Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Classic car

While not exactly news, I have been able to widen my 'stable' to include a classic car (well, classic in my eyes).

Bikes are still my big love, but they are a solitary pursuit. In Victoria, the regulations for owning 'hobby' vehicles has been modernised and vehicles 25 years and older can be registered for 45 or 90 days personal use without the need to gazette Car Club events or meetings.

I started looking around for a Saab 900 Turbo (pre-1988), but good examples with high kilometres were still fetching over $7,000. Good fortune smiled on me when I dropped a colleague home and spotted an unloved, gold Mercedes Benz parked in front of his house. Commenting that I was looking to buy a classic car, his lightning-quick comeback was that he was looking to get rid of one.

Day 1 - clean, just apply cash

The car, a W126 380SE saloon, had been his personal drive and then gradually dropped down the pecking order until I saw it with windows down and full of leaves on the street. On a handshake and an undertaking to see whether it was worth saving, I got the car running next day with jumper leads and drove it home. A specialist Mercedes Benz mechanic gave it the 'once over' and said that while it has good bones, it would take about $6,000 in repairs to get a good $3,000 car (his words exactly).

The Mercedes Benz W126 series was one of the Company's most successful and longest production runs. Between the W126's launch in 1979, and replacement by the W140 series in 1991, over 818,000 saloon in the standard and long wheel base 'L' variants. 58,000 of the first release 380SE's were produced between 1979 and 1985, before the 3.8 litre V8 engine was upsized to 4.2 litres (420SE) from 1985 to 1991.

My main reasons for buying the car and embarking on the preservation (not restoration) route were;
  • The car only had 160,000 kilometres on the odometer and a service history through its two Owners over 28 years.
  • The paint and body were in great condition, with clear coat intact no rust in the chassis.
  • The leather interior was perfect.
Before - rust in the drivers door
After - insert panel, primed and painted

Small jobs that I was able to do myself included cutting out a rust patch in the driver's door for the insertion (with some help) of a steel panel, replacement of the electric window mechanisms and new muffler. Big jobs that were preformed in the workshop were splitting the transmission for a seal replacement, refurbished brake discs and calipers and water pump. Subsequently, I have had the Climate Control system fully overhauled after it started random, menopausal hot and cold flushes. The wheels have also been refurbished and powder coated.

M116 3.8 litre V8 with 4 -Speed electronic shift auto

2016 Flemington Classic Showcase

A recent article press article explained (in part) the surge in interest in preserving 1970's and 80's-era cars, one of the main factors being they drive like a modern car. 1950's and 60's British cars drove like pigs (I used to own a 1964 Daimler 2.5 V8), were never designed to be maintained, had no power steering and few creature comforts. A decade and a half of design development, combined German engineering, is still delivering an affordable and enjoyable driving experience. The car gets driven every weekend and is now at 186,000 km (115,000 miles) after 32 years. Not an investment grade car but good for the soul.

The Antipodean Mariner
May 2017

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Road Trip in Review

In reviewing the road trip, what worked (or exceeded expectations) and what was a waste of space.

The Bikes
The bikes performed flawlessly and we had no mechanical issues with either the Triumph or BMW. To put the distance into some sort of internationally recongnised context, the transcontinental USA crossing - Los Angeles to New York via Chicago and back is 9,004 km. 

Bruce's Metzler tyres were in great condition at the end of the trip, and wear was hard to discern. The Triumph's Michelin Road Pilot 4 tyres are still legal but have heavily profiled, especially the front tyre. The first few days heading north, through South Australia and the North Territory, we experienced strong SE cross winds, and think that the combination of a heavier bike 'leaning' in to wind, fairing down force and road camber cut up the right side of the tyre. No scary moments though, and they have done their job.

We started to trip checking oil and tyre pressures, and ended just giving the tyres a cursory glance for any nicks or embedded objects. The Triumph was always able to 500 km+ range,  while the BMW, with a 16L tank, had about 370 km between drinks.

The Kit
We were pretty disciplined in having pack lists, and took a minimum of gear. The most useful cooking appliance was the Jetboil, which gave us breakfast and mid-day tea and coffee. One large cannister lasted the whole trip with 'change'. We had a second combination of two pans and gas ring, which was used to prepare additional dishes when we were stuck in Mt Isa with just our emergency rations.  The second cooker was useful for two, but the Jetboil was sufficient for one.

My Samsung S5 Galaxy phone and Galaxy S2 Tablet were perfect for recording the trip. The Canon G11, while a beautiful camera, rarely came out of its case as any shots were 'stranded' until they could be uploaded to a PC or laptop. The telephoto lens and tripod never saw action. Similar with the GoPro Hero 3 - high maintenance to setup and to get good results with.

The Helinox stretcher and campfire chair were invaluable for relaxation and a good night's sleep. Lightweight and compact, both are highly recommended for the road. The collapsible fireplace was well used and a great way to end a night. LED lamps lasted for ages and gave good light for setting up. The water bladder was good for roadside stops, but two 1L water bottles would have just as good, and cheaper.

We carried UHT milk, porridge sachets, tea and coffee for breakfast and one 'reserve' meal of canned tuna and boiled rice. We could have ditched  (or eaten) the reserve meal as we could always get fast food at Roadhouses, towns or servos.

My Nolan N44 helmet, in open face configuration, provided great peripheral vision, wind protection and Scala Rider G9 nice sounds. Music is a great filler for the long road sections and gave good enough sound through foam ear defenders.

Safety Kit
Quite a lot of what we carried fitted into the 'just in case' category - wet weather gear, first aid, tool kit, puncture repair kit, CB radio and EPIRB. As we ended up staying on well traveled roads, the CB and EPIRB were overkill and I would skip these next time unless long, remote off-road sections were planned.

I wish I had taken...
A summer weight, vented jacket for the tropics - one 'three seasons' jacket was too hot for the NT and Queensland.

Junk that did a trip around Australia 
Apart from the camera kit, the AM/FM/SW radio wasn't used as we had either 3G/4G coverage or WiFi at the Roadhouses or camping grounds for the whole trip. Outback WiFi was expensive but an option. The fuel bladder was unused, and we were able to get fuel  (sometimes only 91 Regular) at about 200 km intervals. Both bikes adapted to the 91 RON with their knock sensors and 95 RON was usually available on the major highways. Topping up with the highest RON octane meant the bikes always had better than 91 in the tanks. There is a fuel app which lists grades available by location, but probably of use to the more serious off-roaders.

The bike has had a fresh change of oil and new filter. I managed to get the unloaded beast up on the workshop bench, stripped off the fairing panels and clean out the inaccessible road grime. The bikes is well within Triumph's 16,0000 km service intervals, but I have changed the synthetic oil more frequently. 10,000 km oil and filter intervals are inexpensive maintenance and satisfying to do in the workshop.

Loved up, ready for the next adventure
From here, the BMW F800ST is going to be serviced and list for sale, and I have to get a job. I'm working on a Snapfish book for us both, with the best of the photos. So much (good) to reflect on and use as a basis for 2019's South America tour (in planning) through Peru, Chile and Argentina.

The Antipodean Mariner