Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Step 1

Olivia's new / replacement fender has arrived. Complete with ex-army light bits. Nope, we're not going to leave it that colour - but work starts soon!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Life with Land Rovers is very much a love/hate relationship.

When they're going well we love them to bits. When they're giving problems we want to kick their tyres and take a hammer to the offending parts.

Actually... the word "relationship" is kinda the root of the problem. We start to see these hunks of metal as "people".

Take Olivia for example. She's my girl, part of the family, and yup - the truck is a "she". When I slam my hand in the door it's "Olivia's way of reminding you she loves you". When something breaks "Olivia's being kak / moody / obstinate". She's taken on human characteristics for her mechanical quirks - and there's been an emotional investment from before she was officially mine.

But not all Landy drivers feel that way about their vehicles.

This morning on the way to work I passed another Series III. Usually us Series folk wave madly to each other, and we'll even wave at Discos - this bloke (and I've seen him often around town) just drives and ignores no matter what we're driving. I'm probably making snap judgements, but it seems his Land Rover is merely a tool, a vehicle to get from A to B that does what he wants it to do. There's no enthusiasm for the old beast, nor for other old beast drivers.

By contrast, I got a wave out of a fellow Discovery owner a few metres later...

And now I've gone off topic, but here's the thing. Lately I've been struggling with the love/hate balance vs Olivia. I'm really not lus for the hassles that await us as we fix her up post-lamppole-greeting experience. I know it's going to be a knock-on thing where we breadcrumb from one issue to the next - and we've been there, done that for many months last year as she was fixed up front to back. I've had some big anti-Landy moments in the last week or so.

But at the same time I still love my Landies. And Olivia particularly, which is why I'm going to be doing what it takes to get her not only back on the road but better than ever before. She's still my girl, part of the family, and in spite of the occasional love/hate battle it does lean a whole lot more toward love than hate.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting there

After Olivia's minor altercation with a lamppost thanks to horrific driving on the part of an old tannie who crossed her path (literally), the red-tape battle began. There was not a whole lot of real damage - not a single light broke in the accident - yet insurance wanted to write her off, stating that repair costs far exceeded the value of the vehicle. Well Favourite Man was able to cut that bill in half or more by speaking to the right people and getting the correct info on exactly how much it will cost to repair what needs it. And insurance has agreed not to write Olivia off.

Sjoe. After all the hard work we've put into that beast, it's a very big relief.

Now the repair work starts. Another learning curve, another little while off the road.

But we're getting there.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

For the Record...

...I miss my Olivia.

She's still sitting quietly at the panelbeater. I'm still waiting for word from insurance. I know she hasn't moved, as I've geofenced the area and told her Protector unit to SMS me if she starts/moves/leaves/enters/stops in that area. Her battery is still fine, as is the unit's - so I can keep an eye on her.

But I miss her.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shake, Rattle, Roll

Roughly once a week I take a trip down a very bad road to drop off some stuff. They're fixing the road, but this is Africa - in the months that I've been doing this, they've done about 500 metres of road and are now 100 metres away from my destination. On the other side of it. Which means I still get to travel the dodgy road.

It is, quite frankly, the worst tar road I've been on. It starts out well except for an occasional sunken trench. But then it deteriorates into 1km of hell. I can see my destination from the start of the worst section - but getting there... Potholes, canyons, random uneven bits. I have to take it very slowly and aim carefully - but I still end up feeling like I've been through a tumble dryer every time with my insides shaken to jello.

A few weeks ago I had some breakables in the back - old stuff, not necessary to reach the end of the road in one piece, but preferable that they do. Two minutes into that stretch I heard a loud crack, just as I hit a hidden hole. Oops.

Two weeks ago I not only had to dodge holes, but a run-away cow too, udders swinging as she made her escape across the road into the orchard beyond.

Last week it was a fleet of small horses trying to test Olivia's bumper...


And every week without fail it takes the entire trip home for Olivia to start feeling normal again. The springs creak, the gears feel funny, there are extra rattles and I'm convinced the engine is about to drop off it's moorings.

Fortunately Pedders handed her a set of new shocks and a steering damper a few months ago. It's made a HUGE difference to the ride, smoothing it out and making general travel quite comfortable. I'd hate to think what that road would do to our kidneys without them.

Still, I really hope the roadworks guys pull finger and get a move on soon. Traveling that stretch is starting to take its toll on the both of us.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I know I'm the eternal optimist, but sometimes I take it way too far.

Like the last post here about Olivia's wonderful fuel consumption. I've been down that road before, and should have known better. The chick is a serious heavy drinker and no amount of rehab is going to cure that it seems!

The wonderful fuel consumption led to a sudden dying - yup, tank empty, fuel gauge sticking. And then it happened again, when we thought we had a quarter tank. Fortunately it was just outside the gate and my very strong Favourite Man pushed all 2 tons of Landy (and extra one ton of chick in driver's seat) through the gate and into the parking lot.

Thus it was that we started to travel with R50 of petrol in a jerrycan behind the seat.

Last weekend it was time to attack the carb again, so I hauled it out, sorted out any gasket renewals, checked float levels and o-rings, put it back in - and then the beast refused to start. All day. Meantime Favourite Man had been fiddling in the dash with wiring, fixing stuff there and rewiring the heater to the back battery, then tackling the distributor to check points gaps. When Olivia got snarky about starting, both of us dived in to check our work!

Unfortunately it ended up to be my fault - I'd over-filled the dash pot and there was too much pressure for the moving parts of the carb to lift and let fuel in. Once fixed, she started right away.

But the thing with carbs is that once they're out, then in - they need tuning. And after a week of fiddling with mix and idle speed I suspect I still don't have it right. First she was running so rich that I used up R140 worth of fuel to go 50km. And ran out as she went up the last steep hill (see "always carry jerrycan with R50 worth behind driver's seat"). Then the mix was so weak she had no power. But the fuel consumption was better. So I set it richer again. And then decided it was too rich - set it down, and she wouldn't start.

Eish. Eish indeed.

Fortunately it appears Favourite Man may have found an Expert who knows about such things. We're trying to organize a meet-up so that, once and for all, I learn how to work with the Zenith Stromberg carb. And get Olivia running spot-on.

Before I have to threaten her with a heart transplant again...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Running Wet

It's raining like crazy here in the Cape - and Olivia loves it!

She really struggles against wind, which doesn't help matters when facing a gale-force one, but give her a tailwind or none at all, stick a bit of rain about, and she's happy as... well a Landy in a mudhole!

Case in point, today's commute. I did indeed battle against the wind all the way to work, but used surprisingly little petrol doing so.

On the way back, although her windows steamed up (yay for a fan! and hot air!), although it was the usual one-man-band of wipers, heater and lights vs eye on the battery guage, she ran light as a feather, fast as she can go, easy peasy through the downpours and road-streams. Her fuel didn't even drop.

Which of course had me worried enough to open up the tank, stick my hand in and make sure the fuel float hadn't gotten stuck again... And it hasn't. She had better fuel consumption today than I think she ever has. Add in a 75c/litre DROP in fuel price last week, and I'm pretty chuffed to be driving her regularly. She is the coolest truck out.

And she does love the wet. She goes and plays on the roads when the rains come down. She holds on to the tar and seeks out the puddles to splash in.

Which makes me loathe to see winter end (eventually).

Monday, September 01, 2008

Another milestone

Two years ago Olivia arrived on my doorstep! Wow... it's been indescribable. I've learnt huge amounts, conquered hills (literally and figuratively), and gained courage to "go beyond".

Yet I still keep hitting new milestones, learning new things.

Yesterday was another. It was the first time I've driven Olivia with something attached to her tow hitch! We had a quick run into Cape Town planned to pick up a load of stuff out of someone's garage, and Favourite Man decided it was high time I learnt what trailer management was all about.

