Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Help me win $5000 and a New Ford Territory for a year

The official competition entry post as Round 1 of the Top 50 Bloggers sponsored by the New Ford Territory and If you like my blog, make it count and vote for me! 
Vote and share and Like and Tweet the crap out of it! There. I shan't ask again on here. Promise.

Otherwise titled..... Travel All Over The Countryside

I apologise in advance..... This is long. It's by me. You KNOW it's going to be long. But I have had an absolute BLAST reminiscing.

Not actual vehicle - ours was sky blue. With complementing dark blue curtains
made by Mum. And this one looks to have at least 2 more opening windows than we got.
Photo credit

When I was born, I arrived into a family with a Kombi van. To be exact, it was a Volkswagen Type 2b microbus - the model that was being built from 1971 to the late '70s. This was the model that had a fancy "face lifted" front which included a bull bar.... that was a menace to everything and everyone if they connected with it at speed. Ah! the good old days.

New Ford Territory Titanium RWD
Now, I met this new slick Ford Territory up close and personal. I can safely say, it honestly caught my breath. I was expecting it to look like the first generation style of the car which I've seen everywhere for a few years now. But it didn't. This one was sleeker. Pretty, even. Less petrol-hungry looking. And I admit to feeling a pang of envy that someone is going to get to drive it.

"Push the button, pull the choke,
Off we go in a cloud of smoke"
Photo credit
But after I came home and my post-Sydney high wore off, I thought about it. Do we reeeeeally need two handbag storage compartments? Ten cup holders? Wine bottle hol.... well, okay, we could do with those. But as to the rest, can this new Territory really take us places that we couldn't get in our old car? Hence, my tour of the only car I grew up with - the Volkswagen 8-seater Kombi - and an inadvertent trip down memory lane I took with my old Dad that ended with him coming over all nostalgic for the gas-guzzler and wanting to go and buy one.

Once I had furnished my mind with long-forgotten memories of our beloved Kombi, I have to admit... the Territory looked even better. But that's not much of a compliment, frankly. Here, let's browse through the list of top features and take a comparative look at why that might be:

Oozes comfort, no?
Photo credit
Ford says:
• Driver's knee airbag, lockable security drawer under driver's seat - Well, I don't know about you but the interior shot here says it all. Who needs a security drawer and airbags when surely, first and foremost, some suspension might be nice? Let's not get all fancy ahead of the basics.

Priorities, people.

The seats are sitting directly on top of the wheel arches. No fancy-shmancy padded upholstery. Plush is for wimps!

Ford says:
Fancy: Individual cigarette
ashtrays. The height of luxury...
Photo credit
• Removable rear rubbish bin - What's wrong with what our mother fitted the car with? Little plastic bags we had to all ensure we had in front of us for any long trips, tucked in to the cigarette ash trays (yes, there was one in the back of each seat... those meticulous, comfort-seeking, chain-smoking Germans, they thought of everything).

Ford says:
• The New Ford Territory is able to expand to a 7-seater if needed" - Oh, come on, guys. You're not even trying to compete with our old Kombi now. It was an 8-seater ALL the time. Without even trying. 
Granted, the middle seat of the centre bench seat had no seatbelt which meant - if we had to use it  - the kid in the middle had to be ready with their feet if they wanted to resist the inertia created during any sudden braking. Because if they didn't, they'd end up garotted by the automatic transmission T-bar (there was a galley between the two front seats, like a proper bus, which was great in wet weather but not good if you were supposed to be in the back and you suddenly found yourself in the front during a braking 'incident'). The trajectory of the sudden stop happened to me more than once and no doubt to my siblings as well. But we learned to brace the emergency crash landing position. And my thigh muscles ended up like a Russian gymnast, let me tell you. 

Not only was it an 8-seater (in your face, Ford Territory), the bus was a mobile motel. Oh yeah. Totally. Dad told me he and Mum rigged up a bed by way of a severed table tennis table with space for all four of us to sleep while they hurtled across the Plains of outback South Australia. No corners, therefore no pesky rolling. No worries! 
Bed On Wheels!
Photo credit
But I also have vague memories of being put into the boot of the car to sleep while they partied in later years. I'd wake on the drive home from the motion, where there were corners - I'll bet my parents probably assumed would lull me and my kid brother into a deeper sleep but did the opposite, because they'd put us to rest on top of the motor. See, there was none of this too-clever engine in the front close to where it's most needed business.  Pah! Noooh, much better to have it tucked away in the back of the car and run all the workings from the back along the undercarriage to the front of the vehicle. Genius engineering. They really thought their way out of anything, didn't they?

