For the last couple of months there has been a bit of a lull in the car preparation whilst we concentrated on other areas of our trip planning; this is all about to change.
The spare bedroom at my parents house is already full of car part boxes and over the coming weeks they are going to multiply like little cardboard rabbits.
We have our work cut-out as we use the car on a daily basis, but we have formed a plan and it seems like a good one. Before we go into that, A WORD OF WARNING; from this point onwards this blog post becomes very techy and probably quite dull unless you have a keen interest in car cooling systems and roof racks.
Phase One: The Roof Rack
After spending countless hours on the internet downloading every interesting picture (they do exist) of an expedition roof rack I have come to a final decision on what will work best for us. The main problem with our car selection is the lack of roof gutters or roof rails. Essentially our little Bee-Bee has nothing to fit a roof rack too. After seeing the prices of expedition roof racks coupled with the lack of fixings I came to the conclusion that it would be better for us to get something custom fabricated. Custom normally equals expensive; enter Paul Bromley. Emma met Paul through her current job and had mentioned to him about our trip. Paul owns and runs a garage (Les Landes Garage) and knows a stack of people with all the expertise we need. After a chat with Paul we have arranged a ‘sponsorship in kind’ kinda deal with him. I’m keen to do as much work on the car as possible, but as winter is fast approaching I don’t really fancy working on our driveway in the pouring rain. Paul has agreed that we can do work in his garage and has offered up his expertise (which I will definitely need) at a discounted rate. He has also agreed to build us our roof rack for free. In return we will promote his garage and he will become one of our support partners. Paul is a genuinely nice guy and has a wealth of knowledge on anything practical; I can’t wait to get cracking and learn as much as possible from him.
Phase Two: The Cooling System
Over the last 8 months I have learnt an incredible amount about how our beloved 17 yr old Surf works. Out of all the mechanical areas of the vehicle that are going to need upgrading for such a trip, the cooling system is one area that needs the most attention to ease my mind. We are planning on visiting some hot countries and with a fully laden vehicle this can seriously put a strain on what is typically an engine that runs hot. The 1KZ-TE engine is notorious for boiling over and this can lead to burst radiators, split pipes and the worst-case scenario, a cracked head. The hot engine coupled to what is generally regarded a pretty useless temperature gauge is a recipe for disaster. After much research on the Hilux Surf forum, I have put together a plan which will safeguard our engine from blowing its top.
Before I do anything else, I’m going to fit an auxiliary digital water temp gauge and sender just to check what temperature the engine is running at the moment. This should give me a good idea of how successful my mods are. I will be keeping the original gauge and sender working as a back-up (not that it ever moves from halfway).
Next on the list is to fit the Kenlowe extractor fan on the bonnet, somewhere at the back with the vent facing the windscreen. This should improve the airflow through the engine bay and radiator no end. Apparently these fans can lower the engine bay temp up to 12 degrees, and with a black car in sunny climates that should certainly help keep all the temps down. We’ll check how effective it is once the digital temperature gauge is installed. In colder climates the fan should cunningly help de-ice the windscreen.
One of the major design flaws in the radiator on the automatic models is that the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) cooler is based in the lower half of the radiator. When under strain the gearbox oil can heat up excessively, the hot oil from the gearbox is then pumped through the bottom half of the rad. Instead of cooling, this can act like a heat exchanger and warm up what should be cool water in the radiator before pumping it back into the engine. Literally not cool!
As the vehicle is 17 yrs old and not knowing the full history of it I’m going to fit a new replacement radiator from Milners to ease my mind, at £115 this could be a saving grace. Whilst I’ve got the front end in bits, I’m going to stick an additional ATF cooler in, I’m planning on sticking this inline before the radiator so the oil is cooled before it enters the radiator for extra cooling. This additional cooler will not only help keep the temperature of the gearbox oil down (essential with a fully loaded car) but will also help prevent the gear box oil boiling up the water/coolant.
My final cooling system modification is a very simple but effective one. The fan on these vehicles is of the viscous type. This means that is has an oil operated clutch in it. When the engine heats up, the oil changes consistency and the fan starts to grip more and turn faster. Over time the oil can slowly leak out and make the fan less effective. The oil in the fan can be replaced with a different consistency making it kick in slightly earlier cooling the engine more effectively.
With the front end looking so bare, it seems that now would be a good time to install a new tubular winch bumper. The winch bumper obviously facilitates the option of fitting a winch, but also reinforces the front end should we every encounter a deer, kangaroo or Indian truck driver. After much internet hunting that generally led to dead ends I have managed to hunt down a man fittingly named Monster Truck Man (or MTM to his Hilux Pick-Up Owners Club forum buddies) who can make us one for our model of car that costs much less than the U.S versions I found so easily.