Did I feel it behind me? You betcha. Especially battling a head-wind at the tail end of the worst storm in 7 years. But hey, I drive a Land Rover, and it's got a good deal of power provided you keep it slow and steady. We hit Cape Town in a skitter of hail, worked trailer and truck into the loading area, filled 'er up then headed home again - with a tail wind this time. Brief detour along Sea Point to get spattered by sea-foam blown in on the storm front - we missed the worst of it.

All in all this trailer lesson wasn't half bad. OK, it wasn't loaded up too much - in fact most of the goods fitted into Olivia's back, with only one heavy box in the trailer. But I was pleasantly surprised that I managed turns etc with relative ease.

One more notch on the belt this morning. Millions more to go.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Photoblog: Water Hazard

It keeps falling over on my Landy! :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Would you like Wipers with that?

Winter in the Cape is characterized by cold, rain and traffic jams. The Capetonians turn into idiot drivers as soon as a few drops fall from the sky.

On Monday I had a run in Olivia through to one of our e-waste processors, loaded down with the insides of monitors. In the rain. Over horrific roads. And back through Stellenbosch rush hour.

Being the Cape, and specifically the winelands, folk are generally laid back and slow moving. Factor in the post-school pick-ups, the end-of-day uni students and the general office worker / manual labourer traffic - it turns into chaos.

So there I was pottering along in Olivia through 5pm traffic. It's cold, it's raining - and by law you need your lights on in this weather. Except, if I put O's lights on, I can't do anything else! Her battery isn't holding a charge too well. Add a heater to the load (yes, this is a Series III with a heater thanks to her previous owner, along with Favourite Man's fan restoration and ducting) and the voltage drops to the point where her tracking unit starts sending "low battery warning" SMSs! Add wipers... well, same effect. (Add in the dodgy brakes and who needs gym when you're playing in a one-man band to keep everything ticking over while struggling through the gear changes)

Here's how you do it then. When you're idling at a red light, the lights are on. When you pull away, you give a few brief swipes of the wipers as you accelerate to see where you're going, then put them off. Once you've gathered speed, you hope the wind resistance will clear the screen, then hit the heater switch to defrost your hands and feet until the next red light - where everything except the lights goes off again.

Olivia is going to need a battery transplant very soon...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Driving to work in Olivia this morning, I realized that you have to have faith to travel in a Land Rover. Especially one you work on yourself...

A while back we had a go at sorting out the back axles. New oil seals were needed, and the bearings were checked at the same time. This of course involved taking the wheels off, plonking the beast on axle stands, and then putting the wheels back on again.

Which is where faith comes in. I have good faith that those wheel nuts were tightened properly - which is why I don't have to worry about things coming off while I'm driving!

Same goes for the engine. I've been in there and fiddled with stuff. I know that Favourite Man has sorted out the points (and I have faith in his abilities). I have done the carb myself. The wiring is perfect (Favourite Man again). Faith in our abilities has me unworried about potential problems - and knowing who to blame if something does go wrong.. :-)

I have faith that the bumper's not going to fall off. Faith that the roofrack will stay put. Faith that my seat won't fall out onto the road. Faith that the truck will start in the first place.

Yup, driving a Landy's a pretty much religious experience.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Oily matters

This morning Favourite Man checked Olivia's oil before I left for work, reporting back "if you ever wanted to take a photo of oil at a perfect level, that dipstick is it right now".

Yay! That's quite the achievement for an old Landy. Instead of emptying a couple litres into her belly every day, she's doing OK on the oil consumption at last.

Months ago I put diesel oil instead of petrol oil into her by mistake during an oil change. That probably scrubbed crud to a level where compression was lost and oil found new exits... But we added Prolong and it seems to be helping.

Today she was going very well again. Except for the wipers. Blown fuse last time, apparently the same thing this time, and another interesting bit of commute until the windscreen cleared. Favourite Man and I will be spending some time with the electrics this weekend before we take her to stretch her legs and see some whales.

For now I'm just happy the oil level's staying constant. It's amazing how much difference that makes to how she functions.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Call of Africa

(from a forward, just a bit of inspiration for the day)

When you've acquired a taste for dust,
The scent of our first rain,
You're hooked for life on Africa
And you'll not be right again
Till you can watch the setting moon
And hear the jackals bark
And know that they're around you,
Waiting in the dark.

When you long to see the elephants.
Or to hear the coucal's song,
When the moonrise sets your blood on fire,
You've been away too long
It's time to cut the traces loose
And let your heart go free
Beyond that far horizon,
Where your spirit yearns to be.

Africa is waiting - come!
Since you've touched the open sky
And learned to love the rustling grass,
The wild fish-eagles cry.
You'll always hunger for the bush,
For the lion's rasping roar,
To camp at last beneath the stars
And to be at peace once more.


Thursday, July 31, 2008


Winter in the Cape is a wet one. The general trend is a drifting rain for days - or a couple of hard-hitting cold fronts that rattle the doors and pound the windows.

Today it's a bit of both. And I drove Olivia to work.

She reminded me she loves me by pouring the contents of the gutter down my jacket as soon as I opened the driver's door, then continued to do so with a steady dripping stream as I got all my work goodies inside her. Fortunately my pants soaked up what had hit the seat.

Bar a brief struggle with the fuel pump she started first time, which she's been doing lately - lovely. No more half-hour struggle!

Hit the lights, hit the wipers, hit reverse... hmmm.. something's missing. It's been a while since I drove Olivia in the wet - have I forgotten where the wiper switch is?

Well I fiddled them all, and yup - no wipers. Not even the hint of a reaction from anything mechanical. And no other choice than to simply drive.

I'll say this much - it's not easy driving down a wet road where the markings disappear under streetlight reflection, with oncoming commuter's lights shining in your face! It's even worse when there's rain pounding the windscreen. At the best of times I tend to clear the screen of the merest water while driving. This morning's commute was... well, interesting.

Fortunately Olivia is slow and I could hug the road edge, judging how far over I was by what I could see next to me. Equally fortunate was the gale force wind I drove into, which whisked a good deal of the water away. And also fortunate was the fact that the sun's starting to come up earlier, and it wasn't pitch-black dark.

Fun times, people - fun times.

Tonight Favourite Man gets to check out what's going on behind the dash. Or in the fuse box. Or with the wiper motor. Whether the rain's put paid to a connection, or if it's just Olivia being obstinate.

Whatever the issue is, life with a Landy's never boring.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On the move

Olivia's on the move this morning.

Favourite Man is taking her and a trailer in to Cape Town to collect e-waste for me, with the kid in tow. Although there are only 4 stops on the list, it's probably going to take most of today, and a couple stops at the petrol stations.

Lucky for me, she's fitted with an FM Protector unit, so I can sit at my desk and watch her progress. Nope, she's not flying in a straight line.. :-) The waypoints are marked by GPS/GPRS at regular intervals, so the route is only picked up and displayed where the point is plotted. We've set it to notify out-of-hours driving and low battery, both of which have come in handy in the past - there's a lot more it can do that we don't have set.

Today though it's main function is peace of mind. I can see where Favourite Man and the kid are, know they haven't been hijacked or veered way off the planned path, and track the stops as they go.

Olivia had a good run on Friday - today she gets to stretch her legs again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Special Parts

One reason I love Landy people is because they inevitably come with a sense of humour. Proving yet again you can sell anything on e-bay .. :-)

The quest for a signal

Olivia recently acquired a WorldSpace satellite/digital radio, which Favourite Man fitted expertly last weekend.

During Olivia's rennovation, we'd hooked the unit up to the newly-installed wiring to check that it worked, and picked up reception loud and clear. This time around we've struggled to get more than a bar or two, no matter where we place the antenna.

Now there are many theories as to why this is. They range from incorrect installation (basically impossible - it was done properly) to being on the edge of the "satellite footprint" to mere interference from everything else flying around the radio/wireless/satellite channels. The amount of aerials and antennas that have been sprouting everywhere lately is horrific.

