What farming needs (I decided after a lengthy evening of internet-based car browsing) is a small pickup.
I’d been checking out all sorts of huge machines with names like “Destruktor”, “Waste-Layer” and “Scarer of Small Children”, and they all have the same problem (apart from silly names and too much chrome): the pickup bit is useless for most real farm applications.
I’ve had a couple out for a play here on the farm, and practical use has confirmed this.
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They’re brilliant if you really do want to slot in a Euro pallet loaded with bricks (as they do in the glossy brochures), or you’re one of those pickers-up who arrives on a shoot with at least two dozen springers crashing against the sides of the fibreglass canopy.
But the sort of stuff we want to put in (duct tape, grease gun, socket set) rolls to the front and is inaccessible.
That’s once you’ve lifted it over the chest-high sides, or lost your carefully manicured fingernails to the tailgate that thinks it’s the till from Open All Hours.
And the day I got one stuck while trying to park in one of Winchester’s aged multistorey car parks is too embarrassing to even mention, so I won’t.
Mind you – the fact that I was browsing pickups at all is significant. I’ve always been a fan of conventional 4×4 SUVs as farm vehicles (better comfort, coil springs, more secure and so on) – even preferring them to “commercial” variants.
I’m happy to pay the extra to get better visibility and be able to carry passengers.
A few years ago, a Golden Age of farm vehicles seemed imminent. A new Defender was on the way, Ineos’ Grenadier was all over the papers, a funky new Jimny had just arrived – and all these alongside established Land Cruisers and Shoguns.
The Defender quickly priced itself out of most farm pockets (“What a surprise!” cried no one, ever), the Jimny fell foul of “Cafe” emissions regulations (although it is rumoured to be returning soon in pure van form), and Mitsubishi has abandoned the European market.
As for the Grenadier; we wait, and we wait – but it never seems to arrive.
We get mirage-like glimpses of it (and it looks right, apart from its wonky wiper) – but I do wonder if it will ever fully materialise, and if its sophistication and inevitable “twinning” with the Defender will price it, too, out of our pockets.
Hence my reluctant perusal of pickups.
My mind went back to the 1980s, when the Subaru MV1800 was the hugely popular – if thirsty – farm truck. The Jolly Flowerpots ran a Mini pickup, and my godfather had a Marina pickup – although that was on the noddy Meon Valley chalkland down at Corhampton.
I’m not sure the Skoda Felicia “Fun” was terrible practical, but it was utterly bonkers.
So come on Isuzu, Toyota, Ford et al. There’s a huge hole in the marker for a compact, simple pickup, with four-wheel drive hi/lo, steel wheels and everything else kept to basics.
By all means feature a double cab or one of those “extended” cabs, but here’s the crucial bit: cut the pickup bed down to something practical.
Make it waist-high, and hack a couple of feet off its length. That’ll do for most of us, and shorten the whole vehicle chassis to something sensible.
A shopping trip to a 1960s multistorey would no longer be a shame-filled horror.
Make it in green, and don’t name it after the belligerent nemesis of a 1980s superhero.
Give it a simple, sensible name. Oh, I don’t know; how about “Smallback”? That’ll do nicely. You’re welcome.