This chronicle covers quite a long
period of time, a period in which we didn't do much except
visit friends and sit on our land.
did however make a very momentous decision, and that is to
rebuild Wothahellizat. After being quite adamant over the
years that I would NEVER build another motorhome, here I am
deciding to do just that. Go figure.
know what they say, "Never say never".
be fair I won't really be "building" a motorhome,
more "rebuilding" one. So there, I'm off the hook.
what's the rational for this decision?
started thinking seriously about a rebuild while on the 4x4
trip last year. We were actually very comfortable living in
the Cruiser, and for the first couple of months wondered if
we need a motorhome at all. But then it got cold, and we certainly
missed our warm truck. So we figured something larger than
the Cruiser and smaller than Wothahellizat would be about
seed was sown, but it's taken several months to grow into
This chronicle leads up to the start
of the Wothahellizat Mk2 project, then the chronicles will
cease for a while. They'll be back, but during the break I'll
be writing a construction diary so there will still be something
to read at robgray.com
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Thu 28 Aug 2006
For quite some time now the house batteries
have been on the blink. They charge quick enough but will not hold
the charge and turning even the TV on will cause them to drop to 22v
or even less.
It's time for some new batteries.
I've decided to go for AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat)
type as I'm sick of doing the maintenance on wet cells. AGM batteries
are sealed and therefore do not emit gasses or require any maintenance,
and for someone like me that's a really good feature.
I order the batteries ($2500 ouch) but they are
on a slow boat from China (literally, they are Chinese batteries)
so won't arrive for some time. Meanwhile we're running the generator
Tue 20 Sep
Geoff and Margaret arrive. They are two
fellow 4x4 motorhome owners who we have met on several occasions,
mostly while I was building the truck.
Geoff & Margaret's Hino 4x4 motorhome.
stay for a couple of days, it's good to have a like-minded
couple to chat with.
Thu 5 Oct
The grass on our block is very long and dry.
This is a potential fire risk and also a pain in the arse as we like
to go for walks and the long grass makes that difficult.
So we borrow a brush cutter from our neighbour
and set to creating a small cleared area around the truck and container.
Burning the grass, my flat-packable
barrow in the foreground.
The reason it's not a good
idea to leave your shoes out at night.
A cute little gecko I disturbed
while raking the grass.
Tue 17 Oct
Back down to the Gold Coast to visit friends.
Wed 18 Oct
There's a lot of bush fires in Australia at
present, especially in Victoria where tens of thousands of hectares
are ablaze. So we're a bit worried when a friend from Bundaberg rings
to tell us that there are some fires in our area at Gin Gin.
Luckily we cleared a good area around the truck.
I ring the local fire chief and learn that they will be burning
off in the district to reduce fuel. She had already been to our
block and was pretty happy with the fuel reduction we had done.
She said they would be burning on and around our block tomorrow
and would be careful with our gear.
Sat 21 Oct
Peter and Marie are long-time friends who also
own an off-road motorhome and it's Marie's 60th birthday today. The
family has organised a surprise party and we are here early to help
A thing of beauty and joy
The party guests include many friends she hasn't
seen for a while but of most importance is her brother has also
been flown out from the UK. He arrived a few days ago and apparently
their meeting was a real "This is your life" event.
I've been drinking beer since 2 this afternoon,
plus somewhere along the way I consumed a full bottle of wine because
no one else liked it.
By the early hours of the morning there's just
myself and Marie's brother still going, but I'm running out of steam
Thu 26 Oct
It's been a year since my Dad died and there's
not a day passes when I don't think of the old fella.
Sat 28 Oct
In an effort to save money I decided some time
ago to port this web site to new server, same ISP, just a new machine
which for reasons known only to the provider makes my hosting cheaper.
So we're visiting some other friends in Brisbane
who have a high bandwidth connection that will make the job easier.
While on a role I have also implemented PayPal
as the payment method for the multitudes that purchase my photos.
There's been a few small technical hitches but
overall I'm astounded at how smoothly the job has gone.
Tue 31 Oct
Some time ago I noticed that part of the Cruiser's
chassis had rusted through. As it is potentially quite a problem I've
been treating the vehicle with kid gloves recently.
