I’ve been into surfing for a long time. I can’t help it. I grew up reading all the magazines, getting high from the smell of neoprene, going nuts for Sex Wax. Always needing that fix, one more wave, one more surfboard, just one more wetsuit… It’s an addiction and it isn’t going away. Lots of people suffer from it, up and down the country. It’s not uncommon; to be completely obsessed with surfing, but my surfaholism is also combined with a second, equally powerful addiction – one that’s expensive and dangerous – I’ve been a petrolhead all my life. Hours playing top trumps, shouting at family members and friends to shut up while Top Gear is on, boring girlfriends to death with constant talk of cars. This combination of addictions is risky. Doctors said I’d never get over it, said I’d never find a cure for both surfaholism and petrolhead-itis. I was beginning to despair, thinking I’d never be cured – until Vauxhall imported the Maloo from Australia and sent it down to Cornwall for four days.
Er, what is it?
The Maloo is a sports pick up truck made by Vauxhall’s Australian cousin Holden. (You might have seen the Jack McKoy film ‘Free as a Dog’ in which Joel ‘Parko’ Parkinson is seen hooning around the Gold Coast in a Maloo) In Australia you can choose from a range of different engines, topped off by the one you see here – the HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) Maloo R8. Vauxhall has chosen to import around 30 of these 6.2litre, 425bhp V8 monsters for the UK market and kindly sent one down to us for Boardmasters weekend. I set out to discover if it really is the ultimate surfers vehicle.
What’s it like to drive?
Starting the engine releases a satisfying V8 burble, the low exhaust note grumbles in a very pleasant way as you wait for the traffic lights to change. Contrary to what you might expect, this car is no brute; it’s civilised and easy to drive. The steering wheel is huge, the gear box clunky but precise, the pedals large and the clutch light. Cruising through jam-packed Newquay town centre over Boardmasters weekend wasn’t as stressful as it used to be in the old ’65 Beetle. With all that power the traction control works overtime to stop the 20 inch wheels from spinning when you’re launching away from traffic lights. Which we definitely never did.
Out on the twisty tarmac it’s planted and confident, the tail feels loose but not as though the back end is going to swing around and smack you in the face at every roundabout. On the open road the power comes on smoothly as you build the revs – this cars acceleration doesn’t wallop you in the back of the head as you might expect, the power just keeps coming. As soon as a straight length of tarmac appears ahead of that long bonnet you can’t help but push your right foot through the floor; changing gear as late as you dare and enjoying that thunderous V8. The top speed is electronically limited to 155mph and manually limited by the roadworks around Bodmin.
What’s it like to live with?
This car is big. At over 5 metres long parking isn’t much fun, the best thing to do is slot it in at an angle and hope for sympathetic neighbours. It does have reversing sensors and a dash mounted reverse camera, which helps – rear visibility is hampered by the two huge shapely humps of the load cover. Being Boardmasters weekend and having a magazine deadline to work on, the Maloo spent quite a while bumbling around Newquay. Going to the post office, popping to the beach site, fetching things, buying more milk to make the Editor more coffee… At one point the dial was reading 14mpg. Out on the open road it did crawl up towards 21mpg but even with a car this cool it’s hard to justify that kind of fuel spend.
Because our test model was bright yellow, it wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. This car should come with a pair of dark sunglasses as standard – It attracts a lot of attention. People stop and gawp, point, or take photos. You can’t just stroll into your local Vauxhall dealer and leave with a Maloo, this vehicle is special order only. Statistically you’re more likely to spot a McLaren F1 on your street than a Maloo R8.
Inside the cabin you’ve got full leather and every toy you could want in a £50,000 car; including a touch-screen display which relays all sorts of technical information. With huge sports seats and plush carpets it’s a comfortable place to sit, with more storage than you’d expect behind the seats in the cab. We would happily take the Maloo on a long distance jaunt down to the South of France, perhaps around the time of the Quiksilver Pro. (If you’re reading this, Vauxhall)
What’s it like for a surfer?
It’s got two seats, enough space for plenty of surfboards and is fast as hell – It’s brilliant for a surfer. The best way to set this car up is to strap your board bag into the pick up bed and leave the zip open – that way when you arrive at the surf you just slide the board out of its ‘holder’ and hey presto, you’re away. Not only does this protect the board but prevents it from sliding around the pick up bed when you’re driving. (Did anyone else watch the opening shots of Matt Meola’s Innersection and wonder just how dinged his board was getting in the back of that truck?!) The bed is long enough for a 6’0 surfboard, and big enough to sleep in if you want to catch the first waves at a spot. The rear also has a hard locking cover, so there’s no risk of having things pinched from the back of it whilst you’re buying some last minute surf wax.
Is this the ultimate surfer’s vehicle?
To be brutally honest – No. You don’t need 6.2 litres and a V8 engine in the UK. You don’t need 425bhp. It’s just too big, too powerful, too much. On UK roads you’ll struggle to reach the potential of what the big V8 can do. Sure, it’s a huge amount of fun, and it makes a statement, but that’s all it is. This car is about being the biggest, baddest, most ridiculous vehicle on the road, if that’s what you want, then go for it.
Are there any alternatives?
Well, No. Not really. The Maloo doesn’t have any competitors in the UK. If you want a fast sports pick up truck (and you definitely do) then this is the only one.
For a surfaholic petrolhead this leaves me with a dilemma. I don’t want a van because I’m not a builder. I don’t want an estate car because I’ve got no kids. I don’t want a 4×4 because I don’t work on a farm. I want something cool and fast that’ll safely carry two surfboards.
And this is where we finally get to a serious point…
The sports pick up truck has never really made it onto the UK car buyers radar. So here’s a serious idea:
Why can’t a manufacturer launch a great looking, two wheel drive, two seat sports pick up truck, with a 2 litre turbo charged engine; 200bhp and a six foot load bay…? It’d have twice the economy and half the price tag of the Maloo, now THAT would be the ultimate surfers vehicle for European roads!
Until then I’m trying to work out which relative I need to bump off to get a £51,500 inheritance.
Joe is a freelance writer and a full time tweeter. He’s always available to hire.
Tweet to Joe @FasterJoeFaster