Home » Our Micro Meet In Melbourne: Strong Engines, Weak Showers

Our Micro Meet In Melbourne: Strong Engines, Weak Showers

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The Autopian is a beacon for car culture the world over. That’s it’s job. In turn, as the Australian Bureau Chief, it’s my job to spread the good word Down Under. Thus, on Wednesday night, I made my way to a hardware store carpark behind the wheel of a ridiculous promotional ute. It was time for our meetup in Melbourne!

I’m over in Victoria right now driving the Valtteri Bottas ute from the Uber CarShare ads. Uber built the car with a bunch of silly features that really only work on film. I’ll be providing a full run down on the car soon. I figured it’d be fun to take the car out to show some of our readers and hand out some ridiculous Bottas merch in the process.

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First, I had to find a spot to meet. I grew up in South Australia, in the shadow of the old Holden plant. Out that way, land is cheap and the sprawl is extensive, so car meets typically happen in the parking lots outside big box retailers. I tried to apply that same strategy to Melbourne, but it was much more difficult. Melbourne is dense, and centrally-located stores tend to have tiny car parks or none at all. Eventually, I figured out that Port Melbourne Bunnings would work for us, so I dropped a pin and invited readers to come and hang.

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We weren’t really sure how many Autopian fans would come down to Melbourne for the meet. Let alone on a grey Wednesday night with only a couple days of notice. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a small handful of enthusiastic readers who had come to banter and talk cars.

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First to arrive was Harry, who pulled up early in his 2022 Volkswagen Polo. He was a good sport fielding questions from everyone about his “Golf R,” having to explain that no, it was a Polo R Line instead. Cut ’em some slack, it was dark out.

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As a P plater, Harry’s just starting his motoring journey, but he already knows his stuff. I gave him the tip that his car would look cooler if he backed into the parking space, as is typical meet culture. It’s also mandatory to pop the hood and talk about what’s underneath, no matter what you’re packing. We talked about the last few generations of Volkswagen TSI engines, and the weirdly large empty space next to the Polo’s battery.

Harry was also kind enough to hoist the clothesline on the front of the ute. It has to be manually bolted in place, and Uber had put us under strict instructions not to drive with it installed.

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You could fit a way larger battery in here if you really wanted.
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Laundry time!

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A few more readers wandered in and we got to talking cars. Representing the kei cars was Darrel, who brought out his Suzuki Jimny. Note that this isn’t the typical 1.3-liter model you see in Australia—it genuinely is the kei class version! It lacks the wide flares of the bigger model so it fits neatly into the kei class dimensional regulations.

Even better, it’s equipped with the DAMD body kit that makes it look like a miniature Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. The fuzzy headrests just added to the cute factor. A very fun car indeed.

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Matching puddle lights! So rad.

Darrel told us that the kei model works really well for his use case. It’s more than capable of cresting 100 km/h, too, so it’s able to keep up with traffic even on Australian highways.

As a reminder, we’re celebrating the recent ruling in Texas that makes imported kei cars road legal again. We’ve launched rad merch—a ‘COME AND TAKE IT’ shirt, as well as a flag you can use to decorate your garage, lounge, or sewing room. As Charles Bronson never said—”You can pry the keys to my kei truck from my cold, dead hands.”

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New merch!

It wouldn’t be an Aussie car meet without some local product. Morgan rocked up in his Ford Fairlane—a luxury long-wheelbase model of the Ford Falcon. Naturally, we had to pop the hood and take a look at the Barra lurking underneath. Four liters of Australian muscle, right there.

Despite the engine’s reputation, Morgan explained that this early naturally-aspirated model wasn’t the best candidate for boost, as it has weaker internals than some of the later models. He talked us a few of the finer points of the model range, and explained the challenges inherent in dealing with the complicated body and engine control modules on these cars.

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Who doesn’t love a big six?

One thing I wanted to do at this meet was show the gang some of the amusing features of the Bottas ute. I explained the pie warmer (non-operational), fridge (non-operational), and the shower. Due to some very strange design choices, it was basically impossible to refill the shower’s water supply. The water can was stuck in a tight cabinet where it was very difficult to access.

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Regardless, with a little fiddling, Morgan was able to wrench the water can out the back of the ute. Another reader, Jackson, then decided to run into the Bunnings bathrooms to fill it up so we could mess around with this silly feature. Ignore the dark intro, the video gets brighter.

It was utterly underwhelming, and all the funnier for it. I don’t know why the shower was built like this. One would expect that it would have been smarter to make everything more accessible in case the system needed to be repaired on the film shoot. Regardless, it worked better on Uber’s ad than it did for us.

The ute also came with some merch which I decided to hand out. I gave the gang some Bottas speedos, towels, and air fresheners. I wanted to keep the surfboard for myself, but Uber told me that had to stay with the vehicle. Boo!

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Our Melbourne meet was a small one, but a fun one. And nobody got arrested, defected, or lost their license. For an Australian meet, that’s a win.

It’s always fun to potter around and look at a few different cars, trading stories about what we’ve driven and what we’re driving now. I look forward to the next opportunity to do something like this, and maybe we’ll even get Project Cactus down as a bonus! Til next time, keep motoring!

