Rob Gray :: ontheroad :: wothahellizat :: wot2 :: diaries :: issue-001


Sun 1 Apr 2007

After cleaning the rest of the workshop I move Wothahellizat under cover and we get to work. The first thing to do is set some home comforts up under the tarp so I bodge up a bench for our gas cooker. However the under-tarp area doesn't have to be habitable for a few days yet as we can still live in the truck, so I lose interest in that job and start unloading stuff from the storage bins.

At around 2PM I get out the tools and remove the motorbike crane, generator cabinet and the gas bottles. That's it, I have officially started dismantling Wothahellizat.

 The storage bins have been cleared, motorbike crane, generator cabinet, and gas bottles removed.

Mon 2 Apr

Solar panels and petrol tank removed. Peter walks his excavator to the top of the block to fell a couple of trees over a track that the trail bike riders use. It's not even a track, just where a pipe was laid, but it looks like a very steep track and they can't resist testing their mettle.

However they just cause a nuisance, ignore any signs Peter erects, and wind up down here in the yard. So he has decided to drop a huge tree across the track to dissuade them.

 The excavator's boom is massive, it can fell a huge tree with just a couple of nudges.

Tue 3 Apr

Peter has had Slineaway in Brisbane for the day and on his return I notice a tiny drop of oil on the ground. I point it out.

"Yeah, bloody front engine seal" is his response.

He is not impressed, this motor has just been rebuilt and shoehorned into the truck at great expense.

There's nothing for it but to replace the seal, and this is a fairly sizable job.

Several hours later we have removed the bull bar, bonnet and radiator but the harmonic balance will not budge. No real surprise there I suppose as you normally require a special puller to get them off and we don't have one.

It can wait until tomorrow.

Wed 4 Apr

Peter goes searching through the boxes of stuff and finds a puller. It's not quite right but we can modify it.

After some mucking around we apply the puller, but the harmonic balance refuses to budge. Eventually we strip the thread in the puller.


We remove the puller to think about our options.

While looking at the job we realise that rather than trying to remove the balance we have in fact been trying bend it in two. You see when removing a harmonic balance the threaded part of the puller is supposed to push on the end of the crank shaft, however for reasons way too complicated to go into here, we had the threaded part pushing on the balance itself and the plate pulling on it.

Therefore we could a) bend a piece of steel 5 inches thick or b) strip the bolt in the puller.

We chose option b.

So now we have a busted puller and still can't get to the seal. We rebuild the puller by cutting off the stripped thread, welding on a nut and adding an extra piece to make it match the end of the crank shaft.

Ten minutes later we have the balance off and the seal out.

It's buggered alright. Peter orders a new one then goes into town. Meanwhile I return to my project and start cutting off the bin doors.

Fri 6 Apr

Usually when I do a fabrication job I have tools all over the place and spend at least half my time looking for things. So, in an attempt to be better organised, I am building a wheel-around toolbox and work bench. If I had to do it from scratch I wouldn't have bothered, but I've managed to make it from bits I salvaged from the truck.

Only time will tell if it makes me a more tidy worker.

Sat 7 Apr

For days now we've been pulling things out of the truck but have not tackled anything that can't be easily reversed. Today however, after tinkering with the removal of some wires, I decide to have a go at something a little more serious. So I get on the pop top roof and start removing the sheeting.

 The rear of the electronic control panel, still with most of the wires.

 The pop top roof minus the outer layer of checker plate.

 The rest of the roof, the solar panels have been removed. The central section is a walkway which I'll leave in place for the moment.

It turns out to be a larger job than I figured. After a couple of hours I have only removed two of the four tread plate sheets.

This is going to take a while.

The roof is actually two roofs. The inner layer is water proof (mostly :-) and the outer layer is what's known as a "tropical roof". It is designed to cop the bulk of the sun's heat and create an air gap between this heat and the inside of the house.

The battens you see in the above photos provide this separation, and to make sure there was no thermal path for the heat I made them of wood. This worked well, but some of the wood has rotted so I think I'll be using aluminium next time. I just have to figure out how to thermally isolate the two roofs, because aluminium conducts heat like there's no tomorrow.

Sun 8 Apr

We're still living in the truck but we've really done about as much as we can do while with all our stuff in the way. It's time to move under the tarp. I've set up four of our eight 6v batteries so we can run the 24v fridge and we made a bench for the cooker the other day, so all we need is the fridge, our recliners, and a TV.

The fridge is first and it takes us a couple of hours to extract, move, install, and defrost it.

Another couple of hours takes care of the recliners and the TV, most of this time is used trying to get a decent signal on the tele. As both the TV and the aerial booster are 12v I've rigged up one of the small 12v batteries from the truck. Trouble is it appears to be dead flat, showing only about 5v. This battery was used to raise the deck and last time I did that it wasn't up to the job, so maybe it hasn't been charging properly.