The quest for a signal will continue though. That WorldSpace thing is a very handy device.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All Revved Up

Olivia's been doing weird stuff recently. I'll be just beginning the commute when her revvs will suddenly increase and get stuck there - scary-high with engine screaming. It doesn't happen often, but...

This morning it couldn't have come at a worse time. My side windows were misted up in icy morning darkness, the windscreen wasn't much better, I was approaching a traffic circle, and had cars front and back hemming me in. Suddenly the revvs were hugely high again - instead of merely idling along I was now speeding. Trying to sort that out, not hit the car in front of me and turn around the circle... I didn't see the motorbike coming around the circle next to me!

A split-second later and we would have collided, but fortunately we didn't.

And the revvs problem?

Well I suspect the choke.

It only happens when driving with the choke out - which is a normal occurrence on an early-morning commute. It feels as if the accelerator is sticking - but I think it may actually be the choke cable.

So here goes with a bit of cable-following/fixing very shortly!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Safe & Secure

You may remember a while back we had a bit of a "Surprise" when Olivia's bonnet flew open while travelling.

Well, Favourite Man - being handy and all that - made Olivia a pair of hood sticks to make sure that doesn't happen again. We fitted them a while ago and they've worked most excellently.

As you can see, they're strong and metal and stick up through the bonnet - held closed with an R-clip.

A few weeks ago we moved Olivia from her outside parking to the in-yard one, and noticed that some idiot had nicked the R-clips! This is Africa - these things happen. If it's not tied down and secured it disappears. Unfortunately.

So shortly thereafter I took a trip to our local locksmith. Olivia's bonnet is now VERY secure....

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Blog

It had to happen. The Landy Chick has a new blog - solely for her Land Rover addiction. :-) Comments and submissions are welcome.

This blog remains property of Olivia though.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


You know you drive a Land Rover when you travel with a 5 litre container of engine oil behind the driver's seat... (not to mention 5 ammo boxes of assorted tools, parts, recovery gear and manuals)

In recent weeks Favourite Man has been panicked by Olivia's oil consumption. She was emptying out the supply at an awful rate, leaving the dipstick levels way too low after a simple day's driving.

Last week we decided to try something. We bought a bottle of Prolong and chucked it in to the oil. I've driven her a bit since then, and so far so good.

The oil level this morning hadn't dropped, and she's still running pretty well. Fuel consumption seems to be OK too!

Let's hope this is a long-term solution....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Night Fever

Last night saw Favourite Man and I out and about in Olivia after sunset. We had a shopping run and an airport-distance run to accomplish, so a good deal of pottering in the dark.

At which time I discovered a problem. A very serious problem.

You see, Olivia has LIGHTS. And not just lights or Lights, but LIGHTS. 16 of the blerry things on her front alone, and then there's the ones in her rocksliders and the Christmas tree out back. All functional (well, OK - there are one or two for mere bling), and all nicely aligned.

So when it comes to night driving, I have this big old problem in wanting to flash all my pretty lights at people.

The worst was when we were parked outside the Spur restaurant, with lovely crowds of people just the other side of big plate-glass windows mere metres away. Perfect flash-fodder!

But Favourite Man wouldn't let me... Not even after I'd reversed 10m back. Damn! :-)

I'll just have to stick to flashing people when I'm on my own.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Olivia goes to work

I had a bit of a close call this morning, driving to work in the dark.

Being a slowpoke, Olivia tends to stick to the "yellow line lane" uphill and let the speedier commuters past. This morning she was doing just that in the early morning blackness, when I suddenly noticed a HUGE pothole that had opened up overnight - right in the middle of the lane I was traveling!

I was very very lucky that traffic was thin - I managed to swerve out and avoid it. But if I hadn't.... I shudder to think of the damage. Overturned vehicle. Broken axles. Probably broken me too. Oh my - it would have been horrible.

Luckily we avoided it and by the time I next came by the traffic department were helping others give it a wide berth.

I know Olivia loves going off-road, but that was a little bit too extreme... even for her.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wet Run

You get dry runs - and then you get wet runs. Being Olivia, and being winter, today Favourite Man is on a Wet Run.

It's a typical Cape winter day - howling northwest wind, rain on and off (when it's on, it's ON), not a hint of sunshine to be seen anywhere. Driving a solid, square block of metal with some wind-catching aerials and a roofrack is not easy - add in a topside load and it's going to be quite the trip home.

Olivia is doing e-waste fetching and carrying today. She's already taken a load of sorted goodies to the processors this morning, is on her way to another to drop off a different type of stuff, then will be picking up ready-to-work-through new waste, along with a rather large pole-type structure. Which in this wind is going to be "fun" to get home via the coastal road...!

Nevertheless, she appears to be going pretty well today (touch wood - or aluminium, seeing it's a Landy). She sounds fantastic, and even though she's merely pottering along at Olivia speed, she's getting where she needs to be - in style.

Used to be a wet run like this was a VERY wet run - water streaming down behind the pedals, dripping through the windscreen onto the steering wheel and dash, and running down your neck through the door tops. Favourite Man fixed that - and now it's merely a damp run.

Holding thumbs the rest of it goes as smoothly as it has thus far.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Going everywhere - slowly...

Right children, pay attention. Now - what is the title of this blog? Good! "Going Everywhere - Slowly"!

Which is a general trend in a 30-year-old Landy with her original engine. But hey, it's faster than walking.

Still... Rising fuel costs and this Treehugger post have me pondering today.

Remember I briefly said something about the "death of adventure" in my last post? That cost of travel is making it a luxury? Well - I'm wondering. What if, along with the drive to find new, cheaper and eco-friendlier ways to travel, there were a return to the beast-powered adventure?

What if, instead of taking a year off to travel the world, you spent that year travelling just a single continent or country? And doing it non-mechanically?

Heck, our ancestors travelled by horse, by oxcart, by donkey-power. We may have progressed considerably, got all nifty and gadget-heavy, customized and turned our mechanical beasts of burden into homes on wheels, built smooth roads to take us everywhere, but that's SO run-of-the-mill lately! :-) You just go try the same route by animal power. Now THAT'S an adventure!

And you'd get to see the scenery! You could even walk it, you'd be moving so sedately.

Sure, you'd have to plan food and water for the beasts, but you're planning food and water for yourself anyway and it wouldn't be too great an adjustment (sorta). I know it's not really that simple - where you could leave a truck standing for months, then simply fire it up and go, you can't do the same for an animal. But perhaps a new breed of safari-transport-hire company would spring up - stabling full in the off-months, everything gone over the holiday season.

Yup, I know. SERIOUSLY random ramblings in a totally illogical direction.

But hey - it's an option. Even if it's much slower than a Series Landy.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

It's (still) alive!

Nope, Olivia hasn't gone to the Great Landy Gathering In The Sky. She's still around, she's still going strong - better than ever.

There's a post languishing in drafts about her new shocks/dampers and steering damper. She's gained a few new stickers. She has new tyres and she's working hard up the mountainside!

But our lives have rushed on with work every day - and it's been a while since she went out to merely play. It's been a long time since the last roadtrip. She's been doing local here-and-there's only, a daily drive when we have time and cash to throw in her thirsty tank.

In the meantime fuel prices have shot up, and continue to do so every month - crippling thoughts of adventure. I often wonder if the worldwide fuel costs are going to put a damper on adventure in general, no matter which country you're in...

But Olivia lives yet. And one of these days her blog will again be filled with tales of wonder and travel. Just not yet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Digital Confusion

I threw fuel into the Disco 2's tank for the first time this morning since the above R10 a litre hike in price, and it was both amusing and confusing.

The price is given in hundreds of cents, but it should be in just over a thousand. So when you put in R20, you end up seeing a charge for R2 on the pump!

If only....

This could, of course, work for both good and evil. If you go cash in hand and say "give me 20 bucks of diesel", they'll fill it to R20,0* worth, approximately R20 but with the last few single figure cents unknown so you could just score an extra drop. If you go garage charge card in hand, the computer at the back calculates it to the last cent and charges you accordingly!