Today however we are back at Peter and Marie's
and they have a nice big MIG welder which is suitable for fixing
Unfortunately Peter has not got the workshop fully
operational and the MIG is not yet working, his stick welder is
working but I cannot stick weld to save myself, so Peter will do
I prepare the area and create a plate to weld
over the rusted section. Peter welds it in place and the Cruiser
is as good as new.
While under the vehicle we also fix the broken
Back to our block tomorrow.
Mon 6 Nov
For the first time in over four years of home
brewing (or is that motorhome brewing) we have some bottles explode.
We hear a strange popping sound and walk to the
front of the truck to investigate. Not finding the source of the
noise I am about to return to my comfy chair when I catch the smell
of beer in the air. This causes me to look more thoroughly.
We don't use glass, preferring the PET bottles
sold by the homebrew kit manufacturer, and they've been great so
far. But I guess they are getting a bit old. It seems that one exploded
and took out it's neighbour.
Looks like we'll be buying some new bottles.
Tue 8 Nov
What a huge storm we're having, it's quite
spectacular to watch the lightning from the safety of the truck's
I amuse myself by counting the time between each
lightning flash and it's associated thunder clap. You know the story,
FLASH, one thousand, two thousand, three thousand,
BANG. That's about three miles away.
But how far away is it when you get...
"Not far enough" is the correct answer.
Thu 9 Nov
Telstra have introduced a new mobile system
called NextG, I think it is an advanced version of 3G which has been
available in the cities for some time. NextG is supposedly better
and available everywhere CDMA is.
So, as CDMA is being phased out it makes sense
to upgrade. But what's on offer?
Quite a lot as it happens. I get a new phone for
free and the remaining contract on my old phone wiped. I get broadband
speeds whereas CDMA is only 14kbps. My new plan is a data-driven
plan whereas CDMA was time driven, this means I can take my time
looking at web pages without constantly worrying about the clock
All in all it's a great deal I think. I also get
an in-car hands free kit worth $200 thrown in, but this wasn't made
obvious from the start.
All I really wanted was a method of connecting
both a large external aerial (or broomstick as they are often called)
AND the computer at the same time. However nobody could tell me
if this was possible with the hands-free kit, including the people
at the manufacturer's technical section.
I inspect the kit and it looks to me as though
I can do what I want by simply not plugging in the wire that connects
the phone to the cradle, but instead plugging in the computer cable.
It seems that, as long as you don't want to use the hands-free option
at the same time as the computer it should work.
But nobody can confirm this.
"I'm not spending 200 bucks on the off chance
it will work" I say.
"Well we can throw the kit in for free"
was the instant response. Telstra is obviously very keen for people
to swap to the new technology.
The phone we are interested in is available in
black or white, we got a black one, not because of any real preference
but because the woman asked Chris which we would like, and Chris
doesn't hear very well. Thinking she is being asked if she would
like a cup of coffee she replies "Black please".
In total it took us 5 hours and several calls
to various technical bods at Telstra to get hooked up to NextG and
get the data connection working.
And just to show you how easy it is, one of the
strings that must be entered when setting up the connection on your
I still can't believe I didn't get that one without
Thu 10 Nov
You know how it is when you renovate a section
of your house? All of a sudden the adjoining sections look pretty
dowdy, so you feel you should tart them up, then the parts next to
them look a little tired. Before long you've done the entire house.
Well we're having a similar problem on the block.
We started clearing the tall grass as a purely
practical fuel reduction exercise in the area immediately adjoining
the truck and container.
However the cleared area looked much better than
the other 99% of the block, so we thought we'd do a bit more. We've
cleared about 3 acres now, mostly with a brush cutter, but I've
also chain sawed dozens of fallen trees and moved the resultant
logs to a wood pile. We never have fires for recreational purposes
so the wood pile is really just in case we have visitors who do.
Most of the grass is transported to our fire spot
using my trusty home-made collapsible barrow, but at the far reaches
of our realm it is simply cast to the winds.
And speaking of wind we had a doosey today, 100MPH
or I don't know nuthin' about quantum physics. Needless to say we
stopped burning when the wind arrived.
Mon 27 Nov
We got sick of transporting the grass to be
burnt in a single spot, so have started burning off at various locations
around the block. The woodpile is large enough to last several years
so we are now burning all the dead wood as well as the grass.
Burning off again, this
time the dead logs that litter the area
around the truck.
Fri 22 Dec
After more than a year my Dad's house has finally
sold, or to be more precise someone has finally taken over the lease
and therefore the owners of the retirement village will soon release
the equity to me.