I've got a small cheapy charger so I decide to connect that to the battery while working on the TV. We just cannot get a good picture and later we find that there is a 50-cycle hum in the sound. I disconnect the charger and everything improves for a second until the battery dies.

Looks like we'll have to get 12v from another source.

Despite all the mucking around we have now officially moved out of the truck.

Mon 9 Apr

Today we tackle the deck, it has two main components, the roof and the floor. They are each pretty heavy and will need some form of crane to lower them.

We are parked under the workshop crane, but not directly under it so I would have to move the truck to use that. So I decide to use my block and tackle to lower the roof onto the floor, then take over with the fork lift and jib.

 The deck roof has been removed, now it's the floor's turn. As I'll be cutting the floor off while standing on it I suppose I should take some precautions, so I've put the jib in place to sling the floor before I cut the hinges.

 There goes the deck floor.

 The deck has all gone, Wothahellizat looks a little strange.

At 1:58 I shut down the inverter, it's been running almost constantly since the 16th of December 1999 and I remember on that day feeling elated as I breathed life into Wothahellizat. Today, as I do the reverse, I feel a little sad. Still, it will be back, maybe the new version should be called "Pheonix".

The rest of the day is taken up removing the inverter and power points, of which there are 21. That's a lot of power points.

Tue 10 Apr

I found another three power points, that makes 24, I wonder if there's any more.

Today my main goal is to prepare the lounge room for amputation. We originally intended to start the demolition at the front of the truck but, like a hyena eating a wildebeest, I've decided to start at the back end.

 Rear window and door bites the dust.

The windows and door are first, then I tackle the shutters.

 The lounge room shutters are next.

And finally I remove most of the trim and wiring from the lounge room and cut off the stairs.

Wed 11 Apr

I plan to use the gas axe (oxy acetylene) to do most of the cutting but there's a lot of timber surrounding the steel, this has to be removed first.

After quite some time completing the preparation of the lounge room I am ready to start cutting stuff.

 One of the rear pillars with timber removed and an oxy cut.

 The front is not as easy to cut as the rear because there is a lot of lining, cupboards etc.

While removing some sheeting from the roof I find Graham, our resident gecko. I'm really glad I found him as I'd been worried about the little fellow and missed him sitting on the wall next to me at night. I catch him and release him in the shed, hopefully he'll have a nice life.

I drill a hole and sling the roof with a chain and a handy 3/4-inch ratchet.
 Here we see the roof lifted almost clear of the truck. All that remains to do is drive away and lower it.

By the time the roof is off it's getting dark and anyway it's beer o'clock, so I'll take a photo of the new open-air lounge room tomorrow.

Thu 12 Apr

As promised, here's a shot of Wothahellizat sans lounge room roof. It's starting to look a little sad.

 Wothahellizat without the lounge room roof.

In the morning we go into town, primarily to get an account with BOC (one of the people who supply gas for oxys etc). The rest of the day is spent removing some of the plumbing, the kitchen bench, drawer runners, and some more electrical wiring.

One thing we have noticed is that the truck is now listing heavily to the left. Presumably this is because much weight has been removed, but why has it not risen evenly? I measure all the springs and find that they have all risen a little but the right-hand rear has risen by over three inches, I think it's because about a year ago we had the right-hand rear springs reset at the old weight and they are now rising more than the old springs on the left side.

It looks like we will have to reset some of the springs yet again when the new body is in place and everything is at its final weight.

Fri 13 Apr

I found another power point, but today is mostly about wires, seemingly hundreds of kilometres of wire embedded in Wothahallizat. I spend most of the day removing wire, but I don't just rip it out, I'm trying to save as much as possible so I have to extract each length in its entirety if possible. I'm also labeling various looms so I won't have to think too hard when it comes time put it all back together.

 Here are some of the lengths after Chris tidied them up.

 Here's some more, and there's plenty more where this came from.

Later in the afternoon we drive into town to get our TV from the repairers and to pick up some oxy and acetylene gas bottles.

When returning to the car I notice that we have a flat tyre, and there's not a single tool in the vehicle as I've got them all in the workshop. We do have a jack and an electric rattle gun however and that's all we need, but in future I must ensure that we have an emergency tool kit at least.

I climb to the roof, unbolt one of the spares, and roll it off. The bloody thing bounces half way across the nearby vacant lot, which must have distracted me because I lost my footing on the car's bonnet and fell to the pavement.

I scrape much bark from my arm and leg and am lucky not to break anything.

Sat 14 Apr

Not much happening today, just slogging away at removing stuff from the interior.

 The inside hasn't looked like this since I was building it seven years ago.

