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 Living on the Road :: Wothahellizat Mk1 :: Construction Diary :: #02

Nov 1997

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 unreliable vehicle.

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 orange.

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.

Feb 1998

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.

May 1998

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 actually).

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 his fence.

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.



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