Mudd Life Cri­sis

Deals on Wheels - - Test Drive -

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!

DINGO CHO­RUS

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.

DAILY TIME

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.

BIG RED

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

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