My Most Memorable Christmas - well one of them anyway

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jethro's picture

Here's a little known story about me. I used to live in New Zealand. Specifically in a little sleepy seaside town called Motueka. We even had our own "resort", a beach side caravan park at Kaiteriteri beach. There was a general store, petrol station, boat wash, bait and ice, tea rooms and fish and chip and ice cream counters. I worked there three summers in a row. I actually had a full time job but I used to work there while on my paid vacation. It helped defray the costs of the holiday - petrol money travel, food and drink etc.

I don't even remember exactly which year this was, but it would have been somewhere between 1988 and 1993. At the time I owned a Hillman Avenger. In fact I purchased it explicitly for the holiday - I think I swapped $700 for it. It was a bit of a scrubber, but it went ok.

Well Christmas Eve I worked at the shop - cooking fish and chips. I think from memory i did a 4 hour shift. I left to drive to my grandparents place about 50 kms away late afternoon. I was going to be there for christmas day, though I had a shift christmas day afternoon and again on boxing day. On the way I decided to take a long cut via a gravel road that rankind of parallel to the mainr oad, but it was more fun - hint I was into rallying back then and fancied myself as a bit of a gravel drifter and liked trying the scandanavian flick whenever possible.

Anyway I was haring along this low use gravel road when around a corner in front of me a ute appeared, fully drifting across the entire road. I was heading straight toward him and as he was still crossed up in full opposite lock I figured I was going to collect his rear end. Only thing for it. At the last second I wrenched my wheel to the left and drove into the bank. I hit it with my front wheel with a tremendous bang and it flipped the car up onto two wheels. I clearly remember seeing the road through the side of the windscreen. I travelled that way for a few seconds before banging back down onto all 4 wheels again. In the meantine the sliding ute had fishtailed past me in a cloud of dust. I came to a stop and got out to inspect the damage. Nothing broken, but I had bent the subchassis front arm that the wheel attaches to. This meant that the front left wheel now faced left when the right one was facing straight. Maybe only by 5 or 10 degrees, but enough to drastically affect the steering. In fact I soon discovered i could go around left hand corners by letting go of the steering wheel!

I continued on to my grandparents and enjoyed the evening and christmas morning with them. In the afternoon I had to drive back to the resort. In fact I ended up driving over 200kms before I could get to a workshop on the day after boxing day when they re-opened.

There are more stories I can tell about that holiday, but that is all for now.


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Mark Goodyear's picture

I kept asking myself...

I kept asking myself... what's a Ute? I thought it must be a cow or buffalo native to New Zealand. Then I tried to imagine the fishtailing cow, and figured I must not have my vocabulary straight.

Anyway, I love the language of this piece! Merry Christmas to you.

jethro's picture

Thanks Mark. Quick

Thanks Mark.

Quick "downunder" vocab lesson.

Ute is short for utility, and describes any vehicle that has a cab and a chassis with a flat tray, wellside or enclosed back area.

In America they are called pickup trucks I think.

Here is a link to an Australian Ute Magazine

Fishtailing describes the process of a car swinging from side to side when the rear wheels are driving faster than the car is going forward, i.e. they are spinning.

So as the ute drifted around the corner crossed up, that is with front wheels pointing straight ahead, but rear wheels sliding sideways, the driver has seen me and over corrected the slide, snapping the rear wheels back so hard they broke traction to the other direction. The response is to correct the slide in the other direction, and if this is done too fast the car continues to whip the rear wheels from side to side. If you keep the power on during this process and control the steering wheel with small movements, you will eventually get the rear wheels to go in the same direction as the front, and stop fishtailing. It is called fishtailing because the rear of the car flaps from side to side as a fish does with its tail.

Hope that explains it for you.


Mark Goodyear's picture

I figure utes were some kind

I figure utes were some kind of truck when I ran a google image search. We have fishtailing in the states too. In fact, my first car, a 1967 Mustang (that was 30 years old and looking every year) fishtailed something awful until I got new tires. Every corner I took made me feel like James Bond on a high speed chase. Even though I was usually only going 15 or 20 miles an hour.