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I know we car nuts tend to bang on a bit about quality and buying the best of anything you can afford, but it really hit home the other day when I dropped in on a mate who works for a construction company. One of Tim’s jobs is to keep the heavy machinery going properly and reliably, a task that isn’t as easy as it sounds, because not everybody who uses the machinery in question tends to be particularly mechanically sympathetic.
But the real problem Tim faces is that, for a variety of reasons, the company he works for refuses to spend the big bucks on the real-deal machinery. Now, I’m not judging management for that; could well be that if they can’t access a cheaper alternative, they’d be out of business. But it remains that, sometimes, the decision to source a bargain-basement piece of heavy equipment can backfire.
Which is exactly what was happening when I dropped in on Timbo the other day. Seems the operators at a particular worksite had been real busy with a bucket loader. So busy, in fact, that they simply hadn’t had the spare time to check the engine oil and coolant each morning. Finally, through a combination of low oil level and a crudded-up air filter that was allowing all sorts of crap into the big straight-six diesel, the engine cried enough and went crunch. Blowing about eight shades of smoke and making some truly awful noises. The smell of death was upon it.
So, Tim had it hauled back to the main workshop where he took a quick look at the thing and decided that a brand-new exchange engine was a better bet. A couple of rebuild-the-engine quotes proved that replacement rather than repair was the only smart way to go. The Chinesemade replacement engine duly arrived, Tim supervised its unloading and then ripped into the job, first hauling out the dead donk and preparing the loader for its new heart.
Which is when it all went to hell. Now, this particular loader was a Chinese copy of a CAT bucket-loader and while it was even painted the same shade of yellow, in quality terms, there was just no comparison. Which would explain why, as Tim started to clean up the engine bay around the huge central pivot that allows the loader to manoeuvre in tight spots, he discovered that the whole steel chassis was cracked. Both sides. How the thing never grabbed a bucket full of gravel and collapsed in two is probably the most amazing thing about it.
See, if you look beyond that yellow paint, you’ll see that a dinkum CAT loader has a chassis made of much thicker (and obviously better quality) steel with various ribs and reinforcements around that crucial pivot. The Chinese version? Not so much. So now the company Tim works for was looking at not just a new engine, but a huge bill to have an expert welder true the chassis up and then burn what was left of it back into one piece. And, presumably, add a few ribs and gussets while they were at it. But even if the loader is returned to decent working order, I’d still be wondering about what else was going to break on it. Oh, and when the company in question no longer needs the loader or updates to a newer version, this one is worth precisely jack-squat to anybody who inspects it and spots the welded-up chassis.
How people are allowed to import crap like this into the country is anybody’s guess. And the end result is that it’s the poor bugger who buys it that has to live with the consequences. Which, in this case, could have been pretty damn dire. But even if it’s not a life or death piece of equipment, using crap pattern parts on a piece of machinery you actually have some feeling for is just bad ju-ju. And trust me, long after you’ve forgotten how much you paid for that radiator or starter motor or set of wheel bearings, you’ll still be smiling every time you drive the car and it runs properly and safely.
In issue 410 Morley states that flipping the fan blades over will reverse the air flow. This is incorrect as it will still flow the same direction but less efficiently.
Kevin Diener, Meadows, SA
G’DAY KEV. This gave me cause to think and go back and check my facts. Turns out, you’re right but I’m still half right. So at least neither of us is wrong, eh?
I checked the instructions for two different brands of thermo fans I’ve fitted in the last couple of years, and they both start off by asking me if I want to fit the fan in front of the radiator (as a pusher) or behind the rad (as a puller). By the way, both brands are careful to tell me the fan has been supplied to me as a pusher (because that gives me the option of retaining the standard belt-driven fan if I aim to tow big loads across the outback in summer).
But, the instructions continue, if I wish to use the fan as a puller, I need to unbolt the blades and turn them over. Which is correct (the bit where I’m right) but only half the story (which is the bit where you’re right). What I didn’t mention back in issue 410 was that to make it all work properly, you also need to reverse the polarity of the electrical connections to the fan to make it run backwards. THEN, you get the desired result.
All clear? Beauty. And good pick up, Kev.
YOU’RE KIDDING ME!
We take driving ourselves around for granted to such an extent, that it’s hard to imagine anybody who doesn’t get their license, right? Well, there are plenty of well known folks who have never had a license. Take Ed Sheeran, for example (too busy, apparently), Mariah Carey (I feel somehow safer knowing that), Noel Gallagher (anger issues, probably) and Charlie Watts (yeah, THAT Charlie Watts). But the one that always amazes me is Felix Wankel. Yep, the inventor of the Wankel rotary engine never drove a car.
