The car saga continues…

The car was supposedly going to be ready this weekend. Now there’s a diesel knock and this involves fuel injectors being sent off to be tested.

Another week with no car – I guess this is what if feels like when a parent waits for their children to come back from their first scout camp.

Things are starting to get a bit stressful as we still have quite a bit of stuff to do on the car and Jules still needs to learn how to drive it, having been chauffeured around for the past year like the queen on her way to a wedding. I’m also going back to South Africa in February for a friend’s wedding. Wesley I hope you realise that you’re getting a new piston for our car as a wedding gift!!!

On a positive note I’ve got 63 hours of work left for 2013.

The day the Beast became the Bastard

On our way down to Devon to stay with family for Christmas the Beast threw a tantrum 90 minutes into our journey. Smoke started belching out the exhaust, we lost power and a gut-wrenching grinding sound started emanating from the engine, leaving us stranded on the side of the highway for about 5 hours while we waited for a tow truck.

A piston needs to be replaced at a cost of over £2,000. The soul-destroying thing is this was its first “lengthy” journey since we got the car back from being serviced a month ago.

We had just spent an absolute fortune at a company that specialises in overland preparation, first getting them to service it to the point where it was reliable enough to handle a trans African trip, and once they had done this adding all the other gadgets.

I’m not going to mention their name just yet in case things turn around, but at the moment they refuse to accept any liability, saying it’s just really bad luck.

We’ve been told that the cause of the problem was a tiny piece of rubber that got into a pipe preventing oil from getting to the piston. Overheating etc ensued. Why it happened a month after this service and not before is clearly a mystery and just one of life’s little coincidences. Maybe I’m just being bitter, but ultimately we paid a fortune to get a reliable car and we got back a car that broke down within a month and I would expect them to fix it at their own expense. I would be interested to hear anybody’s thoughts on this.

They also seem to have lost the extension to the ladder for our roof top tent.

On a positive note, I can’t thank the RAC enough for their professionalism. These guys work their arses off over Christmas and I would especially like to thank Tony for all his help.

More about the Beast / Bastard to follow…


A safe, reliable car can mean the difference between life and death on a trip like this.  For this reason we took it for a serious service, having pretty much everything stripped, checked and replaced where necessary.  Fortunately it was already in great condition (maybe it really was driven by a little old man who spent more time washing it than driving it), so we didn’t need anything major done.

As with most things we’ve got for the trip, decisions on what to get have generally been based on other people’s blogs and reviews we’ve found online.  We’ve tried not to go overboard, as our budget is limited, so where we can we’ve gone for 2nd hand stuff.  Without trying to be melodramatic, it’s sobering to think that on a trip like this a normal inconvenience like a flat car battery or tyre could lead to a life or death situation.  When it comes to things that could affect our safety we’ve gone for the best we can afford.

Modifications to the car include the following:

New shocks – We opted for Old Man Emu shocks to handle the extra weight we will be carrying.

Wheels – We replaced the alloy wheels that came with the car with steel ones, meaning that if a wheel is bent or damaged we can use an FBH (Very Big Hammer) to knock it back into shape.  We replaced the tyres with BFG All Terrains – they come highly recommended  as being extremely robust with tread to churn up elephant dung as if you’d popped it into a food processor.  We’ve opted for 2 spares, and suddenly you realise how expensive this business is – we’ve basically spent the same on wheels and tyres that flights, accommodation and a diving course in Egypt cost me several years ago.  We have a saying in my family for things like this – I theeeeenk I’m going to faaaaint!

Split charge system – We now have 2 batteries – a heavy duty one to start the car, and a 2nd one that allows us to run things like the fridge and camp lighting without worrying about draining the main battery.  Hopefully the second battery doesn’t go flat because without trying to sound melodramatic again, it is scary to think that a warm beer could turn into a sobering situation.

Snorkel – We aren’t planning on crossing raging rapids, but theoretically it makes a huge difference to to the air intake, reducing the amount of dust clogging up the air filter.  They also look so cool!

Packing space – We’ve had the middle and rear seats removed and installed a sturdy hexboard dog guard to separate the back and middle of the car.  Unfortunately this means that we can’t take any passengers.  Fortunately it also means that we can’t help people move house.  Water and the fridge will go in the middle and the rest of our stuff will go in the back, with as little as possible going on the roof.  We’ve installed a sturdy drawer system in the boot, which when open will also act as a table for our cooker for the one or two nights when we don’t have a braai.

Safe – we installed a safe for cash and passports.

Gearlock – The gearlock locks the car in neutral, and hopefully will prevent it from being stolen.

Other modifications include a steering guard, jacking points, recovery points and a bright LED light on the back to use at night when preparing food and looking for stuff.

The Beast

The BeastIs it possible to be in love with a tangible object? We say yes.

Initially we were hoping to get the old Land Cruiser 80 series, but they’re like hens’ teeth and the affordable ones tend to have spent their lives scrumming against the likes of Os du Randt and suffer from arthritis in their knees.

In the end we went for a gas guzzling 3 litre Land Cruiser Prado Turbo Diesel 1997 model.  We were quite fortunate to find a car that had only done about 100,000 km (roughly 60,000 miles) for it’s age and the price we paid – in the world of Land Cruisers that’s basically just after they’ve lost their milk teeth (i.e. Pulled them out with a pair of pliers and not bothered to put them under their pillow for the tooth fairy – they’re that hardcore).

She’s an import, which means you won’t know how to fold back the rear seats unless you can understand Japanese, but the nice thing about it is that the speedo is in kilometres for when we’re back in SA.

We’ve been on a few camping trips to the New Forest and Wales and after the initial stress of getting used to driving down skinny British country lanes with a car this size I don’t know if I could ever go back to driving a smaller car.

Some of the features include permanent 4-wheel-drive, sun roof, dvd player / radio, blue-tooth hands-free and extra power sockets in the front to charge cell phones and keep the gps running.

My only gripe is that she is very thirsty. Current estimates are around 8-9km per litre, but I’ll investigate ways to improve this without having to pop an egg under the accelerator pedal.

In the new year we’ll start kitting her out with all the cool bits – beetle crushing tyres, hard-core shocks and snorkel etc.