Mudd Life Crisis
Piers Hammond and Steve Hamilton are on the trip of a lifetime, having travelled overland from the UK on their KTM adventure bikes.
Darryl and Scooter bumped into this pair of mad bastards at Mt Dare after a failed attempt to cross the Simpson unassisted.
After a chat they decided to tag along for the ride. They made it second time around!
Both guys are former RAF chopper pilots and have seen active service in the Bosnian conflict and Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
It made for some fascinating campfire conversation as Piers regaled us with tales of flying a Chinook with a failing engine, among other hair-raising adventures.
Their ride around the world is to raise awareness and money for a couple of charities. The John Egging Trust (JET) was established in memory of a former RAF colleague and Red Arrows pilot, John Egging, who was killed in an airshow accident.
The charity works to get young people out of their lounge rooms and into the wilderness to realise their potential. Above and Beyond was set up to support patients in the public NHS system in the Bristol area.
By the time you read this, Piers will be on his way across the US while Steve has fallen under Australia’s spell for the time being.
You can follow their travels at muddlifecrisis.com.
sweaty dust-covered bikers hankering for what passes as beer in these parts. They were all to a man grinning like lunatics after the day’s antics.
I don’t think I’ve ever met so many people who think that a good day in the desert is being slammed into the dirt by your bike!
As the speckled curtain of night was drawn back by the sun and the chorus of foraging dingoes faded, we stirred for another day. We packed up camp and Scooter and I hit the road again.
The width of the truck and the vegetation meant that we ran with the mirrors tucked in. Those mirror housings may be tough but they’re no match for a repeated battering from the hardy desert scrub.
We soon found ourselves again grinding through the dunes on the French Line heading east. Some may say that the endless climbing of dunes and clay pan crossing can get monotonous. But for me the novelty of taking in the view from the vantage point of a truck cab never wore off. It really is a stunning landscape of endless horizons and scrubby dunes, though I only really got to contemplate this when not concentrating on keeping the big Iveco upright.
It’s no mean feat to keep over 13 tonnes of truck moving through the sand safely.
We hit Poepple Corner, skirted the massive salt pan and trundled up to the French Line to again find a ravaging gang of bikers eagerly awaiting our arrival.
The load rack on top of the Eurocargo’s Unidan body also found another use. I’d climbed up and tied some frozen steaks to it so they could thaw during the day. I don’t know if the repeated battering of the track helped tenderize them but at camp around the fire that night that steak would have to rate as the best I’ve ever eaten.
Judging by the amount of dingo activity that night it sounded like the wild life agreed too. It also may have had something to do with Scooter throwing the food scraps on the ground near my swag – bastard.
After three days in the Eurocargo I snaffled the keys to the little Daily and pointed it east towards Big Red. After the truck, the Daily 4x4 felt like a sports car.
Admittedly the Daily didn’t really have any load on board but this was the first time that I’d had a chance to drive the updated 4x4 in an off-road setting.
This little truck just flew up the dunes. Light weight and a set of 37-inch mud terrain tyres and low tyre pressures really made a huge difference
in the desert. The Daily has high, intermediate and low-range but in this terrain there was no need for anything other than high-range with the centre diff-locked.
The Daily uses a three-litre Euro 6 turbo-diesel engine for power and makes 170hp and 400Nm of torque.
This updated powerplant does have a habit of being a little laggy even though peak torque is from 1,250rpm, but keep the tacho needle at around 3,000rpm (peak power) and it will have a fair old crack at most things.
A couple of times I grabbed the rear diff lock to make cresting dunes a little more dignified.
After running amok in the desert sand for a few hours I crested a dune to find Big Red awaiting me. I nailed the go pedal under the gaze of the waiting bikers on top of the famous dune but to my embarrassment, I didn’t make it to the top.
I could see the nervous look on the face of Iveco’s Joel Reid as he watched me make another attempt. If I hadn’t managed to get this tough off-roader to the top they may still be searching for my body. Really it just came down to speed and tyre pressures and the Daily scrabbled to the top of the dune.
The close-gated gear shift in the Daily made it very easy to slip into the wrong gear when trying to grab a cog in a hurry. That’s my defence anyway!
Ultimately, I walked away quite impressed by the ML150 and its off-road capabilities. The long flat torque curve of the Tector engine made it a flexible performer off-road.
Durability hasn’t been an issue for this truck to date either. This wasn’t a staged media drive, this was a working truck with over 40,000km on the clock so far, much of it in the outback and on the dirt and close to GVM.
In this role, however, a torque converter auto such as an Allison would help with off-road tractability and would make the most of the Iveco donks’ available oomph.
RETARDATION AND AUTO
The only downside of an Allison off-road is that it needs some retardation. Relying on an exhaust brake to hold you back off road with smaller displacement engines equipped with an auto generally results in bump-fart-bump-fart kind of boogie on steep descents as the exhaust brake cuts in and out in conjunction with the rising revs.
An auto even when locked in first will still let the revs climb.
I realise that optioning an Allison and ’box mounted retarder isn’t a cheap exercise but it would be an off-road monster with that set up.
The Birdsville Pub was a welcome sight after a few days in the desert. It had been a great trip and as an added bonus, after four days sharing a truck, Scooter hadn’t felt the need to stab me with a biro. He must be a top bloke.
I’ve had a couple of big nights in the Birdsville Pub in the past but this one took the cake. I’d go into more detail but, hey, what happens on the road, stays on the road.
6. The truck cab gives you a great vantage point for admiring the vast emptiness of the desert
7. Daryl Beattie mans the tongs for a lunchtime barbie We lost a nut! Luckily the shocker stayed put!
We also needed to cut down a spacer; luckily Scooter is well prepared