Monday, July 30, 2012

Melbourne Surprise

Australia's divided into states, each with its own capital city. I've been to some of them, but a glaring gap, and one I was keen to fill, was Melbourne. It's an old city, founded in the earliest days of British colonisation. These days it competes with Sydney to be the funkiest, most cosmopolitan in Australia. (Sorry Brisbane, you're not there yet).

To jump on a plane and zoom off to another city, you need an excuse. Mine was Cat Stevens' musical 'Moonshadow'. Cat (aka Yusuf Islam) doesn't perform in it but he wrote the story, and the music spans his career. I don't remember hearing his music when I was growing up, but every tune was familiar and many are on my iPod. The show was brilliant, and the songs could have been written for their scenes. I loved it.

Another reason was to meet fellow GT6 owner Craig Trimble, who helps run the Sideways Forum. Craig's had his Damson Mk3 for over fifteen years, and it's slowly being modified to suit his idea of the perfect Triumph. We spend all Saturday in the garage talking Triumphs, BBQing sausages and gradually putting parts into his car. The plan was to get it running in and blast back into town in time for for Moonshadow. We (mostly Craig) modified his transmission cover and refitted it, bolted in the seats, filled the coolant system, modified the heater tap, bolted up the exhaust and relocated the battery to the behind the passenger's seat. This was done by a little after 7pm - the concert started at 8 - so all that remained was to drop the old girl onto her wheels, fire her up and scream into town. 

Triumphs being Triumphs though, she refused to start. A few coughs, plenty of spark and fuel, but no fire. We gave up when the cranking speed started dropping, and I was treated to a just-in-time run into town in a Supercharged Monaro. Thanks Craig, I sat down just as the curtains rose!

The third part of the mystery weekend was catching up with a fellow refugee from Mackay, who lives in Melbourne. We were trapped in Mackay airport by bad weather for two days with nothing but complementary food and wine to sustain us, and she kindly offered to show me some of the sights, sounds and tastes that Melbourne is famous for. A brilliant day of restaurant, bar and cafe-hopping meant that I got very little sleep that night.

Pellegrinis, one of Melbourne's oldest cafes. Great coffee, served with full cream attitude!

Melbourne from the 88th floor of the Eureka tower

And so the verdict? When my GT6 is finished, a perfect test drive would be a run down the East Coast, through Sydney, Melbourne and along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. But Melbourne turned out to be more fun than I'd thought possible - I'll be back much sooner than that :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Changing gear

'It never rains but it pours.' 'Like WW1 but with more mud'. 'You weren't there man, you don't know.' All these phrases were muttered last week. I was sent to relieve for another geologist at Newlands Coal  Mine. Because they were short-staffed I was asked to stay on a couple of extra days. That may have turned out to be a good thing, as I got to work with a mine senior geo from head office and learnt a few new tricks. But it rained, and that was a game-changer. Drilling operations in the middle of nowhere stop work when it rains, as they can't move trucks and there's a likelihood that even 4WDs will get stuck. Not at mine sites though - the philosophy is that there is no piece of stuck equipment that can't be moved with a big enough dozer. So out into the mud we went. It wasn't cold but it was still a wet, slippery, sticky day.
A small part of Newlands on a fine day. For scale, those roads are about 15m wide. The whole complex is about 30km end to end, Anywhere else, it's be considered three separate mines. And those 5-trailer trucks are BIG.

 Our drill site. Did I mention the mud?

The same rain and low cloud then meant that flights couldn't land at Mackay airport for the next two days. Some airports have radar beacons, but not Mackay. At one point we heard a plane try to land, but he chickened out. Still, I got to spend time in the departure lounge drinking coffee and chatting. By the end we'd made some new friends ;-) The poor people getting thrown around above us had it much harder.

When I finally made it home my latest Triumph part had arrived - a W58 gearbox bought off eBay. I have a kit to fit it to a TR6 motor, which is the same as a GT6's except for a different back plate. The kit includes a custom bellhousing, clutch components and gear lever adapter. I still need to find a W58 gear lever though, as my box came without one. The box will get stripped and checked before going in the car.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

In disgrace

Old cars only make sense on an emotional level - certainly not practical and rarely financial. We love them when we're building or driving them, and feel betrayed when they let us down. My Herald has given me twenty years of pretty reliable service and I love it for that. But right now I can't help scowling at it. It's sick, I've tried to cure it and it hasn't worked. Bastard!

When I moved back to Brisbane from Moranbah it was running perfectly. We enjoyed a two-day drive through half of Queensland, camping along the way. But once back in Brisbane it hasn't been so happy.

  • First the diff seal failed, the oil escaped and the diff was damaged.
  • The diff was replaced with a new alloy case and new gears which were lapped to ensure they ran quietly. Of course I also repainted and rebushed the rear suspension - can't go putting dirty bits in my Precious!
  • Then the clutch slave cylinder failed, in traffic and a huge cloud of smoke and humiliation. New cylinders are cheap, and I also rekitted the master cylinder and changed the clutch to silicone fluid. Was the wee darling appeased? Like hell!
  • While its Carcoon is getting fixed it has to sit on the drive in all weathers. The cat thinks the sunroof is a perfect hammock, and now the sunroof is stretched and letting in water. Removing the floor drain plugs has helped slightly but I am looking into the water-proofing properties of cats.
  • Now the car has developed some sort of 'dragging' problem. It feels as though the brakes are half on, but I'm at a loss to explain how. I've replaced the master cylinder - no change. I disabled the servo by disconnecting the vacuum hose - no change. It had better not be a half-seized diff.
It doesn't help that it's hard to work on the car on my drive because of the slope.. But at the moment I have had a gutsful of its poor reliability and expensive taste in parts. It's just begging to be sent to Greg Tunstall's School for Recalcitrant Triumphs.

Meanwhile the GT6 is slowly taking shape. The headlining is in, I've established that the upholsterer with the seats is still alive and the wiring is getting sorted. One of my children is therefore making me happy.