Pride of the ‘Gong, the ultimate in off road luxury…Capricorn rising star on his way to ‘Paradise…Put yourself in the picture of HDT history…plus Narva, Bendix, CoolDrive….

Looking for the ultimate long-distance, remote-travel vehicle? Then look no further than a few kilometers south of Sydney to Wollongong, home of the awesome EarthCruiser Explorer XPR440. Based on the military-spec Mercedes-Benz Unimog U430, this “most advanced expedition model” don’t come cheap.

In fact, at a touch over $720,000, it’s the sort of money that a few years back would have bought you nearly all of Wollongong.

Powered by a 220kW/1200Nm 7.7-litre turbo-diesel engine, with either manual or automated transmission, it has a fuel range of up to 3500km (no joking!) to provide what is described as a level of exploration superiority that can literally take a family to experience the tour of a lifetime, and bring them back safely to civilization.

And, of course, it’s absolutely jam-packed with extreme off-road features such as Variopilot, that permits a 30 second swap-over of steering wheel and pedals, from left to right hand drive or vice versa, as required on inter-continental journeys.

An iPad touchscreen allows monitoring of around 140 functions including inflation and deflation systems for the run-flat tyres and the four point hydraulic jacking system.

Other standard features include four wheel coil spring suspension with disc brakes, ultra-low off-road gear ratio selection, heated tanks, batteries, pumps and water supply, two fridge/freezers (68 and 212 litre), front and rear mounted electric winches, seating for five, a queen-sized bed or twin beds, two sky-beds, 240V exterior mounted BBQ, a chain saw and axe.

There’s also telematics with satellite tracking and monitoring with vision from five externally mounted cameras providing 45 days recording in real time, which may be viewed globally.

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According to EarthCruiser Australia’s Mark Fawcett, the Unimog Explorer was three years in development with the company hoping to sell up to five a year once the word gets out.

“When negotiating severe off road tracks the approach, departure and ramp over angles give the XPR400 amazing access, which can be improved yet further at the request of the buyer.”

Pricing starts around $580,000, with the optioned-up display model priced at that seven hundred and twenty thousand smackaroos mentioned earlier that could go even higher with other accessories available such as satellite TV.

If this is all to much for the bank balance then you could lower your expectations and go for the 3.8m long XPR380 version, which has the option of rear mounted motor cycle, can carry up to 860 litres of water and 800 litres fuel and comes with a number of ‘weatherproof options’ to cater for extreme cold or heat.

Or, as the Monty Python’s Flying Circus people used to say you could try ‘something completely different’ in the form of the very sporty Knaus Tabbert new kind of CUV.

Capricorn rising star (and boss) on the way to Paradise

It’s not often that a young apprentice gets the chance to take his boss – and two friends – on an all expenses paid trip to Surfers Paradise for the Vodaphone Gold Coast 600. But that’s exactly what Mark Smith of Belconnen in the ACT will be doing in October.

Why? Well, it’s all about him having seen off more than 500 other nominees in the inaugural Capricorn Rising Stars apprentice of the year competition.

Apparently, it was Mark’s outstanding work ethic, combined with his passion for the industry and commitment to making the most of the opportunity given to him by his employers at The Battery Terminal gave him the winning edge.

Apart from the trip to the race, Mark’s win also earned his company some free customer service training from The Workshop Whisperer.

The Capricorn Rising Stars competition was developed to assist members of the buying group recognise, reward and retain high performing apprentices and to highlight the promising future on offer in the auto industry.

“I hope that this initiative continues and that more apprentices gain the recognition that they deserve for their efforts day in, day out,” said Mark.

The judging panel included David Fraser (Capricorn); Sean Rahaley, (Castrol); Stuart Charity, (Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association); Brendan Sorensen (TaT Biz); Rachael Sheldrick, (Workshop Whisperer) and Gavin Cribb, (Automotive Centre of Excellence Bendigo Kangan Institute).

Castrol was the major sponsor supported by Repco, AutoMate, TatBiz, and The Workshop Whisperer.

Mark Smith (third from left) with the team from The Battery Terminal.

