For those involved in country sports and other adventure professions, the 4x4 is a vital tool of the trade. It must supply all our needs like a good butler, unobtrusively but utterly reliably. In partnership with Subaru.
Never ever refer to your 4×4 as a car, it’s a vehicle. Actually, it’s not even just a vehicle. It is: dog kennel; truck; people carrier; removal van; office; tea stall; tractor (real, not Chelsea); luxury saloon; terrain buster; base camp. Most of all it is a home-from-home during all the many and sometimes rather too various adventures enjoyed by its owner. We use our 4x4s to go surfing or pheasant shooting. We use them to take our family and other animals to see other families and their animals all over the world.
A HOME FROM HOME ON THE ROAD
A home from home on the road for writer Jan Menzies
Over the years, our relationship with our 4×4 matures. We remember all the sticky moments it has brought us through. What about that time up on the grouse moor when there just wasn’t a track at all? The 4×4 still got there. Or the stream that had turned into a roaring spate and the 4×4 calmly sailed on through (almost literally)? And most of all, there is the moment at the end of a very long wet, cold day that hasn’t gone particularly well. Just chuck the dogs in the back, turn on the seat heaters, put your truckers’ mug of coffee in the holder and point the nose straight at whichever motorway will take you home quickest.
Professional gundog trainers do more miles than a travelling salesman. They drive the length and breadth of Britain competing and training their dogs. This would be more or less impossible without a vehicle versatile enough to take them and their dogs and their kit over long hours of motorway cruising. And then effortlessly through the deepest and darkest of bogs on arrival at the shoot. But it’s more than that: the vehicle itself becomes a comfort blanket. One top trainer confessed to me: “When I’m back on the motorway and it’s been a rubbish day, I have a pie on the dashboard and a mug of tea in the cup holder and I get the phone on hands-free, and it’s as good as being home.”
A 4×4 PUT TO THE TEST
So Subaru’s new Special Edition Forester in Hunter Green, has some very big all-terrain tracks to fill. Perhaps its cleverest attribute is to have mud-brown leather upholstery. This is the colour all 4×4 upholstery eventually turns, so it is a good idea to do it deliberately and with a degree of style. The Forester also has all the things that we need in the way of cup-holders and endless nooks and crannies to put our sandwiches, our phones, our dog whistles, our sunglasses and even the hat with the ridiculous pheasant feather. And when the dogs insist on breathing and steaming up the rear window – as they always do – the Forester steps in like an old family retainer to murmur discreetly and politely that perhaps Madam would care to use the reversing camera? Madam certainly would! In fact, shooting down on Exmoor, it was all my fellow guns could do to stop me spending the whole day driving round in reverse to enjoy the brilliant camera.
The major drawback of the Forester is shared by all decent 4x4s, which is that once your friends and relations know you have one, they exploit you mercilessly. “Oh, you’ll be taking your dogs up in the Forester anyway won’t you,” they assert airily, before going on, “so you can easily take the wine and all the guns, you’ll have plenty of space. Then we can fly up and meet you there.” Thus inflicting not just a very long and sometimes sketchy drive, but also…
Any lover of country or adventure sports knows that our fun has one downside. The necessity of packing the vehicle with all the requisite kit. This harrowing experience is avoided by all who can, especially other halves, who confess: “I’m absolutely devastated but I just can’t miss this very important meeting in town. The only answer is for me to meet you up at the shoot.” Actually, there are other answers, mostly unprintable.
I checked round to be sure it isn’t just me who finds this so stressful. A lady gun reminded me: “If you are going up to Scotland to try for a MacNab it’s ridiculous because you have all the fishing and stalking clobber to pack as well as shooting stuff. Oh, and evening clothes as well, don’t forget, and a present for your host, and …”
Between us all we came up with this list of roughly what must be packed – it’s far from comprehensive: guns; dogs; dog food, bowls, water, towels; sporting clothes; other clothes; sporran (yes, sporran, for the formal Highland dress evening); ammunition; gumboots; over-trousers; wine; first aid kit; torch; personal items; walking boots. As you become a more experienced (and embittered) packer, you get better at it. Never have the dogs around, until you have finished packing everything else, because they will repeatedly pack themselves and get in the way. But don’t forget to pack them in the end, when the moment finally comes to hit the road.
PART OF THE FAMILY
Like gypsies, most of us modify our 4x4s over the years. We add roof boxes, purpose-built dog travelling pens, and even specially designed gun safes. The Forester has many of these accessories available, and lots of manufacturers specialise in modifications for all the leading 4x4s. It takes a while for your new 4×4 to become part of the team. The moment you really know it’s joined the family is when it develops that Peculiar Smell common to all 4x4s. Some would say it is a mixture of wet dog and mouldy tweeds. But we know it is the smell of fun. The Forester took on its own special ambience after just a couple of days on Exmoor!
Janet Menzies was driving Subaru’s Special Edition Forester in Hunter Green with boxer diesel engine, lineatronic transmission and five-year, 100,000-mile warranty, priced at £31,495. Find out more at www.subaru.co.uk/huntergreen