Sunday, July 05, 2015

Working girl

Olivia is the only one of our Land Rovers that has a tow point on the front.  When it comes time to do Important Stuff (like rolling fibre off a trailer up a mountain), she's the muscle behind the rough bits.

Yes, she's still in action - but these days she takes it a bit more easy than in the past...

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Landy Dreams

Sometimes I'm driving through packed rush-hour traffic, and see the face of a child in the car next to me, staring at Olivia the Landy.

I wonder... will my Landy be the one that some kid, somewhere, holds in their heart as "one day when I grow up I want to drive one of those!"?  Will Livvy the Bus (Favourite Man's label for her) be the inspiration behind a Landy Person years down the line, someone who grows up loving the green oval, but not quite sure where it all began?  Will she be the spark that turns a normally sane child into a somewhat insane adult who pours love and attention on a brand of go-anywhere, do-anything vintage vehicles, are often more trouble than they're worth, but loved as part of the family?  Will she be the push into adventure, and travel, and the lingering smell of EP90?

I wonder...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cool when you're hot

It's still very much summer here - no telltale drip of rain on the accelerator foot yet, and the firewall is a FIREwall after a mere half-hour's drive.  Aircon?  Nope.  Just these in the doors to make the feet breezy:

So yes, driving Olivia isn't exactly the coolest of experiences.

And yet.... it very much IS.

When your daily drive is a Series III that first saw daylight in 1976, you sometimes forget just what it is you're driving.  From the driver's seat the view is much the same as any other Land Rover - though mine of course has a split screen.  But now and then I catch my own reflection in a shop window as I'm zooming down the road.  Or I catch the look on the face of the other Landy driver waving as we pass.

And it hits me how very cool my daily drive is.  If you're headed toward me, this is what you see:

If you're filling my tank at a petrol station, you have a row of flags along her side to admire - the countries she's visited from here to the Sudan and back again.  Slowly.

If you're fortunate enough to be stuck behind her in traffic (and many are, on a daily basis!), you may get to admire the fact that she's (sometimes) pulling a 4m trailer filled with 2 literal tons of assorted computer parts, packed inside with another 500kg or so - and still going forward in a straight line without too much hassle.

Or you may just admire her rear end, with it's customized fog light, reverse light, and assorted other excellent mods, courtesy my Resident Expert.

In short, the bit of metal and fuel that gets me from A to B every day, she's very very cool.

Just saying.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gearing up for trouble

I suspect Olivia doesn't like to be all fixed (my first car the Mini had the same problem years ago). 

Just yesterday we replaced a hub gasket that had disintegrated to the point where we couldn't actually find much of it when removed!  There's no more oil spatters on the rim, no leaks on the hub - the engine's going well, the brakes work, all's right with the world!

Or so one would think...

I had a bit of a day planned today - traipsing around greater Cape Town collecting over a ton (literally) of various e-waste items and running one errand on the way in.

The errand happened to be in the same spot where Olivia had a melt-down a few weeks back.  As I turned into that road, I was thinking "here's where Olivia broke down"...and whaddayaknow, all hell broke loose.

First indication of trouble was that fourth gear suddenly started to sound like it had run dry - and I couldn't get it out of gear.  Made it around the corner on a green light with no oncoming traffic, but suddenly third and fourth just didn't exist.  It was like trying to change gears into a brick - no gap to be had!  First and second worked without a hitch.

I stopped as soon as I could, got out and checked clutch fluid.  All fine.  Third and fourth were miraculously back - until I drove off.  Then they were gone again.  I stopped in a field next to a nearby petrol & service station, and went in search of EP-90 - just in case for some reason the gearbox and/or transmission had run dry.  A bit of a search and a card-swipe later, I hauled out my meagre emergency tool box, made do with a shifting spanner, climbed under the truck (on top of a thorny plant, a clump of dry grass and half of Cape Town's sand) and checked the levels.  All good - gave them a top-up squirt just in case.