Once all these modifications are done I will be happy that our beloved Bee-Bee engine will be suitably prepared for our trip.
It is important to both Andy and I that we are not merely tourists on a whistle-stop tour within each country we visit. We want to experience what life in each country is really like; laugh with local people, stuff ourselves with regional foods, get drunk on foreign boozes, become lost in wilderness realms and stumble upon indigenous wildlife. On the same note, we are conscious of it being a one-way arrangement; all take and no give. For this reason, we have decided to team up and work with a few local non-governmental organisations in several of the countries on our 800 days itinerary. Our trip is already a low-cost endeavour so unfortunately any financial support for these charity organisations would be minimal. What we can offer however, is our time and extensive knowledge (well, we have plenty of time). We are willing to help wherever needed and are focusing on community based educational, social and environmental projects. We are hoping to arrange running educational courses or groups in our area or expertise. For myself, I will run short courses on local environment and wildlife (collecting bugs, measuring plants, identifying birds). Andy will run art workshops which could include drawing, painting, textiles, photography, woodwork and sculpture.
We have recently confirmed our first 800 days local project partnership with Emmanuel Children’s Home in Kerala, Southern India http://www.emmanuelchildrenshome.com/ . This project was established in 2000 with 12 children; the home now has 160 residents including orphaned children, vulnerable young women, boys and girls from extremely impoverished single parent families and youngsters with physical disabilities. The home provides shelter, food, education and security for poor and disadvantaged kids irrespective of caste, creed, religion or social and financial status. Children who come from distressed or broken homes are provided with special care for their physical, mental and emotional health, nutritional, developmental and educational needs.
We are looking forward to spending at least a month with all of our 800 days local partners and being able to give a little bit back.
With our first 800 days charity partner project secured, our adventure has now taken on an altruistic slant, one which we hope to build upon with the introduction of more charities worldwide to which we can donate our time and resources. To the outsider, this makes our 800 days expedition less of an extended, work-avoiding ‘jolly’ and allows us the chance to give something back to many of the countries and local communities that we will be visiting.
We’re not trying to make out we’re following in the footsteps of Mother Theresa or anything, but what we do want to achieve will require some financial backing for basic materials and for this we feel justified in asking for a little help from our friends.
Father Harry Clarke, a Catholic priest from Stockport first introduced the car boot sale to the UK after seeing a similar event being held in Canada while on holiday in the early 1970s. There are now over 2,000 car boot sales happening across the UK every weekend. One of these can be found every Saturday at Le Mare de Carteret School on our home island of Guernsey and it is to this temporary tarmac shopping paradise that we planned to take a Bee-Bee full of goodies to try and make our fortune.
The idea is a winner on several counts; firstly, people get to carry out what is now fashionably termed ‘life laundry’... the de-cluttering of one’s possessions which according to ‘life coaches’ can have a serious emotional impact on our lives. Win. Secondly, these possessions consequently avoid the dustbin; re-using items is even better than recycling in planet-saving terms so our endeavour is also ecologically aware. Win. Thirdly, complete strangers will acquire something they more-than-likely don’t need for a vastly, knocked-down price; the psychology of getting a bargain includes a rush of dopamine (happy chemical) in the brain which elicits a feeling of pleasure and general well-being. Win. Finally, we get to raise some much-needed monies to help us reach our adventuring goal which has now taken on a slightly less selfish aspect. WIN.
It took a few rounds of house-to-house collections to acquire our second-hand treasure trove, then several hours of sorting, organising and pricing everything we had managed to pillage. We bartered our wares over two weekends; the period in-between Bee-Bee was loaded from floor to ceiling as we drove our mobile swag shop around the island with strings of beads and jewellery swinging from makeshift rails hanging on suit hooks and a poker game board threatening to decapitate either one of us every time we braked sharply. With 7am starts this was never going to be an easy money-making scheme; in addition to a cold, grey, drizzly Saturday and an army of punters resembling junk-starved vultures. Driven by our mission (and bacon sandwiches) we haggled, negotiated, traded and sold until the car park emptied and our money boxed rattled and bulged. In total we raised just over £300, a princely sum when you consider this will fund all the materials we need to run month-long workshops and courses at an orphanage in South India.
Of course none of this would have been possible without the extremely generous donations from family and friends, for which we are enormously grateful. Alongside the car boot staples of clothes, cuddly toys, books and board games, contributions ranged from DJ Turntables and mixers to horse riding gloves, rotating dip bowls and a Skim Board. From costume jewellery and handbags to a cut glass fruit bowl and a snowboard jacket. Not forgetting Big Daddy’s underpants and autograph in a huge (obviously) frame... sold for a respectable £4 to a woman whose husband is not going to know what hit him on Christmas morning.