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20.04.2011 - Mali – Home

Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

Counting down the days

March 8th, 2010

As we touched on at the end of the last blog, our rear cross member (an essential part of the car’s chassis) was not looking so clever .

To cover our backs, we should point out that when we bought the car we had inspected the X-member and the chassis as a whole. Whilst the rear of the chassis had more plates than a dinner service, and were satisfied that although it wouldn’t win prizes at any Land Rover concourse event, it was nonetheless good enough to be getting on with. A few cursory trips up and down the chassis rails with a hammer in the hand further reassured us. Even more so, this assessment was supported at the time by local and national LR garages from whom we had sought advice.

Sadly though, we were wrong. The crossmember was rotten, knackered, dead.

The entire cross member was a combination of rust and body filler painted black. Clearly at some point in the car’s history the previous owner had, to his horror, discovered some rust. Naturally, he had sprung into action and promptly packed the holes with filler, painted over the top with underseal, attached shiny chequerplate and forgotten about it. Then two monkeys turned up with the bright idea of taking the car to Africa – but that’s a story for another day…

 Sleepless nights followed as we got prices for the work, only to find that £1000 was the cheapest rate going to providing a new X-member, cutting the old one off and welding on the new. We spoke to the sponsors, trying desperately to find a way of securing all the parts we needed without crippling our bank balances, containing as they did the steadily decreasing monies which were earmarked for the trip.

Once again Britpart, like many of our sponsors, bailed us out when we were in the sh*t. They stepped up to the plate with a replacement crossmember, soon flying to Hel HQ.

In the meantime we sorted out the final few cab problems, replacing the indicator stalk and fan heater switch with new Britpart components as both had suffered after 13 years of misuse and abuse. Finally for the cab, we replaced the broken vent handle, thus restoring the Defenders’ standard Dual-Zone Climate Control system to 100%.

Finally, Tom took it upon himself to give the windscreen the patented ‘Drop stuff on it’ strength test. Sadly and somewhat unsurprisingly, it failed and large spider-crack appeared directly in the driver’s line of sight.

Disappointed at the outcome of his tests, Tom took hold of the phonebook and got in touch with the boys over at Autoscreens in Ayelsbury who organised to shoot over with a new screen the very next day. On top of this, the chaps donated a spare ‘screen in case we wish to take it as a spare. We will now endeavour to pack in as much bubble-rap as possible and strap to the roof, if it’s feasible and not in the way, we’ll probably take it. The fitting took all of 15 minutes and involved the ingenious use of a loop of string; all demonstrated to allow us to change it ourselves if needed. We’ll see if it survives! Huge thanks to the boys at Autoscreens. For pics, have a look at last weeks photo blog. Cracking stuff.

This month also brought about a new personalised wheelcover, produced by Aquarius Wheel covers. The ‘cover will hopefully help us to raise awareness for the two charities and should also keep some focus on the fundraising aspect whilst we are on the road and unable to promote the trip ourselves. Much as our blogs may sometimes suggest – this trip isn’t just about us! A big thank you to the guys at who were great to work with.

The smaller work sorted, we turned our attention to the welding of the rear crossmember. Another few sleepless nights, calls, texts (not the Ashley Cole type) and emails later left us with two offers for help from chaps in the Land Rover community. Once again, we were astounded by the outpouring of help we receive whenever we have needed it.

Due to proximity, a call to TJ Nicholson’s mate Matt Drew was in order, as he came complete with a portable welder and an indomitable spirit. Thanks also to Matt Neale and David Lovejoy for their kind offers and once again going above and beyond for us; you guys are pure gold, thank you. The day before his arrival on Sunday was spent prepping the metal and grinding down any remaining rust so as to allow the easy fitting of the new Britpart X-member.

This took all day, as did dropping the fuel tank. And for another To Hel And Back top tip, you would do well to remember than when one has drenched one’s self in diesel, it is not advisable to then clean one’s clothes in one’s mothers’ washing machine. The clothes come out still stinking of diesel, the washing machine now equally so; leading you along the not-so-bright train of thought about placing your washing machine inside a bigger washing machine… Hmm.

As is now standard practice for us, before our next big job we stocked up with consumables at Allparts and doused the (rusty) tank bolts with WD40 and Plusgaz for a couple of days prior to removal. This extra-prepared policy really paid dividends, as only three of the four bolts snapped. Likewise, the fuel sender unit pipe refused to budge and the plastic connector sheared as Carl breathed on it. Luckily, we had expected this level of degeneration and were ready to replace all components with brand new bits.

