Smoke and maturity

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersFebruary 10, 2023

There’s a part of the automotive world for everyone to enjoy. Whether it’s motorcycles, little two-seater sportscars, off-roaders or heavy trucks, automotive enthusiasts are spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying their passion, expressing their individuality and ascribing to a culture. Whatever floats your boat – to conflate one transportation-related metaphor with another form of transport.

But while each is entitled to their own, and there’s technically no wrong way to enjoy the hobby, one subset tends to get under my skin.

They’re usually Nissan Patrols, Hilux Surfs or a ute of some description, raised to the limit, with oversized wheels and tyres tracked out as wide as possible, invariably painted matt black and covered in remnants of a recent off-road blast. That’s all fine, heck, I also enjoy a good 4×4 diff-locked excursion – it’s a lot of fun. But there are enthusiasts within this subset who deem it necessary to tune their diesel powertrains to belch out as much diesel smoke as possible. You can also usually identify these by their rear-facing big-bore stainless snorkel and bastardised exhaust system.

Habitually, they’re bombed around town at full throttle whenever possible, leaving a tell-tale trail of soot hanging in the air for those following or standing by to ‘enjoy’. It’s rude, immature and anti-social – I just do not get it.

Sure, they might not identify with the types of vehicles, driving or autosport I enjoy. And that’s fine. But I’ve never driven around town with an obnoxiously loud exhaust and a cloud of smoke tracking my movements – even at my most immature, pretentious, peacocking, stage of driving life. Our own Carl Kirkbeck owns a rather clean, neatly kept Surf rigged for genuine 4×4 activities, and even he’s expressing disdain and frustration with the ‘bogan attitude’ that has filtered into the off-road hobby.

So, what’s to be done? Should anything be done? Is it just the fad of a generation?

The standard WOF tailpipe emissions test consists of a five-second idling test and a rapid-acceleration test to 2500rpm. That’s easy to bypass with an engine tune that dumps excessive fuel only above a certain percentage of throttle application or other parameter. It doesn’t take much from the right foot to rev a stationary light vehicle from idle to 2500… So, maybe the inspection requirements need to be more stringent. Well, they should be anyway if we’re as concerned about tailpipe emissions as we’re meant to be (perhaps a topic for another time).

Maybe there needs to be increased on-road enforcement (another topic for another day…)? Or perhaps there simply needs to be a bit more maturity and consideration on the part of these drivers when they’re around other motorists and commuters who do not share their enthusiasm for that particular automotive culture and, quite literally, think they need to grow the hell up.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers

*We recently discussed this topic for Trucking Radio 24/7. Be sure to catch it on rotation in the coming weeks, or find it on the Keep on Moving podcast.