Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Extreme Land Rover Makeover
It's been a long time, too long, Legion of Fans (LOF) since I've updated you all on the life of Tonka, our trusty 1984 Series III Land Rover.
Tonka lives in Zimbabwe and we pick him (unlike many other motor vehicles he is a he, not a she) up each year, load him with our camping gear and set off into the wilds of Africa for another series of disasters which later come to be known as adventures.
Rugged, though slighly dented, Tonka was feeling every one of his 24 years on our last trip. His rear was sagging; his bodily fluids leaking; his steering was wandering; his exhaust was belching and his doors were not closing.
People in southern Africa were starting to think that all Australian men were cultured gentlemen, after seeing me escort Mrs Blog to her side of the vehicle and then close her door for her. In fact, Tonka's passenger side door was sagging so much on its hinges that I had to use all of my inconsiderable muscle just to close it, lest Mrs Blog roll out onto the road and be eaten by a lion.
After spending a considerable amount of money and boring many a reader senseless with my purchase and importation of a reconditioned gear box and transfer box from England, you can perhaps imagine my disagreeableness at learning that all the selector shaft seals were shot and that our very shiny new gearbox was losing about a litre of oil every two days. Were I not such an obsessive-compulsive checker of Land Rover oil levels, we would have ground to a halt and burned out the gear box in less than a week.
I was never a car person. In Australia I don't even have one - haven't had one for 13 years in fact. When I did own a car I was hard pressed even finding a dipstick, let alone changing my own oil. In Africa, however, a little OCD is a good thing when it comes to lubricants.
Anyway, after searching Zimbabwe for a new Land Rover doctor (we've had a succession of malpractice episodes in recent year thanks to the brain and skills drain from Zimbabwe) we found a new surgery. Doctors Frik and Rex of Harare may feature in future blogs in glowing terms, if they deliver our baby as promised in the near future.
In our absence Tonka is getting:
- New doors
- New rear springs (heavy duty, off a Santana for the real Land Rover nuts out there)
- Steering overhauled
- Gear box seals and, alarmingly, two bearings replaced - whatever that means
- Something done to the engine which I do not understand
- A complete respray
- New handbrake expander (I do, in fact, know what that means, so there)
- Panel beating, and
- Anything else fixed that the good doctors can find and charge us for.
It's a big job, this extreme makeover, make no mistake about it.
Tonka cost about AUD$5000 when we bought him 10 years ago, so some readers may be a little surprised to learn that when I called Dr Frik to find out how the repairs were progressing and to get a rough estimate of the final bill be said; "Oh, about US$5000 or so. Certainly no more than US$7000."
"Goodness gracious me," I said to Dr Frik. Actually, that's not quite correct. I do believe the F word may have been used.
As I staggered across the loungeroom looking for something to cling to, Mrs Blog started rolling around on the floor and frothing at the mouth, swearing like a Turrets sufferer and reaching for things to throw at me.
"Lordy, Lordy, Dr Frik, perhaps you've made a slight error with your calculations. Might it be possible for you to double check? Tonka cost us much less than that estimate," I said, as Mrs Blog reached for a long carving knife. (Actually, I may have used the F word somewhere in there again.). I wasn't sure whether she was going to kill herself, me, or perhaps leap down the phone and give Dr Frik a quick lesson in traumatic vascectomy surgery.
"Oh, sorry. I was thinking about the DEFENDER we're replacing the engine and gearbox in," Dr Frik said hurriedly into the phone. Defenders are much newer and more expensive than the Series III.
"My wife has just fainted," I informed Dr Frik. He revised his estimate downwards - considerably - and the conversation ended on amicable terms.
I've spoken to Dr Frik a couple of times since and he always takes the time to ask after Mrs B's health.
Here's hoping that the final reconcilliation of Tonka's hospital bill will be like the outcome we're all praying for in the Zimbabwean elections - transparent, peaceful, financially responsible, and bloodless.