Friday, November 30, 2007

Mundane day

While waiting for our boat to be finished, I am running thin on fun tropical material today. But to keep the journal current, I thought I would post some photos to show people that it's not all diving and fishing down here. Sometimes we have to deal with the nuts and bolts of the day to day. Literally.

The day started out looking good:

We mail-ordered some accessories for La Gringa's Land Rover, and they arrived finally and I spent the day installing them.

First, we wanted to get rid of this spare "tyre" mounting stuff on the "bonnet". This IS a UK vehicle with right hand steering wheel etc. This hardware was there when we bought the truck. (by the way, the locals here call every 4x4 vehicle here a 'jeep'. The cops even wrote up an expired inspection sticker violation on us as a "Land Rover Jeep". I drive a Suzuki "Jeep".)
This iron hardware was ugly, in the way, and not very practical:

It's not practical because the 'bonnet' flexes like crazy with the weight of a spare on it going down bumpy roads. We have a lot of bumpy roads, and La Gringa drives them like she's in second place in the Baja 500, with a real shot at first.

It also makes raising the hood to check engine fluids etc. a weight lifting exercise with the tire on top of it. It's a 75 lb. hood to lift. And it was rusting. And in a high-salt environment like this, it's just basically a bad idea to bolt ferrous parts (steel) to aluminum. Something's gonna corrode. I got the old hardware off:

After some choice swearing dealing with rusted bolts etc. The dog is used to it.
One of the pieces we bought over the internet is an aluminum 'bonnet' plate, that matches the plates already on the fenders ('wings' in LR parlance). It's like diamond plate, but with a "Euro" pattern we couldn't find here. I wanted to pop-rivet this to the hood because the pop-rivets are aluminum, too. Had to drill 20 holes in the plate, and then so that the rivets would fit flush I used a Dremel tool to grind down the area around the holes:

Twenty of those, all different. A drill press would have been nice, but mine is packed up in storage, still. So, it was mechanical surgery with a little high-rpm tool. Man am I looking forward to having a workshop again.

I didn't want to rivet aluminum to painted aluminum. I tried the local hardware people for some kind of butyl rubber sheeting, but of course no luck in that. So I bought a couple bicycle tubes and split them into strips. I stuck those to the bottom of the plate with some 'Goop' flexible adhesive:

This should shock mount the plate and keep it from rubbing against the aluminum hood.
I think it looks a lot better. It's strong enough to stand on, should we find ourselves needing to lash something to the top, or take photos on safari, or something.

We had given up on buying a ready-made trailer/tow hitch on the internet. The only people who had a 'carrier' type hitch were in the US, and for some reason they refused to sell me a hitch and ship it where I asked them to ship it. That was to an air freight company in Miami, where the rest of the stuff was shipped. They insisted that their "company policy" was to ship only to the billing address on the credit card. Yeah, like we need forty pounds of steel sent to a billing address in the US. So, in the end, we said screw it, and had a local welder come up with a way to attach an off-the-shelf carrier to the LR cross member. Simple, functional, and we probably saved over $ 200.

This is a common hassle down here, finding online vendors whose order pages insist on a US state abbreviation or zip code. Hopefully shipping to the air freight company ( Turks Air, Ltd.) in Miami will help this.

So we got to meet a new local contact who is a welder. That's pretty handy. We intend to add a full roll cage, a new soft top, some steps, grill guard, and light cages over the next couple years. Guess which company we will NOT be buying them from. That's MY "company policy".

Now, the spare itself has been a pain in the glutes. It's been sitting inside the "tub" of the Defender. Takes up a lot of room, blocks the view to the rear, and smells like a rubber tire.

It annoyed the dog when he was driving (and in his mind, he's always driving):

And the little booger acted like a mountain goat and would stand on top of it while were were not looking. One swerve to the side hard ( remember La Gringa is driving) and it could have been "adios, muchacho" straight out the open sides. So after a lot of adjustments and drilling of holes, laying in the dirt outside in the hot tropical sun (it was probably 80 deg.) I have managed to bolt a swing-away tire carrier to the back:

I had to remove one of the lights, which I will relocate about two inches above where that hole is. I will mount it to a rectangular aluminum plate so it looks nice. I will rivet the plate to the body and paint it black to match the other trim. Should be okay. It's a rear fog light, anyhow. This country hasn't seen fog in 10,000 years, I suspect.

One other problem I have to solve is to extend those two little threaded bolts that the tire mounts on. These are the correct length for a steel wheel, but this vehicle has allow wheels which are about an inch thick. So I will be going back to JJ the welder to see if he can cut these out and replace them, or if he has another idea. Glad we met him for the trailer hitch. If anyone has any other ideas, please tell me. I need those two threaded bolts to be about an inch longer.

The inside is now more uncluttered, and has more cargo/seating room in the back. The dog can jump back and forth much easier when he goes from rear passenger to guard dog mode. When we are in a store, etc. he will sit up front and look fierce. He likes to sing along with Sam the Sham's wolf howl in "Little Red Riding Hood", and of course he considers "Who Let the Dogs Out?" a classic.

For those in the US who haven't tried it, it's actually not too hard to get used to driving on the left side of the road. It's also not too difficult to drive sitting on the right side of the truck. Took us a day, and now we are ambidextrious drivers. The tricky part that takes some getting used to, surprisingly, is shifting with the left hand. It just feels strange for a right handed person. I wonder if left handed people would find shifting this stick more natural feeling. I suspect so.

So, this afternoon we plan to run out to the reef to try out the new metal detector. We will probably either go fishing or lobster diving tomorrow. If the weather cooperates we should have some more tropical-style photos from both trips.


Anonymous said...

Hey Gringo - Bendernz here. I was at a party a week or so back and there was a dude there who had a landrover with wheel-on-bonnet. He had a problem and had to get under the bonnet. So he's sitting with his nackers on the radiator cap and his face on top of the engine with a hand either side. Big truck thunders past and blows the bonnet down. This traps him. He was there for two hours until the truck came past again (this was on a outback country road down the Coromandel) and the driver thought it was strange that the vehicle was still there and that there was a pair of legs waving around. He was rescued. Reminded me of your front hatch exploits. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I know that must have been a long few hours at the time,but the image is pretty funny, now. I can picture it happening. With your shoulders that close to the hinged side of the bonnet, with 30-40 kilos combined bonnet and wheel having the leverage on you, you would not be able to lift it easily.

I had a number of problems with the old wheel-on-the-bonnet scenario.

Hey, he should thank his lucky stars the Samaritan was straight...

some of those long-haul truckers are wired a little funny, you know?
Lonely road, not a witness in sight, all the time in the world...

Anonymous said...

The old "it's not your lucky day is it?" scenario. To funny.

Unknown said...


The defender looks kick a&*! Those have always been one of my favority "no-frills" 4x4's. Too bad they discontinued them in the states. What year is yours again? I know you have said many times but couldn't find the year in past posts.....Thanks again, Mark

Anonymous said...

We looked into it, and they quit exporting to the US around 97 I believe. I read it was because the Defenders did not come equipped with air bags, and US regs. required them. Land Rover supposedly figured that the limited market in the US just didn't justify the cost of coming up with a US compatible version.

Ours is a 2006. It's the Defender 90 model, with a TDi engine. That's a four cylinder, intercooled turbo diesel. We bought it here used, with only 6,000 miles on it. The original owner had to move back to the US, and couldn't take it.

We get about 28 mpg with it, which is not bad for a full time 4x4. We have some more plans for it. We would like a roll cage, for example. And we are going to need a new soft top within the next year or two. The tropical sun is hard on things like that.