Mon 16 Apr

Still gutting the interior. Meanwhile Peter is adding leveling valves to Slineaway's airbag system so the truck sits more evenly. To do this he has moved into our part of the workshop and we have parked Wothahellizat outside, well mostly outside. Because the roof is no longer water proof I've poked the nose under cover so the bedroom doesn't get wet if it rains.

 A little bit of truck shuffling is required as we arrange who works in what part of the shed.

One reason we are doing this work to the truck is to cut down on both the number and size of our possessions because the more things you have the more things break down and the more agro you have in your life.

As if to reinforce this point of view Peter's tractor broke down today. He only just bought it yesterday (secondhand) and did about two hours slashing when the hydraulics failed.

Now he has to either fix it, return it, negotiate a lower price, or whatever. All in all it's agro that he doesn't need right now.

Of course if you have no posessions you can't really do much. I guess the solution is to find a happy medium.

Tue 17 Apr

Still slogging away at removing stuff from the interior. The truck is now a totally empty shell.

 This is where the kitchen used to be.

 And this is where it wound up.

We planned to lift the body from the chassis today but Peter ran out of time and couldn't drive the big fork lift up to the block. Hopefully we can do it tomorrow.

Thu 19 Apr

Off she comes. After trying to figure out how to lift the entire body using some combination of jacks and stands and blocks we decided it was all too hard, and that we would just cut off smallish pieces as we did the other day.

But then Peter said he could bring his big forklift up to the workshop, and the rest is history.

 Easy eh? Just pick it up, drive away, and put it down.

 Wothahellizat's body on the ground.

It's good to get the body off, firstly it will allow us to get the chassis in for shortening earlier, secondly it will be a lot easier to dismantle at ground level, and thirdly, without the truck underneath I don't have to worry about sparks or molten metal damaging something important.

For the rest of the day I busy myself removing the old body mounts, battery cradles, winch cable etc.

 The front body mount being lifted from the chassis.

The overhead crane makes this job a lot easier, but the item to be lifted has to be directly under it or I can dislodge the wires from the drum. I do the front body mount then it's time for the rear. Unfortunately the truck is not parked square to the shed, so while the front mount was under the crane the rear one isn't.

As I've already unbolted the rear mount, and the same bolts hold a cross member that the axle is connected to, I can't really drive the truck to realign it.

I remember being in much the same predicament when I put the mounts on. I also remember telling myself that under no circumstances should I move the truck until at least a couple of the bolts had been inserted, and then promptly starting it up and driving it from the workshop.

The resultant torque, when applied to the half-connected axle, moved the cross member and it took me hours to realign the bolt holes.

This time however I have access to a fork lift. Despite being rated at only 1-tonne it lifts the rear of the truck with ease and I relocate it a foot or so to the left, right under the crane.

 Truck in the wrong place?, no probelms, just pick it up and move it.

It's amazing what you can do with the right tools.

Sun 22 Apr

For a couple of days I've been cleaning up the chassis, ready to have it shortened by Dave. As the fuel tanks are located where the cut will be they have to go, but how will I drive it down to Dave's workshop?

I suppose I could just rig up a jerry can or something but I've decided to temporarily mount one of the tanks behind the cab. It will be out of the way there.

 One of the fuel tanks strapped behind the cab.

Obviously the design is still evolving, and today we decided to ditch the slide out idea. Let me explain. There are three issues we wanted to address with the new design, weight, size, and complexity.

  • Weight - At 14-odd tonnes Wothahellizat1 was no lightweight. We want to reduce that considerably.
  • Size - At nearly 11 metres (approx 36 feet) Wothahellizat 1 was a big boy. This was great as far as living was concerned, but a real limitation in many situations.
  • Complexity - With many opening and closing "things" all powered by winches, hydraulics, and motors of one kind or another there was the potential for many breakdowns.

In an effort to tackle the size issue we added a slide out rear section. This reduced our length to 7.5 metres (24 feet) which was great, but it was at the expense of complexity and weight. A slide out requires a fair amount of engineering, can be difficult to dust and water proof, and adds a lot of kilos in extra steel.

In reducing one problem we added markedly to two others. So the slide out has gone.

The trouble is that's where I planned to put the motorbike, and if we add the 800mm to the body (the required amount to house the bike) we will be over the 60% overhang allowance.

Solution, chop off some of the chassis tail.

I plan to have the motorbike lower from the rear of the truck which of course means that there can be no chassis in the way. With the chassis at its current length the body would have to be correspondingly longer which would a) make the truck longer than we want, and b) breach the 60% overhang rule.

 A 590mm cut from the rear of the chassis. This piece weighs 50kgs (110lbs) plus we save who-knows how much weight by not having the slide out.

With this done we should be able to keep the length to 8.1 metres (26 feet) with no complicated slide out.

