According to show organisers there was an event record 226 exhibitors, although I must admit in the 4x4 pavilion many long standing exhibitors were not present, while many others had expanded to absorb the extra space.
The 4x4 Show has been evolving over recent years and as Event Manager Mark Petersen explained, "the focus has been placed on providing the complete experience for the consumer with a festival-like atmosphere and hands-on displays. As event organisers it is imperative that we keep the show fresh and interesting."
"We realise visitors want to see a large range of products and services but we also understand exhibitions can't be static events. We encourage exhibitors to be interactive and have experts on hand to give correct advice, ensuring customers can choose the correct products for their needs.
"Monster trucks, 4x4 demos and competitions, kids activities, interactive stages and a range of special guests and industry icons add value and variety to the event and ensure continued support from exhibitors and visitors," said Petersen.
Without doubt one of the crowd pleasing activities was the daily performances by Sam Xuereb's 'Devil's Taxi' - a towering yellow painted monster truck. With 1500hp beneath the bonnet, the 572cc blown alcohol beast soon attracted a crowd as it prowled the centre arena, squashed the odd car and took a crack at establishing a new 81-metre long world record monster truck wheelie!
Xuereb spent 6 months manufacturing all the parts for the truck and a further 12 months putting together the frame. The result is spectacular.
Another extreme aspect of four wheeling also on show in the arena was the Aus Truck competition and the 4WD test track demonstrators, that crawled over huge rocks, leapt over specially prepared obstacles, and when necessary showed off their recovery skills, when a 4x4 became stuck on a rock! All in all great entertainment, especially when it's someone else's 4WD and not your own copping all the abuse!
The aftermarket heavyweights, including ARB, TJM, Ironman 4x4, Black Widow, Kaymar 4WD Accessories, Opposite Lock and Terrain Tamer 4WD all had a brilliant array of accessories and protection/modification equipment on display and plenty of helpful staff to explain the benefits of their products.
As usual there were plenty of highly spec'd demo 4WDs on display showing off various products, and without doubt the most popular demo 4x4 this year was the new Toyota FJ Cruiser.
While the visitor could spend many hours exploring new products, the biggest disappointment from a showgoer's perspective was the lack of manufacturer support. The only dealer represented was the Airport Toyota dealership located in the boating pavilion, but there was zero factory presence from Toyota, Nissan, Jeep, Land Rover, D-Max, Kia, Mazda, Skoda, Hyundai and the list rolls on. Come on guys - this is Australia's premier 4x4 showcase and is crawling with many potential recruits for your product. With no one to speak to, no deals on offer, no base model vehicles on show, you are doing yourself a great disservice and unfortunately the National 4x4 Show and its 30,000 plus patrons are the poorer for it. Lets hope the 4x4 manufacturers can get their act together for next year's show.
Enough bitching, as there was plenty to keep showgoers occupied. Along with the exhibits and arena action, other attractions included the Waeco Outback Stage, 3AW Fishing Stage and Great Australian Doorstep Stage, which proved popular amongst visitors who gathered in their hundreds to hear tips and tales from some of the industries' most well-known faces.
The Aussie Disposals Action Arena, presented by Mickey Thompson, was a hive of activity from early morning until evening, hosting Monster truck wheelies, The Loveday Extreme Comedy Show, Australia's first Austruck Extreme 4x4 Competition presented by 4WDTV and DirtComp Magazine and the 4WD test track. Major prizewinners collected a $10,000 Anaconda package, a fishing trip with IFISH's Paul Worsteling and a Waeco dual-zone fridge-freezer.
The ARB show 'n' shine was another drawcard highlighting highly modified road going 4WDs. The popular choice immaculate FJ40 shortie of Toyota LandCruiser Club member Eric Bishop was a standout winner.
Along with the 4x4 show, other aspects of the event that added further value were the array of caravans and camper trailers vying for attention in the outdoor area, and if you needed further incentive to get involved in outdoor recreation, the Fishing & Boating Expo pavilion had a healthy display of boats of all sizes and in all price ranges, as well as a large display of the latest in fishing equipment.
Special interest vehicles included eye boggling Tuff Truck Challenge highly modifieds, with suspension articulation beyond anything that you could dream of, while at the other end of the scale was the unique Earthcruiser - an Isuzu 4x4 truck modified into a motorhome for extreme off road touring. The flagship EXP model - priced at $215,000 - was on display, featuring 36-inch tyres, fully equipped motorhome and setup to tackle the remotest areas of the world in style.
Of course there was a host of useful gear to make roughing it in the bush safer and easier, with some standout products being portable battery packs for the safe running of power sensitive devices such as laptops, the latest rust proofing solutions from Queensland based company CouplerTec, and PunctureSafe, Australia's advanced technology in eliminating punctures with a permanent puncture preventative solution. Another good travel idea from Flexitank is the range of custom-made and universal water bladders that make use of wasted space in vehicles. Rather than bulky water containers, you can fit a bladder in a wall cavity, across the rear seat footwell, or cargo area.
Of course when it comes to quality protection equipment you couldn't go pass ARB, with their new range of protection equipment for the Toyota FR Cruiser and Volkswagen Amarok, along with new dual air compressor technology and some great outdoor protection jackets. The National 4x4 Show continues to go from strength to strength, and once again it was great for the team from Just 4x4s to catch up with so many enthusiasts at our popular stand.