So on the former the garage could lose out, on the latter you could.

Apparently the petrol stations have been given until the end of the year to upgrade to exorbitant-compliant numerals. Which of course means only one thing. The fuel price can only go up.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rest Up

Olivia is taking a break.

She was the daily drive commutemobile for an entire month, completely fulfilling my quest to turn her into such that started the whole Work In Progress thing at the beginning of last year. She's been tootling along, generally happily - a very big difference from me being too scared to get into her!

But now she's taking a break. I'm back in the more fuel-efficient Discovery II that belongs to Favourite Man for the daily dash. And why? Well.. the petrol/diesel prices are up again. So much so that some older pumps can't handle the new 4-digit diesel price. A bit like Y2K for petrol stations!

So the Disco is getting a run for its money once more, and Olivia has become the leisure/mountain work truck. Olivia gets to do the short trips around town when needed. She gets to go offroad and uphill when site clearing is required. She does shop runs and fun runs. But she's taking a break from commuter battles.

I'm not sure how much fuel savings we'll see. Diesel has become way more expensive than petrol, so I'm still paying about the same every day... well, nearly. I can sneak through the day slowly on less diesel than the petrol Olivia sucks up. It's still pricey - I'm not sure how financially feasible a daily commute is going to be down the line - but it's probably the best option for now.

So Olivia is resting a little. She'd better rest well - I have plans for her....

Friday, May 02, 2008

Working Girl

Olivia has been earning her keep the past few days. On Tuesday she drove Cape Town flat - including picking up e-waste for Virgin Earth and seeing a few blokes for Cape Connect.

Today she did what she was made for - trundling slowly up a mountain in low range to take us to a Cape Connect mast site which requires clearing. She toted water, 3 humans, food, supplies, equipment and a faulty chainsaw which gave up after an hour's work. And then she came down the mountain again.

Landies are meant to be used. They're not just pretty, they're not simply road cars. They were designed to tackle tough terrain and keep you safe. Especially if it means facing slopes like this regularly.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Up and Down

Olivia is pretty impressive for a 31 year old truck.

This morning early we had to do a quick dash up a mountain (all in a day's work) in heavy mist before work. Last time I handed over the steering wheel to Favourite Man as soon as we hit the dirt. This time I went up the easier bit until the first very steep slope before exiting the driver's seat. And Olivia just kept going and going and going.

OK, maybe I approached some of the ruts at the wrong angle. We "got air" once as the back tyres spun briefly. But she does make it look easy sometimes. She may be slow and ponderous, but the engine does pull nicely.

Perhaps soon I'll even get up the confidence in her capabilities to try the Scary Hill all on my own. I may ask Favourite Man to step outside and well away though, just in case I don't get it right and we roll.... Wouldn't want him tossed around!

(We did have a bit of a scare at the top of the worst hill when she popped out of 4-wheel drive briefly. Eish. That plus temperamental brakes is not a good thing.)

Heading back down we passed a Forward Control on its way up. Landies definitely rule that lump of rock.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


A few months ago I gave Olivia an oil change. By mistake I put oil meant for diesel engines in her, instead of the petrol engine oil. Total and utter blonde day! But, as it was a rather large financial investment's worth of oil, we thought we'd go with it and see what happened.

Meantime, a thread on the Land Rover UK Forums mentioned diesel oil and petrol engines, so of course my virtual ears pricked up and I kept an eye on it. All sorts of fascinating info came out.

For one thing, diesel oil has scrubbers and cleaners in. You'd think this would be a very good thing - but perhaps not in an old Series engine. You see, sometimes a build-up of stuff helps protect the engine components (not a HUGE build-up, mind) - and scrubbing it off changes the entire way the engine functions. You start with a low compression engine, add a cleaning oil - and the compression may plummet further! You might also risk exposing problems that had been happily non-problematic under the gunge, or loosen up stuff that could damage the engine when it starts to circulate.

I've noticed the oil has gotten blacker quicker - so there is some cleaning going on in there. Also seems to need topping up regularly, but that's par for the course on a Landy. If it's not dripping oil, you don't have any.

I know these old engines are built to run on just about anything. They're made tough to deal with tough conditions, but they do still need love and attention, a careful eye to make sure they're functioning optimally. Choosing the right oil for the job is part of that.

Olivia has been going OK, as Olivia generally does. I haven't picked up any really big issues with a different oil going through her system. But I won't be diesel-oiling her petrol engine again, just in case. I'd much rather give her optimal ingredients to handle the roads she travels than take a chance.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Note to Commuters

Your need to beat me to the next traffic light with a roar of engines does not encourage an increase in speed on my part. We'll all get there at the same time anyway and I'm not putting foot to conform to your ideas of the speed limit.

Likewise, should you choose to travel in the slow lane, do not attempt to move me to the yellow line by flashing your lights, gesturing or otherwise being rude. There's a fast lane for fast cars - get into it.

If I do happen to move over and drive in the yellow line (for your convenience), it would be nice to have some sort of thanks or acknowledgement for my troubles. Also, if I indicate to get back into normal traffic to avoid a collision with a cyclist, broken down car, pedestrian or tractor transporting grapes - don't speed up and try cut me off. Be nice, be considerate, and don't make me slam on brakes until you have the chance to push past.

You may have petrol to burn in your tanks, and thus be able to ignore speed restrictions and logical gearing behaviour. I do not - I will travel at the most fuel-efficient speed for my truck, which happens to be the general 60km/hr speed limit you should be keeping to anyway. If you want to speed, don't try involve me in it.

My bumper is bigger and stronger than your plastic decorative one. You will come off second best if you cut me off. If you need to know why, you're welcome to join me for a brakes test in Olivia. Ditto for creeping up the exhaust pipe. That rear crossmember will slice your bonnet in half without feeling a jot.

You do not own the road. Driving at speed and swerving between cars is not cool. But then again, there's generally natural selection applicable to your type... Pity it usually has to involve innocent fellow-travellers and crumpled metal.

In conclusion, all I ask is that you be considerate to your fellow commuters, and if you're in a Landy - for goodness' sake wave back.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Olivia is not your average smooth rider. She's a Leafer, and her reconditioned leaf springs are bouncy.

I've noticed it lately on a particular section or two of road where there are the smallest corrugations or uneven bits in the surface. If you hit them at the right speed - which is generally the reasonably-slow speed Olivia's going - you generate a "wave" effect. As you bounce up and down, you hit the next one which keeps the bounce going! Throw in a high seat box with straight up and down padding, and you look like you're on a trotting horse in the driver's seat.

A while back I was trying to explain the feel of the ride to my boss. "Oh," she said, "I guess that's like when I put my car in Sport Mode and feel the bumps". Um.. no. Not exactly. I may have to give her a lift sometime to illustrate the difference.

There are many that look down their noses at Leafers in favour of the comfortable ride of coil springs. Yes, it's nice not to feel every bump in the road, but hey - this is a Series Landy, and feeling bumps is what it's all about. However, I recently had a passenger with a full bladder on board and I don't think he appreciated the effect! :-)

That's Series Landies for you. They chug along slowly, they bounce, they bump - but they go. Generally speaking. Which is really all you need out of a vehicle anyway.

Of course Olivia is the exception to the rule - which is why new shocks are on the must-get list. :-)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Woman's Place

I know the facts, but now and then I'm still gobsmacked that in this day and age women are still shunted to the side of the campfire.

Take the manly world of 4x4 ownership, for instance. OK - I'm not your average Land Rover driving woman. For one thing, I drive a difficult bitch of a beast that is constantly threatening mutiny. For another, I don't particularly mind getting my hands dirty or my head around her issues.

Which is why I had greasy short nails and ingrained muck for a couple of months recently. And why I hardly ever wear fancy clothes when driving my Landy - you never know when you might need to get into the engine or under the chassis to check something out, which is basically impossible when you're in satin and high heels.

