Updated: Mar 9, 2019
Pacific Coast, Costa Rica
Do you spend far more time than you should be, daydreaming about all things four wheels, consume endless car and truck media, and tirelessly weigh the pros and cons of different vehicles in the hopes of narrowing down the ultimate ride? I know there are more than a few of us out there, and I want to say that I support your unhealthy addiction. To me, it seems we hit peak gear-head culture in the 1950/60's, and it has waned to the point which we are at now. A time when above all else fuel economy is what people are interested in. Don't get me wrong, I love saving a few bucks at the pump, but we have hit an all-time low in vehicles which capture your imagination in the ways that vehicles of yesteryear did. It seems that car companies have discovered the secret sauce which consumers just can't get enough of - the "Cross Over" (CUV). Ughhh, I just got shivers writing it out - a feeling I imagine Ron Weasely might have had the first time he uttered the name Voldemort. To the enthusiast, the modern marvel that is the CUV is the bane of our existence. It grabbed the throats of the sedan, hatch, and sport utility vehicle (SUV), about 18 years ago, and never let go. It has all but strangled the life out of these segments and left us with what seems like an enormous segment of vehicles which look nearly identical, with the exception of taillight and headlight design. I imagine car designers are pulling their hair out, designing the same thing over and over and over, and what makes it worse is that they can't even jump ship to a new company to design something striking and unique, because every car company is designing the same damn thing. However, there is one exception, and it is the truck. That's right, if you don't want a generically designed CUV, you can get a truck - you have two choices. Now, if you opt for the truck, like I would, you had better be training for the high jump because you can't buy a truck that doesn't look like it has some kind of deep-seated confidence issues. All of them are essentially the embodiment of the roided up gym rat who thinks that no matter what, BIGGER IS BETTER! OOHRAH! So do you want to be Mr/s generic? Or, do you want to be lumped in with the d-bag-bro-truck crowd? What happened to choice?! I imagine that I am not the only one out there who lusts after having a choice. Oh wait, you can also get a Prius, but... *Pukes*
Car people have one singular thing in common and that is a passion for the incredible engineering and design that goes into making something which allows us to indulge in our emotions. We can look at a Jaguar E-Type and drool over its marvelous design, we can sit behind the wheel of an MX-5 and bask in simplicity of one of the best-engineered vehicles in the world, we can hammer the throttle of a twin turbo'd six and be grinning ear-to-ear with the intoxicating sound of turbos spooling, or we can slide under a Jeep Wrangler and dream whimsically of where the diff locks and solid axles will take us. That being said, "car people" are not all the same. We have niche's which drive our passion. For me, I love 4x4's. I love how they broaden my horizons, providing me a means to reach areas which would otherwise be beyond my realm. To me, they are tools, and tools have to earn their keep. They have to perform when you need them the most and be inexpensive to operate. They are rugged, but you have to maintain them. It is a relationship that is built on trust, and over time you begin to understand the quarks of the vehicle and grow an appreciation for all that it's done for you. When I see "well loved" 4x4's I can't help but imagine all of the incredible adventures that they have been on. All of the special places and moments that they have been involved in. It's the mystic of all the possibilities which captures my imagination and fuels my passion to continue exploring. If you're are like me, STAY OUT OF COSTA RICA! It is a 4x4 enthusiast wet dream - I wanted to word that more eloquently, but I honestly can't. It just is.
It seems that all things rare and amazing can be found down here. From the amazing flora and fauna to illusive Land Cruisers and Land Rovers. The number of FJ40's you'll pass on any given day is staggering. These things are all equipped as surf/camp/4x4 rigs with the sole purpose of adventuring. Although antique collector's items (each worth a small fortune in parts of the USA and Canada), they are used unapologetically, and for exactly what they were designed to do. I found so many intriguing old Land Cruisers and Land Rovers, I was half inclined to buy them and ship them back to Canada. Alas, that would be the worst kind of fate for these vehicles, as there is no better way to exist than to be achieving your highest purpose, so, for now, they will remain in Costa Rica, and I will continue to whimsically dream about owning one of these amazing beasts.
To add insult to injury, I also became acutely aware that vehicle manufacturers are still selling wicked products down here, we just don't get them in Canada. Some eye catchers were:
The Global Nissan Frontier
Subie Van (see photo)
Suzuki Jimny (I want to drive one of these SO BADLY. In fact, the next time I come to Costa Rica I'll rent one of these bad boys for a couple weeks, and live the simple life camping, surfing, and 4x4ing the Pacific coast)
Mitsubishi Montero Sport
The Mitsubishi Montero Sport is a great looking rig and no doubt would kill it in the USA and Canada market, which leaves me baffled as to why it's not being sold there. Mitsubishi desperately needs a product to keep it relevant in those markets, and I'm certain this could be it...
There is SO MANY wicked 4x4's still being manufactured, and so few offerings in Canada... It's a shame Canadians are subjected to the draconian American vehicle import laws designed to protect American car manufacturers. That's right, I'm referring to you Chicken Tax! There are many things that are great about sharing a border with the USA, but it really limits the vehicle offerings that we get in Canada.
My advice for those of you who are never content, always searching for the next great view, to summit the highest peaks, find an untouched beach, or just can help but see how deep that puddle is: Stay out of Costa Rica, this place is too damn fun!
Some car resources I enjoy:
Up to Speed - Youtube
Regular Car Reviews - Youtube
Jalopnik - Website
Truckyeah - Website
Dirt Every Day - Magazine/Youtube
Road Kill - Youtube
Car Talk - Podcast
Autoline This Week - Podcast