Cotswold voice: There is a reason why a Toyota is the Jihadist’s vehicle of choice

The Rav 4 is, to be frank, as dull as a drizzling Monday

The Rav 4 is, to be frank, as dull as a drizzling Monday - Credit: Archant

Adam Edwards: The year was 2002 and neither my wife or I had ever heard of a Rav 4. We were directed to the Waitrose car park where scores of them were lined up like Dinky toys

My late wife, bless her, wanted a sit up and beg motor. She wanted a car in which to potter through lanes and sail down B-roads. She dreamed of a machine that tanked through mud and yet looked over hedges, a mechanical beast in which to go poop-poop. In other words she wanted an elderly Land Rover. Only my man with the oily rag pooh-poohed the idea. Land Rovers go wrong, he said. Land Rovers are expensive to run, difficult to drive and furthermore the heaters don’t work. What she needed, he said, was a four-wheel-drive Toyota Rav 4.

The year was 2002 and neither my wife nor I had ever seen or heard of such a car. However we were directed to the Waitrose car park where we were told there would be scores of them. And it was true – there they were, lined up like Dinky toys.

The Rav 4 is, to be frank, as dull as a drizzling Monday. It is a hairdresser’s car with a hairdryer for an engine. It’s not much to look at, doesn’t go very fast and is not exceptionally comfortable. And yet despite all of the foregoing I bought one; a second-hand one with 50,000 miles on the clock. And very soon I discovered it had two startling qualities – it was as rugged as any Land Rover and it never went wrong. In the 10 years in my possession it never failed to start. In the hundred thousand miles it was driven not a single part ever went wrong. It was indestructible, as the Top Gear team discovered when they tried to wreck its elder brother, the ubiquitous Toyota pick-up truck. There is a reason why a Toyota is the Jihadist’s vehicle of choice.

Anyway after my wife died I sold the ancient motor to my good friend Philip and he discovered, as I had, that while it may have looked like a big girl’s blouse it was in fact as hardy as a corps boot. So hardy in fact that when a tractor reversed into the old Rav, Philip refused to accept the insurance company’s verdict that the car was a write-off and instead took it to his local panel beater. It now looks as if it has been dragged through a hedge backwards, which of course it has, but it still cruises imperiously through the Cotswolds.

I mention the above because I missed the old car. In fact I missed it so much that after a year without it I decided to ditch my branded German wheels and re-invest the money – a thousand quid - in a 17-year-old spit of my old Rav 4. And it has been the bargain of the century. It had 90,000 miles on the clock when I bought it. Twenty thousand miles later it still is beetling over hill and dale and so far nothing, literally nothing, has gone wrong with it.

There is a view, particularly the further west one goes, that a car should have no more standing than a washing machine or a dishwasher. The average Devonian, for example, treats his or her wheels with disdain. They don’t wash the outside or clean the inside. It is a functional metal box to get from A to B.

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This isn’t true in the Cotswolds. The car, in our hills, remains a status symbol. A black Range Rover with personalised number plates is still the boast of the rich weekender. The flashy European carriage, the expensive convertible and classic coupe continue to swing through the Cotswolds with the swagger of Motown backing singers.

I am not quite sure why this should be so. It was about 30 years ago when the engineers finally cracked cars. Radiators stopped overheating, fan belts didn’t snap and exhausts no longer belched black smoke. The sight of a shirt-sleeved bloke peering into an open bonnet is as dated as a fireman stoking a steam engine. Nowadays even the cheapest car works perfectly well, is safe and goes fast. The rest is vanity.

Which brings me back to the Rav 4. Philip and I now drive around the Cotswolds in our elderly, unflashy Toyotas. We look down on the Range Rovers and BMWs as vulgar meretricious vehicles. We talk of our bent and bruised Japanese four by fours in much the same way as I imagine an enthusiast will wax lyrical over a classic 1949, Series 1, split windscreen Land Rover.

In fact I had taken to comparing my 1997 Toyota Rav 4 to an elderly Land Rover. It was, I argued, just as elegant and practical. That is until I noticed the bumper sticker that some swine from my local pub had stuck on the back windscreen that read ‘No shampoo kept in this car overnight’.


This article by Adam Edwards is from the December issue of Cotswold Life