I'm not an expert - I'm far from an expert - but experience has taught me a thing or two about Series Landys (with Favourite Man's help, and the advice of some other very wise folk online and offline). And I'm still learning.

But now and then a situation comes along where I do know a thing or two, having been there, done that. Where I'm in a position to give a spot of advice, having found the easiest and most effective way of doing something.

Yet as a woman I'm in the minority. I'm not meant to know things. I'm probably supposed to be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen", making the salads - not braaing the proverbial meat.

Time and time again I've found that sharing my knowledge leads to it simply being ignored. I can give long and detailed explanations, spout forth on the whys and wherefores of what someone else needs to know - but it's brushed away as the men get their word in, and their opinions get acknowledged.

Most times I simply shrug it off as "that's the way things are". I'm used to it. I'm accustomed to being ignored. But every so often it simply gets to me. And then I go blog. :-)

Dirty Girl

Olivia is not the cleanest of vehicles at the moment. She's been up a mountain twice in the last two weeks, a very dusty dirty mountain, in a manner which generated a coating of brown everywhere.

Add in early morning dewiness on the windscreen and bodywork, and she does not look at all good!

But there's a dilemma raging over this one.

Landies should look like they're doing Important Things, shouldn't they? Too clean and you're tempted to say "oh look, another bloke who likes to think he's tough, but his vehicle never goes off tar". Too dirty, and it looks like you don't care for your truck.

So Olivia's sitting at a bit of a semi-happy medium right now. Dusty - yes. But not so dirty that you can't see she's blue. Pity the windows can be a bit hard to see out of early in the morning against the rising sun.

I think my dilemma may be solved for me tomorrow. There's a massive cold front with lots of rain apparently on the way. I've sat at work watching the clouds moving in over the mountains, ever lower and thicker. By tomorrow it's going to not only be sleep-in weather, but Olivia may get a natural rinse-off standing around outside.

I only hope the wind decides to blow from all directions equally so she's thoroughly cleaned, and doesn't end up with everything sparkling except her downwind butt...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Celebrity in the House

Favourite Man has been published! One of the awesome things he made for Olivia the Landy is featured in this month's Land Rover Monthly magazine, with the photos he took of the process. Quite co-incidentally, the final page faces an ad for a commercial cubby box that looks completely inefficient next to his strong and sturdy one. :-)

I'm so proud of him I could burst. Go FaveMan!

(cross-posted to ...seekingserenity)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


There I was, happily chugging through town on the way to work with a grin on my face, when Olivia sighed. I pulled over and revved her, and she was OK. A half-kilometre down the road she sighed again. This time I headed down a side street to check things out, as I don't fancy being stuck in the middle of commute traffic on a road with no shoulder space and taxis speeding by!

Well, in the process of checking things, I tapped the fuel guage. And, instead of the wonderful fuel consumption I had been getting, the just over quarter tank that should last me another two days, the guage plummeted and hit zero.

Oh dear.

Well I trundled back slowly toward town (mostly in neutral, to the irritation of a gold-bedecked woman in a BMW behind me that obviously had a fuller tank than I did), parked up behind the library, drew a few bucks half way through town, and walked to the end of Main Road to get a couple of litres of petrol. The only other fuel stop in town seems to be closed for repairs. From there it was home to phone work and tell them I'm on my way (cellphone is currently not happy) - and then back to the petrol station to feed the hungry beast once more.

On to work, slowly. The less petrol I burn the better... which is a mission with the hills I have to conquer daily.

Olivia's called the "petroldief" (petrol thief) by Favourite Man. Today it's a name she definitely deserves.


Monday, April 14, 2008


I've mentioned how night driving Olivia keeps me on my toes and on edge... but what I haven't mentioned is the day-to-day frights she likes to give me.

Take this morning, for instance. I was in to work a bit later than usual after having some business to take care of elsewhere, and as I arrived and parked I noticed something dripping out of the wheel arches and off the rock sliders onto my parking place. Oh no, now what!

Drips usually mean a trip to the parts shop, once you've found what essential item has deigned to break without warning. And the very last thing I need now is another Landy parts trip.

So there I was in my work clothes on hands and knees, peering under the truck and trying to find the source of the leak. I stuck my fingers into it and smelt it - and it wasn't petrol or oil, it was water! But there's no water pipes in that area to spring leaks... what on earth IS IT????

And then I remembered. I'd just driven in through the sprayers watering the lawns outside the office gate. The road had been covered in water and I'd gotten a light misting of the windscreen that had dried by the time I got out of Olivia. But the wheels had thrown up a good deal of water from the road into the wheel arches and onto the bottom of the rock sliders - and that was now dripping off.

Sjoe. What a relief.

Right, Olivia - that's your scare for the day used up, you hear?!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Just like her human, Olivia is not fond of getting up and going to work in the dark. But the seasons are changing so rapidly lately that she's had to put on her lights when she leaves, and sometimes even gets to use her fog lights!

Of course, with the onset of colder weather, she's not only trying to be difficult by starting with effort - but she decided it's time for the fan/heater switch to break and the heater tap to stick closed.

Yes, my Series III has a heater - and it's not just engine heat through the firewall. It's a proper fan setup that uses water circulated from the radiator via an inline screw thing that's either open or closed, so once the engine starts to warm up you have warmth literally on tap!

Well, first chill in the air and suddenly she goes cold on me. The switch we thought was such a good one gets all loose and simply stops functioning! True to form, it's just before the weekend so little Ms Attention Monger can get her fair share of fiddling in. The switch we had lying around isn't a two-speed one, nor is it a perfect fit - but it's fitted. The sticking heater tap in the pipe from the radiator has been loosened by Favourite Man and is letting warmth through. Just have to remember to keep it closed tomorrow when we have a sudden blast of hot day.

Now all we need to sort out is the darn windscreen wiper on the driver's side. Before it starts raining in earnest...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Adventure with a purpose

A post on one of my email forums recently has lodged itself in the "adventure" braincell in my head and started to use up a significant portion of my imagination's RAM.

There's a few blokes heading off on a 4x4 trip to Botswana, which is nothing new. Guys go places every weekend! But these guys are going to "find the Lost City of the Kalahari" as mentioned in 1883, sought for by Allan Paton, and brought to life in a Wilbur Smith novel.

OK, so they probably won't find it. Scientists and expeditioneers have sought it in vain, and zooming around in Google Earth yields nothing. But still - what a good excuse for a trip to the desert!

And that got me thinking. Too often our road trips and our away-treks involve simply going to somewhere and then coming back again. We may have mini-adventures along the way by accident, or take in some sights, or do the tourist thing in parts unknown, but we've lost that sense of "let's go find new lands!" that started the whole itchy feet characteristic generations ago, and which today makes some of us squirm at our deskjobs.

Look at guys like Livingstone, or more recently David Attenborough. They went on quests to find the different, the unexplored, the unknown - and experience one hell of an adventure in the process.

So perhaps we can't all grab National Geographic Society funding, or get the BBC to back up our travels. But there are places and purposes that we all too often ignore in favour of just "going somewhere".

Me, I think it's time to get a different mindset going for Olivia's travels. Even if it means chasing after a legendary city or lost habitat. ESPECIALLY if it means just that. It's time to recapture the sense of wonder, the search for the mysterious and the interesting. Go off the beaten track and be amazed.

Which reminds me... there's rumours of a plain of fossilized dinosaur eggs, and forgotten trade route civilizations somewhere in the Gobi Desert. There's the Mountains of the Moon with landscapes seldom seen and pockets of vegetation with undiscovered species. There's the deserted mansion in the forests of the DRC - and the strange patches of grass where the forest ends and mountains begin. There's the hidden oases in the Sahara where crocodiles thrive.

I feel a rather lengthy road-trip coming on! :-)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Landy Wave

The Landy Wave is a strange thing - and it fascinates non-Landy drivers to no end.

