QotW: What’s your most heartwarming JNC story?

Toyota Corolla TE27 tsunami restoration 02

Somehow, old cars inspire tales of friendship, camaraderie, and bringing out the best in your fellow humans. Case in point: this weekend we learned about an entire country that banded together to help one owner restore a Toyota Corolla that had been wrecked by the 2011 tsunami.

What’s your most heartwarming JNC story?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your best tale of JNC indestructibility?” 

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We had a great many tales of JNC unbreakability. There was Banpei‘s anecdote of a workhorse Carina wagon that outlasted any number of European counterparts, dickie‘s resurrection of an ex-farm implement Cressida, Spudenater‘s report of a Hilux that endured life with the chaos personified, and Jim Daniels‘ account of a Corolla that went 180,000 miles without an oil change. Come to think of it, these are all Toyotas, including the winner, Colin‘s inspiring tale of Hilux heroism (which could be a strong contender for this week’s QotW too):

I’m not going to buck the trend here, with my vote going to a particular RN30 Hilux I used to own.

I was living in South Western Australia and driving my little truck daily as a work hack to and from the mines. She mowed down her fair share of roo’s, and traversed many empty kilometres of bush with nought but a shovel and a jerry can strapped to the deck.

I had been running her rather hard for a time, and had been meaning to get to fixing the valve clearances in the little 12r when a calamity struck not far from home. Bush fires here are very lethal unpredictable beasts, moving quickly across the grassy scrub they try to farm here, and one had been lit by a firebug the night before.

I headed down the road towards the smoke with the little four banger coughing along as it always did and upon arriving spent some time helping the boys in blue direct traffic around the fires. The footy was on and it seemed every man and his dog was trying to make it to the Fremantle game that evening, so they had their hands full. After some time a older gent came galloping out of the smoke from up beyond the detour, making a fair clip and looking like he’d just spent a lifetime in the coal. Upon reaching me he asked if I had wheels and could I help him. I agreed and we jumped in the ute, barrelled back up the highway and into the smoke, heading towards his property. He said he had a bunch of stock corralled in a paddock next to the house but didn’t think the house was going to make it, so could I use the ute to shift the stock to some land out of the fire’s path about six hundred metres away on the other side of the highway. Sure thing, may as well have a crack.

We shifted about two dozen sheep and one heifer in three trips. I had most of them in the tray but did the first two trips with three sheep in the cab alongside me as well. The smoke wasn’t helping the little motor much but it lurched out of the paddock every time, and got it’s pep back when the loads came off. After the third trip I found the man at his house crying. His tears were smeared all over his face, blackened from the smoke, and it was one of the saddest sights I’ve seen in my life. It was his father’s place before him, and he was heartbroken at the prospect of losing it. At that moment I made a fairly dumb decision and told him I thought we could try saving it.

I parked the ute about twenty metres from the house as it had a full jerry on the back and three quarters of a tank still underneath it and I didn’t want it to blow us up if we got overwhelmed. At that point I pretty much accepted I wouldn’t ever drive her again. We then spent the next two hours soaking his roof with the rain water tanks and a little 2.5hp honda pump, while the fire bore down on us from the North West. The smoke was so thick we lost most of the daylight, and our only respite was when the helicopters flew over our heads and momentarily spun it away in the rotor wash. The fire came with ten to fifteen metres of the house in some spots, and it was at that point, with a break in my water supply from the pump, that we abandoned the house to the will of the fire. I found the old bloke in the back yard trying to fix a large leak at the pump connection. A small spot fire had started under the pump and melted the hose. We made for the driveway hoping we could shelter on the tarmac of the highway and walk up past the fire to an already burnt area out of the bulk of the smoke. The farmer was in a pretty bad way, and pretty slow out the gate so when the ute appeared out of the smoke I thought we’d give it a shot. I popped him down in the passengers seat and fired it up, then we drove out of the fire by pushing further up the road as we had planned.

I’ve got to apologise at this point for making you read so much, but it is quite important to understand the context of the situation. My little white Toyota had weathered the fire storm, and delivered myself, the old farmer, and his animals to safety, without so much a hiccup when our lives all depended on it. It was only after the event that I noticed the melted paint, charred window rubbers, and the black remains of my red plastic jerry can, which I’m guessing exploded at some point while I was on the roof.

I fixed her up and sold her last year, and every once and a while I see it around my town with her new owner giving me a wave from the behind the wheel.

I do wonder if he’s finding soot and wool in odd places every now and then.

P.S. Thank you for the opportunity to share that story, it was quite cathartic to write about and gave me a chance to clear my head of what was a very emotional experience.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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5 Responses to QotW: What’s your most heartwarming JNC story?

  1. Kane said:

    What an amazing story, absolutely awsome.

