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Adventure Stories & Humor

There and Back Again by Benjamin Smith

It started out as a quick jaunt in the forest with OVLR. Well, ok, I started out 410 miles away near Boston, but still it wasn't supposed to be a great adventure. As usual, I couldn't get out of work before 8pm (I had intended to leave at 4pm). I should have known that there was bad karma on this trip when, a few miles out Boston, I tried to put a tape in the tape player and it refused to take the tape. Instead of music from the CD player, I got to listen to the dull roar of a Series Land Rover at 3000 rpm for about 9 hours. I finally pulled into Ottawa around 5am.

A few hours later I was back on the road following Dixon in the Green Beastie towards the meeting place, a Service station near Vars. When we got there, Dixon asked if I knew that one head light was out. I didn't--something else to fix when I got back home. I still had one working head light--that should be enough. The club spent the day playing in the La Rose Forest. Some good off-roading with wading and mud. I got myself good and stuck in one water hole, but a some tugs from Kevin and the Lightweight got me out. Later on in the day I got to return the favor. As the day progressed the starter motor started acting up. Sometimes the starter dog wouldn't engage the flywheel and sometimes the starter would barely turn the engine over. So I got a few push and tug starts. Dinner was excellent; steak and potatoes cooked by Dave Meadows, Christine Rose and a host of others. On the way back to Ottawa, I noticed that Dora's oil pressure was critically low. So I pulled over and checked the oil. It was all there, so I limped the few km to Dixon's house.

Sunday I went out to Dora and found a large oil puddle under her that looked like it came from the rear main seal. She had never done that before. Dixon immediately complained about Dora deflowering his laneway before he could. I pulled the starter and found that the ground wire had become detached. I cleaned the starter up and oiled the dog gear. Upon refitting the starter turned everything over quickly. One problem solved. I drained the oil and found contaminated by a little water. The oil was discolored, but not the typical chocolate co lour. With a new oil filter and new oil, the pressure was reading lower than normal, but not critical. Thinking that the oil pump was showing some wear, I headed for home late Sunday afternoon. As the engine temperature rose, the pressure declined to a critical level . So I pulled over and found myself at the Vars exit.

I was unable to contact Dixon or Dale and was lucky to find Ted and Christine in the phone book. So Dora and I limped over to their place. By the time I arrived, Ted had already pulled out his spare oil pump. In his laneway we pulled the sump and the oil pump. Like a vulture attracted to carrion, Dixon showed up a little while later to offer advice and drink beer. A disassembly of the pump showed that though the pump was worn, it was in as least as good shape as Ted's spare. The oil pressure check valve was also ok. So we pulled a rod bearing. The bearing was worn down to the copper layer. The crank was worn, but it was unknown how badly. The middle main bearing showed similar wear. A groove had been worn in the crank from the oil channel on that bearing. Still we didn't think there was enough wear for a critical loss of oil pressure. After putting the bottom end back together we inspected the tappets. They showed wear, but again nothing critical. Dora was started and oil was getting to the tappets. A test drive, however, showed that we still had the oil pressure loss as the temperature increased to normal. Christine offered to give me a place to crash for the night and we strategised on replacing bearings in the morning.

Monday dawned and I made my way over to Dixon's. There I found Dixon and Roy Baille. We discussed what the problem could be. Dixon actually had new normal sized bearings in stock, so I spent the day pulling the sump and replacing the front and mid main bearings as well as the four rod bearings. During the day Ted, Andrew Finlayson and Bruce Murray stopped by at various times and gave advice. At various times we would wander back to Dixon garage and look for old blocks to theorize where the oil was going. (Luckily for us Dixon has lots of bits of Land Rovers laying around) When Dora was all back together I fired her up, but she still had declining oil pressure. Damn.

Depressed Dixon, Bruce and I drank a few beers while standing at the end of Dixon's laneway. A car pulled over and a pair of guys about 20 got out. They were Belgium or the Netherlands and were looking for some town in Quebec with a map of North America where Toronto and Montreal were about two inches apart. They must have noticed the Green Beastie and Dora because the immediately admitted that one of them owned a Minerva and the other a 110. Small world. Bruce gave them directions and a tattered map.