You see, if you drive a Landy, you are required to wave at other Landy drivers on the road. This can be done enthusiastically with big grins (as when two Series drivers cross paths), sedately and sophisticatedly (as when two men greet each other with the "man nod" - a dropping of the chin without too much smiling), or by raising a few fingers as you pass (which some reckon indicates the number of oil leaks on your vehicle to the other driver - in which case, some of us need to wave with our toes too).

But not every Landy driver seems to know the rule.

Anyone driving something newer than a 90's Defender seems to be immune to other Landy folk - or just plain stuck-up. Well, generally speaking. There are exceptions.

Then there are the 130 Double-Cab drivers - only one of whom has ever bothered to wave back, even though we're driving similarly kitted-out vehicles, with an apparent passion for the marque. But apparently not a passion for the Landy community.

There's the Disco and Freelander Moms - those who use their vehicles for kid-carry only, and who have probably never noticed that they're driving LAND ROVERS, or that some idiot in a Series III is trying to wave at them. In fact, I've only ever once had another woman wave at me...!

But I think I've figured out the problem with the non-wavers, and it's not just a single issue:

1. They may be first-time Landy owners who have no idea what the Wave Tradition is. They may simply have bought one because it serves their purpose or their image - without having a forgone passion for Land Rovers in general. (These may also be the blokes who sell them and buy Toyotas :-) ) It's a status vehicle or was a good idea at the time. There's no sense of history, and Landies definitely aren't part of the family.

2. Those new vehicles are very "cushy". You have a radio you can hear, you have soundproofing so the outside world and the engine bay don't intrude. You may have tinted windows - seperating you from the rest of the road users. You probably have comfortable seats and (dry) carpeting underfoot. So you're in your own little world, and simply don't notice passersby. Quite the opposite when you're not only trying to prevent deafness over engine noise, but going slowly enough to actually look at your surroundings as you drive.

3. It's much easier to notice a fellow-overlander with his pimped ride than a run-of-the-mill commute car - and sometimes those newer Landies do unfortunately fall into the latter category. Discos are a dime a dozen on the roads, but I have yet to see another Landy that looks like Olivia. Anywhere. She stands out, as do a few others I've seen around town, and those are the blokes who always wave.

4. There's the stuck-up problem. "I drive a better car so I'm not going to stoop to your level". This is a sure indicator that the driver is not a Landy Person, but merely a Landy Driver.

5. They could be having a bad day. Hey, it happens. You're distracted by the constant drip of rain on your accelerator foot, or you've had to push the beast out of a puddle when Lucas the Prince of Darkness struck your electrics, or you're simply concentrating really hard on maintaining your braking distance (a serious matter in most Landies). Not everyone starts to smile when they get in the driver's seat - and sometimes you'd rather be left in peace to mumble and grumble about your damn truck than acknowledge a happy Landy driver with not a care in the world.

But still - I think every Landy should come with the sticker at the top of this post, which a Landy group in the Netherlands (I think) has had printed up. Every new owner needs to be aware of the Landy Wave - before the Jeep blokes overtake us in friendliness, helpfulness and community spirit (yah.. right....).

Thursday, April 03, 2008


One of the things that attracted me to old Land Rover ownership was that this is the quintessential African vehicle - that it's been used throughout the continent and you'll always find spares for it.

Or at least that's the theory. Reality is you spend ages trying to source stuff!

Wouldn't it be nice if you could get Land Rover parts online? If you didn't have to phone the world and find a trusty supplier at a decent price, but could simply go to a central website, check the cost, order and pay online - and get the stuff the next day, delivered to your door.

Of course that's not going to happen.

For one thing, Landy parts are all too often "recycled". You find a bloke with a scrapyard, go dig through his shelves and piles of metal, and haul out a forgotten but apparently still working part to stick on your truck. Or you take a bit off someone else who is upgrading or changing things. Such is the joy of having Mecano-set vehicles. Mix & match. But this way you get something that does or doesn't work, no guarantees.

And then there's the "quick, everyone make a buck!" thing. Where, to get a proper new Landy part, you have to go via an official dealer - and what costs you 8p in the UK suddenly comes in at R40 here! With difficulty. There will be umming and aahing before you manage to squeeze something out of them. And they'll charge you exorbitant amounts simply because they know you can't get it elsewhere. Customer service? Not a priority.

Then there's the friend-of-a-friend option, who knows a good guy on the inside who has contacts with LR and can source all sorts of goodies. Usually. But he may not be able to come up with that one part unavailable from everyone else.

Hence my desire for an online site to price things (new or used), check availability, order and get. One that's cost-effective and not a rip-off. One that can source exactly what you want and get it to you without hassle. Perhaps even one where that bloke who has been stockpiling parts for years suddenly lists everything he has for the rest of us to buy.

And why do I want this? Because I am about to phone the local Land Rover dealer for parts pricing again, and we all know how that went last time.....

Photoblog: Road-trip

Olivia is looking SO good these days. This was taken on a bit of a road-trip this past weekend, way out at Rooiels (which turned out to be a nasty, nasty place).

She also got a little bit of "hill descent" in... :-)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Every now and then Olivia likes to surprise us. Just to check that we're paying attention, you know.

On Saturday evening we toddled off to Gordons Bay along the N2 in the face of a stiff wind. When suddenly the bonnet flew up! Big fright all round, and a quick pull-over to close it, then a slow drive to a safe side road to fix it. Good thing the toolbox always goes with us.

The bonnet closure is a pretty simple device. It's a pointed bolt that screws into a nut located on the other side of a lip of metal - the spring goes between nut and end of the bolt, and the point of the bolt goes down into the bodywork. Nothing overly fancy about it.

But the nut had ripped through its hole under pressure from the prevailing gale, leaving the closing mechanism down in the bodywork! Sjoe.

Well we managed to get it back in and tightened - at least Favourite Man did, at the expense of his palm which had to push the pointy bit of the bolt with force up into the bonnet again. Back home he put on an extra washer between nut and metal lip to keep it on the right side of the bonnet, and included a bit of Locktite so it won't come loose again.

We lost one of the rubber bushes that surround the bonnet hinge in the process, but I'm glad it wasn't any worse. It could have been a complete and utter disaster.

We're awake now Olivia - you don't have to try that again.

Friday, March 28, 2008


It's been a week of waiting. Favourite Man's Discovery II is in dire need of a back brakes system sort-out, so we needed to:

1. Find Brake Pads
2. Have discs skimmed
3. Find the screw that attaches the hub to everything else - which for some very strange reason had fallen out or gone missing on one wheel!

Well we got stuck at point #3. You'd think Land Rover dealers would keep stock of that particular item, as it's relevant to the entire range of Landies and kinda essential to keeping the wheels rolling. Literally.

But no, it had to be ordered in. And that's where the jello hit the fan, spraying liberally around the entire area and turning everything lemon flavoured.

First, they got the part number wrong. Although I gave them the right one, they wrote it down with two letters switched. So they ordered the wrong part! We then gave them a screenshot of what was required and they tried again, assuring me it would be ready for collection at midday yesterday. In good faith I arranged time off work to go get it, then move along to the rest of the requirements. Unfortunately it hadn't arrived when I turned up....

Being somewhat stubborn (just ask Favourite Man! ;-) ) I parked my cool Landy outside their premisis and settled in with a handy book to wait for delivery. Two hours later it still hadn't arrived and I was sent home with the promise that the driver would deliver later that day.

Well we finally got the darn thing this morning. 4 days of struggle for one blerry screw.

Nevertheless, that is all side-show stuff to the point of this particular post. So let me get on with it.

While sitting and waiting in my cool Landy, I was subjected to a Buzzing.

You see, there was a lovely dark grey-green 110 Defender that pulled in to the Land Rover dealership and spent some time doing whatever it was they'd turned up for. Once done, two guys got into the truck and drove off. They happened to glance over to where Olivia was quietly parked across the street in the shade - all unobtrusive-like. And they must have liked what they saw.

