Me & My Car: Suzuki and I, a picture of happiness
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We meet photographer Michelle Hyslop, and her 2009 Suzuki Jimny
What are you driving?
It’s a grey, four-wheel drive 2009 Suzuki Jimny and I've had roof racks added. I bought the Jimny, aka Baby Beast, five years ago, second-hand from the Suzuki dealership in Greenlane. It was love at first sight, and the test drive sealed the deal. I wondered if I could love a person as much as I did my Jimny, and then Lizzy came into my life.
You’ve been using it to gather photos for your exhibition on kauri dieback?
I won a Canon photography grant to work on a personal project, and I wanted to photograph the people involved in preventing kauri dieback, and share their stories. There is a lot we can learn from each other. It can be an emotional subject and I feel privileged to be trusted by the people I've taken pictures of.
Where have you taken the Jimny to shoot the exhibition?
I've been photographing the majority in the Waitakere ranges, but I have taken the Jimny on some road trips to Whangarei, Motatau, Waipoua and Rotorua for this project.
How does it handle difficult terrain?
The Jimny is awesome on uneven surfaces, mud, gravel and anything that needs a 4wd. It has an impressive power to weight ratio as it's about the lightest 4wd on the market. I like having a manual car, the road bumps are noticeable but I'm used to it.
What do you like about the Jimny?
I love that it has a 1300cc engine, it's very fuel-economic. The shape is boxy and it just looks so purpose-built, ready for adventures. The features are like going back in time to before electric windows and air con; it doesn't even have an electronic key. I'm fine with it because it means fewer things to break down, and my key can be submerged and not be affected (which is great for swimming). I do get a serious sweat in the summer without aircon.
How does it fit your lifestyle?
Like a glove. It's my dream car and I feel incredibly attached to it. Especially after a bush run, it feels like being greeted by a loved one seeing Jimny waiting there.
And you sleep in it sometimes?
The perks of being short. I can put the front seats back and the back seats down, with an air mattress on top, it's comfy and cozy. Sometimes I'll bring a bivvy bag and sleep beside the car.
How much can you fit in it?
I can fit a studio’s worth of camera gear and lighting equipment ... but for this project I was shooting using natural light. I would take a couple of camera bodies and many lenses. I always have my tripod and a reflector in the car, some elastic tie downs for carrying bikes, some Sterigene and a brush for killing the spores that live in soil on shoes. This helps prevent the spread of kauri dieback.
When I was 16, a 1970 Wolseley 1300. It was mint green, I bought it for $400 with a spare engine and got it running in the automotive class at school. The biggest job was changing the clutch plate but with the much less complicated wiring under the bonnet it was much easier to fix problems than with modern vehicles.
And your dream vehicle?
An electric Jimny, exactly the same but with air con.
Any other vehicles in your garage?
Does my road bike count?
Best road trip in this car?
Driving to Kumara to take part in Coast to Coast at the beginning of 2018, My girlfriend and I loaded up Jimny with two multisport kayaks, two bikes, all the gear we would need for the event, tent and camping gear. We took turns driving. Max speed was about 80km/h due to all the drag. It was a long journey but I think Jimny felt like this is what it was made for and loved every moment.
Five favourite songs when you’re driving?
Cecelia (Simon and Garfunkel); Rollin (Calvin Harris); Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen); Crazy in Love (Beyonce); Sitting Inside my Head (Supergroove); Tadow (Masego, FKJ).
Favourite movie car scene?
Thelma and Louise, flying off the cliff, in charge of their own destiny.
If you could change one road rule?
I don't think I'd change a rule, but as a driver and cyclist I wish we could all get along better.
● Michelle’s exhibition opened on the weekend at Albert Park and runs until early March