Rob Gray :: ontheroad :: wothahellizat :: wot1 :: diaries :: issue-003


20 July 1998

It's license day. I need an HR (heavy rigid) truck license to drive the truck. Last weekend I did four hours training and today I do the assessment. There's a new system of licensing in NSW. With the old system you did lessons then go for an all-or-nothing test with the Road Transport Authority (RTA). Very stressful. The new system is called Competency Based Assessment (CBA). Briefly this means that the bloke giving the lessons is also qualified to assess your ability to handle a large vehicle. This is a much better system because, unlike an RTA test, it's not a case of "one strike and your out". With CBA, if you make a mistake you just try again.

The assessment involves about six hours of driving in all kinds of conditions, both on the highway and in busy town centers etc. It went quite smoothly I thought, if you don't count running out of fuel (well I had to learn how to prime a diesel anyway) and that street sign on the corner (nothing that a team of council workers can't fix in a few hours).

By the end of the assessment I was knackered and thinking very seriously about spending the $5000 to install power steering in the truck.

When I get home there's a message to ring Steve Pantlin. I got to know Steve at the rally in Queensland a couple of months ago. He owns a motor home.built on a 4x4 Bedford truck. Anyhow, it seems he has just crossed the Simpson Desert in his rig. He tells me of the trip, I'm envious and even keener to start building.

1 Aug 1998

I need to get workbenches and tools from my garage to the workshop and as it happens I have just the truck for the job. Bringing it home to our townhouse complex I park outside on the street

The next day I bring it up and park it outside my garage. It takes up most of the complex's drive and makes it quite clear why we're not working on the conversion at home. Fortunately Greg, a neighbour who is converting a bus and works for Comet, is home and he gives me a hand to load the stuff.

15 Aug 1998

It begins. The project of a lifetime, except I've only got a year. What more could a bloke want, a big workshop, a big truck and more tools than you can poke a torsion wrench at. I mentioned this to the fellas at work, not all were convinced.

I decide that the first job is to fitout the cab. After getting prices of $600+ for uncomfortable new bucket seats I find some very comfy old ones at the wreckers for $250. If this saving is scalable for the entire project we'll be laughing.

After the first weekend the cab is stripped almost bare. I have to think a lot about sound proofing as I rebuild, it'll never be quiet but at present it's bordering on painful.

I know the truck is not exactly a thing of beauty and joy forever but that bull bar has to be the most butt ugly thing I've seen in a while. I can't just get rid of it because it has rollers for the winch cable and re-engineering it would be too much work. I can however remove much of the offending steel.

Even the smallest parts of the bull bar are made of 10mm steel flat bar, what a monster. It took three evenings (cutting with a grinder until my arms got tired then moving to an easier job for a break and returning after a half hour or so) to remove most of the bottom part of the bar. It was only when I was nearly finished when I thought about using the oxy cutter. Isn't it marvelous how the human brain works (or doesn't work as in this case).