The Carchive: The '81 Daihatsu Fourtrak

20140514_135549 Welcome to another serving of slightly brown-edged lettuce from the massive salad bowl of the past that is The Carchive. On Tuesday we documented a work hard, play hard Suzuki; today we take a look at another piece of no-nonsense Japanese hardware that deserves our respect. 20140514_135556 “The Daihatsu Fourtak range was designed for and developed in some of the toughest terrain in the world. South East Asia, where a major road is often little more than a rutted track” In 1974 the market for rugged, lightweight mud-pluggers was rocked by the launch of the Daihatsu TAFT, which sensationally stood for Tough Almighty Fourwheeldrive Transport. The original, one-litre F10 version gave way to the 1.6 litre F20 in 1977, and that’s where we find ourselves right now with this publication which spurted out of a printer in 1981. The Fourtrak was a good deal bigger than Tuesday’s Samurai. It was mechanically about as straightforward as things get, with a ladder chassis and semi-elliptic springs and beam axles, worm nd nut steering and a four-speed all synchro ‘box. “Every vehicle in the Fourtak range has a level of comfort that’s more like a saloon car than a four-wheel-drive” No it didn’t. Driving a Fourtrak was probably more comfortable than pushing it, but not much more. Mind you, there were a pair of standard-fit reclining seats, but they wouldn’t actually recline very far if there was a bulkhead in place like in the pickup model or the tipper. Both of those, incidentally, were on the menu. The tipper had a hydraulically tilted loadbed and the pickup had a 70” platform, and could take a 950 kilo payload. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them in the flesh. Going back to comfort, a heater was standard equipment. There was also a comprehensive array of gauges to give clues as to what was going wrong mechanically and how alarmed you should be. For all those lung cancer fans there was also an cigar lighter and an ashtray, though I suspect most people probably just used the window. 20140514_135602 Powering the Fourtrak you had the choice of an “Incredibly reliable” 1600cc four cylinder petrol for sixty-five and a half horsepower, running a pretty low compression of 8.5:1, if you went for the F20. Or, to do the job properly, a “powerful and advanced” 2.5 litre four cylinder diesel which was all out of ideas after 62 hp but which delivered all its 110lb.ft of torque by 2400rpm. It was this engine that really eased the work that this horse was asked to perform. They called it the F50. All this lovely power was delivered through a two-step transfer box, with two or four-wheel drive available in high ratio, or 4WD in low ratio in. The front hubs were freewheeling, but had to be manually engaged. Of course. The potential from all this mechanical hardiness was unlocked by the fact that the Fourtak had a minimum ground clearance of around nine inches, even when fully laden. Fact: Fourtrak was useful. 20140514_135609The Riviera is a stylish luxury equipped version of the short-wheelbase soft-top” This version, with extra “look at me” driving lights, and available in “a limited range of special colours”, rather missed the point of what the Fourtrak was all about. The “Classic short wheelbase Soft Top” was more like it, as you could choose the big diesel, and the “stylish” front bumper was replaced with a simple metal beam. You could still enjoy the benefits of the soft-top; in fact it seems to me that many people removed the soft-tops and then never got round to reinstalling them, preferring to enjoy simple, hose-clean all-weather motoring while wearing suitably waterproof clothing. But it’s the short wheelbase hardtop that I remember most fondly. Where I grew up was rather a boaty place. There’s the sea about five minutes walk down the road in one direction, then there was the sheltered, inland “backwaters” about the same distance in the other direction. These Fourtraks seemed to be particularly favoured tools among the boatishly inclined. The ones I remember all seemed to be from the same era, 1981 through ’83, and they were always green. And they all had rusty wheels, like mottled versions of the white ones in this brochure. This was a tell-tale of the time that these cars spent on slipways with the rear axle submerged in sea water. And in between jobs, the lockable, enclosed rear compartment of the hard-top made for a secure place to leave tools, outboard motors, lifejackets, all that kind of nautical paraphernalia that might otherwise go walkabouts. Alas, they all seemed to disappear at roughly the same time, during the early 90s, at which point Discoveries and Fronteras were starting to take over and the Fourtrak had evolved into a rather more sophisticated machine; even being accompanied by a lifestyle flavour Sportrak derivative which came in disgustingly upbeat hues. Aside from the rare example that has been restored, these things have dwindled to nigh on extinction and have been outlived by this brochure by decades. I’d love one. (Disclaimer: Images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Daihatsu, who, since they don’t even bother selling cars in the UK any more, probably don’t really care anyway.)

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