Put yourself in the picture of HDT history

If you’re an HDT freak then you won’t need us to tell you that it’s fifty years since those six HK 327 Monaros burst onto the racing scene with such devastating effect. Naturally, they’ll be a bit of celebration around the traps including the release of the 50th Anniversary HDT Archives Collection. (And, if you’re quick, you can include your mug shot, but more about this later).

And what a tome it is in the shape of a 10kg compendium of HDT paperwork, stories and history from the iconic brand that was once the fifth largest car manufacturer in Australia.

First, third and sixth position in the 1969 Bathurst, three back to backs on the mountain, a young Peter Brock…it’s all in there in what must be the ultimate collector’s item for all HDT and automotive enthusiasts.

The collection also features rare photographs, personal letters from Peter Lewis Williams, Peter Janson, Joe Felice, John Crennan, Colin Bond, John Harvey, Ian Tate, Allan Moffat, Graeme (Mort) Brown, Craig Fletcher, Greg Chambers, David Whitehead.

“It’s the perfect time to release this information and reveal both the well-known and unknown stories to HDT enthusiasts out there,” says HDT owner Peter Champion.

“It’s the perfect time for enthusiasts to become part of history. It’s also a very special as the world’s largest collection of Peter Brock cars go to auction and we look to revive manufacturing again in Australia.”

The publication is set to be printed and released towards the end of October. And get this, if you order before 25 August you can send in a photo that will be included in the collectable. How’s that for a showstopper at the next family barbeque?


New LED lamps light up the great outdoors and more

You’re out on the open road and the sun is setting. Time to look for a stopover and what better way to add to your comfort and convenience than with one of Narva’s new LED awning lamps.

Oval-shaped, the new additions are longer and narrower, making them more suitable for fitment to some areas where the originals perhaps didn’t easily fit. And there’s a choice of four models beginning with the 87792 that has passive infrared motion sensor.

At its widest points, the 12v lamp measures 365mmx49mm and features a sleek and contemporary design suitable for modern vans, caravans and motor home exteriors.

Its fantastic light output comes courtesy of SMD LEDs that deliver a powerful bright, white light (30 lux at two metres). A low current draw of 0.5amps at 12v, tough polycarbonate lens and an IP66 rating add to its attraction.

If you want more brightness, then the 87794-12 variant that uses 6×0.5w high-powered LEDs to develop 33 lux at two metres while maintaining a low current draw of 0.25amps at 12v is the model for you.

With compact dimensions of 218mm x 44mm, is an ideal as a utility lamp for campers, or even for emergency services and transport applications. The 12-24V 87796 model will give you 65 Lux at two metres with a low draw of 0.50amps at 12v or 0.25amps at 24v.

Top of the range in terms of size and output is the 12-24v 87798 lamp that pumps out a massive 130 lux of bright light at two metres with a 1.0amp at 12v and 0.5amp at 24v. All models are IP66-rated, easy to fit and covered by Narva’s generous five- year LED warranty.

Choosing the correct brake pad

It’s often very difficult for vehicle owners not connected with the motor trade to choose the brake pad that best suits their driving style and the environment in which the vehicle operates. The biggest supplier of such products in Australia is Bendix, so we asked the company’s Ian Bott, the following questions:

What factors are important to a driver?

The three main areas are positive brake feel, brake noise and the amount of brake dust, as each factor will influence the other to some degree. Low brake noise and good pedal feel can result in the brake pad generating more brake dust yet offering great brake feedback.

Is how the vehicle is used important?

Yes, it is very important. For instance, does the driver spend time in stop-start traffic, long highway motoring, or lots of enthusiastic driving. Establishing this will determine if the vehicle requires a high friction, high performance brake pad, or a quiet long lasting one for low speed multiple stops. A delivery vehicle, or taxi that carries passengers and goods and is stopping frequently will require a high friction, long lasting brake pad such as the Bendix Heavy Duty.

What about a vehicle used for towing?

If this is the case, then it is important to establish if the trailer has brakes and whether the vehicle is towing occasionally for towing or every day as this will determine the choice of brake pad. If the owner hauls heavy loads on a regularly basis then it goes without saying that this is very demanding on the brakes.

So what would you recommend from Bendix’s extensive range?

