Every year at about the same time – the school holidays after Christmas – I give Milo an annual check-up.
In the past few years most of the mechanical servicing has been done by Wayne, Aaron, Pete and the lads at Roo Systems workshop. Before that there were a few years where RV and the lads at ARB Queensland handled the bulk of it. They’ve all done a sterling job. But as good as they are and tough as the old girl is, I need to make sure of everything for myself. After all, they’re not there on the track when things break, are they? Well, not always...
Anyway, I built her, I’ve pounded the crap out of her, and at the end of the day I’m responsible. So far the old girl’s always made it home under her own power (‘touch wood’) – wire, tape, ratchet straps and zip ties notwithstanding.
That’s not bad, given there’s more than a million kilometres showing on the four busted speedos on the shelf. She’s been hammered up most of the worst tracks in the country, not to keep up with new and well-modified trucks, but to lead the way. That’s always been my chosen place, not just because I’m the mug choosing the short cuts, but also because everybody else has air conditioning and all that dust-proofing stuff, like window rubbers and things.
Now I was just about ready to retire her after the LowRange series because the cumulative damage of thirty plus years of hard work was starting to cause some major metal fatigue. You can see from the shot taken on a corner of a back track in the Flinders (main pic) that there was so much movement up front that the old girl shed a headlight and one of the driving lights too! She’s definitely seen better days.
Forty Series Tojos have a big hinge as the mount for the front headlight panel and that panel offers the frontal support for the two mudguards as well. While the ‘guards are also mounted to the chassis, it’s done in such a manner that there’s room for flex. This is one of the reasons these old girls are almost indestructible – they are built to move around. You can get almost 60mm of movement diagonally across the riveted chassis for starters, so mount anything too firmly and it’s guaranteed to break.
But Milo’s front panel has been cut and patched several times and after a minor prang in the Kimberley it was pretty much out of shape too. Despite a few new nuts, bolts and ‘temporary’ repairs, it wasn’t doing its job.
Meanwhile, the original doors have led a merry life. The left one has a habit of ‘springing’ open when passengers touch the handle thanks to its leaning against a tree a decade ago in Tasmania. It stopped the old truck rolling but not without cost! My door has been shaken so much the handle dropped off last year.
Doors tend to be sacrificial rust pits in old trucks where the constant flexing weakens the metal and allows plenty of dust and water to settle in the inner crevices. Yes, I have bogged them up a few times now – it’s amazing what you can do with fibreglass reinforced filler; maybe it isn’t a surprise the Septone factory is right here on the Mudflats!
The bonnet has had a rough ride keeping a lid on things, too. In fact this bonnet is so stuffed its next life will see it mounted over a fire place or something.
But a few little things like this aren’t enough to kill a tough old bird like Milo, so my sons and I spent our Christmas holidays tarting her up with a few new/old bits. It’s become a tradition I guess, because I’ve got photos of the lads at age four and six, helping me wire-brush down the body ahead of another repaint and another year of hard tracks.
There’s more to it than damage control, though. I like to chuck a few improvements in – I get plenty of time to dream up crazy solutions on those long outback tracks – and this time that means a whole new way of attacking that potentially weak front panel. Will it work? Well, if it doesn’t, I guess I’ll be wiring her back together somewhere on the side of another track...