Published on July 14th, 2020 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Many Pickup Truck And 4X4 Owners Never Go Jungle Bashing
Drive around our city in morning rush hour and you can see dozens of pickup truck drivers and even 4×4 drivers with office attire making their way to another 10 hours of climate controlled office politics. Among these pickup drivers there will be at least a handful, probably 30 per cent with trucks carrying accessories for serious jungle bashing, like a water crossing snorkel, heavy lift off-road suspension, flared fenders to accommodate wide wheels shod with fat tyres and the all important winch up front mounted on a tough looking bull bars.
Then you have another group of pickup owners who will invest in just wide wheels and flared fenders with some interior accessories fancy artwork on the exterior.
The popularity of urban pickup truck ownership is simply this. Thanks to the lack of excise duty imposed on these ‘commercial’ vehicles, the pick-up truck could be considered the best value ‘cars’ on the market; even if you do have to make do without a functional boot. And a bonus for car enthusiasts is that this is probably the cheapest way to get into (new) rear wheel drive motoring.
This is no surprise of course as pick-up trucks have gone up market, with some newer models even coming with car-like interior, driving dynamics and ride comfort. Not to mention the latest safety tech that even some passenger cars of the same price bracket miss out on.
So inevitably, as enthusiasts get a hold of these trucks, modifications run wild. Some turn them into cheap street hooning machines with lowering kits and low profile tires. Not forgetting the huge turbos to turn these rear wheel driven machines into proper street racers.
There is however another, more common modifying theme done to these pick-ups that is slightly more perplexing upon closer inspection.
Pickups launched globally in recent years have already started the trend of adding off-road modifications to accentuate the go anywhere ruggedness of these vehicles. Kick-starting the trend of adding knobbly tires and chunky off-road add-ons like a snorkel or lift kits to these brand new, often top spec, pick-ups.
Some however, still think that these modifications done at the factory are just not enough, and continue to spend many many thousands of ringgit making their new RM 100k+ pickup truck look even more like a mini monster truck.
Though the above image may be an extreme example of these off-road modifications done to a road-going pick-up, it is not far from what you commonly see on Malaysian roads today. The irony here is though that most of these mini monster trucks would not see a dirt road in their lives. The most off-road action these trucks will face is probably a large hump, the odd curb or in extraordinary circumstances, a flash flood.
For an overwhelming majority of the time, these trucks spend their entire lives on tarmac. And although Malaysian roads are never in good condition, having a large truck be even taller, wider and heavier isn’t exactly the most practical of propositions on our congested, chaotic roads.
Not only is it unwieldy to manoeuvre these behemoths around town, the tire roar emanating from the huge aftermarket all-terrains is deafening, even in the most insulated of interiors. The lift-kit added to fit these huge tires underneath also raises the centre of gravity of these trucks, making them more prone to a tip-over in an emergency.
Some of these modifications, like the blindingly bright light bar mounted on a totally pedestrian crash-hazard of a front bumper, are also just an accident away from causing serious injury to the other party. And this is even without touching on the legality of the off-road tires jutting out so far from the wheel arches thanks to wide spacers.
Furthermore, when most of these modifications done to the truck they are done in such a way that is, to put it bluntly, half-arsed. Many who fit big, chunky tires conveniently forget to also change the gearing of their trucks. This leads to a truck that is over-geared, which in simple English is much like starting off in third gear instead of first every time.
Long story short, the truck’s fuel consumption, ride comfort and performance suffers, in addition to adding more stress on drivetrain components causing pre-mature wear.
And that is why proper off-road enthusiasts add on aftermarket axles and transfer cases, in addition to big knobbly tires as to tailor the gearing to suit. Most Malaysians who add these modifications to their trucks however, seem to just want the look without the rest of the proper kit.
Speaking of off-road enthusiasts, there is indeed small minority of owners who do take their off-road ready Tonka toys into the wilderness. But surely, a brand spanking new RM100k+ fully loaded pickup truck isn’t the cheapest way to go.
Isn’t it cheaper to get a used Hilux beater and mod the living daylights out of it? It’s an old Hilux, which as legend says is unkillable and realistically a lot more nimble than today’s tarted up gargantuans. This used Hilux will have probably been beaten half to death in its previous life already, so a few more off-road excursions won’t harm it. Off-road specific modifications can also be specific to this weekend toy instead of having to worry about living with it on a daily basis.
The beater Hilux solution will probably turn out to be less painful on your wallet too. Damaging the beater on the trail will probably be cheaper to put right than on a brand new pick-up. There is no certainty that the warranty will cover the damage sustained while green-laning.
There might be some that are still defending these off-road modifications on trucks that live in the urban jungle, saying it will all be justified when the apocalypse strikes. And that it might be a life-saver when fording a flash flood on the way back from work. Point taken, but statistically, most of us living in the urban jungle will never encounter a flood of biblical proportions that needed a lifted truck on massive all-terrains. At a pinch, a stock truck will work just fine in the same flash flood; and if the flood waters get any higher; you’ll probably be better off in a boat.
And to those who say they do this to pay homage to the Dakar versions of their trucks, good on you; but the problems mentioned above still stand.
The simple fact is, most people just want the intimidating look of a large, menacing pick-up truck.
And although some will vehemently deny it, it is an open secret that the intended outcome for many is to be able to scare people in lesser-vehicles out of their way. As a driver of a tiny hatchback, I have to admit that having a massive section of steel bumper right up against the back window of the car in front is a pretty good way to “politely” ask them to move aside and let you pass.
However, is dealing with a harsh ride, poor performance and wondering if your lifted truck can enter the underground car-park worth the king of the road feeling? More to the point, is there really a need to be so aggressive in life?
Opinion and Text by Joshua Chin