Monday, June 30, 2008

Gerald the Herald's Biggest Adventure - Chapter 1

The plan was simple - fly down to Brisbane on the Monday, pick up my car on Tuesday, register it and drive back to Moranbah, about 800km NW. The reality, of course, was far more exciting!

1 Getting Legal
When I first saw Gerald at the freight depot, he looked a bit lost and forlorn. Absolutely filthy after sitting on the wharf, the windows were down, the interior dusty and the engine bay was caked with aluminium corrosion and rust. The agents hadn't been able to start him, so had just pushed him into the warehouse. But, Gerald the Herald had made it across the Tasman in one piece and was standing on Australian soil.

I began by cleaning the battery terminals and tightening the clamps. Once it was reconnected the engine turned over, and eventually fired on three cylinders. After a minute or so the fourth chimed in, and the warehouse reverberated to the sound of a cherry bomb muffler, puffing a little oil smoke as it always does after a long rest. It ran!

When I tried to move off, though, there was a horrible grinding noise from underneath. I looked under, but couldn't see anything dragging. It was obvious that something was fouling the driveshaft, so I drove slowly to the front gate and waited for a transport truck recommended by the shipping agent. Time for a bit of cleaning.

Filthy but free - Gerald at the depot, waiting to be picked up.

This is where I definitely landed on my feet. Crash, the truck driver, is a Mini restorer. When he looked at Gerald he suspected it would need some work before it complied with Queensland traffic regulations, and recommended a mate who is a compliance officer have a look. So off we went to John Greene's workshop in the eastern suburb of Wynnum, Gerald tied to the back of the truck and my mountain bike, in turn, strapped to his bike rack.

When he looked over Gerald, John decided the only change it would need was retractable front seatbelts instead of static, static rear belts and mounts for a baby harness. Hmmph. First, though, it needed the driveshaft rubbing sorted, and I'd also noticed that both rear tyres were well worn. The workshop's in an area of small side streets lined with garages, body shops, exhaust fitters and tyre depots. I drove to a tyre place in the next street, and looked underneath while it was jacked up. The exhaust was clear of the driveshaft, meaning it hadn't been pushed up by a ramp. This was bad news because it meant the shaft was rubbing on the floorpan.

After enquiring at a couple of garages, I found one who agreed to let me use their hoist. The problem was that the transmission tunnel under the handbrake had been forced down, hard, onto the driveshaft. How I don't know, possibly a heavy Customs or Quarantine officer knelt on it. Australia's getting fatter, so they say... Anyhow, the problem was fixed by a combination of a very large hammer, and fitting thicker rubber sections between the chassis and floorpan, effectively raising the floor. (You'd think it'd take one solid blow to the head to learn not to stand up too quickly under a hoist. I can report that two blows twenty minutes apart definitely hammer the message home, and provide matching bumps). While he was up on the hoist I greased the UJs and rear wheel bearings. A quick test drive proved it was running well again, and had lost none of its bark.

The seatbelts took about a day to fit, and then Gerald received a 'blue plate' declaring him to be legal - a proud moment. While John worked on Gerald I had a look at his bread and butter work - he restores Mustangs, impecably. The 'roadworthy' was next, and for that it needed a new indicator bulb, the windscreen washers fixed, and a seat mounting bolt replaced. Then it was off to Queensland Transport to get registered, and by lunchtime Friday, Gerald was legal. Time to hit the road!

To make sure the long hibernation hadn't harmed him, we drove about 40 miles on Friday afternoon, out to the eastern suburb of Cleveland to Greg Tunstall Mechanical, Brisbane's Triumph specialist. After picking up the latest issues of Triumph World we went home to pack. Couldn't resist cruising the local 'strip' that night though on the way to a restaurant.

Gerald at John Greene's workshop (above) and one of his regular charges (below).

Acknowledgements: I'd like to thank Steve White of Cargo Online for taking care of the Customs and Quarantine paperwork; 'Crash' for a great yarn and recommending his mate John; John Greene for putting urgent work aside and working to get Gerald compliant before the weekend; and Brett for letting me use his hoist.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Still no news on when Quarantine will be finished with the car. They've had two weeks now. My June break starts next week, so I'm flying to Brisbane on Monday. I have to be back in Moranbah eight days later, so hopefully the car will be ready in time.

In the meantime I bought a wee present for it:

Monday, June 16, 2008


In 1992 I bought my first car, a 1969 Triumph Herald. It was 23 years old, and after being run into the ground by a succession of owners, was nearly dead. In peeling purple, with a knocking engine and self-opening passenger door, it was an eyesore. Its saving grace was that, being a Christchurch car, it had little rust under the awful paint.

Over my years at University most repairs were mechanical. It got a reconditioned engine (two actually, the 'recon' engine was a pup), overdrive, carburettor, electrics - everything to keep it running. It made several trips over the Southern Alps to the West Coast for my Masters thesis. On the first, the brakes overheated down the Otira zigzag... Ah fun times!

Once I had a job, attention turned to bodywork. I painted it myself, and from two metres away it looks pretty good. A retrimmed interior, sunroof, Superlite alloys, Vitesse brakes, swing spring, all turned it slowly from a sad old car to a very happy one. It's only broken down once in nearly 16 years and 60,000 miles, and that was my fault. For many of those 16 years it was my only car, as anything else simply felt like a Herald substitute.

For the last two years, the car has been in semi-retirement. I emigrated to Australia to work as a geologist, and the car went into storage. I drove it each Christmas, but it stayed wrapped up the rest of the year. Last Christmas, as I put it away again, I thought "enough, it's time the car emigrated too".

Which brings us up to the present day. It arrived in Brisbane on June 3rd, has been passed by Customs and is awaiting Quarantine approval. Once that's done it'll need a Roadworthy certificate, registration, and it'll be legal. And then the adventure continues...