Of course there is a final hitch, they reckon
we owe more maintenance payments, and we reckon they didn't correctly
calculate the depreciation of the items my parents added to the
So the saga continues.
Never the less we're feeling rich, so we decide
to buy some bananas for the first time since cyclone Larry devastated
most of the Australian banana crop a year or so ago.
For some time they were over $20 a kilo because
there was little supply. At that price one assumes there was even
less demand, certainly we haven't bought a single banana lately,
not when you can almost buy a leg of lamb for the same money.
I saw a great cartoon the other day, it depicted
a fruit and veg shop that had closed for the night. On the door
was a sign that read "No bananas kept on the premises".
Fri 29 Dec
It's back down to the Gold Coast for us, we're
house sitting for some friends over the Christmas break.
Thu 25 Jan 2007
I have the misfortune to deal with a bank today.
I ring the freecall number and have to provide several personal details
that only I would know, you know the drill, mother's maiden name,
inside leg measurement, year of birth.
In answer to the last question I reply "54".
"Is that five four or one nine five four?"
the operator asks.
"54, you know, as in 1954"
"But is that five four or one nine five four?"
"Waddayumean 'five four or one nine five
four', is was born in 1954!, it can't be 2054 and I'm not 152 years
old. Nineteen fifty bloody four!"
Maybe it was the tone in my voice, or maybe something
I said, but at this point she decides to handle my query.
They say that money is the root of all evil, well
I don't know about that, but it is certainly the root of much frustration.
Without money you wouldn't have to deal with banks, and that has
to be a good thing.
Sat 27 Jan
It's time to service the Cruiser and while
I'm at it maybe fix an oil leak or two.
The main oil leak offender is the side plate on
the engine, it's leaking like a sieve. That should be a simple exercise,
just unbolt it, get a new gasket, and bolt it back on.
That's probably how it works for you, but life
is never that simple for the Graynomad.
Three of the bolts had been snapped off and the
heads just glued in place, presumably by the previous owner. After
several hours attempting to drill the bolts and remove them with
"Ezi-Outs" I give up and just drill them right out to
the next size which is 7mm. Now the tap and die set has a 7mm tap
so that's a standard size right? I'll just duck down to Bolts-R-Us
and buy some.
"Nar mate they don't make that size any more",
says the young fellow behind the counter. "You could try the
wreckers, the old VWs had 7mm bolts".
After drilling the holes out to the next size
(8mm), and waiting a day for the gasket the job is done, and I'm
pleased to report that the plate leaks no more.
While I have my head under the bonnet I noticed
that the vacuum advance doesn't work ($165 for a new one) and the
clutch slave cylinder is hanging on by one loose bolt.
Now let's check out the spark plugs.
On removing them I find they are coated with a
hard deposit. I'm not sure exactly what this is a symptom of so
I consult the manual.
"Caused by bad fuel or more commonly 'old
fogie' driving" it states.
Hmmm, old fogie driving indeed, they've got a
Sat 10 Feb
We're starting to think seriously about building
another motorhome. Yes I know we've floated the idea a few times over
the years, and normally I just lie down for a while until the feeling
passes. But this time that trick isn't working.
But what to build?
We love just about everything about Wothahellizat,
but our recent 4x4 trip taught us that we can be quite comfortable
in a smaller vehicle. And the freedom we had in the Cruiser was
great, we were comfortable exploring any track we came across, secure
in the knowledge that we could almost certainly turn around at the
end, and we could camp on any square metre or so of flat ground.
On the other hand, when the weather turned against
us the Cruiser wasn't that comfortable, and of course we can't carry
all our worldly possessions in such a small vehicle.
A large vehicle is definitely more comfortable
to live in, but a real hindrance in many other situations.
It seems then that something larger than a Landcruiser,
and smaller than Wothahellizat would be the best of both worlds.
So we start looking in the trader magazines.
This International 510
is fantastic to drive and has a very small
turning circle. I am quite smitten but
it's petrol, a little bit small, and the
owner wants too much ($19,000).
Sun 11 Feb
We still like ACCOs though, and so we start
looking for one of a similar vintage to ours. I am thinking of going
to 4x4 rather than the 6x6 we have now. The only problem with that
is the reduced GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) with two axles, I think the
4x4 versions are only good for 8 tonnes.
