Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The carpet goes in

I decided that carpet would be nicer than rubber in the end so yesterday I bought some tough green carpet and spent today fitting it in the back. There's plenty left over for the front too but that's a much trickier job which I'll do another day. I also bought some of that stuff you make door mats from and fitted that to the back steps. At the same time I addressed the problem of the back door not shutting properly with the step folded up and fixed that too. She looks a lot better and I am starting to get glimpses of what she'll look like when she's finished. Tomorrow I'll finish off the bed/bench woodwork ready for the cushions which should be ready in a few weeks. A solution to the problem of how to make it open both ways popped into my head today so I'll try it out tomorrow.

I also had a crazy idea about chopping the insides out of an old 1960's TV I have and converting it into the kitchen base unit but I'm not so sure it will work. It would be superb if it did.

Monday, 29 December 2008

An Exhausting Christmas (including bums on seats part 3)

I thought I'd take Althea up to Yorkshire for a few days over Christmas so I chucked a couple of my guitars in the back and headed for the M1. On the way I stopped in Watford for lunch with my friends Toby and Ru where I dropped off an amplifier which was part of a swap for a Roland drum kit and off I went.

About 100 miles into the trip I realized that the screws I had used to secure the driver's seat were not all the way in and that they were being literally a pain in the bum. I stopped at a service station and cut up some foam as a temporary fix.

As I left the motorway and hit the steep hills of Yorkshire I noticed the already loud engine sound had started to become deeper and more guttural. When I started the engine next morning it was very noisy and smoke was pouring from the front. The cab filled with smoke too.

The flexi exhaust pipe had come away from the engine. Not good. On closer investigation it became obvious that it had never been properly welded. This explains the very loud engine and lack of power from the start. I bought some emergency repair stuff and did my best to patch it up but to no avail. I even managed to coat my right leg in dog shit whilst doing it too.

Being Christmas and Sunday by then I had no chance of getting it fixed. I made the decision to drive her home anyway. So I did. 170 miles down the M1 in the dark with a top speed of 55 mph and the smell of smoldering plywood on the hills.

Today I tried Kwik-fit and not surprisingly they wouldn't attempt it. The local welder will probably do it but he isn't back for a few days. I think I'll buy a cheap basic welding kit and have a go myself.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Bums on seats part two

This morning I took Althea to the used office furniture shop round the corner in Brockley. The two guys who run the shop were clearly charmed by her as was an old chap who crossed the street to come and talk to us. I doubt I will ever get tired of how much pleasure she brings to people.

My idea was to buy an office chair and take the seat part off to use on its own as the driver's seat. I looked at a couple of cloth and plastic ones which were pretty ugly. I spotted a couple of leather look ones but the guys said they were too expensive at £40. Once I'd explained what I was going to do one of them led me into the back room and pointed out a black fake leather chair with bits missing and a damaged back but the seat was perfect. They let me have it for £10, wished me merry Christmas and loaded it into the back.

It took about 20 minutes to unscrew the seat and mount it in position. Not only does it look great but it's the perfect height too. It also allows the battery compartment lid to open fully now too. Getting in and out is not as hard as before but still a bit tricky.

I received some of the chargers and connectors I have been waiting for today so now I have a much neater solution to my sat nav and GPS problems too.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Bums on seats

Yesterday I drove Althea up to hackney to collect a rear seat from a V reg Mercedes ambulance I bought on eBay. Alas it's no good for either driver nor passenger seat so it will probably go in the back if I use it at all. It was only £23.50 so no great loss if it doesn't get used.

On the way there a kid on a bike with L plates stopped very suddenly in front of me causing me to do an emergency stop. Althea's brakes are completely manual and take some effort to stamp on but she skidded her 3 tons about 20 feet and missed the bike by about a foot. I hope it was enough to teach the lad a lesson. By the look in his eyes (which were of course all I could see through the helmet) he made a pretty quick decision not to do that kind of thing again.

