DIRTY WORK

THE TASK OF SPRUCING UP MILO IS A MUCH BIGGER JOB THAN FIRST ENVISIONED.

JOHN ROOTH

WHOA, by now youíre starting to wonder if old Milo will ever come back together, right?

Oh, youíre not, youíre too busy out exploring. Well I guess thatís half of Miloís problem, too Ė sheís done so much exploring in out-of-theway places, sheís in danger of falling to bits because of it.

Take that time in the Gulf when Glen, Kenno and I were cutting a new track through the scrub at Lorella Springs. We hit the beach, noted no movement in the tide and figured it was safe to go fishing. Then the tide whistled in about a metre in less than an hour and suddenly the once-safe beach turned into a nightmare of undermined sand. If we hadnít been carrying a dozen MaxTrax between us and been able to build a road to harder sand, weíd have been stuck for good.

Nothing like a bit of adventure, eh?

However, sand and salt takes its toll on an old truck, and everything Iíve looked at lately has taken me another level down in the repair stakes Ė what should have been a quick paint and lube has turned into a marathon of welding and patching. Good thing a blokeís got a motorbike to ride to and from the wrecking yard.

But the truth is Iíve been missing my old girl so badly I had to hook in and get her finished. It is one thing to do the family holidays in the mustard truck, but quite another to get old Milo out there shifting dirt.

I say that because thatís how I think of this truck: more of an earth-moving machine than a vehicle. In many ways thatís the truth of it, too, because the 13BT motor is an industrial diesel sourced from a dump truck and the low-range GearMaster transfer case and ELockers mean you can puddle around at tracked vehicle speeds when things get tough. Itís also

usually dirtier than the Bobcats I used to operate, and itís certainly no more comfortable.

This might explain why Iím a tad Ďrelaxedí on how she looks. Nicko and I used to paint all of our mining gear with roof and metal paint because opal clay was corrosive, but there was something about having the compressor, hoist, generators and trucks all painted the same livery that made us look a bit more professional. At least thatís what we thought!

When your best truck is a 1950 Maple Leaf (Canadian Chev) running no brakes, timber-hungry board trays and a petrol tank thatís a five gallon jerry with a plastic pipe hanging off the running board, well, you need all the help you can get to look professional.

So it was never hard for me to squirt another coat of roof and metal paint on Milo every few years and, yes, there is a can in the glovebox for touch-ups.

Looks arenít everything in the offroad world, which explains where Iím going with this latest modification, too.

Because I havenít a clue what itís going to look like. As my wife is always keen to point out, I have no imagination whatsoever when it comes to visualising the end result of any project I attempt.

She says that from experience. Take the sheds I built that looked tiny on the plans but somehow grew another storey or two, or the picnic table and benches that would be perfect if you didnít need to be about eight feet tall to climb on board. Being Ďvertically challengedí, she took that one particularly badly. Pity, but at least it saved me sanding it.

Right, so here we go with something completely different: Putting a Ďremoteí headlight panel out front of a 40 Series, which will extend the nose by about 60mm and may look a tad strange.

But engineering-wise, it was the best possible alternative for a whole lot of reasons. As detailed in past columns, this front panel knits the mudguards together while allowing the whole front end to flex where itís hinged to the chassis, so it needs to be strong.

This is why I made the new one from angle iron, because I needed plenty of strength but still wanted to have a lot of room to mount the intercooler and run the pipes. Like everything else on Milo, this is something Iíve played with so many times on the tracks that Iíve had time to think about how Iíd like it in a perfect world.

Since Roo Systems custom-built the intercooler Iíve come to love the extra power, but, on more than one occasion, one of the hoses has come loose as weíve belted down a corrugated track. No problem. You know about it straight away because the power drops off and it sounds like someoneís put a vacuum cleaner under your seat. But squeezing around the cut frame to get the pipes seated properly cost me a lot in Band-Aids.

Not anymore Ė if all goes well. By making the headlight frame remote I can mount it on bolts, making it quick to remove. And if I get it right with some rubber tube either side of the frame, thereíll be a measure of shock absorption built in, too. This is important because these old girls have a habit of hammering out bulbs and lenses fairly frequently once they get a bit loose. In fact, I carry a few spare bulbs and lenses on every trip. At least itís easy to get a seven-inch round insert in country towns Ė itís possibly the most common light ever used!

However, theyíre not easy to swap around once youíve taken up all the available space behind the grille with turbo and intercooler pipes. So making the panel quickly detachable will make swapping out the lights much more Ďplug-and-playí.

The only issue is what will the finished job look like? Hmmm, hang in there. With a bit of luck Iíll get it finished next month and you can make up your own mind. What colour? Green, of course, with a sprinkle of orange.

Yep, Iíve been carrying the MaxTrax on the roof rack for the past decade or so, but after that emergency up in the Gulf Iím shifting them to somewhere a whole lot easier to get to in a hurry Ė right above the driverís door.

I just have to build something to hold them. Gee, wonder what that will look like?