Day 1 – Meet the Rocky

Aerodynamics like an IKEA closet and certainly a similar cornering ability; thanks to the production year 1992 not far from being declared a young timer; in spite of a really short car body the turning circle of a truck; equipped with a safety package which is easily surpassed by that of a washing machine…

Well, the Daihatsu Rocky (sold as Daihatsu Rugger in the US and Fourtrak in the UK) has been designed for heavy field duty. Someone described it with the following words: “Undermotorized, overdesigned – built for eternity”. No arguing there.

First of all we should take the country into account – Bolivia is three times bigger than Germany, but there exist only 4.000 kilometers of paved roads. Additionally, the state of many of the roads seems to undermine the max speed regulation of 15 km/h up to 80 km/h, even if the huge quantity of the crosses along the roads may indicate that not everyone would agree on this. For comparison: There are 231.000 km of paved roads in Germany (2009).

Taking all this into account, we might forgive the Rocky many of its supposed disadvantages.

The car seems perfectly suited to open a third lane where there are only two thanks to its narrow construction – fulfilling so the (informal) requirements of the Bolivian traffic. And there is another reason to be grateful for it – the missing inches in width are certainly an advantage when meeting with trucks coming from ahead on Bolivian mountain roads (which by the way offer an astonishing panorama, especially due to the impressive abysses right on the side of your car).

It seems that the designer planned the car as a UNICEF vehicle from the very beginning on; in fact, the first owner was an official of this organization. That explains the deescalating color of the car body (probably “peace dove white 777”), although the impressive black bull bar might offer a slightly different impression.

You will have to learn to respect the legal speed limits, as the car gets louder and louder above 80 km/h till you are ready to believe that there will be a time warp at 110 km/h leaving burning skid marks behind the car. Fortunately, as soon as the downhill part of the road ends or some wind from ahead arises you’ll find yourself below 100 km/h once again… and back in your own time line.

The suspension offers a great opportunity for installing a cocktail shaker – you get a perfect cocktail for the tired driver on arrival. And you will get tired eventually, as the missing power steering motivates you like hell to get back into your fitness center which you left a month ago. And the steering wheel…well, is really a wheel. Or at least was…

Why was? It´s a longer story leading us into the dark and forbidding underworld of the Bolivian repair shops. I`ll try to make it short: 

October 2010 – I left the car in a repair shop due to a short curcuit.

January 2011 – I received a call: A proud voice announced that the car was ready and added, that the car was ALREADY repaired at the end of December but I couldn´t be reached. The lights work once again, for what they had to change the steering wheel, the steering column and the ignition lock only …

Happy about this great start into 2011, I went to the repair shop on the very next day. After a few months in separation you may forget some details, but even so I was pretty sure that a Daihatsu steering wheel should look somehow different.

“Weeelll, it´s like this: we couldn´t find the original parts, so we decided to install a Mitsubishi steering wheel…”, said the mechanic.

Just for the record: The car body was from Daihatsu, the original engine from Toyota. Even so, I wasn´t quite sure if I should be happy about parts from a third car manufacturer.  But ok, I decided to check the lights.

I turned the lights control, just to activate the wipers.

Slightly irritated, I follow the movements of the wipers in front of me. The mechanic noticed it and started to explain:

 “Weeelll, it´s like this: We couldn´t find a steering wheel according to local standards, so we decided to install an ORIGINAAAL one from Japan. The controls for lights are now on the right side.” I suppose he underlined the word “original” to make it perfectly clear that it´s something to be proud about.

Well, after three months you take what you get. So I drove back home, trying not to indicate the change of the lane with the wiper. On the way back I noticed that the steering wheel squeaked.

New day. New problem. The reapir shop was on the way to my work, so I decided to stop there to have the squeaky sound removed. But the sound wasn´t the only problem – for no reason the other car drivers started to blow their horns at me. But there was no one behind me…and no one coming from ahead… I started to have a bad, bad feeling. I moved the steering wheel to the left…nothing. I moved it to the right… my own horn started to sound. I tried to take cover behind the steering wheel to avoid the surprised and angry looks of the other drivers…by far not as angry as the look of the police officer at the intersection – I disappeared as fast as possible from his sight. The mechanics took it with humor, I didn´t.

I found a good mechanic a few weeks later. You can´t understand the meaning of this sentence if you don´t live in Bolivia. It´s similar to finding a good dentist – a friend has to recommend you to him.

But let us get back to the advantages: It´s surprisingly easy to park the car thanks to the straight lines and the short car body – even with the enormous turning circle. You can´t get such an overview in modern cars anymore… at least not without big-brother-certified cameras on board.

The 2.2-liter engine likes gas – you won´t get below 15 liters/ 100 km in the city and 9 liters on the road. For a 4×4 in Bolivia it´s not that bad – but you shouldn´t even think of comparing it to modern cars.

The boot seems to follow the idea of minimalism, but you would be surprised how much can be stored into it. And the luggage rack on the roof may be mistaken for a small helipad.

The most advanced (well, the only one) electronic device on board is the radio; it even does have an USB port. The old one had to be removed after shutting down on its own after five minutes.

At least there is no need for a HAL 9000 supercomputer to see what´s wrong with the car – the probability of getting killed by a crazy A.I. is reduced considerably. That´s an additional point for safety. Generally, you won´t need much more than a hammer and a screwdriver to repair the car – tools available to every mechanic, even in remote South American villages.

Talking about the safety package: the complete AAA-set (Anti-Airbag-ABS) finally lets you understand the profound meaning of the “Jesus is my airbag” sticker. The old fashioned bumpers allow you a progressive approach to the “small parking lot” problem. 

To finish it with one sentence: I love this car.

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