And went gingerly off again.  2km down the road, third and fourth were gone again - I pulled over just as Favourite Man phoned.  He told me to "get thee to Roverland" - a couple of km's away - and beg for help and/or fixing.  Suddenly third and fourth were back - hallelujah - so off I went holding thumbs things would stay that way.  He phoned back to give some hints and tips as to what might be wrong - selector springs might be worn/gone, something could be broken, there may be air or dirt in the system... the list of possibilities wasn't terribly short!

Olivia behaved perfectly all the way to Roverland, where I hauled a very nice gentleman out of the workshop to see what was up.  He fiddled with the gearstick, took her for a quick dash down the road, and informed me (thankfully) that there was nothing wrong with the gearbox.  However, the gearstick is wobbling a bit - he reckons the selector needs tightening and oiling up.  What probably happened was that it didn't quite go out of gear, so wouldn't go into any others.  Or a spot of dirt got in the way.  Will be attending to those matters as soon as I can manage, but at least now I know what the problem is, and that it isn't going to gigantically deplete financial resources to fix.

Nevertheless, Olivia behaved herself for the remainder of the day, hauling a trailer tipping nearly a ton and loaded down inside with more stuff, all the way home against a bit of a stiff breeze.

Let's hope she decides not to scare us again anytime soon with any new tricks!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Carbed up

Olivia's been giving a few rather serious problems lately.  She started jerking occasionally a week ago, and it simply went downhill from there.

I did a once-over early in the week, but couldn't see anything wrong.

Thursday was the final straw.  She wouldn't go with any power in a straight line without excessive revving, and that caused jerks and jumps to the point where she'd randomly stall.  I made it through most of a day driving around, some of it with a trailer full of computer screens for recycling, and a 4m pole plus wireless antenna plus double 4m ladder strapped to the roofrack.  But on my final leg home, dragging the roof goodies and an empty trailer, she stalled completely and utterly.  On a blind corner under a bridge... just as a surprise hurricane storm started!

It was mere miracle that no-one hit into the back of me, and an absolute life-saver that a good samaritan and his assistant stopped in their Kia bakkie to tow me off the road to the shoulder.  At which point the hurricane/storm struck in earnest.  Gigantic gusts of wind were soon joined by stinging hail and rain, and we were completely drenched in seconds.  The gentleman asked if I could get the truck going again - when I couldn't and he heard I was trying to get him just around the corner, he hauled out a tow bar and chains, hooked me up with great difficulty, and off we went.

Back home, once I'd stripped off soaked jeans, shirt and takkies and let the rain subside, we got the truck into the yard.  Early next morning, with great difficulty she was started on full choke and I drove her gingerly down to our nearest Landy mechanic.

His expert eye revealed the shaft on the carburetor was worn and wiggling, drawing in too much air randomly, burning the points (with a cutoff rotor that does things when over-revved) and showing up as running lean on the back three plugs.  He filed off the points to give a decent new surface, sent me off to find the spare carb that had come with Olivia's current engine, and drop it off for examination.

This morning I had a call that it looked good - when could I come in?  Well, this afternoon was it!

With a little hard work, the replacement carb was put in, and proved to be tuned to perfection on firing it up.  The points are still good, she sounds like a new beast!  Goes brilliantly too.  The jerk and misfire is gone.

There's been one other issue though... for months now the engine's been squealing around the water-pump area.  We've been frantically trying to source a replacement, but they don't come cheap or easily available.

Today the Landy expert grabbed his oil can as soon as I started the engine, dropped a drop or two on the fanbelt.. and that expensive headache noise disappeared! :-)  Yup, it was the fanbelt, not the water pump.

This evening Favourite Man educated me as to the application of good old Sunlight Soap in a block to the inside of a fan belt.  Olivia is now running quiet and non-squeaky, growling her "V8" engine growl.  An absolute pleasure to drive.


Of course, this is a Land Rover.  Our work is never done.  I'm now on the lookout for a new brake fluid container - Olivia's has been perished and cracking for years, held together with duct tape that today started to give way.  It's got a new layer now - but won't last forever.