At this point I gave my boss a few options: to fly home, to get Dora towed by Dale and the Gin Palace, or to pull the engine and work on it. Via email my manager opted for the tow and that arriving Tuesday evening was ok. Well that gave us 24 more hours to play with. Somehow Dixon convinced me that pulling the engine was a good idea. Dale had to replace a wheel bearing in the Gin Place, so would be busy most of Tuesday with that. Worse came to worse we could toss the engine and wings in the back of Dora and tow her as a derelict across the boarder.

I spent the evening stripping off the wings, breakfast, and radiator. The battery came out. The exhaust pipe was disconnected (shearing one of the studs). Somewhere in the middle of this, with many bolts snapping, Dixon mentioned that he knew which Land Rover were good runners; all of the bolt snap when removed. Eventually I had Dora stripped down to the frame and back to the firewall. Since we didn't have a hoist yet I gave up for the evening and joined Dixon and Dale who had already made good headway into drinking a 24.

I arose early Tuesday and pulled the floor boards and gearbox hump. Most of the nuts securing the gearbox to the engine were removed as were the bolts/nuts mounting the engine. When Dixon finally arose we made our way out to Murray Jackson's to get the hoist. Along the way the Green Beastie was leaving behind a black cloud and was occasionally backfiring through the carb. But this is to be expected. After a few minutes with Murray speculating what could be wrong with the engine, we loaded the hoist into the Green Beastie. Back at Dixon's with the hoist we quickly pulled the engine. I had the crank out and was about to pull the timing chain cover when Ted and Jason showed up for their lunch break. They watched and commented as I pulled parts. The chain was still intact. Some of the surfaces of the chain has broken off. We find something interesting. The timing chain gear on the crankshaft had been installed backwards. (I had bought the short block from Atlantic British in about 1991). The chain had worn divots in the front face of the crank over that last 104,000 miles. We even pulled the distributor to see if there was any wear on the dog that drives it and to peek at the cam. Again, nothing extremely bad was found.

We went over to Dale's to see how he was doing with the wheel bearing replacement. The Gin Place was on axle stands with the hub off. Dale loaned me his diesel crank, a newly rebuilt oil pump and a rear main seal kit. Since selling Hogarth he didn't have an immediate need for them. Back at Dixon's I started putting everything back together. Dale finally showed up late in the afternoon with the Gin Palace and lent a hand putting on the flywheel housing, flywheel, clutch and pressure plate while I was refitting the timing chain and cover, the oil pump and sump. By now it was getting on to 6pm. Dale and I could have loaded Dora and towed her to Boston. It was 400 miles and about an 8 hour drive. But we were so close to getting the engine in. That should only take an hour, right? Nope. We tried for hours to get that engine in. We jumped up and down. We pried this way and that. Finally after hours of struggle, the engine was convinced to to go in. The breakfast and radiator assembly was bolted on. Water and oil were added. The starter was hooked up as was the exhaust pipe. With Dale holding the radiator back so that the fan didn't eat the radiator (no wings installed), I started Dora. She ran! The pressure was still off, but maybe it would hold. At this point Dixon pointed out to us that it was 10:30pm. We all were tired and there was no way that we would get far that night. He was right. So Dale went home to crash and Dixon went to sleep (he had a government service language aptitude test in the morning. I stayed up until 3:30am putting the wings on, hooking up and testing the electrics, putting the floors back in, etc.

Wednesday I got up and was puttering around by 8:30am. Dale came by and we took Dora out for a spin. The oil pressure initially held well. But by the time I got back to Dixon's it was critically low. I pulled in and turned Dora off. I got out and noticed lots of oil dripping from Dora. There was a large spot in the middle of Kirkwood where I waited to turn into Dixon's laneway and a trail of oil leading to and away from Dixon's. (Anyone who has had Dixon spill oil all over their laneway now has had their revenge. I did it back to him). The cause for this oil spill is that years ago a corner fell off my timing chain cover. Being a university student and broke I had JB welded a piece of stainless steel over the hole. It held for years, but in our bouncing the engine around with a large steel bar the previous night we had knocked it off. Thus an exposed 1cm by 1/2 cm hole. I cleaned all of the oil off the timing chain cover near the hole and put on a bunch more JB weld to seal the hole. I fired Dora up and she not only kept the oil mostly in, but she kept her pressure up. So I packed up everything and started off for that States.