For OEM replacement brake pads with better performance, less dust and noise, select the General CT or 4WD SUV for sedans, hatches, crossovers and SUV’s. If you want high performance brake pads and are less concerned about noise and dust, then Ultimate or Street Road Track will satisfy this requirement.

For commercial vehicles, trucks and utilities that carry or tow heavy loads, we recommend the Heavy Duty brake pads that are long lasting yet provide stable performance for everyday towing and carrying loads.

CLICK HERE for more details or HERE for a video link

Just as it happens, with heavy commercial vehicles travelling on average 40,000 to 60,000 kilometres per year in Australia putting a heck of a lot of pressure on braking systems, the company has launched the Protrans range of pads.

Offering original equipment friction material with a rating of GF and full compliance to ECE R90 certification. Bendix say the Protan pads have been independently tested to ensure the braking performance, speed sensitivity, cold performance and frictional characteristics are within 15%+/- of the original equipment pads.

Bendix Blue Titanium strip technology provides accelerated moulding around the points of contact, rapidly increasing contact areas as the pads mate to fit the rotor surface.

Each Protrans brake pads kit comes with quality hardware meeting OE specifications with the correct number of accessories for one complete axle set, saving time and money in the workshop.

Winners out in force at CoolDrive awards night

It was a night for winners at CoolDrive Auto Parts’ annual awards held recently in Melbourne. Thirty-three branches in Australia and New Zealand, were assessed using revenue against sales budgets and other qualifying criteria that the company considers key to a high performing business.

And the winners were! Albury (NSW) Melbourne, Smeaton Grange and Alexandra (Sydney). The JW (John) Blanchard region of the year gong, went to Gary Lings, regional manager for Western Australia/South Australia.

The awards night was attended by around 120 guests including senior CoolDrive management, branch managers, suppliers and company guests.

(Top) Neil Dipple, CoolDrive Albury and Shirley Blanchard; (middle) Ash Fullarton, CoolDrive Melbourne with CoolDrive founder WJ Blanchard and Michael Grant; (above) Gary Lings and John Blanchard.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the company has issued a new full color catalog covering the HULK 4×4 range of four-wheel-drive equipment and outdoor living accessories.

The 4×4 equipment line-up includes recovery kits for bogged vehicles, electric winches, winch straps, jack bumper lift kits, recovery hitches, heavy-duty jacks, rigger gloves, snatch blocks, wheel chocks, dual battery trays, air compressors, tyre gauges and more.

Camp and camp strip lighting kits, extension cable kits, pull-out awnings, high-density breathable outdoor matting and grey tent awnings make up the outdoor living accessories sector.

Freewheel hubs were also added to the range this year, suiting a wide range of vehicles from all the major manufacturers including Ford, Holden, Isuzu, Jeep, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ssangyong, Suzuki and Toyota.

Strap yourself in Swan Hill Dragway fans; you’re about to get a visit from the notorious (sorry nitros) Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars. Following in the footsteps of Burke and Wills, who reached the town in 1860 on their way to the Gulf of Carpentaria, these modern-day fire breathing cars will parade up the main street in 2019. March to be precise.

And what a show it promises to be with the very best drag racing cars in the country performing alongside monster truck rides, giveaways, stunt shows and much more. Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars are the new stars of Australian drag racing.

Other dates include August 4, 2018 Springmount Raceway, Mareeba; October 27, 2018 – Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich; January 5, 2019 Perth Motorplex, Perth.  Click here for more details.  

On a warm summer’s night in Arizona

A couple of months ago, US supermarket retailer Kroger and driverless vehicle maker Nuro announced that they were to begin testing grocery delivery using self-driving pods. Now the partnership has confirmed Scottsdale, Arizona, as the first city to run the pilot.

Customers are now able to place orders using an online portal or mobile app where they pick a suitable slot for same day or next day delivery for a flat fee of $5, regardless of the size of the order.

“Kroger wants to bring more customers the convenience of affordable grocery delivery, and our pilot with Nuro will help us test and learn to understand customer acceptance of autonomous vehicles in our seamless offering,” said Kroger’s Yael Cosset.

Sources: Kroger, Nuro



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