dirty work JOHN ROOTH

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

WHOA, by now you’re start­ing to won­der if old Milo will ever come back to­gether, right? Oh, you’re not, you’re too busy out ex­plor­ing. Well I guess that’s half of Milo’s prob­lem, too – she’s done so much ex­plor­ing in out-of-the­way places, she’s in dan­ger of fall­ing to bits be­cause of it.

Take that time in the Gulf when Glen, Kenno and I were cut­ting a new track through the scrub at Lorella Springs. We hit the beach, noted no move­ment in the tide and fig­ured it was safe to go fish­ing. Then the tide whis­tled in about a me­tre in less than an hour and sud­denly the once-safe beach turned into a night­mare of un­der­mined sand. If we hadn’t been car­ry­ing a dozen Max­trax be­tween us and been able to build a road to harder sand, we’d have been stuck for good.

Noth­ing like a bit of ad­ven­ture, eh? How­ever, sand and salt takes its toll on an old truck, and ev­ery­thing I’ve looked at lately has taken me an­other level down in the re­pair stakes – what should have been a quick paint and lube has turned into a marathon of weld­ing and patch­ing. Good thing a bloke’s got a mo­tor­bike to ride to and from the wreck­ing yard.

But the truth is I’ve been miss­ing my old girl so badly I had to hook in and get her fin­ished. It is one thing to do the fam­ily hol­i­days in the mus­tard truck, but quite an­other to get old Milo out there shift­ing dirt.

I say that be­cause that’s how I think of this truck: more of an earth-mov­ing ma­chine than a ve­hi­cle. In many ways that’s the truth of it, too, be­cause the 13BT mo­tor is an in­dus­trial diesel sourced from a dump truck and the low-range Gear­mas­ter trans­fer case and Elock­ers mean you can pud­dle around at tracked ve­hi­cle speeds when things get tough. It’s also

usu­ally dirt­ier than the Bob­cats I used to op­er­ate, and it’s cer­tainly no more com­fort­able.

This might ex­plain why I’m a tad ‘re­laxed’ on how she looks. Nicko and I used to paint all of our min­ing gear with roof and metal paint be­cause opal clay was cor­ro­sive, but there was some­thing about hav­ing the com­pres­sor, hoist, gen­er­a­tors and trucks all painted the same livery that made us look a bit more pro­fes­sional. At least that’s what we thought!

When your best truck is a 1950 Maple Leaf (Cana­dian Chev) run­ning no brakes, tim­ber-hun­gry board trays and a petrol tank that’s a five gal­lon jerry with a plas­tic pipe hang­ing off the run­ning board, well, you need all the help you can get to look pro­fes­sional.

So it was never hard for me to squirt an­other coat of roof and metal paint on Milo ev­ery few years and, yes, there is a can in the glove­box for touch-ups.

Looks aren’t ev­ery­thing in the of­froad world, which ex­plains where I’m go­ing with this lat­est mod­i­fi­ca­tion, too. Be­cause I haven’t a clue what it’s go­ing to look like. As my wife is al­ways keen to point out, I have no imag­i­na­tion what­so­ever when it comes to vi­su­al­is­ing the end re­sult of any project I at­tempt.

She says that from ex­pe­ri­ence. Take the sheds I built that looked tiny on the plans but some­how grew an­other storey or two, or the pic­nic ta­ble and benches that would be per­fect if you didn’t need to be about eight feet tall to climb on board. Be­ing ‘ver­ti­cally chal­lenged’, she took that one par­tic­u­larly badly. Pity, but at least it saved me sand­ing it.

Right, so here we go with some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent: Putting a ‘re­mote’ head­light panel out front of a 40 Se­ries, which will ex­tend the nose by about 60mm and may look a tad strange. But engi­neer­ing-wise, it was the best pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive for a whole lot of rea­sons. As de­tailed in past col­umns, this front panel knits the mud­guards to­gether while al­low­ing the whole front end to flex where it’s hinged to the chas­sis, so it needs to be strong.

This is why I made the new one from an­gle iron, be­cause I needed plenty of strength but still wanted to have a lot of room to mount the in­ter­cooler and run the pipes. Like ev­ery­thing else on Milo, this is some­thing I’ve played with so many times on the tracks that I’ve had time to think about how I’d like it in a per­fect world.

Since Roo Sys­tems cus­tom-built the in­ter­cooler I’ve come to love the ex­tra power, but, on more than one oc­ca­sion, one of the hoses has come loose as we’ve belted down a cor­ru­gated track. No prob­lem. You know about it straight away be­cause the power drops off and it sounds like some­one’s put a vac­uum cleaner un­der your seat. But squeez­ing around the cut frame to get the pipes seated prop­erly cost me a lot in Band-aids.

Not any­more – if all goes well. By mak­ing the head­light frame re­mote I can mount it on bolts, mak­ing it quick to re­move. And if I get it right with some rub­ber tube ei­ther side of the frame, there’ll be a mea­sure of shock ab­sorp­tion built in, too. This is im­por­tant be­cause th­ese old girls have a habit of ham­mer­ing out bulbs and lenses fairly fre­quently once they get a bit loose. In fact, I carry a few spare bulbs and lenses on ev­ery trip. At least it’s easy to get a seven-inch round in­sert in coun­try towns – it’s pos­si­bly the most com­mon light ever used!

How­ever, they’re not easy to swap around once you’ve taken up all the avail­able space be­hind the grille with turbo and in­ter­cooler pipes. So mak­ing the panel quickly de­tach­able will make swap­ping out the lights much more ‘plug-and-play’.

The only is­sue is what will the fin­ished job look like? Hmmm, hang in there. With a bit of luck I’ll get it fin­ished next month and you can make up your own mind. What colour? Green, of course, with a sprin­kle of or­ange. Yep, I’ve been car­ry­ing the Max­trax on the roof rack for the past decade or so, but after that emer­gency up in the Gulf I’m shift­ing them to some­where a whole lot eas­ier to get to in a hurry – right above the driver’s door.

I just have to build some­thing to hold them. Gee, won­der what that will look like?

When the tide came in sud­denly up in the Gulf, the only thing that got Glenno’s truck free was a ‘road’ of Max­trax. How­ever, for Milo it meant one more dose of saltencrusted mud and a few more weeks be­fore we got to a hose.

2. The Ter­rain Tamer boys sent this 40 Se­ries panel up after find­ing it dur­ing the move to their new flash premises. That was years ago and they knew I needed one then! It’s rare to find them as good as this th­ese days.

3. After squar­ing up the edges, I welded a bit of ex­tra panel in around the cor­ners to strengthen it up, as the plan was to make it self-sup­port­ing. About now you ask your­self: ‘Why didn’t they make them like this in the first place?’

1. A cou­ple of months ago I showed you all the dam­age the front panel had sus­tained thanks to rust, body flex­ing and hav­ing been sliced into too many times. So here’s my ver­sion of a re­place­ment made from an­gle iron.

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