You would think that the adventure would end here, right? Dora still wanted make me earn my way home. As I drove down the Queensway, I watched the oil pressure gauge like a hawk. The pressure was holding. I knew that I had a chance of making it back when I still had pressure when I passed Vars. As I approached the Quebec boarder, Dora started running more and more uneven. I had a hard time maintaining 100km/hour. I pulled off to investigate. I found that the bolt securing the distributor down had vibrated loose. Maybe had forgotten to tighten it when I put the distributor back on. I tightened it and while I was in there I reset the points.

In Quebec, it started to cloud over and drizzle. I had the driver's doortop off and the passengers in, but not bolted down. It wasn't all that cold so I kept up like this. It started raining harder as I crossed over into the US. I stopped for some food. When I stopped I noticed that Dora didn't want to keep her oil pressure up at idle, so I increase the idle to a fast idle. That kept the pressure high enough to keep the green light (15 lbs per square inch) off. I also put in, but did not bolt down the driver's door top. I continued south.

In Vermont in a construction zone (one lane and a shoulder), I heard a "plink". I perked up--that sounding like something metal breaking! Then I heard another one. I immediately pulled over to investigate. All of the springs looked ok. I rocked the body and watched the suspension. All looked ok. Confused I continued on. I heard one more "plink". Over the next few miles, I slowly realized that I was listing to the port side. Damn, I lost a spring, I thought--one of the leafs mush have broken. About 30 minutes after this I had to stop for gas and dinner. Dora didn't have much oil pressure at idle! I got out and noticed that Dora had a distinct list to the left. Damn. First things first, I checked the oil. It was down just below minimum. 3 quarts later she was happy and running with pressure. Dora had eaten 1 quart per 130km. I looked at the suspension and didn't see anything wrong, except that on the left side both springs were almost riding on their bump stops. The springs looked ok. What I failed to see, and what I didn't realized until a day after I got home, was that the rear spring mount on the left rear side had sheared off flush with the frame. The shackle and remains of the mount where laying on the spring. Luckily for me it was a rear mount. If front mount of the rear spring had failed at freeway speeds, the geometry of the suspension would have changed and made keeping Dora on the freeway a challenge. I did make it 200 miles back to Boston with the mount broken.

It started raining heavier and heavier. Darkness began to fall. As the rain fell I noticed that my right knee was getting sprayed by a drip. This confused me because I couldn't find the source. Finally I had enough of the drip falling inside and spraying my other leg, so I pulled into a rest area secured the door top in the pouring rain. As I continued on in the dark and rain in New Hampshire, it rained so hard that I could no longer see the road or the tail lights of other cars. About this time the remaining head light went out. When suddenly everything goes dark at 100km/hour, you jump a little. I had been having some problems with my Series III turn/hi beam stalk. I couldn't turn on high beams by pushing it forward.that was broken. However if I held the stalk back, I did get one high beam. I would drive holding this stalk for about 20 minutes at time. During this time, I would have to let go and let the world go black every time I needed to downshift for a hill. After about 20 minutes I would let go of the stalk and find that the normal head light had returned. I could drive on with this until it went out again. This process repeated three times. It is disconcerting to be driving at 100km/hour when suddenly everything goes black and you try to remember when the road went as you grab for the high beam stalk.

But Dora finally gave up and let me get home. I pulled in around 11:30pm Wednesday night. Three days after I had intended to get home. Luckily for me when I went into work the next day, the client manager wasn't all that upset. In years back he had owned a Triumph TR-4A and a Jaguar XK-150. He understood the problems with British

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