Image credits: Lewin Day

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Marcus Fnord
Marcus Fnord
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing this!

I absolutely dig the rides, the mini Gelandewagen is the highlight but I am always a sucker for a Fairlane or a Holden ute.

I would love to catch some Autopians at a meet but unfortunately I am in China at the moment, which is probably closer to Melbourne than my actual residence of Perth.

Let us all know when you are on the west coast and I will certainly be there!

Last edited 1 month ago by Marcus Fnord
FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 month ago

I find it absolutely brilliant that all of the Aussie meet-up posts here on The Autopian are ute-centric.

It was awesome having Cactus up here in Bris, I’m pretty bummed I wasn’t anywhere near Melbourne to get to this one as well.

Geoff Tuck
Geoff Tuck
1 month ago

Gutted I wasn’t able to make it!
That Baby G Wagen Jimny is rad!!

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

Thumbs up to the guy in the Golf R!
I kid, I also drive a mildly-warm Polo (06 Polo ‘Sport’), so I’m glad to see that people are still buying them 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by Phuzz
Harry Jobe
Harry Jobe
1 month ago

Thanks Lewin! Was really something to encounter warm-blooded Autopians right here in Melbourne. I’m chuffed to see that the Polo’s petrol pie warmer made the grade.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 month ago

The Jimny is rad. I got FOMO from another continent.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Looks like a fun get together. Interesting collection of AU and imports. The ute is weirdly unique.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 month ago

Looks like a great time!

I wish very much that I and Cactus could have been there, but sadly this time of year is more jam-packed than the treads of a Kenworth driving through a strawberry paddock.

This also means that there have now been Autopian meets at all three of the Eastern Australian capitals. Sorry Canberra, I’m sure you’re used to being ignored!

Martin English
Martin English
1 month ago

Next time in Sydney (or nearby). The Adventra doesn’t need an excuse, but I do ????

Steven Moar
Steven Moar
1 month ago

It was lovely to meet with you Lewis. Very glad this lined up with a work trip to Melbourne , else I’d have been admiring from afar.

Thanks for the Bottas merch. My F1 loving kids are thrilled. Daughter is trying out the budgie smugglers as I write this.

And that Suzuki is just an absolute gem!

Steven Moar
Steven Moar
1 month ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Shit, didn’t even notice the autocorrect until now. My apologies, Lewin.

McLovin
McLovin
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven Moar

Great to meet you Steven and glad you liked our Suzi!

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
1 month ago

“the challenges inherent in dealing with the complicated body and engine control modules” are a polite journalistic way of saying ‘the bloody thing won’t lock because it thinks one door and the boot are permanently open, and it’s too painful to contemplate the repair involved’!
I guess it’s just the sort of thing you have to put up with when taking advantage of a car’s depreciation in value – for some reason Fairlanes seem to be the least desirable Falcon variant, meaning I could spend less than $5000 for a car that originally cost $56,000 (about $96,000 in today’s dollars!)

McLovin
McLovin
1 month ago

Thanks Man! The next one will be Yuge.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

Damn. If only I’d been in the city, state, country, continent, or hemisphere.

Australia really is probably the only place I can specifically say I want to visit. I got the idea about custom riding leathers from someone on another site, and it’s sort of spiraled out into “leave the country for not-work for once in your life, damnit.” Meeting Lewin would be pretty dope.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

Nice. I’m Melbourne (well, Sunbury) born and raised but have lived in the US since 1988. Finally went back to visit in 2019 and my wife and I both agreed we could totally live there.

R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Sunbury is basically Melbourne now, though, right?! 🙂 Melb + regional Vic here; US since ’03. Same view.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago
Reply to  R53forfun

Yeah, Sunbury definitely felt that way compared to when I lived there.

Nice to have a backup option in case stuff hits the fan here.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

I live in Southern California. Pretty much anything is cheap compared to here!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago

I really enjoyed the micro “reader’s rides” element included here – it’s so cool to see, hear about the vehicles of our people.

Makes the community even more real…nobody is just some blowhard pontificating about what they think about supercars or whatever, they’re real-world, “yeah I actually drive this around” auto fanatics.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

And a nice eclectic mix of cars, too!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

You might have had a light, albeit loyal, turnout on site for your short notice gathering, but the rest of us, too, have enjoyed your meet vicariously. Enjoyed the photos and stories. Good people there, well met.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

I really like that Kei G-Wagen. The puddle lights are slick. Not sure I could sport the fuzzy headrests with a straight face, though.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I must admit I was jealous of the puddle light, and wondering why Ford didn’t put them on my Fairlane! The closest it comes to having a neat accessory is the ‘golf mat’ dealer option the original buyer ordered – a folding neoprene mat attached to the boot carpet, that pulls out and drapes over the bumper to avoid damaging the paint when you put your golf bag in the boot!

McLovin
McLovin
1 month ago
Reply to  Morgan Thomas

I think a Fairlane with dancing bear puddle lights is a must have.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

Oooo!! Those are some cool cars! One of these days, I’m gonna visit my sister in Sydney, and maybe I can attend a meet up.

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