They went around the block and drove past her to look again. Then turned and went the opposite way down the street, still looking. In my rear-view mirror I saw them turn again, and yup - come past and ogle. By this time I was starting to giggle. And it turned into full-blown guffaws when they did one MORE drive-by! :-)

That wasn't the end of it. Before I left, I had to duck in to the dealership to talk to the bloke in charge. When I came out, the 110 had returned...! And did one more drive-by.

There's one word for it, a very nice South African word. EISH.

But that's Olivia for you - attracts attention everywhere, and even gets waves from Toyota drivers.

Then this morning I trundled in a bit late to work. My first vehicular challenge is a steep hill leading out of town. And being on the heavy side (2 tons or more - the truck, not me!), getting Olivia up that hill takes some doing. It's a case of pulling over into the yellow line area to let fast folk past, then settling in using 3rd gear and admiring the view as she moseys up the slope.

Today I had to pull back out into the normal lane to pass a BMW SUV-type beast towing a trailer that had stopped to check his load. Being on a slow trundle, I had time to greet the driver with a small smile as I wandered past. Then noticed him staring at Olivia and grinning in the mirror.

A few minutes later he came by in his fast car, nodded and smiled at both me and Olivia at length, and he was off.

I think I just got buzzed again... :-) By a closet Landy Person, perhaps?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Trek 'n Track

Olivia has a new gadget. OK, not terribly new - it's been installed for 2 weeks already, but it's taken some sorting out to get placement etc right.

I work for a company that does fleet management - they develop and sell computerized units that sit in a vehicle and measure anything and everything that can be measured. Of course when new products come out, staff are required to do a bit of testing. Which is why Olivia ended up with an FM Protector unit plumbed into her electrics.

Installation stated "do not place this under metal". Umm... yeah.... the Landy IS metal - all over! But we eventually found a suitable spot where it could detect satellites (it runs on GSM/GPRS & GPS), added the speaker, and could see Olivia online!

So now Favourite Man can track wherever I trek - can see what speed I'm doing, if I suddenly stop (crash detect - we hope not!), can even run and hide evidence that he's eaten all the fudge before I arrive at home! :-) Or simply phone to ask why I'm driving around in circles...

It's a very nifty gadget. It can pour forth all sorts of information - not just on route travelled, but also things like angle of incline and distance covered. It automatically detects a trip start and end. It updates itself over the air with any new firmware etc. It can send an SMS and email for all sorts of events or alerts. Brilliant little black box, this.

So now Olivia's trekking and tracking. What a good excuse for a road trip!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Last Wednesday the price of petrol went up by the steepest jump yet. 61c a litre. We're now paying over R8 for a litre of lead-replacement juice, and on a beast like Olivia that makes travel very very expensive.

Commuting too.

I had decided I'd take my chances and fill up on the way home from work just before the price went up. By the time I got to work Olivia was running low - and in spite of possessing three tanks it doesn't help if all of them are empty! So right after work I toddled off to the petrol station right next door to the office.

To find they were completely out of fuel.

Dilemma. Next fuel stop is 10km or so away. Or I could go in the opposite direction for a km or two, risk running out of fuel getting there, and find they're also out. Meaning I'd be left with even less to go on!

Well I weighed up options and decided to rather head home-wards, slowly. Very slowly. Keeping those revvs way down and coasting downhill where I could (never a good idea in a Landy, especially one with servo-assisted brakes...). Up the last big hill watching the fuel gauge hover up and down by the Empty line. And then down to the first petrol station I could find.

Which was also out of fuel.


It's another 3km or so through town to home - rush-hour, stop-start traffic all the way! And two more possible fuel filling options.

The first had a queue around the block. By the time I got to the front of it, I would either have run out of petrol - or they would have.

The second had a queue out into Main Road. Same story.

So very carefully and slowly I took the last chance of the day and drove home. On the last whiff of petrol I'm sure!

A day later, driving the Fancy Landy (Favourite Man's Disco), I stopped by the petrol station that had had a queue around the block to squirt a few buck's petrol into a jerry can for the LRP-snorting beast. I was greeted by two petrol attendants who had nothing to do - everyone filled up already except me. I got quite possibly the best customer service I'll have all year.

With this horrible price increase one starts to watch the "joy rides" closely - to monitor what is absolutely necessary, and to consider telecommuting. Unfortunately we're assured of another, even bigger increase within the month. Unless you're a high-powered, high-paid executive type commuter with a SmartCar, the daily trek is starting to seem beyond the Common Man's means.... yet the Common Man has to get to work to get paid so they can fill up their tanks. It's a vicious, unaffordable circle.

As is food, electricity, and quite possibly the air we breathe. Where this will end is anyone's guess. But perhaps the days of Expeditions is rapidly coming to an end except for the privileged.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Attention monger

Olivia is developing a very bad habit. As Friday approaches, she starts seeking attention. Things begin to collapse in anticipation of an extra two full days during which she can demand mollycoddling.

Last weekend it was the fuel filter that inexplicably attempted to drop off.

This weekend it was brakes.

Come Thursday, the brakes started to come and go. There was metallic screeching every time you pressed them too hard. And pressing them could go either way - too hard or too soft. Then on Friday night, while picking up our weekly "slap chips" treat, there was an ominous CLONK. It sounded as if something large and metal had snapped off, leaving my son's head hitting the door and my elbow hitting the window. Anxious inspection revealed nothing broken. It may simply have been the angle of the road we hit, or things knocking around in the back. Or so we hope...

Nevertheless, Favourite Man took the beast for quick long-block test drive - and confirmed that the brakes were being silly. So the wheel and hub cap on the worst-sounding one came off, a video of the brake movement was make, and our online experts were consulted. We cleaned off some brake-dust, stuck the wheel back on .. and guess what.

Olivia's back to normal. Generally speaking.

She would be. The weekend's over and she's not going to get a lot of attention for the next few days. So she plays along nicely, and starts to plot her next weekend emergency.

Darn attention monger.

Monday, February 25, 2008


On Friday night Favourite Man and I headed off in Olivia to take the kid to the church youth group. Barely out of the gate we both smelt petrol, and the kid stated "we've sprung a leak!". Oh dear...

We pulled off the road very quickly to find petrol gushing out of the engine bay - way too close to the engine block for comfort - emptying out in a river from the fuel filter. Well we organized a quick lift for the kid and limped home to do things we hadn't planned on doing on a Friday night.

Worklight in hand, spanners at the ready, I got my fuel-dousing and took the filter out to find problems. Favourite Man took all the bits off the bulkhead too and we had a good look at the thing.

The screw was stripped. The only screw that holds the filter into its lid and keeps the whole thing together! I have no idea how that happened - the inside is just completely smooth, no thread available to grip.

Much scratching of heads resulted - and the upshot of it was a trip to Autozone to get a different kind of filter, which we then plumbed inline to the system - leaving the old one to be repaired one day and used as a spare. The new one is easier to get to - and is working well so far.

It never rains, but it pours with this truck. And sometimes it pours petrol.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Going like stink

Well there's good news and bad news.

The bad news - the carb came out for the FIFTH time this weekend. I was so not lus to take it out, but it had to be done. This time I set it by the book. Unfortunately I also got badly munched when the driver's door slammed on my finger in the wind... which put an end to car work for the day.

But she's starting better and running smoother.

The good news - today Favourite Man and I sorted out spark plugs, HT leads and the distributor. She goes like STINK now - loads of power, no more hassles at low revvs or lack of getting up the smallest hill.

OK, so there's still other things needing attention. The radiator needs removal, professional check-through and cleaning. The valve clearances need sorting to sort out the tappety noise in the engine. The back diff needs a look-at and possible overhaul or replacement.

But I'm happier with how she's running today than I have been in a very long time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Cool Truck

This weekend's trip to Cape Town reminded me again what a very cool truck I'm driving.

If I'm in the Disco 2, it's just another vehicle on the road. No-one waves at you, no-one notices you go by.