After Hackney we headed to central London and my place of work to collect the American walnut I salvaged from some building work we are having done. The tourists were predictably delighted by the sight of her trucking through town and though my route didn't take us through Trafalgar Square we came pretty close. Apart from all the usual smiles and nods one woman videoed us as we went by and another was very excited and gave me the biggest grin with a very enthusiastic two thumbs up. I got the feeling she may own one or something similar.

Driving through the city wasn't as difficult as I thought it might have been. It's surprising just how patient people are when there's a slow moving vehicle in front of them if it's something they can enjoy for a few moments I suppose.

So I got the wood and the seat home and today spent the afternoon cutting out the horrible Volvo seat and re attaching the seat belt properly. I have no driver's seat now but there's a bit of folded foam rubber doing the job until I can get something suitable. Hopefully I can find something or have something made. It's such a relief not to have my knee wedged against the wheel at least.

In a few days I'll be heading off up North for the holidays and taking her with me.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bah Humbug!

Apart from 12 hours at work and 2 hours traveling on horrible trains I have found the time to relax a bit in SL with my old pal Plum and some Germans we've recently met who are like a reflection of our little group in so many ways that someone (we can't remember who) said it was like the scene in Shaun Of The Dead, when the two groups of survivors meet. When "tolberg" played some of his very early music and it sounded exactly like my first noodlings it sealed the deal so to speak.

So what does this have to do with the ambulances I hear you ask? Well not much. But while all this was going on I was cutting out the printed photo's of Althea in the snow, printing and folding the backgrounds for the cards I am making and winning on eBay a very stylish green passenger seat for her.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The bench gets started.

I spent most of the day making this bed-base/bench. It still needs more work but I've got the biggest part of it done. I also found some spares for the rear interior light and fixed one of the three non working ones which is just as well because the one that was working before gave up.


Today I went to Rolls and Rem's to see about the cushion covers and choose a fabric. I had decided not to use the brown fake suede and went for a deep green heavy duty corduroy instead. On the way home I stopped off at Halfords and bought some bulbs that looked right.

Later I spent a while just sitting in the cab listening to the rain falling on the roof and watching little drips find their way down the inside of her windscreen and form pools on the dashboard which eventually overflowed and found their way out of a small rust hole in the floor.

I used one of the bulbs I bought to find out which of the dangling cables were live or not. I unscrewed the cover of the cab light and luckily the bulb was indeed exactly the same as the ones I had bought. I replaced it with a new one and flicked the switch....nothing. I decided to look at it again in the morning.

I sat back again and relaxed. About 15 minutes later the light came on. I hadn't moved anything or touched anything. I'd forgotten all about it.

There's something really calming and comfortable about being in Althea.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Althea gets new eyelids and goes shopping

I guessed that the headlights would be the same as Morris Minor lights so bought these chrome peaks off eBay and after a small amount of physical persuasion they were on. She now looks even more "alive" and like a prop from Wallace and Gromet.......(thinks....where can I get a life sized plasticine dog?.......)

I took her to Lewisham on Saturday to get the foam for the bench/bed. The car park I normally use is restricted to vehicles under 6 feet high so we went in search of a parking space. I drove up a side street which became narrower and then just ended. There were cars parked on both sides and as I discovered after attempting a 300 point turn, not enough room to turn round. It would have been hard enough in a small car but with her size and weight and absence of power steering it was extremely difficult.
Eventually I had her facing forward again and carefully picked my way back out in reverse.
I put her on a meter outside the Salvation Army shelter much to the delight of passers by and fellow drivers. I'm thinking of taking a video camera out soon to record the reactions of people on the street.
In no time I had ordered the foam and got a number for someone who can sew the covers for me.
On the way home I stopped off at the local welder's to discuss a couple of little jobs.
I bought a big red button for the klaxon which just happened to be exactly the same as the broken and badly fitted big red button I removed. I cleaned up the hole and the new one fits perfectly.
The coolant filler cap I bought from eBay fits perfectly. It has been way too cold to do much more and there's no point doing much until the window seals have been replaced anyway.
I was going to buy a free standing kitchen unit from IKEA to put the sink/hob into but after measuring the space I need to think again. There's a piece of Sicilian marble I've had for years that looks the part but it weighs a hell of a lot.

More soon Camper Fans