The Dream is Born
Travelling through Zimbabwe and South Africa in 1992 with a bunch of friends first spawned the idea of a Land Rover trip back to the UK… On arrival in Cape Town I noticed a yellow Defender for sale for R15,000 (about £3000) we discussed how cool it would be to travel Africa in a year or two… Twenty years and many small trips, mainly in a VW Kombi called Katie, took me to most of South Africa and the neighbouring countries. However, the trip through Africa kept bubbling up in my wish list.
I met my wife in 2010 and threw out the idea of an overland trip… She was also enthusiastic much to my glee and relief. However, Pete wanted to go in a Defender. Caroline did her own research and came back with the conclusion that ‘I’m not going in a Deafener… if we’re going don’t want noise and water leaks’… So a mate of mine suggested a Discovery.. same chassis and engine but for me at the time not quite the image!
My wife and I arrived in the UK in 2011 for a few months work and immediately started looking for Land Rovers… Another couple of years flew past and we found ourselves in Skipton. A Land Rover mate of mine at work put me onto a Discovery for sale in Bromsgrove. I was busy with a cycling event so Caroline went down to check it out in July 2013. All reports came back very favourably. Her main criteria was air conditioning! Apart from that it was in good condition and had low mileage (96,000 miles). It was steeply priced at £4,000 but we felt it was worth it – not knowing much about them at the time. We went down a couple of weekends later to collect our cross Africa vehicle and were both well chuffed with our purchase. Following the trend of ‘Katie Kombi’, ‘Ronnie Ranger’, ‘Tulula Toledo’ etc… the new Landie became ‘Shelley’. I proudly took her into work one day to show my mates. One of them took one look and said ‘that’s not a vehicle, that’s a shed!’… So Shelley the Shed was born!
The Dream is Re-Born
We enjoyed our new toy but living on a canal boat plus work kept us busy and we didn’t get on with any prep work. The only thing was trying to stop the sun rooves from leaking! During a visit to South Africa in early 2016 we borrowed Caroline’s parents Isuzu bakkie, which was kitted with their trusty twenty year old Eezi-Awn roof top tent, for a trip from Natal down to Cape Town. Camping in remote spots, camp fires and being out on the road made us realise that we both really wanted to do this trip and ultimately move back to Africa. We discussed the plan with Caroline’s parents who quickly donated us the roof top tent! Within a couple of weeks we had it in a shipping package ready to go to the UK where it would be driven back to Africa.
Arriving back in the UK in March 2016 we started making plans. First on the agenda was to find jobs again. Caroline went back to live-in care work and I found work in York so we moved the canal boat over from Skipton with the help of good friend Schutty who flew over from Austria at the drop of a tiller pin to give us a hand for a week.
The first jobs were attributed to local Land Rover shops – new rear door hinge and a service.
An Affair with Tina
It was about this time when leaving the Land Rover show in Billing my eyes fell on an expedition-prepped Td5 for sale… She looked big and mean and was pretty much ready to go! I got so excited that I forgot my early criteria: ‘must be able to fix in the bush and preferably by me, must have a minimum of electronics, manual, unmodified etc’. Tina the Tank was all of these things BUT she was pretty much ready to go… I snapped her up and we brought her back to York with the intention of ditching Shelley for this ready-to-go girlie… After a couple of months went by the doubts started to creep in… there was a vibration from the transfer box, the auto box kept flashing lights on the dash which scared me and I was just not quite feeling right about taking this thing of which I knew so little across Africa. A lengthy conversation with my mate Matt in South Africa confirmed my fears. The downside of this, which the lazy side of me did not really want to face, was that I would have to take all the gubbins off Tina and apply it to Shelley as well as fitting a snorkel, split charger and wiring in a leisure battery.
Making up with Shelley
I then had to make my peace with my spawned trusty lady. We did this by quickly swapping the Hanibal roofrack and Hanibal awning which Tina had been sporting over to Shelley just to cement our intentions. Other bits which were removed from Tina for later fitting were: Britpart winch, Mobile Systems Storage drawer, inverter, leisure battery, rear top shelf and dog guard. Blackpaw4x4 in York helped with the early work and quickly replaced the rear door panel with an aluminium shelf unit to start off the kitchen.
Getting Stuck In
My initial lack of confidence in anything practical led me initially to want to pay people who know what they are doing to get the vehicle ready for us. With Caroline’s encouragement and reasoning that if I did it I would know how to fix it I slowly started to get my mind around doing some of the jobs myself. I quickly learned that there is a humungous friendly and helpful community of like minded people out there who just love Land Rovers and others who just love getting out there. There were so many sources of information and advice. I really had had no idea that people would bother to take the time to video themselves doing jobs on their vehicles but these were soooo useful. Youtube became a friend and so did several specific websites and characters.
The first job I really embarked on was to investigate a wheel bearing which had come up in an MOT advisory. This also seemed to be a common replacement item so figured I better learn how to deal with one. By this stage I had thankfully met Dave from Bush Mechanics at 2016’s Adventure Overland Show. The Haynes manual says ‘chock the wheels, hand brake on, jack up the vehicle and place on axle stands’…. Sounds straight forward enough… The first three were easy but where to put the axle stand??? It seemed to need to go in the exact same place now taken by my jack! Plus my 6 ton axle stand bought on a whim also at the same show was never going to fit under my axle! Feeling rather downbeat at failing at the first hurdle, I picked up the phone to Dave… After a lengthy conversation, during which Dave must have been thinking how does this bloke get out of his door in the morning let along think about driving through Africa, he eventually said to me ‘look, just jack up the vehicle and get something under there to support it’. Now somehow those words clicked something in me… My mind went back to trips in Africa where we’d had vehicles supported on tottering towers of rocks and objects of various shapes and sizes just to get out of a spot… ‘Aha’ I said, ‘I think I’m getting the idea’. I went back out, found some solid pieces of wood, jacked up the vehicle and soon it was resting safely on a couple of blocks… Feeling rather chuffed with myself I realised it was now well into the afternoon and I had not made much progress!
The next couple of weekends were spent happily following the Haynes manual, you tube videos and rushing off to Halfords every time I needed a new tool or material. Wheel bearings were regreased, swivel joints regreased and adjusted, brake calipers replaced and brakes bled. Yes, it all took quite a bit of time but it will take much less time next time!
Blackpaw4x4 quickly added a snorkel and replaced the cambelt.
During our trip to South Africa in 2016 we had purchased a National Luna split charge system. I knew this needed fitting to our vehicle but had little knowledge of the electrical setup. However, I knew a man who had… I phoned up my brother-in-law Dave who was ‘on-the-bench’ workwise a the time and he quickly agreed to a meet up at my folks in Suffolk in April where we got started on the electrical stuff. We had acquired an inverter from Tina and we initially thought this would be useful mounted in the rear… Dave quickly informed me that we’d need a hefty cable to run from leisure battery to inverter if it was situated so far away from the battery. I quickly found a dual purpose battery which would fit in to the small space available in the engine bay. This was only 75Ah but it was also only £75.