman Jack Absalom takes a Mitsubishi Sigma Station Wagon around Australia and gets himself in and out of various outback predicaments? He also released a book and I had it with me as sort of a rescue manual, and sure enough there was a recipe to repair fuel leaks. Grate plain soap into a powder and mix with equal parts bull dust and then spit into it to create a malleable paste. It took me three attempts to plaster the five centimetre gash in the fuel tank, and with a slight drip persisting decided I needed to refuel the car and drive like a bat out of hell on the 70 kilometres of dirt back to the highway, as time, not economy, was of the essence with a leaking fuel tank.

The car truthfully ran out of fuel as I arrived into Halls Creek, and I coasted to stop at the fuel bowser. In that wild way of the west to counter my jubilation the unfortunate welcoming party at the bowser was a posse of local fellows ready for some petrol chroming – the west is a wild place. The mechanic sold me a tube of fuel tank repair gel, which I sold on the car some 6 months later back in suburban sanctuary and after another 12,000 kms of adventure around the west and southern coasts of Australia. I can also advise that bull dust comes out of blue velour interiors quite well.

And I cannot bring myself to watch the Wolfe Creek horror movie

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1989  CHARADE Review Review
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