Then in the October edition of "Deals
on Wheels" I saw it. What a beauty. I can't believe my luck,
it's in Marulan, only an hour or so from Canberra. Better still,
it's owned by a fire brigade. Many of these old trucks have been
hammered around farms etc. This one has spent much of it's life
being pampered by fire brigade blokes who not only have time to
keep the truck in good condition but also have the incentive.
When you're fighting a fire you simply cannot afford to have an
It's November now, will it still be available
after being advertised for nearly a month? I ring the fire brigade
and am told that the truck is still there but another person is
interested. He's coming up from Wollongong this afternoon. "I'll
be there in an hour" I said and threw the phone to it's cradle
as I raced out the door.
Seventy minutes later (I lied, there's no way
to make Marulan in an hour) we pull up at the Marulan Country
Fire Brigade shed to find that they have had a callout to an accident
on the highway. We wait.
Eventually they return and the roller door opens
to reveal the orangest thing I have ever seen. Boy is this thing
The interior has been painted Mr Bean style,
which is to say that they exploded a paint bomb inside the cab
with the only concession to the orangness being a quick wipe of
the instrument faces before the paint dried.
We go for a test drive, it's rough as guts but
kind of fun. Chris discovers that the windscreens can be opened
and that feature sells her. It's got a crash gearbox (no synchro),
I get the hang of that fairly quickly but man is that gear stick
hard to move, and the steering...
On returning to the depot we say yes on the
spot. It seems that we are not the only ones with similar ideas.
Of the three inquiries they had about the truck, two were from
people wanting to build a motorhome.
Two days later my muscles are so sore I can
hardly move my arms.
The truck is stripped of all its
fire brigade livery (you think they could have left the flashing
light) and one of the firies delivers it to Steve Roberts at Goulburn
Truck Repairs. Steve will do the engine/gearbox conversion and
stretch the chassis.
We attend the CMCA's rally in
Roma. What a sight. A thousand motorhomes in one place. We have
come here to do some more research and to meet some other off-road
motorhomers. At this point we have been picking brains and stealing
ideas for about nine months. Our design hasn't changed much in
a month or two so we figure it's about right. We do however spot
a couple of things that cause us to make some small changes. The
weather was abismal, this was probably a blessing as it caused
me to think about wet weather aspects of the design (ie. where
to store muddy gumboots).
To me this is the best way to design a motorhome,
spend a lot of time observing other designs and asking their owners
what works and what doesn't. I guess you really have to build
a few motor homes to get it just right (probably not even then
We finally meet Peter and Marie ("Slineaway",
4x4 Sline International) after talking on the 'phone several times.
We caught up again with Adrian & Carol (6x6 Thornycroft),
they often attend Canberra bashes so we have got to know them
quite well. We also met Steve Pantlin (4x4 Bedford) after many
'phone conversations. As off-road motorhome owners (well we nearly
are) we had a lot in common and all got on well.
We return from the Roma rally and drop in to
check progress. Our Acco has been in Goulburn for six months now.
It's got a new motor (Perkins 6354 diesel) and gearbox and it's
time to lengthen the chassis. We arrive just in time to see the
truck's load being lightened. The weather is overcast and wet,
just like Roma really except that it's about 20 degrees colder.
There's a strong wind and it cuts right through me. I make a mental
note to see if we can retire earlier than planned.
Steve calls in a crane and they remove the water tank...
...then the tray.
Finally the chassis is bare and I can get a good look at the running gear.
27 June 1998
I'm in Goulburn to register the
truck. Steve had it passed yesterday, I just had to fill in the
documentation and pay. And I do mean pay, a grand total of about
$2200 for rego, third party insurance and stamp duty.Ouch.
I take it for a drive for the first time with
the new motor. The engine cover hasn't been fixed on yet and the
noise is so bad it's painful. On returning to Steve's yard I misjudge
the turning circle with the longer chassis and nearly clean up
28 June 1998
Steve delivered the truck to Bungendore
today, only had to change down gears once he said, that looks
promising (I've been worried that the vehicle would be under-powered,
even with the larger motor). I'll be able to start my lessons
for the heavy rigid license now. Then it'll be into the workshop
and out with the welding, grinding, cutting, etc equipment.
It's almost showtime.