Read with interest your take on taking the test to get your driver’s license. When I took mine at a South Australian registry office in the early 80s I’d already owned a hot slant-six VC Valiant and a VH Pacer (with a licensed driver next to me, of course). Then I bought a VH 770 Charger with all the fruit including a 360 and a 727 trans.
Anyway, I tried to sit my license in it. The examiner walked out, shook his head and got in. As soon as I fired it up and the car started to rumble, he said: “No way are you taking your test in this”.
“I’D LOVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MUSTARD PACER”
“No worries,” I said. “Be back in an hour”
So I drove said Charger home (with a licensed driver on board, of course) borrowed my step-father’s VB four-speed four-cylinder Commodore and passed with flying colours with the same examiner.
His parting words were “Now you can drive that Charger legally. How does it go?”
“About 13.8 I reckon,” I said.
And on an entirely different subject: My dear old dad had an XJ40 which I drove from time to time. What a slug. You needed a run up to overtake an ice cream van. Now he’s bought an XJR supercharged V8 with the blower-pulley upgrade. Runs 11.3 in a limo for 15k. God help us. He’s 73.
Colin Francis, email
A VH PACER! Now there’s something you don’t see every day. A girlfriend of-a-mate’s-father in the town I once lived in had a VH Pacer. Hot Mustard it was, with the usual black-outs and a 265 with a floor-shifted three-speed, tombstone seats and a three-spoke steering wheel. And man, did that thing haul. I reckon they’re up there with Chargers on the cool scale (and probably dollar-wise too, these days). But they’re even rarer because they were a bit of an also-ran back in the days of GT Falcons and two-door Monaros. And Chargers, of course. And when that happens, they become who-cares second-hand cars pretty quickly and either left in paddocks to rot, or sold to young hoons who invariably park them in trees.
I’d love to know what happened to the mustard Pacer I remember, but I’d pretty much guarantee it’s not still on the road. Then again, I could be wrong. It’s happened before, you know. The fact is, I couldn’t tell you last time I saw one in the wild, but a sighting would definitely brighten up my day. Same goes for any Pacer, I guess. And yes, Cam Tilley’s blue VG Pacer is my favourite car in the whole Touring Car Masters line up.
As for your old man who clearly refuses to grow up… More power to the bloke. Sounds to me he still gets his jollies piloting something a bit special, so he strikes me as the sort of bloke who drives at least as much for the pleasure of the act as for the need to get somewhere. And since he still takes a bit of pride (and evil enjoyment) in his car and his driving, he’s not going to be the bloke who selects Reverse when he really wants Drive and stabs the gas when he wanted the brake, only to go screaming backwards over the road and through the front window of the local RSL.
I’ve often thought that people who view driving a car as a complete chore they’d rather avoid are the very people who shouldn’t be on the roads at all. I mean, I’m not the least bit interested in guns. So I’m not about to join the local gun club and blast seven shades of crap out of clay targets or whatever. In fact, because I’m not interested, I’d probably be half a liability on the shooting range. So I give it a wide berth.
I reckon the same should apply across the broader community. I wouldn’t, for instance allow a vegan to cook my porterhouse and I wouldn’t drink wine made by a tee-totaller. So why would I be happy to share the roads with people who not only have no interest in what they’re doing behind the wheel of a car, but actually resent the fact that getting in a car is an unavoidable part of going someplace? Stay home or, if you do have to be somewhere, get the train. What do you lot reckon? Am I being harsh or would the world be a better place if car-haters stayed out of the fast lane?
One of the many things I like about Unique Cars is the barn finds that pop up from time to time. One can only wonder at the many treasures that lie buried in sheds somewhere and such is the case in one shed, owned by my cousin Owen.
Inside that shed lies a 1969 Holden HK Belmont Ute, that was purchased new by Owen from Midway Motors in Beenleigh in February 1969. What makes this ute a bit special and stands it apart form a normal run of the mill HK Belmonts is the factory fitment of bucket seats and a four-speed transmission. It’s also fitted with a factory limited-slip diff.
The ute led a peaceful existence in its early years on the family cattle property north of Taroom in Queensland, being used mainly for courting purposes with heavy lifting on the property being carried out by various fourwheel-drives. As time went by the ute was used more and more between the family properties and then about 20 years ago was pensioned off, parked in the shed and mostly ignored.
It has travelled a genuine 105,290 miles, all mechanical components are original and rust is not an issue. The valve cover and sump have never been removed. The good news is cousin Owen is making noises about giving the old girl the attention it so sorely needs. If this appears in UC hopefully it will give him some extra encouragement.
Vaughn Becker Taroom, QLD
WELL, VAUGHAN, anything we can do here at Unique Cars to get another Aussie original back on the road where it belongs is something we’re happy to do. So give cousin Owen an elbow in the ribs for us and tell him to get the old ute back in the game.
