END OF AN ERA

Words Scott Bishop

Mark it down in your diaries, people: November 2, 2012 marked the end of an era in the Bishop family that was 23 years in the making. Tears were shed, chaos in the streets, three generations brought to a grinding halt.

Yes, folks, the big news in world motocross in November wasn’t James Stewart finishing a race without crashing — he didn’t race! It wasn’t Ryan Dungey asking for hand shifting on the 2014 KTMs and it wasn’t an all-new YZ85 — that would be 1993.

It’s with great sadness that I announce there is no longer a Toyota HiAce in the Bishop family. Not since 1988 have I failed to wrestle, steer, manhandle, sometimes tow and often race a HiAce as my commuter. My HiAce days are officially over and I have a huge HiAce hangover going right now.

GENERATION 1

I was 17, just out of high school when I first started my HiAce relationship. It was a long-wheel-based 1983 model, the last of the bongo shape, and it had plenty of experience before I leapt behind the wheel. I must say, this was an ugly van and it also had an enormous amount of rust, bog and a range of other seedy panel work but it grew on me.

My highlight in the beast was a trip to Tamworth for a supercross in 1999. On the way I got two flat tyres and the gearbox decided second and fifth didn’t want to play any more. On top of that, I was out of cash and 600 kays from home. So, when I finally over-revved my way into town and then second-geared it all the way to the showground, I asked the promoter if I won any money could he please pay me on the night as I had no cash to get home with.

Thankfully, he said yes; even more thankfully, I won a couple of hundred bucks to get my tyres fixed and have some petrol money to get home. Even better, first, third and fourth even stayed in the box and I made it home. Ah, the Toyota HiAce: even with only three gears, you can’t keep ’em down.

But all good things must come to end and I can’t even recall if I gave this van away or just abandoned it on the side of the road. It was pretty much an enormous pile of poo by the time I’d finished with it. Even the Coke can recycler didn’t want it — too much rust and not enough metal.

GENERATION 2

After the bongo passed away, it was time to update to a modern-shaped, fire-breathing 1992 diesel van with Ford LTD moon wheels on it. Yep, it was a beauty.

I recall taking it for a test drive on the south side of Brisbane and knowing absolutely nothing about diesels. The only guy I knew with a diesel van was Mickey Cook, so I called him from my enormous mobile phone while driving. “Can you hear this? How does this sound?” I screamed as I revved the boobs of the thing. Mick replied that it sounded good, although I’m not sure how he heard anything other than noise.

He then told me what his top speed in each gear was, so in my deep investigation of this potential Bishopmobile, I got to work at the next set of lights. First, went straight to the limiter and at about 25km I snapped second and topped out at 60, third and I was breaking the law at an ear-busting 95, fourth and the car sales dude was getting nervous, so I shut it down. But it passed the test and it joined my team.

I got it with 143,000 on it — just a baby in diesel terms — and with it my career took off. We were a great team: I put diesel in it and it went. What more could you ask for? At 460,000 kays, I thought I would give him his first service. I ripped out the oil and it looked like black Vaseline. I changed the oil filter as well, with thoughts I would pump up the horsepower significantly with the new slippery stuff and a filter that actually worked.

Then, to really get him cranking, I decide to wash the air filter … in petrol. Now, my suggestion to anyone thinking about washing a diesel air filter in petrol is — DON’T. Here is what happens. Once the motor’s fired, the petrol gets sucked off the filter and the motor instantly revs like its re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

I did this in my street, so when the HiAce started revving like a whipper-snipper and a white cloud of smoke poured out the back of it like I’d just knocked down a high-rise building, the neighbours were onto me. I then shut the key off … and that did nothing; the thing just revved and the smoke machine continued out the back. Once the entire street was outside and looking at my diesel smoke machine chainsaw redline for a minute, I came to the conclusion that the van was about to explode and my best option was to run like buggery.

But, amazingly, as I leapt for my life from the vehicle, I cranked it into gear, dumped the clutch and still had the handbrake on as I used the foot brake to gain speed on my vehicle exit. Thankfully, the rig lurched forward, then stalled and the whole circus was over. The only redeeming part was the fact that the smoke had built up so much around the car, the neighbours couldn’t see my panic and had no idea that I was running for my life when I accidently stalled the car. Of course, this isn’t the story I relate to them when I retell it — I was heroic in saving their lives from a time-bomb HiAce.

GENERATION 3

What kind of 32-year-old guy buys a lowered Toyota HiAce with full black windows, 17-inch wheels and an exhaust and stereo that make your ears bleed? An old washed-up motocross rider in the midst of a midlife crisis, that’s who. But damn, I looked cool until the point came where I didn’t look cool and now it’s gone. I miss my HiAces already.