I’M fairly certain that in this part of the world the name Joe Klecko means fairly little to most people.
Some sports fans might think they remember the name from somewhere, but to fans of the National Football League (NFL) and in particular to fans of the New York Jets, Klecko is a living legend.
Although he has yet to be inducted into the NFL’s Hall Of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Klecko is destined to one day join that pantheon of American football greats, but he has already been enshrined in the history of the sport as being one of only two players to have been selected for the Pro-Bowl in three different positions.
Aside from being, along with Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam, a member of the Jets’ much feared ‘New York Sack Exchange’ defensive unit, Klecko was one of the club’s most popular players of all time, a fact recognised by the Jets when they retired his number 73 jersey. Only two other Jets players, legendary quarterback Joe Namath and Superbowl winning wide receiver Don Maynard have been accorded the same accolade by the team.
Now you may be wondering what in God’s name is all this stuff about Joe Klecko doing appearing in a review of a motor car? Well, in many ways, the Toyota HiLux and the former Jets great have very many things in common.
For a start they both were — and are — hugely popular. Jets fans come from all parts of the city, but many of them regard themselves as blue collar workers and they like their football heroes to reflect their rugged, no-nonsense approach to life. Thus they truly identified with Klecko because he was a ‘lunch-pail’ type of guy who always gave 110% on and off the field.
He also played throughout his 11-year NFL career as a defensive end, defensive tackle and a nose tackle, with some form of injury or other, and when he retired in 1988 it was due to chronic knee problems. But the thing with Klecko was that he was never found wanting, despite often playing in considerable pain.
Are you beginning to get the idea here?
The HiLux has been with us since 1968 and millions of them have been produced since then.
In fact, in 2011 over half a million were sold worldwide, which is a fair indication not alone of how popular the vehicle is, but how highly regarded it is as a completely bomb-proof buying proposition.
And its reputation is not just as an all-purpose, go-anywhere machine which requires only minimal maintenance to keep it sweet, it has also, unbelievably, gained a huge reputation as a fighting machine in various third world conflicts, and readers may remember the recent strife in Libya where the HiLux played a significant role as a light cavalry vehicle. Indeed, a previous border conflict between Chad and Libya became known as the ‘Toyota War’ because of the job the HiLux did.
Driving the HiLux, the first thing you’ll notice is that the ride is more Rodeo Ronnie than Sammy Silk, but you soon learn that despite its rocky antics in this regard, it actually handles with reasonable aplomb and is quite a decent driving proposition.
However, for passengers the HiLux is not a comfortable beast and for any poor souls in the rear of the double cab subjected to a trip on country roads it will be a memorable experience, but for all the wrong reasons.
But that’s not the point with the HiLux. For the majority of people drawn to this pick-up, the only reason they will have passengers is to drive them to or from work and comfort levels are therefore not really a priority. Just as well.
I have heard it said that the car could do with more power, but I have to say that I thought the 144 bhp and 343 Nm of torque available from the 2.5 litre D-4D engine was ample. I frightened the living daylights out of myself when I accidentally got it sideways on one occasion and was immediately of the opinion that, yes, there was plenty of poke available. Toyota claims an economy figure of 7.3 l/100 km (38.3 mpg — hello Garry Lee) which is not bad for a workhorse.
Creature comforts are not exactly thick on the ground here, which is only right and proper for a pick-up, but Toyota has thrown in stuff like a rear view camera, manual air con., electric front windows and a decent ‘infotainment’ system incorporating Bluetooth and USB connector.
All told then the HiLux is right up there where you want to be if you’re in the market for a pick-up then you may not want to look much further than this.
As a blue collar, lunch-pail car, the HiLux is every bit as much of a legend as the great Joe Klecko was a blue collar, lunch-pail American football player.
You see, there was a connection after all.
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