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6 January 2023 · Mazda Stories

BT-50 Off-Roading For All

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Meet the women behind the wheel of their beloved BT-50

Off-roading has long been seen as the dirt-crusted domain of burly, bearded blokes who can tie 38 different types of knots and won’t wear shoes without steel caps, but like most stereotypes, it’s about as outdated as an ashtray in an aeroplane armrest.

Setting the record straight with a more accurate depiction of the diverse world of four-wheel driving is Casey Clews, a mines operator from Middlemount in central Queensland who is the proud owner of a BT-50 ute and feels passionately about the fact that women are too often, in fact nearly always, left out of the off-roading picture. So much so, in fact, that the 27 year old decided to create BT-50 Babes, an online community for women who also dig their BT-50s.

“Not all of us have been taught about cars, four-wheel driving, modifications, things like that, so I wanted to create a safe community for women who wanted to learn about these things, without being judged,” she says. “I feel like it’s important because not all of us have people we can reach out to for help, so instead of feeling stuck, we have others from the group we can ask.”

Already boasting more than 400 members, its devotees also assemble offline for in-person events. “The best one would have to be a Rainbow Beach event in 2021,” Clews says. “A few of us got together for a couple of nights camping and a beach drive. “It was so good as we all got to meet each other and some ladies who had never driven on the beach before got the opportunity to do that, so it was a good way to help them feel comfortable giving it a crack, as we didn't put any pressure or judgement on them.” As for Clews, an appreciation of the great outdoors is what led to her love affair with the BT-50.

“I checked out a few different brands when I was looking for my very first four-wheel-drive ute in 2019, but sitting in the passenger seat of the BT-50 on my first test drive was all I needed to make up my mind about buying it,” she says. “I love how comfortable, smooth and easy the BT-50 is to drive, and how it looks. It's right for me because of my interests in life and for where I Iive.”

When it comes to modifications, Clews says it would be easier to list the things she hasn’t done to her BT-50. “I have a silver Dual Cab BT-50, and since I want it for touring and camping, I have set it up for exactly that,” she says. "I have a long list of mods and the only things I have left that I want to do is a tune, GVM upgrade and just some cosmetic things. Otherwise, I am done with everything else.”

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BT-50 Babes members Lushani and Sankini De Silva, a couple who live in the remote Western Australian town of Kununurra, are also proud owners of a modified BT-50 that is their pride and joy.

“We added a bull bar, spotlights, snorkel, all-terrain tyres and we’ve given it a two-inch lift,” says Lushani, 27. “We loved it before we added everything on, but after the modifications it looks like a proper beast.”

“We find ourselves just staring at it, thinking ‘Oh my God, it’s such a good-looking car!’ It’s so cool,” adds Sankini, 37, who works at an Aboriginal health service in Kununurra.

If you think the couple sound like seasoned outback warriors who were born with diesel for blood and an innate skill for four-wheel driving, think again: not long ago they were city-based suburbanites with two cats and zero off-roading experience. “We lived in Melbourne for a number of years and our first car was a Mazda CX-3,” says Lushani. “COVID really prompted us to look outside of Victoria for somewhere to live and we wanted a little bit more of an outdoor-oriented lifestyle. After seven months of lockdown, we were ready for an adventure.”

After settling on a move to Kununurra, Lushani and Sankini knew they’d need a tough new set of wheels to lug their gear to their rugged and remote new home, which was an almost 4000km drive away. “We knew the CX-3 wouldn’t cut it up there, so we went to trade it in for something else,” says Lushani. “The guy who sold us on the BT-50 ute was lovely, and he just said, ‘Don't worry about it, it’s just a big car. It functions just as any other car - you’ve got it, trust me!’ “We were nervous - it’s a tall car and you get a whole new perspective when you’re driving, but we just really liked it.”

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After seven days of driving while towing a furniture trailer (“The BT-50 made the towing so easy,” says Lushani) and taking in iconic locations such as Alice Springs, Coober Pedy and Katherine, the pair soon found themselves living a new life, with off-roading temptations at every turn. “Once we were up here, we went on a trip to Cape Domett, which is proper off-road,” says Sankini. “We went to a beach where we met some other people with four-wheel drives, including our friend, who was towing a trailer and then got stuck in the sand. “We sort of took a back seat and were like, ‘Ah, we’re not too sure what the BT-50 can do, so let another four-wheel-drive try and tow them out.’ “So other people tried, and their four-wheel drives kept stalling and digging further into the sand, so we decided to give it a shot. “The BT-50 towed out the trailer in one go! It was amazing - it’s such a powerful car. “The steering is smooth; the seats are comfortable and it’s so easy to drive. It really performs well overall and gives us the confidence to do all these amazing things. It’s just the best.”

Since then, Lushani and Sankini have tackled a couple of “gnarly” tracks, dried-up creek beds and innumerable water crossings, adamant that anyone can get behind the wheel of a BT-50 and give off-roading a go. “Oh my god, everyone should try it just for the adventure,” says Lushani. “If you're female, and you're insecure about your driving skills, or you just feel insecure getting into a bigger car, don’t overthink it - just go for it. You don't have to be an expert to drive a BT-50, you just learn as you go. “You’ll do your first water crossing and then feel really good about yourself and become more confident in regard to experiencing those kinds of things and exploring further.

“The BT-50 gives you the ability to do things that you never thought you would end up doing - like driving across Australia!”

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BT-50 Babes founder Casey Clews concurs with the “Just go for it” ethos for any women thinking about getting themselves a BT-50 and giving off-roading a red-hot go. “Don't let others, or fear, hold you back,” she says. “It’s better to be out there having fun rather than sitting around thinking, ‘I should have given it a go’.”