These ACCOs are all owned
by one person. They are in poor shape
but still cost up to $16,500, maybe we'll
stick with the one we've got.
Thu 15 Feb
There must be something in the water here,
Alan and Sharon (two friends also staying at Mark and Gail's) have
decided to build a new motorhome. They currently live in a bus but
have elected to go 4x4 this time.
To this end they have just purchased an imported
Japanese 4x4 bus.
Alan and Sharon's 4x4 bus, it's still a 20-seater so they will have to clear everything out and start from scratch.
Sun 18 Feb
Peter and Marie (our friends who live near
Glasshouse Mountains) are re powering their motorhome so we decide
to drive up and see how the job is going.
It's a huge project, partly because the new motor
has a turbo and doesn't fit in the same place as the old one, and
partly because Peter is also swapping the the gearbox for a 6-speed
Allison which is much larger than the Road Ranger previously installed
in the truck.
The empty engine bay of "Slineaway", Peter and Marie's International S-Line 4x4 motorhome.
Peter working on the engine and gearbox.
Peter does all the work himself with the exception
of the electronics required for the gearbox.
While here we check out an Isuzu that is for sale.
It's more modern than I'm used to and quite nice to drive and we
get quite serious about buying it. At $20,000 it's more than we
had in mind but at least most things are done, for example it already
has a good diesel motor, if we buy another old ACCO we will have
to re power it and that would be a very time-consuming and expensive
A nice Isuzu we nearly bought.
Of course we don't have anywhere to build a motorhome,
but Peter and Marie do own a huge shed, and they are going away
for six months soon. Maybe they need a caretaker.
We float the idea passed them and they agree.
So we now have somewhere to do the job, but on
what chassis will we build?
Mon 19 Feb
After looking at several trucks, and thinking
about the pain involved in trying to sell Wothahellizat, we realise
that we already own a good truck, it's just a bit larger than we now
We decide to dismantle our beloved motorhome and
rebuild it as a smaller version, a sort of Son Of Wothahellizat.
Fri 2 Mar
We get back to the block. Because of a leak
in the skylight, and my laziness regards placing a tarp over the offending
part of the roof, the truck has been swimming in water and the carpet
It doesn't matter though, we'll be pulling the
whole thing apart before long. Despite this Chris scrubs the floor
for days to get it clean.
Sun 18 Mar
We will leave tomorrow, I sit on the deck with
my afternoon beer and enjoy the view for what will probably be the
last time in quite a while.
Mon 19 Mar
At 10:10 I start the engine and back out of
our "house site". It's been over a year since we've been
anywhere with the truck and it's exciting to be back on the road with
it. Even if only for about 300k.
We camp for the night just north of Gympie.
Tue 20 Mar
Up early and off to Glasshouse Mountains where
we plan to stay with Peter and Marie for the next several months.
Partly to house sit for them while they head off in their motorhome,
and partly as mentioned we will be using their workshop to rebuild
As we drive through the town of Glasshouse Mountains
we drop in on Dave, another friend. Dave is in the business of modifying
trucks, and we need to get some advice on our chassis.
Fri 23 Mar
Slineaway has it's new engine and gearbox. Soon we will see if it all works.
Wed 28 Mar
I'm spending most of my time helping Peter
finish off the re powering of Slineaway. The job is all but done now,
there's just some cosmetic items to finish, such as rebuild the firewall
and line it with soundproofing material.
Peter takes Slineaway for a test run and I go
along for the ride. The performance is impressive and there are
no problems with cooling, driveline alignment etc.
The conversion appears to be a success.
Slineaway goes for a test run with the new motor and gearbox.
Thu 29 Mar
We started dismantling the truck today. Because
we're still parked outside we can't do too much so we remove the cupboard
doors and some shelves.
Wothahellizat's final camp site.
I'm a little sad, it's been nearly ten years since
we bought the truck and over six since we started living in it.
This is definitely the end of an era.
But it's also the beginning of a new era, hopefully
in a few months we will have a vehicle with most of the same features
but in a smaller package.
Sat 31 Mar
We rig up a tarp at the back of Peter's workshop,
this will be home over the next few months. We have cleared half of
the workshop and tomorrow will do the other half. Then we can move
the truck under cover and get serious about the dismantling.
Goto the Wothahellizat Mk2 construction diaries
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