  2. PDXBryan said:

    Oh yeah, that’s a winner of a story! Colin, that’s the kind community spirit and support that makes a real difference!
    I’ve been using Toyota pick-ups on our farm for almost 20 years. First my old ’85 2wd, now my ’88 4wd.

  3. Slammy said:

    Colin, wow that was an amazing story. You are a good man for doing what you did. I gotta ask, is the old guy ok and did his fathers house burn down even after all your efforts?

  4. Colin said:

    Wow, I was not expecting that! Thank you to the JNC staff for your recognition, and for providing us all with such great thought provoking questions. I am a huge fan of the touring series of articles as well, as I love the candid shots of the less polished JNC’s from around Japan.

    For those concerned about the old man, I have not yet had the chance to drop by his place to check on him (the fire was in December 2015 and I have been working or travelling since). I met his family briefly later that afternoon and they were looking after him as far as I know. I am fairly sure his house would have been lost as it was looking dire when we decided to go, but he was an absolute battler who will be back on his feet soon I have no doubt. His family seemed like good people, so I am sure he is safe with them.

    I will try to drop by in May when I am back in Western Australia for an update.

    Thanks again everyone,
    Colin

  5. Joey Katigbak said:

    Not sure if this is the right place for it, but here’s my story, I came to the United States from the Philippines in the early 90’s and was always a Toyota fan from the get go. I think that to that point, all we ever owned were Toyotas and I wasn’t about to change that.

    The first car I’d purchased was a ’91 Toyota 4WD pickup. A nice little red 4-banger with a 22RE that was my pride and joy. I bought her from an office mate who was being issued a company car and wanted to part ways with it. I loved this car for many reasons, so I’d taken her everywhere. I even took her 4-wheeling in the mountains near Tahoe a couple of times. Heck I even dated my wife in it until we were married. That truck took us everywhere. We went camping and saw races in Napa and Monterey so much, I’d forgotten we had other cars I had to care for as well. She also was my project car when I decided to take a shop class in automotive body repair.

    Because of that she became a garage queen for a while but every time I had the money, I would remind her how much she meant to me by getting her nice parts and keeping her as updated as I can. I got her a nice cold air intake in preparation for the time I could afford a snorkel and a set of LCE headers when someone stole the catalytic converter at the train station. She was a workhorse whenever we moved. She helped me move three times to our current home.

    I owned her for over 20 years and even when it seemed like I should sell her like my wife said, I would always find a reason not to. I told her I would never do that. 🙂 I’d sell other things (hint) before I do that. I never once had to take her into a shop for any mechanical repairs. I would do all the work myself, heck I even changed the clutch and transmission myself!! A project I thought I would never get done.

    Well, a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer which put me off for a while. My truck remained parked in front of my house while I recovered from all the chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery I had to undergo. I forced myself to recover saying I would get back behind the wheel of my truck soon each time I looked at it from the living room window where I rested.

    A few months ago, I finally was able to get up enough energy to bring my baby back from her long sleep. The day we finally took our first drive was like coming back to an old girlfriend. I cleaned her up and changed her fluids and when I started her up for the first time, it was like she just came back from a long trip and was ready for more. I even wondered what on earth can happen to us from here…

    Well, the answer to that question came fairly soon. One rainy day this last December, I was on my way home from the hospital. I’d stopped by the parts store to check on what parts were available for a project I was planning. A heavy downpour had just stopped and the roads were slick so I made it a point to keep alert. So, as I was coming into this intersection, I noticed an orange car coming my direction and had stopped. I saw she had a yield and I knew I had the right of way. There was a car stopped to my right waiting for me to go by. As I came into the intersection, the driver of the orange Corolla ran into the intersection which made me slam on my brakes. As I did so, I told myself there’s no way I wouldn’t hit this car and was using every 4-letter word in the dictionary that came to my mind. I inadvertently hydroplaned into the front right quarter of the offending vehicle and hoped for the best.

    I immediately ran out of my truck as soon as the whole incident happened and went to check on the other driver. She had tapped the driver waiting on my right after the impact who was yelling why she didn’t wait for me to go by… and “he had the right of way!!”

    Well, thankfully she was okay and unfortunately for her, she had admitted fault to the incident. My baby suffered major damage to the front RH side and the bumper came in enough so that it had wedged itself on my BFG’s. I tried muscling it back enough to be able to drive it, but my muscles are no longer as strong as they used to be. When the tow truck guy came, I told him to help me pull the bumper back a bit but no amount of muscle ever did get that bumper to move.

    I had her towed home and reported it to my insurance. Because the other party had admitted fault, all I had to do was wait for an adjuster and see what they would offer me to repair the truck. In the meantime, I asked around for quotes to see what it would take to resurrect my baby. Unfortunately, because of age, insurance only offered me $5K and the best thing I could do under the circumstances was to finally give up the ghost on my beloved truck.

    I’ve kept all the memories and will never forget my most heart warming Toy…

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