Perhaps a special forces veteran and a businessman are not the best people to share a car with on a long, arduous drive. But this is the journey that British Special Air Service veteran Gary Humphrey and ardent car collector Bill Wu, have been on together for more than a few years now.
First paired up in the 2012 Discovery Channel series One Car Too Far, this pair of strong and independent personalities no continue their partnership in the brand new Car vs Wild – an hour-long TV extravaganza every week that has the pair, and Ruby – their trusty 15-year-old Jeep Wrangler, to the limit to attempt motoring milestones never before achieved, in the most extreme places in the world.
And what better way to launch the show in our neck of the woods than for Discovery Channel Asia to organise an off-road jamboree of sorts in the wilderness of Batang Kali in Selangor (about an hour outside of K.L.) on September 15, with a whole bunch of weekend warrior types and their expensive SUVs takling the wilderness with the pair in the lead?
“Some of the places we went to were very dodgy, traversing through drug cartel territory and facing the threat of abduction,” said Humphrey, who aside from military experience, has served on close protection details for celebrities. “But for motoring in the bush, if you plan for contingencies before hand, you should be allright off the beaten path. And of course, you got to look all around and not just straight ahead while driving!”
Humphrey went on to lecture the participants that day on the importance of maintaining your ride properly and also revealed some important things to keep in mind when off-roading in the family SUV. “Of course, ground clearance is paramount and proper tyres with off-road grooves are a must have – but if you know your approach angles, even a 2WD soft-roader can be taken off the highway and into the wilderness.”
Humphrey remembers that the new season of Car vs Wild also featured its fair share of unexpected emergencies and close calls, such as one part where Humphrey, Wu and Ruby attempted to scale the tallest mountain in Mexico. “First, the camera man got really sick due to altitude sickness, and this guy was a veteran in filming at such extreme locations!”
“But if last year in One Car Too Far, Bill and I were pitted against each other and the wild, and we managed to achieve so much despite that, this year we can only look forward to achieving greater heights, literally, since we now know how to work together,” the former soldier added.
And while he’s got a grip on the adventure side of things, partner Bill Wu, on the other hand, is more of the all-out car dude. Hardly surprising since Wu does have a Humvee collection back home in the ‘States! “You know, I’ve put Ruby through a lot of abuse, and I think if Ruby could talk she would want to go to therapy. I really, really abused her. But she kept on–she didn’t let me down. She’s underpowered with only like, four cylinders, and she’s the most basic Wrangler that Jeep offers. She’s really cheap: She’s a manual, and, you know, unmodified. For us to do all these accomplishments with her is really, really impressive!”
Malaysian guests and their off-road vehicle hosts from Singapore met up at the Westin Hotel Kuala Lumpur, and set off in convoy for Batang Kali, where Humphrey would impart some basic jungle survival tips to the Singaporean off-roaders and their Malaysian passengers.
While getting to the trail head itself was uneventful, the off-road trail area had been rained on the day before, and one or two vehicles got stuck immediately, requiring expedition-mates to lend a helping tow. But the wilderness weren’t quite done yet as a nasty surprise was in store for us as we tried to ford the first of two water crossings. The Hyundai Santa Fe 2WD that we were in couldn’t get a grip on the opposite bank of the river, and ended up with the engine being flooded!
“I’m a businessman, independent and self-made, while Humphrey is a military guy with a military mind-set,” as Wu puts it in a nutshell. “Combine these two contrasting personalities, a car with its own unique temperament, and unexpected situations similar to what happened today and you’ll get plenty of great stories for the series… so tune in and maybe learn how to get yourself out off trouble while motoring in the wild!”
Catch the pair as they attempt to drive their way out of the world’s most hostile environments in an antique Jeep! Cars vs Wild is on Discovery Channel Asia (Astro Channel 551) every Monday at 10pm.