Completely different story in Olivia!

She potters along, so traffic tends to build up behind her on narrow roads. You'd think this would irritate the masses, but we found the opposite. Those falling-apart cars full of locals? They came past hooting and waving and smiling. We got lifted-hand acknowledgement (and respec' !) from other Landy drivers. While parked up at Big Bay one woman walking by commented "when I grow up I want to drive a Landy".

DAMN, this truck is awesome.

Just this morning I was trundling along the commute route when a Pajero-driver in the next lane rolled down his window and shouted "check that clutch leg! I used to have two of those trucks" (in Afrikaans.. approximate translation). I have to admit, you do build leg muscles on the clutch. :-)

The security guards at the complex know my truck - boom gates open while you're still on the approach stretch. They told Favourite Man earlier this week "we like this truck".

Think about it - do you get the same happy reaction driving your Toyota bakkie, or a little Mazda 323, your run-of-the-mill LR Defender, or even a classig MG? Nope.

This truck's seen as fun, as cool, as something folk might dream of owning one day. They may have no idea about the engine struggles, the parts difficulties, the endless turning of the damn carb behind the scenes - but they see Olivia and go "wow".

Who wouldn't. She's awesome!

Monday, February 11, 2008


Well, duning in a very small way. Here's what Olivia got up to this weekend:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wish I knew

There are so many things I wish I knew when it comes to working on Olivia:

* I wish I knew exactly how to set that carb. I'm fiddling in the dark (sometimes literally), going by feel and ear - but if I've actually got it right? Dunno.

* I wish I knew something about ignition timing. Or that bottom-of-the-flywheel timing. I read, I watched - but I still don't get it.

* I wish I knew how every single part in that 2.6 engine worked and how to tweak it to optimum performance.

* I wish I knew exactly what is going on with the clutch.

There's only one thing to it. Time to up the learning.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The "secret weapons"

Remember I mentioned a while back that Olivia's sills/rocksliders had "secret weapons" - a little surprise in them that you don't usually find in such things?

Check this out! LED bolts that shine when the running lights and roofrack LEDs are on too! Yet another of Favourite Man's awesome innovations.

If you can't see us coming now, you're VERY blind! :-)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

10-minute job

I mentioned yesterday that the carb came out for a gasket renewal. It really should have been a 10-minute job to remove it, stick in the gasket and get it re-attached. Most of the time is usually spent on tuning the thing, setting the idle speed and mix.

However, life with a Landy is never simple.

That 10-minute job took 2 days (part-time)!

First, there were issues with o-rings. The one on the main bottom bolt was sitting way too loose, and I suspected that was causing the leak. It was replaced on the way home yesterday - but then I found that the inner bolt o-ring was also shot. More than... it has completely disintegrated! It seems that particular version of rubber and petrol do not mix well. However, there was still one more o-ring in place, so I took my chances and put the thing back together (while attempting to cook supper at the same time - nothing like a bit of multitasking).

As darkness fell, the carb went in. Only to come right out again 15 minutes later when the bottom bolt fell out during setting - showering me in the contents of the float chamber as I lay beneath the beast.

Back to the kitchen, and between the remains of supper it was re-assembled. I really dislike having to work in the dark by extension light, bothering the neighbours with the sound of tinkering and tuning - but last night I had no choice.

Finally, at 9:45, smelling like petrol and oil, I was done. The carb may not be professionally tuned, but it's working - and one final idle-speed adjustment after the commute to work has it ticking over more than sufficiently.

However, I'm now placing a ban on 10-minute jobs after work.. :-) They never end up sticking to that schedule anyway.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Practice makes perfect

The carb is out for the THIRD time on Olivia. The first one was an expert "showing me how it's done" (and breaking it). The second was fixing and adjusting everything properly thereafter. And now the third shot.

We struggled to find one of the carb gaskets here in South Africa and had to order them from the UK over December. Of course the Xmas post took a while to arrive, but it's here now - along with a choke cable clip that was also impossible to source in SA.

So last night the carb came out again, I got to smell like petrol - and discovered a problem (par for the course when it comes to Landy-fixing). One of the o-rings on the adjusting screw is way too big, it's sitting loose. That explains the leakage under the carb, and perhaps a bit of why our fuel consumption is horrific.

So on the way back from work today it's time to go find a new one, one that fits properly, and then re-assemble the carb. The hardest part of the process is:

1. Getting the bottom bolts back on and tight enough against the engine block, and
2. Setting the mix correctly. It's a bit of trial and error to find the right level, and I'm kinda playing it by ear. I've got the manual, I've read the instructions - but you still have to do it by feel.

It's another of those learning curves, those tasks I would never have dared tackle a year ago, but which now are ho-hum routine.

And that never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Coming down from the top

Olivia's had some pretty huge changes in recent months. Many of them are subtle - if you didn't take a good hard look before, you wouldn't know the difference now - but they're there.

However, today there's a very big change. She's going topless. Her rooftop tent has been sold.

And why? Well for many reasons. But the main one is that it's time for something new, something that works with the plans we have for her. The replacement tent is not going to be a rooftop one, but nearer ground-level. And after a few times of struggling with tent setup and collapse I'm all for that. I came VERY close to falling off the top of her last night while alone at home...

Her profile has been permanently changed now. The big square bump on her roofrack is gone, along with 50kg or so of weight. It's going to see service elsewhere, on other adventures, but for Olivia it's a new chapter.

One more change on the long road to Sorted. The next big one is even scarier... watch this space!


(She also got new sills/rocksliders yesterday - they were fabricated near the end of last year, but yesterday they were re-attached, finished, galvanized and appropriately reflective-taped. There's also a little surprise in them, a unique touch that I'm looking forward to seeing once fully complete)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A funny thing's happened since I started working on Olivia nearly a year ago. I've started to think I'm omnipotent. Well, mechanically omnipotent that is (stop laughing, Favourite Man...).

A year ago I trembled at the thought of what was in that engine, and had never weilded an angle grinder nor half the amount of spanners that have been through my hands since. And it's given me a bit of confidence that I could actually develop this interest into something more comprehensive.

See this post over at ...seekingserenity, for example. Madness, the idea of building a supercar yourself (especially for a chick who doesn't have a garage at home but does have neighbours who don't appreciate mechanical bits in the front yard). Then again, equally mad is taking your truck apart with Favourite Man and putting it back together again, better than ever, within 4 months.

But here's the thing. I've always had an interest in mechanical tinkering. I love knowing how things work, and that I can fix whatever breaks or improve on what's already there. I have aspirations of getting my truck running so smoothly, so fuel-efficiently, that the world will stand in awe (OK, perhaps not the world - just one or two folk if I'm lucky - just me, if I'm not). I'm feeling mechanically omnipotent - if I can learn how my truck functions, I can learn how all sorts of things function, and I could.actually.make.things! Lots of things. I could modify stuff and pimp stuff and fix stuff and restore stuff, and perhaps even work on a few of my hare-brained ideas that seem impossible or just plain stupid to the casual bystander.

There are days where I'd much rather be greasily petrol-flavoured, struggling along with something metal or engine-like in a workshop than typing at a desk. Many days, in fact. If I could clone myself I'd be taking both a carb and a distributor apart right now. I'd be sorting out an oil cooler. Fiddling with the welder. But it's a bit hard to do in an airconditioned formal environment and good clothes.

A little knowledge is dangerous I guess, as it leads to a hunger for more, a desire to push further with skills and knowledge, to fly in the face of convention and just go DO all that you've dreamt, even if you're a chick. Fortunately for those around me I have to bring home the (mostly vegetarian) bacon - so simply can't spend my days covered in EP90 nor upping the electricity bill and irritating the neighbours.

But hey - it doesn't stop me from feeling omnipotent.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Did you know...

... that Olivia's roofrack comes with a camera tripod mount? Brilliant stuff - and I'm getting over my fear of heights / rocking.rolling too! :-)