Mon 23 Apr

I took the truck for a short test drive today. It goes like stink with no weight and the steering is really light. So you would think being really light is a good thing eh?

Well yes and no.

The track into the workshop is quite steep and it's a gravel road. With no weight on the rear axles I find it very difficult to get traction and in fact have to reverse down one of the hills and shift into 6x6 drive to spread the torque over more wheels.

Even then I have to almost idle up the hills as any application of power causes the rear to start pig rooting (axle hopping).

Thu 26 Apr

I finally ordered my steel today, $2000 and about 400kgs worth. I'll need more I suppose but had to order something so I can make a start.

Actually I've stuffed up a tad because I should have had the steel ready to go when the truck went for shortening on Tuesday. If it arrives tomorrow there's no harm done because I've spent my time servicing tools, building a welding trolley etc, but if I don't get it until next week I will have wasted the weekend. It won't be a total waste as I can do some dismantling of the old body, but really my time is better spent building at the moment while we have use of the workshop. Dismantling can be done at any time.

Chris booked her flight to the UK today, she should pick up the tickets tomorrow.

Fri 27 Apr

I'm at a little bit of a loose end today, still no steel so I spend most of the day working on the motorhome design which is probably for the best as I figured out a few things and that should make life easier later on.

While fossicking around the shed I found some rollers and though "Hmm, they look like they could be useful". However I could not think of just what they would be useful for.

Later, while thinking about nothing in particular I spotted my cut-off saw. If you've ever used a cut-off saw you will know that you have to support the length of steel you are cutting at the same height as the bed of the saw. In the past I've just found some objects of approximately the right height, like a piece of wood.

But the right way to do it is to have rollers you you can easily manoeuvre the steel to and fro while it's supported at the correct height.

Now where have I just seen some rollers?

An hour later I have knocked up three portable rollers that can be placed on the floor in line with the saw.

Chris picked up her ticket today so it looks like she's really going. It's been 27 years since she emigrated and she's keen to look up a few old haunts. Meanwhile I'll slog my guts out building a motorhome. That's really, it is.

Well alright, so I bought a $5000 camera instead of going overseas, we all have our priorities :-)

Sat 28 Apr

The steel arrived late in the afternoon, too late to do anything except stack it, so I spend the day working on the design for the body/chassis mounts and repairing the tyre that went flat the other day. It turned out to be a hole in the tube.

I also put together some tools for the car and loaded some spares because tomorrow I'm driving Chris to the airport then spending the day in Brisbane, so it makes sense to have at least a rudimentary tool kit.

Sun 29 Apr

We're up at the crack of dawn and drive down to the airport. Contrary to my expectations the check in procedure is painless and before we know it it's time for Chris to walk through the gate.

I hang around for a short time just in case she remembers something she left in the car or whatever, but I've never seen the point in waving at a plane, so I head off.

I confess to a little pang of wanderlust, I haven't been overseas since 1980 and would love to both see some new things and revisit some old haunts. Specifically I would like to spend more time in the English countryside and with the Kenyan wildlife.

Twenty minutes later I'm parked outside the rather ritzy house of Steve and Madeleine, some ex-Canberra friends of ours. As usual the Cruiser looks well out of place in this up-market suburb.

Steve and Madeleine have just purchased a block of land in an even ritzier development and we drive out to have a look. By suburban standards it's very nice, which one would expect at $320,000 just for the block. All-in-all they look like spending $7-800,000, phew are we ever out of the city real estate market for good.

Mon 30 Apr

Apart from wanting to catch up with friends, the main reason I've stayed in Brisbane is to drop off our inverter at the service agent.

It's a 3300w Trace inverter/charger, a fantastic piece of kit but it weights over 50kgs which makes it difficult to package for transport. For this reason, even though it's had a fault for several years, we haven't bothered getting it fixed.

Now however is a golden opportunity as it's been pulled out of the truck anyway and we're not very far from the service people.

I get back to the workshop and rearrange things ready to make a start. I also have to do some more designing as even things that won't be built for some time can affect the placement of steel beams right now.

Late in the afternoon I have to make another decision, what to cook for tea? Chris has pre-packaged about three months worth of meals, many of which are cooked and just require heating (she does spoil me), but I haven't batched-it for years and am used to her just presenting me with food.


It's Marie about to throw me a lifeline. Peter and Marie leave for their six-month trip in a couple of days and they have to use up the food in the fridge.

"We're having a roast tonight, do you want to join us?"

Is the Pope Catholic? Does a wombat poo on a rock? Do I want a roast dinner?

Later I get back to the design process then hit the sack early. As I lie in bed I conclude that I have a workshop, my tools, my plan, and my steel. It's about time to build something.

Tomorrow I'll start construction, and yes a wombat does normally poo on a rock.