'Desert Ute' ~ A pickup for the Sahara
in association with the Matt Savage Ute
Off in a week and just picked
up my all terrain canoe trolley from Matt's.
I was away
Matt fitted a second battery (left) and a what I consider a
foolproof 'split charge' system which avoids diodes, schmiodes
and gnashed teeth with two dead bats and fries.
With the chunky
red dashboard key in (right), both bats are connected and get
charged off the alternator while the car is running. Come night
time or a lay over, put chunky to bed in the ash tray
and the second leisure bat can be run down with ancillaries
run off a dedicated four-way cig connector.
There is also a switch
for the Kenlowe fan left of the red key. The thermostat broke
off before it even got used so it's been eliminated but I prefer
to turn the fan on manually anyway as I always have an eye
on the temp needle.
q/d shovel has been tucked onto
the side for easy deployment during
boggings and for going to the bog. And on the back across the
tailgate with easy-to-use screw down handles (not shown) are
the ally sand plates last used during my Mercedes
190 experiment a
couple of years back,
be matched by a pair of red Soltracks (below) which I've bought
for all of us from France for €70 a pair. (Fyi, 2009: still the same price from the manufacturers but often sold for double at 4WD places in Europe). I've
cut the corners off my pair to tuck them all the better under
cleared wheels, a la Grand Erg plates. Light
and harmless, they feel pretty tough, but a few days of 2 tons
mashing down on them may make them whimper. I'll be interested
to see how they stand up to it. All these trips of mine include
trying out new things and ideas for my own interest as well
as the next edition of the book. The
Soltracks will also make handy under mats, wind breaks, ping
pong bats and windscreen shades to keep the cab cool over lunch.
Tarps are always tricky to
keep tied down until you get a degree in rope management so
I've come up with a neater idea, an old fishing net bought
off ebay to simply stretch over the tarp and hook down onto
the sides. Haven't tried it yet but there's always lashings
of lashing rope it if fails - and who knows, it may
have some sort of use in the desert an a communal sand hammock.
was going to take two 200-litre drums plus
a jerry for measuring it out, but checking
the insides of one drum today revealed some rust and water.
Who knows how it got in but I can't be bothered to trace a
leak if there is one so I've dumped it and decided to use one
drum and a few more jerries.
As it was I was thinking
that two part-filled and unbaffled drums will surge undesirably,
300 kilos of diesel mounted high slopping left and right
could push the car over the brink on an off-camber dune slope.
My last-minute reasoning is that one full drum won't slosh
the way two part filled would have done.
This already narrow ute has
turned out higher than necessary, a combination of desirable
750 x 16 wheels and the not so necessary 2-inch lift you get
whether you like it or not with with heavy duty OMEs. Too late
to do much about that now but it gives me more space in
the back which does not hurt.
For the big stage across the
Empty Quarter my car ought to easily get by on 350 litres -
(2100km @ 6kpl) which is a near-full drum, 5 jerries and the
fuel tank. I nailed some blocks
of wood to a a table top to to help
keep the drum in place for the duration with the help of a
chunky lorry tie down.
Apart from the glove box the
cab has no useful pockets or storage to speak off. I'll chop
some bits out of my tarp net and pin it to the back of the
seat for storage as well as clip a crate down with the passenger
seat belt for handier access on the move. It's going to be
tricky logging the entire route for posterity. Normally a pax
jots down the waypoint number and notes so to get round this
I've bought myself a dictaphone for use on the move which will
need transcribing each evening.
And that is about it, baring
the usual last minute drama. Come
back in a few days if you want to see a pic of the Desert Ute
loaded up and ready for lift off.
Overall I'm confident in the
young Taro's untested set up. Its a nice light car to drive,
young enough not to be shagged out and I'm sure the ease of
access will have its rewards in the desert. With a bit of carpet
tiling on the load bed and my mattress over the
top, It should be pretty quiet. If it tips over at least it's
easy to unload and light enough to pull back up without doing
much more damage.
My biggest concern is the lack
of power, not helped by the over-sized tyres. It's been a
few years now but whatever I drive I think I still have not
got over my HJ61's bark-stripping grunt. The toughest section
of the Empty Quarter will be getting through the Ouarane
Sand Sea east of Guelb where all the cars will be maxed
out on payload. A grunty 60 will manage OK but the limp
2.4 Tojo engine will not have to poke to gain momentum to get
up over the dunes. It will be like being in a Series III all
over again - claw it's way along,
one bogging at a time! This picture of the Saviem expedition
in the Aïr
comes to mind...
Oh well, que sera sera. If
crossing the EQ was easy someone else would have done it by
now. Pop back around Xmas to see
how it went.
More on the SEQ expedition here
The last I saw of the Taro at Ikhalil contrabanders compound in north Mali.
As far as I know it's still there, though probably even less intact and maybe full of bullet holes