I can see why Owen would have ordered his brand-new ute with a four-speed manual but, given the vehicle’s primary purpose was the pursuit of horizontal folk dancing opportunities, I reckon a bench seat rather than the optional buckets would have been a better bet. Actually, giving the situation the consideration it deserves, maybe the standard-issue column-shift might have been a good idea. Then again, playing the beast with two backs on a pair of bucket seats will soon weed out the less enthusiastic or physically deficient co-conspirators.
Given the low mileage and the fact that the old girl is all original and in good nick, I reckon a sympathetic restoration might be in order. You know the sort of thing: Fix everything that’s broken and worn, but leave the laugh lines and little wrinkles that are so much a part of what the ute represents. Either that or go the full nine resto yards and turn it into a showroom-perfect unit. In the meantime send us a few photos of the ute in its before condition so we can see how well Cousin Owen did in the after pictures.
Got to get something off my chest here. I hate the look of an early model car (doesn’t matter what make or model it is) with late model wheel and tyres on it. It just looks wrong. Stop it. I reckon I’ve seen more than a few perfectly good cars in the last few years, absolutely ruined because the joker at the tyre shop has sold the owner a big set of chrome 19-inch alloys.
As my kids say: What the..!
Darren Rowntree, Email.
DARREN, ME old mate, you’ve just described one of my pet hates, too. Except I’ll back it off a turn or two and call it a pet dislike, ‘cos the world has more than enough haters already. And just because a particular modification or look isn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t make it automatically wrong. Fact is, if a bloke wants to change something on his or her car, then it’s their car and who the hell am I to stick my nose in? Beyond that, though, I’m with you all the way on this. As you correctly point out, the big problem is that those shiny, big, blingy wheels and their liquoricestrap tyres just never look right on a classic, do they? I think it’s something to do with the way we view old, classic cars in our mind’s eye. That and the fact that we gravitate towards them in the first place because they take us back in time. So to change them as fundamentally as a set of 20-inch chrome wheels and 30-series tyres can, is to destroy part of that nostalgic magic.
It doesn’t really matter what else has been changed on the car, either; even a radical custom needs period-correct wheels and tyres to prevent it from looking unbalanced and some kind of a mash-up. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against aftermarket rims and hoops and, in fact, I’ve owned very few cars over the years that haven’t had a rolling-stock change. But in every case, I’ve stuck with what looked good back in the day. My Escort RS2000, for instance, gets around on 13-inch Superlites and my Charger (when it finally gets back on the road) will be sporting 14-inch jelly-bean mags.
Go and get yourself a box of those disposable latex gloves. They’re great for keeping your mitts clean as well as protecting your skin from the chemicals involved in stuff like carby-cleaner, degreaser and even plain old oil or brake fluid. And if you own a diesel car, buy two boxes and keep one in the glove-box to use when filling up. The next person that shakes your hand will thank you for it.
But beyond the personal preference that we so obviously share, Darren, there are some other fundamental problems with the move to a big wheel and tyre package on an early-girl. For a start, the suspension on the cars in question was always engineered with a big-sidewall tyre in mind. As in, the tyre was taken into consideration as part of the suspension package. Take most of that sidewall away, and you suddenly have a car that rides like a horse-drawn dray. Even things like the suspension bush material was engineered to work with a sidewall, so messing with that is asking for trouble.
“I HATE THE LOOK OF AN EARLY MODEL CAR (DOESN’T MATTER WHAT MAKE OR MODEL IT IS) WITH LATE MODEL WHEELS AND TYRES ON IT”
The other potential drama comes in the form of the law. It varies from state to state, but essentially, there’s a limit to how big you can go on a wheel and tyre package and still be legal. The old rule of thumb was that you couldn’t go more than two inches up in diameter, but now some States have a percentage rule where you can’t exceed the OE wheel and tyre’s rolling diameter by more than a handful of per cent. And it’s not a big percentage allowance, either. Either way, it’s pretty easy to take a car that was fitted ex-factory with 13-inch wheels, bung it on 20s and wind up with a car that technically is no longer roadworthy.
That’s the first step in that particular arse-ache, and the second step comes when the unthinkable happens and you’re in a shunt. At which point, the insurance company looks at the wreck and announces that you’re on your own because the car was illegally modified and, therefore, wasn’t covered by your policy.
Here’s one for your next barbecue: Guess the highest ever recorded blood-alcohol reading. Well, let’s see, the legal limit in Australia is 0.05 per cent. Most medicos agree that 0.40 is a concentration that would kill most people. But a Polish geezer apparently recorded a level of 1.48 per cent. What’s even more amazing is that we know this because the bloke was driving at the time and wound up crashing his car (surprise, surprise) and was therefore tested by the frankly amazed Polish wallopers. The karma train got our tipsy friend, however: Even though he survived the drinking binge, he died from his injuries in the shunt.