With the tank out, we measured up the new X-member and cut the chassis rails to length, cleaning the metal up easily with funky flapper discs. Matt arrived on Sunday to be met with rain. For those not too savvy with welding (that would be us), simply putting up the awning would seem sufficient to allow high-voltage welding in the wet to continue. Sadly, ‘expert’ Matt had other ideas and we were forced to sit out the first few hours of the day with a cup of tea, praying for the rain to stop.

Upon grinding the next crossmember along back to bare metal it was discovered this too was rotten at one end and cracked along its length directly beneath the fuel tank mount. Could it get any bloody worse? Well yes, actually, as it turns out that a new replacement part for this crossmember is not available, leaving fabrication and breakers yards the two avenues of exploration.

The costs of securing a new chassis section from the breakers quickly spiralled so with Matt unavailable until the following Friday and only half the job completed, we sat back and considered how easy it would be for a skilled metal work company to fabricate a new crossmember section if they had the cut-out section as a template.

Being the engineers in waiting that we are, we decided in our infinite wisdom that it was probably a 30 minute job as it only required a bent sheet metal offcut plus a couple of tiny bits of welding. A lightning search around Google gave us 795, 650 results for ‘metal bender’. However a few alterations to the search criteria later and we found the most local metal works company. In double quick time we headed to IDF metal in Chesham to flutter our eyelashes and tip the wink. Sadly, the chaps at IDF though this was just plain weird, but agreed to help fabricate a new crossmember, just to get us off the premises.

Like Robinson Crusoe waiting with mouth-watering anticipation for his friend to return with a late night takeaway order, Friday couldn’t come soon enough. We collected the replacement section from IDF metal and met up with Matt on Friday to get the job done. Matt welded solidly all day, adding diamond plates to the crossmember joins to add strength, seeing as we had cut so much metal out.

That night, we drank a lot of beer, in celebration and in relief whilst we regaled stories of how we cut that part of metal and ground that bit down to Laura and Tash. Following one of the most stressful weeks of our lives a weekend off was in order and we both took time to further regale stories of metal, rust and grinding to our respective partners.

Without the help of Britpart and Matt we simply wouldn’t be in a position to leave. There would have been a real possibility of the trip being off so thank you again guys, we really mean it.

Over the last few months we’ve spent thousands of pounds, almost single-handedly keeping the makers of Land Rover aftermarket parts in profit and straying closer to insolvency than HBOS in the process. We’ve spent night after the night working on the car, to the point that we’ve seen more of the moon than a Scotsman with his kilt caught in his belt. 

Naively thinking it wouldn’t take long, we’ve continued to work to try and get the car to a point where we could declare it perfect, only to realise that this is almost impossible. A perfect Land Rover, it could be said, is a contradiction in terms. But as we have learnt, somewhere in there lies the charm and, damnit, the love of the thing. In our limited experience it is best to closely monitor and live with some issues rather than trying to perfect what was arguably a design flaw from Day 1.

The first ferry’s booked for the end of the month with P&O, the fastest possible turnaround once Libyan documents are organised. Speaking of which, now it’s off to the embassy in London to ask very politely if they’ll let two young rascals riding a rusty Land Rover in. Fingers crossed.

We’ll put out a proper announcement soon but we hope to have a leaving party at a local pub on Saturday 20th March so keep it free and we’d love to see you if you’re about.

  • Riders Retreat - mountain bike holidays in Morzine
  • Land Rover Experience
  • Watling Tyres
  • Draper Tools
  • Brit Part
  • hel
  • Koni
  • aalx designs
  • Bradt Travel Guids
  • Map Vivo
  • Antares - engineering with answers
  • EBC Brakes
  • Sentry Safes
  • Twisted Performance
  • X Eng
  • challenger 4x4
  • Goodwinch
  • K and N
  • Kenlowe
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  • Polybush
  • MM 4x4 Land Rover
  • Keith Gott
  • comma
  • Stigs stainless fastners
  • Tracmat
  • Alli Sport
  • BOSCH - invendted for life
  • Allparts - number 1 in car parts
  • Proppa
  • Goodyear 4x4
  • Aaron Radiator
  • Sign a rama
  • better Prepared
  • Devon 4x4
  • foley specialist vehicles
  • Labcraft LED lighting
  • Mammouth Premium
  • Plastor
  • Exmoor Trim
  • Terrafirma
  • sound reduction systems
  • aquarius
  • Master Lock
  • P and O Ferries
  • Dixon Bate
  • hibiscus
  • Ring Automotive
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