Ford says:
• 8" colour touch screen, rear DVD player, iPod, USB and Bluetooth mobile integration - I have to admit, this was hard to look past. 
Volkswagen was all over the 8" screen decades ago.
Photo credit
When Kevin Rose, co-host of one of my favourite web shows - Diggnation - was given a Ford Focus to drive around for a few weeks and the spots they filmed showing the car's connectivity, he managed to make me very jealous. I made a mental note at the time to go and see what Ford were doing when next we had the need for a new car.
So, the best I can come up with to pit the Kombi against such feats of modern technology is..... the story of when my family drove across the Nullarbor to Perth. And back again. 
Six people, five days of straight driving. Well, er, not so straight all the time - my Road Safety Expert, doctorate-qualified father has told me stories of nodding off and taking out a roadside guide post or several.... hmmm, a cautionary tale, I'm sure. 
Now, the technology part is this: the mono AM radio wasn't going to cut it for a long 7,000km+ round trip across the Nullabor-ing desert, was it?*  So what did my older brother do? Why, convince Dad to help him rig up a power source by way of a cable from the cigarette lighter to his tape deck (in itself a very basic 1970's-standard, single speaker outfit). And then he subjected us, his siblings, to a repetitive play list worthy of any 10 year-old in 1979. It included such memorable hits as Money (Flying Lizards version), Escape (the Pina Colada song), I Don't Like Mondays and I also remember - too much - Driver's Seat (Sniff 'N' The Tears) and Dream Police (Cheap Trick).

And Ford are really just rubbing it in by stating "Cars are just mobile play centres." Okay, answer me this then: Who needed a rear DVD player when we had such fine compilations to keep us occupied hour after endless, tear-inducing, mind-numbing, sibling-fighting, fart-smelling hour? I ask you. And just once more: *

We all survived. But we heard Girls Talk by Dave Edmunds several dozen times too many. By the time we got back to Melbourne, I loved the song. And I was only four. I still remember most of the words and I haven't heard since... 1979.

Ford says:
• 8.2L/100km on diesel, emergency brake assist... - blah blah blah. Listen, I'm all for a bit of adventure in car transport, actually. I clearly remember willing the car up any slightly inclined hill around town because, guaranteed, we'd start going backwards before we reached the top if Mum hadn't judged the external temperature:incline, distance:velocity ratio's. What excitement in a kid's day! Will the car make it up the Brysons Road hill or won't it? Not only that, the sliding door of our bus never actually closed properly - they bought it that way - and if it wasn't closed properly, the thing would slide open alarmingly while we were driving along. How none of us ever fell out, I don't know. Perish the thought....

Regardless, what's with all the safety features in cars these days? In my day, Mum and Dad had to adapt to the needs of the vehicle to keep it on the road, not the other way around. Dad proudly told me, when I was picking his brains for this trip down memory lane post, that once he had been given the tip by a mechanic to bash a particular spot of the undercarriage of the bus with a heavy spanner, its intermittent stalling became a thing of the past - unless someone was willing to get under the car and give it a bang.
I still recall sitting under the shade of the only stick that used to be a tree as far as the eye could see on the Nullabor - in unrelenting midday sun - waiting for the car to play fair. And it was one memorable stop. Dad had done what any father worth his Clarke Griswold Award would do and had taken us miles out of nowhere to see the world's largest ball of mud (Wave Rock, to be exact) and on the way back, the car carked it. So Mum did what any good mother of young children would do: she made "fairy-dells" with us and we gathered stones and rocks and made little circles in the desert dirt for the fairies in case any were going to happen past anytime soon. They would've been poor, shrivelled up, barbecued fairies if they did, I tell you. Still, it was fun.

And all this isn't even to mention the height of Summer days when the breath would literally get knocked out of us from the heat of the seats and the metal belt buckles, if they touched our skin, would actually scald. The patterning in the seats was terrifyingly painful - I fast learned to peel myself slowwwwwwly from a hot vinyl seat. The massive steering wheel that seemed like so much effort. My brother running the car through our fence when he mistook the accelerator for the brake (hey, easy to do...) when he was practicing pre-Learner plates. In fact, I remember more than once Mum stopping the car at the end of our drive and letting us drive the car up to the house. Problem: tight curved driveway, hill, kid barely able to reach pedals... Result: more than one near miss. 

Enough from me. Plenty, more than enough. I've said TOO much. My god, I think that's the first time ever that I've said that on this blog! My point is, that car served us extremely well. For a large family and the amount of trips it made each year, it was a bloody good (if not reliable) car that features prominently - and fondly - in my the memories of my childhood, not that it necessarily went to any great lengths to help me survive it.

********* chirping lone cricket **********

I want to hear from you now:

What great memories do you have of your family's first car? 
Did you take it on big adventures across country? Was it a death trap like ours?

* (Aside: What the HELL were my parents thinking, going all that way with four kids aged ten to two?? It's kinda no wonder they divorced, huh?)

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