Then there's the apparent leak on the back hub seal that needs looking at.  A drip on the gearbox / transfer box of more oil than is normal.  And the heater system to reconnect before winter strikes. 

When you own a Landy there's never a shortage of things to keep you busy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to use up a day

Nothing in Olivia is ever fast.  Here's how to use up an entire day in and around Cape Town.

We have a nifty little device called an FM Protector - it's not only a tracking device, but also does some pretty fancy telling of information like whether you've hit something or not :-)  With Olivia's speedo still awaiting re-installation (scratch that - we have a "new" one that's waiting to go in after the old one conked), we've had to find other ways to determine distance and speed.  This is it.  I can grab a map of where we've been, as above, or print out a summary of distance travelled - and then get horrified at how few kms we've covered vs fuel paid for...  See maximum speed achieved, whether your battery is holding charge, any funny incidents on the way - and all of it viewable via a live web interface in case Favourite Man wants to stalk me from home base and check where I'm at (in case I need to collect something nearby).

Nevertheless, today's travels were many, wide, and varied.  We saw opposite ends of Cape Town, some pretty cool sights, and spent the day trundling around meeting interesting people and collecting interesting e-waste.  And yes, it took the whole day because we're in a 35 year old Land Rover that doesn't break any speed records, not even downhill with a tail wind.

But hey, we did it in Olivia.  And that's very, very cool.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


They say those who refuse to learn from history will be destined to repeat it...

Today I did so - and also came close to making history!

You see, I almost set Olivia on fire.

Post-engine-swap, we discovered Olivia's big spare back battery (truck size) was kaput, and it's come out leaving a battery box with insulated terminals lying loose, ready to pop in a new one.  While we were at it, we took out the bits that hold the battery in place and had them re- sandblasted and galvanized, as they were looking a bit grotty.

Now truck batteries are pricey, and thus far we simply haven't been able to afford a replacement.  So we've been travelling and doing all our electrics off the front main battery while those insulated terminals lie quietly in the back battery box.

Today Favourite Man and I had a bit of a tour of Cape Town planned for business purposes.  We got through a good few appointments before we had to load up Olivia with old computers.  One of which I put in the battery box so nothing else would fall in and short things out..*

5km down the road Olivia suddenly started jerking, something smelt like burning electrics, and then we started seeing smoke...!  Panic stations, everyone out.  Favourite Man grabbed the keys and headed for the fire extinguisher at the back - and then shouted "the fire's here!".  At the same time I was heading toward the bonnet, next in line for the keys to unlock it, shouting "the fire's here!"

Yup, that computer had positioned itself perfectly on top of the terminals, shorting out the live one onto the bodywork and metal computer case - causing a chain reaction all the way up to the engine bay, where one terminal of the battery was peacefully starting to smoke...

Oh crap.  In a word.

Everything checked and disconnected, computer REMOVED from battery box by Favourite Man, attempt at re-insulation without insulation tape (now inserted into vehicle for any future needs), and I gingerly turned the key.  She started.  Sjoe.  We limped to our appointment a few hundred metres away, then made an executive decision to cancel the rest of the day's stuff and head home.  Carefully.

On the way Favourite Man did some MacGyver stuff with a plastic Coke bottle to keep the live terminal off the metal of the truck, removed appropriate relays, and admonished me properly.

We were very lucky this time.  No fire engines or insurance claims were involved.  We may, however, need to replace the battery as it doesn't seem to be holding charge like it did earlier today.

And history repeating itself?

See here, here and here.  One would think I'd learn my lesson hey!


* Disclaimer.  Just because I can.  I honestly thought those wires at the back were dead, insulated beyond doing anything like this.  I'd seen things fall across terminals before when the back battery was in and uncovered, leading to sparks and horrible stuff, and in my inifinte wisdom had thought putting something IN the box would prevent anything else FALLING in.  Needless to say, the sooner I get a plank or other cover over there for the short-term the better...